Welcome to Tavern Talk Thursday! This is a weekly column where we chat with a member of the TTRPG (tabletop roleplaying 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.

Welcome back, adventurers. Settle in and get ready for this week’s chat with the incredible Stephanie Crugnola. She is known for appearing on Adventure Incorporated, a Dungeons and Dragons 5E actual play and taking part in a special one-shot in celebration of International Women’s Day. This year it will take place on March 8, 2023, and can be watched here! When she isn’t rocking out at the TTRPG tables, Stephaine can be found on her Shakespeare podcast, Protest Too Much. Keep reading to find out more about Stephanie and her love for the TTRPG community.

Keep up with Stephanie on her social media! (Twitter/Linktree)

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Stephanie Crugnola

Adventure Inc Logo

Julia Roth: Let’s chat your TTRPG backstory! How did you find yourself at the table?

Stephanie Crugnola: In 2016, some friends I did improv with in college reached out and asked me to be on their D&D podcast. I had never played before, but our group had naturally lost a bit of touch over the years, and I was excited to get to rekindle those friendships, so I said yes! I had no idea what to expect, but I’ve always been a writer and very quickly fell in love with the collaborative storytelling nature of the game. 

JR: Favorite world to adventure in?

SC: Our DM, Anthony Reed, wrote the world we’ve been playing in for the last seven years, so I’m pretty partial to that one! It’s called New Meritta, and we’ve got a world guide up on our website that some family started a campaign using, so I’ve gotten to play in it with a couple of different groups. It’s always amazing to have new ways to explore and engage with (and build out!) the world.

JR: Favorite one-shot adventure?

SC: For International Women’s Day last year, I got to be part of a Taskmaster Style Dungeon Escape game – Jenna and Alex of Horse Girls Podcast ran it and pulled everyone together for a massively fun night raising money for the Trevor Project. Getting to collaborate with some of the funniest and most talented women I know in the TTRPG space was a very special experience. (also, we’re doing it again this March!)

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JR: Backstory or class first?

SC: Class first if it’s for an extended campaign, backstory first if it’s for a one-shot. Our Patreon one-shots get to be a little sillier and looser, so I try to create a character who’ll have an interesting story to tell in just an hour. For longer campaigns, I take a look at each class and how I want to contribute to the party skill-wise and then build a backstory from there. 

JR: Favorite spell and why?

SC: Performance of Creation – I play a Bard of Creation in 5e, and being able to assess each situation we’re in and try to make something out of thin air that can possibly help us win a fight or move us forward is a great creative stretch for me. Having to balance what the DM will say yes to with what will actually be a strong resource is always fun and exciting. He did *not* let me create “a lamp with little bits of the sun in it” to defeat a horde of vampires, but *has* let me make some other fun tools!

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JR: Who has been your favorite character to play?

SC: My Adventure Incorporated campaign two character Ellori is hands down my favorite character. She’s a Vampyr Elf Bard of Creation, and after playing a moody, tragic backstory, textbook TTRPG character in our first campaign, I was desperate for someone optimistic. Ellori is hopeful and sweet and kind, wholesome in her ties to her family and friends, and a constant source of support for her party. I also take songs (usually from musicals, so they’re a little more obscure to listeners) and rewrite the lyrics to cater to each spell I have, so every time I cast, I get to sing it!

JR: Do you have a particular race/class you enjoy?

SC: I obviously love a bard, but I’m partial to sorcerers as well. There’s something that satisfies the YA Literature fiend in me with a sorcerer; I was always drawn to the “inherently special” escape that those books brought, so there’s a fun parallel with sorcerers there.

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JR: Is there something that you build into every character? A fun trait or a special item?

SC: There isn’t, but this is a really fun idea to start laying some easter eggs with…

JR: What is your favorite system to play within?

SC: I’ve really only played significant time in D&D 5e – I’m really slow at learning game rules (please skip year one of our podcast…), so I always feel anxious to try new systems. Absolutely would love to branch out, though, so if anyone knows some kind and supportive groups to get involved with, I’ll take those recs!

JR: Tell us about the wildest adventure you have been on?

SC: We did an arc where we re-lived the memories of our villain, going through solo one-shots as-our-character-as-him. If we changed history too much, it could have lasting impacts on our current world, so we had to make decisions knowing that. This villain had been jumping through realities, meeting different versions of our party, and the reality I had to act through is one of the times he TPK’d us. Having to take those actions was a wild (and very emotional) RP challenge, especially since it was a solo session and I didn’t have my castmates there with me through it.   

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JR: What has been your most impactful moment at a table?

SC: The first time I cried on the show and really realized the impact of the story we were telling. Since I knew my castmates from improv, and most of what we’ve done had always been comedy, with the addition of TTRPGs naturally lending themselves to shenanigans, I had gotten into a comedy-minded space for the first six months of the podcast.

It was the first time our DM killed an NPC (two in one go), and I don’t think I had realized how attached I had let myself get to these fictional characters. The depth of emotion our DM is capable of is truly astounding – he’s one of the best storytellers I’ve ever known – but I wasn’t prepared for it in a space like this. I just sat there and cried (great audio), fully mourning these characters that only exist in our minds and audio recordings. 

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JR: Favorite dice to use?

SC: A friend sent me and my husband a set of blue metal dice as a wedding present to take care of for him until he’s back home from overseas. Not only are they beautiful, but I get to send a little wish out that he’s doing alright every time I roll them.

JR: Would you rather face off against an entire dungeon of undead or charm your way through a royal court?

SC: This is the easiest question here! Charm my way! Even with characters I haven’t built for charm, the RP element of TTRPGs is what I live for. I don’t actually love combat that much because it’s harder for my ADHD to track, but getting to balance who the character is with how they’d try to make their way through a court? It’s an improviser’s dream!

JR: Favorite TTRPG Monster?

SC: Puzzles! Not textbook monsters, I know, but there’s nothing more exciting to me than getting to face a puzzle. This is extra true when I’m playing a low WIS/INT character but know the solution and have to RP, letting the rest of my party crack it while I’m silently screaming.

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JR: Good luck charms or rituals before a game?

SC: I used to be the exclusive notetaker, but in our second campaign, another player has that responsibility. I still open my notes journal and put the recording date at the top of the page every session though, even if that’s the only thing I write all night!

JR: Who is sitting at your dream table?

SC: I’ve had a copy of Forsooth! (a Shakespeare-themed RPG) for a long time and have never gotten to play it, but that’s what my dream table would be playing. At the table would be David Tennant, Keegan Michael Key, Danielle Brooks, Catherine Tate, Quinta Brunson, and Paul Rudd. It’s a big table, but we can cover all of the Shakespeare tropes that way!

JR: What are you most looking forward to within the TTRPG world?

SC: I love seeing new systems popping up (even if I am too afraid to dive into them!). As TTRPGs grow more diverse in players and systems, the opportunities for storytelling are going to keep exponentially exploding – that’s going to be so fun to get to watch. 

Tavern Talk Thursday: DENNIS ROBINSON

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