I love D&D, very much. I love tabletop RPGs in general—and I’m desperate to get some games going, but that’s another topic—but Dungeons & Dragons is the first one I played and so it has a special place in that shriveled lump I call a heart.
Most people like to play games or be the storyteller but very few people enjoy listening or watching others play. I’m in that group, as I see the games of others as books written in front of me. And it’s not just the games of friends but even complete strangers. Much like TV, films or games, I’ll watch any game where I find the setting and characters interesting and as a general rule, RPG Storytellers (call them DM, GM or whatever you like) come up with some of the craziest stuff out there and it’s always entertaining.
One of my favourite games to watch and listen to is the Penny Arcade D&D campaign, Acquisitions Incorporated. It started as a series of podcasts on the D&D site, followed by live games at PAX over the past five years and now they even have a regular show on the Penny Arcade YouTube channel.
Acquisitions Incorporated tells the story of the eponymous corporation, founded by a Cleric of Avandra, Omin Dran. Avandra is the Goddess of change, luck, trade and travel, which fits perfectly for the business-oriented Omin. Over the course of the seasons, they’ve grown from simple adventurers to renowned heroes and they’ve even become lords of different cities, most notably Waterdeep.
Acquisitions Incorporated consists of:
Omin Dran – Jerry Holkins – as I mentioned, is the CEO of Acquisitions Incorporated and while generally a good character, he’s not above being a complete opportunistic bastard if it means helping the business succeed. He’s never evil when doing so, just not a nice guy, and will often disregard the safety of others for a buck. It makes for hilarious situations. As they’ve played on different settings and editions, he’s shifted from the worship of Avandra to Tymora, the Forgotten Realms goddess of Good Fortune.
Jerry, as the player was infamous during the first few seasons for constantly rolling low on the dice, specifically getting critical failures.
Jim Darkmagic – Mike Krahulik – is the group’s Wizard and member of the prestigious New Hampshire Darkmagics. He’s the quintessential egotistic Wizard, with the highest opinion of himself and most concerned with his own well-being, though he’s been shown to be willing to put himself in danger for his companions…though most of the time it’s just to showcase his magical prowess. He also has a tendency for fire-balling enemies even if the rest of the party is in the line of fire.
Jim is Mike Krahulik’s first D&D character. During season 1, he mentioned, right before rolling for an action, that this was the first time he’d ever rolled dice. He’s also the player with the most deaths in the party, and Mike acted as GM for one of the live shows, where Jim’s death was the subject of a murder mystery adventure.
Binwin Bronzebottom – Scott Kurtz – is the Dwarven Barbarian Warrior and his loves are fighting, fighting, fighting and boozing up. He’s also the first one to learn that splitting the party up is not a good idea. He’s the main tank of the group, charging into battle shouting his catch phrase “Catch Phrase!” and just dealing with everything in front of him….which are often just environmental hazards. He’s the first through the door and the first to fall into a trap.
Scott Kurtz is the resident deadpan snarker, actively mocking the situation with incredulous looks. He’s also the funniest player in the group for me.
But Acquisitions Incorporated is nothing without its interns. There have been three in total but two of them stand out for me:
Aeofel Elhromane – Wil Wheaton – Don’t call him Al. He’s the Eladrin Avenger, and first of the interns. Because of Binwin, he dies in an acid pit and even after reviving, he suffers from PTSD when it comes to caustic pools. His friendship with Binwin is also fantastic. Though for me, the best is the comment “Elves are the Eladrin’s hillbilly cousins!”
Wil is hilarious with Aofel and plays him straight, often out-roleplaying the rest with how much he gets into character…and chewing out the scenery any time he gets a chance.
Viari – Patrick Rothfuss – The latest intern and regular in the games, Viari is a human rogue with a penchant for acrobatics and, as he states it, “taking other people’s belongings…professionally.” He’s part rogue and part bard, and even suffered through a bout of addiction to drinking songs when the success of their adventures got to his head.
Patrick Rothfuss, if you don’t know, is a fantasy novelist, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles. He’s the calmest of the players, often taking time to study the situation carefully, before asking if there are any chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, so that he can climb on them, drop them on his foes and use sneak attack in the process. He’s also the designated rules-lawyer and often gets away with it.
Acquisitions Inc., is a blast to watch and it’s one of those games that makes me wish I could play with them, not just because of the group, which is essentially three or four comedians playing D&D—something I would love to have in my group, being a generally not-so-funny person—but also because of the GM, Chris Perkins, who’s indubitably one of the best Dungeon Masters I have ever seen. If you check his games out, he’s phenomenal with not only Acquisitions Incorporated but also every group playing with him.
He also has a knack for dressing up for the live events, from the 80s cartoon Dungeon Master to the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. For fans of the campaigns, he has but to mention “fire” for the crowd to shout “Green Flame!”
Why do I love this series so much? It’s hilarious, the stories are great and the dynamics between the party and the GM are superb. Also, knowing his crew, Chris goes bigger each season, with more outrageous situations, as he’s learned what makes the group tick. During the first season he was there to help them find their way as RPG players, but now he lets them have their fun and knows what to do to get them laughing.
I really recommend watching and listening. You won’t regret it!