5 Things Vox Machina Can Do to Avoid a Fiery Death

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Art by caiomm at http://caiomm.deviantart.com/

It’s Thursday, people of geekdom, which means it’s time for Critical Role! The heroes of Vox Machina have little time left to prepare for a showdown with Thordak, The Cinder King. In an attempt to control our fears, and build our excitement, we put together this little advice column for our favorite adventurers. Vox Machina, please don’t die! Tal’Dorei needs you, and so do we.

  1. HEALING POTIONS. Hundreds of healing potions. Potent healing potions. Thordak was tough when he was just a dragon. Now he’s taking on fire elemental crap from some crazy powerful heart stone thing. He’s glowing red and bringing the whole fire plane over. Uh, not good. Fire breath, claws, tail, probably other crazy fire elemental stuff. He could kill you in one round. Don’t wait for healers. They might be dying on the other side of the battle. DIY healing.
  2. TALK. We know you can. In fact, it’s probably our very favorite thing about you! Well, that, or your fabulous hair. Use those free actions to focus on battle talk in character! Make yourself say something quick at the end of your turn. Quick information sharing every single turn. Examples could be: “DYING!” “Raishan has turned on us!” “Thordak is wearing cute underwear!” “POISONED!” “Grog is really a dragon too and we’re surrounded!” Though if that last one is true, you’re all hosed and I would probably just give up.
  3. HIDE. Better cover and hiding places are essential. We’ve learned the drawbacks of the mansion. Stupid being on another plane where magic jewelry phones don’t reach. Make that Plan B. For Plan A, maybe a quick half wall that curves over? Percy’s a genius, ask him.
  4. FIRE RESISTANCE. Seriously. You’re going to be cooked alive. Scrolls of fire resistance! Potions of fire resistance! Whatever you can find! SHOP FOR YOUR LIVES! Life may only need things to live, but you guys need some major fire resistance. Not everyone can be as cool as Pike with her badass armor. Help yourselves. Oh, and throw in a Heroes Feast while you’re at it. Just in case.
  5. KEEP GILMORE ALIVE! For real. We will come in game and perform a TPK if you let him die. Sorry, sorry. That was aggressive. We are all stressed. We just love Gilmore the most.

As a bonus action, we have added the following:

5 Things Critters Can Do to Survive

  1. BEER POTIONS. Characters could die in a round! Make sure you heal your emotions with your favorite drink. Maybe Grog will lend us his Alchemy Jug? Potions of Wine, Gin or Diet Coke can substituted as you see fit.
  2. TALK. Twitter. Chat. Make sure to use all caps. You can panic with us and the rest of your fellow #critters together!
  3. GET IN THE MOOD. Listen to this freaky soundtrack to get yourself pumped up. Oh crap, they’re all gonna die.
  4. FIRE RESISTANCE. We all better get some fire resistance too. Thordak hates everyone. I’m not sure we’re safe. Make sure the blanket you’re hiding under as you watch is fire resistant. Carry a fire extinguisher everywhere. Can’t be too careful .
  5. PRAY. Sacrifice some chocolate. Gods like chocolate. And by sacrifice, I mean eat it. If you don’t like chocolate, send it to us. We will make your god offering ourselves because we love choc…I mean, we love you that much.

We hope Vox Machina takes our advice in the loving spirit it was intended. And who knows? Maybe Thordak will wake up tomorrow and decide “Nah, I think I’ll go back to the Fire Plane, this is boring.”

Oh who am I kidding? We are so boned.

Memory and Mercy: A Critical Role Story

Critical Role is one my very favorite things on the internet. I wear the badge of being a #critter with pride, but I usually keep my fandom contained within compliments, retweets and buying beautiful art made by other people. But something unusual happened this week. I felt inspired to write a story. To give you some context, I haven’t written fiction since I was in high school, and I have never even put my toes in the waters of fanfic. But I had to get this story out. This piece is made with more love than talent.

To give some brief context, this is set a few centuries in the future of the world of Vox Machina, the intrepid adventurers of Critical Role. I hope this story is the beginning of turning the adventures of Vox Machina into a series of folk tales, as they would have become in the decades after their real story ended. We’ll see how much inspiration I can come by.

Please be advised that the rest of this post contains spoilers up through Episode 68 of Critical Role.

Enjoy!

Memory and Mercy

New Emon, circa 250 years Post Conclave

The children filed into the teaching hall in as orderly a procession the young and excited are capable of, finding their seats and chittering to each other. The hall was beautiful, lush green grass for a carpet, high windows streaming in the light. The students’ benches glowing warm wood, made that much more beautiful and inviting with Druidcraft carvings and living flowers climbing the legs. At the front of the space, their teacher waited with the patience only a long life can bestow. She had promised to start their day with a story, truly a history lesson hidden within a tale, another chapter in the famous adventures of Vox Machina, heroes of Tal’Dorei.

“Good morning, good morning students, let’s take our seats. It’s time to begin our lessons.”

“Mistress, Mistress, you promised us a story!” the students cried as they found their benches and chairs.

“Tell us ‘Grog and the Pony’!” she heard Callisto Brightheart shout out. “I want to hear about how the pony saved Grog and Scanlan from the evil dwarves! Please Mistress, it’s my favorite.”

It hadn’t really been that way, but these tales grow with the telling and the years gone by. Better to let the children believe a magic pony had rescued Grog and the Gnomish bard from certain death than the rather messy truth. Certainly Callisto was not ready for the real tale, she rode her pony every day and was becoming very attached to him.

“No, no, I want to hear ‘Vax’s Wings’!” piped the voice of Fen. “Tell us how he traded his favorite blade so he could fly and how he became best friends with the Queen of the Ravens, who saved Vox Machina again and again.”

Well, that last part was mostly right. Vox Machina’s bacon had been pulled from the fire by the grace of the Raven Queen more than once, but it was never a blade Vax had traded for her favor. Someday, the children would learn that the blessing of a god does not come in exchange for steel and leather.

She opened her mouth to speak, to tell the students what today’s tale would be and found herself cut short by another request.

“Mistress,” said the small voice of Quince, “please, I would like to hear ‘Trinket, Trinket, Little Bear’. Everyone knows that talking bears are the best! Tell us about all the times he saved Vex, oh please Mistress.”

She smiled. Trinket didn’t talk, not really. But it was true that he saved Vex many, many times. Saved her life, saved her soul and her sanity. She thought for a moment about perhaps giving in to Quince, and telling the children all about how when Trinket was just a cub, Vex found him and made him her family. But no, she had made a promise.

“Those are all most wonderful tales, my children. But you have heard them all already. I have a new story for you today.”

“Is it ‘Keyleth and the Sparkstone’?” called Hylas. “Or ‘Attack of the Dragons’? My sister says that one’s scary! I want to hear a scary story.” Sweet Hylas, for whom the dragons were never real.

“No Hylas. This is the story of Percival, who rose and fell, then rose again through the blessing of Sarenrae and the love of his family, Vox Machina. Listen well, children and heed my words. The pull of vengeance may be strong in this life, but the power of love is greater by far.”

The children finally quieted, as if by a spell. This story was definitely new. She looked over her students bright and beautiful, settled her shoulders and began.

“His name was Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III, which is a mouthful, isn’t it children?” She paused, steadying her breathing. “But we called him Percy.”

A Chat with Amy Taylor

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Amy Taylor is the writer and director of Jess Archer Versus, a recent series out on Amazon Prime and YouTube that follows a trouble-making detective and her side kick. Jess and Chase create as many problems as they solve, and his motivation is cheese. Here is a recent chat we had, a literal chat. I replaced each “lol” with “yes” so we sound more professional. There was also an inappropriate Game of Thrones bit…

 

SiG: Tell me about Jess Archer Versus. What’s your pitch to new viewers?

Amy Taylor: It’s essentially Veronica Mars meets an Edgar Wright film – so if you like either of those things, you should give Jess Archer a try 🙂 It has the mysteries to solve, and the prickly, cranky teen girl detective like Veronica Mars, and then it’s got the sense of humor and style of an Edgar Wright film (although really it’s probably most influenced by Spaced, the TV show he did with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost)

SiG: I love Veronica Mars, and I love Jess Archer, but I didn’t get the sense that Jess had a marshmallow center. Is that a major difference?

Amy Taylor: Well, it’s really deeply buried. Hopefully if we get the chance to do another season we’ll see a little more marshmallow. Right now the only one who probably even knows she has a marshmallow center is Chase. Jess’ cranky exterior is actually one of the things I like most about her – I think girls are socialized to always try and be nice, so it’s fun to write a female character who doesn’t care about that at all.

SiG: YES! So there is potential for season two? What needs to happen to make a season two, and what can we expect from more Jess and Chase adventures?

Amy Taylor: I’d love to make a season two. I think the actors would all be on board. I just need to figure out the funding. We’ve just gone up on Amazon Prime for streaming, so if we do well there, that might help us get money for a second season. And I’m submitting to cons/festivals, anything to get us exposure that would hopefully translate into views. Every view gets us closer to another season.

SiG: Amazon Prime is a huge step! Congratulations!

Amy Taylor: Thank you! And as far as what their adventures would be…I’d like Jess and Chase to explore the world of high school theater. I’ve got some ideas for a ghostly mystery that would work well in that world. Of course like a Sherlock Holmes story, there’s always a scientific explanation…but I do get a lot of joy out of imagining Officer Turner getting freaked out because the school might be haunted.

SiG: Well the school might be haunted!

Amy Taylor: Yes, it might be. I’d like to see Officer Turner team up with the janitor to hunt ghosts! That could be a spin off!

SiG: Ghost Hunters side quest would be hilarious!

Amy Taylor: I’d also like to delve a little more into the Jess/Chase friendship and see what happens when we really put some strain on it.

SiG: Season One’s funding from the Kickstarter was just $15K. How did you make that work? The lighting looked excellent by the way. Usually low budget means bad lighting!

Amy Taylor: Oh thanks! I’ll pass on your compliments to the DP. Yeah, 15K was tough, but we got a ton of help. The cast and crew worked for free (a lot of them had worked on the Jess Archer short film we did a few years ago), and we were able to shoot at Ohio University where I went to film school, and they very generously gave us a break on housing and equipment, so we were able to make our money go far!

The DP actually shot the original short, and the main actors also returned, so we could generally shoot pretty quickly because everyone already knew the tone and sense of style we were going for…so that was helpful in saving money. We shot the short film in five days and that was about 13 minutes and we shot this in 7 days and it’s just a little less than 42 minutes.

SiG: So if you were able to put together a bigger budget for season two, what extras, besides paying your great cast and crew, do you think you could bring? Longer episodes maybe? Or would you want ghost effects?

Amy Taylor: I would LOVE to do longer episodes. So yeah, that would definitely be a goal. And paying cast and crew would be huge. They so deserve it! I think I’d also want to try a few more stylistic flourishes. We were able to do a few, like the opening of episode 6 where we shot it like a silent film, but I had to downsize a lot of those ideas in the script because it was like, well, that requires a whole different set up with lights and production design, and maybe we don’t really have the time to do that, particularly for something that will only be onscreen for a couple seconds (most of them were quick little fantasy sequences where we’d whip in and whip out). So I ended up cutting some fun stuff out. As is always the case…but if we had a bigger budget and more time, I’d like to get a little more of that in there.

Yes, ghost effects would be fun too.

SiG: Yes, the fun stylistic add-ons really set the tone. I would definitely love more! This sounds like you were very rational about your budget and your plan to shoot this, but it had to have been hard. What was your biggest obstacle?

Amy Taylor: Probably the fact that because I’m based in LA, the actors are mostly in NY, and most of the crew was in Ohio where we shot, we couldn’t actually get together in person to rehearse or look at locations together etc. I was able to go to Ohio with my producer (the guy who plays the janitor) to scout locations and set the wheels in motion. We had a great producer in Ohio to keep things on track (the guy who plays the zombie), but the actors weren’t able to be in the locations until the day of, and the DP didn’t have a ton of time to prepare. He was mostly working from pictures and from memory since we had actually shot in some of those places on the short film. And really we didn’t manage to get the whole cast together to rehearse until the table read the night before shooting. Again we were very lucky because the main actors had already played these characters, and the newcomers were really prepared, and came in and nailed their lines and characters. But yeah, it was difficult to bring together being in all different parts of the country. And of course time was always an obstacle on the actual shoot days. Again with all the stylistic stuff we wanted to do, there’s a ton of different camera/lighting set ups to get everything, so the DP and I really worked to try and streamline everything as much as possible so we could make our days.

SiG: See? I knew there was drama!

Amy Taylor: Yes, such drama!

SiG: What’s your dream project. If you had a huge huge budget, and got to do whatever you wanted?

Amy Taylor: OH MY GOD! Okay so two things. Is that allowed? I’m saying them. I’d love to direct a big-budget fantasy/sci-fi film – I actually have the first draft of a script – Mad Max: Fury Road meets The Matrix…kinda. And I’d love to create/showrun a sci-fi show – actually I’ve written a show bible. It’s inspired a little by, if you’ve ever read the Morgaine books by C.J. Cherryh? And then there’s some elements of Firefly and Fringe….so yeah, either of those. I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon so the dream would be to have a career similar to his where he does TV but also film, and he’s got that sense of humor in his work even when things are really dark. Anyway, either of those or, you know, direct a Star Wars movie.

SiG: I don’t quite understand how Mad Max would merge with the Matrix, but I would still want to watch it!

Amy Taylor: Coming 2020…Mad Max meets The Matrix..find out how those two go together!

SiG: Ok last one. What is your favorite movie/book/comic/tv thing right now?

Amy Taylor:

SiG: CHOOSE! CAKE OR DEATH! Oh wait that’s something else.

Amy Taylor: Death! Wait, Cake! Cake! Dammit.

Oh, right now? Let’s see…favorite movie would have to be..bah! I can never answer this with just one. The Princess Bride, but also The Last Crusade, Mad Max: Fury Road, Moulin Rouge, and Singin’ in the Rain. Favorite book…The Silmarillion and Pride and Prejudice. Favorite comic…Sandman. And TV….um….AHHHH!!! Okay give me a sec…. Blergh, okay, um, I’ll restrict myself to shows that are currently still airing so that’ll be Game of Thrones (and Veep…I couldn’t do just one!). Wow, my brain almost exploded trying to choose.

SiG: So now, in order for fans to have season two, and you to eventually make Mad Matrix, we need to get people watching season one, which is out now on amazon prime and youtube. Anything else we can do?

Amy Taylor: Yes, watching on amazon and youtube, and really just spreading the word whether that’s via FB or twitter etc., or telling people about us in real life. If you can leave a review on amazon or a comment on youtube that would also help.

SiG: Liking, following, reviewing and sharing! The usual! Great. Thanks for chatting. I think I now have a better understanding of how crazy you are.

Amy Taylor: And I thought I was hiding it so well! Thank you so much though for doing this. Really appreciate it!

LARPs is a Nerd Masterpiece!

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LARPs is a masterpiece, so why aren’t you watching it? (If you are already, isn’t it great? Do you want MORE? Every new subscriber and twitter follower helps! Show Geek & Sundry that we love LARPs.)

LARPs is a web series that is silly, dramatic, and respects nerds and geeks. It follows a group of realistic nerds who play Live Action Role Play. Like any group of humans, they make their own drama…Betrayal from within! Laziness! Fear of embarrassment! It is a character-driven plot, but oddly driven by both the LARP players and the LARP characters they play. In fact, where is the line that divides player from character? I think–Oh wait, I was talking about why you should watch.

LARPs is hilarious, but it never makes fun of the nerd craft of role playing. Instead, the characters make fun of each other for the usual: trying too hard, not trying at all, and doing something ridiculously stupid that makes the whole party do extra work, and seriously, what were you thinking? It’s very realistic and whimsical.

Here are its characters…

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Evan: The dedicated GM who gets nothing but whining from his friends no matter how hard he works for the STORY. Evan just wants to be part of the group, but must stand alone, as the one responsible for everyone else having a good time.

Arthur-Notcus

 

Arthur: Plays NOCTUS the rogue, master of the silent strike. Which may be a fart. It certainly sounds like one.

 

brittany

 

Brittany: Brave and creative in-game, incredibly shy and indecisive out of game. Can she gain bravery from her in-game character?

 

Shane-Astra

 

Shane: Surprisingly violent and fire obsessed in-game, but what is she like out of game? Should her friends be scared?

 

Will

 

Will: Will is phoning it in. He LARPs purely to hit his brother inappropriately hard in inappropriate places.

 

Kat

 

Kat: A new player in season two, Kat has much to learn from the GM.

 

 

As a gamer who prefers pjs for game day, the dedication of LARPing outside with costumes is alien! However, I could not cheer harder for these players and their characters! Will they win? Will they set something on fire? Will they figure out what they are supposed to do so that they can stop getting eaten by bugs in the woods?

I will leave you with that hook. It is possible that the show ends because everyone was literally eaten alive by bugs in the woods. It is filmed in Canada. Start the LARPs journey here: LARPs Season One. Then continue here with LARPs Season Two.

If you love LARPs, show it! Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel and subscribe to Geek & Sundry!

Titansgrave Is Making Me Fall In Love With RPGs All Over Again

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Wil Wheaton, certified Geek God, has a new show on the Geek and Sundry network. An expansion of his fantastically successful show Tabletop, Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is super awesome. It’s fun, hilarious and beautiful,  and you should watch it. This is why.

I’ve been a fan of the show Tabletop from the beginning, and absolutely started my gaming life with tabletop and paper and pen games like old school D&D and Risk. But ever since my first taste of FFVII some 15 odd years ago, my true gaming love has been video games.  I enjoyed dipping back into the tabletop world for the occasional round of Munchkins or Cards Against Humanity, but really, nothing was as fun as logging into my Playstation and immersing myself in the beautiful graphics, epic soundtracks and dynamic game play of the electronic world.

When Wheaton and the team at G&S announced plans for an RPG special edition of Tabletop, I was excited to watch Wil and his friends play, but that’s really where my expectations ended. I had no idea how deeply I would fall in love with the world of Valkana and the story the group is telling.

There are a lot of things that are making me fall so hard for Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. The first is the depth of characterization that Wil, Alison, Laura, Yuri and Hank are bringing. Every one of their characters, even most of the NPCs voiced by Wil, are fully realized and fully committed. Certainly, it helps that this game is being played by professional entertainers, which makes watching it that much more fun, but it’s obvious that you don’t need acting training to create a fun and well designed character. Then there is the setting of Valkana itself. What a world! The mix of magic and tech is seamless and rational, and the combination of sci-fi and fantasy expands the play style opportunities. Basically, what I’m saying is this: Why wouldn’t you want to play in a world where you can have magic AND swords AND guns AND robots? Finally, the thing that truly puts Titansgrave over the top for me is the silliness, absurdity and joy.  The absolute blast everyone is having bursts through my laptop screen every week. I can’t decided who is having more fun: Me watching or them playing. And that’s awesome.

To sum up, what I’m saying is this: Wil and company have proved, emphatically, with Titansgrave that you can play RPGs with an equal mix of seriousness and goofiness. You can have fun, and adventure and create a real sense of the stakes without getting bogged down in being SUPER SERIAL. And you can do that while still respecting the rules, respecting the work your GM has done to build the story and the world.

Waiting for the new episodes to load on Tuesdays is an exercise in patience, and I know I’m going to be incredibly sad when we reach the end of this journey.  I’m anxious about the fate of Lemley, Killiel, Aankia and S’Lethkk. I want them to succeed and get more gold and more parties. I want to hang out with them and drink That Old Chaotic Neutral. (Seriously, Wil, please brew that beer for real. I beg you.) The team at Tabletop has produced a great show, but they’ve done more than that. They’ve reawakened my own interest in playing old school pen and paper RPGs around a table with my friends. I find myself outlining characters during down time at work.

Green Ronin is releasing the Fantasy AGE rules set at GenCon, as well as the Valkana setting. While Titansgrave might be almost over, my adventure in a new world with my friends is just beginning. I think I’m gonna play some sort of super stealthy spy who specializes in taking out enemies from really, really, really far away with magically enhanced sniper rifles. Or maybe I’ll dual wield daggers and specialize in thievery. Maybe I’ll have a pet space monkey, or be part fairy. These RPG worlds are full of endless possibilities, and that’s the beauty of it. You can be whoever you want.

 

You can watch Titansgrave on the Geek and Sundry network, as well as at the Geek and Sundry YouTube page. I also recommend the excellent show Critical Role on Geek and Sundry if you need more RPG adventure.

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