In this series, we have chatted a lot about the philosophy of how to run and promote games. Today I want to talk about something genuinely fundamental to starting a successful actual play show: selecting a cast. Gathering a diverse and complementary group of players is absolutely vital to producing an experience that people love to watch or listen to. In this installment, I will share some ways to ensure your cast meets both of these qualities.
Let us poke that bear and talk about diversity. In our current climate, assembling a diverse team for your show is absolutely vital to garnering an audience. The world of tabletop games is expanding rapidly, and groups who previously felt unwelcome at the gaming table are becoming the new normal. Choosing to produce an actual play show publicly means you are choosing to make your show for this new diverse audience. Consequently, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to have your cast reflect this audience. If your cast list does not include any women, people of color, or queer players, you need to scrap your list and go back to the drawing board. The excellent social media community surrounding tabletop games makes it easier than ever to meet new people and play games with them. There is perpetually a large group of individuals looking to get involved in streaming and podcasts. Connecting with these folks on Twitter, Facebook, and Discord servers is the first step to building a fantastic cast for your show. Tracking variety shows that cycle in new cast members every few games is a phenomenal way to keep an eye out for new talent. Twitch channels like Scratticus Academy run multiple shows a week that feature new cast members and often players new to the world of streaming. There are also streams like the Big Dun Jen Show on the VVSPA Twitch channel, which features a new cast and new tabletop system every couple of weeks. Keeping up with channels like these is an easy way to learn about prospective cast members and gives you an entry point to start a conversation.
So you’ve done it: you have a diverse list of potential players. What next? When you have a group of potential cast members in mind, the next thing to consider is building a team that works well. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that you are casting a group of professionals to ensure the success of your product. All too often, I see shows fall apart because the cast wasn’t ready to commit to the amount of work that goes into a show. Before recording a single thing, every member of the team must be made aware of every obligation and expectation. If you are casting from people used to streaming and podcasting, this is not usually a problem, but trying to rally your friends to make a show frequently ends in disaster. So ultimately, the most essential quality in a prospective cast member is that they are willing to show up and always put in the work. If you are lucky enough to have many people that meet this qualification, you can start to consider a balance of other traits to assemble your team. After checking for commitment, you must consider what type of player is going to work best for your show’s genre. If you are planning to run a grimdark setting full of challenging themes, choosing a group of comedy-minded players certainly isn’t going to work. If you plan to run a high-level game in a rules-heavy system, you likely want more experienced gamers. If you aren’t sure if a specific player fits your genre, the best thing to do is to ask them. Players have an excellent idea of what type of systems they would enjoy. Better yet, they might be able to recommend people who would be a better fit than themselves. Once you have a cast in mind, scheduling a test game is an excellent way to see if your prospective group plays well together. Invite your group to play in a casual offscreen game, and you will be able to figure out pretty quickly if this is the dream team or not. When scheduling audition games, always make sure to be upfront and honest about your intentions to protect everyone’s interests.
At the end of the day, if you have built a cast of diverse people ready to do the work, you are setting up your show for success before you even hit record. So take to the social community online and find your band of heroes!
See you next time adventurers.
Greetings travelers! And welcome to Beyond the Audience where we take a look at tips and tricks for building an RPG show that is loved by both your players and the larger audience beyond your table.