With the holidays coming up, we'll get many reminders that games are consumer products. Gift guides will tell us which games hold the most value and how to spend the least money on them. Consumers are already going back and forth over which recent games actually earned their accolades and which are blatant cash grabs. Among all of this, it's hard to think of how games can be a force for good. But they can be, especially ones that harness the power of storytelling. A group of Dungeons & Dragons' most well-known players proved that last Friday.
Several faces from D&D livestreams like Acquisitions Incorporated and Relics & Rarities came together for an all-star live show on in Los Angeles on November 15. Called Lost Odyssey: The Book of Knowledge, its aim was to raise money for the Autism Society of America. The performers played their characters from their home streams (with some mysterious visitors) who were all brought together by a mysterious librarian called the Taleweaver. The Taleweaver was played by Dungeon Master Deborah Ann Woll, of Daredevil and Relics & Rarities fame.
Any DM will attest to the challenges running a one-shot game when the party is made up of strangers. The lack of a group dynamic can bog down roleplaying, and combat will be slow until everyone gets a feel for each other's abilities. Fortunately for the audience, Woll took instant command. After coming onstage, she gave a brief thanks to the audience (a quarter of ticket sales were donated to the Autism Society of America). Then it was right into setting the scene.
As it was a theatrical production, Woll had some help. Not that she needed it. She gave a very sensory description of a misty morning with a slight chill, the perfect time to step into the warm, inviting glow of a quaint library. Once the audience joined her on the journey into the library, the curtain was pulled to reveal a library on stage, complete with a large wooden table for the players. Sound was provided by Syrinscape, a platform that provides music and SFX for tabletop campaigns. All of it came together to create an entertaining illusion despite the fact that the core of the experience was watching people talk around a table.
Another aspect that helped greatly was that the people sitting around the table were all excellent performers. TJ Storm was my personal favorite. His character was a samurai of few words. You might think that'd make for a bland D&D performance, but he imbued it with a martial pride that never once faltered. Alongside this serious demeanor was a collection of increasingly ridiculous items he would pull out at just the right moment.
While TJ Storm got the most laughs out of me, the others all kept the show going with their own quirks. A hasty plan ended with a life-and-death battle against a walrus. The druid buffed the monk by slapping mud on her face. And the mystery guest star facilitated a great plot twist.
Overall it was a fun show that helped a great cause. On a larger level, it also served as a reminder of the power of stories. It seems bizarre to ask an audience to pay to watch people play Dungeons & Dragons. But the crowd at Lost Odyssey: The Book of Knowledge was eager to do just that. That's because, for that four hour show, we were able to escape into a new world. We could laugh with complete strangers and watch a book of fantastical tales open right in front of us. Likewise, many of the people the Autism Society of America helps report that D&D allows them to try out a new life. One that doesn't punish them for being themselves.
If Dungeons & Dragons livestreams are your thing, then Lost Odyssey: The Book of Knowledge is a must-see. Fortunately, plans are in place for an on-demand video version. Just keeps tabs on the Lost Odyssey Twitter account for more information.