Category Archives: Games

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?

No.

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.

Let’s talk about Titansgrave for a moment.

Here’s a picture of Aqualad as a pirate, from one of the funniest episodes of Teen Titans Go I did.

Aqualad is a Pirate

I realize that TTG has its detractors, and respectfully request that they don’t use this post to list their grievances. I liked the show, I loved the cast and creative people involved, and there’s always the older, more serious Teen Titans for you to watch.

Speaking of older stuff: you know what holds up surprisingly well? The Land of the Lost (not that abominable movie; the original series). In fact, I used some elements from Land of the Lost as inspiration for some elements in Titansgrave.

Titansgrave. Let’s talk about Titansgrave for a moment.

Holy shit you guys Titansgrave is looking amazing. I desperately want to share some of the art images we have, including some of our character models and locations, but there’s this whole marketing plan that I have to follow, like I’m an adult who is part of a successful business or something.

Yesterday, I watched a rough cut of our first episode, and I loved it.  The photography and the set are beautiful, the actors I cast to play the adventuring party are just fantastic, and as I watched it, felt like the cameras and editing captured the experience we had when we filmed the show. This was really important to me, because translating the emotional and visceral excitement, tension, curiosity, triumph, despair, and joy we all had while we played the game and told the story into something an audience can enjoy is the only way this show will be a success.What I saw yesterday did exactly that. However, I know that, I’m not entirely objective, so I’m going to screen a few edits for some people at Geek and Sundry who weren’t on the set and don’t know anything about the campaign — basically what the audience will know going into it — to make sure that my instincts are correct: Titansgrave is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and the characters who you’ll get to know are pretty damn compelling.

Lots of people are asking if we’re going to release the campaign setting, and what game system we’re using. These questions have been answered elsewhere, but I’ll put it here just so it’s here: the game is powered by the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system that Green Ronin created for Dragon Age RPG. This is a version of the AGE system called Fantasy AGE, and we’re adding a few elements to the rules that are specific to our setting, that allows us to incorporate some science fiction elements, as well. At the moment, a lot of us are developing the world, writing fiction that takes place in Valkana, creating NPC allies and adversaries, imagining areas that we touch on in the show but don’t fully examine (so players at home can have their own adventures in our world) and building out the lore of this world we created. It’s a lot of work on a very tight schedule, because we are going to release the campaign setting this summer, but I’m not complaining because I have been itching to just write and write and write some more.

Speaking of writing, here’s a little bit of fiction I wrote while I was figuring out what a particular district of the city of Nestora would feel like.

Grell’s Alley

Korram put one hand on the pommel of his sword, and the other deep into his pocket. He pressed together the two sovereigns he found there, lest they make a sound and draw unwanted attention in this rough part of Nestora. Korram knew his way around a back alley, and was indeed using one at this very moment to make his way to the Shal, but there had been enough killing today. Far too much killing for the two sovereigns he had to show for it. Best to not attract attention, he thought. Some distance away, a concussive boom shook the air. Not thunder, Korram knew from instinct he had long forgotten how to explain. It was more likely a Guilder strike. The flashing of lights reflected off buildings at the end of the alley, as emergency and security hovers sped past, confirming his suspicions.

So much killing. He thought. Too much killing. Korram was tired.

He straightened his spine, pulled his shoulders back, and walked deliberately down the alley. Garbage bins and foul waste piled high around him. Rainwater dripped down from wires and off of rooftops, forming foul puddles between the cracked and broken cobbles beneath his feet.

“Oi!” Called a voice from the darkness in front of him. “Oi! Trellem!”

Korram grunted, and kept his eyes fixed on the end of the alley. With one thumb, he imperceptibly slid the leather guard off his sword.

A stocky dwarf stepped out of a shadow, and blocked his way. No dwarf would stand against a Trellem alone, Korram knew. He sniffed the air, drawing as many scents as he could, forming a mental image of everything around him: Wet brick and urine — human urine — eight hours old to his right. Garbage, a dead rat, a slowly leaking gas line to his left,  and there, above it, tucked into a fire escape made of rusting metal and rotten wood, an elf, wearing soaked Darham leather.

“Stop a bit and visit with old Grell now, won’t ya?” The dwarf said.

“I don’t think so,” Korram said. His sword settled into his hand, ready to become an extension of his arm, of his will. A single-shot blaster, tucked into his belt, felt warm against the small of his back.

“How about you just give me yer gold then?” The dwarf said, “To, uh, ensure yer safe passage through Grell’s alley.”

Korram breathed deeply. The elf was tensing its — her, he now realized — her legs and was about to pounce. He exhaled a sigh.

“There has been enough killing today.” Korram said.

The dwarf flashed a grim smile, revealing a mouth of broken teeth behind his filthy beard. “Disagree,” he said. The elf pounced.

Korram spun in place and drew his sword in one motion. The elf fell on it, sliding down its blade and catching her jaw at the hilt. She hadn’t had time to register surprise, Korram thought, as he yanked her head from her body. Dual daggers clattered to the ground and Korram turned back to face the dwarf.

Korram didn’t need to use his highly evolved sense of smell to know that Grell had pissed himself. “Too much killing,” he said, advancing on the dwarf, who fell as he tried to turn on stubby legs and run away.

Minutes later, Korram wiped his blade clean along the back of Grell’s tunic, elven and dwarven blood mingling together on the rough, heavy cloth. The lifeless heads of Grell and his companion kept watch over the alley, while Korram pulled a small bag off the dwarf’s body. Several coins inside jingled together.

Too much killing, Korram thought, but at least he had more than two sovereigns to show for it. He walked to the end of the alley, and down the lane toward the Shal.

Valkana is a broken and wounded world, a post-apocalyptic land of science fantasy that is so much fun to create and explore. I’m having a fantastic time imagining it, and I’m really excited for you all to come and visit, later this summer.

peer into our world…

I’m not quite ready to announce the details of the world we created for our RPG show, but I am ready to show this little glimpse of it, and I encourage you to make of it what you will…

a sneak peak at the tabletop rpg world
a sneak peak at the tabletop rpg world

What could it be?

…something wonderful.

meet the players who will be rolling initiative in our tabletop rpg show

We’re shooting the Tabletop RPG show all this week. Yesterday was our first day of production, and we had so much fun, eleven hours of nonstop work flew by in a flash. In fact, at the end of the day, one of the players said to me, “that’s it? I want to keep playing!”

We’re going to be slowly announcing details about the show all this week, and yesterday, I introduced the players to the world:

Here’s a little bit about them:

  • Hank Green is one of the most successful and influential YouTubers of all time. With his brother, John, he created the Vlog Brothers. Their network has grown to over 1 billion views, and earlier this year, Hank interviewed the president. Hank is an old school role player, and he’s a fantastic storyteller.
  • Alison Haislip hasn’t ever played an RPG like this, but she was amazing in Fiasco during the first season of Tabletop. She’s worked for G4 and Nerdist, among others. It was pretty awesome to watch her start out tentatively yesterday morning, and by the middle of the day she was slinging dice like she’d been doing it all her life.
  • Yuri Lowenthal is one of my best friends. We met when we were working on Legion of Superheroes, and we’ve gone on to work together on Ben Ten, There Came an Echo, and countless other animation projects. You’ve heard him in pretty much every video game, ever, (he’s Sandal in Dragon Age: Origins), and you’ve heard him as Sauske in Naruto. Yuri has been playing RPGs as long as I have.
  • Laura Bailey and I met when we worked on There Came An Echo last year. By lunchtime on the first day, we had decided that we needed to be friends, and it feels like we’ve known each other since college. She’s an accomplished voice actor who you have heard in over 250 projects, including Dragon Age: Inquisition, Hearthstone, The Last of Us, World of Warcraft, and Fullmetal Alchemist. Laura also plays on Geek & Sundry’s RPG Twitch show, Critical Role.

You can find them on the usual social networks, and we’ll all be posting behind the scenes pictures and short videos during production this week.

It turns out that there’s a lot happening today.

First up, this is happening:

Wil Wheaton Big Bang Theory Season 8

We also have a new episode of Tabletop out today, and it’s one of my favorites of the season.

And after waiting almost a year to be able to talk about it, Nintendo of America has announced that I play the voice of Abraham Lincoln in their insanely awesome 3DS title, Code Name STEAM.

I am extremely proud of this game, and I can’t wait to play it. It’s got a great balance of humor and strategy, and there may be some awesomely weird stuff in it, too … you can confirm it for yourself with the trailer:

I’ve found Serenity, and you can’t take the sky from me

Something very awesome happened today. I can’t say anything more about it (for now) but I can finally talk about this other awesome thing that I’m super excited to be part of!

In the upcoming Firefly Online game, I get to be the voice of the male avatar!!

This just in from Firefly Online HR: Wil Wheaton has joined the FFO voiceover team and will be playing the part of you – that is, he will be giving voice to the male player character. We couldn’t be more excited that Wil is taking on this huge part. (There’s lots of Chinese cursing too!)

I am so excited to be part of this, and not just because it means I get to finally be part of the best universe in the ‘verse.

…well, maybe it is.

A little.

…okay, it totally is.

I’m recording my dialog in a couple of weeks, and when the game is released in Spring, I’ll be there with you as we pilot our own ships, interact with our favorite brown coats, evade the alliance, and, of course, aim to misbehave.

I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, I can’t wait to be a leaf on the wind.

…shoot. now i’m sad.

Tabletop Season Three Premieres with Tokaido!

It’s finally here! Our third season of Tabletop officially kicks off today, with Tokaido.

I love this game so much, and I hope we captured the beauty, balance, and wonderful mix of strategy and guile that goes into each turn.

I played with my pal Chris Kluwe, J. August Richards (who some of you may remember from The Wil Wheaton Project), and Jason Wishnov, who wrote, produced, directed, and coded a wonderful game I worked on earlier this year, called There Came An Echo.

I have said this quite a bit in the last several months, and I’ll continue saying it for the next several months: thank you, so much, to all of our backers, for helping us make this show that we love. I couldn’t have done this without you, and I sincerely believe that you’ll be happy that you did, as the season unfolds.

(NB: Apparently, we made a minor rules mistake at one point in the game, which I won’t discuss specifically because spoilers, but I don’t think it would have affected the outcome.)

Regarding Anonymous Gaming Trolls, Tabletop, and More

So it turns out that this week is full of stuff that I would like to share with you, Internet.

First, I wrote a column for The Washington Post about how anonymous trolls are poisoning the video game community, and what we can do about it.

Anonymity, in some cases a key civil liberty, also enables society’s worst actors. The loudest, most obnoxious, most toxic voices are able to drown out the rest of us—a spectacle that has nearly pushed me to quit the video-game world entirely in recent months. I don’t need to hear about the sexual conquest of my mother from a random 12-year-old on Xbox Live ever again.

But here’s the thing: that random 12-year-old I seem to encounter so often? He probably isn’t 12. According to the ERSB, the average age of a video gamer is 34. That 34-year-old is certainly old enough to know better, but he probably came of age in an era when trolling was not just acceptable but encouraged by a generation of players who rarely, if ever, had to see the actual people they were playing with. No wonder he feels enabled by digital anonymity. It means he never has to face the consequences of his actions, or acknowledge that there is a human being on the other side of the screen.

It’s time to break this cycle—and to teach gamers that they can compete without being competitive, that they can win and lose without spewing racist, misogynist, homophobic bile at their fellow gamers. But doing so requires casting off the cloak of anonymity.

Early feedback via Twitter is split between a majority, who are tired of being harassed while gaming, and a minority who seem to believe I am advocating for an end to online privacy (which I clearly am not). I’m interested to know your thoughts on this column, so please read it, and comment here, if you don’t mind. If you’d like to read more about it, I highly recommend this article, which quotes my friend, Stepto, at length.

I’m hosting DC ALL ACCESS this week. Here’s the trailer, which makes me laugh:

Tabletop Season Three premieres in just two days!! We put together a special trailer for this season that asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind…

I signed agreements to do two more audiobooks. I can’t reveal their titles, yet, but I will as soon as I get permission.

Next Monday, I’m performing in a live show here in Los Angeles, with Hal Lublin, and John Ross Bowie. It’s Hot Comedy Dreamtime, written by my friend Joseph Scrimshaw.

Oh! Also next week, I’m filling in for Larry King, and interviewing Chris Hardwick for Larry King Now.

In a couple hours, I’ll sit on a seat which will magically hoist itself into in the sky, and I’ll end my day in New York City. I don’t think I can talk about why I’m going, yet, but I’ll be there for just under 24 hours, for something really awesome that I can’t wait to share with the world.

PLAY MORE GAMES!

I have additional thoughts, based on your comments, which I wrote while in a seat in the sky. They are behind the jump.

Continue reading Regarding Anonymous Gaming Trolls, Tabletop, and More

do you game more in person, or online?

I’m writing a column for the Washington Post, and I could use your feedback, if you have a moment.

I would like to know (unscientifically, of course), if you play games more online, more in person, or about the same.

If you have a moment, please answer this survey thingy I set up:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

I’m closing comments here, so I only have to look in one place for the data, since my deadline is tomorrow. Thank you for your help!