So exactly two years and one day ago, this happened:
Then, this happened:
She said I was lovely, and she hugged me, and I was so excited I felt like my insides were made of bees.
So exactly two years and one day ago, this happened:
Then, this happened:
She said I was lovely, and she hugged me, and I was so excited I felt like my insides were made of bees.
“Have fun with your friends!” I kissed Anne goodbye.
“Have fun watching hockey!” Anne kissed me goodbye.
“See you when you get home,” I said. I watched her walk down the driveway, and headed back into the house. Marlowe and Seamus ran up to me as I got close to the kitchen.
“It’s just us tonight, dogs,” I said. What they heard was, “Chopper, how about a bunch of treats?”
Marlowe jumped over Seamus’ back as she ran — galloped, really — to the pantry where the dog treats live. Seamus looked at me, waiting to see if there was any reason to go to the pantry.
“Okay,” I said. His ears perked up and his tail began to wag. “Yes, you can have a treat,” I said. His tail sprang to life. Marlowe scrambled, Flintstones-style, on the floor in front of the pantry door, as she ran in tight, excited circles.
I pulled out the treats, had them sit, and gave them each little training rewards. I hope that someday I will be as excited about anything as my dogs are about a treat that’s not even the diameter of a dime.
I headed to the couch and turned on the hockey game. Montreal was trying to force a seventh game against Tampa Bay, and they trailed by two goals in the second period. My phone buzzed:
Nolan: Mom said you're home alone watching hockey. Me: It's true. Nolan: Want to hang out? Me: Sure. Come over whenever. The first game is on now. Nolan: When does the second game start?
I looked up the schedule, realized that I was wrong about there being two games, and replied.
Me: Tomorrow. Nolan: What? Wait. I'm confused. Me: Hi, confused. I'm Wil. Nolan: ... Me: There's no second game today. Come over whenever you want. Nolan: Okay. See you soon.
I watched most of the rest of the hockey game. It wasn’t ever very close, and Tampa Bay won, eliminating the Habs (and the last Canadian team) from the playoffs. I felt bad for Canada, but as a life long Kings fan I’ll never get over 1993 (or Macho Grande), and there are so many players on this Canadiens team who I think are jerks, I was glad to see them go.
Nolan came into the house shortly after the game ended. The dogs ran laps around the house to welcome him.
We decided that we’d watch a movie or something together. As we searched through Netflix and the DVR, I said, “You know, I have the complete series of the original Knight Rider, from the 80s.”
“Knight Rider?” He said.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s about –”
“A guy with a talking car.” He said. Not a question, but a continuation of my thought.
“That’s … uh …” I began.
But it’s more than that, I thought. It’s about … um … fighting crime! And that lady in the jumpsuit with the boots! And the old British guy, whatshisname! And KITT is, like, um … a talking car.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s about,” I said, “but it’s awesome!”
“Awesome like when you showed me text games, or awesome like something that is actually awesome?”
“Someday, you’ll thank me for showing you,” I reminded him. “because of me, you’ll never be eaten by a Grue.”
Before he could remind me that it was unlikely that would have happened anyway, I continued. “This show is genuinely awesome. It has The Hoff, the talking car, and is so unapologetically 1980s, you’re going to love it — and I don’t mean ironically. I mean you’re going to legit love it.”
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s give it a try.”
I searched through all the episodes I had, and decided that I wanted to show him something from the first season. Sure, I could have jumped in right away with KARR and Michael Knights Evil Twin™, but I was afraid it would confuse him, not knowing the rich backstory of a man who does not exist. I settled on a first season episode called Sammy’s Super Stunt Spectacular, where Michael and KITT must save a car stunt show from an evil developer, after the show’s owner, Sammy, is wounded in an accident which was engineered by the evil developer’s minions. It featured all manner of profoundly lame car stunts that were actually charming in their execution, and a stunt driver with a Hasselhoff wig that really should get its own spinoff series, where the wig is voiced not by the St. Elsewhere guy, but Mister Belvedere*.
Over 49 minutes, we were treated to some truly entertaining early 80s prime time action television. By the time it was over, Nolan was officially on board.
“So I think we need to watch this entire series,” he said.
“I knew I raised you right,” I said. “How’s your weekend looking?”
“Let’s not get carried away,” he said. “Knight Rider is something to be savored.”
“That’s … uh … ” I began.
We looked at each other, as the credits rolled and the theme music played.
“That’s pretty much exactly what it is.”
*In the pilot episode, the wig, called WIGG (which stands for Walking Investigation Guy’s Gear) helps the star of the show, Ted Jacobs, played by a young Parker Stevenson, works for Devon after Michael Knight drives off into mystery. Ted Jacobs, a former astronaut in training who faked his own death, helps solve the mystery of the missing computer tapes and saves a daycare center from an evil developer. Nell Carter and Justin Bateman co-star.
Continuing with our slow reveal of the world of Valkana, here’s another piece of art:
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.
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:
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?
We are making an episode zero that will air either before, or on the same day that we release episode one. This episode will explain the basics of role playing, the basic rules for the system we’re using, introduce the characters, and give you some background on the world we created.
If we do it right, this will give you everything you need to know so you can follow the show and enjoy what’s going on, but I worked really hard during production and editing to ensure that the gaming aspect of the show (dice, combat, stats, etc.) doesn’t get in the way of the story and narrative. Hopefully, it works.
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?
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
For most people, today is May 1, but for some of us, it’s really the First of May.
(warning: this is all kinds of NSFW)