Dungeons & Dragons 5e-ish

1 DM, 5 players. Online (Discord, YouTube). This group consists of audiobook narrators. It was originally an outreach for our new professional organization, PANA (the Professional Audiobook Narrators’ Association) so character voices are very much in style for this game. The premise is that fantasy characters have been magically transported into a particular genre of book and are trying to get home. The first season was a romantic comedy (I wasn’t in this) and the second season is Horror. We spend a lot of time being zombies and then gaining our powers back…rinse and repeat. 

I enjoy my fellow players here, they are very good at improv, as you’d imagine. And they spend quite a lot of time doing their best to be entertaining onscreen. I’ve got a character I could really love playing, but the DM doesn’t have much time in her schedule to make this adventure truly fun. Small character plot points given during character creation never really pay off and the DM is not as familiar with the rules as she might be, leaving the players feeling like everything is arbitrary and the DM is just trying to annoy us with conflicts, instead of building a cohesive story. 

8 responses to “Dungeons & Dragons 5e-ish”

  1. Could you say a bit more about what being “entertaining onscreen” involves? Is this game being streamed to an audience? Do you think that’s making a difference in how you all are playing?

    • Yes, this is streamed to an audience, and I absolutely think it affects how the players inhabit their characters.
      By “being entertaining onscreen” I mean that the choices that the players make are BIG, and unsubtle. Instead of working toward creating an interesting and compelling story, a player will choose to have their character do something dramatic and splashy. In some ways I think it feels a bit like a zero-sum game. There are 120 minutes in a given play session (and because the story feels more like an afterthought) each player is trying to step into the spotlight at every opportunity. When we’ve completed a play session, the producer creates short reels of peak moments (sometimes the funniest moments) that are then put out onto the individual players social media streams to help promote next week’s show.
      Without the rise and fall of a plotline, each player is individually deciding “this is my chance to shine” or “I’ve been really quiet for 90 minutes of this show, I’d better get in there and do something entertaining.”

  2. Hans asked, “Is it fun?”
    Well, sort of.
    There are a couple of people in the group who I enjoy spending time with and want to see what they come up with.
    So, I find myself on the edge of articulating something that I’m frustrated about, but don’t really know how to nail it down. (Greg, I hope this addresses your question)
    Let’s see if I can get close…
    In some ways, I remember my first reading of Silver Age comic books (in graphic novel form) I got from the library and really enjoying them. Bright colors, simple good vs. evil plots, etc. Then I grew out of them and found the more current comics to be more sophisticated in their story telling/character development.
    Perhaps I am hoping that this role-playing group will ultimately make a leap into something more sophisticated, justifying the time I’ve invested. But if I remember correctly, the next age of comics was ushered in by a new group of authors and comics creators.
    I want to see these characters grow and change over time, but they don’t. It’s a bit like a situation comedy from the 80’s. Things happen to the characters, but over the course of a season, they don’t change much.
    Two different comparisons, through two different media lenses/genres.
    Do I try to make subtler characters choices, and change the group from within? This might mean that my character comes across like a Brecht-ian character inserted into an episode of Bewitched or Everybody Loves Raymond or The Big Bang Theory. It probably wouldn’t work and may seem boring to the audience.
    I think I’m trying to determine if the game is worth the candle.

    • Is it possible that you and your group are trying to do too many things with too many expectations? You have your own personal aesthetic goals, players are trying to be entertaining for the audience (I see phrases like “dramatic and splashing” and “may seem boring to the audience”), there’s production of an entertainment product, etc, etc.

      So while I have not been in your exact situation, I have found this post/video/discussion to be helpful in the last year when calibrating my expectations and priorities regarding role-playing: https://adeptplay.com/2021/02/07/slaying/

      In particular, it has helped me answer this question: If this is supposed to be a fun activity that I can do with people I like spending time with, then how can I minimize, distribute, or stop doing the “not fun” parts of the activity?

  3. From what you describe about play, I get the impression that the players often ignore other player’s contributions, including the GM. Would that be a fair observation? Do you know the concept of “reincorporation”? Does that happen much in the game you’re talking about?

Leave a Reply