By now, everyone’s seen Cowboy Bebop, right? For better and worse, it’s garnered a reputation as something like The Wire of anime, a foundational ur-text that helped lay the framework for the acceptance of its medium as one worthy of critical interest in the United States and elsewhere. While a place in such an illusory “canon” can certainly help a creator’s career, it has a way of overshadowing your subsequent work—just ask David Simon.
So, real talk. When it’s gaming night, it’s about more than having good dice — we want our setup to be awesome. We decorate the table to suit the campaign, we pick drinkware reminiscent of everyone’s characters, and we’ll put together a playlist that fits the evening’s adventure. We may even show up with costumes or accessories if we’re feeling extra fancy.
Sadly, no matter how hard you go, your ambiance will never top what Ivan Van Norman has in store for his players. The Geek & Sundry host has gone to insane lengths to make his campaigns as immersive as possible… and it’s giving us a serious case of Gamer Envy.
How does he do it? It’s a crazy combination of high-end sets and pared-down rules that makes for the truly tense adventure known as Sagas of Sundry.
“In the distance, you see a looming figure emerge from the sandstorm: a minotaur, easily ten feet tall, riding atop a monstrous black rhino. He’s charging right at you.”
It was finally happening. What started as a simple whodunit mystery intended only to span a few sessions quickly grew into a conflict that took almost a year to resolve, and now, at long last, the players were face to face with the Big Bad I had been teasing for months. I brought the lights down, turned up the music, and let loose the gravelly roar I had been practicing for weeks:
“I am Woebringer, master of a thousand beasts! I will tear the armor from your flesh, and hang it as a trophy in my halls… and your weapons, I will give to my slaves!”
The idea of tabletop gaming as public entertainment is nothing new. Japan published “replays” of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns (with one becoming the famous Record of Lodoss War), and just about anyone with a camera can set up a stream of their friends’ gaming group. But what if the people behind the characters were actually actors — and familiar voices, at that?
That’s the concept behind Critical Role, a gaming group’s D&D 5th Edition campaign done live on Geek & Sundry. But as of 2018, the take of Vox Machina has expanded far beyond its earliest days.