Afterparty: Labor Party VIII

Adventuring with two players, unveiling the secrets of time and space, and creating an ice-breathing T-Rex. This is the Afterparty, where we sit down after every episode to break down our game and answer your questions about how to play at home.

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Cast & Crew

- Dungeon Master: Eric Silver

- TR8c (Tracey): Brandon Grugle

- Inara Harthorn: Amanda McLoughlin

- Johnny B. Goodlight: Michael Fische

- Creative Contributors: Connor McLoughlin, Julia Schifini, Heddy Hunt

- Multitude:


[theme music]

Amanda: Hey, hi, hello, as ‘Queer Eye’s Cameron Esposito said in a recent episode of the show ‘Queery’, Illuminati confirmed. Welcome to the Afterparty!

[Eric laughs]

Eric: Really important part of the Afterparty: the things that Inara says is what all gay ladies say.

Brandon: Did she welcome people to the Afterparty on her show?

Amanda: She said, “Hey, hi, hello” to Tig Notaro. That’s how she opened the episode, and I dropped my phone.

Brandon: We have to sue.

[all laugh]

We did some D&D today, y’all!

Amanda: Yeah it was kind of like out of the frying pan, into the second frying pan, into the saucepan.

Brandon: Into the much deeper, more filled with oil.

Amanda: Into the dutch oven, yeah.

Brandon: Into the deep fryer.

Amanda: Exactly. Eric, you told us there were seven labors. You did not tell us there were five additional epilogues.

Brandon: Eric, I’m so tired of laboring.

Amanda: I'm so tired of laboring. Also we all have to labor under capitalism until we earn the basic necessities to survive.

Eric: Welcome to Dungeons and Dragons where you do stuff because I tell you to.

Brandon: Where’s the game where it's just like we sit on a beach and we have to roll for drinks?

Amanda: Ooh, it’s like a roulette of which drink you’re gonna get next.

Brandon: Yeah, it’s not a question of whether you get a drink, because you will get a drink.

Amanda: Right, it’s just which.

Brandon: It’s just which.

Amanda: Sounds great. Or like in the morning you're like, “Hmm I have five paperbacks to choose from.” doodle-dee-doodle-dee-do. Oh! There’s the one I’m gonna read today. Good! They're all good!

Brandon: I love when you roll and you make - that’s the noise that you make when you roll dice. I always have to cut it, but -

Amanda: I was picturing the Wheel of Fortune going around.

[Brandon and Amanda laugh]

But really, where did these ideas come from? T-rexes with ice breath. Tell me everything.

Eric: Okay, so this was still a skill challenge. You remember from Political Party? Basically I had these five stages that move through time and space that Ze’ol set up for you, and I kept score in my little notebook ehre about how well they did, or how innovative they were while solving these problems. Also, I brought Greg in in the second one for fun.

Amanda: Also for help, because -

Eric: Yeah, also for help.

Amanda: We weren’t doing too good.

Eric: So those first two that you tackled were modified versions of challenges that you could have ran into in the Labyrinth of Dawnrise. As we were kind of dealing with the loss of Johnny, I was thinking about how Dungeons and Dragons the game could emphasize the fact that Johnny is gone, and now we have a two-person adventuring party.

And literally the game of Dungeons and Dragons Challenge Rating is dictated by the number of players going against a conflict or a certain monster. So when you look at - I don't know if anyone has their Monster Manual handy.

Amanda: These are nerds. They may.

Eric: You probably do. If you take a look at any monster, you see the CT - the challenge rating - and that is like the - a party of four adventurers should go up against this monster at this level and sustain like medium damage, but no one should die. But everything about monsters and conflicts are then dictated by the number and level, and level, and skill, and party composition. So-

Amanda: Or like in Pokemon, the trainers around you and the gym leaders level up as you level up.

Eric: Right.

Amanda: And you have to level up before you can beat ‘em.

Brandon: That was always the hardest part for me when I was putting monsters together. It was so complicated that I was like, “I don't know. I’ll just pick this one and we’ll see what happens.”

Eric: Yeah, I mean -

Brandon: And then everyone dies.

Eric: It’s very dictated by the whims of chance, and you should use something called Kobold Fight Club, KFC, which is super helpful.

Amanda: [giggling] I love D&D.

Eric: It uses algorithms-

Brandon: Welcome to Kobolds!

Eric: Welcome to Kobolds. The first rule is don’t fight Kobolds.

Brandon: Eleven secret spices.

Eric: They use a bunch of algorithms dictated by the experience you can get to see which might be difficult, or too difficult, or too easy depending on how many people you have.

Brandon: That is a thing that we don't do actually that is on the character sheet and a lot of people do is experience points. That’s how you are supposed to level up.

Eric: Well there's a - okay we’re taking a hard left into different things.

Amanda: I actually have no idea what Experience Points do in D&D. It’s like in Pokemon Go, I don't use stardust because I don't fight any battles. I just collect my pokes.

Eric: Classic Amanda.

Brandon: They're good pokes.

Eric: Well, in theory, if you have a dungeon crawling game you can see Experience Points, like in Pokemon you have a certain number, and then you level up. I use story-based leveling, and I think a lot of other podcasts use story-based leveling, so that you can make it episodic, or as I do by arc, you guys level up accordingly. Which I just think is easier for podcasting.

But the point is, what I was trying to say, depending on how many people you have, makes it easier or harder to fight or deal with one trap. So by literally playing the game - the game mechanics will emphasize the fact that there is just two of you. And there is a noticeable loss because of the way that Dungeons and Dragons work, and I really love that.

Brandon: Yeah, it’s great..

Amanda: Yeah, the challenges that lie ahead of us are not going to scale back their ease just because our party has suffered a real and tangible loss. And I think it's really moving, even though it makes our lives harder, that we’re gonna have to be more creative, ask for help, negotiate when we would normally fight or figure out ways to make up for that void.

Brandon: Yeah, and that ice breath would have killed Tracey had I not been raging.

Eric: Oh yeah, that’s another thing. So with three and four, I kind of wanted to lean into the fantasy trope of the movement of time and space. Ze’ol is very much a sort of trickster that you see pop up in a lot of -

Brandon: Wait. Before we go on to three and four-

Eric: Okay.

Brandon: In the scarecrows, what was 15?

Eric: Right, okay so do you want me to explain these as we go?

Brandon: Yeah, take me through a wonderful stepping through time of 1 through 5.

Amanda: I am never gonna use a door again.

Eric: Okay, so we’ll -

Brandon: You’re just trapped in my room forever!

Amanda: Or the window.

Eric: So one was a scarecrow trap. You know there’s the monster, The Scarecrow, and then there's a literal scarecrow. Scarecrow the monster is actually really good for earlier D&D games, because it’s relatively low level - it’s a CR of 1 - but you can get a lot of them in one place and they are indistinguishable from actually scarecrows if they are not moving.

Amanda: Horrifying!

Eric: It's so scary but it’s like monsters are scary. Here’s one way that a monster can be scary by being tricky. So a sccarewcow monster can target a creature and frighten them, like have magical frightening on them, which is what some of the monsters were doing. Also, if it attacks you then you would have to do another saving throw and you could be Frightened.

So thats what happened to Tracey. The first time, Tracey got frightened but he shook it off, and then the second  time he got attacked and then frightened. Oatcake was afraid of number 15.

Amanda: Yeah.

Eric: Which because it was the actual monster-

Brandon: She was frightened, got it.

Eric: So that’s was what happened with that roll. Oatcake was walking over to 13, blink dogs have higher Perception when hearing, looking for giggles, it was walking over to 13 and then it got frightened by 13 and Oatcake ran away.

Amanda: Gotcha.

Brandon: What a good girl.

Eric: Yeah. Oatcake’s good. Oatcake is your third party member.

Amanda: Oh yeah.

Eric: Always.

Amanda: Speaking of which, I am glad that we ran into Greg. A sentence I never thought I would say. We’ve had much discussion on the podcast about our character-versus party-member feeling towards both Greg and Alonzo, but I don't know, it felt like our kind of reconciliation here was earned, and I’m looking forward to kind of leaning more about him should we get the chance to spend more time together, you know?

Brandon: You know what my favorite thing that I learned this game was?

Eric: Mm?

Amanda: What?

Brandon: You two can’t whistle.

Eric: Yeah, can’t whistle.

[Brandon laughing]

Amanda: No, Brandon was like, “Oh Eric, can you just whistle real quick just so I have it for the editing?” and Eric was like, “No.”

Eric: No, I cannot.

Amanda: And I was like, “No. I can’t”

Brandon: So that was - the bad whistle was Brando whistle.

Eric: There you go!

Amanda: But Eric, is it beacuse of Ze’ol’s time and space manipulation that he could go into like our memories and probably pre-history and like space?

Eric: Yes, so that is a really fun fantasy and also just fiction trope that I really like. There’s always a Big Bad who has some sort of control over time or reality. And of course you always go to like weird places. So Ze’ol went to place that he know would bother you guys, because I think he knows you pretty well.

Going to the Bachelorette Tournament stadium, and then going to where you two met, I thought that was just kind of fun and moving through that stuff. And then for the T-rex thing, I just like, yeah fuck it. Let’s go find a dinosaur.

Brandon: Guaranteed I thought we were gonna race with these dinos.

Amanda: Aw!

Eric: This was supposed to be really quick. Believe me, dino racing was on the table.

Amanda: Wait, but what were we supposed to do in the jail cell?

Eric: Do you wanna know? You really wanna know?

Amanda: Yeah, I really do!

Eric: Okay. that one is a classic D&D DM trick. Players are usually like afraid of their DMs and will kind of just do whatever the trap tells them to do.

Amanda: Yeah.

Eric: So you hit the button, the clock resets, right? You let it go down to 30 seconds. Door appears.

Brandon: Wow.

Amanda: Wow.

Brandon: Wooooow.

Amanda: Wow.

Brandon: Wooooooooow.

Amanda: Greg was right.

Brandon: Greg always knows. It’s weird. It’s like Greg has a telepathic link to his DM.

Eric: If you want to believe in Greg and do whatever he says, that might be an interesting chance for Tracey.

Brandon: I don't know. We’ll see.

Eric: See what happens. I mean we’ll have some consequences for you pulling the door patch, but the fact that you used the patch at all was just exciting for me.

Amanda: I don't know, i just feel such a renewed sense of urgency. Our HP is so low. I don't know, I felt like often we would rely on Johnny’s big bad spells to get out of a bind and we don't have that now, and so I think Tracey acted a lot - I don't want to say rashly, because you’re always a bit rash, but I think both of us were more willing to stand up to our antagonist, and more kind of strategic with the things that we used.

Like we looked for opportunities to do things that we are good at, which is probably how players should play, but is not always the way we approach challenges.

Brandon: Yeah, we don't usually play to our strengths [laughing]

Eric: No. The answer is no.

Brandon: What was the spike game? If we had started running forward, would we have had to run across it? Was that even possible?

Eric: The spike thing was basically you run across when you get to the halfway point, then Ze’ol was gonna hit the button. You guys were dawdling so much at the front that he kind of got fed up.

Brandon: Would it have just been a math game at that point?

Eric: No.the whole point was to get Greg to do what you wanted and then either break out of his - the whole person that was on him, or use the whistle to destroy the dial.

Amanda: I think it’s really smart though, because I don't know if we would have treated Greg like a serious partner if we hadn't been genuinely out of options. I was also delighted when I realized that we were floating instead of the ceiling sinking toward us, which is how I assumed it would go.

Brandon: Yeah.

Amanda: I was like, “Aw man, some Willy Wonka shit! Yeah I love this!”

Brandon: Yeah.

Eric: Still dangerous though. If you had gotten crushed, you would have taken damage over the course of turns.

Amanda: Oh no.

Eric: Because you keep getting hit by spikes, so you take another 15 damage.

Amanda: And the fifth chamber, I guess the risk there was the psychological temptation to turn back and not, hopefully, free the Speaker.

Eric: Yeah, there's some stuff there which we’ll deal with next episode.

Amanda: I also did not expect you to let us hear what Ze’ol said to Greg. So far, our experience of Alonzo and Greg has been just what they say to us as characters, and then listeners get to hear private correspondence between them which the characters have not.

But to be able to hear something private of Greg’s, treating him more like a party member, I don't know, it just seems like our relationship is entering a new level and I like that the formal choices we made here sort of reflect that.

Eric: We shouldn't keep ourselves from learning more about our characters just because the party is smaller. And I mean, as people move into your orbit it becomes that is the orbit in which the audience understands. There is going to be the people who surround you are then going to be more filled in. That’s how stories go.

Amanda: Alright, well TBD I guess.

Brandon: Yeah.

Eric: You’ll see. You’ll see.

Amanda: In the meantime, we got some audience questions!

Eric: Well, let’s ask a question directly to me. This one’s from Paul.

Brandon: [laughing] Do you want me to read it for you?

Amanda: I’m the DM.

Eric: No it’s fine. Question for the DM that I hope Hasn't been asked before - It hasn't! Thank you for asking this question, Paul - what is your process for coming up with cool homebrew magic items that you’ve given the players?

I do a lot of research on the internet just kind of culling information and ideas together. I really like having a tax on a powerful item, not necessarily curse, but a drawback. Something like the Undying Lantern was a really good example of that. It was really powerful, but there was, you know, a shadow lurking on the inside. Or something that’s indecipherable, something like the cloak with the patches on it. The player should be a little afraid to use it, but then once it happens it turns out it’s fucking dope and it turns out it’s very valuable.

I mean, this is why I have creative collaborators. I run a lot of this stuff by Connor. I’ve been able to use Mischa. I’ve been able to use Jeff, both of whom have been playing RPGs for a very long time. And I also steal from different game systems. Different game systems are very good at using one-time items, things that expire after one use, or things that work with different game mechanics.

A lot of stuff in Dungeons and Dragons are just weapons, but a lot of stuff that we do is not combat, so I want to make sure you can use it in different scenarios of different relationships, or something that can get you out of a squeeze without using fighting mechanics. I hope at some point I get to release the item table that I made for all of you, that was originally used for Doöve and Boösters, but I’ve kind of used as bigger item gets in between arcs. There's some really fun stuff in there, so I would love to show them.

Brandon: Was the Sawbone from Sawbones? Or did you just like that name?

Eric: Oh yeah, the Sawbone was inspired by ‘Sawbones’, the podcast from Justin and Sydnee McElroy, the medical podcast. But I thought it was interesting that you can heal but only if you get people to stay still, kind of like amputation in 18th Century medicine, if you could call it medicine. So it’s like you need to trust the doctor and the doctor is about as suited to heal people as Tracey is, so I thought that would be really fun.

Brandon: Rude.

Eric: Got ‘em!

Brandon: I need to find a  bottle of ether at some point.

Eric: This one is from Katie Schmatie: I have a question for the Afterparty. It’s come to my mind during Episode 9 of the Bachelorette Party. For Eric, what’s the process of making your players work with NPCs like Autumn, Alonzo, et cetera, in scenarios that they don't want to engage with? What are your thoughts as players when you come up with characters or situations that you're just done with?

Amanda: I think Eric makes NPCs so tantalizingly annoying or intriguing that we cant help but work with them. Like oh here’s doppelgangers, good luck. Like of course we’re gonna go talk to our doppelgangers. Of course we’re gonna make friends with the ooze.

Eric: Yeah, I think there’s always a rule when you make up a person, you need to make sure that they have a defining characteristic. It's fine if they are one or two-sided, I mean more depth can come out between role-play and I can add that.

I think the best example of that for me was Ev. So I was like, I want to make sure that there's a city guard person that they interact with, so it’s like okay who is this person? What are they good at? And Dexterity was always a thing that Ev was good at. What are the defining feature of them? It’s like okay well they can’t speak that well. They have a … um…

[Brandon bursts out laughing]

Brandon: This is so ironic!

Eric: What’s that thing where you cant speak that well and -? I guess it’s speech impediment, I don't -

Amanda: Recall issues.

Eric: Yeah. Recall issues, speech impediment, something I wanted to have going on in their brain that might make other characters, specifically you guys, underestimate them. Which is something that happened to Tracey a few times. And he was always gonna be the person to give you the most help, but he gets himself into situations because he cant communicate as well.

Brandon: I love Ev.

Eric: Yeah.

Brandon: He’s my favorite.

Amanda: Me too.

Eric: He’s great.

Amanda: And it’s also helpful, because your voice can only do so many things when you're doing ten characters per episode. If I were creating NPCs for a podcast, I would start with the voice. You need something to build the rest around.

Eric: But I cant do the voice until I know that person.

Amanda: It’s true.

Eric: So I have to build out these characterizations first. Usually it’s just a funny joke that makes me laugh, so that might be Stoneface, that might be Chad, that might be P0R0. They're just jokes that I know are gonna make you guys mad but are gonna make me laugh, and then I want to further those NPCs as they go on, and I want to have them interact with your lives. It’s the things in between, like the people who are important but are not big, big jokes - that’s the hard part.

I think when you're talking about situations that my players are done with, sometimes they ignore them and they just go do something else.

Amanda: But I think Eric does a really good job of balancing the thing that’s right in front of us with other options that are real. It’s never as if we run offstage and then have to be in character purgatory or plot purgatory while the other party members figure out something to do. There’s always another path that feels really real. Like the video game map is playable in all directions.

At the beginning of this arc, when I tried to convince Alonzo to come with me, I thought he would and I thought that that’s what was going to happen, and I was genuinely upset as a character and disappointed as a player that that didn't happen, but I knew that that was the answer and that Eric would find a way to make Alonzo do something, or put him where he had to be, and all I could do was go along with the rest of the party and follow the literal feather down the road to a new city. Get it? I’m talking about Bridge.

Inara has a lot of patience for figuring out if a person will be useful to her, and hanging out, and just kind of keeping her cards close to her chest until she figures it out. So that’s what I think makes it a really interesting mix is we are not afraid to have actual consequences or to actually leave something that it’s clear the DM wants us to do if that’s the right choice. Which is unpredictable and a little bit scary sometimes, but also makes it a good story.

Brandon: Yeah.

Amanda: Thank you so much for listening, everybody, and for sending us your questions. We always need more questions. We want some! So let us know in the After Party Questions channel of our Discord, which is thriving, lovely community filled with pictures of people’s crafts, and pets, and food, and their wins. Available only to our patrons. You can join at, as little as one buck, and scale all the way up to things like exclusive merch, like Eric’s NPC backstories. Every episode I think to myself like, “Ah, which one’s gonna have the backstory?” and it’s really fun to think about. As well as hand picked curated packages for our top tier patrons that are done by us on a rotating basis, so Brandon, Eric, or myself will pick these boxes and send them right to your door.

Brandon: It’s gonna be the dinosaur isn't it?

Eric: Maybe, you'll see. I wanna say that we have a P.O. Box!

Amanda: We do! It is P.O. Box 3241, Astoria, New York, 11103. And when you address the package, it must be addressed to “Multitude” so you can draw little dice or write JTP somewhere else on the envelope or the package, but the address must be to Multitude.

Eric: We’ve gotten some really cool things and I know we’re gonna talk about it more. We just got a lot of cool stuff. We got a dice box with little dragons inside from Izzy. We got a bunch of needlepoints from MurderPlease, our favorite murder on the Discord.

Amanda: I got a shadow cowl and we got a really nice note, so we’re just so thankful and grateful and seeing your actual handwriting in oru little P.O. box - which by the way, P.O. boxes don't have a back to them. It’s like empty on the other side so that postal workers can put the letters in.

Brandon: What?!

Amanda: I had no idea!

Brandon: I have never understood what a P.O. box is.

Amanda: I’ll show you ours.

Brandon: This blows my mind.

Amanda: Yeah, so you open the little door and then you just see back into the back fo the post office, and every time I open it, it’s like Narnia and I just have to see what the packages are inside.

Brandon: It’s just ghosts back there. Weird!

Amanda: Yeah, it’s very cool. So that address is on if you want to double check as well as a form to send us your questions for the Afterparty or anything else, your nice comments, if you have a sponsor that you think should be on the show let us know. And you can always, always ask us questions, shout us out, tweet your reactions to the Afterparty and the episode @jointhepartypod on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and Tumblr.

Eric: Nice! That was good.

Amanda: That was very affirming, thank you.

Eric: Nice, Good job on all that housekeeping stuff.

Amanda: Thank you. It’s a lot to keep in your brain at any given time, but our audience is great. We love doing the show. We need your support now more than ever, and we are very, very grateful for everybody who’s listening.

Brandon: Bye guys!

Eric: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

[theme music]