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Finding Fun in Failure with Siobhan Thompson

Finding Fun in Failure with Siobhan Thompson


– Hello and welcome back
to Adventuring Academy. My name is Brennan Lee Mulligan, and with me today is our special guest, Miss Siobhan Thompson.
– Hi everybody. – Yay, thank you so much
for coming, Siobhan. – [Siobhan] Thank you for having me. – I see you’re rocking the
Dimension 20 Fantasy High Live. – I am, the show that ruined live shows for the rest of creation,
’cause it was the best live show anybody’s ever done.
(Brennan laughing) Sorry if you weren’t there. – Although you can absolutely
go over to YouTube right now and catch the stream of
the live show we did. A truly remarkable time.
– Very well. I’ve done a lot of bad comedy shows, and this really makes up for it. Makes me feel better
about my life choices. – In Brooklyn, specifically.
– Truly, in Brooklyn, I have done so many specifically
very bad comedy shows. And some that were better than the audience thought they were. – Yeah, that’s on the audience. – That was on the audience. That’s the first rule of comedy. Always blame the audience
if you do a bad show. – 100%, but that was wild, because you haven’t played Adaine in more than a year.
– Yeah. I was very nervous about
it, especially ’cause, I rewatched the show when it came out, ’cause I’m a huge narcissist. But I feel like people
are watching this show in a way that’s, they will
remember minutiae that I won’t. And also, playing a wizard is complicated. – Yes. – [Siobhan] And playing
an eighth level wizard is very complicated.
– Quite. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into being a proficient spell caster. – Yes. But I did fight, I didn’t
use my portent rolls, because the rolls were bad. – Yes, that’s right. You had a what, a– – I had a one and a nine, and then, by the time we were into battle, you weren’t really rolling attack rolls, you were just killing us.
– Yes, exactly. – [Siobhan] And so they were
just fully useless to me. If they were higher, I
would have given them to other people, but a one and a nine, I can’t, that’s not very good. – Right, you don’t wanna give
that to anyone on your team. – [Siobhan] Right, I don’t want to, like, let’s kill Zac.
– Right. And if you’d of had an instakill spell that you could cast on the beholder and have given her the one,
that’s a different story, but you were telekinesised
and restrained and– – Yeah, there was all kinds
of shit that I couldn’t do. – There was a lotta shit going on. But it was incredibly, incredibly fun. We’re also recording this the day after playing our home game. – Yes, we changed over
from 3.5 to 5e, which– – [Brennan] A bunch of 10th
level characters ported over. – Yeah, it was very, it was challenging, because I feel like we have… 3.5 and 5e are just two
fully different games. They’re just not the
same mechanics at all. – True.
– They have a couple of the same things, but mostly
it’s entirely different. – [Brennan] Yes, the
mechanics are all different. The scale of difficulties
and armor classes is totally different.
– Right. And even like, ’cause I in my 3.5 campaign had multi-classed a bunch
because that’s what you do in 3.5 to get a good character. – Character, yeah. – [Siobhan] And that doesn’t
really make sense in 5e, so figuring out, ’cause
I was multi-classed into arcane archer, and
then, but the arcane archer in 5e is a very different thing, and so what do I do, who am I, what’s going on, what’s
my purpose in life? – It’s a big identity crisis.
– It is, it really is. – [Brennan] Speaking
of who is my character, we wanted to jump into
something very fun today, which is, Siobhan, you’ve
played a lot of D&D characters at this point now.
– Yep. – We’re gearing up for
mysterious season five. – [Siobhan] Oh, what’s going on? Who could I be?
– Who can you be? But we’re about to see you, actually, by the time this comes out, we will actually already have
started airing season three of Dimension 20.
– Oh, how exciting. – So you’ll be able to see
Siobhan as Misty Moore. – Misty Moore, so that’s great. So we can talk about it a little bit. – We can talk about it a little bit. – Yeah. – Talk to me a little bit about that. Playing Adaine Abernant in Fantasy High and then playing Misty Moore,
who I think our audiences will only have seen one episode
of, but playing Misty Moore, about as different a
character as possible. – Yeah, I wanted to make her
as different as possible, but also, I mean, mostly,
I get to play a character who’s a New York archetype. Why would I not be Elaine Stritch? It just, absolutely, I’m
gonna be an old Broadway diva, the best person in the world. – I wanna actually, I would
love for you to expound on that a little bit, because
I similarly very much agree, and it’s something that
I don’t hear talked about as much in D&D character creation spaces, ’cause a lot of times people will be like, oh, you’re making your character. Make something that’s fun for you, and then it’s kind of left at that, and I think a lot of,
especially beginning players, are left in this place where
they’re expected to know what will be fun. – Yeah. I think that there’s sort of two pitfalls. One is, I hate using Mary Sue, because it’s just been
co-opted by the worst people in the world, but I’m
gonna create a character who’s perfect and has
violet eyes and ruby hair, and I’m gonna be the best at everything, and the flip side of that, which is basically the same thing, is just like, I’m gonna
min-max my character, because I am going to win at D&D. Which, you can’t win at D&D. D&D is a fun, storytelling game that you play with your friends. It’s about success and failure, and failure is often more
interesting than success. – I think, weirdly, because when we started
doing Dimension 20, we got all of these
comedians on this show, and what I was amazed
by, even having played with some people, like Ally
had never played before playing the first season, is one thing that was incredible to me that a bunch of comedians
took to the most naturally that I had often seen
non-comedians struggle with is finding a tremendous
amount of fun in failure. – Oh yeah. I mean, that’s all comedy is
is finding fun in failure. There’s a, I feel like
maybe it’s an urban legend, because I’ve heard about it
a couple of different comics, but I’m gonna use the one that I heard, which is Stephen Colbert. Used to do a thing when
he was in Chicago of, I’m gonna put myself into the
most shame-filled experience that I can do, so I can
basically inoculate myself against shame.
(Brennan laughing) So he would do, the thing that I heard that he would do is walk
as slowly as possible across a very busy crosswalk in rush hour. So people are beeping, and
everybody’s screaming at him, and he’s just going foot in
front of foot in front of foot, just to feel that pressure and shame and be like, no, I’m above this. I can do this, ’cause if you can do that, that’s all comedy is, there’s
so much failure in comedy. – Oh god. Personally, that’s so funny. Also, it’s Stephen
Colbert, a big D&D head. – [Siobhan] Oh yeah? – But yeah, I think that’s very true, and there’s something about natural ones and poor dice rolls that I think, it can be really frustrating
when you’re playing, but I think immediately what we see from the natural one rolls in Fantasy High and things is that we
end up getting things like, are you my dad? – Right, oh yeah. I mean, it is a big thing in improv that is, every mistake is a gift. – Right, love that. – And all you have to do is, oh, you fucked up, it doesn’t matter. Everybody around you is
gonna pick up that mistake and make it into the
best thing in the show. And if you’re all working
together as a team, which I feel very lucky that we do, ’cause that doesn’t always happen. There’s definitely times
when I’ve been put on teams and you’ve been put on teams at UCB where you’re just like, oh,
this is, on paper, a great team. We’re not working and I don’t know why. Why don’t we have any chemistry? This is weird, we’re friends. – Yeah, it’s a bizarre thing,
and it has nothing to do with whether or not you get along. There are people that you can truly love and adore, and there’s, that
performative chemistry’s just not there, and I think
we were very fortunate with the first season of Dimension 20, where we all definitely liked each other, but I think some people
had worked together less or hung out less.
– Yeah. I didn’t know Lou at all, really. – There were a couple people that we were not as familiar with. You and Ally kind of had worked
for a couple months together at CollegeHumor, but–
– Yeah. We had a little bit of a crossover, and we had taken an improv class together, but that’s not like– – And the chemistry was
electric right when we started, it was wild. And that’s a rare gift. I wanted to circle back to
something you said, too, because number one, I think that there, having that community training,
and I think this is true for anyone watching at home as well. That if the point is to tell a good story, failure is a part of any good story. – [Siobhan] Yes. – So both in the playing of the game, when those rolls come up,
you have opportunities for are you my dad stuff, but also, in the construction of characters, sowing failure, flaws,
and the room for growth. – Yes, I mean that was what,
when I was creating Adaine, the reason that I was
like, oh, it would be fun to give her an anxiety disorder, is if she doesn’t have
that, she’s just a rich kid that’s good at magic.
(Brennan laughs) Like, who cares? Who cares if she’s a rich
kid that’s good with magic? Like that’s, congratulations.
– Right. And now, it’s funny
because she was a rich kid who was good at magic, but the fact that she had a element of her character that was so relatable to so many people that watched the show and so
many people that play the show, and was also like deeply relatable, I mean, we were in line
after the meet and greet after the show, Adaine means
a lot to a lot of people. – It was wild, I cried like five times. It was crazy. – It’s really meaningful to see a, in the same way that I think Kristen is a very meaningful
character for a lot of people to see that LGBT
representation in a character, and to have a character who’s as heroic as any of the other characters, who’s overcoming a mental– – Yeah, I mean school is the worst time. If you had a good time at
school, go fuck yourself. I don’t know what to say. It’s really awful. I had a terrible time at school. I personally had a lot
of mental health issues. I dropped out of school for a year, and it’s like, it was
not a good time for me. My parents did not homeschool me. They did take me out of school for a year and then were just like,
what are you doing? – I should say right now
that I had never been to high school, which
is maybe an admission– – That’s why you’re as
emotionally healthy as you are. It’s truly sickening to me, Brennan. I find it very disturbing. You don’t have all of the
other disgusting scars that the rest of us have
from having to go through a school system that tries to make us something that we’re not. – I mean, bullet dodged, and I reckon with that privilege every day.
– Absolutely. – Yes.
– Absolutely. – Yes, there are two
types of homeschool kids, and you’re the good type. – Yeah. We actually had the two different, yeah, as a kid who was homeschooled for a while, there’s two, yeah, there’s
the hyper-religious, we’re not learning evolution, and then there’s the super groovy, like, we don’t want to be in that
competitive, institutional, and I was the latter type, yeah. You know, it’s really moving and touching. And I also wanted to alight
on something you said when you were talking about archetype, ’cause you’re playing in Unsleeping City, you’re playing this. Again, it’s so wild to me too to watch, because there are parts
of your personality, having known you for a long time, that are Adaine, and there
are parts of your personality that are Misty, and anyone that
watched those two characters would be like, how do these two relate back to the same person? They’re so different. – They’re so different, but I mean, yeah, they definitely come from this, aspects of myself, and I
think that that is a fun way of creating a character, of saying, oh, what is an aspect of myself that I don’t really get
to explore it that much? Maybe I’ll go play over
there for a little bit. – The last two PCs I played, this wasn’t intentional, but
I played Deadeye in NADDPOD, who was a hardcore, being an atheist in worlds where the gods are
real is very challenging, but he was someone who scorned the gods, and he was a very bitter,
angry character about that kind of thing, although he had a
lot of love for his family. And the character I played
before that was a cleric. It was the most extremely devout faith, and weirdly, both of
them are parts of myself that I’m like, no, that’s
a very a real aspect of myself that I’m trying to– – I think that both of those
things are very relatable, ’cause I think that they, man, the human journey is all about opposites and trying to find the in between
of yourself, I don’t know. – This is the Misty energy coming through. – It’s like the Misty energy. Yeah, I mean, it’s just such a fun way to get, to really play somebody else in a way that even just regular
acting doesn’t let you be, because you don’t get to be spontaneous in most acting situations in the way that you get to be spontaneous in D&D. – Absolutely. – And I think that for me, it’s so useful to have a philosophy
of character going in. I think that that is very useful, because that means that if I
have a philosophy of character, that means that you as the
DM can set up situations where you can fuck with me. – Yeah. Well, I think there’s two things. There’s philosophy, and I
also do want to circle back to the thing you talked
about with archetype, which I love, and I wish
that was more talked about, is the idea of I come
to the six of you guys with this thing, and I say,
we’re gonna do magic New York. And you go, magical Broadway star. – Yes. – And what I love about that is, it is a boon to me when
a player character goes, I want to be something
archetypal in this setting, so that, because it’s almost
like a campaign setting, just bear with this weird analogy. A campaign setting is almost
like this weird dark cave, right, and your players
have these little torches, and they go off to parts of this cave based on where their character is from and what they’re interested in, and they have their little light, and wherever they choose to
root their player character in your setting, of course,
gets more light cast on it, and within that, there are things where the player character can choose to walk up a little platform in that cave, a little stalagmite, and
get to this vantage point where a huge chunk is illuminated, and those stalagmites are like archetype. ‘Cause if you had just been like, I’m gonna be a bard. They live in an apartment in Manhattan. – Right, they’re just doing some gigs down in the West Village, but
they’re bartending three nights a week, ’cause it’s not
really making ends meet. That’s boring.
– And everyone, and then the barbarian–
– It’s D&D. You can be anybody.
– You can be anybody. – Why wouldn’t I be a Broadway star? – And you go to that
archetype and suddenly, this thing is like, oh, of course, that would have to exist
in magical New York. I think that’s a great
compass for players is, what’s the character that
if you choose to play them, everyone’s gonna go, of course, that character has to exist here. Because that has to, that feeling of, oh, that is an archetype, that
truly belongs in the setting, is gonna fill your
sails with so much wind. I am mixing metaphors left and right, but it’s gonna give you so much purpose to be playing an archetypal
character for that setting. – Also, just for, and I feel
like this is also a problem that is not a problem, but a situation that is maybe more unique to the way that we play Dimension 20, and having this way of telling
stories of just one season, where I very much wanted to make sure that Misty was very different from Fig. And one of the things, when
we played our zero game, our chemistry game, I
was winking at people to give people inspiration,
because I was like, oh, that’s how you do it. Not really having thought about it, it was the first time, Fantasy High was the first time I’d played with a bard. And immediately, I did it, and
I was like, this feels wrong. It feels like I’m stealing Emily’s bit, and also, I’m just stepping
on that character’s toes. How would Misty give inspiration? And I feel like those kinds of questions are so useful when you’re
playing the character versus when you’re building the character. – Well, this brings us
to the central thing we wanted to talk about today,
which was justification. And I love that idea, I think, Siobhan, you’re excellent as a player at, this is, it’s true.
(Siobhan giggles) You’re excellent at looking
at a mechanical portion of the game, like, here’s
a rule on the board, and tying that into the
story and being like, well, if that’s how the rule works, how does that manifest in the narrative, imaginative story reality
that we’re thinking of? – Right, exactly. It’s if-then.
– Right. – If this person is a warlock,
then, well, maybe they… You don’t become a warlock unless you have some kind of problem. You don’t sell your soul unless there’s some kind of desperation. This is not a, like, oh, I forgot my keys, I’m a warlock now, although
that is a fun character. Somebody who’s sold their soul because they forgot their keys and it was too much of a pain in the ass to call their super and help them unlock the door is pretty fun. – There was some funny Tumblr
GIF set bouncing around, something that was like, it was all the different primary
casters, and it was like, wizard, I have studied for endless years amongst dusty tomes to master that, and it was sorcerer, like, the blood of dragons runs in my veins, and then it was a couple more, and then it got down, and
warlock was the last one. It was a weird, some TV show,
but it was someone just going, whose dick do I gotta suck to
cook some magic around here? (both laughing) It was extremely fun. ‘Cause it is funny. Looking at a mechanic and then being like, it takes an extra step of thoughtfulness to look at a mechanic and say, what does that say about the person? Okay, you sold your soul for magic. This is also a world with wizards, so it’s not like there wasn’t. – Yeah, it’s somebody who was like, mm, I want the magic, but I don’t wanna study. (Brennan laughing) Reading sounds hard. Maybe I can just sell something– – Right, exactly.
– Very precious to me. – Or if you’re a warlock and you’re doing a charisma based warlock,
some people do intelligence, if you’re doing charisma-based warlock and you have low
intelligence, that’s a funny– – It’s very funny.
– It helps you justify, ’cause you’re like, look,
I am not smart enough– – I’m dumb.
– To crack these books. – I failed the exam three times, great embarrassment to my family. – If you have a high intelligence
and you’re a warlock, then it begs a whole other,
then you’re literally, you’re like, nah, man,
the books are not for me. – There’s also a thing
that, it’s not in the books, but there’s also such a rich tradition of selling somebody else’s
soul so you can get magic, and I think that that’s also fun. – Yes, some weird infernal pact you do. – Right, exactly. Like, oh, my firstborn child. You can have my firstborn
child if I can have magic. – Yes.
– Great. – I love that.
– Very tasty. – So looking at these sort
of mechanics that pop up, I think it’s funny, ’cause
we were also just chatting the other day about Terry Pratchett, who you called a master of justification. – Yeah, he’s so good at it. It really is astonishing. Every time I read a Terry Pratchett book, and reread, at this point,
the many times reread, just how good he is at
explaining his bullshit. (Brennan laughing) It’s so good, just the, oh,
here’s the stupidest thing in the world, I’m gonna
justify the shit out of it in a way that it makes complete sense and is somehow dumber at the end. He’s a genius. – I love that. So in your head, because justification is a big part of the world
building that you love, in terms of fantasy,
justification’s also a huge part of the improv background that we have. It’s a huge part of the
UCB improv curriculum, of the idea that like, the
absurd gets more absurd when you attempt to
explain it, which I love. What do you think the
role of justification is, let’s say that someone is sitting at home and they wanna make a character that they can fall in love with. What is the role that justification plays in taking an assortment
of mechanics and abilities and trying to let it inform
you about who this person is. – Well, I think that we’re all, when it comes down to it, Brennan, we’re all just a jumble of mechanics. (Brennan imitates explosion blasting) (Brennan screaming) – [Brennan] I mean, you’re not wrong. – Just the more that you
think about a person, the more that you know about a person, the more sympathetic that they become. I, as a writer, I feel like I
can make anybody sympathetic if I want to, that’s the
power of story telling. It can be, sometimes, very dangerous, as all these horrifying
New York Times articles about white supremacists
and then just like– – The Nazi near you.
– A young boy in the Nebraska fields who just happens to want to burn Jews, like, that’s the power of storytelling. – Well, and it’s something that I think is really interesting, too, and obviously, it’s the
philosophy major in me that always wants to point out. Justification and rationalization
are hugely powerful tools, and I think what’s so interesting is, every one of those authors or writers who does the piece on
the evil person next door always forgets that making
you have empathy for a person does not naturally result
in excusing their behavior, or even not wanting to
politically defeat them. Like, it’s always interesting
when I read those things about here’s a guy that voted for Trump, and he would like all of his
neighbors to be deported, and he’s a huge asshole,
but look, he loves his dog. – He’s got a puppy.
– And I’m like, good for him. He loves his fucking dog.
– It’s a good puppy. – Who gives a shit? It’s like having empathy for
someone is not a hole in one for now you have to excuse every– – Everything.
– Behavior that they have. – No, I think that
that’s one of the things that people were saying with
Escape from the Bloodkeep, like, oh, these characters
aren’t truly evil because they’re fully
well-rounded characters, and, I don’t know, evil
people are fully well-rounded. Hitler had a girlfriend. All of these people, they were buddies. They went and hung out
in chalets together. – It’s a failure on our, I think, psyches when we’re
dealing with characters, or I think just out in the world as well, to be like, oh, nobody who
was fully human could be bad. And you’re like, in fact,
everyone who’s ever been bad has been fully human.
– Yeah, unfortunately. – Unfortunately, so yeah,
I think our storytelling in a lot of ways can warp your mind in dealing with the real world, where you’re like, no,
that person was nice to me. A villain could never be nice to me. – Oh, no, definitely not
for sociopathic reasons. Sociopaths aren’t nice.
– Yeah, exactly. – It’s not that they’re
insanely charismatic and that’s how they pass through life. – Exactly.
– Ugh. – It’s very frustrating. But, and so I think we do have it. I think you have to balance both truths, which are that every
character that you approach, you have to approach from a
means of understanding them, but I also do think that,
especially as someone who, as a DM, plays villains all the time, my job is to play villains
as being well-rounded, but also not quibble about the fact that they are wrong and
deserve to be destroyed. – Oh yeah. Every bad guy believes what they believe. That’s just the nature of humanity. – Of course. – That there are many
things that I have believed in the past that I’ve later on gone, oh, I was absolutely wrong about that. – You were quite wrong, yeah.
– Yeah, I was very wrong, and I’ve learned, and I feel bad about it. That’s growing up.
– Yeah, that’s growing up. And hopefully, everyone does that, although we know that some people won’t. – Let’s play our game.
– Let’s play our game. You’re gonna pull out a
little copy of Xanathar’s. We wanna do a little
justification exercise here. – [Siobhan] So we’re
gonna create a character completely randomly from the charts here. And then we, as master storytellers– – So what we’re doing is, there’s a bunch of tables, and you guys can
find this in Xanathar’s, you can find it in a lot
of different resources that we have, depending on
the tabletop you’re playing, whether you’re playing White Wolf, or you’re playing another system, most people have some tables for random character generation. And what we wanna do is make a character as randomly as possible, and
then showcase for you guys kind of what we mean by justification. – Right, it’s show, don’t tell. – Exactly, show don’t tell. So if you’re at home watching this, and you’re going like,
well, if I wanna play this or that, and honestly, a lot of people can get shunted into
random character generation even by showing up late
to character creation and people have already
made all their characters. – We need a cleric, so make a cleric. – Yeah, and we already have a half-orc, so don’t be a half–
– Right. – So what I would say is,
looking at these random tables, we wanna roll a character
as randomly as possible, and show how a sort of edge of randomness, using the idea of justification, of if this is true,
then what else is true, can allow you to make a character that’s actually really playable, even if it started as a
random assortment of traits. – Yeah, and I, again, don’t
worry at all about min-maxing. I think that that’s a very
shortsighted way to play, because often, your faults are what makes the character
most interesting, I think. – Yeah. – It’s much more interesting
to have an elf rogue than to have an elf, I
don’t know, sorcerer. – Yeah, exactly. – ‘Cause that doesn’t
make sense with the stats that they have, or the
backgrounds that elves have. – Yeah, or like having a half-orc wizard or having a dwarven rogue. – It’s like, oh, this is why
we’re following this person, ’cause they’re unusual.
– Yeah. I think that’s great, and I
think as long as you make peace with the fact that there
won’t necessarily be, going into that you need to go, oh, I have not optimized this character for their combat mechanics. I have optimized them for interestingness. – Yes, and you’re in a group of people. You’re there to help each other out. It’s not just about your character. You fill in the blanks that
the other people leave. – Exactly.
– Right, so– – What’s the first table
we’re gonna be rolling? – Let’s do race first, so that’s a d100. – This is a d100 to see
what fantasy species this character is going to
be, and we have rolled a 94. – A 94 is a tiefling.
– Oh. – Spicy.
(Brennan growling) – Infernal, those touched
by fiendish blood. – [Siobhan] Very fun. And then let’s do class
next, which is also a d100. – Lovely, let’s see what
class this character is. – Agh, uh. – Um, gonna go ahead and pick it up. Rolling for character class. This character is going to be a 30. – [Siobhan] A 30 is a
druid, a tiefling druid. That is great.
– That’s fucking great. – Perfect.
– Now, immediately, some part of me is like,
urgh, because tieflings, of course, are beings that have heritage from the outer planes, which canonically, within the lore of D&D, are ideological planes of existence. They are planes rooted in alignment. Fiends are defined by evil, and druids, kind of, are all about the natural world. – [Siobhan] Yeah, and I feel
like the alignment chart almost doesn’t work for druids because if you’re in, it’s
just the cycle of life. Lions kill things, it’s the cycle of life. – So how do we take a fantasy species that is overwhelmingly defined
by being sexy sorcerers and warlocks–
– I mean, I think the way that I do it, and I think that it’s
different for every person, is a tiefling is only half demon, or maybe it’s just a demon heritage from both of their parents,
like a recessive gene. So their tiefling side
doesn’t define them. – Mm. – You don’t have to be torturing people just because you’re a tiefling. I’ve always wanted to be a druid. My horns came in at a certain point, that doesn’t define me.
– I love that. So what do you think makes this, our tiefling druid character here, were they destined to be a druid? Are they from a druidic tradition, or– – Yeah, I mean, maybe
their dad was a devil and their mom is a druid,
and they just were like, this is, I just went with this one. – Now that’s fascinating,
because I think that we have a lot of stories of
what, I mean, literally, Merlin is said to be
like a cambion, right, like, it’s like, oh, your
father was an incubus and your mother was a human woman. So we have an idea of what
happens in a Christian nation of like, that woman slept with the devil and her child is daemon, but what happens if you take a society that
is based on a druidic model, and you have someone have
a child with a demon. What’s that culture’s reaction to– – Well, again, I mean, it’s
just the cycle of life. Demons, it is in their
nature to be demonic, and that’s fine, and it’s
angels’ nature to be angelic, and that’s fine.
– Oh, I love that. – I think that it comes
from a very zen place. So maybe if even this person
came into a druidic place later in life because they,
it’s almost like somebody who’s 35 and joined a cult, it’s just like, I’m starting to meditate, I’m doing this thing, I’m teaching yoga, I’m really, everybody has an angry friend who teaches yoga now.
– I love that. – And it could definitely
be that kind of path into druidism as well.
(Brennan laughing) – I love that, a late
in life path into that. I think that’s really funny. I also think, ’cause I’m always
trying to make people cry, there also is something
very interesting to me about the idea of again, looking at these two random character
traits we’ve rolled, immediately my justification brain goes, why would a tiefling be a druid? And immediately, a weird
thing clicked in my brain, where I was like, if you’re a tiefling and you have this fiendish heritage that most churches, cleric-based churches, would feel some type of way about, either the evil gods would
feel some ownership of you, or the good gods would feel
some other kind of way, bears don’t judge.
– None. No judgment from bears. – So maybe a tiefling
having a reaction of like, I disavow my demonic
heritage and also the forces of light that would look at
me in some other kind of way. I’m going to the fucking woods. Peace.
– Yeah, bye. – Bye.
– Off the grid, bitch. (Brennan laughing) – Fun, that’s, okay. So I feel like there’s a
fun character background. – Great, let’s do another one. – Hell yeah.
– We have time yet. – Well, we sure do. This is gonna be for race. This is a 52.
– 52 is an elf. – Is an elf, hell yeah. – Great and–
– And the class here is going to be–
– A 96 is a wizard. – Oh, a wizard. – So we’re just creating Adaine. So let’s do from the wizard
thing, oh, I’ll do it. D6 is, I was a prodigy who demonstrated, this is just Adaine, who demonstrated mastery
of the arcane arts at an early age, when I became old enough to set out on my own, I
did so to learn more magic and expand my power. Truly, just Adaine. Let’s create another one. Let’s start again. – Well, here’s an interesting challenge. How do you to take that character, let’s say that, ’cause I think
that’s an interesting thing sometimes when you’re starting
a group of new people. When you have people that
are old D&D veterans, they’re gonna make like, I’m gonna be a fucking Modron warlock. And you’re like, whoa. But sometimes you have new players, and especially if these players are not very fantasy-versed,
playing an elven, like, playing an elven fighter
is gonna be something that they just want to do. And you’re like, and I think that allowing that is very interesting. So let’s say that you had
to play an elven wizard who was a prodigy at a young age. What’s something you
think of, like, okay– – I mean, the thing that
I, that pops into my head at first is somebody who
used to be a child star and is like, I was in the
gifted and talented program. It’s like, okay, but you’re 32. So who cares if you were in the
gifted and talented program? Nobody, you don’t need to
tell me your SAT score. You’re an adult.
– Yeah, exactly. A lot of the kids who
were doing worse than you have caught up and surpassed you now. – Yes, so why are you bragging about this? – I love the idea of an elven wizard who is like, yes, I was a prodigy. It was a big deal. – I was a big deal.
– 200 years ago. – Of course, the way
that they do exams now is different now, so my grades sound bad, but they’re actually very good. The grading system has changed. – They changed from a
1600 to a 2400 SAT after– – Right, so my 1600 sounds bad, but actually, it was good. So just bad, but actually
it was good, so– – Perfect, actually.
– Just take my word for it. – Wonderful, let’s roll
for another race on here. – Great.
– 97. Is that a tiefling again?
– 97 is a tiefling again. Do another one. Oh no, 97 is DM’s choice. Do you wanna do a DM’s choice? – I’m gonna go, I’m gonna
do a deep cut back to– – [Siobhan] Wow. – Let’s do, just ’cause
it came to my head first, let’s do Alaghi, which were these cool, horned Yeti people in
3.5 that I really like. One of my first PCs ever
was an Alaghi fighter who had a paladin tendency, and the class is gonna be 43.
– 43 is a fighter. – Alaghi fighter, cool. So rather than, so the Alaghi
are kind of always seen as being sort of barbaric, they’re out in the woods doing stuff, but fighters, I think
the fighters are not, fighters, to me, are not
default non-flavored warrior. Fighters are about skill and technique. So the idea of where did this
fuzzy frozen mountain Yeti– – Become– – [Brennan] Get insane military training? – Right, like real
focused, you’re waking up at six o’clock in the
morning to joust level. – Where did this come from? – I mean, maybe he’s a ward.
– Oh. – Like maybe there’s like a, he’s from a vassal mountain state, but he’s the son of the
lord of that mountain state and he was taken by the
big fancy country next door to train to be a fighter in that place? – So we’re looking at like
the Alaghi sort of groups, familial groups, clans, whatever, in this mountain range are subservient to a more technologically
advanced civilization. I’m gonna roll on the race
chart one more to time to see what this neighboring nation is. 38, what’s the neighboring nation? – 38 is human.
– Human, cool. – Yeah.
– Yeah, solid. – Yeah, so the Yetis were
taken over by the humans and– – So I love the idea, so this guy’s, the way I
see him is like a fighter with a lot of intelligence or
maybe we can say this is a, like, yeah, a very
militaristic human nation. This Alaghi warrior goes there, and they are almost like
Beast from the X-Men. – Yeah, I mean, it also, I think that there’s a way to do it where everybody in the human nation is a dex based fighter and
he’s a strength based fighter and–
– Fun. – Like if there’s always that clash, like they’re trying to make
him a dex based fighter, but he’s like, no, I’m strong. – I’m very strong.
– I’m just the strong one. Let me be strong. – I also love the idea
though that he would get in a lot of beef with
like, ’cause if he’s like, first of all, a big fuzzy
guy who’s armored, still, and everyone’s like, he’s
gonna go into a rage. And he’s like, preposterous. Why would I–
– How dare you? – How dare you. I would never.
– Slap. – And then has this huge
Zweihander greatsword, and everyone’s like,
he’s gonna go berserk. And like, well, it’s egg on your face that you think there are not
very concrete fighting forms with a two-handed weapon. – I just, I happen to
have a two-handed weapon because I’m strong and big and it fitted, and this is the one that
was available at the time when I was training, and I
just got really good at it. – My knuckles go all
the way to the ground, and this makes incredible
use of my advanced reach, so why would I not? And I love the idea too of,
everyone thinks he’s gonna be on the hilt taking huge swings, and that he’s got that leather
mid-blade kind of grip, and so it’s all short
little strikes that pivot, and he’s like, this is
very easy for parrying and this is a battlemaster fighter. – Avast.
– Avast! I need to make and play
this character now. – [Siobhan] Yes, this is very fun. – But I wanna point out
how we’re doing this, which is, taking some things as given, in this case, information
given to us by a random table, and then just asking ourselves
what makes this make sense. – Yes, yeah. Any writing prompt is useful because it gives you limitations, and that’s all this is,
it’s a writing prompt. You have to create a character that these two things are true, and then the way that you justify it is, if these two things are
true, what else is true? – Right, and I think
that there something too, which is weird doing this randomly to show you guys how you
can take truly anything and make a fun story out of it, but even if you pick these,
I think the same process still applies.
– Absolutely, yeah. – If you go like I’m gonna– – Just because elves are wizards, so I’m gonna be an elf wizard, so, because elves are wizards–
– And I think– – But why?
– Why? And also, let me ask the question, what does it mean to be an elven wizard? What does it mean to be someone
who has truly not strayed from the path–
– I am following, my dad did this and his dad did this, and we’re just gonna, I
am a very lower case C, conservative person, I’m just, this is how you live your
life and I’m doing it. – I always wondered,
there’s another character I wanted to play that
I’ve been batting around in my head for awhile, which would be an Aasimar
divine soul sorcerer with a max charisma, and just
play the hyper bubble person. ‘Cause, so I think so many heroes do have a tragic backstory,
playing someone who is like, I’m from a–
– I’m just really hot, and really rich, and
had a really good life. – Yeah, like I’m from a
line of angel sorcerers. We live in a tower, we
go out and fight evil because we are uniquely
gifted to be able to do that. My parents are super good. They’re both alive. They told me that I should
grow up and be a hero. That sounded chill to me. – They love me very much. They love each other very
much, not in a weird kinky way, just like really open and kind. – And they made me very aware that because of all of this privilege I was
probably gonna be a douchebag if I wasn’t careful, so
I try to be very humble, but I also am here to help. Let me know if I can–
– Yes, the Antoni from Queer Eye of characters.
(Brennan laughing) – Just like, I do have the
blood of angels in my veins. I am here to solve your problems. – [Siobhan] And I’ll
make you some guacamole. – [Brennan] I make a dope guacamole, yeah. Beautiful, I love that. Let’s see if we have time for
one or two online questions. – Yes, answer some Qs. – Hell yeah. That was so fun.
– It’s fun, it’s fun. – It’s fun. This one, first of all,
if you’re watching this, you could have watched it
two weeks earlier on Dropout. – [Siobhan] You could
have watched it earlier. – And if you wanna submit questions, you can submit them on
our Dropout Discord. So do that.
– Yeah. – This one’s from The Bard. Thank you, Bard.
– Mm, wow. – My experience as a player has overwhelmingly been
theater of the mind, but after watching D20, I was shocked by how incredibly engaging
the use of miniatures can be. In getting back into
DMing, I have been toying with the idea of using, well, toys, for miniatures and set pieces. Is this something that can take away from the player’s experience of the game, or lessen the depth of my world building? Mechanically, my biggest
issue that I keep running into is a set scale for everything. Thanks.
– Well, I think that using toys is fine, and if people have a problem with it, they’re the asshole.
– Yes, I agree. – ‘Cause I think that the
reason you’re using it, it’s still theater of the mind, it’s just a more concrete
theater of the mind. – Absolutely.
– The only thing with scale, the only thing that I feel
like that is important with scale, really, is the grid. You’re gonna do a minis based thing, you don’t have to worry too much about, ’cause it’s just a, this is a
suggestion of this character. – I think you need a
grid, I think you need a, or if you don’t have a grid, you need a measured length of yarn, something to give you distance. Look, I’ve talked about this before, but I think that there’s a funny thing where some people are like, oh, we just want to be chill,
we wanna be laid-back, we’re not gonna do minis
and a whole battle grid because we wanna be relaxed. Let me break it down for you. Nothing is less relaxing than
six players looking at you and going, wait, how far away is this guy? – Am I 60 feet away, ’cause
this spell is 60 feet. – It says the spell is 60
feet, so can I hit them, can I not hit them? Because they hit them with their bow, and they’re on the platform,
how tall is the platform? – And that’s especially true, I feel like, if you have a battle
with a lot of enemies. If you just have one guy
that you’re fighting, I think theater of the mind is great, but if you have 100, where are these guys? – And I, just for story
flavor, I love huge battles. We played a battle
yesterday at my home game where you guys fought 20 super gnolls all at the same time.
– Yeah. And we were on bridges,
and there was water. – You were in a Roman sewer beneath a sort of Venetian palazzo fighting
these armored gnoll enforcers. And listen, Rick Perry does not come and build the sets for my home game. – No, selfish of him not to do that. But he doesn’t.
– Rick, why don’t you come and build the sets for my home game? – Put that together, Rick. – But I think the issue there is, we look for, so it’s just dry erase marker on a battle grid with tokens. I use little Othello pieces so I can write how much damage they’ve taken on them, and it’s very fun, and really, it’s not about, I think, listen. Dimension 20 has Rick Perry and his team, are magicians–
– It’s insane what they do. – And it transports you–
– Insane. – In this beautiful way, but even if you can’t have
that level of production, it is just a helpful tool
for dealing with stress to have toys and markers on a board so that you know where shit is. – And especially if you’re a magic user, because it’s already very
stressful being a magic user, very stressful, you guys,
we’re playing a game. – But it’s true.
– But it’s like more work. And so many of the
spells are distance based that it just makes it a lot easier. – The Bard, use toys. Your players will not mind. We all wish that Rick Perry would come. I wish Rick Perry spent every day with me, ’cause he’s a wonderful man.
– He’s great. – We all wish that we
had that production level in all of our games. I only have it at the
games I play at work. I don’t have it in my home games that I run with my friends. So I think it’s critical to remember that you shouldn’t hold
yourself to that standard, but it is so much less of a headache when those questions are easily answerable because you placed minis. I think use toys.
– Yeah, yeah. – Yeah.
– Use counters, use whatever. Use beans.
– Yeah, use that stuff. – Raid your kitchen.
– It’s all a help, it’s all just to
streamline your experience. This one’s from Indigo Stitch. Thanks, Indigo Stitch.
– Thank you. – Is it risky to let a new
player play one of the classes that aren’t in the “Player’s Handbook?” Your artificers, your very, yeah. I have a player whose background best fits one of the Unearthed Arcana classes, but I’m worried that a
direct reference document, like a book, they’ll get confused. Is there anything a DM can do to make sure that when a new player brings in home brew that they understand how it
fits into the regular game? – I mean, I don’t see a problem with it. You can just print out the
Unearthed Arcana stuff. The printout is the same as a book. – I would say, go to a, if
you don’t have a printer, go to a library, or if you have a friend that works in an office, get them to print it out at their office. If that’s–
– Or just have it on your phone, I mean, if
you’re okay with that as a DM. – If they’re able to access the material, I actually like running a lot of stuff off my computer, ’cause Command + Find is really helpful.
– Oh my god. It’s so useful for spell casters as well, just to like, oh what
does this spell do again? Oh, I got it. – I’ve been using D&D Beyond– – It’s great.
– D&D Beyond is awesome. Extremely helpful, but I would say too that you can be extra forgiving when someone has home brew stuff. This is true, because look, listen. DMs are gonna make up
their own magical items, they’re gonna make up their own feats. – You do?
– It’s home– – I’m kidding. – Home brew stuff makes
its way into your game, and I think that we wanna do is find a way to be very forgiving with that, because the amount of
play testing and balance that has to happen for the fighter class when it goes out in the
“Player’s Handbook” is enormous. That has to be play tested,
because it’s gonna be played in thousands upon, hundreds
of thousands of games all over the world, right? With content that’s only
ever going to appear in your campaign because you made it up, you can be forgiving. You can let something work in a battle and then all kind of agree, like, hey, that was really fucking powerful. Maybe we nerfed that a little bit. And if someone goes, but
that’ll strain the credibility. Why did it work so well that first time and not the second time? Then you go like, well– – Sometimes you’re good at things, there are so many things that oh, the first time I did this, I did it great, and then the next 20 times I did it, I did it really badly. (Brennan laughing)
I don’t know. I don’t understand it. – It was a wild magic surge. The new ability came thundering through with an extra amount of
magic and then it simmered, and it tapered off a little bit. – I just had a lot of
adrenaline in that moment. – Yeah, exactly. So I think that you can be more forgiving and you can slow down to match the pace of your new player who’s playing with some jankier home brew content, both to make sure that it’s balanced, and also to make sure that
they’re having an easier time grasping it, especially
if they’re a new player. And if a mechanic seems
to be troubling them over and over again, maybe
introduce a simpler mechanic. – Yeah, and there’s also
ways of figuring that out. I know on NADDPOD with
Deadeye, Murph was like, this character is too powerful. You get a certain number of bullets. – Yes, he gave me a
certain number of bullets and then also squashed my hand and eye at a certain point of the fight. So you know, sometimes if you’re too good at making characters,
people gonna find a way to– – Wow.
– Cramp your style. – Wow.
– You know what I mean? – Brennan loves winning D&D. He’s the only person. – I will say this. Siobhan is very right to point out that you can’t win D&D, and when she says you can’t win D&D, she means you can’t win D&D. – Absolute nightmare. Brennan is the enemy, and
he’s here to destroy us and we will do anything
that we can to stop him. – I’m, of course, lying. You can win D&D. No, but I would say this. I, even in making, I have
made very powerful characters, because I find the puzzle of
how to do that engrossing. But there is, whether your character is overpowered or
underpowered will never impact whether or not they are fun to play if they are not justified
within their world and archetype.
– Yes. Justifying the characters
is the most important thing, I really believe, more than
any other thing in this world is just like, believable,
justifiable characters who know why they are there
and what they are doing and for what reason.
– Beautiful. And that’s the number we’re gonna end on. That’s been this week’s
Adventuring Academy. Thanks for sharing with
us, Siobhan Thompson! – Thank you.
– See you guys next time.


Reader Comments

  1. Omg, im early!!! Love your content. So sad fantasy high is only on dropout now, brennan is the best dm in the history of dnd

  2. I'm glad to see that Brennan is a GM that's willing to let his player's fail AND it not be the end of the world or the character. So many times you see GM's that are incredibly punishing when it comes to failure, denying character growth and making rolling low even on more mundane rolls incredibly anxiety inducing for the player. Other times you see GM's that are hesitant to let player's fail at all, as it has the chance of disrupting the flow of a precisely constructed narrative. Brennan and the players seem to navigate these waters expertly in every episode. Can't wait for more episodes and live shows!

  3. Why does it cut away from Siobhan for so much of tbe video? Like even when she's talking or explaining something it keeps watching Brennan instead. It cuts to her for only a few seconds at a time at multiple instances in the video.

  4. Subscribe and ring the bell to catch all new episodes and other surprises!

    Come hang with Brennan on our Discord! Sign up for DROPOUT: http://bit.ly/2KOHLyr

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  5. God I could keep listening to them forever. The combination of their minds is somehow really soothing and inspiring at the same time

  6. This and other Dimension 20 content is so helpful to me. My family and I play D&D together and sometimes I struggle to play the character. Then I watch Dimension 20 and related content which helps me to play better.

  7. As per usual, brennon's a god.

    I was wondering if you were ever going to enable us to use different paying methods for dropout (the one thats available now is not working for me, this happens allot with other sites aswell but I can usually pay with paypal or other alternatives. Sadly this isnt the case with dropout). I really want to see more d20 but sadly I cant at the moment.

  8. Love this! I would just add that even a seemingly stereotypical character can be incredibly unique. Having contradictions in the character building is one way to get creative juices, but making a largely stereotypical character relatable is also really fun by giving them history, coping tools (life is never perfect, and even if it is for someone, adventuring will prove that wrong pretty quick), priorities and such can really be a blast!

  9. As another kid that was homeschooled for a while it's honestly so cool to see other people who had the same experience. Same unorthodox education!

  10. I love the idea of the archetype concept for Unsleeping City! I think everyone in the cast fits in to the setting super well (although it'd be pretty fun to bring in a Wall Street d-bag and have him turn into a Yuan-Ti pureblood or something…)

  11. Wild warlock idea for the New York campaign: Banker. Sell the souls of those who are in need of a loan. 😀

  12. I always liked the idea of subverting tropes with characters. One of my favourites was a Paladin, from a long and famous line of paladins who treated adventuring and his class as a job, a 7-to-5 thing he was trained in, he s good at etc. It was tempting at times to go the more edgy route of making him a paladin asshole, or a cynic with a heart of gold but that felt trope too. He was just a guy doing a job:
    – Thank you good, Sir you saved my life from this evil demon. Have my body brave adventure
    – Ma'am, if you could please stand behind me, we still have to return to the surface and it's my personal policy not to engage in relations with rescues

  13. A great resource for cheap and good looking minis is the Order of the Stick papercraft minis. They started as a backer reward for the reprint drive the comic creator did on kickstarter. There are 5 PDFs available, each between 40 and 80 pages. Each page is a sheet of about a dozen two sided minis that can be cut out and folded into a free standing A frame. All the characters and monsters are drawn in the art style of the comic.

  14. I love that there is a new channel for Dimension 20 but you guys should look at what the game grumps are doing with they’re new channel; you guys both made new channels based on a specific series, but the execution is completely different. Do some Q n A’s, talk about why/how the channel was made, plug the channel on your other channels. I don’t want this channel to die because I love it, but you guys aren’t playing it too smart.

  15. So just a question because I literally binged all of fantasy high and now am on dropout will there be another season of it like Sophomore year junior senior ect ? And is more to come because its just so amazing I am actually no longer gonna get Netflix just to have this 😂😂😂😂

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