One of the iconic features of every PAX East, and frankly any PAX event around the world, is the live Dungeons and Dragons session featuring the Acquisitions Incorporated team. The folks at Penny Arcade were early adopters of live D&D with this group and over the years have amassed a massive following and large roster of players.
Currently they are in the midst of a Kickstarter to fund a second full season of video sessions featuring the Acquisition Incorporated crew, and their original Dungeon Master (or DM), Chris Perkins, has signed on to return. I was able to meet Chris as well as the current DM Jeremy Crawford at PAX East for a chat about all things roleplaying as well as the history and future of Acquisitions Incorporated, or Acq Inc for short.
Both of these esteemed gentlemen have a very long history in the Dungeons and Dragons world, with Chris joining Wizards of the Coast nearly 25 years ago and Jeremy 20 years ago (hired by Chris in fact). Both currently occupy the role of lead game architects, and they were instrumental in the development and rollout of both the fourth and fifth editions of the longstanding roleplaying system.
Chatting with Chris and Jeremy I found it fascinating to hear them talk passionately about how they got started and how they have seen the online D&D show experience get started.
Where Does the Time Go?
When Chris started working with Penny Arcade on the first episodes nearly 15 years ago there was really nothing like it and now there are many high-profile shows doing what they started so long ago.
Chris lit up when discussing this change in the ecosystem, as it demystifies the systems as far as he is concerned, allowing more people to feel like they could DM or join a session once they see these live playthroughs. Jeremy agreed and has been fascinated by the trends they have seen with players in costumes, with elaborate sets and miniature deployments as part of the sessions.
As we shifted the talk towards what it’s like to run Acquisitions Incorporated they said that it has evolved quite a bit, as has each of their approaches to running the sessions. Chris originally started as the “straight man” to the group, just presenting facts, staying serious and letting the players make the spectacle and the funny moments. He has since evolved to take more part in the humor, adding his own jokes and quirky scenarios to the mix.
Jeremy took over as main DM about five years ago. His idea was to out-jump the shark each session, with more and more absurdity each time. He initially completely over-prepped, and then realized, as Chris did, that the players are seasoned and creative and just need a scenario to get their juices flowing; pure entertainment will follow.
Acquisitions Incorporated and the future of D&D
Both of them were very excited as we started talking about the future of Acq Inc with the new season and live PAX sessions. As both are back, I asked them how they will handle DM duties, and almost got a spoiler about Jeremy playing in the live session while Chris DMs, but Ryan Hartman (VP Media, Content and Events) shushed them just in time.
They let me know that the are designing this season as modular sessions, so at the end of each episode or PAX session they will have completed a set objective. That way they can alternate DM duties each time, or split the season down the middle. One thing they were both excited for was a stable roster of players; Chris had this for years, but Jeremy mostly did live sessions and had a heavily rotating cast.
At the end of the Interview I asked some rapid-fire questions to close out the great chat and the answers were enlightening:
- Favorite version, 4e or 5e? Chris, 5e without a pause; Jeremy gave it a bit more thought, but 5e, as it carries his favorite bits from 4e
- Favorite module: Both said Ravenloft with zero hesitation.
- Favorite system for mechanics only: Both said D&D (and I agree), but Chris added Top Secret SI (TSR) and Jeremy the Saga System (TSR).
- Biggest DM success: Jeremy getting hundreds of people to cry out “blood, blood, blood” at PAX South, and a session with home campaign where the story was so profound multiple characters wept. Chris running a session live at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
- Favorite Star Wars system (I wanted to hear a particular answer): Chris recused himself as he has written some; Jeremy went right to West End Games d6 version, which is absolutely amazing and one I have played for decades.
- Dream celebrity player: Chris would love to have Stephen Colbert as he would fit in well. Jeremy mentioned Drew Barrymore as she would nerd out in the environment. My vote was Henry Cavill, for ratings and pure fun.
It was beyond fun chatting with Chris and Jeremy, especially as most of the talk was us nerding out about our favorite pastime, playing D&D. They are passionate, knowledgeable and eager to explore what is next in both the world of roleplaying and their continuing time with Acq Inc.
Please have a listen to the whole chat embedded above and check out the Kickstarter for the new season of Acquisitions Incorporated if so inclined. Their entire back catalog is also available on their site and is a great listen/watch for fans new and old.