Category Archives: Tabletop

A bunch of stuff about Dread, Titansgrave, Armada, Brewing TV, and TNG

There’s a lot of stuff to share, which all happened in the last 24ish hours for some reason, so I’m just going to put all that stuff here in one post, instead of spreading it out.

Huh. When I put it in a list like that, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. In fact, it’s not as impressive as it felt when it all came into my inbox or whatever one at a time over the last couple of days.  Maybe I should have split it up.

Anyway, I’m still working on the audiobook for Armada, and I’m about halfway through. It’s a really fun story, and I’m having a great time performing it.  In the last two days, though, I’ve learned to have tremendous empathy for people who have a daily commute, and boy am I grateful that I don’t have a daily commute.

 

Titansgrave: complete concept art image

Here’s the entire image I’ve been sharing bits of for the last week:

TITANSGRAVE Concept Art

You can click to embiggen, and it’s huge. In fact, this image is so large, you could probably use it for your desktop if you were so inclined.

So this brings together everything that we wanted our artists (we have a team of artists from around the world working with us) to know, going into the show. You can see the elements of science fiction and fantasy, all living together. You can see the gleaming towers of a futuristic city in the back, looming over the more modest buildings in the foreground. You can see a few different races, including the Saurian walking with that robot, which I freaking love.

Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana premieres on Geek & Sundry this June.

 

The conclusion of DREAD

Yesterday, part two of DREAD on Tabletop was released.

I’m so happy with the way this whole thing came together, and it was fantastic practice for me when it was time to start running Titansgrave. I thought the players did a wonderful job exploring their characters — Ivan has a surprising and powerful moment in this episode — and I hope that their commitment to storytelling inspires players everywhere to keep the ROLE in Roleplaying.

A lot of you have asked to see the player questionnaires, and I’m working on that. I know that we have them somewhere at the office, but I don’t know precisely where they are. As soon as we find and scan them, I’ll share them.

Titansgrave: Unpacking some of the technology.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in this piece of our concept art. I’ll unpack some of it for you, and let your imagination do the rest. This section focuses pretty heavily on the science and technology aspect of the world, but you may notice those little dragon-like creatures perched up on the wires … I really love those things, and have this idea that they are maybe like pigeons or something in Valkana.

TITAN4

This is off to the right side of the full image, looking toward an alley that you probably don’t want to walk down if you’re not looking for some kind of trouble. In fact, maybe that’s Grell’s Alley, back there behind them.

I originally wanted those weird little quadrupedal, canine creatures to be tearing through a corpse or something, and I can’t remember why we ended up not doing that in this image. The idea was to convey that not all of Valkana is shiny and safe, or even clean. Some creatures that are similar to those things end up making an appearance in the show, and they’re pretty nasty.

Because this image predates the existence of cities like Nestora (where our PCs spend a fair amount of time), it ended up shaping a little bit of what that city looks and feels like in some districts. Parts of Nestora are as futuristic as they can be in a post-apocalyptic word, but there are other parts, like we see in this image. Guess where most of the masses live? I think it gives a clear sense of the divide between rich and poor in Nestora, and it helps explain why that city is in such turmoil when we first get there.

Other things in this image that I really like are that assassin dude in the doorway, the security camera/turret above him, and the armor that female warrior is wearing. Those glowing things on her leg are batteries, which power her weapon. We decided that there aren’t fossil fuels in Valkana, and batteries power just about everything from vehicles to shields to blasters. There are three different kinds of batteries, representing small, medium and heavy. We’re calling them Fulgin M, Fulgent, and Carsilorate. I really love how they all work, and I really want to just paste it all right here, but I can’t. Eventually, though, you’ll get to see that, and so much more, and now I’m going to hit publish and get back to work on some of that stuff.

Some more Titansgrave art is revealed…

We needed to convey to our artists and other creative partners that Valkana is a world where science and magic co-exist, feeding and supporting one another. Part of getting that across was showing this spaceship in the background of our first conceptual art image:

TITAN3

You can also see some skyscrapers in the deep background, as well as some smaller, fantasy-style structures closer to our Desmage in the foreground. We ended up going with a slightly less British countryside look for most of our buildings, just because I felt like a Tudor look was a little too on-the-nose and too much of a common fantasy trope.

Those wires have something really neat associated with them, and we’ll show you that when the whole image is revealed.

Titansgrave: The Saurian Empire

Continuing with our slow reveal of the world of Valkana, here’s another piece of art:

Early Saurian Prototype

So what you see here is an early rendering of our lizardpeople race, who we call Saurians. In the history of Valkana, the Saurians were the dominant species for a very long time, due to their mastery of technology. While the other indigenous species were crawling up out of the mud, the Saurians built mighty war machines, and dominated the world. They enslaved the Orcs (the Orcs are still pretty upset about this) and subjugated the Elves, Dwarves, and Cloustra, among others.

But one day, there was an apocalyptic event (every species and society has their own version of the story, and their own explanation of the sky falling down). When the sky fell down on the world, the Orcs took it as a sign and rebelled against the Saurians. The other peoples of Valkana saw the Orcs rebelling, and decided to get on that train while it was still chugging along.

A long and brutal war ensued, but eventually the Saurians were defeated, at great cost to all sides.

Now, the world is mostly at peace, and though old tensions still simmer, the Saurians and Orcs live side by side with Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and the Professorandmaryann,  in a world they built  on the ruins of the old.

In our campaign, Hank Green is playing a female Saurian, and Yuri Lowenthal is playing a Half Saurian/ Half Orc. They both have incredibly interesting back stories, and we had a great time exploring them.

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.