At Gen Con last year, I sat down for a chat with Misfit Toys Inc. President and Creative Director, Rick Baer. I wanted to learn about how someone who has made a career out of producing narrative webseries as well as streaming RPG entertainment for Saving Throw Show and Project Alpha prioritizes play in his own life.
“On the video game front, I’ve always been a gamer for as long as I can remember - computer games and Nintendo were staples.”
When asked about whether his gaming pastime is something he shares with his family, Rick described his gaming life as being very separate. The hobby is something he developed on his own. .
“I’m the gamer in the family. There might be occasional board games - classics like Monopoly.”
I was very interested to find out more about why RPGs have really taken over his personal and professional life.
“In terms of tabletop RPGs, gaming has become important to me because the collaborative story telling and world-building is a lot of fun. Anyone becomes a storyteller and writer when they play an RPG which is awesome.”
His passion for story telling is something he describes as intoxicating.
“I do find myself kind of craving it if I haven’t played in a while. I don’t know if you could say I do it for my mental health, but I get endorphins like crazy when I’m playing RPGs - especially if everyone is as into it as I’m trying to be. I’m totally committed and I play with a lot of committed players. “
With a busy life, it can be hard to get a group together, whether producing content or prioritizing play in his own life.
“Finding people who are just as passionate and interested and make a time for when we play is important. If you have a loose “let’s play a game together” deal, it just doesn’t work. You have to actually get out a calendar and figure out when it’s going to happen. You have a much better chance to follow through on it.””
Rick admits his situation is pretty optimal when it comes to finding players and that it may not be the case for everyone.
“I’m really lucky in that I’m part of a thriving RPG community. I know lots of different people who play in each others games. If somebody doesn’t make it into one then they’ll be in another one - theres definitely too many of us to play in one together.”
Tabletop role-playing games speak to Rick because he enjoys cooperative play and doesn’t enjoy the psychology of putting others at unease, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy collaborating with the table to create narrative tension.
“I won’t necessarily go along with everything anyone wants to do in the narrative, but I try to support what’s happening in interesting ways. I played a game of 10 Candles and I elected to be taken over by this horrible creeping darkness that was pursuing us. It created interesting tension because without having to turn against them at any particular time, there was always the chance that I could which was a lot a of fun.”
Rick Baer was also instrumental in the development of the VAST Star Trek RPG show for Project Alpha.
My favorite game that I play in is a home-brew Star Trek setting run by my friend Jackson Lanzing. It runs on a heavily modified version of White Wolf’s Storyteller. It started 6+ years ago. It was my first ever RPG. I came into the game as a star ship captain and went from that to somebody who accidentally caused the death of most of his species, to a crime lord, to the… Pope? It was crazy.
That game gave birth to VAST, the game I work on for Project Alpha. The system is essentially the same. I got to see a different aspect of creating games from that production side. I had been a player, but here I was a writer most of the time - creating modules for the campaign.
Rick has also come to enjoy the empathic side of story telling - giving him a chance to get behind the wheel of characters with totally different values.
“Playing my second character who is the polar opposite - a horrible awful racist, sexist, psychopathic smuggler and switching between those two extremes with my original Star Trek character gave me this whole range of things to explore and got me comfortable with playing lots of different kinds of characters - not just another version of myself. That’s what I really enjoy now.”