Streaming Highlights

This issue we showcase LGBTQ+ friendly streams, step through the Stargate to play D&D with the Tech Bandits, and listen to Dark Dice being rolled by a Hollywood A-lister!


TECH BANDITS

“We’ve been doing Tech Bandits now for four or five years,” says English–Canadian-American actor, writer, director, and voice actor David Hewlett, known for his role as Dr. Rodney McKay on the Stargate TV series. His education program hopes to inspire a lifelong love of learning in the next generation of brilliant minds, introducing technology into schools as part of that mission.

“At its base level, Tech Bandits is a lot of robots. When I go into schools, I take a bunch of Arduino kits, Raspberry Pi computers, and these great little BBC Micro circuit boards that you clip sensors onto and can add other things that the kids might like to play with. I used to do this at a local public school and then there was a school strike so the kids came to my house. My wife asked, ‘How many kids?’ and I replied, ‘It can’t be more than 25.’

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David says one of the areas that really speaks to the kids is assistive tech. He describes that technology as something that can be programmed to help someone achieve something and says it’s an area the kids immediately “get”—with one student in particular seeing its benefits to everyday life.

“There was a young woman in the first class who was always in the background. But she came pushing to the front when I brought in a robotic arm and she told me, ‘I have a robotic arm. It’s in my locker. Can I get it?’ I was thrilled and said, ‘This is Tech Bandits, if you’ve got a robotic arm please bring it.’ She came back with a prosthetic arm, which is not what I was imagining. It was government issue and she often refused to wear it, but once we started programming the arm with her she was so excited about the opportunities. And that was it for me. I was hooked. I wanted to do Tech Bandits every day.”

“Most of the kids in Tech Bandits are very much by the book and do the work and do very well in school. But I have this strong belief that there are some people who just aren’t equipped to succeed at school, whether it’s because it can’t hold their interest or they’re not picking it up fast enough. I failed out of high school myself. I’ve always loved learning but I didn’t enjoy school. I feel those are the kids we want to be working with in Tech Bandits, because it’s so much more rewarding. And they often have amazingly different perspectives on things.”

Having started life in a classroom before shifting to other venues, when the pandemic completely changed the way people gather together, Tech Bandits went online. Originally, David used Zoom calls to connect with the kids but he quickly realized that they didn’t respond as well to those because they now associated them with their school work.

“When I mentioned the possibility of streaming, their secret—and in many cases very loud—desires to be streamers was obvious,” he says. “One of the reasons Tech Bandits exists is that I want to learn more, too. I let them lead the way and they set us up on Discord.”

Blending together technology and Dungeons & Dragons content has proved to be a great way to entertain and inform an audience, and David’s ability to merge those elements at an early age suggests it was always in the cards.

“I loved the paraphernalia and reading all the D&D books. But I didn’t have people to play Dungeons & Dragons with because I didn’t hang out with the right kind of friends,” David remembers. “Instead, I was playing D&D by myself using my computer. I would write Commodore 64 programs to handle the Dungeon Mastering for me, creating random dice rolls.”

Atlanta-based Dungeon Master James Gurney has the task of shepherding the Tech Bandits—and David—on their D&D adventures. Having grown up in Brighton, England and obtained his PhD in Nottingham, James studied a post-doctorate in France for two years before moving to the United States.

“I always say that James is our Dungeon Master and our science master,” David jokes. “I love that the kids get to see him answering questions online about Covid and viruses and science topics in general, and then he’s also running their Dungeons & Dragons game.”

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James and David first connected through a mutual friend, streamer Qdragon, a D&D player and experimental chef who creates videos and pictures of his culinary masterpieces despite being unable to move because of a condition called spinal muscular atrophy (check out Cooking With Q on Instagram and YouTube). One of the pair’s first adventures saw David stepping through the Stargate once more, as James led him on an adventure using the Stargate RPG that Wyvern Gaming created using the D&D fifth edition Open Gaming License.

“D&D had been in the cards for a while. It was back in 2015 when we first talked about playing 3.5 edition. Didn’t you find some D&D books in the trash,” James reminds David, who confirms a dumpster dive did take place: “Someone had thrown them out and I was like, ‘They can’t do that!’ In my Trash Bandits role, I rescued them. My wife was not thrilled. But I’ve got an entire cabinet of them now.”

“I offered to give David a refresh of how to play D&D, so he could learn the mechanics of fifth edition,” James says, unaware that his would-be student would sneak a peek at the TTRPG system before that game even took place.

“I cheated and did a cram session before I went in so I had a clue about what I was doing,” David confesses. “I’m a nerd, but I also play a nerd. I felt like I had a certain amount of rep to protect there. That got us back into D&D again, and then the kids wanted to play. And that was that. I felt like I couldn’t say no.”

Prior to running the D&D game for Tech Bandits, James has DMed for both adults and children with special needs. He says running games focusing on accessibility has given him so much joy, especially when the players are able to put themselves in his shoes.

“One of the great things about this game is when you get a kid saying, ‘I can see what you’re describing. I am imagining what you’re telling me.’ That may not be a mental muscle they’ve exercised much,” he tells Dragon+.

“There are some personal friends of mine whose child has severe autism. The couple met playing Middle-Earth Role Playing and we decided to have a game of D&D. Their son struggles to sit through a 22-minute TV episode, so they wondered how he might deal with two to three hours of gaming. He loves it! He will sit there playing with us, chatting away and socializing. I think for them that was a big deal.”

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The important thing for David is that the kids are still learning along the way. He suggests that D&D is an ideal platform for them to explore problem solving and collaboration in an environment that doesn’t feel like school. The TTRPG world of Dungeons & Dragons also provides a gaming thrill they may not have experienced anywhere else.

“In a lot of games, everything is laid out for the players. They have a very limited number of options and things they’re supposed to do and if they get stuck, they can look up endless videos online showing them how to do it. There’s none of that with D&D. Sure, you can watch videos and see other people play the game. But you can’t know what’s about to happen in James’s twisted imagination,” he says.

“D&D is not about winning, that’s the neat thing about the game. And I think that idea is new to most kids. And when you mess up in game it can be just as much fun—if not more—than getting it right! With D&D, it’s all about embracing those mistakes and the chaos that ensues.”

Tech Bandits’ D&D sessions air on the Techbanditry Twitch channel and previous episodes can also be found on David Hewlett’s YouTube channel.

 


DARK DICE

Dark Dice is a horror actual-play D&D podcast run by Travis Vengroff and his wife Kaitlin Statz, who’ve been operating as a two-person production team for six years. Their collaboration with voice artists from around the world, many of whom are first timers, is designed to help those actors get their careers off the ground. Their performances combine with Travis and Kaitlin’s innovative use of soundscapes to help create an added layer of immersion for the listener. The latest rising star to join the cast of Dark Dice’s second season is… wait, this can’t be right, it says “Jeff Goldblum” in our notes!

The answer to how we got Jeff Goldblum to appear in our podcast is, ‘I’m still not sure.’ When you ask someone like Jeff and that person doesn’t immediately say, ‘No’, you think it might be too good to be true. But Jeff likes to work on things that are fun, and he’s a very fun person to be around,” Travis tells Dragon+.

“I’d also read that Jeff works with people he admires and can be picky about the projects that he chooses, so the first season of Dark Dice may have helped rope him in. I think our work ethic and what we’ve accomplished in this space helped—we’ve released content every two weeks consistently for six years and have built up a lot of goodwill in the audio drama community, as well as doing panels, live shows, educational work, and winning a bunch of awards along the way.

“I laid out the details very clearly in my pitch so Jeff understood exactly what we were asking, as we were sure he’d be very busy. I think that may have improved our odds. I said ‘Here’s the time schedule, here’s a potential character you could play, and here’s a picture of that character,’ which Marcel Mercado drew for us. When we asked Marcel to create that, he said, ‘Jeff will see this?’ And I replied, ‘Jeff will see this.’”

You created Jeff’s character, an elven sorcerer named Balmer. Did he have any input on that creation process or add any further nuance to the character?

There were some modifications made on his end. But I believe that he was drawn to the character based on the backstory I had already created for Balmer and that prefilled character sheet.

What’s the Dark Dice production setup like?

We’re remote record on our own computers, and play in ‘theatre of the mind’, with players generally rolling physical dice. It’s all digital, recorded in Zoom as well so if we have any issues with the audio quality, I can ask people to do retakes. It’s handy in those spots where you can hear the refrigerator or other noises in the background. Our cast is located across the world on different continents, with our first season taking place in six different time zones.

The game concept for season two follows competing parties as two stories unfold at the same time. How does running those different strands work? Part A also feeds into Part B very specifically for one of the characters. Will those parties ever meet?

One team is completely unaware of the other team and is off having their own adventures. But the intent is that the two parties will eventually come together. Because that first team is being pursued by the other team, who may be feeling a little vengeful and have an interest in meeting up to have a firm talk—with blades.

It seems as if anything truly can happen in your game. At the end of the first episode of The Long Road, you namecheck “our sixth player” who never features because they died before their introduction!

Tanya’s character died in that first episode and she never really got to play. She’s a regular on our other shows and is blind, using custom character sheets and special dice that she can feel. She’ll absolutely be back, but as a different character.

You narrate a lot of the story and the action scenes, which moves the combat along quite quickly. Do you play out those scenes as normal, and then narrate what happens?

The combat narrative is added in post, with music and sound effects. The players describe their actions and I use what they say almost word for word, though I may add further descriptive text or a little more gore to make it more dramatic. But the goal is to capture the essence of a round of combat in a shorter period of time, even though that exchange happened over the course of twenty minutes when played in real life. I think the audience appreciates us condensing any redundant information as long as they still get to feel the heart-jumping moments, which we absolutely keep.

The story takes place in a homebrew D&D world, which you first began work on when you were quite young. What’s that setting like?

It’s a very dark world where almost everyone is in the moral grey. Humanity is not the apex predator. There are dragons that are so massive and terrifying they’re not normally challenged or killed. All the scary monsters that you were told lived in the woods and the other shadowy places when you were a kid exist there. That forces people to band together for survival and a lot of them would be too scared to go off adventuring on their own.

I’ve recently been working with a team of people on the world building that I initially established as a kid. It’s been a really big endeavor. There are a few silly things that I wrote when I was younger that fit surprisingly well, such as a note that the elves in the desert can’t get sand in their eyes. Adult me thought biologically, camels don’t either. Why? It’s because of a membrane. Maybe those elves have adapted a similar membrane! Suddenly we’re adapting these ideas from childish fantasy to include explanations that make sense biologically.

With 25 years of existing history in your world, since you first created it as a child, how much are you able to include?

I do incorporate a lot of it, especially some of the world-shifting events that occurred in the earlier years. For example, a part of the world was covered in darkness when the undead appeared overnight. A more recent philosophical discussion I’ve been having with the team is whether suddenly becoming a member of the undead has an effect on your individual identity? It doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly evil, because you retain some semblance of your memories. It’s been fun to adapt and modernize those old ideas, especially with older NPCs.

But we go really deeply into the world building to lend events an extra layer of immersion. If the characters encounter a person who’s rambling and might seem as if they’ve lost their mind, the things they’re saying may actually make sense if examined and might become prophecies for future seasons. Or if they’re speaking a language and the characters can pick out words, those words may come up later. The more you can throw in, the more fun it is. Languages are also a part of D&D that often gets ignored, which we’ve really leaned into. It’s incredibly fun.

Episode one of The Long Road ends with talk of Jeff’s character singing in episode two…

We had two minutes when technology failed, and while we were waiting Jeff decided it might be fun to hum a few tunes. Brandon Strader, Steven Melin, and I wrote melodies around it, and Mike Pettry orchestrated our ideas. Mike works on Disney projects so he gave Jeff the fully Disney princess musical treatment, which is hilarious. When talking about our show I also normally say ‘come for the horror, stay for the hurdy gurdy.’ We have a lot of fantasy music that we’ve created from scratch, some of which is now orchestral, but all of which features medieval-era instruments. I’ve also been personally working on an infernal language compendium, to help our choir who will be singing four or five songs in the infernal language. It’s been hard to translate words in infernal that have complex verb conjugations so I’ve put together a somewhat extensive dictionary that describes the rules of that language and how to speak it. It’s been a journey.

Dark Dice: The Long Road airs every month on Acast. Fifth edition adventure Domain of the Nameless God, which is based on the first season of Dark Dice, is available on the DMs Guild.

 


DRAGON TALK

Every week the doors of the Dungeons & Dragons castle are flung open and Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito invite the audience inside for exclusive interviews and previews! They sit down with celebrities, pop culture personalities, and creators to talk about the latest phenomena in roleplaying, video games, comics, novels, movies, and television as it all relates to D&D. And the Dragon Talk team have collected a few highlights from May and June 2021 to enjoy:

Watch the May Highlights

 

Watch the June Highlights

 

Check out Dragon Talk interviews with Kate Welch, Shane Salk & Dana Powers, and Tanya DePass & B. Dave Walters, among many others!

But there was one show that stood out in June, as Dragon Talk celebrated its 300th episode! The milestone was marked by personal tributes from friends of the show Matt Mercer, R.A. Salvatore, B. Dave Walters, Rob Daviau, Krystina Arielle, and many, many more including a very cute special animation from Kyle Balda!

Greg and Shelly were live as they reflected on 300 episodes, before welcoming a number of special guests including Erika Fermina, Bart Carroll, Ryan Marth, and Lisa Carr, while still finding time to go over all the latest announcements including The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, D&D Celebration and more!

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WizKids Paint Party!

The Dragon Talk hosts also grabbed their brushes and headed to the virtual WizKids studio to take part in a livestream painting party/tutorial. Professional DM and painter of minis Vee Mus’e helped Shelly and Greg turn their WizKids Paint Night Kit into a red slaad they can be proud of. “Look at his mouth! You can see he has teeth,” Shelly says of her first-ever painted mini.

Watch WizKids Paint Party: Red Slaad

 

New episodes of Dragon Talk, the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast, release every week and you can listen here or watch here.  

 


JASPER’S GAME WEEK

Jasper’s Game Week ran from April 30 to May 10, 2021, raising money for suicide prevention and mental health charities. The gaming kicked off on D&D Beyond’s Twitch channel, followed by five days on Mini Terrain Domain (with broadcasting during the non-US hours on Ardent Roleplay’s Twitch channel, with the help of Meeples & Dragons from Australia). That was followed by three days of conventions, one of which was the D&D Virtual Play Weekend.

Dragon+ has picked out a few choice episodes from the masses of games which made up 2021’s monster fundraising event.


D&D Beyond: Game 3

Fenway Jones, founder of the mental health charity Jasper’s Game Week, took the reigns as Holly Conrad, Diana DiMicco, Shawna Houston, Joanna Kucharksa, Stephanie Michelle, and Satine Phoenix follow visions of a captured dragon via a tiny house in the middle of nowhere. “Blame Satine’s dice,” Fenway says after a particularly nasty crit in a tense combat.

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MiniTerrainDomain: Day 1, Game 1

The jinks are high as six characters (including an owlbear barbarian and a mimic assassin) are pulled into a Domain of Dread by a curse that resides deep within them. Dragon+ Editor-in-Chief Matt Chapman leads this unusual bunch of adventurers on their quest to answer some tough questions: Will the world’s greatest gumbo sate this plane’s hungry creatures? Why doesn’t the cleric sleep? How can messianic bard Bragdo understand everyone? And why does everything keep attacking goblin wizard Hazmat Whistlebloom?

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D&D Beyond: Game 7

DM Deborah Ann Woll extends an invite to the multiverse’s most exclusive event! And as a group of individuals exits the coach and checks into the Eagle’s Rest, it’s going to be a celebration to die for. “The party starts at eight. Don’t be late, you wouldn’t want to miss the feast,” the desk manager says, as the group watches an incredible sunset ahead of a night to remember—and an after party to forget.

Watch on Twitch

 


Aussie Day 5, Game 1

It’s all about the characters in R.J. Cresswell’s thoroughly enjoyable game, as a cowardly paladin, a cleric who worships themselves, a tattooed rogue, a half-drow who’s not happy to be here, a terrible undercover bard, and a Waterdeep watchman possessed by a homicidal hydra spirit, all try to reach the only ship that ever leaves the Domain of Dread they find themselves in.

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D&D Beyond

Jasper’s Game Day has started a monthly one-shot series starring various personalities and guests, in partnership with D&D Beyond. The first show aired in June as DM Kailey Bray led an adventure to find a legendary Feywild crown.

Watch the Stream

 

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.

 


Pride Month 2021

Dungeons & Dragons provides an inclusive environment where people can come together to become whoever they want to be and explore a new side of themselves. To help celebrate Pride month, Jack Dixon, Editor of Rainbo magazine, chooses his favorite LGBTQ+ friendly communities and streams.


QUEER DUNGEONEERS

Improvisational fantasy D&D podcast Queer Dungeoneers follows a rag-tag bunch of adventurers as they make a deal with the devil, and put their lives on the line.

Without spoiling the plot, the premise is that the party has three months to kill three gods. This task sees them travel across vast continents to learn more than anyone should ever know—including the fact that the gods are the least of their worries!

Across its runtime (almost 100 episodes so far) the show tackles themes of power, identity, and the self, but more than anything it’s a lot of fun!

Find them at: The Queer Dungeoneers Podbean website.

Recommended starting point: The introductory Episode 0 is currently the best place to start, although a little birdie tells us that Season 2 will be kicking off in just a few months!

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CHASING TALES

Chasing Tales is a recent entry to the medium. It’s a majority LGBTQ+ D&D actual-play series, with players hailing from France and the United Kingdom.

This ongoing Dungeons & Dragons homebrew campaign features queer player characters, including so-called “disaster twunks”, queer female power couples (sometimes with swords!), asexual cuties, non-binary elves, and more. In addition to the PCs, a host of wonderfully crafted NPCs help bring Chasing Tales‘ queer stories to life.

As well as their main campaign, the folks at Chasing Tales also run special one-shots and mini-arcs (usually featuring special guests) in the name of fundraising for queer charities. To see some of their hijinks, check out their Pride highlight reel!

Find them at: Chasing Tales broadcasts live on Twitch every Thursday evening (6:30pm BST / 10.30am PT / 1.30pm EST), and all previous episodes are available on YouTube.

Recommended starting point: We’d recommend Episode 37 as a good jumping-on point, as it kicks off the latest story arc. The cast of characters are well explained along the way, so you won’t feel left behind.

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DARK DICE

For Pride 2020, the Dark Dice team ran a light-hearted one-shot called “Tiefling in the Details“, which sees one of the campaign’s main adventurers, Iaus Innskeep, embark upon one of his biggest adventures yet: speed dating!

Instead of rolling dice, the stream raised over $10,000 for the Trevor Project, which is a fantastic achievement.

Find them at: The Acast network.

Recommended starting point: The speed dating episode Tiefling in the Details, and its spoiler-titled follow-up episode.


QUEENS OF ADVENTURE/QOA: LEGENDS

“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve woken up in a strange room with strange people.”

– Kitty Powers

What happens when you introduce a troupe of drag queens to the Dungeons & Dragons universe? You get Queens of Adventure!

Join Dungeon Master Matt Baume and a roster of seasoned Seattle drag queens in a quest to save the world and prove themselves worthy of the power of the historic Drag Houses.

At time of writing, there’s over thirty hours of queer goodness in the main story arc, which follows the (mis)adventures of a party that’s also known as Bootie and the Hofish. If you laughed at that name, then this campy, fun podcast may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Find them at: Both Queens of Adventure and QoA: Legends are available on Spotify.

Recommended starting point: To get a taste of Queens of Adventure, check out their series of live shows. Queens of Adventure: Legends features special guest appearances from RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni BenDeLaCreme, Utica Queen, and Rock M. Sakura. Our personal recommendation is the DragCon live show from 2018, which revolves around an inter-dimensional being that seeks out drag queens to see if they’re truly legendary. It’s a hilarious one-shot from start to finish.


LAMBERT HOUSE PRIDE SPECIAL

Dungeon Master Kate Welch leads Trystan Falcone, Jeremy Crawford, Omega Jones, A.J. Lamarque, and Anthony Rapp in the latest Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team adventure.

If there’s one thing you should remember in the Forgotten Realms, it’s your anniversary! Join Documancer Walnut Dankgrass (played by Trystan) on her quest to stay out of the dog(/bear/weasel/wolf)house.

All proceeds of the stream supported Lambert House, a center that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth through developing leadership, social, and life skills. You can donate directly to Lambert House or support the charity by snapping up the Pinny Arcade Pride Set, created by Penny Arcade Lead Designer Gavin Greco.

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D&D Pride Shirts

For the fourth consecutive year, Wizards Pride ERG is running a Pride Shirt Fundraiser, including Dungeons & Dragons shirts that directly support Lambert House. Shop the designs, including community-specific logos for a number of franchises, at MTG Pro Shop.