It's 2020. I am opening up a Zoom Link.
There’s a big back and forth these days about voice acting in Dungeons and Dragons, about how you don’t have to do it, but it's fun if you do. My Aunt Demoree read The Hobbit to my dad and his cousins when they were kids, and each character had their own distinctive voice and manner of speech, and when I run my games it's what I keep in mind. I’m going into this game as a Kenku Druid, a character race who can only talk via mimicry. So not only have I bound myself into voice acting, but into acting out the voices and sounds of six other players and the Dungeon Master, Christopher Perkins.
My friend Megan calls this a power move.
I’ve heard people constantly talk about how Christopher Perkins is a master Dungeon Master, and while I had no idea what this entailed exactly, I didn’t have the wherewithal to really find a reason to argue against this. In-game, I never had a dull moment. I never had an instance where I was lost, and I never had a beat where I was excluded or drifting. There was a point where I lost myself, my actual self, and was just in the game. And that point was right off the bat. The moment I spoke about bartering for extra coats from gnomes and dwarves so I could assemble one larger amalgam-coat for my Kenku’s friend Grobert, I was immersed.
Combat is always a risky thing for Dungeon Masters and Players. It's a litmus test of sorts, to see if how threatening your world and encounter is and how it matches with the expectations and readiness of your players. Something that I never shared on stream was that I rolled my stats, and that my Kenku had a 6 Constitution. Each encounter would have very swiftly become life or death, and each time I was able to delve more and more into the false bravado of my little bird, and I loved each moment.
The game lasted only four hours and it was just a one shot, but despite the actual threats we faced in it, it didn’t feel alien to me. Playing in this game felt like the most natural thing in the world, and I can’t find the unease I’ve always felt about running or playing in one shots that I’ve always had anymore. As we came off stream and were saying goodbyes, I messaged Perkins and asked if I could get maybe two minutes of his time.
Because of how he is, he gave me the time of day.
He listened and watched as I explained how much The Shackled City means to me, how much his work has directly made me a better storyteller, and how I want my work to make its way onto his radar. It’s made its way onto his deck once before, and I’m certain I can do it again. His response was a happy one, and he shared with me how The Shackled City came to be. How he, y’know, had to make that first adventure and was convinced to write more and more chapters. And he did so with a soft smile, reminiscing about the old times he had working on something so large.
If there’s any confirmation in the world that my work on something as large as Sina Una is going to be a good thing for me, it’s hearing Perkins talk about my favorite adventure in a similar way to how I talk about Sina Una.
We said our goodbyes and farewells, and now I’m sitting here a few weeks later finishing my messy thoughts, tracing the places where The Shackled City became prominent in my life, thinking about what my life and work is like now, and thinking about what I’ll be doing in the future. I can be a nervous person at times, and I have my own host of worries and fears. My friend Lucia told me, right before I went to GenCon ‘19 to hopefully talk about Sina Una to people, that as long as people saw how much I love Dungeons and Dragons? That I would be fine.
And she’s right.
I look at my other screen, and there’s a folder that has the remnants of the one shot that I never released on DMs Guild. It's gathered nearly a year of e-dust. But the feeling of alienation I have over it is gone now, and I think I’m going to go finish it.