A pause on video games because of a sudden side project. Editing D&D combat. A cool program called Sound Show. Mid-tier Actual Play Show Reviews.

Pause for Badgerfriends - March 2024 Part 2

3,134 words.

Pause for Badgerfriends - March 2024 Part 2

Holy crap! It’s the 31st already and I need to post this! I’m fully unprepared.


There was some kerfuffle with some game developer, which had everybody shouting “Gamergate 2!” It’s so, so obviously an SEO ploy that I haven’t bothered to read about it. It seems to have quickly died out again despite all the flame-fanning attempts.

My video gaming has almost entirely stopped because of a sudden interest in the D&D Adventure book Phandelver and Below. Let’s face it, playing video games is pretty boring when compared to the vastness of the games from your own imagination.

I’m fearful I might turn into one of those bloggers who talks about D&D a lot, a category of blogger that I’ve found pretty annoying in the past. (We get it already, you have more friends and you’re having more fun than the rest of us, stop bragging yeesh.) If I get to where I only write blog posts about campaign sessions, then I know I will have fully jumped the shark and can safely retire. (There has never been a blog post written about a D&D session that has ever been entertaining to an audience who wasn’t sitting at the table. It’s one of the laws of blogging. Still, maybe I could be the first? Hrm…)

Lords of the Fallen

I was trying to push through to the end of Lords of the Fallen before Dragon’s Dogma 2 came out, but then one weekend the game completely fell off a cliff and disappeared from my radar because of another project I started working on. I haven’t really played it since. I think I’m close to the end, in Bramis Castle.

But it’s a bit of a slog to get through the areas in the latter half of the game, to be honest. You can either choose to stop and fight your way through the zones, which turns into an epic trench warfare story of attrition that isn’t that fun to play or watch on video, or you can just run past everything to the next boss, which is also a bit boring. Either way it feels like a waste of my time, but I have that looming spectre of an unfinished YouTube series hanging over my head.

Dragon’s Dogma 2

I had planned to get Dragon’s Dogma 2 as soon as it launched (no pre-order! I defeated capitalism!), but when I went to the Steam page I saw the “Mixed” review and everyone was complaining about microtransactions and performance, so I went back to my D&D stuff instead. I’ll give them a few weeks to sort all that out. Naithin seems to like it, though. And Tipa.

The first one was pretty cool, if incredibly niche, and filled with what I can only describe as hilariously shocking anachronisms from the Pawns ("‘Tis an ogre, master, the sight of women excites it!"). I hope the new one still has all that jarring weirdness, but with an inventory system that’s improved enough that you don’t have to quit the game as soon as your inventory is full. (In the first one, I don’t think there’s any kind of storage locker so you have to shlep all the way back to town to sell stuff and/or drop stuff on the ground and/or spend an hour shifting stuff to your pawns. Very old school.)

Media Production

My upload scripts are currently uploading two videos a day; Lies of P daily, and a rotating schedule of Lords of the Fallen and some older Resident Evil videos I never uploaded.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Davinci Resolve the past couple weeks playing with my D&D experiments. Learned some new tricks, like blurring parts of the background, shifting video around, transforms, crops, layering audio tracks, stuff like that.

Now if only there was an easy way to make customized shortcuts for common tasks without trying to figure out AutoHotKey again. (The fact that Paste Attributes brings up a window that you have to click Okay on every single time is a lot of evidence that those folks should be sent to software developer jail.) (And, if there is a way around that, the fact that it’s not obvious how to get around that is additional evidence of same.)

I’ve been saying this for seemingly 20 years straight now, but I really wish there was a decent, lightweight timeline video editor out there. Davinci Resolve is great, but man it’s rough around the edges on Windows, and it’s so aggressively unintuitive and jam-packed with “pro” features I’ll never use. I need such a small set of tools for video editing that it’s really annoying to have to engage with all these deeply complex Hollywood workflows just to find a way to black out part of the screen.

REAPER is very, very close to having the basic video editing that I want, but it falls just a bit short. (Mainly in the area of tools like cropping and scaling and text overlays. It can do those things, but the UI is pretty awful.) I keep hoping a future version will put just a bit more effort into the video handling. (It only has enough video support to do basic music videos.)

Editing D&D Combat

The biggest video editing puzzle that I found myself confronting was how to edit a video containing D&D combat.

Combat in tabletop games is a major dilema. On the one hand, it’s a big part of the tabletop experience, and the ups and downs of the rolls from turn to turn contribute greatly to the tension of a session. (See: Baldur’s Gate 3 on Tactician difficulty.) On the other hand, it’s usually pretty boring to watch or listen to, because it goes on forever and there’s a million bits of information to keep track of. Some turns are duds and nothing interesting happens, but unfortunately you can’t just cut them out completely, so you have to have some representation of them. Other turns are amazing reversals of fortune and you want to highlight the spectacle of them. And sometimes you have to cut out the times when you have to stop to spend five minutes pouring over the rules (or Reddit ugh) to adjudicate whether an Eldritch Blast critical hit on a Hexed target is 2d10 + 1d6 or 2d10 + 2d6, and all the momentum dies.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I ended up trying to strike a reasonable balance between cutting out the boring parts and showing every detail. My guideline is usually “what do I want to see, and what do I want to remember about this for later?”

In any case, it’s a lot of editing work and it takes a long time. I think I’m going to release two more videos in the Badgerfriends series and then I’ll call it quits, because the end of the third session is a fantastically dramatic place to stop. There is more after that (as of this writing, I’ve recorded 12 sessions, but only edited 2), but I’m going to need some kind of audience buy-in to sink more time into it. (As with most things on my channel, and as with most of the creator efforts that you spend the most time and energy on, it’s not exactly blowing up.) And as I mentioned in that post, it’s not a sustainable project in its current form.

Sound Show

I have to mention this program I recently found called Sound Show, which I got on itch.io. It’s a slightly janky UI, since it’s created in Unity, but it’s a feature-rich soundboard application that lets you setup and play sound files in lots of creative ways, almost like you’re playing a musical instrument (it even has MIDI support I think). I’ve been looking for a program like this my whole life.

Basically it lets me take all these “royalty-free music and sounds for games” sound files I’ve been getting from Humble bundles for the last few years and create live soundscapes with music and ambience and sound effects in realtime.

I’ve been using it to create soundscapes in post-production for some of the mock D&D sessions I recorded. Normally I have to drag and drop sound files onto a timeline in a video editor, but that’s a tedious process for an hour-long video. With SoundShow I can “perform” the background music and ambience in realtime and record it directly into the editor, which is way more fun and I think ultimately a big time-saver.

If there are any dungeon masters out there looking to add sound to their games, I can’t think of a better tool for doing that. (I actually discovered it on a Reddit thread where someone was asking about tools for adding soundscapes to their games.) I think you could even hook it up to change lighting effects if you have the gear for it.


A new series of Taskmaster (17) started and I didn’t even realize it! I only discovered it when the first episode appeared on YouTube.

Continuing to watch Dimension 20 Fantasy High Junior Year. Most Dimension 20 seasons start off outrageously funny and then settle into a more serious (i.e. less memorable) tone toward the end, and this one seems to be no exception.

I still keep up with Critical Role Campaign 3, but I skip ahead a lot. They absolutely wallow in the lore and role-playing now, and most of the players are so risk-averse that they spend most of their time doing nothing. The plot barely advances at all in any given episode. Matt just kind of lets the players drive the action so they spend four hours practicing acting skills and talking about what to do next and what all the lore means and how to spell and pronounce every new name six times so they can all write it down. Meanwhile I as the viewer have literally no idea who or what they’re talking about most of the time, have no idea what their goals are, where they are or why they’re doing anything. The last 50 episodes could be summarized as “Something something red moon”.

Watched a bit of the new Critical Role Daggerheart stuff. I have no opinion about the rule system, except on the surface, it sounded kind of gimmicky. “Narrative-forward” makes it sound like “this is for making YouTube entertainment content, not for home games.” It’s difficult not to think of it as a cynical business ploy to avoid having to use material from (and tacitly endorse the company) Wizards of the Coast in their content, which is exactly what I’d do, too, if I were a media empire that had grown far bigger than their origins.

I found the Viva La Dirt League NPC D&D shows. I generally like VLDL videos (the older ones are better though). But there has never been a D&D Actual Play series that is more of a “jumping on the bandwagon” type of video series than this. The first arc has a huge “we’re doing this because this is popular content on YouTube and not because we like playing D&D or anything” vibe to it. It’s got a dudes in a college frat house vibe to it. Tons of talking over each other. Lots of hyper awareness that they’re recording it so they’re performing for the cameras. A big disconnect between how serious the DM is taking it versus how serious the players are taking it. If I were in the same room with those dudes, I’d have a headache and be out of energy in like 5 minutes. Maybe it gets better later on. (It does, a little.)

Phandelver and Below Actual Plays

Having spent some time with the first chapter of Phandelver and Below, I was curious to see if there were any actual play shows out there that had gone through it. I felt like it was a bit of a meat grinder at the start for level 1 characters, so I was curious if others had that experience.

This led to a sea of mid-tier D&D Actual Play shows on YouTube, presumably all trying to replicate that 2015 Critical Role-on-Geek and Sundry lightning in a bottle.

I would describe all of the ones I mention below as “good enough,” in the sense that they have made a modest effort to make a watchable and/or listenable product (as opposed to just recording what would otherwise be a private zoom call with no regard whatsoever for viewers), but they are all regular nerds and not professional actors, so you’re probably not going to see any of them guest starring on Critical Role. However you might find them first in line to nervously ask “what was it like to do that thing that one time” superfan questions at a Critical Role panel. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Quests and Chaos

In-person recording, so it has that telltale untreated room echo sound that is just on the border of being too annoying to listen to. Put something on the walls to absorb the echo for god’s sake! Just hang some coats or shirts on the walls if you’ve got nothing else! Ahem. Anyway. Custom built DIY map constructions with miniatures. Has a super midwestern basement church group vibe, but with a thick layer of lgbtq vibe on top. Good chemistry. Community donations affect the game. Replete with ads and merch sales pitches, like a video version of a Geocities web page. Their web page makes it sound like they’re at the center of the actual play universe, but you’ve probably never heard of them.

Dork Tales

Billed as being from the Pacific Northwest of Canada. Remote recording. Roll20 for maps. The DM has a pool of tokens to affect the game, presumably from community donations. Decent chemistry. At least two “voice actors” (the ones in quotes are people who claim they’re voice actors because they bought a nice condenser microphone and a pop filter and know not to cough directly into it, but their most impressive credits are probably some local radio commercial or indie game nobody’s heard of). Relatively new, I think. They have a big variety of campaigns on their channel but it’s not very well organized.

Nerd Immersion Plays

Remote recording. Theatre of the mind combat. Poor production value, sound levels all over the place. I think I may have recognized a couple of the player names and/or faces from YouTube? Not sure. Maybe I saw them in one of the bazillion “stop doing this WRONG in D&D!!” videos that come out every week. Anyway, has the vibe of a group of decades-old salty veterans of tabletop gaming in basements with lots of drugs and food and drinks, probably those weird libertarian kids from high school but now they’re adults, but they’re new to the world of broadcasting sessions for the likes and subscribes so it’s a bit janky. These folks look the closest to my age, so I give them extra points for that.

Cloak and Stagger

In-person recording. Maps with miniatures. They’re trying for good sound but they aren’t quite there yet. Major five-socially-awkward-but-energetic-dudes-in-a-garage-playing-D&D energy. Major spent-a-bunch-of-money-on-equipment-they-don’t-fully-know-how-to-use-yet energy. Weirdly reminiscent of rural Virginia huntin’ buddies, except they’re playing D&D on a stream instead of drinking beers and shooting skeet. Everybody’s looking over at offscreen monitors to make sure the stream is working. A player-as-DM and DM-as-player campaign (the former DM appears to be cackling with glee the entire time because he doesn’t have to be the DM). Fairly plot-driven action, not a lot of in-depth character drama, if you know what I mean. Still, I give them extra points for just going for it and figuring it out as they go. It’s what I would have done.

Path of the Yeti

Incidentally, I found a channel called Path of the Yeti which has what they call a “narrated story of Phandelver and Below.” It’s a similar sort of “solo TTRPG playthrough” of the adventure book that I started doing, but it’s very different. They do a lot more with AI-generated images to set the scenes and it appears to be a lot more scripted. I thought it was interesting to see that I wasn’t the only one with that sort of idea. It’s a thing, apparently. (I’m slightly biased and I like mine better, though. I wanted to have as much of a “really playing in realtime” vibe as possible, as opposed to a produced-show-read-from-a-script vibe.)


Two of the shows had community gifts to keep the party from dying, so that didn’t help much in my evaluation of the difficulty of Phandelver and Below. A third one had the party starting out with a lot more healing stuff than my dudes did (mine had none, except one dude with a Cure Wounds spell), and then a freak wild magic roll summoned a fire elemental which incinerated the entire goblin hideout without them lifting a finger. Also, two of those actual plays are five-player parties, whereas my mock sessions started with three and then later increased to four.

For comparison, my dudes nearly got murdered by the first four goblins on the road, and had to take a short rest after the ambush, which, thanks to terrible hit dice rolls on D&D Beyond, provided almost no respite, and forced them to continue to Phandalin for a long rest, because you only get one short rest at level 1. Then, on returning the next day, they almost got murdered by the goblin guards outside the hideout after some bad decisions and freak combat rolls, an encounter that I actually nerfed a little bit.

In fact they did get murdered. It was a full TPK. Eh, spoiler alert. But I’m not too worried about blog readers looking at my future video content. I probably won’t even mention future episodes of Badgerfriends on the blog. (Reader audiences tend to be quite different from video audiences, and my cursory examinations of this subject indicates that there is almost no overlap between the two. You all reading this probably have no idea whatsoever that I have eight years worth of videos on a YouTube channel.)

Day Job

Just some more Java work. Nothing very exciting to report. Work has only been getting about 5% of my mental energy this month, with the other 95% going into my home projects.

World Context


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