Transcript: Interference Episode 1

Jacq’s Theme, “Tuffet” by Origami Repetika, plays.

JACQ

Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Practical Game Master. My name is Jacq, and I’m here to dispel the idea that a GM has to be a genius with an entire imaginary world in their head. To paraphrase my girl Elizabeth Zimmermann, all you need are dice, stat blocks, and slightly below average intelligence—and superior intelligence, such as ours, is an advantage.

I’m gonna start off today with a question from our good friend Dan (sigh) whose Twitter handle is @Danlan42069. Dan writes…

Hey Jacq,

Thanks for the thing about murder mysteries, but my party is back on its bullshit.

I invited someone from work to my game, and turns out he is a total asshole. He seems like an OK guy at work—not a lifelong friend or anything, but he knows his stuff and was looking for a game. HUGE MISTAKE. He brought an evil character to our good party, he attacked a beloved NPC, and he treats our female gamers like… morons.

You know Diane, she’s been rolling dice for 35 years! She could eat this kid for breakfast, and he is trying to boss her around. I hate to turn someone away from my table, but I don’t know what else to do. Have you ever dealt with something like this?

Wow. Okay, uh, my first thought: you just have to drop this guy. Bringing an evil character to a good campaign is a huge red flag, sure, but you know that I can’t stand it when a player messes with someone else’s character. That’s the first rule! You let everyone do their thing. It may be the only rule.

One… big plus is that you seem to barely know this guy, right? You work with him, but he’s not a friend, even. One time, I had to ban my best friend’s husband from my table. (Soft chuckle) That was fun. Have I not talked about that? Someone drop me a line, and I’ll tell the story.

Okay, uh. So. Solutions other then banning him. I mean, I’m gonna guess, since you’re messaging me—you’ve talked to him. If not, that’s your first step. Tell him that he’s out of line, his fun can’t get in the way of other people’s, and that he has to read the room. After that, have you talked to Diane about it? I’m sure that she can think of some kind of revenge, at the very least. Most likely, she knows exactly how to deal with assholes like this, and is holding back because you haven’t outright condemned his actions. Or because she doesn’t want to mess up your table. Talk with her, and make sure she knows that she’ll have your support against him. I know it can be hard for a… introverted nerd, but… communication is the key, here.

I hope that answered your question, Daniel. If not, you know where to find me!

“FUTURE” JACQ

(later, during her editing process)

(clearing her throat) Uh, hey everyone, this is Future Jacq speaking? Um. I have no idea what’s going on, but there’s some kind of… interference happening in the rest of the episode. It’s way beyond my skill to edit, and I’m actually pretty interested in whatever is going on. Hit me up if you know what it is, uh, and apologies, because the audio for the rest of this is kind of shitty. So… back to regular Jacq in 3, 2…

JACQ

(fuzzy noises, and the sound of someone adjusting a microphone. There is a quiet voice speaking unintelligibly under Jacq’s voice.)

Let’s move along to this week’s recap! This week, our characters heard the rumor of a haunted stretch of the high road. At the same time each month, the road is filled with the sound of a passing caravan. Anyone who approaches is pushed back by an invisible force. Occasionally, someone will disappear, never to be heard from again.

MYSTERY VOICE

(gets louder, briefly) –spite the (unintelligible) in desert navigation.

JACQ

But with no sign of a struggle

MYSTERY VOICE

mostly attribute the success to (blurs and fades)

JACQ

The party was obviously intrigued by this phenomenon, and decided that when it came around, they would check it out!

They filled the rest of the week with odd jobs around town. They wrangled a gelatinous cube that the town uses as a garbage disposal—

MYSTERY VOICE

…severely damaged or missing entirely…

JACQ

—and scared away some kobolds that they… thought were going to set up a colony. They also did repairs, and chopped wood, and helped little old ladies carry their groceries, and stuff.

MYSTERY VOICE

…with a few hints of minor vandalism…

JACQ

When the time came, they went out to the highroad and had the same experience as described. They heard a caravan, but upon approaching the road, something knocked them into a ditch. The ranger, Astrid, kept her wits about her and…

MYSTERY VOICE

(mic feedback, muttering to self) stupid thing.
(Louder) Does anyone know how to calibrate this device? Anyone??

JACQ

As the sound moved along, she managed to track it! Rather than anything nefarious, the party found an invisible caravan, home to a group of people who travel the roads, mostly disconnected from society. Due to… persistence, more than actual merit, they were all invited to explore. They found a menagerie, and a huge bazaar, selling pretty much anything you could think of (static begins in the background, swelling and fading), and they met the caravan leader.

This is my favorite kind of encounter, because it doesn’t involve much in the way of prep. You give your characters a good idea, and you let them run with it. What I envisioned from this caravan, and how it ended up when we played, were vastly different. I knew that it was invisible, that it was vaguely based on the Romani, with enough similarities that my players could fill in the blanks, but not end up with too many stereotypes… and that they had a menagerie of some kind.

We ended up with such a beautiful clusterfuck. Here are some highlights:

  • The thing pushing people back from the road isn’t actually magic, other than the invisibility. It’s just guys, standing on top of the caravan with poles, pushing people away.
  • They have a huge meditation chamber—

MYSTERY VOICE

…it is believed to have been a dome-like structure, approximately 5 feet in diameter. The remains of the structure… (continues unintelligibly underneath Jacq’s line)

JACQ

--everything is glass and gold leaf, and mages channel their spell slots into maintaining the cart’s invisibility.

MYSTERY VOICE

…skylight. Either feature makes sense for a temple devoted to a sky deity.

JACQ

The bazaar actually came about because the rogue wanted to steal some shit, and we all contributed descriptions of marketplace stalls. They got caught. Of course.

Okay! Let’s get to our poll. Last week I asked you what you think the coolest D&D monster is, (amused) and where I’m pretty sure dragons were at the top of the list, I got some really interesting answers, so here are a few…

JazzHerself said “Gotta be scarecrows. They’re pure nightmare fuel with the claws and the glowy eyes. They are the most unsettling low-level monster.

Flurix59 said “Rust monsters. Hit ‘em where it hurts.” Definitely.

Ashorko said “Mimics, especially weird ones. A rowboat would be especially devious, eh?” …you’re pure evil, but… sure.

Moddreth4 said “Genies, especially Marids. They’re capricious, and it’s usually the party’s own fault when things go sour.”

MYSTERY VOICE

I keep getting interference from somewhere, and I’m trying to find out where. But this stupid thing can’t trace where the signal comes fr— (voice fades and modulates strangely)

JACQ

RubyeZuby said “Banshees! There’s a cool story there, but they can KO any character with one action, and that’s badass.”

(static and mic noise) SJWarlock said, “I like things that can never be truly defeated, like gnolls. There are always more, and don’t forget, they’re a metaphor for mindless consumerism!”

Ar-uh. Artag-again. Artagagan said “I’ve always liked the idea of a little gnomish wizard protected by a shield guardian, but I don’t want to let my party get their hands on one.” Good plan.

Myself, I think you can’t go wrong with a revenant. They’re single-minded, methodical, and can paralyze you with a look.

Thank you all so much for your comments and tweets. I had a great time going through them this week. The next poll question is gonna be, uh, what’s your favorite spell. (annoying buzzing begins in background) I know things are pretty 5e-heavy around here, but feel free to send answers from any fantasy RPG. I’ll be tweeting it out when I upload the episode, too, so just keep an eye on my Twitter @papalbulette and reply. That’s the best way to end up on the show, because I’m a lazy fuck. You can also use the #PGMpoll or hit me up however you see fit.

MYSTERY VOICE

(quietly) This is astounding. Absolutely astonishing. If this trace is accurate…

JACQ

Time for another question. This one is from a listener who wanted to remain anonymous, and they write…

Hi Miss Jacq,

I started playing D&D at my local game shop a few months ago, and I love it. I am even trying to start a club at my school. The problem I have is, I am too young to drive, so my dad comes with me to the shop. When our DM noticed that he was always waiting for me, she invited my dad to play too. And the worst thing is, he likes it! (poorly suppressed chuckling) He wants to keep playing, and I don’t think that she will kick him out.

How am I supposed to have a good time with him sitting right next to me?

That’s… hilarious. Thank you for writing in. I’m, actually super torn on this one. A part of me wants to tell you to get over it, cuz this is a great opportunity! The family that plays together, stays together, and all that stuff. And, I’m sure your dad is a huge nerd, but, guess what?—

MYSTERY VOICE

…different? Or are they the same. There’s so many…

JACQ

—You’re a huge nerd, too. You’re spending your weekends telling stories, about wizards and dragons, and rolling weird dice that people can’t figure out. If it’s something you can both get into, the chance to do stuff like that with your family is… amazing.

On… the other hand. I totally get where you’re coming from. When it was just you and your party, you get to be whatever version of yourself you want, and

MYSTERY VOICE

…really rub people the wrong way…

JACQ

--your dad is probably always gonna see whatever version of you that is the most embarrassing. If he’s like most dads I know, he’s gonna mention things, too. And… I know, that I sound like a broken record, but… talk to your dad about it, and try not to get too mad at him when he doesn’t understand.

The final segment this week is Jacq’s soapbox!

There’s a post going around the blogs, again, that screenshots a Kotaku article from August. The headline is “Dungeons and Dragons promises to make its adventures more queer.” And... here’s an excerpt for you… there’s a very minor spoiler here, but I promise you won’t learn anything important.

“If players choose to rescue Nightstone’s villagers, they’ll meet the 52-year-old wheat farmer Thelbin Osstra, his husband Brynn, and Brynn’s adopted nephew Broland.

“That was a nod specifically to our household,” Crawford said of himself, his husband, and his nephew, who lived with them in 2016 when Storm King’s Thunder was in development.”

And I have some thoughts on this.

I am overjoyed that Wizards of the Coast is including queer people in their stories. And, actually, really love this specific anecdote. Crawford has his self-insert family in the middle of a storyline? Wonderful. Everything my heart has ever desired from an NPC, in that character.

MYSTERY VOICE

(echoey) I’m afraid that a lot of the issues are due to racial tension and cultural differences, in addition to what I stated earlier. He is a stubborn man, and refuses to bend to our ways as much as he might.

JACQ

Media representation is a huge and important thing, and D&D in particular is and always has been a huge influence on the gaming scene. What they do, others will follow, and it will have a further reach than just tabletop gamers. It’ll bleed into video games, and literature, and TV, and the public consciousness! So, good on them. Really.

But, that said. Here’s what I actually want for queer representation in D&D: MORE of it. I want major queer characters. Bring me something like Kyra and Marisiel in the Pathfinder universe, but please don’t make me buy extra material to get it. Build it right into your adventures!

I want to save a princess from a dragon, just in time for her wedding to be…

MYSTERY VOICE

(speaking through the pause between Jacq’s takes) …don’t have anyone skilled in this kind of arbitration, so, I would…

JACQ

I want to save a princess from a dragon, just in time for her wedding to a princess in a neighboring kingdom. I want the beloved captain of the guard to be trans, and an LGBT center at the arcane university. I want entire cultures where gender isn’t even a thing, and islands full of immortal lesbians.

MYSTERY VOICE

…at once. Hopefully…

JACQ

What I’m saying is I want enough queer representation that Strahd von Zarovich can be queer without it seeming like his gender or sexuality is tied to his villainy. Is he trans? Is he bi? I don’t care. Make him queer. You can bury your gays, but they will come right back – as vampires!

I’m talking to the DMs out there, too, even though having representation from actual companies is a bigger deal. Alter published adventures for maximum queer representation! When your players randomly latch on to an NPC that you had not plan for, make them queer. Give me ACE REPRESENTATION PLEASE. If nothing else, it’ll drive your bard crazy.

All I’m saying is, if the Adventure Zone can have drag-racing lesbian dryads, you can too.

MYSTERY VOICE

…start to a better relationship with humans in general for us. Though, I imagine that will still take quite some time.

JACQ

That’s about all I have for this week! Thanks for listening, and for your questions and comments. And remember, never split the party.

(Jacq’s theme plays again, is cut off by static, followed by the main theme, “Please Listen Carefully” by Jahzzar.)

Thank you for listening to Interference. For more information, or to get in touch, head to orczone.com. All of the information that you’ll need is there. Huge thanks to Jahzzar for the use of their song “Please Listen Carefully,” available at betterwithmusic.com.