Actual Play #1: HarmonQuest
What is this? The folks who ran the podcast HarmonTown speculated that it would be fun to play DnD on air, then one of their listeners drove to L.A. to offer to DM for them. He turned out to be really great and it took off. Soon they turned it into a TV show on the short-lived streaming service Seeso. They are playing a DnD-like game called Pathfinder around a table and we are cutting between watching them and watching an animated cartoon of what they’re describing.
The people involved:
- Spencer Crittenden is the game master.
- Dan Harmon (creator of Community) plays Fondu Zoobag, a half-orc ranger.
- Erin McGathy, plays Biar O’Shift, a human barbarian.
- Jeff Davis (the basis for Jeff on Community) plays Boneweevil, a goblin rogue
- Every episode has a celebrity guest whose character won’t make it out of that episode. In the pilot, it’s Paul F. Tomkins as an orc named Teflanto
What do you do when your players’ commitment to roleplaying makes them less than optimal players?
This was a huge problem playing with my kids. They just wanted to goof around and not take things seriously, but the DM or module-writer has often created bad guys with enough hit points that they can only be defeated by playing optimally. If you’re not trying your hardest, your characters will die and then nobody will have any fun. In the pilot, the three player characters are at a celebration in an orc town when cultists attack outside the city walls. Our heroes go out to fight them.
Then Jeff announces that, since he’s a rogue, he wants to sneak up on the bad guys, which means that he’ll cover himself and mud and run all the way around the walls of the city to surprise attack them from the other side. Spencer gently reminds Jeff that they’ve entered combat so every turn now takes six seconds, so his miss a lot of turns by doing this. Jeff doesn’t care, he thinks it’s funny and in character and he wants to do it.
Spencer realizes he’s not going to win this one, laughs along and lets him do it. This means that everybody would now probably get killed, but Spencer simply has the town guard unexpectedly show up to help with the fight (and promptly get killed off one by one.) By the time Jeff is done running around the city (and Spencer definitely cheats how long that would take), the battle is balanced again.
Some tips for getting your players to laugh:
- When your PC’s say something out of character act like they’ve said it in character, such as when one explains about their group, “It’s like Entourage”, and then Spencer acts like the character has said that.
- Spencer likes to put his players on the spot unexpectedly. He announces that Paul’s character is making a speech to the town, and abruptly stops talking until Paul ad libs a speech.
- He reminds them of facts about their characters in character: “A father is everything to an orc.” “Even a half-orc?” “A father is half of everything to a half-orc.”
- As always in DnD, the most fun is when someone either naturally (without using a point modifier) rolls a one or a twenty. When Paul rolls a one, Spencer has him accidentally set his head on fire. Paul keeps forgetting about it, because he can’t see the animation like we can, and it gets a laugh whenever Spencer reminds him. “With your head on fire?” “Still?? I guess I just got used to it. Like this is my life now.”