Robot Overlord: Greetings, organics, it is once again time for the end-of season Critical Hit interview. I am here with the Dungeon Master for the show, Rodrigo Lopez. Say Hello.

Rodrigo: Hello.

Robot Overlord: Now, in previous interviews people have described my interview process as “detached” and “murderous” so in order to keep complaints to a minimum I have enlisted another unit to conduct this interview. Rodrigo, you are familiar with Grill, correct?

Rodrigo: Hey Grill, what’s up?

Grill: My interview specs, ha ha, I am kidding.

Robot Overlord: Good. This is already going excellently. Initiate Interview.

Trelle Feywild TrailblazerGrill: Rodrigo, overall was there an overarching goal for you this season?

Rodrigo: A couple, obviously I wanted to create a good story and generate an entertaining podcast. Thematically speaking, I wanted to explore the concept of “family.”

Grill: Rodrigo, why family?

Rodrigo: You know, you don’t have to address me by name every time, Grill.

Grill: Understood… searching for appropriate substitute… home skillet, why family?

Rodrigo: Ok… After Celestial Crusade I went back to the players and I told them that this was a good time to flesh out their characters a bit more, if they wanted to add some backstory ideas. Brian sent me some of Randus’ family tree, obviously we had talked about Orem’s family way back in the first season, and our new player Adriana provided a lot of material about her character’s family, so it really seemed like a no-brainer.

Grill: Yes, let’s talk about Adriana, dude. How did she come to be part of Critical Hit?

Rodrigo: Adriana is a fellow podcaster and she had done guest appearances on the Major Spoilers Podcast. I was a fan of her art and we would talk back and forth over social media. When Celestial Crusade was gearing up I asked her to join the show, but she turned me down.

Grill: How come, compadre?

Rodrigo: She didn’t feel ready. Apparently though, while we were playing Celestial Crusade she went through a whole training montage to learn to play D&D. By the time that season ended she had a few games under her belt. Then I asked her again and the rest is history. 

Grill: What does Trelle bring to the party, bro?

Rodrigo: Adriana, through Trelle, brings a new level of emotional involvement to the party. One of our fans referred to it (and I’m paraphrasing here) as the shot in the arm the show didn’t even know it needed. And it’s true, it brought out a whole new dimension in roleplay.

Grill: And an actual ongoing romantic relationship, right homie? 

Rodrigo: Correct, Trelle’s involvement with Kammis is a big deal, a romantic relationship is a motivator we had not seen on Critical Hit.

Grill: Were you concerned about the way a non-heterosexual character would affect your listenership?

Rodrigo: Not really, in my experience Spoilerites, and their arboreal subspecies, Critters, are pretty progressive. Besides nothing’s ever going to change if we’re afraid to change it.

Grill: So Trelle’s relationship with her family plays into the theme?

Orem RivendornRodrigo: Yes. But also her people and her responsibility to them. Also a big part of starting a family is dealing with your significant other’s parents.

Grill: Which are also Orem’s parents.

Rodrigo: Yes. And Orem also had a lot of issues to work out, especially with his father. Orem’s arc through Critical Hit, and Lords of the Feywild, specifically is fascinating to listen to. He goes from someone who is very submissive to his parents to someone who is an equal to them. In the end Orem gains that coveted prize of adulthood: His parents’ approval.

Grill: Did Stephen’s characterization of Orem change?

Rodrigo: It did, in subtle ways. I think rather than Stephen changing the way he plays Orem he’s just gotten to know the character and allowed him to change naturally. Most of the early season focused on Orem dealing with a lot of loss, and that’s bound to change someone.

Grill: That is interesting and also fascinating.

Rodrigo: I notice you ran out of friendly names.

Grill: I was only programmed with the basic friendship suite.

Rodrigo: I think it might be better this way.

Randus Alchemical Man of TomorrowGrill: Ha ha, Agreed! Moving on… we also got to meet Randus’ parents. 

Rodrigo: Yes, a big part of what Randus got this season was “How do you deal with the potential of a family member being hurt or killed?” And the answer for Randus is “I turn into marmalade.”

Grill: Were you expecting that?

Rodrigo: Not entirely, but that was a very strong choice for Brian to make. It would have been super easy to get an unemotional, macho response, but the fact that Brian decided to have Randus freak out says volumes about him as a roleplayer.

Grill: We did not met Ket and Torq’s family though.

Rodrigo: Well, just because the theme is “family” doesn’t mean this is the game in which we meet everyone’s mom.

Grill: I see, what was the family theme with Ket?

Ket Soul GamblerRodrigo: In the church of Asmodeus, Ket has a group that he’s trying to keep happy, led by an overbearing patriarch. The scenes in tuberville, I feel, were a lot like what happens when you have terrible family members and they somehow meet your friends. Obviously, dialed to +11.

Grill: Did he react the way you expected?

Rodrigo: He did. The others didn’t though, I really expected the others to say “No, sorry Ket, we have to kill these guys.” but they stuck by him. Which I think highlights another important family theme. When you spend enough time with people they start to become your family, the party really bonded after Snail Rock Island, and this was a good example of them keeping it together.

Grill: But that wasn’t always the case.

Rodrigo: No, there were a couple of big ugly fights early in the second part of the season.

Grill: Why do you think that was?

Rodrigo: Stress. I think I really cranked up the tension and the characters started taking it out on each other.

Grill: Would you have changed that?

Rodrigo: There’s a few things I would have done differently. There are pressure valves that a game master can set up, so I would have tried to reduce the stress level a bit. Intra-party conflict is fine and interesting, but I think those arguments slowed things down. Since the game is pretty immersive it got to the point where both characters and players were annoyed and no one’s arguments were making sense to anyone else.

Grill: Was Torq’s “family” the orcs escaping from Mandravo?

Rodrigo: Yes, for Torq the theme became, “How do you deal with the family you don’t know?” The response turned out to be “Barely at all.”

Padre TorqGrill: Some have said that Torq’s “screentime” this season was reduced, why is that? 

Rodrigo: Torq had plenty of good moments this season, but the plot revolved heavily around Orem and Trelle. As a game master, I always try to build things for the players to do. You’ll recall Torq and Randus being doctors in Mem Fendyen, for example. Honestly a big part of Torq’s reduced involvement came from Matthew. He’s someone who understands the importance of the narrative. So in the feywild he said very little because the story focus was on Orem, but he was still present and reacted to things (like Orem’s parents sending them to the servants’ quarters).

Grill: How does that factor into the big decision at the end?

Rodrigo: As you can see from the way the season ended Torq has done a lot of growing up. He also knows the group pretty well, I think some of the stuff he said there at the end showed that he had his companions pegged.

Grill: Have we seen the last of Torq?

Rodrigo: The future is uncertain.

Grill: Ha ha, classic cryptic home skillet.

Rodrigo: …thanks? 

Grill: Are you happy with the decisions your players made?

Rodrigo: Yes. I have a great group of players and they approach their characters from very different angles. It makes the game a lot richer and more interesting for me. Also the crew is really funny. Playing D&D with these guys is a lot of fun.

Grill: Talk about the structure of the season. There are big differences between the Feywild and the Natural World.

Rodrigo: Yes. First off, some listeners were confused and thought that the season ended when Spud blasted everyone out of the feywild. It didn’t, that was the halfway point… Or at least it was supposed to be…

Every season of Critical Hit has had a big change of direction somewhere in the middle. From the Natural World to the Moon; From Sha-Lai to the Astral Sea; and from The Feywild to the Natural world.

Grill: What do you mean when you say it was supposed to be the halfway point?

Rodrigo: This was a very long season.

Grill: Yes, I know the exact amount of time, but in conversation it is better to say “over two years”, why so long?

Rodrigo: Lots of reasons. Again, the half-and-half structure is going to require a certain amount of treatment, so that’s going to add time. Then, there were things that HAD to happen in order for the plot to continue to move forward, that takes time too. Then on top of that there were the themes I wanted to hit. Now simmer that in the entirely unpredictable mess that is player decisions and you have a recipe for a long season.

Grill: Do you wish it had been shorter?

Rodrigo: Yes. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, there are a few things I would have tweaked, but in the end, even if I could do it over, the season wouldn’t be that much shorter. There was a fair amount of talking, explaining and fighting that had to happen and when you start taking structural stuff out, people start getting confused.

Grill: Could you take out one of the situations in the natural world that did not relate directly to the feywild plot? The coup in Diamond Throne comes to mind.

Rodrigo: Not really, the Diamond Throne thing is a good example of an event that does triple-duty for me as a GM. For one, we revisit a place we’ve seen before, that’s important. We get to see how the party has affected the world around them.

Second, the coup did relate to the feywild quest as a complication. The players felt they were safe and would get some much needed resources, but then they didn’t. That sort of thing adds to the urgency of the plot.

Third the king of Diamond Throne asks for some help after the main quest. Giving the characters yet another reason to split up.

Grill: You wanted the characters to split up at the end?

Rodrigo: Yes. I felt it would be thematically strong for the party to split up.

Grill: How so?

Rodrigo: Because of their family duties. There comes a time when you have to prioritize your own concerns and times when the concerns of others take precedence. Randus had his parents, Trelle the issues with her people and Orem had eladrin culture to rebuild.

Grill: What about Ket and Torq?

Rodrigo: Torq had a loving, rag-tag adoptive family to sacrifice himself for. Long may he be remembered.

Grill: Ket didn’t want to split up, though.

Rodrigo: Nope. I think his final gambit surprised everyone there.

Grill: Did you know that Randus, Torq and Orem were going to try to sacrifice themselves?

Rodrigo: No, that’s actually a great example of something I set up, but had no control over. I let the players ask me questions about it, but most of my answers were the usual nebulous nonsense. And let me tell you this, the impact of that decision will be a big deal moving forward and that is something that was 100% down to the players.

Grill: Is the party going to get back together next season?

Rodrigo: In a way, although things will definitely change.

Grill: I think one thing everyone is dying to know is: will Grill appear in the next season?

Rodrigo: I’ll see what I can do, I get a lot of NPC return requests. Maybe I’ll just make a spinoff that’s a David Seville and the Chipmunks thing except it’ll be Stagzi and the Hedgehogs. You can play their next-door neighbor.

Grill: Ha ha, that sounds great!

Robot Overlord: That is enough merriment. I declare this interview complete. Grill, back to your closet.

Grill: Ha ha, that sounds great!

Rodrigo: If it’s all the same to you I think I’ll stick around and answer questions in the comments. At least for a while.

Robot Overlord: Request accepted, but remember to turn off the lights before you leave.

Rodrigo: That’s surprisingly energy conscious of you.

Robot Overlord: Yes. Also that is what triggers the defense drones.

Rodrigo: Of course it is.

 

 

Art by:

Adriana Ferguson

Alex Diochon

Ash Taylor

Floyd-JPG

Thomas Perkins

The Author

Robot Overlord

Robot Overlord

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24 Comments

  1. Chris
    October 31, 2014 at 11:59 am — Reply

    Is it possible for you to talk a little bit about what each setting in the natural world brought to the story? Maybe just a one sentence summary is fine, and you can probably skip some obvious ones- for instance, the Everdeep Woods were probably intended to show Trelle’s familial relationships. But why did the players end up in the Sage Coast, or the Exilarchy again? Why did they need to travel through the jungles of Mandravo?

    • October 31, 2014 at 12:16 pm — Reply

      Sure, although “what it brings to the story” is more something you get to decide as an audience. I can tell you some of my motivations though.

      The characters end up in the Sage Coast because it’s farthest from Mandravo, not much of a point in a quest if it takes you a walk around the block to get there.
      The Exilarchy are old allies, when the players contacted them they were happy to help. They also got some gear out of the deal.
      The characters end up in Mandravo because it makes sense that the only portal left to the underdark would be someplace the combined might of Diamond Throne, The Sage Coast, The Seven Clans and the elven tribes would have trouble getting to.

  2. October 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    Love the character Magic cards. Especially Torq. So appropriate that while everyone else has their own detailed strategies going on, Torq is just simple and efficient.

    Good job on the season in general and the ending in particular. Had me all misty eyed at my work station. Coworkers all like “Da hell is his problem?”, but I didn’t give a crap. I was sad and satisfied all at once and enjoyed every minute. Anxiously, but patiently, looking forward to next season. Thank you for all your hard work.

  3. J Perez
    October 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm — Reply

    This is great! As the guy who runs every boardgame and RPG seassion by default, I feel like Rodrigo doesn’t get to talk enough about what in his head while running thi, and having an instance to go into the season with more detail is great. I love he way the interview was presented, very engaging. More of this please (really, I think the interview was too short, more please).

  4. humleren
    November 1, 2014 at 7:08 am — Reply

    Could you share a couple of examples of how the players changed the game? The narrative seems so coherent, that sometimes it can be hard to see exactly how the players affect the game. I know you don’t like to do this, but maybe share some of your improvisations as well?

    I think I remember you talking about how Stephen changed what one of the artefacts from the celestrial crusade did? And obviously the players made the decision about who should go with the Hogba at the end of this season.

    I think there was a question in there.

    • November 1, 2014 at 9:55 am — Reply

      A good example was early in the season when the characters were going to go from the Spring Wood to the Fen of Winters, but Torq talked them into going to the Summer Canopy instead. If you think about it, that would have made a lot of the first part of the season play out in reverse order; and therefore totally differently.

      As far as improvisation, I guess I didn’t expect Ket to not go through with the spirit cleanse, so the whole “Ket turns into a giant bird monster” thing was somewhat off-the-cuff.

      • humleren
        November 1, 2014 at 10:56 am — Reply

        Awesome! Thanks.

        I’ve got a couple more, if you don’t mind answering some more questions.

        1. You’ve often told people that one of the ways to get people to roleplay, is to incentivice roleplaying. It might be because english isn’t my first language, that I want a little more from that answer, maybe I’m just dumb. BUT, could you elaborate a bit? How do you incentivice roleplaying? Is it simply not moving on from a scene until people have done some roleplaying, or is it involving the characters backgrounds?

        2. I work as a screenwriter, and I find the storytelling in Critical Hit just awesome. I was wondering if this comes from experience, or you’ve read about storytelling? You’ve mentioned previously that the seasons usually have a huge shift in the middle, which is a classical storytelling tenant, as you might know.

        Thanks for answering questions, and thanks for an awesome podcast.

    • November 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm — Reply

      1. It’s actually based on results. If the party can only get ahead by dice rolls then they’re going to try to roll dice at everything. If the party gets ahead by roleplaying then they will try to roleplay everything. So make sure that you allow your players to be successful purely on the merits of roleplaying.

      2. I haven’t done too much reading on storytelling, but I’m a very analytically person. I think about media a lot and I’ve spent a lot of time distilling what makes good stories good and bad stories bad. People that listen to the Major Spoilers Podcast and Zach on Film have probably heard me go through the process of picking the themes of a piece apart.

      also thank you (and everyone else) for all the praise. I’m bad at thanking people for listening to and liking the show. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, is that I’m only a slightly more sophisticated model than Grill.

      • humleren
        November 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm — Reply

        Thumbs up emoticon!

  5. Frederick, aka Darth Macho
    November 1, 2014 at 8:17 am — Reply

    I was glad to see an explanation as to how Tuberville played out. I was disappointed when the characters decided not to help the innocents of this oppressed town. I was particularly surprised by Trelle and Torq, but the explanation that they were consciously choosing to back their friend Ket in a sensitive situation, makes me feel better about it. I hope Tuberville gets resolved if the story continues.

    Other things I hope get answered if the story continues is finding out what happened to the drow, what the political situation is in the Astral Sea these days, and, of course, will Ket survive the wrath of Asmodeus. Looking forward to whatever comes next.

  6. Alexander Gordon Jahans
    November 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm — Reply

    Thanks for creating such an awesome story. I have one stupid request and one question. My request is that if Torq does return, could he now be a paladin. I feel like Corellon bringing him back from the afterlife to fulfill his destiny would be an awesome way to go and the tension as an aged lawful good paladin enters the party would be fantastic. Suddenly Ket really has to find another backer or Torq will cleave his head off.

    My question is will the animals return? I especially want Rob’s Bunny fighter to be adopted by Trelle.

    • November 2, 2014 at 5:12 pm — Reply

      Unfortunately we don’t take requests. If we started doing that, pretty soon we’d have a party that was nothing but clones of Smith. As far as Bravest Rabbit coming back I would never say never.

  7. November 3, 2014 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    Great interview again. I guess Robot overlord delegating to Grill was a good idea altough you seem getting use to be “forced” into giving those interview. It could also be a reason why the season was so long. You did not want to serve as a robot punching bag again! Great season again and I can’t wait for the continuation of the adventures of the Torqletones minus Torq!

  8. November 4, 2014 at 11:36 am — Reply

    What a great season! You guys are awesome. I just want to say that your story telling is amazing and how everyone roleplays is a great example of what to do. I told my group that I use to DM for that if they wanted to understand how to roleplay that they should listen to your podcast. So thanks for be a good example.

    I felt you ended the season beautifully. I also think that creating new characters might be a fun idea. Although everyone (including myself) love the current characters. Do you think you’ll have everyone role up new characters, or just ad a couple of new ones?

    I look forward to the fun things on the break and the new season when it comes. You deserve a break, have fun.

    Cheers

    • November 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm — Reply

      The potential lineup for next season is still in flux.

  9. Dennis
    November 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm — Reply

    Great interview and rundown of the season. I hope you have enough time and energy to recharge and that you never stop trying for the TPK.

  10. Rob
    November 12, 2014 at 8:23 am — Reply

    Just curious if the death of Spud was supposed to be that abrupt during the final battle. I felt like Stephen just walked up and killed him without the audience really knowing what was happening. Did you plan on it being that simple and quick? Was there an HP threshold they had to get him down to or were you planning on doing that whenever the party started to take too much damage?

    Thanks and congrats on the wonderful season!

    • November 14, 2014 at 7:42 am — Reply

      Thanks, glad you liked it!

      Storywise, we saw Kammis, Brall and the Animal Allies succeed in their mission to reverse the crystal so they could drain Spud’s power. So that’s what happened there at the end, at that moment the B team successfully activated the crystal.
      Mechanically, during the fight with Spud, I actually had a handful of conditions that had to be met before that would happen, which included a minimum/maximum number of turns, monster HP and a couple of other things. I think that in the end it was fairly dramatic, which was my number one priority.

      • Rob
        November 15, 2014 at 9:03 am — Reply

        Ooh ok that makes sense. For some reason, I totally forgot about the second group and that they would have an effect on the actual Spud battle. Now it all came together for me. Thanks!

  11. Drust
    November 16, 2014 at 6:49 am — Reply

    I only clued in on the “family” theme in the last episode; when they were debating who would sacrifice himself, and pointing out the various connections that each had. I realized that we didn’t know much about Torq; he had an Aunt Tilly, and has some nebulous tribe out there somewhere, but I couldn’t recall if he ever mentioned other family. In my head-canon, he drops a bombshell by leaving Orem a poorly-written-in-crayon note to the effect of “Tell my wife I love her” or “Look after my son/daughter.”

    Great season, looking forward to whatever comes next! (Listener since single digit episode numbers!)

  12. Aron
    November 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    I don’t know if you’re still keeping up with questions in the comment section, Rodrigo, but I’ve been wanting to ask you this since the party first faced the Remembrance Guard.

    Do you ever intentionally include “get out of combat free” devices into your encounters? For example, in the battle with the R.G., the wells full of fruit stuck out to me. Had I been a player in that encounter I would have started exploring other options when it became obvious the party was outmatched. Jumping into the wells, offering fruit to the statues, eating the fruit or even throwing it at the statues.

    Would you ever put the players into an impossible combat with a few built in escape hatches?

    Thanks for replying here our in a future mailbag episode.

    • November 30, 2014 at 7:55 am — Reply

      So there was a site outage and my answer got erased.

      So in a way shorter version: No, I usually don’t put on-off switches for entire combats, but I will sometimes put in some feature that can be turned on or off by the players. This past season I had an encounter prepared that would have featured this prominently, but then the party BYPASSED IT ENTIRELY! Oh well, maybe next season.

      • Aron
        December 11, 2014 at 7:49 pm — Reply

        I’m sorry I missed the long version, but thank you for your reply.

        Looking forward to binge-listening to the podcasts since the end of LotF.

  13. ArckAngel_X
    February 18, 2015 at 4:01 am — Reply

    I can’t describe how much I’ve enjoyed listening to the podcast, and love not only Steven, Matthew, Brian, Rob, and Adriana’s roleplaying and real-world personalities, but I’m consistently blown away with your storytelling and depth, Rodrigo.
    My favorite moment in the Celestial Crusade was the moral quandary you put the players in with Asmodeus and his “deal” for his forces joining the battle, so seeing more repercussions involving him (Tuberville, Ket…oh Ket) this season was very engaging to me. I also think revisiting some old familiar places and seeing how they had changed since the last time our heroes had been there was great. I think my favorite episode of this season, however, was the infamous Well to the UnderDark. It was hilarious, it was fun, and epitomized each of the characters viewpoints so much, imo. Adriana/Trelle’s addition to the crew/team I think really brought out everyone’s roleplaying A-game, and such a different and unique perspective from the original four has really enhanced the story.
    I also loved the way the battle with Spud ended, and Orem’s near-death experience then waking up alone with him. I felt it was a very tragic and sad moment, and loved how Rodrigo described him as “just a gnome”. I was surprised Orem so readily killed him, and felt a bit disappointed we didn’t get more of Orem’s thoughts and emotions afterwards (other than it was hard), and the rest of the party’s reactions to the news of what Orem did. That felt like a very huge moment repercussion-wise, but there didn’t seem to be much reaction to it.
    Lastly, while the title of the episode was pretty blatant, I thought of it as more tongue-in-cheek; so when you (Rodrigo) stated Torq walks off with the Hogba…”and he was never heard from again”, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. It seemed so final and absolute, and that was really hard to take. I was prepared for epilogue-like end scenes-with the possibility of further adventures or cameos-but that seemed like there was no give or take there.
    I look forward to the next season, whatever changes may throw me for a loop! Thank you for all your hard work.

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