All posts by Wil

I'm just this guy, you know?

Valkana is a broken and wounded world (or: the first Titansgrave FAQ)

This week, we’re going to be releasing a bunch of cool stuff to get you excited about Titansgrave (and to remind me what we’re all working so hard toward, because at the moment I’m so close to it I don’t know if I’m making the right editorial decisions any more.)

To get started, I’m sharing something from an ask on my Tumblr thing:

tallawkandnerdy asked:

I’m very excited to watch the Titansgrave series. I’m not too familiar with RPG games, but would like to be. Will I be super confused watching?

Maybe it’s a good idea for me to put some FAQ answers here:

What’s the system?

It’s called the AGE system, and it’s from Green Ronin. AGE is a 3d6 system that powers the Dragon Age RPG. The basic mechanic is: roll three dice, add them together, apply a modifier, and see if the total meets or exceeds a target number.

For example, my warrior wants to smash a goblin in the face with her axe. The goblin is squishy and lame, so the target number I need to get is 10. I roll my three dice, and I add them together: 8. Well, that’s pretty typical for the way I roll dice, isn’t it? Lucky for me, my warrior is really tough, and her strength (which is the thing I’ll use to see how good I am at smashing things with my axe) is 3. 8+3=11, so the goblin is now a two-headed dead goblin.

There’s this thing in the AGE system that I really like, called “stunts”. It works like this: I have one of my three dice that is a different color than the other two. This is called my Action Die. Whenever I roll doubles on any of the three dice (which is almost half the time), I get to do something cool and extra. Exactly how cool is determined by the number on the Action Die; higher is better, so if I rolled 1, 1, 6 when I was smashing the goblin, I’d get to do a six point stunt, like maybe smash another goblin in the face with my axe on the same attack.

Okay, I realize that this has gone from a very simple thing to me nerding out about an RPG system I love, so I’ll get back to what I imagine are your questions.

What’s the world like? What’s it called?

We created a world of fantasy and science-fiction, inspired by things like Thundarr the Barbarian, the Heavy Metal movie, and On A Pale Horse. In our world, called Valkana, magic and technology exist side by side, so our wizards can cast mighty fireball spells against cyborg lizardfolk who are wielding swords.  Valkana is a broken and wounded world, a post-apocalyptic land of science fantasy that is so much fun to create and explore.

Who are the players?

Yuri Lowenthal, Alison Haislip, Hank Green, and Laura Bailey. There’s more about them all in this post. More information about their characters will be released this week.

Can I get the adventure to play with my group?

Yes! We’re on track to release The Ashes of Valkana at GenCon this year. After that (either later this year or early next year, depending on scheduling and things), we’ll release a more comprehensive guide to the whole world, so you can create your own adventures and explore Valkana with your group.

Will Titansgrave be the same format as Tabletop?

Not really. Tabletop is designed to share the experience we have playing a game, explain the rules, and create more gamers in a world that is crying out for them. Titansgrave will do some of that, but we’re not going to cut to rules explanations like we do on Tabletop.

We’ll have some graphics to show what the dice rolls are during combat, and we’ll probably spell mechanics out a little in the first couple of episodes, so people who aren’t experienced RPG players will know what’s going on. But I don’t want this show to be about rolling dice and looking at charts. I want this series to be about the story that we all tell together. I want to put the ROLE back into Roleplaying, get people to stop thinking about RPGs as exclusively tactical miniatures games (not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just not what I’m going for), and have a season of narrative storytelling that’s as compelling and interesting and shocking and moving and exciting as any fully-scripted program on television.

Maybe you can understand why I’m so nervous about everything coming together in exactly the right way, now. I have made the stakes and my expectations very high, because I didn’t have enough to worry about already.

Can we see some art from the show?

It’s like you knew the whole reason I sat down to write this post in the first place. You sure can:

Titansgrave One

So this is one part of a full image that we’re releasing a little bit at a time over the next few days. When the whole thing is assembled, you’ll see the image I used to show the actors and crew how I imagined Valkana’s particular blend of science fiction and fantasy would look.

In this image, you can see a special wizard class we created, which I call the Desmage. The Desmages are huge and burly, like a warrior, because they use their strength to manifest their magical abilities … at great cost to themselves (in game terms, it’s sort of like a bloodmage). We didn’t end up with any Desmage PCs in this season of the show, but this artwork was created before I knew who the PCs would be, so it’s in this image.

Where will Titansgrave air?

New episodes will be on Geek & Sundry, every Tuesday.

So I can only watch it at Geek & Sundry?

Nope. It’s still going to be in an embeddable player, and it will go on YouTube later the same week, but I’d like everyone who watches the stuff I create with Geek & Sundry to get used to watching stuff there, sort of the way you watch a TV channel.

Will there be gag reels?


Will it air every other week?

No. Every week, for ten weeks, you’ll get a new episode. The final episode will air right around GenCon.

When does it start?

We planned for June 2, but I decided to push release back by one week so we can make really good decisions about the first episode’s final cut, instead of making decisions in a rush because we want to hit that release date. We’re releasing something cool on June 2, but the first full episode will be coming out on June 9. Episode 0 will be out a few days before then, or on the 9th, depending on how the edit of that episode shakes out.

I want to know more!

There’s going to be stuff on the Geek & Sundry Facebook thing, and on the official Titansgrave homepage, so that’s a link you may want to hold onto, if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also a Titansgrave forum at Geek & Sundry, because I guess forums are still a thing?

This week’s Tabletop is DREADfully good.

Every season of Tabletop, I feature a roleplaying game. I’ve done this, because my not-so-secret wish all along was to do a spinoff show that was a season-long RPG adventure with persistent characters.

We’ve done Fiasco and Dragon Age, and this season, we’re playing DREAD.

I. Freaking. Love. This. Game.

We have a great group of players: Molly Lewis, Ivan van Norman, and Laura Bailey (who I cast in Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana).

This was intended to be a single episode, but I liked it so much, and I am so incredibly proud of the story we told and the way we told it, I decided to make this a two-part episode.

Here’s part one:

I really hope you like this as much as I do, and I hope you’ll be happy to know that we aren’t doing a gag reel next week; we’re going to do part two, so you don’t have to wait.

If you’d like to learn more about DREAD, or get your own copy, you can find out more at their website. SPOILER WARNING: We played an adapted version of the Beneath A Full Moon setting. If you read that part, it’ll probably wreck some of the drama and suspense for you.

Dark Matter

If you don’t follow me on Twitter (good idea, by the way), you don’t know that the show I’m working on this week is Dark Matter, which is coming to the network formerly-known as Sci-Fi next month.

Here’s the trailer:

The basic premise of the show is: some people wake up from stasis on a space ship, and they have no memories of who they are or why they are there. As they uncover the truth about themselves … it gets complicated (and they have lots of secrets). It’s based on a comic book that I absolutely loved, and though I can’t get into specifics about the character I’m playing (SPOILERS!) … but the creator can!

Wil will be playing the part of Alexander Rook, President and CEO of Dwarf Star Technologies and…well, I can’t say more.  Suffice it to say, you’ll love him in the role because Wil is positively tearing it up, delivering a performance that is cool, controlled, compassionate, canny, confident, with a touch of creepiness and a dash of Angostura bitters.  I was truly heartened by the fact that he clearly gave it a lot of thought prior to his arrival, crafting a charmingly nuanced character in preparation for his scenes and then positively wowing us with his take.

I have had an absolutely wonderful time bringing Alexander Rook to life. In fact, yesterday was the most satisfying dramatic, on-camera acting work I’ve done in years. I mean, I’ve been very lucky to do a lot of comedic work recently, and over sixty episodes of Tabletop is nothing to sneeze at (do people actually sneeze at things to, like, disdain them? Is that a thing? I’ve never seen a person sneeze in derision at something, come to think of it) … but for the last year or so, I’ve honestly wondered if I would ever get a chance to do serious on-camera, dramatic acting again.

Well, it turns out that I can do some tremendously satisfying work, making complex (yet simple in execution) choices, when I get to work with great writing, fantastic actors, and a wonderful director.

Maybe I’m not finished being an on-camera actor, after all.

Maybe …

at home, thousands of miles away from home

I was in most of the scenes we shot yesterday, including a scene where I talked for almost three pages.

Three. Pages. Of. Dialog.

It was a lot, and we were filming right next to an airport so there were constant interruptions from airplanes, so I messed up more than I would have liked … but the cast and crew were really awesome and understanding, and we got through it.

Actually, we didn’t just “get through it.” We did some really great work together. You see, I break down my scenes into actions, intentions, goals, and a few other specific things. Just like in real life, I may want to Let Them Know I’m The Boss, or Put Them At Ease, or Make A Generous Offer. I may need to do all of those things in the span of a few lines, because my primary goal that ties all of that together is To Get Them To Go Along With Something I Can’t Live Without.

Being able to take all of that work and put it into a scene, but then also throw all the preparation away and keep it simple and in the moment is a challenge on in the best of circumstances (it’s easy to get wrapped up in the process, to go into my head and lose my connection to the character and the scene — this is what an actor like me goes to school for years to learn how to overcome) but when there are airplanes a few hundred feet away ever two minutes, it’s even more challenging than usual. It would be very, very easy to be so distracted by the noise and so concerned with just getting through the scene, that I could lose all the levels and character choices … but the director and the cast made sure that didn’t happen, by reassuring me that the performance was layered and communicated all the things I wanted to communicate. (I usually have a good sense of what I’m doing, but there was so much to think about, so much information to convey, and so much noise distracting me, I wasn’t able to know if I was on point or not — and this is where  a good, engaged director and cast is the difference between a performance that is meaningful to the audience and a performance that doesn’t quite hit the mark).

So it was a very long day, and a very challenging one, but I’m proud of what we did and happy with the work.

I’ll be honest: I keep thinking that I’m done being an on-camera actor, but then I have an experience like the one I had yesterday, and I remember how much fun, and how artistically satisfying it is, to take the words off the page and bring them to life with some other people.

I’m in a lot of stuff, again, today. I get to work with an actor who I instantly liked tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we discover together in our scenes.

Happy Star Wars Day

To celebrate May the Fourth, I present one of the first (maybe the first) performance of my short story The Trade (which I wrote in 2002), with Paul and Storm at the very first W00tstock, way back in 2009:

In which a scene from a movie is recreated (or: further confirmation of the benefits of being easily amused.)

I’m in Toronto for a couple of days, working on a show, before I go to Ottawa later this week.

I’ve had a nice time while I’ve been here, though I wasn’t prepared for how profoundly lonely I would feel after just 24 hours away from my family. I guess after months of spending as much time with my wife, kids, and dogs as I want, I’d grown accustomed to their faces.

To help ease my loneliness, I went for a big walk all around the city today. I took a lot of pictures, and I shot a lot of video, with the intention of making a short thing that I could put on the YouTubes about my day and the stuff I saw. Being creative while I was also being a tourist engaged my brain and my soul in a very good way.

Toward the end of my adventures, I wandered into a train museum thing by the CN tower (TRAINS INTO TUNNELS…) and I got inspired to make this really stupid-but-amusing-to-me thing:

Not bad for something I put together in iMovie in about 15 minutes, I must say.

Hey look I’m unboxing a box that I curated for Quarterly!

This year, I have the privilege of curating four boxes for Quarterly. Because my interests are so diverse, and because I’ve been on this planet for four decades, I thought it would be fun to use each box to pull together some things that reflect the different influences I had in each decade of my life.

This is a video of me unboxing my first box for this year, which is inspired by the 1970s (not the 1980s, which I say at the beginning of the video and didn’t realize until we were editing and it was too late to change it).

If you’d like to subscribe to the remaining boxes I’m curating this year, or just pick up one of them, you can do that at My next box will be filled with things that were a big part of my life in the 1980s, like video games and RPGs and stuff.

Let’s talk about being an actor.

I answer questions on my Tumblr from time to time, and this one from today felt worth crossposting here.

the-eru-anne asked:

Good sir, what advice, if any, would you have for an aspiring actor? More so along the lines of – where in the world does one start if they cannot afford an agent? Because finding oneself work seems almost impossible. Or maybe I just don’t know how to look.

I answered:

An agent is never something that you need to afford. Legitimate agents only make money when you make money, by taking a 10% commission from the total you were paid. When you’re in SAG/AFTRA, most of the jobs you get will offer “Scale +10%” which means the SAG/AFTRA scale rate, plus the 10% for your agent (so if you make $1500, you make $1500, not $1350 after your agent gets the $150 commission).

Any agent who wants money upfront for anything is a scammer and should be avoided at all costs. Ways agents will try to trick you include paying them for headshots, submissions, coaching, etc. Legit agents will be able to recommend other people who offer those services (except submissions — that’s an agent’s job and shouldn’t cost anything).

But that’s just one half of things. That’s the business side (and not even all of it). Let’s talk about the other side: the art side, the side that keeps you working part-time jobs so you can go on auditions and hopefully work as an actor. The business of acting sucks. I’ve been at it for nearly 35 years, and I still endure the kind of bullshit that I thought would have gone away (for me, with my experience) now: casting people who don’t make an effort to give me anything to work with, directors who don’t know what they want or how to communicate what they want to actors, non-actors wondering what my “real” job is, and on and on and on. What kept me focused and dedicated through years and years of that (and the struggle to just get any work at all) was how much I loved performing, how much I loved the process of creating a character, getting to know him and his relationships with the other characters, and bringing whatever that reality was to life.

I’ve worked on wonderful things, movies like Stand By Me, and dozens of episodes of TV like Eureka and Leverage, and I’ve worked in truly awful crapfests to pay my bills, like Deepcore 2000 and Fish Don’t Blink. I’ve had big roles in shows like The Big Bang Theory and tiny roles that were almost cut out entirely, like Pie In The Sky. In every case, though, I loved the process of creating the character I was going to play. I loved the experience I had writing about and exploring who he was. I loved breaking down the scenes into actions and beats, and then discovering new things I hadn’t even thought about when I played in those scenes with other actors. That love, that joy, that feeling of rightness when I was in the creative moment kept me going through all the business crap that I hated. It gave me something to look forward to and remember when I was subjected, again and again, to the fundamental and inherent unfairness of the industry.

Another way of saying all of this is: if you’re going to succeed as an actor — whether you work a lot or not — you have to need it the way a normal person needs food and water. It has to be such a fundamental part of who you are, you will endure some pretty shitty times and make a lot of sacrifices while you work on your craft and your art. If you don’t need it that way, if it isn’t something you’re willing to fight for, then you aren’t going to be a happy person. You aren’t going to be a fulfilled person, and that will make you a desperate and frustrated person when you audition.

Being an actor isn’t easy (if it was easy, everyone would do it and we wouldn’t see hundreds of hours of bullshit reality television clogging up the airwaves), but it is also a calling for a certain kind of person. If you’re that kind of person, and you’re willing to do the work, you are answering that calling and taking your place in a long and wonderful tradition. Remember: everything worth doing is hard, and for an actor, there is no better feeling in the world than absolutely nailing a scene, and bringing an audience along with you.

I hope this is helpful. Break a leg!

I’m going to be a dad for a second

This has been on my mind for the last few days, as I’ve watched a loud and determined bunch of unhappy people do their best to make happy and successful people feel as bad as they do.

Everyone who becomes a fully-functioning adult — every single one of us — goes through a time in our lives when we are a shit. The difference between shitty adults and awesome adults is growing out of that.  Take charge of your life, and make changes to make yourself happier and improve your relationships with people who aren’t dickwagons.

Having committed to making those changes in your life, resist the urge to fall back with an old crowd who will drag you back into old patterns. Time you spend with people who are shits is time you are not spending with people who are awesome, and when an awesome person sees you with a shit, that’s one more awesome person who you didn’t have an opportunity to bring into your life.

Life is too short to be a shit, and you tend to attract to your life what you offer in return. So if you look around yourself and discover that you’re surrounded by shits, change that as quickly as you can. It may not be easy (in fact, it won’t be easy, at first), but I promise you that you’ll be happier when you do.