Every week the doors of the castle are flung open and Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito invite the audience inside the walls of Dungeons & Dragons for exclusive interviews and previews! They sit down with celebrities and personalities from across gaming and pop culture to talk about the latest phenomena in roleplaying, video games, comics, novels, movies, and television. And the Dragon Talk team have collected a number of recent high points to enjoy:
“Our interview with the entire cast of the Transplanar RPG livestream was challenging as it was our largest ever interview group. That many people might have been difficult over zoom. But thanks to the stellar preplanning and preparation from the cast, we knocked it out of the park as we discussed their story, characters, and world building,” says Greg Tito.
“They were fantastic at knowing which question each of them was going to hit, which showed their commitment of wanting all the voices being heard. That’s like a microcosm of what Dragon Talk is trying to do in the D&D community.”
Geek Girl Strong founder, Robyn Warren, also impressed Shelly with her combination of fitness and geek culture.
“I liked her creative approach to fitness, which was especially aimed at women or femme presenting people,” Shelly remembers. “When she was a teacher, Robyn drew on geek culture to inspire her students to want to do regular fitness exercises such as running around the track, turning them into Hunger Games-style activities.”
Shelly bonded with Robyn after suggesting she’d have the necessary skills to become a Dungeon Master. “If you can wrangle ten 12-year-old kids playing sports, you can likely DM for five fantasy fans around a table.”
Greg, meanwhile, fanboyed out with actor Anthony Rapp, best known for his roles in the stage version of Rent, the movie Dazed and Confused, and currently keeping the ship in the air as Paul Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery!
“It was really cool to geek out with Anthony about his newfound love of D&D,” says Greg. “Our origin stories were similar in that he played a little when he was younger but then jumped in with two feet as an adult. We also have a connection in the theater world, which I didn’t talk about too much in the interview, but it’s always cool to experience community connections from our shared history in NYC!”
New episodes of Dragon Talk, the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast, release every week and you can listen here or watch here.
JASPER’S GAME DAY
You are NOT a critical failure! That’s the message being boomed out three times as loud as normal with the help of thaumaturgy by Jasper’s Game Day. Founder Fenway Jones started the non-profit charity when she lost two friends to suicide at the age of fourteen. The 501c3 charity uses gaming to raise money and awareness, with all its proceeds directly impacting suicide prevention across the globe.
“I wanted to use the pain I was experiencing to help others avoid the same kind of hurt and suffering. With the help of my mentor Satine Phoenix, we hosted an event in Detroit and that impacted so many people that we began to receive requests for more information from around the country,” Fenway tells Dragon+.
“I chose to focus on the gaming community because one of the friends I lost was a high school student I enjoyed gaming and going to conventions with. This year, almost four years later, we’ll host events online in five different countries, played in three different languages, and in forty different US states!”
Fenway’s YouTube show #everyrollmatters invites gamers and mental health professionals to discuss the positive effects of role play and gaming on mental health. The first episode features Dr. April Foreman and Jasper’s Game Day advisor Shareef Jackson.
The charity also hosts a major event each year called Jasper’s Game Week, running seven days of streams and games that last almost 24 hours a day! Last year Jasper’s Game Week raised over $50,000 and Fenway hopes to double that in 2021 when the event runs from April 30 to May 10.
Impressively, Fenway achieved all of this before turning eighteen, as she recently celebrated that milestone online in a game DMed by Todd Stashwick and featuring David Blue, Adam Bradford, Kelly Bray, Amy Lynn Dzura, and B. Dave Walters.
You can find more information about Jasper’s Game Day at the official website, make a charitable donation or connect with them on Discord, Twitter, and Facebook. Jasper’s Game Week runs from April 30 to May 10, 2021.
BASEMENT AND BUGBEARS
A new dramatic web series called Basements & Bugbears follows a group of high schoolers playing Dungeons & Dragons to help cope with their friend’s recent suicide. The show is inspired by real life therapists who utilize the roleplaying aspect of D&D with their patients, and features seven characters who work through the grief of losing their friend the only way they know how: in game.
In order to deliver an authentic narrative involving suicide in a way that supports suicide prevention and awareness, Basements & Bugbears was developed in accordance with the National Recommendations for Depicting Suicide (developed by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention). The show deals with issues such as teen mental health, the complexities of exploring and accepting queer identity, and, ultimately, the good that gaming can bring to those that immerse themselves in their stories.
Episode 1: Unlikely Adventurers was filmed in early 2020 with the goal of creating an entire season. Watch the video below to show your support or head to the Basements & Bugbears website to learn more about the show, and help get a full series commissioned.
To celebrate the launch of the first episode, the show partnered with charity Jasper’s Game Day to host a D&D charity livestream. The event consisted of three games of D&D broadcast on Twenty Sides to Every Story’s Twitch page. The games featured NFL player Travis Frederick; podcasters Lauren Shippen (Bright Sessions) and Andrew Strother (Roll Persuasion); licensed D&D therapists Dr. Megan Connell and Dr. Rachel Kowert; professional D&D players Shareef Jackson and Vee Mus’e; among others!
Through the exploding birds, pizza cheese hijinks, and the power of trains and friendship (but mostly trains), the three games helped raise $1,000 for Jasper’s Game Day and suicide awareness and prevention.
The first game featured DM Dr. Megan Connell and players Jeff Athey, Adam Johns, Hope LaVelle, and Andrew Strother.
The second game featured DM Adam G. Brooks and players Jordan Cobb, Travis Frederick, Mike (I Guess), Shareef Jackson, and Shannon Roby.
The third game featured DM Bri Neumann and players Jeff Athey, Wes Cordell, Fenway Jones, Vee Mus’e, and Lauren Shippen.
You can find more information about Basements & Bugbears at the official website, and connect with them on Twitter.
RIVALS OF WATERDEEP
Get your whooshes ready everybody! Dungeon Master LaTia Jacquise leads experienced roleplayers and new Dungeons & Dragons players in season nine of Rivals of Waterdeep. In this campaign, players Tanya DePass (oathbreaker paladin/blood hunter Selise Astorio), Masood Haque (druid Gazrick Nomrad), Shareef Jackson (warlock Shaka), Brian Gray (sorcerer Virgil), and Eugenio Vargas (rogue Kent) find themselves in Candlekeep, one of the most iconic cities in the Forgotten Realms.
“It’s interesting joining a party and campaign when the characters have reached 14th level,” Eugenio tells Dragon+. “It means Kent has already lived a pretty full adventuring life before he and Virgil met up with Selise, so he already has access to most of his class abilities and features mechanics-wise, and doesn’t have that wide-eyed young adventurer outlook on everything from a roleplaying point of view.”
A “full adventuring life” is an apt description for a tiefling archaeologist rogue who spent his early 20s bouncing from historical site to historical site, joining up with whichever adventurers happened to be delving this dilapidated ruin or that ancient burial mound.
Kent eventually found himself helping to excavate an old mountain stronghold that used to be the headquarters for a group of Talontar (worshippers of Talona, Lady of Poison). When the adventuring party he was with had looted their fill, Kent decided to stay behind and continue his research and observations.
He was there for nearly five years, towards the end of which, he met Virgil. Virgil gradually drew Kent down from the mountains on an increasingly frequent basis until eventually, Kent decided his research was complete and moved full time to Caradoon to live the quiet life of a retired adventurer.
“It didn’t last!” Eugenio says with a laugh. He describes Kent as having a dashing sense of style and a “memorable” personality, with strengths that include research, packing, and handling dangerous poisons. When it comes to Kent’s weaknesses, he lists “humility, patience, and Virgil, but don’t tell him!”
“I’ve loved the totally improvised little moments that Kent and Virgil have had so far. Brian and I have talked a little about their shared history, but we also are both excited about discovering that history as we roleplay. Brian is wonderful to improv with and play off, so we’ve had some really silly, sweet, and funny moments together,” Eugenio recalls.
“One of my favorites was in episode three, when Virgil and Selise were having a drink and a serious conversation in Trollskull Manor and Kent, who was upstairs packing, yelled down the stairs, “VIRGIL! WHERE’S MY TRAVELLING TUNIC?” It was way funnier in the moment, so you should go and watch that episode for the full effect.”
Rivals of Waterdeep airs every Sunday at 10am PT / 12pm CST / 1pm ET on its Twitch channel and the official D&D Twitch channel.
STUFF OF LEGENDS
Like most D&D campaigns, everything on this show was made in collaboration with the players, including the designs of the characters and the visual look of the puppets. The content in the show sometimes leans more on the mature side of things and the production ensured that every performer was comfortable with the content beforehand. That said, Stuff of Legends is definitely intended for adult audiences. If you’re looking for a sweet little puppet show to enjoy with your grade school kids, this ain’t it! But if you enjoy watching adults make each other laugh with more explicit humor, kick back and enjoy Stuff of Legends.
Joshua Ovenshire, aka Jovenshire, has been mashing up D&D for some time now. With the help of his friend and YouTube colleague Lasercorn, the pair have been running parallel D&D campaigns on their separate channels, with the plotlines occasionally crossing over.
“The tales both parties are telling sometimes intertwine. If you’re watching the games on both channels, you’d think, ‘Oh, I see! That was the explosion they heard over in the other game.’”
The mashups continue for his latest project, which sees the world of Dungeons & Dragons meet… puppets?!
“What makes Stuff of Legends different from other shows is that we have puppets! When you think puppets, your mind immediately jumps to these Sesame Street-style monsters with fuzzy round faces. And that’s not the direction we wanted to go. We wanted each character and creature to look like it’s a part of the Dungeons & Dragons world, but in puppet form,” he tells Dragon+.
Joshua worked with Las Vegas-based DLUX Puppets to build his cast and the threats they face. DLUX has a lot of experience working with full-sized puppets and its previous commissions include the dragon from the Shrek show at Universal Studios, Hollywood.
“Their work is phenomenal and they were completely on board with bringing a different kind of life to these characters. They’ve also imagined creatures and monsters from the Dungeons & Dragons world in a way that I’ve never seen before,” Joshua says. “One of the creatures that pops up is a barbed devil. If you look at it in the Monster Manual, it’s pretty ferocious. But on our show, he’s a smaller puppet and his arms wiggle back and forth, which I found really funny. Using puppets feels like a cartoon. But it gives them an element of physical comedy you can’t get with animation.”
Joshua filled his new show with a group of actors and personalities who had mostly never played Dungeons & Dragons before. That included Lisa Foiles, from the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That; YouTuber Brandon Rogers, who does a lot of comedy character work; Shanna Malcolm, who also got her start on YouTube, but has since found a lot of success as an actress on TV shows; and longtime collaborator Lasercorn.
“I’ve worked with Lisa on a few other projects and I thought she’d be a great personality to have at the table. Brandon has the ability to navigate absurdity with his characters so masterfully, that I wanted to let him take a character in any direction and bring the audience along for the ride,” Joshua explains. “Shanna brought an energy to a dragonborn that I’d never seen before. She was confident and sassy, but had this fun backstory about how her mama had left her while she was still in the egg! And finally, one of my best friends, Lasercorn. I always bring him on for tabletop projects because I think he’s one of the funniest people on YouTube.”
With most of the players at the table experiencing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, the early episodes see them learning what their characters are all about and trying out their moves.
“There’s a magical moment in the third episode,” Joshua reveals, “where they aren’t actors anymore sitting down to play at a table for the first time. They are now adventurers on a campaign and they’re really playing Dungeons & Dragons. You see that moment when everything just clicks.”
The six-episode series Stuff of Legends is streaming now, with a new episode posting each week on The Jovenshire YouTube channel.