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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

D&D Live From Meltdown - Storm King's Thunder

This is a recap/review of the live D&D broadcast on twitch where the new story was announced: Storm King's Thunder. There's also tons and tons of other announcements. At the end there is a live game run by Matt Mercer. I'm going to review that in a separate article.

You can buy Storm King's Thunder and the affiliated supplements on amazon here:

Storm King's Thunder
Volo's Guide to Monsters
Dungeonology (Ologies)
You can watch this Meltdown show here.

This event takes place in a hobby store in LA. 

Here's a quick list of the things on the show:
  • Alcohol: Allison drinks D&D drinks.
  • D&D Culture: Cliff talks to Nathan Stewart and Chris Perkins about the D&D brand.
  • Storm King Game: We watch the Dungeon Bastard and Satine Phoenix play some D&D.
  • Buddy Cops: Greg Tito and Trevor Kidd are best buddies. They chat with Liz Schuh and Cliff.
  • Storm King's Thunder Details: Chris Perkins gives us tons of info. I wrote down a comprehensive list.
  • Another New Book: Mike Mearls tells us about other products, including Volo's Guide to Monsters.
  • Force Grey: Allison talks with Matt Mercer about his new D&D show - Force Grey: Giant Hunters. 
  • Acquisitions, Inc: We learn about the new Acquisitions, Inc D&D show.
  • Neverwinter MMO: We learn about Storm King's Thunder content.
  • Force Grey: We talk with Ashley and Jonah. 
  • Fantasy Grounds: Online play stuff.
  • Virtual Reality: Jane Fang shows us some VR stuff.
  • Force Grey: We talk with Utkarsh, Shelby and Brian Posehn.
Technical Difficulties: There are sound adjustment problems throughout this broadcast. It happens mostly when we cut from one thing to another. You can still hear what's going on but it can get annoying after a while.


We start off with our host Allison Haislip talking to a bartender who is making drinks in the store. He makes her a yogurt-based soft drink that has white peaches from Japan in it. She likes it. Then she tries three more drinks. I have a thing for bullet points, so try this on for size:
  • Mimic Chest: Flavored ice cube in the shape of gems.
  • Chauntea's Bounty: I couldn't hear what was in this drink. Allison is officially buzzed.
  • Dragon's Breath: It's got cherries in it. The bartender sets it on fire as if it were a Flaming Mo. He uses some device to burn wood chips or something. Wow, it's got smoke coming out of it. She likes this one. I'll talk more about her in a bit, but Allison seems so perfect for this kind of job. She has such a big personality.
D&D Culture

Cliff Broadway is the "XSN Fantasy Host." From what I gather, he's a Lord of the Rings fan and is an actor/producer. He talks with Nathan Stewart, the guy who manages the D&D Brand. They talk about how D&D is becoming "cool" and Cliff likens it to being "rock & roll." Cliff has a great radio voice.

Cliff talks about his love for Castle Amber. Nathan says that he started playing D&D when he was 12. He played with his older cousin and his friends. Cliff is very touchy-feely with the people he talks to.

We cut to Allison outside. She is by some mountain dew stand. There's no sound. She gets a pudding with a D&D logo cookie on it. Still no sound.

We abruptly cut back to Cliff. He lets us know that Allison's microphone is being fixed. Here comes Chris Perkins. For a minute, our video is mirrored. The logos on everyone's shirts are backwards.

Cliff goes off again on how D&D is cool now. Chris explains that people who played D&D as kids are now very successful and they are defining our culture.

Chris talks about all the snazzy D&D stuff in the store. He says:  

"There's a whole room full of chocolate bars. I shit you not."

It always amuses me when Chris swears. I never see it coming.

Storm King Game

Back to Allison. She's in the store at a table where the Dungeon Bastard is playing D&D. How come he's not running this game? Ah.. because D&D employee Chris Lindsay is running the intro of Storm King's Thunder.

He drew a heck of a map. We watch them play. Allison has a lot of fun reactions. She's one of those people who was born to be in front of the camera.

The group is in a cavern and they're fighting with something that has short legs. The DM says it's a giant but there's no large mini on the map. Maybe it's a half-giant or something.

One player vaults over her allies and tries to grapple the giant..? She makes a bunch of rolls and chokes the giant out! Awesome.

We get a graphic that tells us that she is Satine Phoenix. Google tells me she is an artist and actress. Time magazine calls her "The Queen of D&D." She seems awesome. I want to watch this game.

Buddy Cops

We see Greg Tito and Trevor Kidd. These two are so much fun together. They tell us that Matt Mercer will be running a new D&D show. They talk about the pudding truck outside. There are also taco trucks.

We are joined by Liz Schuh. She's their boss. She seems like a nice lady. There's a virtual reality headgear thing in the store that people are using.

Our video goes out for about a minute. When we come back, Greg and Trevor run down the list of people playing in Matt Mercer's game tonight. They talk a bit about what they like to play in D&D.

Trevor likes playing warlocks. He plays in Mike Mearls real life campaign and gives us some details. In the Mearls world, elves are the bad guys. The good guys are devils. That sounds pretty cool.

Greg Tito likes playing haughty elves and wizards. His greatest character was a 22nd level half elf ranger in 3e. His name was Todhedron, aka "Toad." He had almond eyes and ears. I'll see if I can work this dude into my Planescape campaign.

Cliff joins us. We learn that Cliff is the West Coast Dragon Dice Champion. Wow. Apparently there are people out there who continue to play Dragon Dice.

Dragon Dice is the game that some claim put TSR in dire financial straits in the 90's. When TSR CEO Lorraine Williams saw promising initial sales figures while trying to decide how many sets of an expansion to produce, she supposedly cried out, "Order a million!"

I'm pretty sure Cliff could talk for hours. He talks about Dragonlance, the D&D comic, Grendel comics, you name it.

We cut back to the stage. Allison doesn't know we're live. She is telling the crowd about the time she was chasing a guy who stole her phone in Italy. She is quite a character.

Someone lets her know that we're live. She gives a big speech about D&D and how she didn't play it growing up. She says that when she played the game as an adult, she finally understood the appeal.

She brings out Chris Perkins and now we get to the good stuff.

Storm King's Thunder

Chris unloads tons and tons of information on us:

Levels: This adventure is for characters level 1-11.

The Setting: It's set in the Forgotten Realms and the villains are giants. The land was once ruled by dragons and giants who were at war for centuries.

The Giant God is Angry: In Tyranny of Dragons, the dragons tried to bring Tiamat back. The giants did nothing. The giant god Annam the All-Father was angry that his giants didn't oppose the dragons. Annam broke The Ordning - the societal structure that defines giantkind. In the Ordning, storm giants are at the top and hill giants are at the bottom. Now that's all out the window.

The Bad Guys: Evil giants go out in the world and do terrible things so they can become the new kings of giantkind. We get a rundown of the bad guys:
  • Hill Giants: They plunder farms. Their chief's name is "Goo."
  • Stone Giants: Led by a religious zealot who is being duped by an earth primordial.
  • Frost Giants: Frost Giant Jarl Storvald has a fleet of longships with sails made of dragon's wings. They are looking for the ring of winter. Storvald wants to bring about an age of everlasting ice.
  • Fire Giants: Duke Zalto has an awesome plan. His family is at a forge, using slaves to dig up an ancient colossus to unleash on the world.
  • Cloud Giants: Looking for hidden troves of dragon magic. They are capturing and torturing dragons!
  • Storm Giants: King Hekaton is missing. Nobody knows where he's gone. His court is in disarray and there's a power struggle between his three daughters.
Factions: There are giant allies as well. They want the Ordning restored. The group will have some options. Do they want to kill all of the giants or do they want to make an alliance with those giants who want the Ordning restored?

You Can Become a Giant: The scope is big. The locations are gigantic. The heroes will actually have the chance to become giants.

Mystery Villain: There's a mysterious villain behind the scenes who Chris says will be the death of many parties in the year to come. This villain traces its origins to the beginning of the realms. Ed Greenwood created this bad guy. I have no idea who this could be.

Here comes Mike Mearls! I think that Mearls is really good at these presentations. He's very polished.

Rune Magic: The key to defeating the giants will involve rune magic. Runes can be used to get the giants to work together. I guess this helps explain the level range, which seems low for fighting giants.

Release Dates:
  • Game stores get this book on August 26th.
  • Wide release is on September 6th. 
Other Products Coming Out:
  • D&D Storm King's Thunder miniatures from Wizkids.
  • New Board Game: Assault of the Giants.
  • Gale Force Nine is making unpainted miniatures.
But wait, what's this?

Another New Book

Volo's Guide to Monsters:
  • Lore: This book will have expanded lore on mind flayers, yuan ti, and other monsters.
  • New Monsters: It will have 100 new monsters!
  • Races: It has stats for playable races including Tritons and Firbolgs.
  • Experiment: Limited edition cover by hydro74 only available in game stores. That's an experiment, they're going to see how it does.
We cut to a taped moment between Perkins and Matt Mercer. Perkins loans Mercer his "evil dice." The red paint on them is actually the blood of players, says Chris.

Force Grey

Someone Check Pulses: Allison introduces Matt Mercer on stage. This crowd is killing me. Maybe they are just mic'd poorly, but it is coming off like they are completely silent. Everyone who gets on stage just dies a death. Make some noise, people! I swear I can almost hear crickets chirping.

Matt says that way back when, he had a bad DM. That's what made him become a DM. Matt has done voices for over 100 video games. He did a voice in Overwatch. One dude in the crowd comes out of his coma and is excited about that.

Force Grey: This new campaign he is running is called Force Grey: Giant Hunters. They kept saying the name, but I couldn't make out what it was. Forest Grey? Force Cage? I had to google it.

Force Grey are mercenaries located in Waterdeep. They are a special 'black ops' team that operates outside the law.

Tonight, the players of Force Grey will be playing through a prologue for a video series that will air throughout the summer. Matt hasn't run anything in the Realms for 15 years and he's a bit nervous.

Acquisitions, Inc

We talk with Jerry Holkins about a new upcoming show: Acquisitions, Inc: The Series. The adventure they play through will be a lead-up to Storm King's Thunder. The climactic session of this series will be a live game at PAX West. It will be right here on youtube.

Neverwinter MMO

Neverwinter time. Allison talks with the head developer, Rob Overmeyer. This freaking audience. Rob asks the crowd: "Who here plays Neverwinter?"

One guy claps slowly about three times. Then... silence. I want to die.

Here's the highlights:
  • We see a trailer. There's giants in Icewind Dale.
  • You can meet Wulfgar and Cattie-Brie.
  • Neverwinter is going to be available on the PS4 this summer.
Force Grey

Allison talks with Ashley and Jonah, two of the players who are about to play through the first session of Force Grey. Jonah has tried a few times in his life to play D&D. Each time, the campaign fizzled quickly.

Ashley's character is named Dagny. She has a pet mouse with wheel legs. She's a tinkerer. She worships Gond, god of invention. Her holy symbol has another purpose, but Ashley won't tell us more.

Jonah's character Joppa is a monk and recluse. His character loves fishing. He does the special ops thing for the money.

Jonah is real loose and funny. So much so that the crowd lurches to life and actually laughs out loud a few times. This man has done the impossible! He seems like a real cool guy.

Fantasy Grounds

Allison talks with Doug Davison, the dude who run Fantasy Grounds. It is a site to play D&D online. They'll have all of the Storm King's Thunder stuff will be online there on August 26th. They'll have player's maps and DM maps.

Then we go outside and talk with a dude who made a mural on the outer wall of Meltdown.

Virtual Reality

Allison talks with Jane Fang, who works for this virtual reality company. Jane's enchanting demeanor is making me swoon. I'll do my best to continue to report this accurately. We see some footage of the VR. Here's a picture:

Yes, that is a dude with a sword floating in front of him. His legs and arms do not move. He slides around.

This company has been working with D&D and they're still refining the programming. Apparently you can buy these headsets right now. Forgotten Realms author R.A. Salvatore tried it and bah gawd, he loved it. He was sword-fighting with his fans.

They held a virtual reality comedy show with Reggie Watts. 1,200 people joined in to watch via VR, which is a world record.

This is so weird. They want you to use VR to play D&D at a virtual table. When I think of virtual reality and D&D, I think of you being your character and traveling in the campaign world! Not sitting at a table playing D&D in virtual reality!

I've always thought that pen and paper RPGs won't become obsolete until they have the ability to make video games that allow you to literally do anything. We're getting closer, but we're not there yet.

Elsewhere, we talk with a guy who works in movie design. The audio is low. He painted a Drizzt mini.

Force Grey

Allison talks with Brian Posehn, Utkarsh and Shelby. They are the other players in Force Grey. Brian says that he's been playing D&D with the same group in L.A. for 15 years. Chris Hardwick was one of the original players. Apparently Chris will be joining Force Grey in future sessions.

Shelby has never played D&D before. Utkarsh has never played before either. He thinks this game is "improv with wizards." Ohhh boy.

Posehn is Calliope, a female half elf bard. Wears leather armor, has a lute that can turn into a crossbow. Vision impaired, 19 charisma.

Shelby is a dwarf fighter. She says that her character has a lot of "body points." Ohhhhhhhhh boy. She has a flying shield but she's afraid of flying.

Utkarsh is playing Hitch. He's a rogue and he doesn't believe in god or taxes. Women love him, until they don't. He has daggers that never run out. He finds Calliope to be quite attractive.

My Unsolicited Opinion: I'm sure the Matt Mercer game will be fun, but wow did that last interview give me the heebie jeebies.

I'm going to have to be "that guy" for a second. There's a 95% chance that once I watch Force Grey I will be proven completely wrong. But these are my thoughts:

They decided to get Matt Mercer to run a game for celebrity types. That's cool. I assume each of these people has a following and that they'll attract people outside the RPG world to come check out the game. That's awesome.

But they brought in a number of people who know absolutely nothing about D&D. That rubs me the wrong way. I am worried that we're going to get some players who are here just to cash a paycheck. I get that vibe from some players on some of the other shows I've watched and it is really throwing me.

Don't get me wrong. New players are awesome. But when I see the Dungeon Bastard and Satine Phoenix right there in the building, I ask myself: "Why aren't they in the game?"

They play D&D! Heck, Satine Phoenix is the "Queen of D&D." Why am I not seeing her on any of these shows? The Dungeon Bastard has been around for years and he plays all the time.

I guess the thinking is that the people they chose have some kind of following or cache that will help the brand. In my opinion, you could have had a few of those types and mixed in some veterans.

Again, I am probably 100% wrong. That's just my initial knee jerk reaction.

I'm about to watch Force Grey right now, so we'll see how it all works out.

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