The popularity of broadcast roleplaying has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and the Stream of Annihilation this June may be the ultimate example of its possibilities. Dungeons & Dragons and its parent company Wizards of the Coast have done a masterful job in the last few years of seamlessly integrating their fan base into the production and marketing of their products. In a time where many companies have decided to take a litigious route in dealing with fan made products and ideas, D&D has wholly embraced the concept. Stream of Annihilation was not just a brilliant marketing concept, it was also a validation to the fans of D&D that they matter and are being heard. It was a celebration of the joys of everything that makes role-playing games great.
The festivities began on Friday as actor Joe Manganiello tells the story of how The Hobbit was his gateway into the realm of fantasy and how he transitioned into the famous “Red Box” Advanced Dungeons & Dragons set. I can’t think of a better way to begin than with one of these tales. Roleplayers all share great stories of how they entered the expanded world of Dungeons & Dragons; it is part of the fabric of what makes the community. Seeing Manganiello, a handsome and successful, Hollywood actor, confess his lifelong love of all things nerd lays the foundation of the size and breadth of the fandom.
Next, we are introduced to our hosts for the weekend, Anna Prosser Robinson of Dice, Camera, Action and Kelly Link, as they bring on Chris Perkins and Mike Mearls to announce the upcoming release of The Tomb of Annihilation, a new book and campaign setting in the location of Chult, a savage jungle in the Forgotten Realms. Here is how Dungeons & Dragons explain it:
Dare to defy death in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
The talk of the streets and taverns has all been about the so-called death curse: a wasting disease afflicting everyone who’s ever been raised from the dead. Victims grow thinner and weaker each day, slowly but steadily sliding toward the death they once denied.
When they finally succumb, they can’t be raised—and neither can anyone else, regardless of whether they’ve ever received that miracle in the past. Temples and scholars of divine magic are at a loss to explain a curse that has affected the entire region, and possibly the entire world.
The cause is a necromantic artifact called the Soulmonger, which is located somewhere in Chult, a mysterious peninsula far to the south, ringed with mountains and choked with rainforests.
Adventure design by Christopher Perkins, Will Doyle, and Steve Winter, with additional design by Adam Lee. Story consulting by the award-winning creator of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward.
The inclusion of Pendleton Ward is the real surprise here if you are a fan of Adventure Time. He was the key story consultant on the project. Outside of that, I am really excited about the possibilities of this location. Chris Perkins has defined it as “Indiana Jones meets zombies.” The jungle allows for a great richness and texture to be added to the tales. Fans of the pre-historic era will be thrilled to incorporate not only dinosaurs but undead dinosaurs. The sky is the limit for the imagination here and it is yet another win for the D&D Wizards team. The Book Tomb of Annihilation will be released September 19th, 2017.
The team from Dice, Camera, Action (AKA The Waffle Crew) was chosen as the first group up to play at the weekend event. For those of you not familiar with the Dice, Camera, Action team, they are made up of Anna Prosser-Robinson as Evelyn Marthain, a human Paladin of Lathander; Holly Conrad (Commander Holly) as the Teifling Warlock from Sigil, Strix; Jared Knabenbauer (ProJared) as the Rogue, Diath Woodrow; Nathan Sharp as the human Bard, Paultin Seppa; and the Dungeon Master Chris Perkins. This was the team’s 51st meeting, making them one of the most prolific of the online groups.
They began with the Curse of Strahd Campaign and transitioned to the Storm King’s Thunder storyline. The team was constituted by Dungeons & Dragons of mainly YouTube personalities. I had been a long time fan of both ProJared and Commander Holly and was pleasantly surprised when I heard of their incorporation into the group. D&D did it’s homework finding a group of popular online tastemakers who had a strong affection for the product, and this shows in the play of this team.
They all have a great passion and understanding of the game and have a deep connection with their characters–the interplay between Evelyn and Strix being the highlight. Evelynn with her golden hair and bright white and gold armor is a high contrast to Strix’ dark straggly locks and tattered robes, and that is only their appearance. Evelyn is the quintessential southern-style belle who is enamored with her deity, so syrupy that she has an adverse effect on blood sugar levels, while Strix is the saltiest of the bunch.
Nathan Sharp and his bard are missing in this entry, but guest player Allie Gonino, as Demon-Blooded bard Lilith, steps in to play a tune. The team runs into a former acquaintance, Rudolph VanRichten of Barovia, who brings bad news which leads our heroes down a path where two of them face a slow death (possibly connected to the events of Tomb of Annihilation), and Evelyn must decide whether to give her life to save those of her fellow adventurers. This is a great storyline, and if you have never watched the Waffle Crew before, here is a great place to jump into the adventure. The characters are in full cosplay regalia and the quality of production is far better than the usual streaming show. I would definitely put this game a the top of your list if you choose to watch just one of the streams from the weekend.
This concludes part one of my retrospective and there is so much more to come just from the first night of Stream of Annihilation, so please check in for part two.