Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread! Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into. Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.
Discussion topic: Critical Role. The streaming show where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons. The show launched in 2015, streaming on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch channel. In only four years, it has grown into a massively popular media brand in its own right, such that they’ve recently announced a merchandising deal for Funko Pop and McFarlane action figures. It’s Thursday night broadcasts, draw in more viewers than most weekly cable TV shows.1 Last year’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign to fund an animated series based on the group’s D&D adventures only proves how insanely popular the show has become.
So, what makes it so popular? Watching other people play D&D is a strange form of entertainment. As a fan of the show myself,2 I can really only speak to why I enjoy it so much. The stories that DM Matthew Mercer weaves for his players are engaging and exciting. The cast of talented professional voice actors creates memorable, multi-dimensional characters, who can pivot from goofy fun one moment to deeply emotional scenes the next. But I think what makes it work more than anything else is that they’re all having so much fun all the time. Even just watching through the screen, the excitement whenever someone rolls a natural 20 or gets a “How do you wanna do this?” from Matt Mercer3 is infectious.
How do you think the massive popularity of Critical Role has affected, or will affect, D&D in general? Are more people starting to play their own games after watching the show? Do you find that newer players have certain expectations about the game that may or may not match up with the reality of a given group? For the Critters out there, what about the show appeals to you? And for those that may have tried it and found it wasn’t for them, what about it kept you from enjoying it?
Josephus had to cancel at the last minute this week, but Wasp stepped in with a one-shot adventure for the rest of us, The Cult of the Yellow Queen. We just used our regular Eberron characters.
- TheCleverGuy as Cybin Stoneswift, a Hill Dwarf Wizard who’s singularly obsessed with the study of various forms of mushrooms
- Otto (our only non-Avocado party member) as Magz, a Changeling Rogue, a native of Sharn familiar with the city’s seedy underbelly
- The Hayes Code as Cassidy Cody, a Tiefling Bard who makes a living busking in the lightning rail stations with the talent passed down to her from her Pa’s deal with the devil
- Wafflicious as Pizzazzle, a Dragonborn Druid who just wants to clean up the planet so it’s fit for consumption by the all-powerful Nexu
- Mr.ImMyOwnGrandpa as Marcus Tor, a Half-Orc Barbarian and former athlete with a rage-inducing magic spike lodged in his chest
- Anna Nomally as Annya, a Human Rogue who failed at being an assassin because she kept befriending her targets
One day, we were all sitting around in our safehouse, when we heard a knock at the door. A farmer from a nearby town was outside, and he wanted us to take care of a little problem. It seems a wild-magic storm had swept through their town recently, hitting the Honey Hills Farm especially bad. It had mutated the bees in the Honey Hills hives and most of the townspeople into a cult of bee-people, who all worshiped the Queen Bee. And worse, the bee people had begun hoarding all the honey, withholding it from the non-mutated townsfolk who had depended on the honey for their livelihood.
Cassidy, Magz, Pizzazzle, Tor, and I agreed to help out. K80 had gone off to some kind Warforged club, where we “fleshies” were unwelcome, and I’m not really sure where Annya had gone off to. Anyway, the five of us accompanied Farmer Brown (or was it Farmer Black?) to the farm, where it appeared the buildings themselves had been transformed into giant beehives. The largest was being guarded by a group of giant bees. As we approached, one of them called out. He was surprisingly friendly, and said his name was Barry, or Billy, or Buddy or something. He also said we couldn’t go inside the main hive unless we answered three riddles. Brace yourselves.
The first riddle was “Why is a bee never on time?” We were not prepared for how bad these riddles would be, and this one nearly stumped us. In fact, I think Barry just decided to accept one of our guesses as a better answer than the real one. Turns out it’s because they’re always “bee-hind.”
Next up, “Why did the bee get married?” I think it was Magz who guessed something about going a honeymoon, and Barney again decided that was close enough. The real answer was, “Because she found her honey.”
And lastly, “Why is a bee smarter than a talking parrot?” Now we were getting the hang of it. “Because it’s a spelling bee.” And with that Buddy let us into the hive and even offered us a tour.
We asked him to take us right to the Queen, so we could have a little chat. Tor in particular seemed very excited to meet with her. I think he was expecting this Queen to be very attractive. As we entered the Queen’s chamber, I noticed her casting some kind of charm spell on Tor. I’m not sure if it worked, but I can say that Tor did not seem to be disappointed with the beauty of the Queen in the least bit. At any rate, all the farmers wanted was to keep the honey flowing, since their town depended on it financially. The bees weren’t keen on giving their honey away, but Cassidy was able to negotiate a business deal where the farmers would provide flowers close by the hives, and we’d build a giant scarecrow to keep hawks and other bee-eating birds away from the hives. In return, the Queen would provide honey for the farmers.4
We made our way to the local florist shop, called Bud Omens. The proprietors were happy to help us with getting some flowers planted for the bees. They also offered us some special products that would have interesting effects. Everyone partook, except for me. I didn’t feel the need to buy something that I already had, but I did use some of my own stash to join in the fun. Suddenly we saw a large blue bear carrying a bludgeon burst into the shop, trying to rob the place. We couldn’t let that happen. As Tor charged toward it, we watched the bear split into 4 slightly smaller bears with bright pink fur. I’d seen this kind of thing before, but Tor flew into a rage. The jewel in his chest turned red, and necrotic energy struck everyone in the store and seemed to give Tor even more energy. He started swinging his axe wildly at these bears. Cassidy repeated some of the riddles we’d learned from the bee-people, causing one bear to drop with Hideous Laughter, taking him out of the battle entirely. The other bears attacked, and Magz stabbed one in the back. I dosed another bear with a special recipe of my own, making him think he was being surrounded by a swarm of bees. Pizzazzle turned herself into a Gaseous Form and went to make sure the shopkeepers were ok. then Tor struck one of the bears. Cass visciously mocked one bear, who was hurt and attacked Tor. One bear was still laughing, and another spent his turn freaking out abut a cloud of bees only he could see. Magz and Tor engaged the bears while Cassidy shouted Vicious Mockery at them and I shot Ray of Sickness and Poison Spray at them from across the room. Tor managed to decapitate one bear, while another was still laughing and a third was distracted by phantom bees. Once she was sure the florists were alright, Pizzazzle dropped her mist form and let loose a Thunderclap. Tor finished off a second bear, with help from Magz. The last one standing (not counting the one that was still laughing away in a corner), fought bravely, taking wounds from Cassidy’s dagger and Magz’s rapier, and resisting the effects of my Poison Spray and Pizzazzle’s Frostbite. But it couldn’t stand up to Tor’s rage, and he finally finished it off. The last bear was still dying from laughter in the corner. Cassidy felt pity for it, and let it go.
After that our strange group experience ended. We went back to the hive to inform the Queen of our success, and let Tor pledge his undying love and loyalty to her again. I’m still not entirely sure how much, if any, of that actually happened. It was wild, though…
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