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. Today we talk reskinning, consequences for bad rolls, stealing books, and try out some very bad impressions.
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Amanda: Welcome to the Afterparty, where today we get to recap our first battle. Gentlemen how do you feel?
Michael: Woo woooo! May the undying light bless us all.
Brandon: I a little tired. I could use a nap.
Eric: That’s ‘cause Tracey got a little messed up, didn’t he?
Brandon: Tracey got a little messed up.
Amanda: All right. Well let's start from the beginning: rolling initiative. What does it mean? How does it work?
Eric: All right. Every body gets a turn in combat. But according to like how fast you are like figuring out how the fight is going down you get to go either faster or before or after a person. So you roll initiative to figure out the order and I keep track of all that stuff. So every player rolls a d20 plus their dex modifier. I roll for all the NPCs and all of the enemies, and I keep a big list of who goes in what order. Which is why I kept asking different people when they were going to go, and then when I say “the top of the order,” I literally mean the top of an order that I have as a list.
Amanda: You don't always tell us when your characters lose HP or what their totals are or what their rolls are. Sometimes you would roll the dice and tell us what the number was, sometimes you wouldn't. So when do you tell us what NPCs or the enemies roll, and when do you not?
Eric: Oh that's a good question. I think the biggest difference between D&D and a video game is that you're supposed to be immersed in the biz and in the fight as a character. So you can see if someone gets messed up, you see if someone is literally bleeding if they get punched in the face. But like, you don't see... there's no such thing as the health bar in real life. So like you can tell when people fight you can tell when people are trying to do stuff, but like you don't have all that knowledge like in terms of data.
Brandon: One of the coolest things I like to do as a DM is actually doing fights because it's the one time when you actually get to, like, do character sheets and like have monster tables and stats and attacks and cool things. So like, something I didn't recognize when I was first a player is that they're not just like making things up as a DM. Like, there are actual full monster character sheets.
Amanda: Monsters are just like us.
Brandon: Just like us! ...is a Shadow a monster, or did you like, fix that up, Eric?
Eric: Oh yeah, Shadow is definitely a monster. It comes right from the Monsters Guide. It's really cool. And the reason why I like Shadow and I always think it's a really fun thing to do in the beginning of any like campaign is that it has a weird attack. Like usually if you're fighting a gerbilin or you're fighting like a bear...
Michael: It's a kobold.
Eric: (Mispronounces kobold) A kib... a cub...
Eric: A kibble-n-bits.
Amanda: A blue thing!
Eric: It only just kind of slashes at you and tries to hurt you, but strength drain is a really fun attack, and it's my fault for going up the most strength-ity the person. But like I like that there is a nother effect on top of just damage. So as I said before in the episode, Tracey took damage but he also took damage to his strength score, and that stayed until he got Tammy and Taylor's health potion. Here's the other thing on top of that: there is no such thing as a flying gun.
Brandon: (Sarcastically) Whaaaaaaaat?!
Michael: Gee whiz!
Amanda: WHAT! Why?
Eric: In the Monster Manual there is a flying sword. So what I did was I took stuff from Unearthed Arcana. They literally have like the damage that this magical gun does, and I put it on top of the flying sword monster. So what we're talking about, like stats and battle sheets, I took something that already existed and I kicked it up a notch. I did something called, that we call re-skinning. I literally took the flying sword skin and whipped it off and then put a gun skin on it. But I used a lot of the stats that already existed. I didn't have to make a monster from scratch. I used what Wizards of the Coast have worked so hard on it and made it my own.
Michael: And get ready for a Johnny B. Good hot take: This is the move to do. And anyone who wants to one day play D&D is to do like Eric does! Is, take the cool things that happen in the book and adapt it to the story you're telling. You can take the rules from any D&D book and make it into any setting you want. All you have to do is copy the stats. Just change the name. Describe it in the right way. Eric did it. You can do it. It works.
Brandon: Johnny hot cakes.
All: Oooooooh! Hot cakes!
Amanda: Johnny Hot Cakes is his retirement plan to open, like, a rest stop diner...
Brandon: Like a bed and breakfast somewhere?
Amanda: Somewhere in Georgia.
Eric: (Doing a Guy Fieri impression) We’re here in Johnny Hot Cakes! The best diner in all of the Concentric States! I want to check out the B Good in the B Good Cakes!
All: (Wild laughter)
Michael: (In exaggerated Southern accent) Now I may be a Southern warlock trying to make the best hot cakes in the land, but you, Guy Fieri, I hope you love these Johnny Hot Cakes.
Eric: (Guy Fieri voice) I want to get flavor blasted... by the Undying Light!
Michael: Let me cast color spray right on these!
Amanda: (In Southern accent) You know what they say, good cakes, good takes, good light, good life.
Eric: (Pained laughter)
Eric: I love... It’s like... It’s like they did like a testimonial from this like random old crone. It was like a hag who’s like sitting in the corner and it's like disgusting but she's like piling pancakes into her mouth.
All: (Laughter, catching breath)
Amanda: And I had a moment where during the game I was like, “Oh, this is a good DM decision,” when the potions explode. So when Johnny cast Burning Hands it’s like this cone of destruction. Obviously there are going to be consequences in the room. You can't just have a spell that destroys what you want to destroy with no consequences. And so you, Eric, as a DM decided that they are going to be potions exploding and, you know, things happening and kind of reverberations or feedback. So what were your thoughts around that?
Eric: Well I think there are two things that you got to keep in mind. One is something they call Area of Effect, and that's the difference between two different kinds of spells or attacks. You might have one, a targeted attack, which is just one or more particular peoples. But like Burning Hands is in a cone, is what they say. So it's like everything gets caught on fire, so there needs to be residual damage. I mean, Fish in a good job of figuring out if any of his buddies were in the area.
Brandon: Hey thanks.
Michael: You're welcome, brah.
Eric: But the fire is going to hit everything else. The other thing is that I have made it explicitly clear that these potions take fire to get made and react.
Michael: Let's be clear if it hasn't been: my character obviously only cares about outcome and not about consequences. So I have a repertoire of spells I could've used and I've looked at all of them and they all probably could have done similar things, but Johnny would have used burning hands because it would have been the most explicitly awesome. And you know, kudos for recognizing that it should have done collateral damage. So I was glad I didn't damage my allies. I did try to, you know, mitigate that. So hence why I took damage, but still.
Eric: Anyway you turn. You’re blue. You’re a blue person.
Michael I’m you're good with that.
Brandon: (Singing) Da boo dee, da boo die...
Amanda: You’re a blue boy.
Michael: That’s fine with me!
Michael: I heard that.
Amanda: Da boo dee, da boo die?
Michael: I would like to add a prestidig—
Eric: Da boo dee, da boo die.
Amanda: Da boo DEE, da boo die.
Michael: --itation that has that song playing in the background around me.
Brandon: Just, just in your general, going about?
Eric: Wait, here, I got this. (To the tune of “I’m Blue”) Well listen up, here’s the story.
Eric: (Singing) About a little guy who lives in a light world, and all day and... (Laughter)
Amanda: (Singing) Everything is blue for him. And himself, and every owlbear around...
Eric: Umm... duh duh duh... and he ain’t got nobody to magic!
All: To magic, to magic, to magic! (Sings chorus of “I’m Blue”)
Michael: Casts burning hands.
Eric: And here’s the drop. Womp-womp-womp!
Michael: (Makes dubstep drop noises)
Brandon: Uh, I, so, I... I wanna...
Eric: (Laughing off-mic)
Brandon: Hard transition. Take a swift 90 degree turn.
Amanda: Hard swipe.
Eric: Star swipe!
All: Star swipe, star swipe that.
Brandon: Uh, see, you... I wanna point out two things. This is a little bit weird that I'm pointing out, but well. You said a moment ago that your character really only thinks about themselves in general.
Michael: Yes, we can talk about that.
Brandon: But! Two things happened in this episode that go against what our characters are about. You saved Tracey and Tracey also swiped a book.
Eric: Mmm, I was actually going to ask you to do those.
Amanda: He did, a draconic book.
Michael: Those are both generally counter. I'll speak for myself first. Um...
Brandon: Are you gonna speak for me next?
Michael: No, I won't speak for you because I actually legitimately don't know why you did that, Brandon.
Michael: I think for Johnny, he's been with Tracey for a while to know that it is more a benefit for Johnny to have Tracey around than to not have him. He saved him in the room with Nessie. For him it's far more a benefit to have him around. He's also a believer of the light. One of the minor things you may have noticed is that Tracey was enamored by Johnny's speech and telling of the verse of the Book of Light.
Brandon: He had a favorite verse. He requested his favorite verse!
Michael: Yeah. And...
Brandon: Which you made up on the spot. Which Johnny made up on the spot.
Michael: And don't worry, there will be more verses from the Book of Light. But for Johnny it would be very important to have more followers of the Book of Light. He recognizes he's a physically weak person. He needs people like Tracey to exist, although I, Michael, Mikey, Fish, don't understand how Brandon--Tracey--stole a book, something so against you. I want you to justify it.
Eric: I also want to know why you would steal a book that you can't even read? That you try to read and failed at?
Eric: Like, are you trying to like find draconic stuff? Like, what's the deal?
Brandon: So here's what was going through my head. If I can direct you all to my character sheet—
Brandon: --you'll notice that under gold pieces it says 0. (Laughs)
Eric: (Sarcastically) Oh noooo!
Brandon: So honest original plan was... Like, I don't think he likes the fact that there's something out in the world that he doesn't know, you know what I mean? And so when he saw the book and he couldn't read it, not only was he like bummed because he couldn't help or play the game with Tammy and Taylor, and he also couldn't like build a relationship with Tammy and Taylor, which... Because, he, he thought they were pretty cool teens! (In Texan voice) Pretty rad teens!
Amanda: With a Z.
Brandon: Teenz! And so he really kind of wanted to eventually figure out what was in this book, while he was leaving the room he kind of mental calculation of the fact that, that it would be more valuable in his hands as he learned of the knowledge than, he figures, that it would be in Tammy and Taylor's hands. He was really going to try to pay for the book, like leave some coins behind.
Amanda: Was he?
Brandon: Yeah, but he has no coins. Yeah.
Amanda: And you know, intentions: just as good as currency in this world.
Brandon: I mean, he made it he made a decision. He did a cost-benefit analysis.
Eric: I do like how we're even forgetting that this is like James's alchemy room. This isn’t like, Tammy and Taylor's playhouse!
Brandon: Well he figured that James already knows the knowledge of that book right. He's probably read every book on that shelf three times.
Eric: Mmm. I have a question for Amanda! Oh, flipping the script!
Amanda: (Exaggerated gasp)
Eric: Amanda, how are you enjoying this campaign of D&D so far? I mean, we talked about before that like you really haven't had as much experience as any of us. This might be like, what, your 9th, 10th time playing D&D in total?
Eric: And like your fifth on mic. How are you feeling?
Amanda: I'm feeling great. I feel like I, uh, I really inhabit my character. She is everything I wasn't as a teenager and I really appreciate the opportunity to make decisions that real life me would never have made. And I also think that it's the right mix of like knowing what my options are, like knowing that I could choose A, B, C, or D, and going with one of them. Because I have trouble just as a player being like, “Oh okay, the entire world is open to you, what do you do?” and like, “Oh, I walk wherever.” Like, it's hard for me to make decisions when the options are limitless. But I felt so far like, “Oh, okay, I can choose one of three doors” or “I can do one of five actions” or, you know, I could take Alonzo to safety or engage the owlbear or retreat. You know, like, there's that kind of a limited slate of options that make me feel like I can be creative but also I have enough restraints on my world that I can, you know, know what I want to do.
Brandon: I felt the same way when I was like first playing and now I feel like I'm, like, teetering this tightrope of like... I don't want to be the player that like disrupts the world and like takes people out of fiction or does anything like crazy stupid. But like I also don't want to be the player that selects one of five options. And like, those are my only things! Like, I actively search my brain for like, all right, what's in the room? Like, what what's in the environment? What can I do that's like maybe something who's actually in the room, in the environment, like creatively thinking about a way to escape or a way to like disengage in this battle? Or a way to end the battle faster? Like maybe I'm not just punching, maybe I'm like knocking the lockers over so the gun is like trapped. So yeah, I think it's just like different levels of play. I don't know, it's interesting.
Michael: I mean for me, as someone who's almost always played as a DM—
Bradon: Yeah, Fish, like, Fish... On order of experience it goes, um.
Amanda: Me, Eric, Brandon, Fish?
Brandon: Yeah, I think so.
Michael: I'm surprised if anyone still likes the way I play.
Michael: And that may be a downer on me—
Michael: Well, because as much as I really try to push away any DM thoughts from my head in any action I do, it still happens and I'm always like thinking on that. And so sometimes I'll like do things that maybe push too much against it. I'm having a ton of fun though! It's not often I get to play as a character and even more so it's not often I get to play as a character that I'm like enjoying. But... most of the times I've played D&D as a character I've hated the character I've played.
Michael: Well unfortunately I've played a lot of games where I've not been able to create a character. This one has grown each time. It's become more and more clear that this is basically a televangelist.
Amanda: It is!
Michael: And I kind of love it.
Brandon: Tony Robbins.
Michael: I love, I love that it’s that.
Amanda: Send your donations to be PO Box...
Brandon: Tony Robbins is not an evangelist, my bad.
Michael: I mean, no it’s not.
Eric: Burn on Tony Robbins.
Michael: It’s, it’s that kind of feel, though, of someone who is just trying to spread his, his thing to everyone.
All: (Attempt to suppress snorts of laughter)
Michael: It's, it's weird. It's off-putting. And I kind of like that it's off putting. I enjoy that my character is not the easiest to like. It's not where I would have gone as a DM, and that's why I'm also happy that's how I am as a player. Because I wouldn't, I wouldn't like being a player that everyone would like.
Amanda: And I feel like we're making decisions that are really true to our characters, which sounds super basic? But like, I, you know. I did high school theater, and I was never an actor, and I never understood when people talked about you know, living the truth of your character or making decisions or like living their mindset or whatever. But now I feel like, if we're in a room with a threat, I know what Inara would do. I know Johnny would do.
Amanda: And I know Tracey would do. And the fact that we... like, the three of us, like... There was no table talk. We didn't say to each other, “What is your character going to do in this moment?” We just did it, and trusted that, you know, our characters knew what each other would accomplish in their turn.
Michael: And that's so cool! I knew what Inara would do. I knew what Tracey would do and y'all knew what Johnny would do, and the best part of all of it is that Eric knew kind of what our characters would do. And...
Brandon: As he snickers in the corner.
Amanda: He does, he just laughs.
Michael: He just quietly laughs.
Eric: (In scary DM voice) I know all your shit before you do it!
Michael: But it’s great!
Eric: (In scary Dm voice) It’s Minority Report!
Michael: But it’s great because it’s really hard! Because so quickly--not to be very meta about it, even though that's what the session is—
Amanda: It’s the Afterparty, yo! That’s what this is. Bring it.
Michael: So quickly we are really able to see how our characters are, because we truly made our characters just before the first episode, and we didn't know who our characters were before that. And the fact that we've been able to discover it and we've already gone to a point where we kind of, we know how we feel about things even though we haven't fully explored our characters.
Brandon: And the fact that we can like actively make decisions that we know are against the character. Like, just like underlines the fact that we know the characters. Like, they exist as a thing.
Michael: Yeah! And we have to fight against the fact that we're making decisions against our character and explain it, means we know that we... not messed up, but have to explain ourselves.
Amanda: The baseline is strong enough that we know when we're erring from it, which is pretty amazing that we... I mean, much like real people, you know, our real character comes out when the stuff hits the fan.
Michael: And not to be sappy, but I personally love that you guys are a part of this journey of our characters because normally when these kind of things happen no one is a part of that. It's just the players.
Amanda: The five of you, at the table. Yeah.
Michael: Exactly. But everyone can hear how our characters change? That's so powerful to me. Sorry. I'm being sappy. That’s just how I am.
Eric: (Sings) I’m blue...
All: Da boo dee, da boo die, da boo dee, da boo die!
Michael: I’m literally blue!
Michael: So one of the things that may or may not have been clear is that one character in particular was able to do a ton of damage.
Brandon: Hey, was that you?
Amanda: Hey, what’s up, Johnny? What’s up, what’s up?
All: (Crowd noises)
Michael: (Coy voice) Was it me, was it me?
Michael: So Johnny B. Goodlight is actually one full level ahead of both Inara and Tracey.
Brandon: When we started this game, Eric, you told us to not start at level 1. What is the reasoning for that?
Eric: Sure thing. Being at level 1 is... boring. Really, your classes get going in level 2, really level 3 is when it starts to ramp up. And I just don't, I will kill you if you say level 1!
Eric: I really wanted the action to get going. I wanted to throw like weird monsters at you, but I can't if you are just like figuring out which side of a sword is correct.
Brandon: Is there a difference, like, in fiction between 1, 2 and 3?
Eric: The 1-20 scale is divided in between four sections. You're supposed to like, 1-5 you're supposed to be like, you're starting out. You're beginning adventures. And then you're like more experienced adventurers from 5-10, you are like heroes of note from 10-15, and 15-20 you are like fuckin’ gods. You are nearly demigods in the plain. One is really, you are starting out. You are starting your adventure. And I never really understood how so many games and campaigns and stories start in media res: “You are all in a tavern and you already know each other and you're going to go on this quest!” So it wouldn't really make sense for all of you to start at level 1 because you have lived your lives. You've started in some way to like begin. I think the reason why we let Johnny be level 3 is that he is much older in both like literal age as compared to Inara and like time lived...
Eric: Experience as compared to Tracey. And that is definitely a good reason to let him do what he do.
Michael: I mean, it’ll totally be offset. I personally appreciate the fact that it is offset because it shows that there is a difference in the world and everything isn’t like a computer game where everything is just so level and clean and basic.
Amanda: And like, that comes from us as people and players too. Where I am newer to the game. and I need to be able to ask you guys how my turn works in a battle, whereas you Michael with Johnny, like both of you have way more experience than I do and Brandon and Tracey are somewhere in the middle. So I think it’s a really good example of, you know, making the game work for you. Where you shouldn't be like stretching and stressing to kind of reach the rules where they're at. You should read what there is, take what you want, you know, and like be creative within the limits of the universe with whatever you want to change.
Michael: If you're playing a D&D game yourself and you’re a DM or a player, don't be afraid of having different levels. As long as they're close enough, it allows for differences, different storylines, different growth to happen, different character development, that normally wouldn't happen. And it's more interesting overall.
Amanda: All right, gentlemen! Well, excellent job in our first battle. I am really excited to see what happens with, like, us and Alonzo on friggin’ spring break from his, you know, royal husbandhood.
Brandon: Yeah, you know that classic spring break thing where you get like taken by a bunch of bandits...
Amanda: That classic thing where on your wedding night you're not able to just hang with your husband but instead have to like deal with the political ramifications of just having your whole world blown up.
Amanda: Poor Alonzo. We just want him to be happy. But I am super excited to see where we go next. Listeners, thank you for being with us. Please ask us your questions, tell us your stories, get in touch on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all the places, we are @jointhepartypod. And if you want to share stories or ask more detailed questions or give us feedback, we are firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric: I’m blue...
All: (Singing chorus of “I’m Blue”)
Michael: Johnny’s blue, he’s blue, he’s literally blue!
Amanda: All right let's call this one a wrap.
Brandon (as Tracey): Bye