By Rick Sandidge
Welcome Pathfinders! My name is Rick, host and Gamemaster for the Find the Path Podcast, and I’m here today to talk about playing to an audience.
We effectively have an audience everytime we play (aka the Gamemaster and other players), but what happens when you’re trying to engage with people beyond your table? Honestly, it can be difficult at times to get the people playing the game to pay attention, let alone entertain outside observers, but here are a few tips I find have worked for me!
Be on Brand
One of the many strengths of TTRPGs is how varied in style every game can be, with each adventure bringing its own flavor. This is great for finding an audience because people generally know what they like in their stories (horror, mystery, action, etc) and seek that out. However if your game constantly changes genre it can be difficult for an audience to stay invested. Before you begin you should decide the type of story and experience you want to get across to your audience and stick to it.
When we launched the Find the Path Podcast we knew we wanted to tell a story of high adventure with a mix of horror and intrigue, things that appeal to us as players. Mummy’s Mask ticked all those boxes for us. We also knew we were good with the rules and friendly banter, so that became the style we are known for. Play to your strengths and make that your brand.
My second point is simple but often missed, keep your group focused on the game. When we meet up with friends we haven’t talked to in a week, it’s natural to want to catch up and talk about things outside of the game. You should feel free to have a little banter when you first sit down, however once the game begins you should try to stay focused on playing that game. Your audience is interested in the story you are telling, let them hear it!
This point applies to how you play the game as well. It’s fun to take a break from saving the city to go on a double date with a few NPC’s, but not if it takes away from the narrative. Every sesion should advance the story at least a little bit. That being said you should certainly take any opportunity to add depth to your character as that helps endear them to your listeners. It’s a delicate balance.
Be Funny (But Don’t Force It)
People play roleplaying games for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it’s fun. A joke now and then helps ease an audience into your story and keep them entertained. That’s part of the reason the Marvel movies are so successful. Now that’s not to say you can’t have a story that is tense, or sad, or even horrifying, but a dose of humor helps to keep your audience relaxed and enjoying the experience. However, don’t force it. A string of bad jokes, or one poorly timed one, can kill the mood you are working so hard to set. Let the jokes come naturally and know when to hold back.
Now for a quick tie in to the last point, it’s important to keep your humor relevant as well. Inside jokes and references to your other games are great for your friends, but not for people that aren’t in on the joke. Just remember the old adage, if you have to explain the joke it’s not funny!
While you may have a very diverse gaming group you will likely have a far more diverse audience following your story. Be aware of what you say and how that may affect people of different cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities. You want everyone to listen and enjoy themselves.
Additionally be respectful of the cultures in your story as well, as many of these cultures reflect real world societies. I spent a lot of time researching the Ancient Egyptian people before starting Mummy’s Mask because I didn’t want to base my portrayal of the Osirion people only on what I saw in mummy movies. Characterize, don’t make caricatures.
So this is an odd point considering that we play role-playing games as a form of escapism where we can be whatever we want, but it’s important to get across the player as much as the player character. People want to be invested in the characters, but they also want to know the person behind them. Don’t feel like you need to put on a mask, just be yourself.
So there you have it, a few suggestions for how to play to the crowd. Now, I do have one more bit of advice to offer here at the end and it’s very important. Have fun! I know, I know… it’s a little cliche, but stay with me. Your audience can tell when you are excited to play, and in turn will feed off of that energy. You are playing the game to enjoy yourself and people are following along for the very same reason. Now get out there and share your stories!
About Rick Sandidge
Rick Sandidge is an unrepentant ruleslawyer who has turned this ‘curse’ to the cause of good by taking up the mantle of Gamemaster. In 2016 he and his closest friends created Find the Path Ventures, an entertainment project dedicated to spreading their love of the Pathfinder RPG. This lead to the launch of their Mummy’s Mask actual play in April 2018, where Rick took on the role of Gamemaster. In September of 2019 Find the Path partnered with Paizo Inc, making them an officially licensed Pathfinder Podcast. This allowed for the launch of the long awaited Find the Path Patreon as well as their Tyrant’s Grasp actual play podcast. Rick lives in Dallas Tx with his wife and cohost, Rachel Sandidge, and four beautiful cats.
Find the Path Ventures and our Mummy’s Mask Podcast can be found at: https://find-path.com/
Our Tyrant’s Grasp Podcast is available to Patreon backers at the $5 tier and up at: https://www.patreon.com/FindthePath