Isen is a mythical world created by Dungeon Master (core storyteller and facilitator of the game) Brad Zimmerman and we’re picking up with the cast where they last left off in their adventures. Even for those not aware or familiar with the podcast like myself, the programme provided the needed context to understand the world, story, and characters, helping everyone feel immersed within Isen. We met Banffor Watt (Oliver Scripps), the troubled human barbarian and Marley Kraff (Julz Burgisser), a witty, saxophone-playing half-elf bard/ranger from the regular cast; they were joined by Goose Drubbins (Adam Wright), an ogre cleric who has a greatclub and a simple soul, and newcomer to the game Patch Lambert playing Latch Pambert, a sneaky tiefling ranger who is no stranger to the wilderness.
The Fate of Isen was absolutely hilarious; the audience spent most of the show in absolute stitches. Whether it was the wonderfully placed wordplay concerning Weta Workshop, its people, and its works like the episode’s boss P’tor Jaxxon or the heat-of-the-moment quips like “can someone use some magic or some shit!”, the comedy did not disappoint. Hats off to the whole cast for keeping us so on our toes with jokes we’d constantly come back to throughout the night. Wright’s confusion around the word “carapace”, which everyone else seemed to grasp, cropping back up as the story unfolded is just one out of all the night’s fantastic examples.
The characters were also so vivid and lively, each offering something to the group above the comedy. Veterans of the series, Burgisser and Scripps, painted the action with great vibrancy: Burgisser’s character, Marley Kraff, would sing beautiful songs about the spells she would cast to obliterate her enemies and Scripps’ Banffor Watt was equally contented with sniffing cave ‘shrooms as he was with raging into battle with his greataxe. It was a treat to see the actors dress in costumes for their characters too, plastering more life into the picture. Even Dungeon Master Zimmerman was decked out in a cape--half of his wife’s Maleficent costume certainly created a sense of power.
The team got the audience involved in the action, giving us more reason to be there. Whenever a player rolled a natural 1 (critical failure), the audience would yell “fail” and cheer ferociously; whenever a player rolled a natural 20 (critical success), we’d yell “success” and cheer uproariously. And sometimes when a character landed the finishing blow on one of their enemies, we got the opportunity to describe how the kill was made. Little touches like this let us be a part of that action, creating a greater connection to the players and their characters, as well as Zimmerman’s story and world.
The level of comedy was a great asset to the live recording but perhaps also its greatest hurdle. While we were engaged because we were laughing so much, the comedy tended to steamroll the story, veering off into tangents that halted what would happen next and break the flow. This meant the ‘boss fight’ with P’tor Jaxxon, for example, had to be condensed into five minutes or less, giving little weight to the episode’s climax. The team made a tremendous effort in dealing with the live situation, including a few technical issues and facilitating the learning of a brand-new player, but a better balance between getting the jokes out their and getting the story moving would help enhance the experience. The storytelling, as well as the humour, is what made The Fate of Isen (and D&D in general) a theatrical experience.
Tonight, I fell in love with a colourful cast of adventurers and their misfortunes, played by stellar, homegrown comedic talent. While the comedy sometimes derailed the story, everyone had a blast. Having fun is part of the game and what we got from the story kept me going as much as the humour kept me giggling. Not only has The Fate of Isen gained a new fan, but they’ve inspired that fan to play more. Anyone keen? I can bring my own dice.
While the live recording was a one-night only event during the Fringe Festival, weekly podcasts unveil the group’s adventures, which can be found through services like iTunes or Spotify. To find out more about The Fate of Isen, you can visit their website, browse their social media (all @fateofisen), support the content creators through Patreon, or even purchase mugs and shirts from their RedBubble store.