GM Edition: Chosen Ones D&D

“Villains don’t think they’re villains is the thing.”

Chosen Ones is a visual-novel style D&D podcast on YouTube with an all-artist and LGBT+ cast. DM Cassiroll and I discuss playing too much D&D, too little combat, and the window between heroism and villainy.

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Game Master Edition with Chosen Ones D&D

Lucas: Welcome back to Making a Monster Game Master Edition, a five-week miniseries featuring some of your favorite actual-play podcasts as we explore the interconnected roles of monster, antagonist, villian, and hero in tabletop roleplaying games. If monsters are tools for storytelling, then game designers are tool-makers and game masters are craftsmen who use those tools to make art. This series will help us understand the storytelling tools that bring us together, and the values and beliefs we bring to the table.

A figure in full plate, a blue-haired half elf, a slight human, and a pale tiefling.

The cast of Chosen Ones D&D: Avayath, Shui, Theo, and Brandy (left to right) Art by Ripp_Tides on Twitter.

Cassiroll: All right. Ready? 1, 2, 3, clap.

Cassiroll: I’m Cassie, I’m the DM of Chosen Ones. I use they them pronouns and I’m non binary. Our main platform that we produce our show on is my YouTube channel Cassiroll, which is spelled incorrectly, C A S S I R O L L. Our flagship show is Chosen Ones and we’ve been working on that for about a year now, our anniversary was just a couple of months ago, so it’s been going, going good. And we’re not stopping anytime soon.

The first time I started playing D and D was in high school technically, but it’s one of those things where it’s like it wasn’t D and D whatever we were playing, we said it was DND, but it was totally wrong. You know, people wouldn’t have any weapons or spells or anything. We kind of just speak at each other until we decided that was enough for the day.

We never knew what we were doing. But I didn’t actually start playing it seriously until college. I was the first DM of our group because I had the most experience with that. Having played it in high school and DMD twice in high school.

Actually our current group we were all artists before we started doing role-play stuff together. So we made shows kind of? So like little animated shows. I made motion comics and that’s kind of how we met was through that community. And you can kind of see my influences there and our style for how we showcase. Cause our show is visual. Not just straight podcasts, like most and. So that’s how we met and we started role-playing on like an online forum. We did one big one, which one of our players for the podcast, Jay hosted. And then after that, we kept trying to get one to work again, and we just never could get another one to be as good as that first one.And so after we kind of had started drift apart again, I was just like, Hey. Want to try D and D and that kind of like that kind of like hit it. And then we played way too much and we all got burned out. Cause we played way too much. D and D and then kind of are more at a more manageable level now for how much we play.

I was in like seven games at one point. I was like playing every day of the week and in college and working like 20, 25 hours a week. And then I was just like, I can’t do it anymore.

Lucas: That’s too much.

Cassiroll: I’m like, I can’t believe I D and D was like a, like a, like a hobby and a job almost at that point. You know, I was like working and doing freelance while I was playing D and D a

Lucas: Wow.

Cassiroll: little too much, went a little too hard on the hobby when we first started. But I think that just shows like how, like much it clicked with us as a group that like, we couldn’t get enough of it. And we were like playing it as much as we physically could. So before we finally were like, Hey, maybe we should come down like a little bit and go back to a reasonable, normal level of hobbies. Like,

so yeah, that’s how we kind of got started. And then again, because we’re all artists, we ended up having a visual format for this just because I need visuals to be kind of hooked into things. So my thing has always been, make things that you want to see. And I like doing things art-wise where I can have something up on a screen on one of my screens and then be drawing on another and like have something to look at sometimes. It helps me to have visuals to pair with things. So I’m still have not gotten into Critical Role, but it sounds like Critical Role would be great for me in terms of that, because I know they’ve got a visual element too. It’s just long and that’s, that’s always the trouble.

Lucas: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Cause if it was four years and that was 2017, that would be a year after fifth edition came out.

Cassiroll: Yes,

Lucas: That was right about when Critical Role exploded, and brought a lot of people to the game. So it’s interesting that you’re coinciding with it, but not because of it.

Cassiroll: No, I’ve, I’ve seen half of episode one.

Lucas: Oh, that’s the worst one. And they’ll probably agree.

Cassiroll: I think it was the second campaign, but I still everyone’s always like the first, the first couple episodes it takes to get things rolling anyway. Cause that’s what I always tell people. I’m always like stick, stick around for the first three. Our first plot hook is episode three. So if you get to episode three, that was our first full session one recording.

So you’ll have the full story of what the cast kind of had to go off of for their hook. And then after that I’m like episode five is where you kind of get the idea of all of the elements that we’ll be introducing and playing with throughout the story. So at that point, you’re just like, it’s totally not for me then, like you’re done, but I think our episode one is good too.

The cast of Chosen Ones D&D: Brandy, Theo, Avayath, and Shui (left to right) Art by Ripp_Tides on Twitter.

It’s just, I know people are like, when is the hook? Like when is the point that you would say, like, I should know if it’s for me or not, and I’m like episode five. If you’re not enjoying yourself by episode five, then we’re probably not a show for you.

Anime D&D

Lucas: What are the hallmarks of your visual style?

Cassiroll: Yeah. So art wise, I’d say I have a lot of heavy influences from anime, even if I don’t like consume anime anymore. That’s just how I was as a kid. And we attract a lot of people who also watch anime, just because of our style, our visual style, you look at us and we look like an anime. We have an animated opening and ending, and all the characters kind of have like a little bit of a similar aesthetic to them.

Cause that’s kind of where all of our roots come from. From there, I would say I went to school for animation specifically I don’t do as much of it for work anymore. I’m more like a motion graphic design work now. But that also comes into play kind of with the style of how we showcase, the production where it’s just like the whole thing obviously isn’t animated.

Sometimes people have the wrong impression, they’ll click on episode one and you know, the animated opening starts and they’re like, whoa, this is going to be 40 minutes of ani- no, that’s not what it’s going to be. That’s that’s, that would be crazy to do that every week. But it’s just kind of like every scene that you’re in, there’s always a backdrop, a simple kind of like stock photo or map, because we’re also, I’m a patron of some different math, major map makers who have given us permission to use their maps.

So it’s either stock, photo or a map just to kind of set the scene and then any character that is in this. We’ll also be on the screen. So at any point you can look at your screen and you can see who is in a scene kind of high intensity moments. We’ll have special effects and things like that as well.

And then battles. We have recordings of roll 20 that you can like actually watch in real time on the map, what everyone’s doing. So most of the time, we like to say, you don’t have to watch us. You could just listen to us like a normal podcast. We also have a podcasting version, but you’re going to miss a lot of stuff.

If you don’t look at the screen every now and again, a lot of the characters have visual elements tied into them where like even foreshadowing wise, you can catch things. If you don’t know what a character looks like. So that’s kind of like the fun of having a visual element as well. It also has a really good community effect because it gives something every week for people to come to.

We premiere on YouTube. We usually have between 30 to 50, just depends on the episode. People who come and watch live with us every week and they can chat with the cast as we watch it. Just kind of, I feel like has a really nice community sense to it, to be able to watch something with people and not just have the audio only element to it.

But obviously it’s a lot of extra work. I would not blame anyone for not doing it because you’re not only editing a podcast. You also have to do all the visuals. So it’s like editing the same thing twice, you know, every week.

Lucas: I don’t know how you do it. How do you do it? Do you know?

Cassiroll: Well I went to bed at 6:00 AM today to get the episode out. So that, that it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. Actually the last three episodes were super intensive. So it’s rare that I do that. When we were first doing it, I actually had a lot of problems with overworking myself for it because I was still working.

I work remote now, but at the time I was working remote freelance and also, still going into a job at like four or 5:00 AM in the morning. We’d be doing episodes. I actually overworked my myself to the point. Rambles got sick a few times trying to get episodes out every week. And so I finally was like, I don’t want to do that anymore.

So I just didn’t do do that anymore. You know, I learned to set up a better schedule. We take breaks every five weeks instead of every 10 now, and that helps me get enough of a backlog. So like we’re at the end of our backlog here because next week is a break week. So that was why I was up super late is because I’ve kind of gone through everything that I had managed to work ahead.

Lucas: On a scale of anime nonsense from if we put, uh, put Myazaki at one end, let’s say My Neighbor Totoro, and I don’t know, My Hero Academia at the other end, how much anime nonsense do you have?

Cassiroll: I actually, I personally don’t like my hero academia that much, but that’s just personal preference. And maybe it’s because we get compared to it all the time that now it’s just, it has like a sour taste in the back of my mouth because I’m just like, oh, we got compared to people in our server are like “Quirks – I mean, Sparks!” Like all the time. And I’m just like, no, they’re different. Um, but I, I, I get the comparison, especially, cause it’s really popular right now. And you know, if we didn’t have such an anime lean, if we looked more like Western cartoons, maybe we’d be compared to X-Men all the time instead, you know, it’s just because of the way that we look and what’s popular right now,

Lucas: If you did this, maybe what, 20 years ago now you’d be in the Dragonball Z realm.

Cassiroll: Yeah. So we just get compared to it because, and I think that’s probably what we are close to. We have a PC named I will set all my that’s how bad it was. We have a PC named Avayath and he gets compared to Allmight, all the time. And then another PC, Shui, is inspired by a character from, or not inspired by a character, but inspired by the show Demon Slayer.

So they usually get compared a lot to those characters. I think even his outfit kind of looks similar to one of the characters from Demon Slayer, which I hadn’t seen beforehand. And I’m watching it right now with, with one of my roommates. And I’m like, oh, I see, I see why he gets compared to Demon Slayer all the time now.

So I’d say we lean, we lean more on the “My Hero” end, I guess, on the scale.

Lucas: Spiky haired shonen protagonists.

Cassiroll: Definitely has this shonen vibe to it. And even in the serious moments, we, we joke a lot cause that’s just, you’re playing with your friends. So it happens like, you know, someone’s rolling a desk save and we’re cracking a joke about how a virus eyes are always glowing.

So maybe moths are like surrounding his head as he’s dying. Like, you know, it’s like we do stuff like that where it’s like, maybe not the most appropriate, but that’s what people come to for a podcast is they want to see like the friendship. And I also think that like super, super serious stuff just may not be for us.

We need like some levity to it. And we do have a lot of very serious moments too. So it’s a nice mix. That’s why when people try to get us to categorize ourselves, I’m like we have everything. I think someone was like, I’m looking for something like, I like Spotify. I like fantasy. I like drama. I like comedy.

And I’m like, we’ve got all that, like literally. All of that. And they’re like, you have Saifai and I’m like, yes, just wait for it. Cause we, we put everything that we like kind of into our games. So

Lucas: What is it about the. You have, what four players in your party? What is it about those people that made you want to do a podcast with them?

Cassiroll: Honestly, they’re just like probably my closest friends. So I think that’s the easiest way. I know a lot of people do like show auditions and stuff. Like they get strangers online or people they don’t know as well, but I’ve known everyone in our show. The whole four or five years, even before that we started playing D and D.

I’ve known the longest person in there for maybe six or seven years now. And I did do an application process at the time, but there was a split moment where we actually almost, we’re going to have a different party where the person who plays a vial was not going to be in the party. And some things just kind of fell into place and he ended up in it.

And honestly, it’s great. The only reason he wasn’t going to be in it originally is because I was like, I always do you for you for always in it. I was like, I should mix it up. I got other friends and then something fell through and I was like, just kidding. It’s going to be the same for again. I think we just all work really well together and we’ve seen each other through.

Just as people are worse than our best, I feel like a lot of people don’t always talk about the drama that goes into role-playing sometimes. Sometimes people’s feelings really get hurt and it can affect your friendships. And they don’t, people don’t expect that all the time. Cause they’re like, it’s just a game.

And I think having stuff like that and knowing how to work through it and being super communicative, communicative, communicative, is that right? I don’t know with each other can help strengthen something. Cause I I’ve seen so many shows die or have things happen where just people just didn’t talk to each other and.

Like a lot of pressures, definitely put on the DM, but also the players to, to be able to perform and put up and maybe not always talk to people about what they’re comfortable with and what they want to do. And so I think that’s nice as like we’ve known each other, not long enough that like, I know if any, if I make anyone uncomfortable or something is just really not fun for them anymore, they will come to me and talk to me and like, we’ll do check-ins and things too.

Cause it is a game at the end of the day. And if it ever like affected our friendship, I would obviously pick our friendship and end the campaign in a heartbeat. If that was what they wanted,

Brandy, Shui, Avayath, and Theo (clockwise from top left). Art by @Sweetsunberry.

Lucas: Does Chosen Ones take place in a world of your own design or something that might be more familiar to someone who’s played D and D for a while?

Cassiroll: Oh, definitely homebrew. Hundred percent. I’ve barely read any of the source material. I forget the rules sometimes. We just cut that out of the podcast, but, you know. um,

In terms of overall themes, the point of Chosen Ones is it’s almost a funny story in the sense that of the people who are in it, of the four PCs, only one of them really wants to be a chosen one. Like that is his goal. And the other ones are just kind of forced to be in a situation because they have the potential to be one. So the way the Chosen Ones work in the world is that there can only be one at any given time. That’s why they’re the Chosen One. And you can only be a Chosen One for five to 15 years, and then your time’s up and that’s it.

So you don’t die. You don’t just like die out. You’re just randomly activated. There’s something going on in the world that needs you. And you have a Spark that turns into a Chosen One ability, which is what the Sparks are. So anyone who has a Spark has the potential to possibly one day be a Chosen One.

And because it’s not like associated with like their lifetime, like their whole lifespan, there could be multiple Chosen Ones in your lifetime. You have multiple chances to be one. And so basically the, the original premise of the campaign is they are kind of brought together to be trained because there might be a opening for a new Chosen One.

And so they were like, we want them to be good. We want them to be a good person because there’s also Fallen Ones. They’re Chosen Ones who have become bad. So they’re like, we want the next generation of Sparks to have a good backing. So because of that, a lot of the people who are there, aren’t actually super interested in being a Chosen One.

It’s just they’re Sparks and they have the potential to be one. And so they’re kind of being trained for that just in case, because you don’t have a choice, it’s not a choice to be a Chosen One. It just happens to you. So, so I guess it’s kind of like accepting your fate, but also working against it are big themes in it.

We have a character who’s very, like, everything is meant to happen the way it’s meant to happen. If I’m a chosen one, it’s supposed to be whether I like it or not. We have other characters who are like, you don’t have to accept. What’s given to you. You can just be whatever you want to be. Even if you’re given the label of a chosen one that doesn’t have to dictate your whole life.

So I guess it’s working against what is the society is kind of set up where it’s almost become like a celebrity status, but also like a really hard expectation. It’d be like, if someone showed up to you one day and was like, you’re the president now enjoy everything. Is your responsibility. Everything that goes wrong is your responsibility, everything that goes right.

You take credit for all of that. You’ve had no preparation at all for it, but we’ve some, somehow the world has decided that you are the president now, you know, so.

So Chosen Ones takes place in the first few hundred years of the entire world. It’s about year, I think 3 42, some somewhere in there that might not be the exact date. But because of that, that means there are elves who have been there from the beginning who like have seen things from the very beginning.

And there’s a lot of mystery about that because it’s like, not everyone knows everything about everything, obviously. And they’re only on one continent. Like they can, there’s an ocean. They know there’s kind of like a big world, but they only have explored the single continent. There’s a deserty area above the mountains.

There’s kind of like this shoved off area to the side. That’s like always constantly snowing and raining. And then there’s kind of like what you’d consider more like traditional weather of like spring, summer, winter, and like the main, big area of Dendara. And they’re named after the three major gods, which is Dara, Dara of the New Moon.

And she has the big, the biggest plot of land. And then Solari, who is the goddess of soul, which is the deserty area. And then Winona, which is their daughter who is kind of the more forgotten area that people don’t really like to go to because it’s constantly snowing and raining. It’s not really fertile or like a nice place to live and they can’t really get past the forest. There’s like something called the Black Forest, which is like impossible to go through the ocean is like completely impossible to cross. They’re all kind of just stuck on this one continent and they have to make, do basically with all being stuck with each other and trying to figure out how that works.

And because they’re all tied to the gods, obviously most of the conflict is deity related. The two gods Solari and Dara, don’t like each other, they actually had a custody battle over Winona, so we’re in a really like hard time with peace right now where it’s kind of like, it feels very tense where all the countries are are like are not countries.

All the different regions are kind of on edge with each other. They’ve had wars in the past. A lot of people have died in them and they’re kind of at a point where they’re just like trying to keep everything together. Because the three gods are also technically a part of the same church, even if they all don’t like each other.

So, so it’s just kind of like they’re trying to all get along basically.

Lucas: We’ve gone from setting to heroes. I want to talk about your antagonists.

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We’ve gone from setting to heroes. I want to talk about your antagonists. Who or what are the main opposing forces that your characters are introduced to in your story?

Cassiroll: Yeah. In terms of, like, I would say the, the characters that seem at this point in time, like the most antagonistic there’s someone named Eylea, the Dark Born queen. And she is from Winaria, which is the, the kind of snowy and like bad weather area. And she’s from Black Peak. And she is very interested in Chosen Ones.

And there isn’t really a clear reason as to why yet she has a very strong Spark, which is basically the ability to merge any two things together. And she’s not a Chosen One. That’s just her baseline ability, which is terrifying. And she just kind of has like an atmosphere to her. That’s very unsettling.

She’s definitely done some things which are spoilers but she’s done some things that are not good. And probably if you were to ask any of our fan base, like right now, who they think the antagonist is of the series, they probably point to her. And then besides that there are these creatures that are kind of popped up here and now called Jabbers.

And they’re kind of on the more monstrous side of things. They’re these creatures that are said to have lost themselves and they can’t remember who they are and they can only repeat things that have been. Back to other people. And there’s no clear like motivation for what they want or where they come from.

But they’ve gone after our heroes a couple of times seem to have very strong interest in them for some reason, which is odd. Cause they haven’t had really the same interest in other people. They were thought to have been folklore up until recently until they started showing up and they’ve been coming up more and more.

So that would probably be the two things that are like the most daunting to them right now is they’re trying to figure out what these creatures are. And also what this like queen figure might want from.

Lucas: D and D the way it’s written in the source books has three pillars of play social encounters, a role-play exploration and combat. If you had to put a percentage to, to those, just looking back on the work that you’ve done and the work that you’ve recorded and has yet to be released,

Cassiroll: Yeah,

Lucas: what percentage would you assign to each of those things?

Cassiroll: I would probably say like 70% social. Honestly, we are super RP heavy. And then like the, oh, I don’t know, like maybe like 15%, both ways for exploration and combat. We don’t like when combat happens, like, you know, something like big has happened. It usually, usually isn’t a choice. It’s usually like something is coming after you, unless you run away, you’re going to be fought and fighting it now.

Like it’s not usually like a social, like you can talk your way out of it situation. But most of the time we went, what was it? I think six episodes before we hit our first combat in show. And then most of the combat that we did was like training combat basically. So the PCs went up against NPCs or other PCs to fight because they were training to be a Chosen One.

I feel like that’s fair where we have in terms of what we’ve released in terms of what we have. backstopped I think we do a little bit more exploration, exploration than combat, but definitely still like the 70% does not change. We do a lot of talking and that’s like the focal point is RP.

We could probably do the whole thing as just like an improv audio drama, and take out the D and D if we wanted, it’s just, it gives you like a set of rules and things to kind of go by, and then you get to use all your phone abilities and you don’t have to come up with a bunch of million different things.

Do you know, to make it work in a improv setting, it gives a good groundwork for this kind of storytelling.

Lucas: What are the things that you find most useful in a monster stat block for your game?

Cassiroll: Balancing wise, I need to start with something. I can’t like make something completely from scratch. So I tend to think about the monster that I want to make or put into the game. And then from there, I’ll look at the types that are similar to it.

And then sometimes I kind of like mix and match abilities or I’ll just make something if they don’t do what I want them to do. Usually pretty basic. There’s like a basic attack that I have them do. And then I kind of do it in like a ramp up sort of way. They start off with their basic attacks. And then throughout the combat, as they get more desperate, they’ll kind of start to use like more intense attacks against people that they’re going against.

Sometimes they’re ones that they have to like roll to recharge and things like that. But I’m typically thinking about it from a narrative standpoint, because I know people are listening about like, how is this going to be interesting to people and not just be another combat of rolling dice and talking about numbers over and over again, which some people like, I know some people that’s like their bread and butter of a combat.

But for us it’s more about creating interesting scenarios. So it’s kind of like what abilities do I think are going to be interesting. So sometimes they’ll have resistances that I know the party, they depend on those a lot. So making an enemy resistant to that is like a huge detriment to them. We’re giving them abilities that are not necessarily like overpowered, I guess, but something that will shake them like they haven’t seen before or something that’s new or different and outside of the mold of what they fought before. So every encounter is a little bit different from the last.

Lucas: Yeah, we talked about we talked about the Jabber, we talked about the queen and those are two great examples. D and D does monsters in a very particular way in that you have a long list of them in a book, and then you can pull them out and sort of slot them into whatever you need.

And that’s just part of the way that this game works. When you’re looking at stat blocks and abilities to pull out, are there any that would be recognizable to us? Or counterpoint, are there any that you’ve used over and over again, that would be recognizable to listeners of the show?

Cassiroll: I would say in terms of like recognizable. I mean, it’s not a big spoiler. You can see on our thumbnail. Sometimes there are thumbnails give them away. They fought sirens recently. And I used, I think it was like the heartbeat song, like the luring song or whatever that they have. Even though it didn’t work, which is funny because you can only use it like once per short or long rest or whatever.

And I had, I had three sirens and they each had specific things that I wanted them to do. So the one that was supposed to be using that immediately failed and I’m like, well, that was what you were supposed to be doing. And the other two of their other things. So you, I guess you just suck for those combat.

But I, I don’t know, like, I mean, obviously in terms of like, if I use like a snake or something like that, you’re going to recognize like poison damage or poison effects and things. But I think.

Lucas: And there’s certainly a snake in the book.

Cassiroll: Yeah, definitely. In terms of the Jabbers that we use, they all have a scream attack and it does different variations of damage, depending on the Jabber.

They’re not all the same. Each Jabber is a little bit different. So they’ve got like this, this beat face that they kind of have in their beak opens up, like down the middle and they do psychic damage when they scream.

Lucas: Thank you, but no.

Cassiroll: They all have that. And that tends to be kind of like when they get frustrated or when they’re like kind of losing or just when they’re really going for it, they tend to use that ability. And they, like I said, they all have it, but they all have something different besides that. One of them had like, kind of, like illusionary effects to the landscape that they were in another had like a smashing effect where they could like smash the ground.

One of them had like a poison aura one that they recently fought Spoilers because this episode just released. But it had like water abilities. So it could like manipulate water to like splash onto the boat and stuff like that. But they all have the screen that is like the consistent thing across the monster.

So it’s just dependent on like where they are and what they’re fighting because they are all individuals. So they have different like main attacks, I guess, besides their screams.

Lucas: Sure. Yeah. So I’m getting a picture of what the hero has to overcome in this story. The interesting thing about this game and the way it interacts with storytelling, or especially something like Chosen Ones that could very well be an improv audio drama that has nothing to do with D and D, is that D and D has a very specific idea of what a monster is.

And. It’s on page four, but at the very beginning of the monster manual. And it says basically a monster for their purposes is anything with a stat block, which for technical writing, which is what a Monster Manual and what all of these modules and sourcebooks are there instructions that’s very useful from a narrative and literary analysis standpoint less so.

What does the word monster mean to you?

Cassiroll: I think it’s just basically anything that is opposing the party and actively going against them. I feel like that’s the easiest way to describe it because we go in a lot of gray areas. So almost everything that they fought in some way has fallen into some kind of gray area with. They aren’t fully sure.

If what they’re fighting is a enemy sometimes just because of the way that the monsters are and they are labeled as monstrosities. That’s what the Jabbers are when they were like looking up, looking them up. I specifically remember one of the people from the who were listening at the time were like, oh, don’t call them that.

Like, because they have aspects to them that make you sympathize with them. They’re these terrifying, huge creatures, but they have moments because they used to be someone. And so they have just forgotten who they are. So it’s kind of like in terms of the party’s perspective, they’re monsters, because they have to oppose them and go against them.

But in terms of like a moral perspective, that’s a little trickier to go into, you know? So my basic definition is anything that opposes the party I would consider monster. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have. Fight it, you know, so some preachers, they may talk to that. They’ll never have to fight.

You know, a lot of things can be spoken to With spells or just having different languages under your belt. And you may not ever have to have an actual fight with them.

Lucas: If then a monster is any sort of narrative obstacle that the hero has to overcome, however they choose to do that, what is your definition of hero in the, in the way that you tell stories? And I don’t mean someone with a Spark or a Chosen One. What is it that brings any sort of player character out of the role of NPC and into the role of hero?

Cassiroll: I think moving through our story, a lot of it is just like acceptance of oneself almost. It’s trying to do good and trying to fix things and trying to be better because we have a very diverse cast. PCs who have barely experienced life and lived on a farm, almost their whole life to ones who’ve been training for greatness to ones who have done absolutely horrible things in their past.

And so they’re all trying and different ways to overcome those things. And most of them probably would not consider themselves a hero besides Avayath. That’s not how, yeah. That’s not how they think of themselves. And Avayath has his own struggles with it’s expected of him to be a hero. He’s been prophesized to be one since birth.

So he’s been told he’s going to be one. And he asked and he has to be one. He doesn’t have a choice and the other ones are just kind of trying to find themselves. And I think that’s also interesting in the sense of like the things that they’re going against and the obstacles that they are facing might be monsters now, but they can turn them into something that’s not eventually.

So right now in this moment, the Jabbers are an obstacle and a monster to them. But the more they learn and the more they figure out how to handle and deal with things, they might not always be. You know? And I’m not saying that in terms of like, obviously I know where we are recording wise, they could’ve killed all the Jabbers, but you know, I’m just saying, in terms of like narratively, a monster does not have to stay a monster.

I, and I think that’s a big hitting point throughout the entire series that we have is that you can get better and you can like be comfortable with yourself.

Lucas: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. If if your definition of hero is someone who strives to be better or to, to improve towards a good and righteous end, then absolutely a monster could be a hero. It’s interesting to me that a lot of D and D players and podcasters are very sympathetic to monsters. Given that we have monsters who’ve become heroes and heroes who become monsters, and that happens all the time. What do you think is the relationship between them? Do you have a metaphor for that?

Cassiroll: I’ve actually, I’ve watched a lot of videos on this recently, this exact kind of like topic about like why people are drawn to villains specifically. And as like some people may not be as interested in heroes as others and that kind of like relation and it, a lot of it, I think depends on your own background, but it is kind of like you’re, you’re watching people, villains don’t think they’re villains is the thing.

They think they’re good people most of the time. And so you’re watching someone who, in some ways you can sympathize with, because if you think of it from their perspective, you know, the evil queen was just someone who was wronged and thinks that. She deserves, whatever it is she’s trying to get you know, maybe they’re banished and they weren’t allowed to come to something and everyone hates them.

It’s, it’s one of those things where it’s like, you can kind of sympathize and see yourself, even if they do do horrible acts, there’s still like a human element, very loud traffic, sorry. There’s still like a human element to them. And I think that’s obviously also why we appreciate heroes because they’re striving to be good and to do better.

And that’s also sometimes why people don’t like heroes is because they can be treated where they can like do no wrong and they can lose that human element depending on the story. So like some of the more traditional. Like shown an animation and stuff like that before they maybe got a little bit more nuanced was a lot of that feeling of like, looking back on it you’re like that character kind of sucks, you know?

Like they may not have grown a lot or had a lot of nuance and depth to them, but they were just treated as good because they were always fighting against the bad guys.

Lucas: I’ve heard of it like a spectrum with two very distinct ends. This still works if you know what the Dark Side is cause then you would put that at the bottom and then whatever the light side is, even though it’s never given a name at the top I’ve heard it called the dimmer, that you go gradually from one to the other. And I like that, cause it tends to have a circle that you could cross in either direction going back around. Do you have something like that that you, that you use, do you find that narratively interesting or useful for what you do?

Cassiroll: Do you mean in terms of like, when you decide someone’s one way or the other, like when they’ve hit a point?

Lucas: Yeah. So if we have a subversion of hero and a, and a subversion of monster or a villain how do you know when that has effectively happened?

Cassiroll: Gosh, I don’t mean to like beat around the question. I just think it’s so hard because it just depends on your perspective, like where you are subjectively. We have a character in our show called Arthur and he has done things that he’s never done anything super bad. At one point he mentioned using Memory Wipe, basically, on people, and for some people that’s irredeemable, you know. His suggestion was people are going to be traumatized by this thing that we’re doing. But if we wipe their memories, they won’t know. So we’re saving them from that trauma. And people were like, no, you can’t do that. There’s more context to it than that, obviously.

But it’s kind of like, we have people who absolutely hate him and they don’t like that character because of that suggestion of like, we’re going to wipe their memories. And so even if to his perspective, he’s like, I’m doing a good thing because they wouldn’t be able to live with this trauma if they had it.

To other people that’s like seen as a villainous act. And then we have people who defend him and say that the greater good, what he’s trying to do is justified because he’s thinking about things from a larger perspective. So I that’s why that, question’s kind of hard for me to like, pinpoint an answer on, because it’s so subjective of like where your line is of when someone becomes bad or evil.

I think we all can agree that like in most cases, murder. Like, you know, there’s like very clear cut things that it’s easy to land on for where something goes bad. Like militia killing someone, be cut for your own gain or like abusing people for your own gain and using them without having any idea of like a bigger picture or trying to do things for adjust reason or something like that.

You’re just doing it because you want something. The selfishness of that is usually seen as evil. But the second you introduce something where they’re trying to do something to help a lot of people and like do something selflessly is where it kind of gets into that sticky zone of people being like, well, they’re doing it because they want to help a lot of people.

But also if they did that same thing and they were just doing it for self gain, then we’d look at it horribly. So it’s like that weird zone of like the second you introduce it as like they’re trying to do something that they think is selfless. It becomes harder to label.

Lucas: At the risk of putting words in your mouth, would it be fair to call it a window?

Cassiroll: A window?

Lucas: Yeah. If, if it’s subjective and it depends on how you’re looking at it then is the line between monster and villain less a spectrum or a switch and a more of a window that you could look through in either direction?

Cassiroll: Yeah, I, I definitely say so. Cause you know, a villain looking at a hero from their perspective, that is their villain and a hero looking at, you know, another villain, obviously. So it’s like, it can flip depending on your own personal perspective, usually villains are just seen as the ones who are going about things in a way that are too extreme or that put other people at risk too much.

You know, we, I think that’s also, again, why people relate to villains so much is because we live in a world where you want to be the more extreme person sometimes where the slow change is hard. And so sometimes you want to just, I guess, flip the switch or whatever and make the change that you want. But obviously you’re not going to do that.

You’re not, you’re not going to go do anything that extreme that would make you wind up in jail, the rest of your life or you might, you know, who knows you also might. But I think that’s, again, why is because you’re, you’re kind of living vicariously almost sometimes through those people who like are able to do things that may not always look great, but make significant change at the same time.

And then also why you’re watching a hero, striving to go about it, I guess. Way for lack of a better word and watching them accomplish and get it done can also be cathartic where they accomplish their goals and they do finish the things and do it in a way that still feels right without having to cross a line.

Lucas: Yeah, I love that. I want to ask before, before we get to the wrap up, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you want to make sure is a part of this conversation?

Cassiroll: I feel like we, as a story, try to show a lot of nuance. Try very hard. Not to make things. Super clear cut in terms of villains and heroes and all that. And sometimes my party hates me for it. Sometimes they just want a bad guy that can punch without having to think about the moral implications of it.

I do try to give them bad guys they can just punch sometimes, but it’s so much more interesting to have the nuance behind it, of understanding another person’s perspective and how they got to that point of no return or almost where they believe they’re doing the right thing in their own way. And even if you can very clearly label someone a villain in that sense, still understanding again where they came from and how they think and why they’re making those decisions I think adds a lot more impact overall to a story than just making them the regular cartoonish villain that we’re used to from like Disney movies and stuff, you know,

Thanks for listening to Making a Monster. Chosen Ones is a visual novel style D and D podcast with an RP focus, all artists cast, animated opening, LGBT plus characters, sound design, and weekly releases. And if any of that sounds like fun, here’s how to find it.

Cassiroll: The best place to find Chosen Ones would be on YouTube again, under the same username that I introduced earlier, which was casserole C a S S I R O L L a. Besides that we are on podcasting platforms. When we redo that, besides that we are on podcasting platforms you can find us pretty much anywhere Chosen Ones.

You can find us on Twitter, Chosen Ones D and D our main home, if you want, like the most stuff besides YouTube is to just come on into our Discord, because we post all of the art that you see on the show, along with a lot of the, the extra art that the cast makes based on the show, animated videos and things like that side projects.

And then also we have a very diverse. Amount of characters, both cast wise and the actual characters that we play. And if you’re ever confused about that kind of stuff, you can come in, we have all their pronouns and their identities listed because inclusivity is very important.

Lucas: If you like what you’ve heard on Making a Monster and you want to support the show, you can share it with the people you play games with. If they like this episode, I’ve got two dozen more and the best is yet to come. Your recommendation proves you’re the most savvy monster hunter in the room – look around, it’s you – and it proves this show is worth the time and attention.

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Join the Scintilla Studio PatreonNext Episode: GM Edition, Fun City

Fun City is the best Shadowrun actual play podcast on the Internet, and its two game masters, Mike Rugnetta and Taylor Moore, crafted a beautiful, dimension-spanning arc with the most thought-provoking villain this show has featured yet.

Making a Monster: GM Edition asks actual play podcasters how they use the monsters in their games.

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