So, I’ve been watching Zak Sabbath’s web-show I Hit It With My Axe for a little while now. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a video of his D&D group, the majority of which are porn actresses. It’s quite good, and I look forward to seeing future episodes, but for all its good qualities it’s just not what I consider to be the ideal show about D&D. I mean, if I’m going to watch a program of other people playing, rather than actually playing myself, I’d want it to be more than just camcorder footage cut into a show.
To me, the best way to watch a program about people playing D&D would be to make it like the Superbowl.
Imagine the setup being like this: first, the dungeon setting is lavishly decorated. Not just a fancy map, there should be 3D terrain in use for the walls, doors, etc. All of the PCs, NPCs, and monsters should have beautifully-painted minis. I’m torn on the idea of there being music in the background – if done well it can add to the feel of things (remember, this is set up for the benefit of the people watching at home), but it could easily become a distraction. The camera should film things either from a top-down or three-quarters isometric perspective, so that we’ve got a clear image of where everyone is on the board at all times, including during movement. And of course, it should capture all die rolls (the DM’s possibly notwithstanding).
The basic goal with the arrangements described so far is that as much of the environment should be on display as possible; since TV/internet videos are a visual-based medium, the audience needs to be able to intuitively understand how things are going when they see the screen. But we’ve only just started to describe how this should work…
On the screen, probably along the bottom, there should be small boxes indicating each PC’s current hit points (and possibly their total, e.g. 11/32) so that the viewers can know how much health they have left. Some other information may be on display too, but it’d be tricky to determine what, since it’d have to be very relevant and easy to understand at-a-glance, so as to avoid screen-clutter.
There should be broadcasters giving us a play-by-play commentary of how things are going. That alone would seriously elevate things in terms of entertainment.
“Now, Diari’s casting her fireball at the bugbears, rolling 26 on the damage dice. This is one of her two third-level spells, so she must think these guys present a real threat to be breaking it out this early. ”
“I agree, Jim. And it looks like she may have been right to think that. Three of them just made their saving throw, but the other two are still standing even after taking full damage. Clearly, these are advanced monsters.”
“No doubt about it, Mark, and because of that she’s almost certainly going to want to fall back with her remaining action so that the fighters can-, yep, there she goes.”
In fact, after a combat encounter, these guys should be able to do an instant replay of what moves were made, complete with little camera tricks like drawing lines with arrows on the screen to follow character movement, maybe showing the replay for dramatic dice rolls in slow motion, etc.
Start throwing in special presentations before the game of how the characters have advanced over the season (that is, the campaign), maybe an interview with the players after the game ends, and of course a kick-ass half-time show, and that’s a D&D game that’d be just as much fun to watch, if not more, than to play.