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.