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.
Let’s talk about “Actual Play” podcasts and/or livestreamed TTRPGs. The idea of playing D&D (or any other TTRPG) for an audience is sort of bizarre on the face of it. A bunch of people sitting around a table (or even just staring into their individual computers these days), rolling dice, and sometimes talking in funny voices–doesn’t seem like much of a spectator sport. But if the players are likable enough and the story is engaging enough, these shows can be a lot of fun to watch/listen to.
And there are tons of them out there, from D&D-specific shows like Critical Role, Acquisitions Incorporated, and The Adventure Zone, to shows that use different games, like LA by Night (Vampire the Masquerade), Me Myself and Die (a solo Ironsworn AP), and even one called Film Reroll, which uses GURPS to play through classic movies.
One of my favorite recent entries into this entertainment space is Children of Earte, an ongoing 5e campaign described as “a fairytale for grown-ups.” DM’d by Deborah Ann Woll (known for her roles in True Blood and Daredevil), the campaign is set in present times and features a group of regular everyday people who take a quaint steam train ride and discover some supernatural and fantastical things about themselves and the world around them. My favorite thing about it is that, while they’re using the mechanics of D&D (ie, class/race features, proficiencies, etc), the characters don’t know that they have any special abilities (at least at first). The cast includes:
- Adam Bradford as Silas Jordan, a game store owner and collector of various “nerdy” things1
- Jennifer Kretchmer as Meave Flynn, a mailroom clerk at Fairuza’s law firm with a bit of a wild side2
- Hope Lavelle as Robin Beckett, an 80-year-old retiree with a wealth of life experience3
- Alicia Marie as Fairuza Armstrong, a junior partner at a high-power lawfirm4
- And Lauren Urban as ‘Neb’ Stern, a fairly sheltered young baker who’s fascinated by the stars5
Woll is a DM who loves storytelling and puzzles more than she loves the strict rules of D&D. So while the games might not always follow the strict RAW6, they’re often funny, dramatic, and exciting. From the first episode, it’s obvious that Woll has put the players on a track to a fantastic adventure, even if they manage to get off the rails (literally) fairly quickly.
Anyway, if you like that kind of thing, I highly recommend Children of Earte. New episodes stream Tuesday evenings on Demiplane’s Twitch channel, but you can catch them all on YouTube as well. I’ll embed the first episode below. What are your favorite APs to tune into?
We’re playing through a homebrew story put together and DM’d by TheHayesCode! This story is set in the world of Eberron, and concerns the fates of a group of convicts sentenced with transportation to the exotic continent of Xen’Drik. Here’s a brief run-down of the PCs (all Level 4):
- Kalanyl, a Drow Cleric (Grave Domain) of the scorpion-god Vulkoor and our native guide on Xen’Drik, played by Wafflicious
- Vic Lustig, a nondescript-by-design Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic) counterfeiter, played by JosephusBrown
- Bulwark, a Warforged Paladin of the Silver Flame (Oath of Redemption), played by TheCleverGuy
- Higgins, a malfunctioning Warforged Barbarian (Path of Ancestral Guardian), played by Spiny Creature
- Zumira, a Goblin Wizard (Order of Scribes) serial killer, played by The Wasp
- Jo Bean, a very young-looking Human Rogue (Swashbuckler) with a bad attitude, played by Otto
Things in the colony have settled down into a routine of sorts over the last week. I spend most of my time in the quarry, breaking up rocks to be used in the continuing construction projects happening. I have also been volunteering to go out with hunting parties whenever I can. I am told there is a curse on these lands, which causes travelers to frequently become lost. So far, we have stuck close enough to the colony to use the smoke from its many cooking fires as a guide home. But I have picked up a few tricks for hunting and survival in the jungles.
Brother Fox from the Silver Flame Missionary visits the quarry from time to time. He and Brother Martin are here to spread the faith in these forsaken lands. They do not seem to have had much success as of yet. The natives have their own religion of course, and many of them do not speak Common at all. And the prisoners present their own challenges. Of the two of them I find Martin to be much more personable, though Brother Fox takes his duties more seriously. He asked me about how I came to be here, and I told him how I had killed the Archbishop of Sharn. He seemed surprised and a little afraid of me after that. I tried to reassure him by explaining that I have vowed not to take another sentient life and have come here to atone. While it does not excuse my action, I do believe that the Archbishop had become corrupted by the Shadow in the Flame. He saw me as a symbol of his own wealth and station, and was not prepared to give that up when I expressed my desire to help my own people come together in the Light of the Silver Flame. Of course, in my rage, I also listened to the Shadow. I hope to find my own redemption here in Xen’Drik.
About a week after our salvage mission, Jo Bean came to the quarry and asked that I meet with her and the others at the Foolish Frog that evening. It seems that she, Vic, and Zumira had been working on translating a document that Vic had recovered from the Grung village. There were two sets of writing on the single piece of parchment–one was a strange language that we assumed to be Grung, while the other used Draconic letters but was written in a dialect none of us understood. The three of them had taken the scrap of paper to Gierello Miller, the wizard who sent us to recover his items from the wreck of the Trident, who was able to translate the writing using a Comprehend Languages ritual.
Jo told us that both sets of writing said the same thing: “We will be requiring an increase of an additional ten percent in your quota starting from one (1) lunar cycle from receipt of this missive as well as one (1) additional slave in good working condition per lunar cycle; we must regrettably inform you that failure to meet these conditions will result in penalties up to and including flaying, incineration, and the impalement of young. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter, as always.” It seemed that someone had been giving orders to the Grung, but who and for what purpose remained a mystery. Given the Draconic lettering, lizardfolk seemed to be the most likely, though the business-like language seemed to go against my impression of lizardfolk in general. It is entirely possible that my assumptions about their lack of civilization are unfounded, of course. I have not personally encountered any before. Still, there was little we could do except remain vigilant. Kalanyl promised to relay the information to the higher-ups in the colony.
As we were talking about it, one of those higher-ups entered the bar. A woman with a mechanical arm, accompanied by mechanical baboon, came in and spoke with the bartender in the Drow tongue. She noticed our group as she turned to leave and instead came over and introduced herself as Sibyl Slate, the owner of Slate’s Claim. She said she’d heard a little about our recent exploits and wanted to hire us as security for a party she was planning to throw in the Foolish Frog in a few days. It sounds like most of the important people from the colony will be there (as opposed to the convicts like us). We will be given various jobs for the night, but mainly we are to be there to keep everyone safe. Since this is my primary function, I am confident in my success. I do find myself wondering what sort of threats Ms. Slate may be expecting, however…