Talks Machina Episode 76 Highlights: 2-27 and 2-28

This summary has been reproduced from this Tumblr post.

Tonight’s guests: Taliesin Jaffe and Sumalee Montano. 

  • Announcements:
    • Dani!cam is down tonight. Everyone has a moment of silence. Except her audio’s still working, so not that silent, I guess!
    • Taliesin has selected Brian’s outfit for GenCon and describes it as “extremely extra.” Brian warns us we might need sunglasses, and Tal tells BWF that he’ll have his “product” by showtime.
    • Matt’s Fireside Chat and NPC Build will be Tuesday, August 7, at 5:00pm PST.
    • Marisha’s Honey Heist 2: Electric Beargaloo will be Friday, August 10th at 7:00pm PST. All the original cast will return to reprise their characters.
    • Next Wednesday Club is Batman books without Batman, focusing on all the other characters and Gotham herself, tomorrow at 7:00pm PST. 
  • Stats for this episode: 
    • Nila smelled her bag regarding five decisions: Ophelia, letting Champ smell the bag, going to find the cleric, going to find the Taskers, and placing her spirit totem.
    • Molly had 25 nat 20s (most in the M9), 11 nat ones (least in the M9), 21 kills (most in the M9), and 7 HDYWTDTs (most in the M9). BWF: “He died doing what he loved: making Crit Role Stats records.”
    • Molly dealt 711 points of damage and took 325, his most-cast spell was Vicious Mockery (23 times), and his most used Blood Hunter ability was Rite of the Dawn (22 times).
    • Caduceus healed 24 points in his first appearance.
  • How Sumalee ended on the show: she’s friends with Matt since they work for the same agency, but she only saw it pop up on her timeline tangentially. One day, they were both working on the same cartoon and she wanted to say congratulations to him afterwards for this wonderful thing he’d built, and as he told her about the backstory and the world he suggested she should come on the show sometime. She wasn’t quite sure if he meant it, but she was super interested even though she’d never played the game before. He suggested she watch the show a few times to see if she’d be interested; the next day she giddily told her agent he’d invited her. About three months later, Matt texted her and asked if she wanted to be on the show. Prior to the meeting, she felt like she had to pitch herself–she read a ton of the PHB and the basics of D&D and everything–but when she showed up to the diner, he was ready for her character creation with character sheets and books and dice and everything. She was overwhelmed and delighted–even a month later, her excitement is tangible. I love her more than life itself. She points out he was very good at giving little flavors of each race that were not overwhelming for someone so new to the game.
  • BWF decides to rename the show The Firbolg Fireside. 
  • @skinnyghost (Adam Koebel on Twitter) asks Tal, “Where’s my money?” Everyone laughs; Tal tells us Matt actually pointed out Clay looks a lot like Koebel right after they first saw the character art. 
  • Tal picked a firbolg because he’d ever done it before and they have some very interesting racial abilities and stats. 
  • Sumalee had decided between a dragonborn and a half-orc before Matt showed her the book with the firbolg. Both she and Tal loved the picture of the firbolg in the book–a “Jim Henson” picture. Sumalee never gets to explore this kind of character in her jobs, so she was glad to be able to explore something that resonated with her so well personally in the game. 
  • Of firbolg, cleric, or Grave Domain, which called to Tal first? “Everything was done in a semiconscious blaze of insanity.” Grave cleric was the first thing to hit as he was going through the new supplements to the PHB. He liked the gothy feel and was very concerned that the character death would make the rest of the party “gunshy,” which is more cautious than he likes in his D&D games. He likes that this class is a “risk reduction” for the rest of the party. He feels firbolgs work well for this and that the Jim Henson feeling was sufficiently different from both Percy & Molly.
  • The smell bag was not an actual magic item. Sumalee wracked her brains for two weeks trying to come up with a way to reconcile her INT of 8 and her WIS of 18, since Matt suggested leaning into a low stat instead of rerolling. She needed something like a “gut check,” which showed a certain innate intelligence that felt right even if it couldn’t be explained. She first thought about tea leaves, but thought it still felt too intelligent; then she latched onto the powerful smell scent idea of the bag. She loved the idea of it always being the same items in the bag, but the smell changing based on the choice she wanted to make. 
  • A light overhead goes out. After Dark is NOW.
  • Tal, glancing over Sumalee’s character sheet, is amazed at how well she rolled. She only has one stat with a negative modifier. 
  • In the smell bag are nuts, berries from trees she’d helped save, bark from her tribe’s sacred trees, bones from animals that she had befriended and cared for until they died, a small portion of her firbolg baby’s dried placenta, and a variety of mosses. 
  • Nila was in charge of the mosses in her tribe (I LOVE THIS) because it’s the easiest-growing thing to care for–her tribe didn’t think she could handle a job more exciting or delicate, so they gave her something they didn’t need to really rely on her for. 
  • Tal did consider the fact that he would be the person the M9 would seek out to resurrect Molly, and mostly left it open as an option for Matt. 
  • Nila’s calming presence is due to regular meditation. Prior to the abduction, Nila had the perfect calm, idyllic life–but the horrible nature of the kidnapping brought out a deep need and driving force that balanced out her idyll. BWF points out she had to maintain her ability to think rationally, because if she broke down now, she’d be of no use to her partner or her child. Sumalee likens it to the autopilot she went on when her mother died, even through the grief, since she was her family’s sole provider at the time and could not let herself break down or be overwhelmed. 
  • @vonnie_bee wins GIF of the Week for two weeks ago. It’s a lovely little thing of Sumalee casually stating she’d like to eat someone’s face off. 
  • Runner up is @crivensfeegle with the reacharound bit. Oh, Sam. 
  • The winner gets a purple CR hat that will go on sale at GenCon and later this year in the critrole.com store.
  • Tal didn’t ask Laura about having a second cleric in the party, but as he revealed the details both Laura and Travis were really excited. (BWF says it’s like having a Mercy & a Zenyatta in the party at the same time; BWF reveals himself as a D.Va main. Glorious.)
  • Sumalee never expected to become all Critters’ fir-mom, but is honored that she’s been basically adopted. 
  • Tal says Caduceus is basically goth-Fonz. 
  • Caduceus is in his mid-twenties in firbolg years. Time moves weirdly in that part of the forest, so he’s really unconcerned with the passage of time. “He’s deep in navel contemplation.” Tal thinks he and Matt agreed on him being somewhere between 80-100. 
  • BWF is shocked and appalled that Tal is wearing matching socks tonight. Ditto.
  • Sumalee was conscious of a lot of “nature-loving” tropes going into the game that she actively tried to avoid in her portrayal of Nila. She specifically avoided the trope-y broken speech of Dances With Wolves, as well as an almost Southern-Midwestern accent that was her first thought, even though she’s from Ohio and it felt fairly natural for her. She just felt like she wanted to make something grounded, something authentic, and something that left people with positive associations. BWF feels no one’s resonated with the community so well since Sprigg. 
  • Caduceus hasn’t been with the party nearly long enough to form opinions about any of them. He finds the whole party interesting…as well as the building they broke into, several trees and rocks, some flora they passed on the way. 
  • Tal was concerned about bringing up both Molly’s and his own preconceptions to this new character, but has found it much more pleasant to be a “blank slate” and act surprised at every bit of reveal. 
  • Nila had a tough time leaving the M9 to find their friends without her, since they helped her find her family and she felt like she owed them. Sumalee is glad that Beau gave her that out–as a mother, all she wanted to do was be with her son, but she also knew she could help the M9 better once she knew that her partner was healed and she was stronger. She also 100% felt better because they had a firbolg with them in Clay. 
  • Sumalee was more nervous coming on the show even than she’d anticipated because Molly had just died the week before. She never thought her entrance would be at such a momentous point in the story. She channeled Nila to calm her nerves pre-show. 
  • Sumalee and Dani were watching the battle with the Iron Shepherds together and both gasped at the terrible cold damage to Nott. “Utter shock. This–this can’t be happening.” However, she felt that it was a good meeting point between Nila and the M9, since they’d both lost someone precious.
  • Fanart of the Week: @ravennowithtea with this beautiful, beautiful thing of Nila & the M9 for last week, and for this week, @agonethetic with a lovely portrait of Clay in the foreground and Molly in the background arising from Clay’s shadow. 
  • “Clay’s chill is pretty deep.” Tal remembers a local Buddhist monk in Pasadena with a great camera obscura collection and an electric cart. “He’s the chillest guy I ever met.”
  • Clay’s voice was “literally a voice that was not Percy or Molly. It’s the sloppiest character I’ve made in so long.” Once he saw the size and found the chill, he felt that sliding into the bassy “more badass Pumat” vibe would work best. He loved finding out what Sumalee was doing since it worked so well with what he was planning. 
  • In Sumalee’s SURELY INEVITABLE return, she’s most excited about Call Lightning and Flaming Sphere. She primarily focused on her healing powers when she picked her spells for the day, but would like to do more exciting offensive spells next time. 
  • Clay’s had his bags packed for four months, ready for someone to find him. In the meantime, he was starting to have dreams and visions of “something that had gone wrong,” but didn’t feel like he could navigate the cursed forest on his own. A few people had come by before but “hadn’t been the right people.” Clearly our murderhobos were just in time.
  • Sumalee was very worried they wouldn’t reach her son & partner in time. She’d asked Matt how to make her exit; he told her to follow his lead but be guided by the story. She’d hoped that they’d reach them in time, but wasn’t sure. She thinks if they’d gone back for the Taskers they wouldn’t have made it in time. Tal reminds us that Matt does keep an internal timer and taking too long would have possibly been dangerous. Sumalee was also worried in the moment that if the Iron Shepherds had heard the racket, they’d have deliberately tortured or killed her husband & child as punishment for invading before they could be rescued.
  • Caduceus is “another strain of Ren Faire” that has flavors of Molly in a slightly different wrapping. Tal was also raised by hippies and references childhood memories at the Lakeshrine Self-Realization Fellowship Center, which Sumalee helpfully tells us is the only place outside of India that has some of Gandhi’s ashes. 
  • The easiest part of the game for Sumalee was just playing with her friends, since they made it so fun for her. The most challenging thing was that she felt like she had to learn D&D at the same time as everyone was telling her not to worry about the rules and to bend them as she wanted. Her advice is to not make it harder for herself; don’t learn the box–just sit down with someone who knows how to play, tell them what you want to do, and get one-on-one instruction on how to do it. “Find comfort in the fact that the people you’re playing with will lead you through this.”
  • Remember, the next episode airs at GenCon on Friday and an hour earlier! Hope to see some of you guys there!

After Dark: Already Dark I Guess Edition

  • Sumalee was much more comfortable playing a druid since she sat next to Marisha, who could guide her through it. The goodberries were the first spell that she used once Marisha gave her okay. 
  •  Taliesin remembers the delight of watching Travis slowly realize he could do anything in their first home game.
  •  Broadcasting comes through to mismatch Tal’s socks for him. Bless.
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  • Tal says that the tea-drinking, the Arizona tea can, and Tealeaf are all just a complete coincidence. (:thinking:) He came up with the tea-drinking intro about eleven seconds before he entered–he’d been backstage taking notes on what the M9 looked at during their tour of the garden, and as Matt described the flowers and leaves over one of the gravestones, he had the thought that the tea was something he could do. He also says that he didn’t mean them to be cherry blossoms on his armor; they’re actually a form of lichen that gets really neon pink and red. However, he fully encourages everyone to keep drawing him however they like.
  • Tal would have liked a month to come up with the new character. Part of his rush was that the artist had to come up with the design; he’d like to share some early iterations later if the artist gives permission.
  • Sumalee deliberately avoided giving Ariana Orner (their artist) descriptions of her armor out of fear of stereotyping herself, and was delighted with the Mongolian-inspired armor she came up with. 
  • Sumalee’s been frantically trying to scroll social media to keep up with all the Nila fanart and gifs that she loved & hadn’t expected at all. Tal offers to share their Liam to help curate her new collection.
  • This past weekend was the first time Sumalee felt the “click” of why D&D lends itself so well to character fanart.
  • Cassius Clay beats Caduceus Clay every time. Caduceus is from an old work-for-hire script that never got picked up. This is the third iteration of the character (first an adaptation pitch, then a brief pitch script for a video game, and now the D&D game). “It only took a decade and change.”
  • Sumalee tells us that her young son has insisted on replaying the firbolg rescue scene several times, including repeating what the DM said at certain points and him pretending to reach his hand out of the cage. It’s adorable and I die again. 
  • or Sumalee, D&D was like nothing she’d ever experienced. Voiceover lends itself well to it because there’s something of a theatricality to it when you’re roleplaying, especially since the world is so fantastical compared to her on-camera work. “It’s totally unique…and I love it.” She likes that the dice guide you even through the scariness of total improv freedom. There’s a little bit of guidance and direction and structure, but the play within that structure is very free. “This was…intense. It was a fantastic introduction to something I’d never experienced, never done, and I could see why people loved it…The entire outside world disappeared. It was intoxicating.”