My thoughts on the TableTop episode 19 “Dragon Age”

TableTop I love TableTop. It’s currently my favorite show on YouTube and I hope it will return for a second season. I’ve bought several games I’ve seen on the show and I didn’t regret it. Especially Gloom and Ticket To Ride have become two of my favorite games.

Especially the Fiasco episode was a highlight of the show. Fiasco is – in a nutshell – a GM-less storytelling RPG in which you play ordinary people “with powerful ambition and poor impulse control”. As you imagine this is a recipe for disaster. And when things go wrong in Fiasco they go very wrong. It was a pleasure watching Alison Haislip, Bonnie Burton, John Rogers and Wil Wheaton play this game. If you haven’t watched the Fiasco episodes (Setup, Part 1, Part 2) yet, you really should do so.

So it’s no surprise that I was having some high hopes for the Dragon Age episode (Part 1, Part 2). As I’ve stated before, I love Dragon Age. I enjoyed the computer games tremendously and I like Green Ronin’s AGE system a lot. Green Ronin’s Dragon Age RPG has a great old-school feel to it and is a perfect game for people new to the hobby. In a way I was even more excited about the Dragon Age episode than the Fiasco one. Alas the episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For some reason Wil Wheaton and his players (Chris Hardwick, Kevin Sussman, Sam Witwer) decided to channel their inner 13-year olds and turn that episode into something that reminded me of the (in)famous Dead Alewives’ comedy sketch or Dead Gentlemen’s “The Gamers”. Don’t get me wrong I love “The Gamers” and I even find “Big Bang Theory” hilariously funny, but I expected TableTop to at least try to portray classic tabletop gaming in a different light. I confess, some of my own Dungeonslayers sessions during our regular RPG pub meetings are probably close to what we saw in the TableTop episode but it’s not what I would use to teach non-gamers about roleplaying games.

The main problem was that the players didn’t take their characters and the game serious at all. Do you really think a mage called Fonzor inspired by the famous Happy Days character fits a game of Dragon Age? Is it really necessary to make silly jokes all the time? Why can’t anyone stay in character for more than one sentence? Is this “Haha, he’s still a virgin” joke still funny in this day and age? Long story short, what we have watched in this episode is not how I want my hobby to be represented to a wider audience. I guess that’s the established way of showing tabletop RPGs to the public (and it’s what a lot of Con games look like). But that doesn’t mean I have to like it and I definitely expected more from TableTop.

Of course the episode is not all bad. They do a great job showing off some of the more unique aspects of the AGE system and it actually made me pickup the Dragon Age Set 2, because I was reminded that I always wanted to run this game for my friends. It’s also great that they picked Dragon Age and not the more obvious choice: Dungeons & Dragons. As I said before, Dragon Age is a great game and the more attention it gets the better. And even though I am a bit disappointed I am hoping that TableTop will get renewed for another season and that they’ll show more tabletop RPGs. Hopefully these episodes will be more like the Fiasco one then.

What are your thoughts on that matter? Do you agree with me or do you think I am taking all this way too serious? What’s your take on gamer stereotypes? Please share your comments below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

10 thoughts on “My thoughts on the TableTop episode 19 “Dragon Age””

  1. I’ve never liked the stereotypical view of gamers as portrayed in most media, and I’m a bi shocked that this episode is as bad as I’ve heard – not watched it, but thanks for the links, I’ll get right on it – especially when you consider all the good tabletop has done for the hobby. yes, we all have silly fun times in games, but we get together to play the games, not to just be silly.

    1. As an after thought, this is one of the reasons why me and a mate have started a podcast from a realistic geeks perspective. Sure, we chat about gaming at length, but there’s more to most gamers than that, and we would like the world to realise that he Big Bang Theory – funny though it is – is not a fair representation of most people who fit the label ‘Geek’.

      1. I’m interested in hearing your podcast. I, too, don’t care for the way gamers are portrayed and the way the stereotypes are reinforced in media created by gamers *for* gamers. I get a giggle out of things like Knights of the Dinner Table, but I would dearly love some balance and realistic portrayal.

  2. I enjoyed the episodes of Dragon Age. It was a good counter balance to the more serious Fiasco episodes. Additionally, you have half the players in the group (Chris Hardwick & Kevin Sussman) who are comedians. I expected sillyness when I saw those two were comedians.

    The silliness in the Dragon Age episodes is representative of the groups I play in where as the 36 year old I am the youngest. The group where I GM and I’m the oldest also has sillyness but it is less of the 13-year old bathroom humour.
    I would be make a Fonzor-like character. I’m the type of player who would make the bad puns and the strange character.

  3. Yes. You’re taking it too seriously. These are (chris and wil) old friends that have played together in their teens. Two of the players are professional comedians. Some silly is expected. Besides, they are always like that, remember Felicia Day’s appearance?

    As a GM or player, I hate it when others take themselves too seriously, but that’s just my style.

    Bonus comment: The AGE system sucks.

  4. I only watched the first few minutes of this episode, then realized it wasn’t for me. Nevertheless, that’s how some people play, and it’s valid. Since this is a show promoting games to an audience that’s (maybe) unfamiliar with them, I’d like to see a future episode with a slightly more serious play-style, but I’m not upset that that episode went that direction.

  5. Haven’t watched it yet. Still sitting in my to be watched later queue. I enjoy Table Top but have found that there are some episodes that are fun to watch and others that I can just let pass. We’ll see how it goes when I get there. Not having had a chance to play Dragon Age yet, it should be interesting.

  6. I think, most groups play exactly like that. I know, I do and never met a group which played differently. Most newbie groups will almost certainly play like that.

    Did you see the DnD Next live play that several gaming blogs linked to a few months ago? That was far worse. A cleric who had a magical “sun rod”. They made a joke about it every three minutes (“veiny”, “throbbing” sun rod).

  7. It seemed to me like they were just as mirthful as they are for their other games … so it fit Wil’s overall gamer style.

    That said, even setting aside the usual playful/humorous style, it was a little more juvenile for me as well. But not enough for me to be offended :-} Just enough that I didn’t care that much to watch the 2nd episode.

  8. I agree with you, but for different reasons. I have a lot of respect for Chris Pramas, and I haven’t tried AGE yet, so I wanted to see what the game was about from it’s creator. The stunt mechanic looks very interesting, but I didn’t get anything else from the two videos.

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