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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Stream of Annihilation

For the last two days, we got to watch tons of D&D groups play through adventures related to the new D&D adventure coming out in September: The Tomb of Annihilation.

Today I just want to go over general thoughts on the stream, the groups and the adventures. These are just my goofball opinions, please don't take this too seriously.

I recapped the whole thing right here:
I'm going to write about Tomb of Annihilation and Xanathar's Guide to Everything tomorrow. This article focuses on the games that were played on the stream itself.

Overall Thoughts: I thought it was very good. I am guessing they don’t expect people to watch the entire thing in one sitting, but that’s what I did. Two 12-hour days! I was able to get through most of it, but I did take a break on each day to get some real life stuff done.

I think this is a really great way for them to announce their new, big products. I'd like it if they did this twice a year.

Celebrities

I guess I have mixed feelings about using Hollywood-types on these shows. I get that it’s a good way to get people who aren’t familiar with the game to check it out, but in some instances, I felt like it hurt the session a bit. I think it largely depends on the real-life personality of the actor.

Joe Managiello was fantastic and I think he should be a central part of every one of these things. He’s likeable, he knows what he’s doing, and he is fun to watch. He adds to the game. Famous or not, he came off to me like he’s a guy you would want in your group.

Abe Benrubi was an interesting choice. I liked him, too, but I felt like the games he was in had so many players that we didn’t really get the full Abe experience, if you know what I mean.

Fan Picks: As a fan, obviously I have celebrities in mind that I’d love to see. I’m sure that they’re unfeasible for one reason or another.

Vin Diesel plays, it would be cool to get him in. I think he’s actually making a movie about his D&D character.

If there is one person on the planet that I want to see play D&D, it is Alan Moore. He’s got a great voice, he’s definitely a colorful character on his own and he obviously is a very creative guy.

New Players


I’m a little torn on the idea of putting people who don’t know how to play on a stream like this. Hardcore fans are watching and I felt kind of bad for some of the new players, because they were making the mistakes we all made in the beginning, only they are in front of an audience.

It’s an awful lot of pressure to put on someone. Not only are they “performing”, they’re trying to learn a very intricate system of gaming.

I think I would like it if, on future streams (if they do an event like this again), they put the new people together in a few groups. That way, you can have a few sessions of introductory D&D, which I think would be fantastic for people watching who have never played and it would make the players much more comfortable.

No Crowd: I really like that there was no live audience. The players were much more relaxed. When there’s a live crowd, I am very conscious of their reactions and when the crowd is dead it makes the game worse. For me, it does, anyway. I much prefer to see people play free and unfettered as if they were at home.

Meat Grinder Mode

The Meat Grinder event that Chris Perkins ran was really great. It was incredibly fun to watch, and I really would like to see this a few times a year. They could run a few, and then, all of the people who survived can go through a super-meatgrinder.

I also get excited when I think of people daring to use their established D&D characters – from a show – in one of these. Imagine Jim Darkmagic in the meat grinder! Or Diath! If the character dies, they are dead for good.

Maze Arcana Pirates


On day one, the Maze Arcana crew took full advantage of this opportunity and ran a special event, which is how I feel these groups should approach this kind of thing. They pitted two of their groups of players against each other.

I loved it, and I can now say that Captain Stormbrew is one of my favorite active D&D characters out there. I would love to see the captain and his crew invade and attack the groups on other shows, wreaking utter havok.

The DMs put a lot of thought into this. They were aware of how much time they had, and they planned their twists really well. They were totally on the ball and it was awesome to see someone come to this thing with the intention of doing something really special.

Standout Players


I think for the most part they did a great job of picking people and groups to appear on this stream. There were a few that stood out to me:

Dylan Sprouse: He ran the very final session of the whole weekend, the Crawl of Annihilation. I really liked his ideas and he plotted out some great twists. I never would have come up with something like that. He did things that a lot of DMs talk about, but don’t actually do.

As a player, he’s great. He always brings something distinct to the table, he plays well with others, and he just seems like a fun person to play D&D with. He’s there to play D&D! There’s no BS with him. I think that people who have never played the game can watch him and see a good example of how to behave at the table, how to play the game and how to contribute in a way that is not disruptive.

Girls, Guts, Glory: When all is said and done, this is the group that sticks out the most to me. I thought every single one of them was really good. Some of them are funny, and some of them are serious. Each of them has a distinct character and brings something different to the game.

I think it probably helped a lot that Matt Mercer ran this game for them. What I loved about his DMing in this is that he seemed to consciously make sure to give them the spotlight. He was extremely generous, a true team player in a meta-game way. He gave them a solid foundation and kept things running smoothly so that they could focus on showing people what they do and why they are worth watching.

Kim Hidalgo was especially great. She killed me playing that little kid in the Mearls adventure. She was so hilarious, she did a voice I’ve never heard anyone even try to do. I would say that she was a highlight of the entire stream.

It is also very encouraging to see an all-female group. There’s more females playing now than in years past, but I still think there could be more. I especially want to see more female DMs. For whatever reason, they are in very short supply.

I think that Kim and Nadja Otikor are leading the way, and I want to see a lot more females follow their example and step up. DMing is a lot of work, and it can be nerve-wracking and depressing. Despite that, once you start DMing, being a player pales in comparison.

Mike Mearls: Well! Holy crap. I don’t know why this surprises me, but Mike Mearls is one of the best DMs I’ve ever seen. In fact, from what I saw here, he is THE best DM I’ve ever seen.

His adventure was awesome, the pacing was perfect, and the game flowed really nicely. He had all of these custom rules that managed things well and he was very open to wacky player ideas. I was stunned to hear him do those redcap voices. He was tremendous!

I really think that Tower of the Curator is the best session of D&D that I have ever watched, run or played in.

I think Mike Mearls needs to do a weekly show similar to Dice, Camera, Action. Or at least, a 12-week run or something. He’s an asset and I think D&D would gain a lot from giving us a look at his style. He’s extremely versatile and he’s so sharp.

The Acquisitions, Inc C-Team: People keep telling me to watch this group, but it’s hard to fit these shows into your schedule. They’re so long! I finally got to watch the C-Team, and they are, in fact, pretty great.

It’s very interesting how this entire group is sort of like an expansion of Jerry’s style of humor. They joke around in a very wry way and I’d say that they are some of the funniest D&D people that are out there right now.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Jerry as a DM. I was worried that he might be heavy-handed, but he was not at all. He was along for the ride and it was really good. The dynamic between the players is really great and I think that they have the best group chemistry out of any of the shows I’ve seen.

Random Observations


Mark Hulmes: I still think that Mark Hulmes is my favorite DM going. He showed up to this thing really prepared. In fact, I think he might have over-prepared a bit. With these 90-minute sessions, you can’t get that much done.

He’s a guy who has clearly been grinding out D&D sessions for years and he’s at a level where DMing is second nature to him. On this stream, he was able to experiment with the form a bit by using flashbacks mid-session, which I’ve almost never seen anyone do.

It’s hard to figure out the best way to handle a flashback so that it does not negate the things that will occur, but I think he did some really cool stuff.

Too Many Players: Some of these sessions just had too many players. With 7 or 8 people at the table, usually you end up with one player dominating the whole thing. Basically, the loudest person ends up with the spotlight, and that’s not great in my opinion.

In the Crawl of Annihilation, I think Dylan would have benefited greatly with four players at the table rather than seven or eight. Joe in particular didn’t really get to do much in that session, which is a bummer because I wanted to see him interact with Anna, Satine and Abe.

I think part of the appeal of these things is getting to see players from different shows interact. It’s kind of like Batman meeting Spiderman. It sucks when Batman only appears in one panel of the comic and goes home.

Waffle Crew: I would have liked to see Jared and Holly in more events. It would be a lot of fun to see them run different characters. Anna was a force of nature on this stream, hosting half-hour segments and playing in a number of games.

People Who Should Have Been Here: Two of my favorite people to watch are Shattercock and Grimo from Twits and Crits. I know that’s not their real names, but that’s who they are to me. I want to see Shattercock and Grimo come here and wreck shop in a game run by Matt Mercer.

Supergroup: What’s more fun than picking out a group of players that you’d like to run for? If I could run a game and pick from this pool of players, here’s who I would take:
  • Joe Managiello – He ran fun characters, he was unselfish and he focused on the game.
  • Kim Hidalgo – She’s hilarious and talented. She is willing to make herself “look stupid” if it benefits the game, which is a very rare quality in D&D and I think it is the hallmark of a great player.
  • Amy Falcone – I think Amy is one of those special people that you run into every so often, someone gifted with inspired ideas and insight. She generates jokes at lightning speed and she’d be awesome to have at the table. Even if the adventure you run is a flop, she will make the night worth it because she is so entertaining all on her own.
  • Taliesin Jaffe – This guy is just awesome. Great voices, great characters. I am instantly a fan of Captain Stormbrew and would stab a dude for the chance to run a pirate game for him. My best campaign ever was Skull and Shackles, the Pathfinder pirate path, and in it was one of the best players/characters I’ve ever got to play with: The Pirate Queen ruler of the Shackles, “Pirahna” Lana Redwater, captain of the Thunderc**t II. If I could get her and Captain Stormbrew in the same session, the Shackles would never be the same again.
  • Anna Prosser-Robinson – In my opinion, she’s the ideal D&D player. Unselfish, focused, pleasant, versatile and mindful of the group dynamic. In the Crawl of Annihilation, when a table of 8 players were stumped trying to get into that dome, she was the one who figured it out. It didn’t take her long, either. As soon as it was her turn, she took action.
I’m sure your list is different, that’s part of the fun of making these lists and watching shows like this.

Overall: The Stream of Annihilation was definitely worth watching and a great way to introduce the new D&D products. I hope they keep this concept going, at least once a year.

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