Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Notes On The First Episode

-I like this episode the least. I've seen over two months worth of episodes so far and every one so far is better than the first episode: the camera is less shaky, they're funnier, you can hear people. So stay tuned.

-Name of the show courtesy of Mandy.

-We talk a little about what happened the previous session there--most of that is courtesy of my adventure-seed version of Jeff Rients carousing mishaps table.

-Music is, like I said yesterday, courtesy of The Sword. Thanks to Shiro at RPG Corner for turning me on to them. As you probably know, it's hard to play D&D without music--which creates a problem for filming the show: in order to have us really playing like normal, we need music, but we also need the licensing rights to every single note of every single song you hear a snippet of on the show. So you can't just put whatever CD on and start shooting. (This also, incidentally, is why porn music is so bad).

Since I am a big Sword-during-DnD fan I took an outside chance that they'd do it and--Hey, look at that--lucked out.

-2 Things that wound up on the cutting room floor:

Satine and Connie planning to go out the window and circle around behind the militia guys and attack them.

During the interview part of the show, me asking Kimberly how many of the people in the room she'd had sex with and her take a really long time to remember before figuring out it was 5. Out of 8.

-They start in Vornheim, right in the middle of the map.

-There will be stupid. The response to this show will include clueless D&D fan snark, clueless porn fan snark and possibly clueless stoner metal fan snark and clueless-mainstream-press-on-slow-newsday-snark. If the past is any guide, the ignorance will go viral and have serious hybrid vigor. The main problem is when they spout disinformation. If you have ever found anything on this blog enjoyable or useful or interesting, I humbly request you correct any factual errors you may see about us out there in the psychotosphere. I appreciate it.

-As of this first episode:

Frankie's a 2nd-level dark elf rogue named Varla
Kimberly's a first or 2nd-level half-elf barbarian named Rookia
Satine's a 2nd level wood elf rogue named Mirror
Connie's a first-level halfling rogue named Jinx
Mandy's a 3rd-level tiefling cleric named Tizani Ildico, which apparently means something in some actual language
Sasha's a first level tiefling wizard named Foghorn Leghorn, then she changes her name to Mowgli, and then to Mo-Dog


-They have a pretty nice miniature for nearly every classic monster in the game
-One of their sculptors, Werner Klocke, is particularly gifted at sculpting pulchritudious and callipygous females, and
-They put out a lot of minis.

Mandy and I like, own, and operate Reaper Miniatures a lot and so when we got the go-ahead to do the show, I asked The Escapist if we could get Reaper to sponsor us and the Escapist people made some phone calls and Reaper said "Yes".

Upshot being Reaper sends us whatever minis we want for the show. Which is indeed very pleasant and makes me feel even more like a spoiled brat than I usually do while working on this project.

So I decided, to make thing simple for myself: on the TV campaign, I use monsters that I can represent pretty well with a Reaper, and for my home games I'll use all the monsters that I've got some Citadel or Ral Partha or whatever other mini for, or which are as-yet-un-minied.

Anyway, what this means is Step One involves me going through every single page of the fantasy sections of the on-line Reaper catalog and deciding who's in.

If you're wondering, looking at every single Reaper mini takes six hours. This is both fun and grueling and definitely makes your eyes hurt.

Then, once I got a list of all the minis I liked--plus thought up a few conversions we could do with Reaper parts--I grouped the monsters according to the environment I wanted them to show up in. The list of available environments were based loosely on a gameworld evolved from this map.

So then I write up a kick-off event for the campaign and think--ok, if they start here, where could they plausibly end up after two sessions? And I ask Reaper to ship all the low-level miniatures that match those environments and figure out adventure seeds I can drop around there.

Then we shoot.

Then, after that, depending on which seeds they picked up, I write up new material for wherever the party could plausibly get to in one session from there and ask Reaper to send all the stuff that matches those environments--plus any new stuff that evolved out of play. Like, for example, the girls stole some riding beetles from some goblins the other day so I got Reaper to send some riderless beetles.

I have a flowchart with all the environments in boxes with the monsters and other adventure ideas next to them for mapping out what stuff I'll need to write up when. If they do X then I have to prepare for eventualities Y and Z, if they do W, then I have to write up Q and Z, etc.

As time goes on, there will be some triggerable events that will lead to things getting horribler in one way or another (don't know what those'll be exactly--or which ones the PCs will blunder into--we'll just have to wait and see what develops) and I'll begin to throw in plot ideas based on what happens during the game that shape the material so that events in the sandbox begin to point toward the major villains.

We are using new-school level advancement, partially because that's what Satine was used to, and partially because it means people watching can actually see the PCs grow over the course of the year, but mostly because I want to be able to fit the awesome, earth-shattering monsters into the first season.


SirAllen said...

The Escapist website seems to be down due to the huge popularity of this! That's good news for me as I won't be fired for watching it at work. (Not that I think it's NSFW, but it definitely isn't doing my job.)

Mandy said...

It's Tziane Ildiko. And I'm 4th lvl.

Mandy said...

Damn. Now I have to correct myself.

Tizane Ildiko.

John B said...

I liked it. The first episode in any series is usually the slowest, but I think it has some cool potential for the future. I think you may have caused a nerdgasm at the Escapist by just referencing D&D + Porn, if you can somehow throw in Halo you'll cause a nerd singularity that could well destroy us all. Good work.

thekelvingreen said...

Wow, the comments over there are a bit... unfriendly aren't they?

It was a bit rough around the edges, but it was interesting to see a group of non-gamers sitting down with the game. Unless you regularly introduce people to roleplaying, I think it's easy to forget how charming that early enthusiastic confusion is, and I think a lot of the commenters have got rather hung up on the porn bit and have overlooked that. Their loss.

Kevin said...

The comments over there are coming from short-attention-span console gamers. I mean, given their starting position of 'tabletop RPGs generally, and D&D specifically, are boring; ttyl gotta go play Call of Duty', I'm not entirely surprised by the reaction.

On the other hand, I thought it was great, but I had very different expectations than the typical Escapist commenter. (I wanted to see your GMing in action, based on your blog posts.)

Unknown said...

Looking forward to checking it out this evening. Doesn't sound like it's 100% workplace friendly.

Jonathan said...

Will any of these be longer? It seemed a bit... rushed.

Also, Ms. Grey seemed unenthusiastic about the whole thing.

Still, I laughed. It shows potential and I'll definitely watch more.

Zak Sabbath said...

i want them to be longer.

sasha has quite a character arc over the course of the episodes.

Stefan Poag said...

Your all attractive young female games probably make much better video than the rpg games I play in that have 6 slightly paunchy and not sexy guys sitting around a table drinking beer, eating cheezits, getting fatter and making bad jokes. Oi vey.

phrybasscrak said...

I like it sir, I like it a lot. Can't wait for episode 2 to come out, nice choice with sword, definitely sets a certain atmosphere.

SirAllen said...

Wow, the comments are filled with the self-important nerds that I hate so much. I think I will have to never read the comments on there again because I just end up mad at the internet and that's stupid. Every one of those dorks who compares it to their own game and comes to the conclusion that theirs is better makes my own nerdrage come out. Damn.

I liked it! Looking forward to the rest of the season.

Bard said...

This was great! Congrats!

I'm with the lenghtier comments at the Escapist site: This is more thought provoking than funny, which is not a bad thing, especially as you say, that this is just the beginning... :thumbup:

Sean T. Collins said...

I already did a little pushback against The Stupid for you in the comments over at Topless Robot, where you received a truly glowing write-up from the proprietor, my chum Rob Bricken.

Jonathan said...

I vote for 20 minute episodes. That would allow for a good summary of an evening's game, but it would be a lot more work at your end. That's enough time to build both tension during those moments and humor throughout. Anything less (and 6:30 in particular) will likely bounce around and give very little context for in-game events. But as I said, it's still early.

I like to think that Ms. Grey will be a hardcore gamer in a few months ("Can we play tonight? No? Tomorrow? C'mon! We can do a sidequest!").

Unknown said...

Good evenin~

I am a regular visitor of TheEscapistMagazine, though I do not participate in any community activities. I watched the first episode of your new show there and I was actually quite happy with it. It got a lot of negative comments in the forum thread, so I want to say a couple of things to you. Even while accepting the risk, that you are never gonna read this. First: please do not stop doing that show.

I understand, that this was the first episode and the cam was a little shaky. So it was more like a pilot of a ... phantastic new series.
I would like to see more actual D&D going on. I never played it, but I am really interested in it and I would be happy to see you and your friends playing D&D.
I am looking forward for an awesome premise turning into an awesome show.
Have fun with it!

James said...

Congrats! A lot of crap is gonna get flung your way, so remember that there's a bunch of folks out here, who do appreciate your work.

Anonymous said...

As EIC of The Escapist (and an avid D&D player), I wanted to apologize to you guys for the stupid in our forums. We generally get a lot of negativity about anything new we do, and something like this show, that refuses to apologize for having a personality, is bound to get its share.

It's inevitable with a site as large and varied as The Escapist that some folks just won't "get" it, and that they'll then be stupid about it. That's life. At least they're watching. Maybe they'll learn something.

For my part, I think the show is the coolest thing I've seen anywhere in a long time, including at The Escapist. And working with Zak these many weeks bringing it together for The Escapist, I've come to know him as a brilliant, passionate, creative mind of the first order and a far better DM than I'll ever be. I'm proud to be associated with the production.

Anyway, thanks to you guys for supporting it, in spite of the stupid, and I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have so far.


David Larkins said...

"Music is, like I said yesterday, courtesy of The Sword. Thanks to Shiro at RPG Corner for turning me on to them."

Famous by tertiary association! I'll take it.

That Reaper sponsorship is turning me green with envy.

I emailed the show link around to non-bloggy gamer friends and one summed it up thusly: "It's like Roger E. Moore meets Russ Meyer."

Looking forward to more installments!

Anonymous said...

Haters? Ignore them.
Though the dogs may bark, the caravan moves on.

It's not a bad start, really. It's a little disorienting with the extreme close-ups and editing but D&D is pretty disorienting the first time you play so it actually seemed intentional and rather appropriate.

Reaper makes some great minis, too. Are they planning to make figures of the PCs? Maybe a signature Zak Sabbath line with moon-headed dudes, vomiters, and those hand-centaur things? Just an idea.

Jeff Rients said...

Fun stuff! Obviously there was a little still-finding-your-sea-legs shakiness, but that's to be expected. That the ladies are all gorgeous is nice, but in the end I think it's just neat seeing some people enjoying a lively game of D&D.

biopunk said...

Congratulations on the first episode!

(I finally saw it after numerous attempts to reach the website. Apparently yr thread is more popular than the Final Fantasy schtuff...)

Callipygous. Sweet. New adjectives as well as new are always appreciated.

Now, just what does "Tizane Ildiko" mean in whatever language it comes from?

IHaveTilFive said...

I'm going with "Gypsy Warrior." My g-pa is Hungarian, and my eyes lit up when I ran this through a search. We've been going through an intro Hungarian course, but haven't gotten to anything beyond the usual food and directions stuff. He speaks it a little, but not textbook Hungarian, and some of the words he learned from his parents (who lived back when it was still an Empire) were outdated when he ran into some Hungarians in WWII.

Anyway, the show was great, and hope the subsequent episodes are a lil longer. 20 minutes sounds like a sweet spot. This campaign will have the split-squad mission where the guy playing the thief takes out the pimped-out sorcerer, right?

The Cramp said...

Evidently I have nothing better to do than read the comments on the escapist to see what all the fuss is about. It reminded me of hanging out with a crew of theater students who were sort of proud of not 'getting' Brecht.

They will all watch it religiously however.

SC78 said...

Congratulations on episode 1! It was interesting putting voices to faces after reading about them for the last couple of months. I'm looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

Fucking Metal!

Unknown said...

It's always neat to see how different groups play D&D. :)

Why are there guys sitting around in the background and not playing? If you get one of them to hold the camera we could see the DM as well. Or maybe just put it on a tripod.

Anonymous said...

"pulchritudious and callipygous"

Two of my favorite words.

All of you guys have great hair. Looking forward to ep 2.

Shinobi said...

Slow to begin with... but bound to get better with each episode!!

Congrats on the Reaper sponsorship!! How about terrain, will you be using any? Personally I prefer Worldworksgames, download, print, build, play and you get some really nice stuff for the ladies to play with.

Thanks for providing an interesting RPG blog and videos. Hard to concentrate on the game with such a beautiful group of players around the table, but who's complaining ;-)

Roll on #2.

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

Contents of comments on large sites -> meh that's the internet, that's what happens when "groups" get too large/too large to know each other.

But, who cares much what anonymous dorks on the Internet say. It's much more impressive and interesting that ~260 bothered to say anything at all. Considering typical lurker to commenter ratio's that is a lot of people watching.

I found it most interesting having all the knowledge of your blog, the group, the "building" of your campaign, rules concessions made due to player mix, etc. and reading the really clueless, assumptive comments.

Makes me consider and regret all the assumptions I've made after initially experiencing something.

Mandy Morbid said...

@ Ihavetifive

"Gypsy Warrior" is right. Tizane = Gypsy and Ildiko means "fierce warrior". All my characters have had Hungarian names. I like how they sound so strange and archaic.

(My Grandpa was from there too and I have visited family there twice.)

Angry Wombat said...

I liked it - always a fan of seeing how other groups play. I'm going to have to save these somehow and watch a lot together, as it seemed that the show cut off fairly abruptly.

Very jealous of the minis - we've just used spare dice and books/cups etc for the terrain and suchlike.

Very much looking forward to seeing more!

Unknown said...

Excellent job. If that's the worst episode, then things can only get awesome :)

Nice to be able to put faces and voices to names.

Looking forward to the next episode already.

- Neil.

Jason said...

Things seem a bit rough now, but it's obviously things that can be improved upon, and it's a hell of a lot better than things I've seen with much bigger budgets. The interaction's fantastic, and that's the important part. :)

Oh, and for those of us who are a touch lacking in experience with the various versions of D&D, and thus cannot compare, what's the difference between the oldschool and newschool method for level advancement?

Bard said...

""Gypsy Warrior" is right. Tizane = Gypsy and Ildiko means "fierce warrior". All my characters have had Hungarian names. I like how they sound so strange and archaic.

(My Grandpa was from there too and I have visited family there twice.)"

I'm Hungarian, and this is just cool... Especially the bit about how you like the sound of Hungarian names.

But the Tizan part was a WTF? Never heard that word before... Always learning. :-)

Dirk said...

The title and logo remind me of the prologue to John Dies At The End, with the "badgeraconda." Now, there's a cool idea for a D&D monster ...

So, what did the players end up doing? Casting hold person, or opting for the diplomatic solution? ...or do I need to tune into the next episode to find out?

Peter Darley said...

Very cool!

Perhaps next time there will be a bit more D&D playing. :)

letsdamage said...

Nice job on the video. Like everybody else, I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes.

It's sad that my mind was blown by your group's pronunciation of "tiefling", right? I'm always surprised at how these made-up, written-down words end up sounding when spoken aloud.

Rod said...


If it's any consolation, I got in a lather about that too.

Mandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mandy said...

Also, I'm pretty sure we pronounce it a couple different ways, and I've just learned that it's from the German "teufel" which means demon or devil. So not altogether a made up word.

Anonymous said...

Great first video, looking forward to more... oh, and I'd pronounce it "teafling", would guess it is based on the German "tief" which means deep, depth etc, would fit the origins of a being come partially from the abyss... but that's just us Germans... or?

Tom said...

I've never been too hung up on pronunciation. Though, believe it or not it's actually had in-game effects for us.
The party was trying to sneak through the lands of the evil demi-god Iuz, we met a patrol of Orcs and attempted to talk our way out of trouble, referring to the above demi-god by as "Eye-ooze"
Imagine our surprise when the orcs informed us, as they drew swords and proceeded to slaughter those unable to run away "That's not how you say Mighty Lord EEEUZZZ name!"
OTOH the DM got to go to bed at a decent hour before his calculus final the next morning (which may have been the point. Possibly. Perhaps.) and all of us players paid much more attention to made-up world details from then on. (How much attention we paid to real-world events didn’t change noticeably though.)

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Excellent first episode Zak, Mandy and Co.

Just wanted to let you know that you all made "After Ellen".

Pretty cool really.

letsdamage said...

Yeah, I'm sorry for starting a pronunciation tangent, but I always saw it as "tief" (German for deep, dark, whatever) with a "ling" tacked on. What can I say, I listen to a lot of German industrial music. I can totally see why somebody would say "ty-fling", though.

Anonymous said...

After the explosion of madness that this has recently caused, I am going to make one simple request for future shows. Tell me to piss off if you want.

Please consider that children can access The Escapist without the same warnings as this blog.

As the link showed up on the TARGA blog I have an issue with some of the conversation that was not appropriate for small children, some of whom can be in the room while their parents and others are watching your presentation.

In future productions, if just for 6-10 minutes, could these be family friendly? Go nuts here, there is a warning for the blog and I respect that, I am not asking for total censorship, I am asking your group to respect the parents of young children who can access the video without a warning by being in the same room.

The video is a great idea and it is superb promotion for the hobby, as is any video showing roleplaying being played in a positive light.

If you decide to keep the videos clean, don't do it for me, just take a moment to consider parents of young children.

Zak Sabbath said...

I'm not changing the show. Talk to the people at the Escapist if you want a warning at the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, I am not opening a bigger can of worms, I have already spent enough time today doing damage control over this, no need to start a war.

Zak Sabbath said...

no, i;m serious. They're reasonable people--if you want a warning, write to them. I don;t see why they wouldn't do it.

As for the rest--If I ever had a kid, I'd name it B.X. Blackrazor, so I'm nobody to give parenting advice, but I say--watch an episode alone, if that episode matches your standards for what your kids should be watching, show them, if not, don't. But we can't very well do an honest show about this group while constantly trying to cut out the swear words. There'd be nothing left.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of reading about or watching other people play D&D, but the storm in a tea cup moral outrage got me curious and now I'm waiting for the episode to load - and looking forward to watching it. It's a great opportunity Zak, congratulations.

Unknown said...

Really? People are giving you crap about this? I haven't played since I was a teenager but I found this immensely entertaining and forwarded it immediately to a friend. You managed to get together an ALL female crew of players AND Sasha Grey? Damn. I can tell you in my day girls wouldn't come within ten miles of a game. And let me just say having worked in TV for years that it's refreshing to see a reality show that (with the exception of a celebrity guest star) seems pretty real. Kudos - good luck with your show.

The Lord of Excess said...

Bravo man! Anything that gets publicity/attention to the awesomeness of tabletop gaming of any kind is aces in my book. The morality police need to step off ... its none of their business ... if they don't like it don't watch. As an atheist I'm getting tired of the idiot "moral majority" (which is a massive oxymoron ... they AREN'T!!) can screw off! Viva la tabletop gaming revolucion! Also Sasha Grey rocks! I loved her before I found out that she is cool enough to try D&D out ... now ... words can't express the respect I have for her :)

Noumenon said...

Zak, I have a question about this episode. What did you think of Sasha's request to own the inn? It sounds like a new player's first stab at "here's a game where I can do whatever I want." Reminds me of trying to become the sheriff of the first town I gamed in by exposing his incompetence to the mayor.

So if you had time to think about it, how would you have responded?

1) "OK, I'm going to improvise a quest to open up that possibility later on, because I want to build on what excites Sasha so she'll come back."

2) "I'd like to pander to the new player, but this is a good example of how you really can't do anything you want in D&D, when your goals would sideline the rest of the players and the campaign. I don't want to give her the wrong idea."

Which approach is better DMing?

Zak Sabbath said...


I DID have time to think about it, and I don't ever stop the players from doing whatever they want. If you listen to the tape you'll see it wasn't me who stopped her, it was Satine.

If Sasha'd convinced the other players that the msot fun thing to do would be to try to own the inn, then that's what they'd be doing.

It's a sandbox, that's the point.

The players could've fought the guards and medusa, gone on the mission, or ignored it altogether--they chose option 2, not me.

Noumenon said...

It sounds like your approach is, "I let the players as a group do whatever they want." Makes sense for a group game, and keeps you from getting pulled in all directions. I wonder if that should be part of the social contract for my group. As a player I tend to get ideas like "I want to get that corpse out of the city" and execute them all alone if no one else cares -- it should be my responsibility to get other players to care first.

(For reference, what I asked about actually occurs at 4:00 in episode 2.)

Zak Sabbath said...


No, not at all. I meant what I said. If Sasha wanted to go off on her own, then she could've done that, too, but the group decided to stick together.

If you want to see what happens when they don't want to stick together, wait til around episode 20.