Talks Machina Episode 71 Highlights: 2-23

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Tonight's guests are Matt Mercer and Sam Riegel!

  • Announcements:
    • New M9 shirt in the new CR store at shop.critrole.com. The show also now has their very own dedicated Critical Role Youtube & Twitch channels–however, don’t worry, as it’ll still be broadcast in all current locations as well. After Dark will continue to be available on After Dark only.
    • There also will not be any Talks Machina or new Critical Role episode July 3 or July 5, as they’ll be making the move to a new studio during this week. (Marisha’s stepped down at G&S to make this move to full-time CR management as well.)
    • There’s a summary post of these announcements with a FAQ on critrole.com, if you need more information. 
  • Stats for this episode:
    • The M9 have now officially rolled 99 natural ones. Nott’s in the lead with 22. Sam only has one d20 that he rolls, and he thinks Laura’s bad luck is rubbing off on him.
    • The M9 have now been traveling together for about a month. Matt, deadpan: “They’re such a tight-knit family.” He does like that everyone’s getting to see the ground-floor development and occasionally has to remind himself to set the scene because he gets sucked into the roleplay.
    • Kiri has imitated people 82 times–Sam loves Matt’s imitations. 
  • The D&D Beyond theme song was a greater achievement than the Emmy (per Sam): “It was a thing that I just came up with…that became the anthem for a generation.” The Emmy is a bucket list, pinnacle professional achievement, but he loves that he got to write & make the theme song. (Also: two years on one cartoon vs. fifteen minutes on a song.)
  • Matt has a tumultuous history with the Streamys. He directed a web series ten years ago and was invited to contribute to a big montage…only to find out right before the show that it had been cut from the program altogether.
  • The battle with the Merrow played out fairly close to how Matt had envisioned it, although the players’ positioning led to some interesting situations. It was more challenging in certain moments without Nott, especially when Matt was trying to decide how certain events would play out. Sam sidebars to point out how much he loves it when a battle changes halfway through (either due to traps, additional enemies, or the map changing). Matt says there are many battles they’ve had in the past where certain traps were never triggered. However, you can’t do it too often or it becomes expected. (Matt does feel bad when he’s rolling well and the PCs are rolling badly.)
  • Nott’s water thing Sam invented during the game (because he thought it would be funny, natch), but he’s come up with a backstory since then that explains why she’s so afraid of water.         
  • Matt plays out combat as designed even when a PC suddenly decides to not participate–unless it’s a new group that doesn’t fully understand D&D combat yet, and it would impact their enjoyment of the game. He wants people to understand that there are consequences with character choices. 
  • Sam often finds it bothersome when they know they’ve missed something in game, especially when it’s an important story beat. It’s the worst when Matt gives them multiple chances to succeed, and they still end up failing all of them. Matt confesses sometimes he makes them roll checks on general knowledge they’d have known anyway just to make them feel a certain esoteric skill was useful for once. 
  • Nott feels terrible she sat out the Merrow fight only for Caleb to come close to death. Sam: “Nott feels awful about it. Sam Riegel feels great about it! I love situations where it doesn’t look like it’s going well.” Plus, the night before she also got Caleb in trouble with the bowl thing. BWF’s a little worried it’ll affect their relationship. 
  • Matt claims that Kiri was not at all related to wanting to prove he could do Jester’s accent. He rolls for random encounters when they’re traveling, and Kiri was one he’d considered to demonstrate the presence of kenku, while also highlighting that non-Empire people are moving away from the conflict. He half-expected them to ignore her altogether.  
  • Matt reveals that Kiri has six (6) (SIX) hit points. “She’s practically a baby bird!” Sam has a retroactive panic attack that they’ve been bringing her to all these battles. Me too, bud. Sam accuses Matt of “not having brought anyone worthy of taking a baby bird off our hands.” Matt: “You haven’t even looked!” They wonder together about the possibility of a baby bird orphanage in Hupperdook.
  • GIF of the Week! @justjamesearle. It’s long and perfect and details the Fjord whack-a-mole death saga with the venom splashes.  
  • Nott’s opinion of Kiri hasn’t changed at all with the reveal that she heard/repeated her conversation with Caleb. Sam thinks Nott should have known better than to talk with a recording device in the room, especially since she only ever repeats it when it’s hilarious or well-timed. “It’s hard to live with a soundboard.”
  • Matt keeps a list of notes of what Kiri can say. It’s super fun, and he sometimes gets so caught up in conversations he forgets to write down things for her to repeat later. 
  • Nott wished Kiri hadn’t repeated the facts from her backstory, but she’d never considered being aggressive towards “little RiRi” (oh God it’s too adorable). She still doesn’t like a lot of attention. Both BWF & Sam applaud Matt for giving them little prods to reveal backstory.
  • Dagon, Matt & Marisha’s bird, provides a lot of inspiration for Kiri. Matt talks about being a bird owner after growing up with cats and dogs, and reveals that wanting to utilize that knowledge was part of why he introduced kenku.
  • Nott finds Beau the exception to her general mistrust of the group, which is why she let her care for Caleb after the last fight. She feels Beau has been weirdly sensitive and protective even through her lens of abrasiveness, and she respects that she hasn’t spilled the beans about Caleb’s backstory. 
  • Fanart of the Week! @obeymybrain, which is a great group portrait in four vertical-column stylings after the Haunted Mansion from Disneyland.
  • If the troll hadn’t been slowed by Caleb, Matt thinks the group would have permanently lost someone. Matt loves the new monsters that are punishing to melee characters. He thinks they did a good job damaging it at range at first, and Sam waxes poetic on all the options they didn’t pursue instead (like Saran-wrapping the door before it came running out). Oh, what could have been.
  • Sam’s love for Liam is stronger than Nott’s love for Caleb, because “…Liam kisses back.” They’ve known each other half their lives now. 
  • If the M9 pursue dynamite as a common battle tactic, Matt may need to prepare for his builds to be destroyed more often. It’s still limited by the relatively new availability of blackpowder and has a high possibility of backfiring depending on their rolls. 
  • Nott wishes she could tell everything to Caleb, but is limited by the realities of their show, since it’s hard to find a time that’s not full of dick or drug jokes. There’s been times they’ve been alone together but Caleb hasn’t asked any questions; Sam thinks “He needs to do some Marisha-style questioning. That is an inquisitive monk, and I love her for it.” Matt points out it’s a critical aspect of her character that she wants to know everything. 
  • Matt played out the last Fjord moment in front of the whole group in part because it would have interrupted the flow to have everyone leave, and in part because he trusts his players not to metagame now that they’re all learning bits and pieces of each other. He liked the visceral smash-cut of the vision to the party watching Fjord jam this thing into his stomach.
  • Matt does have to juggle all the party’s backstories since it’s such a large group; some will be long-game just because of the natures of their stories. He likes to drop threads as they go, though, so everyone feels more connected to their world. Players feel like the stakes are higher when they can see their stories reflected and affecting the living and breathing world around them. 
  • Nott wasn’t particularly bothered by Molly immediately forgiving the bandits right after they hurt her. “They’re just dumb. They’re just dumb and they need to go. They’re too dumb to hurt.”
  • Matt knew the outline of Hupperdook before the party ever heard of it. Now that they’ve expressed interest in it, he’s begun filling in the details since it looks likely that they’ll visit it soon. It helps that they’re limited to speed of foot & horse; when they can start bamfing everywhere in later game, it gets a lot harder. Matt’s advice in that situation is to give the town a unique social structure or aspect, to make a bold choice that will cause it to stand out in their mind. It helps if you can ask what the players are looking for, then “yes and” based on what they’re seeking (he builds an idea of two competing taverns poaching clients from each other off a spur-of-the-moment request from a player asking if there’s an inn nearby). 
  • Sam does rehearse his more performative ads ahead of time. He usually writes them the day of over lunch, although lately he’s been trying to get them done on Mondays and Tuesdays so he’s not as stressed on Thursday.
  • There’s no specific inspirational character for the Gentleman. Matt wanted to create an outside-the-law businessman who wasn’t your typical ~thief-lord~ while still seeming unique against the world. He wanted him to be charismatic and domineering, welcoming until you crossed a personal or business line, in which case he’d immediately put you in your place. 
  • Nott still considers her old goblin tribe a threat to her & is reluctant to confront them. She does feel a little more prepared now that she has more allies, but is hesitant to meet old demons & old memories. Matt sidebars to point out that a lot of these character backstories could be self-driven, since there’s nothing keeping them from visiting Nott’s hometown now. They could pursue it at any time if they wanted.
  • The firearms in the world are a direct result from Percy & Ripley; she dealt them out in heavy trade areas like Marquet, which results in the technology being distributed in a way that now impacts the M9 in their world. They’re still limited by materials, though. 
  • Matt loves the joy on Tal’s face every time they mention firearms are readily available in Wildemount. 
  • Everyone’s distraught over Tal’s Vicious Mockery in the last episode. Bless his heart. Matt: “Sometimes you come out of the gate and realize you’ve come out without your pants on. You commit, and you walk away.”
  • Sam misses giving inspiration on a regular basis. He also has a lot of insecurities over his current inability to contribute to a battle with much more than crossbow bolts. BWF: “Just sent Nott to a bard college.” Matt: With a -3 charisma, I think you’re taking inspiration away from people.”
  • Favorite M9 voice to mimic as Kiri? Partially Jester, because it’s just funny, Nott is shrill and ridiculous, and has lately been enjoying mimicking Fjord for the few times he’s been echoed. 
  • The Nott voice is not hard at all on Sam; it’s mostly falsetto, which BWF says he usually talks in off-camera all the time anyway. 

After Dark: After This

  • In CriticalRoleLand, Dani would like to see Vex’s Flying Brooms. BWF suggests a waterslide that ends in Vex’s & Percy’s bathtub; Matt suggests it be a goldfish ride that goes over the side. He also likes a teleporting ride that goes into Umbrasyl’s belly, and Sam comes up with a dunk tank for heckling Scanlan.
  • Matt talks about that viral Youtube video with the weather forecaster naming the city that’s like 100 characters long. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, that’s the one. 
  • Nott’s Tinder profile? “Short, green, looking for mean. Buy me a drink and I’m yours.”
  • Matt wouldn’t be surprised if this campaign does eventually touch on family in the same way the first one did. However, Sam feels so far it’s much more about identity, and Matt tacks on regret & making amends. He also thinks trust & learning to accept help from others is still developing, since so many of these characters have been hurt in some way. 
  • M had a lot of very classical heroic archetypes; this campaign is full of many more human, subtly complicated characters. Matt loves the contrast. 
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  • The eyes. The EYES.
  • Sam agonizes that in his Friday retellings of the campaign’s story to his six-year-old son, it drives him crazy that he can’t answer his son’s questions as to why something happened. His son does ask “does Matt Mercer know?” and Sam is glad he can say yes. 
  • Sam loves the idea of the world hinging on the bandit troupe they keep running into. I debated troop or troupe there, but given the hysterics they keep causing, I’m sticking with troupe.
  • If they met, Nott would steal every single thing from Taryon Darrington. Except that lame book, of course. “That’d be amazing. And! Possible! We’re on the continent, right?” Sam rubs his hands together gleefully…until Matt points out Taryon’s been relegated to NPC status & Matt would be the one controlling him now. 
  • Matt usually prepares a guest for the show by meeting with them ahead of time. Depending on how much (or if ever) they’ve played before, he helps them build a character and teaches them the basics of the class. Mark, obviously, didn’t need that introduction, so instead they focused on loose backstory and finding ways to integrate that backstory into the existing world. When it’s time for them to actually play, they’ll discuss in advance a way to bring their paths across each other, such as Cali looking for a specific relic at the same time that the M9 were going to be investigating a safehouse full of stolen relics. As soon as they meet, it’s hands off. (It can be hard to get someone out of the group if they for sure can’t return the next week.)
  • MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE END OF CAMPAIGN ONE IN THE SECTION BELOW.
    • BWF jokes that last campaign Joe Manganiello just showed up and said, “Hey, so, I’m playing Arkhan,” and that was that. Actually…that’s pretty close to what really happened. Matt & Joe did meet for a long evening in Joe’s kitchen in advance to discuss backstory & motivations, after which he finally managed to convince Joe’s wife, Sofía Vergara, to play a small game with him, Joe, and Marisha. Sam laughs that at Matt & Marisha’s wedding, they had two sentences with Joe before the conversation immediately devolved into D&D and Joe’s wife rolled her eyes out of her head.
    • They did discuss that Joe wanted to steal the hand at the end of the last campaign. “You don’t have the Hand of Vecna, the Hand of Vecna has you.” They had a long conversation about Arkhan’s denouement after that episode. 
  • END OF MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS. 
  • And that’s all for the night! Have a lovely week, and is it Thursday yet?