Welcome to Tavern Talk Thursday! This is a weekly column where we chat with a member of the TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) community to learn more about how they found themselves at the table, what they love about tabletop gaming and other fun things. Think of it as a little sneak peeks into the minds of our fellow players and DMs.
Fall is here and the perfect time to tuck in by the fire for another week of Tavern Talk Thursday. This time, we are chatting with the incredibly hilarious and talented Chris Tallman. He is known for his work on Reno 911!, The Thundermans and, most recently, the Nerd Poker podcast alongside Brian Posehn. Tallman has a long history with TTRPGs, most notably Dungeons and Dragons. If that isn’t enough to love about him, his definition of a cleric will win you over completely. Check out everything he had to share below!
Julia Roth: Let’s chat your TTRPG back story! How did you find yourself at the table?
Chris Tallman: In 1979, I was a nerdy kid in Madison, Wisconsin. I believe my friend Bill got the boxed Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, probably for his birthday? We played the game with a few other kids in the neighborhood, and I was hooked. While some were bored with the math, I was delighted to go to another world, another time, and another place.
JR: Favorite world to adventure in?
CT: I grew up playing D&D, some early games like Gamma World, Traveler, and James Bond 007, plus a couple super-hero TTRPGs like Villains & Vigilantes and Champions. I really loved the superhero games, so I’d probably pick some New York City/Gotham modern metropolis filled with skyscrapers and people flying between the buildings.
JR: Favorite one-shot adventure?
CT: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Holy cow, I love this module. When I first saw it, I was still trying to wrap my brain around swords and magic, and suddenly you hit me with a giant spaceship and a menagerie full of killer plants and alien monsters?! I mean, there was a Needler – it shot your enemies full of needles! Plus, the book is full of original art?! I’m in awe of those early TSR artists.
JR: Backstory or class first?
CT: I’m looking for a thing that’ll be fun to play, so that could be a combat style, a piece of lore that intrigues me, or a new mechanic that just sounds exciting. It could be anything. For example, I just created a character for the new season on Nerd Poker, which is a live play D&D. I wanted to be a Cleric because everybody needs that healing. Plus, I liked the idea of being a support character on the battlefield, laughing in the face of constant danger! The backstory immediately begins to seep in, and I imagine a big fellow whose job is to wander around a warzone in heavy armor, healing allies and cursing enemies. Like a dungeon Roomba that casts Cure Wounds instead of sucking dirt.
JR: Favorite spell and why?
CT: I’m a big fan of Toll the Dead, particularly when the damage increases from a d8 to a d12. As much as I love the role-playing of D&D, the combat and abilities are my favorite parts of gameplay, so a cantrip with a dice upgrade is very seductive.
JR: Who has been your favorite character to play?
CT: I have a Cleric named Pudge who remembers all the times he’s been killed in the game, so he knows a lot about monsters, traps, and horrible ways to die. It’s fun.
JR: Do you have a particular race/class you enjoy?
CT: I like trying out new combinations each time I create a character. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a lot of anthropomorphic animal characters, like out of Disney’s version of Robin Hood.
JR: Is there something that you build into every character? A fun trait or a special item?
CT: My goal is to come up with a character that will be fun to play with my friends.
JR: What is your favorite system to play within?
CT: I’m having a lot of fun with 5E.
JR: Tell us about the wildest adventure you have been on?
CT: A comet crashed into the planet, spreading corrupted magic crystals all over the world. Anyone who touched them turned into mutated super-Beholders, many of whom became warlords in this new hellscape. And that was the setup.
JR: What has been your most impactful moment at a table?
CT: I remember a game when we were kids where I rolled a 20 and, after consulting the critical hit chart we got out of Dragon magazine, found I’d chopped off the head of an anti-paladin. That was pretty great.
JR: Favorite dice to use?
CT: My brother and sister-in-law gave me a metallic purple set with some weight to them; they’re terrific.
JR: Would you rather face off against an entire dungeon of undead or charm your way through a royal court?
JR: Favorite TTRPG Monster?
CT: I have a vivid memory of seeing a Bullywug in the 80’s D&D animated series and loving them immediately. I’m charmed by hostile frog folk.
JR: Good luck charms or rituals before a game?
JR: Who is sitting at your dream table?
CT: My friends!
JR: What are you most looking forward to within the TTRPG world?
CT: More games to play, more amazing shows and movies, more fun being had together.