We discuss ghost whale tummy rubs, proficiencies, and the many kinds of giants in D&D. 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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Amanda: Hey welcome to The After Party, we just did so much in that episode. We rolled initiative twice. We killed people. There are all kinds of new creatures coming after us.
Brandon: Let's not say we killed people.
Amanda: That's true. I will fall on that sword.
Eric: You know who also fall on the sword, Geneva when you stabbed him in the head.
Amanda: Yeah. I mean I just hit him really hard. But we'll get there, let's go roughly chronologically. This poor confused giant just breaks my heart. We learned so much mythology. Oh, my gosh what do you guys think, Brandon and Fish, of this episode.
Brandon: Super interesting because every time I've encountered a giant before it's always been, holy crap giant, kill fast this is really bad, everyone's going to die. And that was my mindset going in. But apparently, this guy is just like... I just feel bad for this giant person. They don't know what's happening and they're very confused. All they want to do is their job and they can't do their job right now. And it's heartbreaking.
Brandon: I want to give it a big hug.
Amanda: That encounter could have ended a lot worse than it did. I'm not going to question why the giant walked away because I was just glad that he did.
Eric: Yeah. Zubi is a really interesting character and I think this shows how different all the different types of giants are in D&D, every race has like its own environment and its own temperament and what they need to do to survive. You'd think that like every single type of giant was the one from Jack and the Beanstalk who like is a giant doofus who can be manipulated by a human but that's not necessarily the case. So, it's like, what does a stone giant need to live I guess. And how does that relate to the medium-sized creatures, like a society that's kind of built itself around there.
Amanda: Yeah, I am excited to learn more about them as time goes on. I am so nervous that we left Captain Alex behind, the idea of me in line behind just seems anathema to me and I'm a little bit nervous. I mean she can take care of herself, especially in Panther form. I forgot that she could shape shift. So that was dope. But I'm a little bit nervous about how that's going to go down.
Michael: She'll probably be fine?
Brandon: She's pretty... she's on the older side, right?
Eric: Oh yeah.
Brandon: I think she's seen some stuff. I think she can handle her own.
Eric: Oh yeah Halflings can live like a hundred-fifty. So, she's a little bit older. Yeah, she's seen some stuff
Amanda: Someone else who's apparently seen some stuff, Johnny your proficiency with ships astonishes me.
Michael: So, this was from our encounter last time with Captain Alex. I was steering the ship for a while when she was a little incapacitated. Eric was like, sure you're proficient with ships now because you did a good job, which I really appreciated.
Eric: You did a very good job I got to say. You rolled very well and you made very good choices. So, this didn't not feel un-earned. I feel like if you steer a ship through a storm you know how to steer a ship in general.
Amanda: So, Eric did you know that this was going to come back up. That we would have a big boat chase maneuvering important scene?
Eric: No not at all. I thought that when you were going to go over the speedboat things you were just going to rustle around in there and then go back to the ship. I didn't think you want to take one of the boats.
Michael: Yeah. I love these custom fun proficiencies and skills and profession stuff that really only comes in the game, you can't prepare for it. Other systems like Traveler, they have like a billion skills that you can start with but then that kind of sucks because you're making decisions before you know the situation. It's a lot more fun to grow and earn that skill of arcane handshakes or of sea vehicle and...
Brandon: Tummy rubs I think is another one.
Amanda: Yeah, I have proficiency in tummy rubs.
Brandon: Can you use it on anyone who's not Oatcake? And would we enjoy it?
Amanda: I mean I think that's up to two adults to decide between themselves.
Eric: Brandon, you can't just go up to people and tummy rub them.
Brandon: I disagree firmly.
Eric: But creatures, dot dot dot.
Amanda: I mean I'll try to tummy rub the ghost whale.
Eric: Oh no, please don't do that!
Michael: This seems like a good idea.
Brandon: Next time on Join the Party.
Eric: Inara Dies.
Brandon: She tummy rubs a ghost whale
Eric: Inara dies because she rubbed a ghost monster.
Amanda: Yeah, I'm not lining up to touch that thing. Oh, what a scary image man, I'm a little bit creeped out still by that tableau we ended on.
Eric: Oh yeah. I mean, I think the ghost whale is really interesting, in fact, I pulled that from an episode, um have you heard of the podcast Spirits?
Michael: Is it a drunken dive into myths and legends?
Eric: It is a drunken dive into myths and legends!
Eric: The hosts, Amanda and Julia look at myths from a queer and feminist lens while drinking and having fun.
Amanda: We do. It's true. And we did a great episode on the Bake-kujira, which is a Japanese ghost whale.
Eric: So that's actually where I pulled a lot of my inspiration for the ghost whale. It's obviously not the same, but do you remember some of the stuff that you could tell people about?
Amanda: Eric, I was drinking during the episode... I don't remember a lot
Eric: So, I will tell you what you already told me and the research that I did.
Amanda: We will just pretend that this is a pedagogical exercise where I have the student explain back to the teacher what it is that I taught you.
Eric: I feel like I'm just Julia now, and you're just like oh yes, and you're going to make a joke about poetry at some point
Brandon: Do you want to take another take and just say yes, I know everything but you tell me, Eric?
Amanda: I'm not too proud to own up to what I don't know.
Eric: So, the Bake-kujira is a really interesting Japanese legend. There are these stories from Japan that are just like creepy tales or ghost tales. And this is one from ancient Japan that actually didn't get that much notoriety until the modern era. For some reason people gravitated towards the story. So, it's actually very similar to what we have in the legend. One rainy night something massive and white appeared off the coast of one of the islands in Japan. Fishermen then got in their boats and swam out there and saw it was like a whale but a whale that they hadn't seen before. It was ghostly and the flesh was literally coming off the skeleton. Also, there were these like very strange birds and very strange fish that were swimming around with it and infecting the water. The fishermen took their spears, threw it at the whale and nothing happened. It just passed right through. It was raining so they couldn't really see that much, and then all of a sudden it disappeared. And they never saw it again. There's only one story and one instance and it is literally existed until the modern day. It's really interesting. And just the one Japanese art of the ghost whale is like really haunting. You've got to imagine it's like something the size of a whale and just a massive skeleton. It's like looking at the Plesiosaur in the Natural History Museum. But imagine that was just a skeleton. And in the water, it's very scary.
Brandon: That's really cool, I love that.
Amanda: I don't know if any of you have seen a beached whale or beached whale skeletons before but like even that is scary. Like even though you know it's inert and dead and on land and it's still scary because the size is just so immense. And in myths, it's very rare for like one story by like some folks who weren't notable to see a thing that didn't fit into some preexisting format. People just don't have a weird occurrence and then that becomes a myth that lasts for centuries. But in this case, it did. Which is why it's so neat and remarkable and substantiated by different witnesses you know and there really is something there.
Brandon: Do you think that was it. Do you think it was just a really, not to rain on the cool parade, but was it just a decaying whale that came up and it was rainy and hard to see?
Amanda: That's what I'm thinking. And I mean especially because there were you know birds above and fish below probably attacking or feasting from you know a creature that had died. Also, gases, decomposition like weird stuff happens in bodies after death there can still be a motion for reasons that are explainable.
Michael: Especially bodies that big.
Amanda: Especially bodies are big, and there's blubber like there are all kinds of weird stuff that happens in whale bodies, so I hear. And yes, that is what I think probably went down.
Brandon: Can you imagine seeing that though?
Amanda: No. Terrifying.
Michael: The only picture I ever have about a beached whale is just the Seinfeld episode where...
Eric: The sea was angry that day my friends like, like an old man sending soup back into the kitchen.
Michael: The entire monologue he does where he then reveals the golf ball is one of my favorite moments from that show.
Brandon: That was my least favorite Star Trek movie
Michael: That was my favorite.
Amanda: Is Seinfeld just people lying? Is that just the show?
Eric: Oh yeah.
Amanda: It was lying in New York City?
Eric: They're terrible.
Michael: It's just New York City
Brandon: It's just New York City. Everyone just lying all the time.
Amanda: I mean that's my guess. I grew up outside of New York City right near Rockaway Beach and beached whales happen sometimes and it's like an event for the summer and it takes like many many trucks and days and sometimes weeks to clean up. And it's, it's just the thing. Long Island is a whaling town.
Eric: This episode has a first, that we haven't seen before. We have Inara actually killing somebody. You got really close when the Red Throat Gang attacked the ceremony but you really just did that intimidation even though you got the total drop on someone using your Shadow Cowl. But this was actually your first kill. And you got the assassinate bonus. Amanda how do you feel about that and how do you think Inara is dealing with it?
Brandon: Did you do that intentionally as well? Was that an intentional kill? Because you use the butt of your dagger. So, I'm curious.
Amanda: Yeah. My intention was to incapacitate the threat and I think that's how Inara views assassins are like; one, a kind of cool club that she wants to belong to with the thieves cant and the marbles and the calling cards and the notes with the dagger. Like it's all kind of intrigue the way a kid kind of idolizes the mob or you know watches a crime show and thinks that it's cool. And so, I think all of this has been somewhat theoretical to her or hypothetical to her until now but she's there to defend Alonzo, to do a job to make sure that she and Oatcake and her companions don't capsize here in the middle of the ocean with the ghost whale coming up behind us. But if he had just crumpled down the bottom of the boat and was knocked unconscious that probably would have been smarter because we could interrogate him or bring him to the representative as evidence of this plot happening. But you know, I don't think she is going to lose any sleep over it because it made sense, per the obligations that she signed up for.
Michael: Yeah, I was fully prepared to interrupt what was happening, pull alongside ask someone else on my boat to grab the engine to steer jump over and cast spare the dying to keep him like knocked out but not dead so that we can interrogate him.
Amanda: But like listen he is trying to kill Tom, Tom would have died if not for Tracey's Inspector Gadget moves. So, it's not like I brought a gun to a knife fight like this was a battle of life and death from the get-go.
Brandon: And to be frank I think for the...
Michael: Hi Frank.
Brandon: I think throwing some chum into the water might have helped us in our escape a little bit.
Amanda: Yeah maybe so
Eric: Who can say, who can say. You actually brought a knife to a knife fight.
Amanda: I did. I brought an assassin knife to a normal person knife fight.
Amanda: We also met a bunch of new NPCs this episode, just immediately they're all just so vibrant in my head right away and about you guys but there are lots of people to keep track of, lots of boat lots of mixing of there's a fox and a hare and four people in a rowboat across the river. Like there's all kinds of like you know mysteries happening. But was there any particular inspiration behind these NPC's
Brandon: Just piggybacking off of that, how do you create them? I'm a person who's really bad with names and I can never remember names in general, but the NPCs are so real in my head that I even know if I can't remember their name I still know who they are and how their action, how they're feeling. So, is there a way that you go about creating them as well?
Eric: First of all, I like to thank our patrons for giving me a wonderful well of names to pull from, we've been able to use first names and last names and combinations of the two just to like to make them sound fun and fantasy. But even like regular people like Evan, like Evan Downy, one of our patrons. He can just like have the name of Evan and I feel good about that. I want to say though, that the three people who you were riding within the boats. So Tombjorn, Callie, and Geneva I wanted to give them different names because I wanted to keep it ambiguous about whether they were a good guy or a bad guy.
Amanda: We're not going to like assign a Patron name to an obviously evil person. Unless I guess the patron wanted that
Eric: Or like I guess even someone who might be in danger. Someone could have died and someone did, but like that danger was always there. I didn't know necessarily that, that was going to happen. But then you're like punching this dude really hard with a dagger.
Amanda: Listen, guys, I'm an assassin.
Eric: The other thing it's like in Law and Order SVU, when a special guest shows up and you see them come on screen. It's like, is that Dean Cain? What's Dean Cain doing? Dean Cain is obviously the murderer. So, I didn't want to like tip my hand to either the players or the listeners about that. There's a thing in the DMG, the Dungeon Master's Guide, about building NPCs, it’s a place to start with. And the idea there is pick a strange quality or quirk and then kind of work backward. With audio, it's actually really important to do that so I can translate the voice there. And also, I don't necessarily want to assign like gender or race to specific places because I think like the stereotype is boring. I think that the less that you know or expect from people is where I want to walk from. So, for example, I didn't necessarily want to give away the fact that Geneva was going to do something but like he's just like big and angry. I think it was more important to me that I knew that he had one brown eye and one blue eye than what is this guy going to do next.
Brandon: Yeah, I think it makes it more vivid in my head. When an event happens and like this big bulky guy throws another guy off of a boat. It makes it so much more real and tangible if it's not just some big bulky guy, it's that guy with the brown and the blue eye. It's a more realistic, more image focused narrative. I think that's true especially with like Evans speech patterns.
Eric: Oh, that's right. Man, I've only been thinking about the three people in the boats because I was controlling four people at the same time during the scene.
Michael: And Alonzo
Eric: Oh Alonzo, I'm so sorry that I left you in so many places, there are just so many people running around.
Brandon: My favorite parts were when you had to do conversation with yourself.
Eric: It always happens. So, I want to think about Evan's speech pattern. In my head, he is very talented but he just has terrible word recall so it makes people think he's stupid. And I think the three of you all think he's stupid. And definitely, the people around him did as well. So that's just what I've been working with. And I think that it translates really well he has a strange speech pattern, he has a tick. He only responds or like has a particular disposition it makes it easier to improv like this. I mean I did the same thing for Speaker Martinson and all of you guys picked up right on it. How she says as it were all the time.
Amanda: And I think that speech pattern also gives Evan something that he wants to rail against and prove himself. You know like, I can start to kind of ascribe character motivations to him whether they're canonically true or just head canon for me for the character. The more kinds of quirks you have, like them more places there are the more footholds that are for your imagination to step in there and start like fleshing out full lives behind the characters that could otherwise just be like, oh a dwarf, an orc, and a Tiefling are in a boat with you. But it surprised me that Evan wasn't the boss because it was just someone that we had been talking to, he came with us, he told the other three to wait somewhere. I just assumed I don't know. I guess I didn't question it. And so that interaction with the Tiefling on the boat surprised me in a really interesting way. I like being surprised when we play.
Brandon: It's a strategy you can use for character creation as well, it's something I actually do with Tracey. I had read the Dungeon Master's Guide as well because I was doing DM work at the time, but I figured what's something interesting that I can do with Tracey and the fact that he has these signals up and down his skin is like a really powerful image.
Eric: Is that a thing about Warforged? Like did you read that or did you just came up with that?
Brandon: It's just something I came up with. I figured like if you have a hunk of wood or like a bathroom stall sitting somewhere for a long time, what do people do? They draw on it. So that was where that came from.
Eric: That's reminds me exactly of Johnny like you're taking warlock and turning it on its head.
Eric: I mean everything we've talked about like, positive stuff
Michael: You need to be making these kinds of quirks with NPCs, with PCs, with everyone because otherwise, it's not fun playing as a very generic character. With Johnny specifically, I rolled that he's afraid of the dark that I turned it into something else. And there's all these tables in the DMG but also the Player's Guide, and if you don't have those you have all these tables they're fan made but also official ones that Wizards of the Coast or Pathfinder and all these guys have released. Normally when I have players I tell them to roll on, I'll give them a quirk list of about 100, ask them to roll five times, pick one or two. One if they're going to stick to like basically as it's written, or Two if they want to like mesh around or play with. And it's not always a mandatory thing but it's like Eric said, that's how you remember them. And it's not just physical quirks. It can also be how they think it can be something that never shows up except for that one pivotal moment three sessions in, one player is like 'I hate bananas I can't deal with bananas' and they go nuts because there are bananas and everyone's freaking out like, what is happening. Like that's the memorable part.
Brandon: Do you guys remember we found out that Fish really hates bananas in real life?
Michael: I really don't like bananas, like I really don't.
Eric: I didn't know that.
Michael: I can handle banana bread but only if there's like a lot of other stuff in the banana is like a muted... I don't like this banana taste. Maybe I would like it if it was like the old banana taste. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Michael: Like how Runts bananas or like old style candies taste different than how bananas taste now? It's a thing!
Amanda: I'm not with you dude, I'm sorry.
Brandon: I'm with you.
Eric: So are we going to... This is a banana talk
Michael: This is Banana Time with JTP
Amanda: Banana time!
Brandon: I want to make some banana bread now.