You Dont Have To Be Matt Mercer

The rise of RPG popularity is due in no small part to its inclusion in mainstream TV (Big Bang Theory, Stranger Things) and the emergence of stars and celebrities discussing their experiences with it in mainstream media.

We now have celebrity DM’s running “All Star” groups. The likes of Matt Mercer and Chris Perkins have turned our basement hobby into a spectator sport, with wonderful stories, props, professional voice acting and a raft of misfit players – both staples and cameos – that we’ve come to know and love.

The upside of this is that we now have more interest in our hobby than ever before, and its growing. The downside is the expectations are now higher than ever, particularly from the new wave of players being introduced to our hobby through these channels. If players see Matt Mercer or Chris Perkins as the ‘norm’ how are we mere mortals to possibly compare?

The answer is simple – we don’t, and we don’t have to.

There’s no need to place that level of pressure on yourself. Although the analogy is not entirely accurate, it’s like comparing yourself to a professional footballer, and deciding since you aren’t that good it’s not worth going to a local park or club for a game.

Many of us enjoy RPGs for their various elements, which until recently did not include public performance. Don’t get me wrong, if you play at a con or a game store you’ll have some onlookers, but few stay long enough to analyse your story, style or proficiency. If they like what they see, they might stay, if not they move on. For the most part your only constant evaluations come from your players themselves and – whether you are aware of it or not – they are already invested in the game from the moment they sit down. They want to be there and they want to like it. They want to be a part of it. Half the job is done before you even start, and if you let them, they will do a lot of the work in making the game run and flow.

You still need to be diligent to the role, and a good DM* will always seek to engage their group and improve their skills, but you don’t have to roll out a production to run an enjoyable game.

Not comfortable or good with voices? Don’t do them

Can’t afford terrain and minis? Don’t use them

Prefer ‘theatre of the mind’ to tactically mapped battles? Great!

An RPG game is a lot like going out to dinner. You will appreciate something that is well prepared and flavourful, but what makes a “good meal” is a matter of taste. Additionally, no matter how good lobster is, if that’s all that is available you’ll get sick of it pretty quickly.

Each DM is different, and each game is unique. Don’t try to be something you aren’t comfortable with because you feel you should be ‘more’. What you provide is more than enough, and likely better than you think it is.

There is no such thing as the ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to run a game. Is everyone comfortable and having fun? That’s the right way. Everything else is flavour.

Micah

* The “Good DM” is covered in another post.

Road to PAX Australia 2017

I’m situated in Perth, Australia, which has a small but emerging gaming community. We get Supanova and Comicon each year, but these are small compared to other capitals. We also have a few small indie cons, but in truth they are not yet well publicised or attended.

I’m very interested in attending and contributing to the ‘gaming and RPG culture’ conventions, both as a community member and as a publisher.

I recently attended the first dedicated tabletop convention in Perth – Objective Secured (Southern Hemisphere Open). Focussed on Warhammer, it had exactly 6 vendor booths – A GW booth, a con merch booth, a mecha model booth, a local but well published Author, an airbrush artist, and a booth selling lockpicking tools/techniques. The main floor was around three dozen tables of various GW miniatures games, set in displays and tournament style matches. It had reasonable signage, but was a little chaotic.

On the floor above there were open RPG tables featuring several games and a number of scheduled panels and discussion groups. Unfortunately there was no signage, and it did not seem well laid out. PA announcements routed congoers to the RPG floor and some (but not all) of the GMs did their best to be outgoing and draw in visitors. Again, unfortunately, several simply sat there and it was difficult to discern if their games were public or not.

It was its inaugural year. The GW games were the focus. The organisers did their best – and much of it was great. But I was very underwhelmed by the RPG floor. I felt that the congoers were really not presented with the best Perth has to offer in RPGs. There was some great DMs and games going on, but they just didn’t “reach” to the paying customer.

I was just an attendee. I met with the organiser and asked to be a part of the next year’s process. Mike (the owner/organiser) was extremely friendly and outgoing, and I see amazing potential here. I genuinely hope that not only am I able to participate next year, but that I’ll have a significant role to play in the RPG floor’s management.

To that end, there is much to be gained from a ‘research’ trip to Australia’s biggest Gaming Convention – PAX. While more focussed on video gaming, PAX still has a huge RPG section, and I’m hoping to spend more than a little of the 3 days there observing, questioning and planning, and taking away anything that can help Objective Secured – and the other Perth cons – grow each year to become genuine attractions to showcase and build the RPG options in our city.

PAX here I come.

PAX badge

 

So…who are you anyway?

Pyromaniac Press is a one man show. That’s not to say I don’t have help – more on that below – but it is to say that I am the owner, manager, financier, slavemaster, creative department, writer, PR consultant, editor, gopher and (more than I’d like) harsh critic.

Pyromaniac Press is my vehicle and my journey to turn my love of RPGs into more than just a pastime. Ideally I’d like it to launch me into cult status as an RPG author (I’m looking at you Greenwood), but in truth if I can develop my writing and storytelling skills, and have a creative outlet for my ideas that can be shared with others, I can live with that. I’d also love it if it didn’t cost more to produce than I make. My wife would prefer that too.

My name is Micah and I’ve been playing, running and writing RPGs for over 25 years. I fell in love with the fantasy genre through reading novels such as Magician (R. E. Feist), The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and the Belgariad series (D. Eddings) when I was a child (though I admit LOTR was a massive slog for a 9 year old and I wasn’t overly impressed with it at the time – but hey I was 9, what did I know).  The Dragonlance Chronicles followed, and soon the Forgotten Realms novels. I was playing the fantasy based board game Hero Quest (Milton Bradley & GW), and my family and I were adding rules, characters, monsters, spells and items because the scope of the game was too small. We wanted more from it.

It was around that time I found the books from an old red box original D&D set at a garage sale. I pestered my parents until they bought them, and I was hooked. They still sit on my RPG shelf today.

Its been more than 30 years since I fell in love with fantasy, and more than 25 since I started playing RPGs.

Pyromaniac Press was an idea long in coming. I have watched the rise of RPGs in first ‘nerd culture’ (a label I hate by the way) and then more recently in mainstream popularity, always thinking “one day I’ll find the time to write and publish” as I went about my life. I’m now 38, have a wonderful wife, an amazing young son and a reasonably good job. It pays the bills, but I don’t love it. I’m not passionate about it. But it is a professional career and I love my home life, and still get to play my hobby.

The catalyst for me was a few years ago now. My father died in his mid fifties of complications arising from early onset dementia. It shook me when I realised that life is too short to not pursue your dreams. Of course, I couldn’t exactly quit my job and think I could pay my mortgage and provide for my family as an unknown writer and publisher. But you have to start. Small steps.

Pyromaniac Press is a one man show, but it really isn’t. A lot of people paved the way, and a lot of people help and inspire me everyday. I have the support of my family and friends, amazing tools at my disposal, a great community and pioneers that made RPGs what they are today.

For me though, Pyromaniac Press is possible because of two people. Erin, my amazing wife, and Dante Cifaldi, a friend and artist that took the first steps with me. There are many others that have helped, supported, contributed, and still do, but Erin and Dante kept me moving forward at the times where I thought “this is too hard” or “this is too much”.

If you’ve read this far I’d like to sincerely thank you. You are either a friend or family member, or a genuinely interested RPG community member (the third option is that you found yourself here by accident but have OCD and are compelled to finish what you started). In any case I hope you like my website and my work in general. I hope what I produce adds something of worth to the RPG community.

Micah