Dungeons & Dragons latest adventure, Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, might just be the most metal thing that Wizards of the Coast has ever published. To celebrate the adventure best described as “Mad Max in hell,” the developers and publishers of the original role-playing game are launching an ambitious series of podcasts. The seven-episode arc, called Podcast Into Avernus, is being produced in partnership with seven different actual-play series, and will serve as a prequel to the events of the published campaign.
The fun kicks off this week, and will be available for free on both iTunes and Google play through Wizard’s official Dungeon Delve podcast. Participating podcasts include North by Northquest, Dumbgeons & Dragons, How We Roll, Royal Nerd Theatre, Dungeon Drunks, Red Moon Roleplaying, and The Broadswords.
This isn’t the first time that Wizards has invited the larger community of actual-play performers to help it promote new products. Just last year it did something similar for Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. What makes things a bit different this time around is that all of these one-shot stories are interconnected. Everything revolves around Lulu, an adorable hollyphant (a miniature flying elephant with magical powers) lost in the infernal plane of Avernus.
Anyone who has tried to get five people together to play D&D on a weekly basis knows how hard it is to schedule a game. A project like this is several orders of magnitude more complex. We reached out to podcasters and organizers Victoria Rogers and Daniel Kwan, both experienced role-playing professionals in their own right, to find out why they would even attempt something like this. Our interview, conducted by email, has been lightly edited for clarity.
Polygon: This is a super ambitious task. How long has this been in the works, and what were the biggest challenges to getting this all set up?
Victoria Rogers: Daniel and I first discussed the idea at D&D Live 2019. We first approached Greg [Tito, senior communications manager at Wizards] with the proposal in June. The biggest challenge is putting something together during the summer! There are a lot of conventions in that time period and not to mention vacations.
Was the content for each adventure something that you were fed by Wizards? Did you come up with it on your end, and then get their approval? Or was it more collaborative with each podcast’s Dungeon Master?
Rogers: We came up with the premise. We put together the hook, the concept, and various comedy bits. Greg then passed that full proposal on to Chris Perkins [D&D’s principal narrative designer] who gave it the thumbs up. We made a couple of minor changes to the concept at their request. From there, we handed the document to the DMs of each podcast. We created a Discord server that could work as a writer’s room. The DMs all worked together to flesh out the details. Each DM was in charge of writing their own episode adventure — they based it on the document we provided them.
Daniel Kwan: We actually came up with the idea during our recent road trip to Gen Con 2019! My initial idea was to have the players smuggle a battalion of angelic warriors into Avernus. However, we realized that this would not make for the most family friendly content, so we changed it to a rescue mission. We ensured that all of the podcast groups had a structure from which to be creative — a specific plane of the D&D cosmos that they had to travel through. From there, podcasters were free to shape their storylines in their own unique ways. Progress and the overview of each episode were shared on a group Discord where everything was organized.
How did you go about selecting these teams to participate?
Rogers: Daniel and I wanted to ensure we had a wide variety of podcasts from around the world. We wanted to highlight what people were doing outside of the United States. Both of us are Canadian so that probably has something to do with it. We reached out to shows that have followings in their respective countries. Some of the participants have been involved in podcasts before, but a lot haven’t.
Kwan: We really tried our best to ensure that the shows we selected for the miniseries were reflective of the gaming community. For me, Asian representation in all forms of media is incredibly important. So, in order to produce great podcasts that include every listener, it was important that we to cast creatives that reflect the diverse gaming community! I’m particularly proud to have included Royal Nerd Theatre, a D&D podcast from Singapore!
How were these teams compensated for their time and participation?
Rogers: We all have received the new module ahead of time and we all get a big ol’ box of goodies delivered to our doorstep. Copies of the books, mugs, dice, pencils and all of the good stuff. My friends are envious of my D&D collection.