Friday, November 24, 2023

Why People Are Upset with the MCU (And how that relates to high level gaming)

In 2008, the same year we moved to Korea and my first son was born, Iron Man debuted in theaters, and The Hulk (Ed Norton...remember that?) not long after. And the MCU was born. This led to an eventually more and more interconnected series of films based on the Marvel comics, culminating in Avengers Infinity War in 2018 and Endgame in 2019. 

Right before Covid19. 

And since Endgame, we've not only had covid delaying projects, we had the release of Disney+ streaming with more MCU content in the forms of limited series and one shot special presentations along with the movies. And in this post-Endgame MCU, lots of fans have been underwhelmed. I've been enjoying most of it, but it's hard to follow something as cathartic as Endgame. Say what you will about the quality of the movie itself as a film, as a culmination of 11 years of interconnected storytelling, it was a satisfying way to wrap up that story arch. 

And then Marvel had to keep putting out more content. 

I think they've been making the right moves. They've diversified the types of content they're putting out, both as types of media properties, and with regard to the types of stories they're telling and the characters they're bringing in to the MCU. We've got intense character-driven drama (WandaVision), typical action adventure fare (Shang-Chi, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Hawkeye), horror-tinged superheroics (Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Werewolf by Night), comic action (Loki, Ms. Marvel), 4th wall breaking comedy (She-Hulk: Attorney at Law), along with continuing some of the previous popular franchises (Guardians of the Galaxy [done well], Thor: Love and Thunder [not done very well]), and even working in previous Marvel movie properties (Spider-Man No Way Home, The Marvels) within the MCU's new Multiverse phase. 

None of these projects really come close to the feeling of culmination that Endgame brought the long-time fans, although GotG3 and Spider-Man No Way Home come close. And that's upset a lot of fans. And then there are the chuds who think every project with a female or POC lead is pandering to the "Woke Mob" or some garbage. But they'd be upset no matter what Marvel does, since outrage leads to social media engagement. Let's ignore them and focus on the fans who are just feeling a bit let down because the drama isn't cranked up to 11 on these projects. 

How does this relate to high level D&D? Isn't it obvious? 

Look at Marvel Comics. I don't know any comic fans that try to follow every single book Marvel (or DC or Image or whichever comics company you follow) puts out. Not every book suits everyone's tastes, and it's okay to follow those you like and not those you don't. 

The current state of the MCU is pretty much the same. Before Infinity War/Endgame, everyone was pretty much on the same page. You had to watch the movies. All of them. The TV shows were optional (I still haven't seen Agent Carter, The Inhumans, Cloak and Dagger...I did watch Agents of SHIELD and all the Daredevil Netflix related shows). Now, though, not every movie is for the entire audience. Not every show or special is for the entire audience. It's OK to pick and choose. There is variety. 

Your campaign should be similar to the comics or the current MCU. There should be all sorts of things going on in your campaign. Different types of things. Sometimes, every player will be interested in something going on. Sometimes, some players will and others won't. Sometimes, no one will be interested. And that's all good. 

If you're playing a high level game, as I've mentioned before, not every player needs to be involved in every game session. Each player should be able to follow their own interests. Maybe a subset of PCs will be interested in a common thing, and they can game together. Sometimes, everyone gets together to forward some common goal. But the campaign should cease to be built around the idea of all the players getting together each week or fortnight to game as a unit. 

If you've built your game up to basically focus on this small group of heroes and their antics, and then you suddenly try to diversify the campaign now that you're at high levels and the typical dungeon raid is losing it's appeal, you're going to run into some of the bumpiness that the MCU fandom has been going through the past three years or so. But you can get through it, if you stick with it. If you're not at that climax moment of the campaign yet, start diversifying it now (ideas for adventure/challenge diversity in that link). 

Trust me, if you do start diversifying the campaign now, then after the PCs have finally toppled Drol Krad the Dark Lord, they will still have many irons in the fire for them to pursue after the campaign's "endgame" and they can start the real endgame of the campaign: Domains. Political Intrigue. Leadership. Quests. Personal Ambitions. Planar Exploration. Epic Challenges. Building Legacies.

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