Matt Mercer is returning to Dimension 20, but this time behind the GM’s screen. This week, Mercer will kick off The Ravening War, a new Dimension 20 miniseries that explores the devastating Ravening War, one of the major events that preceded A Crown of Candy, one of Dimension 20’s most popular series. Ahead of the show’s debut this week on Dropout, we spoke to Mercer via email about the new campaign and the challenges that comes from not only leading a story in a world created by another player at the table, but also with playing with some of the best known GMs on the Internet.
Are there any differences to how you prepare a campaign set in your own world to a campaign created by one of your own players?
Matt Mercer: Oh, most definitely! For one, the research I undergo to ensure I am able to respectfully represent THEIR world to them, and the audience familiar with it, is immense! Deep dives and documents surrounding the setting swim in my dreams for a bit, hehe. From there, it’s about finding the elements of the setting and the story I wish to tell that pulls from the familiar at times, but also creates unique and unexpected elements that even the world’s creator is caught off guard without breaking or contradicting what has been established.
A Crown of Candy leaned into its Game of Thrones inspirations with multiple character deaths and Brennan even had the players make back-up characters. Are you approaching Ravening War with the same kind of deadly and brutal approach?
Mercer: As much as I am able within a shorter span of episodes! We certainly made back up characters for each player in the event that player choices and dangerous circumstances made for a rapid death, so we shall see…
Is there any additional pressure from having Aabria and Brennan, which complete the so-called Triumvirate of Actual Play DMs, at your table? Have your picked up any tricks or learned any lessons from sitting on the other side of the DM screen?
Mercer: The pressure I feel is more in wanting to be true and respectful to the existing lore and worldbuilding of Calorum. Beyond that, Aabria and Brennan are close friends of mine, and I’m just excited to be able to run a game for them, so there isn’t any pressure there. As for lessons, I am ALWAYS learning! Both in my time getting to be a player under Aabria and Brennan previously, and just watching so many other great GMs in the space work. Lessons in pacing for each table’s interests, theme strength, and methods of surprise.
Considering that Critical Role has had a ton of cameos from previous campaign PCs, will we be seeing any sort of Crown of Candy cameos in Ravening War, or will this be a completely distinct and standalone adventure?
Mercer: This is intended to be a distinct, stand-alone adventure that doesn’t REQUIRE having watched ACoC to enjoy… but there certainly are references and winks/nods that those who have watched it will enjoy immensely. Historical cameos and elements of history fleshed out that were only referenced in passing during the span of the original campaign. This is my chance to create a companion piece that lives on its own, but also elevates the original game.
The first episode of Dimension 20: The Ravening War premieres today, Wednesday May 10th, on Dropout.