Talks Machina Episode 84 Highlights: 2-36

This summary has been reproduced from this Tumblr post.

Tonight’s guests are Travis Willingham and Matt Mercer!

  • Announcements:

    • The NYC show on Thursday still has tickets! 

    • The latest episode of Between the Sheets, featuring Laura Bailey, is now available on the Critical Role Twitch channel for subscribers! The VOD will be released on YouTube tomorrow.

    • The second episode of All Work No Play will air on the Twitch channel on Friday at 7 PM! There will be tapdancing involved.

  • Stats for this week’s episode:

    • With four games in, the Dallas Cowboys are at a 50%– wait, wrong stat.

    • The M9 got their 140th kill in this episode: Nott against the fourth harpy.

    • This is the third time Fjord has used the dodecahedron, and the second time he’s put a fragment of possibility to use.

  • DMing when PCs are on the ocean involves trying to figure out what interesting things can be found along the journey. Matt made a small chart to roll on to see what might possibly happen. “It’s a lot of not forcing events, necessarily, every single day, because otherwise nobody would ever f***ing be on a boat in a fantasy world.” He wants it to be an adventurous, freeing sensation, and he wants it to be a bit of a sandbox for the players. (The map finally arrived!) “It’s allowing enough intrigue and possibility out there where the players can utilize the ship at their disposal, and coming up with interesting encounters that capitalize on the region and capitalize on the limitations of the ship as well.”

  • Travis has been on (non-sailing) boats most of his life, so he knows the terminology. “But when it comes to f***in’ pirate ships…” He wrote Fjord’s backstory with “sailor” in it, but didn’t get a chance to research it at all. Matt was so intimidated by the (three) sailing terms Fjord included in his backstory that he’s been intently studying up on nautical stuff ever since. There are graphs behind his DM screen. Matt: “I was just trying to keep up with him!” 

  • But Travis has been doing research since then. He’d just never thought about the fact that he might be the only one who knew how to sail a ship. Matt: “It might not have been a major issue if you guys had booked passage…” Travis: “I should have done a moderate level of research just to be more familiar with it, so it’s causing me now to catch up to the homework that you did. We’ll see how this week goes, being that it’s in front of a live crowd…” 

    • Brian: “This is such a weird metaphor for you guys’ friendship.”

  • Matt expected Orly was going to be an information source while the group was in Nicodranas. After the M9 stole the ship so unexpectedly, it turned out Orly was the only other person they knew who had the skills they needed. Brian knows it’s a big ask, but he’d love to see amazing cosplay of Orly.

  • Fjord is definitely wondering whether the sword will react in some way with the water—just touching it in didn’t make a difference, but he’s wondering whether practicing his sword exercises on the ship might’ve had an effect. Travis: “Until now, it’s been a pretty one-sided avenue of communication. I don’t know if there’s any way to *69 that motherf***er.”

  • Gif of the Week: Caduceus’ “Hello darkness my old friend” moment.

  • The jellyfish bloom was a random encounter Matt rolled on his table: he has assorted natural sights on the list to add atmosphere. “It was an improvised part of the narrative based on a few rolls.” Brian wants to insure Matt’s brain.

  • For the map that came out last session, Travis got a quick sneak peek at it. “I love reefs, just from scuba diving, so I memorized those. Most of the trade routes didn’t go over reefs, so if we hit one of those, it would be immediately dangerous.” If people’s backgrounds tie into certain areas, Matt e-mails them summaries as needed so that the players can deliver the information and it’s not just a DM info dump.

  • Caduceus’ super high perception is opening up a lot of interesting stuff for the party; there were a lot of situations that flew under the radar before, and Matt’s looking forward to finding more moments like that. “You want to reward a player for their strengths.”

  • Matt mentions that, in all the games he’s played with Taliesin, he’s always played very high-intelligence characters. He’s fascinated to see him play a low-INT high-WIS character with Caduceus.

  • Travis: “I don’t typically like to give people orders? Fjord was a first mate on the ship, that’s as high as he rose. In my mind, those were people that he had worked with for years. He was receiving orders and then dispersing them, not coming up with the ideas himself. For me, as a player, I enjoyed the luxury of an idiot for the first campaign, because I got to be reactionary. It is an entirely, entirely different thing, and it’s been kind of weird, being responsible for everybody, having to make quick decisions when no one else has any input.” He found himself looking for the bench in the last couple episodes. 

  • On the clusterf*** at the docks, Travis: “I had gone far below zero hit points in player.” He was so off-balance and nothing seemed to be working. “You can’t always bench yourself. You gotta keep f***in’ playing.” Matt points out that it’s common to have an off session: “The fact that you’ve finally had a couple is reassuring to the rest of us mortals in your presence.” It’s tough to be the character who has such a major impact on the course of events, and Travis has been learning how to deal with that pressure (after being able to just shrug it off as Grog) and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Travis: “I had a totally different idea of what my participation in the group would be.” He wasn’t expecting to be the face of the group.

  • Matt mentions that there are sessions where the group has had fun but he goes home “feeling like s***” over some series of mistakes (which often gets reinforced online), but he emphasizes that it’s totally okay to have off nights, and that it’s important to talk it out with players or other DM friends if you’re still feeling upset about it.

  • Fanart of the Week: Nott and Caduceus having their bonding moment at sea.

  • Matt: “There was a whole bunch of shit in Nicodranas you could have explored.” Travis: “I love how he gave us a f***in’ wizard tower.” Matt pointed out that Algar had an employee who ran off during their first attack. “There’s a lot of adventure in Nicodranas still when you return.” Matt points out that sometimes the story you have prepared isn’t as exciting as what the players stumble into on their own. The ramifications when they come back could be a lot of fun, as well. 

  • Travis on the pressure he’s under for this arc: “The rest of the group is f***in’ loving it, like a bunch of assholes. They are eating up my panic with spoons and forks.” Matt points out that the tables have turned after the first campaign.

  • Fjord’s whole backstory was based on trying to disappear; he was just glad to have a role that didn’t require a spotlight. “He just wanted to live a life and have a role and have an existence.” He feels like his unique looks and abilities fit in with the M9, but being put in charge of that, especially in the wake of the massive confidence shake that came with the Lorenzo kidnapping and Molly’s death, he’s still reeling. It’s only been a few weeks since Lorenzo. 

  • It’s been especially terrifying to realize this Fjord-centric arc is going to be such a big part of the New York live show. Travis: “I was so crestfallen. That was the moment I was like, ‘F***.’” Matt, happily: “It’s going to be fun.” Travis, strained and yelling: “IT’S GOING TO BE GREAT.”

  • Jester’s mom hadn’t heard the rumors of a blue tiefling dying at the docks, so fortunately that information hadn’t gotten to her before Jester sent her message. Matt breaks down the bizarre mystery the guards are dealing with right now: it could have had much, much more serious consequences. “They’re not completely f***ed. There’s just some threads of f***ery out there.” Avoiding the patrol ships and being able to disguise themselves has been key. Matt points out that a lot of the Nein have had really skittish, mistrustful backgrounds; over time, they might be more likely to try to interface with the guards in a scenario like that, but they’re not there yet.

  • Travis on the jellyfish conversation: “I was kind of in awe of my wife at that moment. Her emotional availability is second to none. And then to take that beautiful moment and be so introspective about that character. I was trying to ask her questions, and then she pointed it dead on at me. I was like, oh god, I don’t know. I was trying to be sensitive and do something that would make her feel better, but man, it left both of us—Fjord and me—shook. I interpreted it one way. There had been gentle teasings. But man, when the emotions are real…” 

  • Matt’s been finding it interesting that Fjord and Caleb have been taking on leadership roles in a non-competitive, please-take-this way, and he’s excited to see how the roles are distributed moving forward. “I f***in’ love D&D. Oh my god.”

  • Matt points out that the M9 is a different kind of found family than VM. “All of Vox Machina seemed pretty confident of who they were and what they wanted to be in the world. This group is very different; they’re these lost souls who, through their connections to each other, are trying to find a purpose and keep each other safe.” He likes the natural pace of that development and is happy that themes of change and redemption are so prominent in their character arcs. “As the kids on the internet say, ‘I’m here for it.’”

  • Travis: “I had to ask Liam this week what ‘stan’ meant. I thought they left the ‘d’ off it.”

  • Hats appear.

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Talks Machina: Is It the Same Channel?

  • Brian, on the perfect burrito: “Skittles. Starburst bites. Jujubes. Wrapped in a fruit roll-up.” That is a little too close to my actual dinner tonight and I may have to reevaluate some of my life choices.

  • Their favorite thing about the live show is the energy. Matt: “It’s one thing to be playing together as friends, but once every now and then, being able to share it live there with so many people who are as excited as we are to be there. Of all the years I’ve done theatre and that high I’ve had on stage, this is even better for me.” Much as the heart of the show is its intimate nature, they love having the live show as a change of pace a couple of times a year. Matt points out that the weirdness of live D&D is that the audience there is as knowledgeable and invested. “It’s not like there’s a barrier and you’re here to entertain, you’re all just here in this moment.”

  • Travis mentions that alignment’s been more important at the start of the game when they’ve been trying to establish their character, just to keep from veering off into random stabs at action. Matt: “I think alignment’s a great guide if you’re unfamiliar with the process of realizing a personality that’s different from yours and stepping into their shoes. I prefer to think that characters’ actions drive alignment, rather than alignment driving characters’ actions. I don’t feel like you should use alignment as a way of excluding yourselves from making those choices that otherwise a character would never make.”

  • Matt: “Don’t google ‘burrito train’.”

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  • It takes like ten minutes to Brian’s nipple rings.

  • Dani, being shipped to New York.