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With our recent reveal of Portobello’s Campaign, featuring the Dungeon Master extraordinaire himself, Chris Perkins, we contacted Chris and asked him about the experience working with us and on Dungeons & Dragons.
What was it like seeing your character in-game and seeing your live event turned into a digital story?
Unnerving. I might need therapy. I suppose it’s like seeing yourself as an action figure. It’s not something I planned for when I first started performing D&D live on stage, and I’m not sure the Acquisitions Incorporated fans are braced for it. I think it’ll make their heads explode. I love how well Cryptic Studios captured the look of the Burrow Dawn Inn, and I’m delighted that Mister Snibbly and the insulting gargoyles made it into the game.
What was it like doing voice acting in a video game for the first time?
I think I’ve found my next career path. Seriously, doing voice work for the Neverwinter MMO was the most fun I’ve had since my tenth birthday. Talking in strange voices is something I’ve been doing as a Dungeon Master for decades, and I enjoyed every minute in front of the microphone. Also, my momma always said I had a face for radio.
How was it working with Cryptic Studios?
Very pleasant. It’s a gift and an honor to work with creative people who take pride in their work.
For players who may not know, what should they know about Acquisitions Inc.?
Acquisitions Incorporated is the name of a for-profit adventuring company currently based in the Forgotten Realms. Its foremost members are Jim Darkmagic (a human wizard and total jerk), Omin Dran (a half-elf cleric of Tymora and company CEO), and Binwin Bronzebottom (a “double-axe-to-the-back!” dwarf fighter). They’re always bringing in new interns to help fill out the ranks, though Acq Inc. interns don’t get much respect. Their latest intern is a cheery fellow named Viari (a red-haired human bard).
The adventures of Acquisitions Incorporated began as a series of podcasts to promote 4th edition, and have evolved into a series of podcasts and live games tied to 5th edition. The live games are performed on stage every year at PAX Prime in Seattle and PAX East in Boston, and they’re proof that watching funny people play D&D is fun.
What is one of your favorite moments being a DM as part of Acquisitions Inc.?
I like peeling back the onion and revealing new layers of character and story. Every game session is a chance to learn something new about the heroes, or reveal something new that ties back to something that happened earlier in the campaign. For example, in one early episode, Omin Dran gave a touching revelation about his “lost” sister. Years later, I was able to bring his sister into the story in an unexpected way.
What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone off?
One of my 4th edition campaigns ended when the entire adventuring party killed itself by deliberating detonating a magical bomb. The characters had to choose between blowing up the archvillain or letting him escape. The bomb was the only sure way to dispose of him once and for all, so they basically sacrificed themselves to save the world. Dissolving Wil Wheaton’s character in a pool of acid also ranks up there.
We know you’ve contributed a lot to D&D over the years. What is something you’re exceptionally proud of?
I’m proud of Curse of Strahd. Not only was it a labor of love but also I got to create something with Tracy and Laura Hickman, who are legends in the RPG industry. I’m also very proud of the 5th edition Monster Manual, for which I was the lead designer. That book is so full of Easter eggs and funny little bits (funny to me, at least) that it makes me laugh every time I read it.
What words of encouragement would you give to aspiring campaign creators utilizing the Dungeon Masters Guild?
I would urge creators to be creative, and to create something fresh and new. I’d also encourage creators to look at the stories we’re trying to tell and give DMs more stuff tied to those stories. For example, we just released Curse of Strahd, a gothic horror story. I know that many DMs are already looking for additional content inspired by the story, and the DM Guild is a great place to find and sell that content.
What's your favorite part about working on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise?
I like working with other creative people to make something that D&D fans will enjoy, hopefully for years to come. I’ve had the privilege of working with so many wonderful writers, editors, art directors, and artists. My other favorite thing is meeting people who are taking D&D beyond its roots into other platforms, such as movies and digital games. I like taking D&D out of the basement into mainstream culture.
What types of games do you like playing?
I’m a tabletop roleplaying gamer through and through, but I very much enjoy gratuitously violent first-person shooters and MMORPGs as well. I like exploring the worlds within these games more than the competitive or powergaming aspects.
We also asked the community for any questions they may have for Chris, which he was more than willing to answer.
If you could start over, what is one thing that you would change or do differently in D&D?
If I could go back and make one change to the 1st edition Monster Manual, I would take the monster currently known as a medusa and rename it "gorgon." When I hear the word "gorgon," I don't think of a big, metal-plated bull.
Now that fifth edition has been out for about a year, what is something in the game that you’d like to change?
If you're talking presentation, I would change the footers at the bottom of all Player's Handbook pages to include chapter numbers, to make the book easier to reference. If you're talking game rules, I would merge Intimidation and Persuasion into a single skill. One of the more radical things I might be tempted to do is take all spells that currently require attack rolls, and make them allow saving throws instead. I'm not sure players would like it, but I'd be happy to playtest it. It would make the game even easier for new players to learn.
What should a player who has never played tabletop D&D do to get started?
I recommend watching a few live D&D games, such as the Acquisitions Incorporated games or the Critical Role series, to get a sense of what's possible. Then I'd pick up the D&D Starter Game box, which contains a really good starting adventure called Lost Mine of Phandelver. This assumes that you have friends to play with. If you can't find friends at school or in your neighborhood, I recommend contacting your local game store to see if they run in-store D&D play. The best game and hobby stores host weekly D&D games.
What is your favorite memory of a D&D game?
It's hard to pull one memory out of the thousands that come from over thirty years of playing D&D. One of my favorite recent memories is DMing on stage and hearing thousands of audience members scream "GREEN FLAME!" at me. It warmed my cold, black heart.
Have you played Neverwinter? If so, what race and class?
Yes. My default character is a human hunter ranger. He's not what I would call "optimized," but I imagine that he has a colorful life story and a decent sense of humor.