Arguing about Greg, unpacking the Undying Light, and debating min-maxers. That’s right, it’s the Afterparty! This is where we sit down after every episode to break down our game and answer your questions about how to play at home. Check out our Electric Lit article here!
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Amanda: Welcome to the Afterpartyparty where we talk about what just happened, what might have happened, why the things that happened happened, and most importantly, most excitingly, answer your questions about our campaign and our game. Wow guys this was a roller coaster of an episode. I feel like I say that every time but I went from almost crying to stress sweating to victorious fist bumps so hard that I actually knocked my knuckles against the wall and they are now bruised. So how are y'all doing?
Brandon: I honestly, like I'm kind of drained.
Amanda: I know
Brandon: Such a range of emotions that I'm like yeah, I'm dead
Michael: I'm fairly lit. AH? Undying light?
Amanda: (ignoring a great joke) Eric?
Eric: Nah I feel great. No, I’m extremely tired.
Amanda: Great. I don't know where to start. The first thing that I wrote down on my notes for the after party was 'why is Greg making me cry? I hate that guy' but this Greg monologue to me was, that was when those moments were like I was totally into the role play. It was actually interesting because I was like so immersed in what the character was doing. And like the ten-episode payoff of us finally understanding Greg's motives really for the first time, at the same time though like him talking about the fact that no one asked us to be here and this is his life, I'm like oh my god we're inventing characters and making them suffer for our own amusement and like we're playing a game where we just can drop in on people's lives and wreak havoc and then leave. And it was like, it was like so meta! Oh my god someone stop me from talking. I'm really into this.
Michael: Yeah but TBH. I'm not that upset if Greg is upset. He's kind of been an addict to us. But that's why even today I wrote specifically 'Greg=whiney' and then I added a question mark and then 'or loving husband' and I hate that because I still think he's whiny and I still don't like him, but I guess he's a loving husband.
Brandon: It was a really interesting dichotomy of player and character because I, me as a player I immediately like, oh like shit we feel like we fucked up really bad. I feel really bad for Greg. The whole time...
Amanda: As a player or as a character?
Brandon: as a player.
Amanda: I don't think that at all
Michael: I don't think we fucked up. We didn't do anything wrong. I mean not to...
Brandon: But like as someone who is like empathetic to that situation like...
Amanda: I was sympathetic but like he's reacting in a poor and kind of controlling way from an understandable place.
Michael: I mean we've only been able to react to his reaction. We've not been given a moment to take what he thinks and then actually think about it until now.
Brandon: Let me rephrase I don't mean like in-game we fucked up. I'm sorry. I mean like as a human being to another human being that makes me feel really bad and he needs help he doesn't need a bunch of strong arms like punching them in the face and throwing...
Amanda: But this is helpful though. This is literally day three of their marriage. And if this stuff is going to work for them like they have to learn to like trust and talk to each other
Brandon: You know all those like a real-life marriage testers that come around when you get newlywed. What do you mean?
Michael: This is some fantasy stuff come on.
Amanda: This is something that they are working through, and I think it's really helpful to have external forces calling Greg on his BS because he is doing behind the scenes like semi-controlling stuff to yes protect Alonzo but also to control him. And I don't know, that doesn't jive with me.
Brandon: But that motivation for me is like...
Amanda: Motivation I get, the behavior I don't and I think it's helpful for Greg as a person to grow with the fact that someone's calling him on his BS
Michael: His motivation I think is very solid, like you said. But yeah, he can change his attitude. He can change the way he reacts to this. He hasn't and I don't think he will. And I think he will still be a thorn in our side. I personally have a theory that based on the actions of his sister and him that they're either at least sympathetic or kind of aligned with the Red Throat gang. But that's just you know my personal two cents and theory.
Amanda: Yeah that's not totally coincidental for sure.
Michael: Yeah. So, he can think and feel all he wants about his marriage but he's doing the wrong thing. We can sympathize with a villain. We can empathize with the villain
Amanda: even as we work to undermine them.
Brandon: All I'm saying guys as a human, as Brandon
Michael: HOW DARE YOU DEFEND HIM! HE IS EVIL!
Brandon: As Brandon, I don't see him as a villain. I see him as a very confused man that I want to help and helping them is not mean punching him in the face.
Amanda: I see him as an antagonist to our character's objectives. Either way Eric great job creating a character that we've been arguing over for six minutes.
Brandon: I was going to say as like you were giving that monologue, I was having to like adjust the volume a little because he went really loud and the whole time I was like oh fuck gain. Oh my god. noooo
Amanda: I literally teared up. And I had to look away.
Michael: If we can stick on Greg for a second. Was this a reaction to the fact that it's been very clear that the three of us have hated Greg? Was this premeditated or was this more of an improv?
Brandon: Also want to say real fast. As a character Tracey still hates Greg.
Michael: Oh, sure sure sure.
Brandon: That doesn't change his mind.
Amanda: Yeah, I know, Inara doesn’t have the patience for it. In an After party didn't you talk about the fact that it was Greg being overprotective?
Eric: Oh yeah. My motivation for Greg always was that he really cares for Alonzo and this is really hard, that's always been the thing. And as soon as people have decided that Alonzo was going off to be the champion. I mean he can do whatever he can to stop that. Also, I want to remember if you look at your all of your characters actions from the outside yawl were bandits you came out of nowhere to save him in a very confusing time for his life. Then you ran off with his husband the next day without him knowing what was going on so he was upset.
Amanda: We ran after his husband but OK.
Eric: I know for sure, but he doesn't know. I mean Alonzo said it was like a Jasmine sort of biz.
Michael: Did we show him the world?
Amanda: shining shimmering splendid?
Michael: Thank you for not just shutting me down. Thank you.
Amanda: I try to yes and during the After Party, not during the game
Michael: Not during the game.
Eric: And then he gets walloped in the leg by Tracy
Michael: deserved it.
Amanda: He deserved it
Michael: deserved it
Michael: I think that he undoubtedly deserved it in that moment.
Eric: All of you can’t think that your own motivation.
Brandon: Hey I don't, Brandon doesn't think that I don't think he deserved that.
Eric: I'm just saying that everything he did was to keep Alonzo in Fidopolis. And I think if he does have a motivation running through all these actions can come out. I mean I didn't change anything to your responses. I didn't think you would hate him as much as it happened. But you know
Brandon: do you think that was like a personal affront to yourself?
Brandon: To make a character that we hate?
Eric: Not really, I mean Greg is one of the how many, 20 people I've introduced over the course of these two arcs. I mean you guys want Stoneface around at all times so it all kind of balances out and I'm OK with that.
Michael: I mean not to speak for Eric but goddamn should he be proud and happy of the fact that we hate a character he made like that is ultimately the goal of the DM is to make characters that we love or absolutely despise forever. And the fact that not only did we hate Greg and now understanding him, not to pat a colleague of mine on the back but that is a very...
Amanda: you're allowed to put your colleagues on the back.
Michael: So one of the things
Amanda: It is encouraged
Michael: One of the problems I had was during this episode, I was like god damn am I going to have to compliment Eric during the Afterparty this time. There's a lot to compliment about because you've got all of us to really care about someone who we just don't want to care about. And I cannot give more heaps of compliments on that.
Amanda: For the record Eric was essentially just shotgunning a beer as Fish was complimenting him looking away
Michael: which I think is the appropriate response.
Amanda: Ok ok ok. I think Brandon and I are the ones talking about feelings at this table.
Brandon: Your voice went up four octaves...
Eric: People's motivations don't change. And however people view actions is really up to the things that they care about. In my head Greg always thought he was doing the right thing and without really much loss. I mean so you guys fail the challenge, like big deal then you guys leave. That's really it. There's not much he would have lost but he would have gained his husband and now. I mean they're going to have to have a long-distance relationship over in a fantasy world which is complicated enough.
Michael: Stay tuned to our bonus series alternate universe where it's just Johnny and friends spreading the word of the Undying Light
Eric: Johnny and Friends?
Amanda: And then like the items am I right? Oh my god I'm so excited about the shadow.
Brandon: So, good
Amanda: I also like almost got a, I mean I did, I got a tear in my eye when Johnny met the Undying Light. WHAT WHAT AHH!
Michael: So, Eric and I have talked a lot about the undying light outside of thing, and I really appreciate that he has been so okay and willing with me steamrolling through the religion that he wants to have. I wasn't prepared as a player and really, I think you heard it was clear I wasn't prepared for it.
Eric: Actually, the undying light fits really well with the religion if you remember from the Meet the world episode when the re-centering happens I mean they kind of pared down the Pantheon but as you kind of learn in D&D if a celestial plane exists does that mean the gods go away necessarily it just means that they're not prayed to by the people on the material plane and that's cool. So, it's like these three, the Trinity is the one that they've kind of like pared down and simplified the religion but the undying light and this shadow realm that you've started to learn about can exist regardless.
Michael: I think it's a wonderful option in any kind of item that has any religious purpose to give the ability to talk or even communicate with the God or the patron as it would be for a warlock. And I'm really happy that I have the ability because so many religious or magical creatures or classes have no relation with where their power comes from. But the fact that I have to roll a CON save if I'm trying to do something from the lantern or the fact I have to spend time even just trying to focus and communicate with the light like there's a roleplaying aspect to my connection with the light. But now there's a gameplay aspect that kind of reflects that which I think just strengthens the relationship between Johnny and the undying light. I love it. There was no question that I was going to ask that first question. I obviously needed to know if Johnny was living the life he needed to for the undying light. And I'm really happy that the answer was yes. I mean that really was really important to me and I was tearing up, which is not something I like to say, but I was tearing up at the fact that I was receiving a piece of the light because for better or for worse I have started to really adopt and really enjoy this character. I a few years ago tried to switch towards more positivity because I felt a lot of in my family and myself a lot of depression and this character for whatever reason, we had talked about previous versions of this group in this game, and it was all negative characters and the fact that I picked a character that was so positive. It's kind of perfect because I believe I'm living a more positive life than I have before and the character really reflects that. And so, I thought it was really important and really good. And who knows how much Eric and his creative consultants realize how important it was to have that undying light be there that as Johnny was had to turn and sob. It's because I had no other words to say because I was tearing up and I had nothing. It was way too emotional. At the end, I told Eric you had not hyped enough. I was not ready.
Amanda: And I think any difficulty you're experiencing in the moment was not difficulty of determining what the character would do but just your fidelity to the character running into I don't want to sit at the table and be like I'm not doing anything. You know like it was...
Amanda: I think whatever difficulty there was just kind of game related because it was so clear that none of your role play was labored, like it all. Felt like such a logical and heartfelt unfurling of the foundation we've laid already.
Michael: This is why people should play D and fucking D, like this is why RPG's in general are so powerful because you get these emotions about characters that you help create that you feel you are even though you're not. And it's just it's such a. mmm
Brandon: You get a safety pass for your emotions. If it's if they're directed through someone else that's the power.
Amanda: And there are reckonings and there are like dramatic foils and there are like instances in which these beliefs can come to pass. Instances in which your lifelong dedication to a cause can finally and for the first time be actually justified and actually get evidence of a thing that you believe so long and those opportunities don't happen a lot in life to be like oh this is a moment that validates what I've done or this is an example that showcases a change in my character. And to me that's the most exciting thing is that like being forced to make choices or being invited to make these kinds of choices feel so much more intentional than it does in daily life where at least for me you know I often look back and only kind of see these changes in retrospect. And so, to recognize them happening in one another and to be invited and pushed to make choices that have real stakes I don't know. It's it's magical shit y'all.
Brandon: D&D, it's magical shit y'all
Amanda: We got you wizards, you can have that one for free. Eric did the way that any of us reacted to the items or to the plot in this episode surprise you?
Eric: Oh, first of all I like to give a shout out to Connor McLaughlin, one of my creative consultants who came up with the Bright Lantern and really built out a lot of its pluses and minuses and what it can do and how it fits into the whole story. I mean he's so invested into the world that I've created and the fact that he can take something from outside and inject it in and really capture that feeling. So, thank you so much Connor. Ah fuck, you guys. You guys. I feel a lot with the way that Speaker Martinsson wants to do her biz, because I love having ceremonies for all of you, like I want to be ceremonious in the way that I give you additions and I give you items. So, I'm really with her. I love giving you guys those items. I'm really happy that all of you use them so quickly. Brandon you've already used the Long Arm of the Law in a way that I never thought you could use it. I just always thought it was going to be like Inspector Gadget grab arm. But of course, it's also grappling hook. So yeah. And Amanda you like unlocked your inner assassin by using the shadow! Thank God. I love that
Amanda: Hell yeah
Michael: which Johnny is not happy about. Let's be very well.
Amanda: We'll talk about it once we're safe which we're totally not
Eric: And of course, everything that Fish has connected to with the lantern just makes you really happy that I kind of did a good read on his character and giving him what he wanted. I was really excited for the second half of the episode about the action movie roleplaying game sequence that we put together like I'm really trying to push you to your creative limits to see what you can do. And yeah it was a little bit traditional because you guys were attacking only when you get to attack because I'm actually giving you enemies that it's OK for you to mess with. But there were some really creative stuff happening and I'm really happy with a lot of your moves especially when Tracy threw himself down the flight of stairs. that was tight.
Brandon: It was very fun. Tracey had a grand ole time.
Amanda: I'm glad you brought Stoneface in Tracey.
Brandon: Yeah that was fun too.
Michael: I just want to bowl. I just wanna go bowling now.
Brandon: Arc three, the bowling arc
All: the bowling party!
Michael: Stay on brand Brandon.
Amanda: and in terms of being creative and messing with stuff. Eric you're talking in part about the way that you structured this fight it wasn't just roll initiative. Everybody takes turns and here we go. It was like discrete kind of mini objectives within this bigger objective of protecting Alonzo, defeating the threat which I personally love because it gave us a chance to like regroup in between also to sync up which made the actions more badass and cool. So, like where did that come from and what to you was the advantage of trying it this way.
Eric: I pulled inspiration from both like action movies and video games. It always feels like the hero gets to go first and it's like these enemies pop up and you have to defeat them and then you get the first chance to strike and then you can hit them. And I wanted to embody that. Of course, I had to give you some penalties and some damage if you failed but do you actually, you were all pretty successful and leaned into the things that you were good at. I also was surprised with how much depth there was. I was thinking you were either going to brush past a lot of things to get to Alonzo. I mean that's what Tracy did. And I think that was a very interesting strategy you intentionally split the party so that one of you could achieve the goal first.
Michael: I thought it was like the easy answer is get newly leveled four, all the AC, all the health dude
Brandon: shiny robot?
Michael: shiny robot man with a new super glove as close to the guy that we're supposed to protect that the ultimate goal is to protect Alonzo get him to him because you know if I fall or if Inara falls the repercussions can happen. But Alonzo cannot fall. And Johnny was already down on health. So, it's a waste of time for me to go up there because I wouldn't be enough of a shield for him. And then I will also quickly note that, I love that you did the timer thing so much because it's something I love doing myself and it's such a good concept. If you're playing D&D or you want to play D&D or any RPG put a physical timer to make your players have to make a decision quick. Because in this case we were able to find an answer quickly but in so many I'd say the majority of cases that timer is going to make wrong decisions happen and wrong decisions are so much more fun than decisions that you have infinite time to discuss
Amanda: If this happened in episode 4 we would have Effed up majorly.
Amanda: but I think by this stage we know what each other are good at and like to me it was a no brainer to send Tracey up because he is the biggest and strongest and the shield-iest and also someone who doesn't want to kill. So that was part of it too. Like if Inara can take a first kill to save Tracy one she'll do it.
Eric: I was really hoping that you would have slit the guy's throat. I'm really upset of that one.
Amanda: I mean I would have
Brandon: That roll physically hurt me.
Amanda: The roll just didn't work out. And I mean like I'm sure a character wise it's good that Inara's first kill wasn't a situation which was like ambiguously necessary like yes, he was threatening but will he actually have like stab someone if she didn't stab him. Who knows. I don't think Inara down deep in her heart wants to kill him she doesn't have to.
Eric: That's pretty weird being an assassin.
Amanda: No, I know
Michael: I don't think it's too weird. Inara has proven herself to be sympathetic...
Amanda: I see the assassin part as ultimate dedication to a craft that is sometimes necessary and even though I think she's excited to do badass things and she is excited to put her skills to use when they are necessary and to be the person with those skills. If a kill wasn't necessary I don't think that would sit well with her. Maybe keep up at night two months at a time, but especially for her first kill I think it needs to have some kind of gravitas that was lacking in the situation for the character. So, the roll hurt me too.
Eric: Alright we have one question for the Afterparty from twitter. This is @JST1138 'Hey all, loving the podcast' aww thanks! 'But had a question for the GMs, in your experience how have you dealt with a min/max-er?'
Amanda: What does that mean? Even though this question is not for me.
Eric: What a good question Amanda. So, a min-maxer is a type of player that dumps their stat points into the skills they will use all the time. So, if you have a fighter or a barbarian you dump all of your skill points into strength or constitution. So, you’re really good at the few things that you’re good at and you’re really bad at everything else.
Amanda: So, it’s just like stacking your Pokémon team for the next gym that you’re going up against.
Michael: it goes beyond just that, it also means changing all of their movesets specifically for that gym
Brandon: it would be like have a Mchamp who you gave a bunch of protein to, max protein, and then just gave four focus punches
Eric: In D&D terms, let’s say you have a barbarian, right? then you have a half-orc, who has a lot of points into strength and to CON, and then you pick the soldier background which gives you athletic bonuses and stuff like that. Everything is dedicated to you doing the best in terms of game mechanics, and it’s really hard for DM's and GM's because it breaks your puzzles and encounters all the time. it’s like you throw all these goblins, and this one guy has three attacks and destroys everyone in one turn and then everyone else who has squishier or a more role playing based character just don’t have anything to do.
Amanda: and I guess it would be kind of unfair also if you stacked a challenge specifically against their weaknesses
Eric and Michael: AHHHH!
Eric: well that’s the thing!
Amanda: Oh no!
Michael: That is in fact what you do!
Brandon: That is how you win the game!
Amanda: I can tell that I am not a GM because I'm like, that would be mean.
Michael: the problem with min-maxing is that it creates this attitude of you versus the GM or the DM, you are saying I am going to do the best I can to not ruin, but sidestep all the problems by maxing it out. For instance, Johnny is a half-elf because Johnny is also a warlock and I wanted the extra Charisma points. That’s minmaxing, but at the same time.
Brandon: wait I did that too, is that bad?
Michael: no no no no. you’re making a decision that’s smart, the point is if I kept going, I could have picked a background that was even more into charisma, I could have started with certain items that give more points. Johnny has many things that are a little min-maxed, but you balance it out with story, and you have to as a DM not stoop to their level to point out their weaknesses. As a minmaxer you’re playing a character because you’re afraid to play with weaknesses, and I find it more interesting if you have weaknesses or self-described weaknesses, and minmaxing...
Eric: we are exaggerating
Michael: a little bit, yeah
Eric: we are exaggerating, because minmaxers is kind of a dirty word in D&D, we are talking about 'that guy' sort of people. someone who wants to go off and kill and loot and do everything by themselves and not necessarily do teamwork stuff. so, it’s about dealing with people that you like and making it a group experience, and you want to make it challenge so they don’t just rely on one character to bail them out of every situation.
Brandon: I don’t think I ever had to deal with this as a DM, but the way I actually usually go about people making their characters the first time, I don’t care about their stats, I don’t ever ask about their stats, the first questions I ever ask are who you are, what did you do before this campaign, what’s your quirk, what’s your weakness. I want to know all your character traits, and then if you tell me your stats, I’ll say, no that didn’t work, we are going to revise this, that’s not how we are going to play that game.
Michael: the emphasis should be on what like you guys on a group want to do. if you want it to be a story based group you shouldn’t want to worry about numbers, and I’ve been fortunate that the most min maxer I had, that person seemed super ok with solving puzzles normally so combat was kind of boring, but they chose that and everyone was kind of ok with it so, we just had boring battles, and instead we tried to focus on puzzle type stuff. it’s that back and forth between DM and players to find a way around this person decision to kind of go rogue
Amanda: and as a new player I really loved starting from the story, that made it easier to get into this and have an actual character behind all numbers on the sheet, and explaining why my character is really good at stealth but poor at athletics. But I also see how it could be fun to break the game, like it could be fun to exploit a rule system to your advantage
Brandon: it’s fun to win!
Amanda: it is fun to win! so I see both sides of it
Michael: it just puts pressure on Eric that sometimes his players can do cool cool stuff that sometimes might be too cool
Amanda: and suddenly can sail a sailboat though a storm! because we all just roll really well.
Brandon: I think it’s also akin to playing a team sport, with one player who is just like a star player, and the rest are just average. I don’t think they will get that far, like in team sports. I think you’re better off with a team that’s overall pretty good instead of an average team with one star player.
Eric: oh yeah for sure. and we are talking about everyone having fun and coasting or relying on this player. but the thing is when you have a DM who will exploit that you’re really putting your other players in a pinch. if you had one really beefy fighter and then you do one charm spell, and their wisdom is an 8, and their intelligence is and 8, they are done. And then your party is kind of stranded. so, when you really kick the legs out of them, it’s about like trying to push everyone to have fun, and everyone to think intelligently.
Amanda: that’s actually a good Segway to something really cool we did last week. as of the publication of this episode. we published something in the website Electric Literature about Dungeons and Dragons as a collaborative storytelling endeavor. where it's more social than writing a novel and less you’re on your own buddy like improv. We just had a really awesome conversation for half an hour and edited it that into an article, good editing Eric nice job.
Eric: aww thanks!
Amanda: it was really really great. so, join us, look at the link, we will put it in the show notes of this afterparty. it’s all over our twitter and Facebook. And Mikey just started doing stuff on our Tumblr! which is jointhepartypod.tumblr.com how’s it been so far?
Michael: it’s been fun, I hope to be a conduit for people who want to ask us questions, and one thing I love about the D&D community, especially on Tumblr, is that everyone is pointing at each other saying, go listen to this, go look at this! Cause that’s the coolest for me. because there is so much love for role playing games on Tumblr, and everyone puts out such amazing work, quotes or drawings, it's Inktober! So, everyone is drawing stuff, it’s a ton of fun.
Amanda: Awesome, I personally have been really enjoying seeing the stuff that you are putting there, that’s at jointhepartypod.tumblr.com link also in the description! That is pretty much all we have for you this Afterparty, thank you for joining us, we reached the end of this arc and we are pretty stoked about the next one, and we will see you in two weeks with the start of our next adventure!
Michael: Undying light be with all of you
Brandon: bye guys!