I got a twelve-sided die…
To truly appreciate why I listen to podcasts on the regular, first allow me to enlighten you on my daily commute. I live in a city with dismal public transit options, where nearly 90% rely on personal automobiles for transportation. It is also, land-wise, the largest city by area in the United States (not counting Alaska). Meaning it can easily take an hour or more to make it from one side to another, and that’s not counting traffic or the seemingly endless roadway construction.
I’m up at 6:00 and out the door to take my son to school, about 8 miles away. Then off to my desk job, another 15 miles north, which averages about 45 minutes depending on morning rush hour. After work, time for school, 11 miles east and always jam-packed during afternoon commute time. The ride back home is the longest at over 20 miles, but fortunately only about 30 minutes long. In average, I can spend anywhere from two to three hours per day driving, across some of the most boring, flat land this side of the Florida-Georgia border. If my radio didn’t work, I’d probably drive into one of the many highway-adjacent retention ponds.
Enter Nerd Poker with Brian Posehn and Friends, a podcast I found on pure chance, featuring a group of comedian friends playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s similar to Whose Line Is It Anyway, because almost everything is made up and the points don’t matter; DM and players switch between second and fourth edition at random, creating their own rules for an epic botch or vorpal wins. I admit I don’t have time or friends enough to devote to playing a full-length campaign, much as I want to, so this is as close as I get – living out the saga of the abandoned posse vicariously via hour-long podcasts and trying not to cry laughing lest I end up in a retention pond for different reasons.
Brian Posehn is a self-described geek who loves “comic books, metal, and anything nerdy… except furries, they’re gross.” He rolls as Amarth Amon, a reversal of the death metal band name and a Goliath Viking barbarian with a penchant for bashing in the skulls of anything that crosses his path. Seriously, picture Posehn in Viking garb, and that’s pretty much it; just a lumbering tank of a warrior who’s hobbies include hugging women and bunnies just a little too tightly. When not driving his broadsword through his own leg or snapping the necks of helpless hostages, he is often heard crunching on tacos and dozing off in the background.
Actor Ken Daly (The Usual Suspects) plays Bartho Shett Boral (aka Bart), a royal Dragonborn fighter and “kind of a douche.” A classically spoiled rich kid who probably could save your life by maybe breathing fire, but only if he feels like it. Or if his scaly green ass isn’t doing anything else, like running away from a battle he could probably win if he wasn’t such a giant wuss.
Blaine Capatch, stand-up comedian and former host of Beat the Geeks, is possibly the most animated player, providing 20 charisma as half-elf warlock Blackee Green, and comic relief in the form of sponsor commercials such as “Legs: Brought to you by the makers of Arms!” In addition to making obscure cultural references, Blackee Green would like to remind you he has a 20 charisma as often as possible. If that doesn’t impress you, he’ll fire an Eldritch blast through your mortal defenses, boosted by his charisma, which if memory serves, is quite high.
The crew of Nerd Poker by Andre Joshua Smith
Gerry Duggan, in addition to being co-writer of Marvel’s Deadpool comic team, serves as Posehn’s characters’ arch nemesis, first in the form of naked High-Elf El Ryan (complete with Spirit Bear) and then, following an unfortunate run-in with the sea-people, as Sir Richard of Glinishmore, a genteel warrior with an even more soothing voice. Despite co-creating amazing comic art with Posehn, their characters “inevitably want to punch each other,” according to the game/show’s DM, “and then Brian and Gerry want to punch each other.”
Mildred Maxxton, played by writer Sarah Guzzardo, is a dwarf fighter who says helpful things like “don’t be afraid” to hostages they’ve just captured, stripped and chained up, after beheading their comrades. She serves as the slightly skewed moral compass of the motley crew, sympathetic to alien creatures and hesitant to bring pain to her attackers. Also quite handy with rope maneuvers and adept at guessing if her next roll is a botch, Mildred may be missing a piece of her soul thanks to facehuggers creatures in no way related to the Ridley Scott Alien franchise.
Dungeon master Mr. Sark, aka Scott Robison, manages to keep things on track, which is not an easy task for this group which is frequently side-tracked by fart jokes and innuendos. Let’s just say Posehn giggles like a school girl whenever Blackee Green casts “Dire Radiance”. He creates encounters in lands aptly named “not-Waterworld”, which include mystical creatures such as a homoerotic 12-pack Adonis, smelly bio-zeppelins and raspy-voiced water golems. Patton Oswalt makes a few guest appearances, regaling the crew with song and frivolity of an NC-17 nature, and the crew has long been attempting to reel in D&D aficionado Vin Diesel as a guest star, to limited avail.
And then there’s the fan art. Oh GOD the fan art.
The forums are littered with tributes and artwork in devotion to favorite (and sometimes most reviled) characters. I love this show for its brilliant comedy and occasional irreverent sidebars. These aren’t simply random celebrities thrown together for a Spice Girls game of D&D – these are friends and cohorts who go back decades, who have a stockpile of stories from campaigns past to share, and many adventures yet to come. It feels like playing with a group of your own friends – completely comfortable and familiar, with just the right amount of gameplay in between campfire stories and bad Bruce Willis impressions.
The best part is that it’s absolutely free entertainment – just download it from Earwolf. With 43 episodes under their belt already, it can seem a daunting backlog to shift through. I recommend embarking on that home repair project you’ve been putting off, or going on that run you promised yourself you would 15 pounds ago – crank some Earwolf and let the dice, and good times, roll.