While at Big Bad Con this weekend, I was struck by how few people knew what The Gauntlet was. I’d estimate only 1 out of every 15 people I talked to had heard of us. This struck me as funny for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we are in the upper echelons of Patreon creators, and between Patreon, DriveThru, and Kickstarter, we’re pulling in a decent amount of money. Not earth-shattering amounts by any stretch, especially when you consider most of it goes right back out the door, but pretty darn good for indie ttrpgs. How was it possible so few people at Big Bad Con—a haven for that niche, indie ttrpg stuff we’re so good at—knew who we were?
I have been pondering this and a few other questions more or less non-stop for the last 24 hours. It is honestly driving me kind of crazy, because it makes me feel like we’re not doing enough to get our message out there. Big Bad Con is all about diversity and inclusivity, and yet The Gauntlet, which has a frankly radical approach to inclusivity, was barely a blip on that community’s radar. I know, to some degree, there is a performative aspect to being inclusive that we have never been very good at (we’re too busy doing the thing), but I feel like there is something deeper going on; that there is something about our basic “pitch” which is difficult for people to grasp or talk about.
The difficulty of The Gauntlet pitch has bedeviled us for years. We’re not a publisher, even though we publish a magazine every month. We’re not actual play-types, even though we produce two actual play podcasts. We’re not convention organizers, even though we run an annual online convention and organize literally thousands of game sessions per year. You could say we’re podcasters, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. The most accurate thing to say (and what I prefer) is that we’re a community, but even that word, “community,” is nebulous. It means a hundred things and nothing.
The Gauntlet: The Most Successful Thing in Indie TTRPGs No One Fucking Knows About. That’s us! Gilded anonymity ftw!
And maybe this isn’t a problem. Our smallness, our nicheness, is a strength—always has been. I’ll take 100 super-committed, super-active community members over 10,000 Twitch viewers any day of the week. We are able to accomplish a lot because we keep everything small but very high quality.
My ego simply does not enjoy feeling like a nobody, like a joke. And it’s not just for me. I want people to know how awesome The Gauntlet is, how awesome our members are—how kind and generous and talented Gauntleteers can be! I’m not doing all this work so we can be some obscure club on the internet. I’m doing all this work so we can break the fucking wheel of what is possible in ttrpgs and I want people to know about it!
But enough of this whiny nonsense. It isn’t my style to get all warped over something like this. (“Oh sadness, I’m not as cool or popular as I thought I was!”) I view what I am henceforth calling the “Big Bad Problem” as an opportunity: there is still a MASSIVE number of people out there who would love being part of our spaces if they only knew about us. It is going to be my job, and the job of all Gauntleteers, to communicate our values and to make sure people understand what we’re all about, because those people might need us, and we might need them.
Some solutions: I intend to follow up this post with more posts in the coming weeks and months that explain the radical approach The Gauntlet takes to the ttrpg industry. I think we need to be on Twitch and other platforms so more people can see our play culture in action. And more than anything, we need to start talking about The Gauntlet (mind you, there are many people in the community doing that work already; even at Big Bad Con, folks like Tomer Gurantz and Tor Erickson were evangelizing like crazy). The Big Bad Problem is only going to go away if we start showing people we are proud of what we’re doing over here.
And pride is what it all comes down to for me. I love the people in The Gauntlet community, but more than that, I am so damn proud of what we do every day. This place is special. And people need to know it.