Bill Cavalier, the Dungeon Bastard, is a professional adventure coach and gaming personality. He is known for his no-non-sense advice at dungeonbastard.com, which is dedicated to helping gamers reach their maximum potential. Bill was kind enough to take time out for an interview with the Bedrock Blog.
To learn more about the Dungeon Bastard and his gaming expertise, visit: www.dungeonbastard.com
On Life as an Adventure Coach
Brendan Davis (BD): You are a highly regarded adventure coach, someone who helps gamers reach their full potential at the table. In the past few years you shifted from one-on-one consulting to the video format, which allows you to reach a much broader audience with your philosophy of: the game is not broken, the players are broken. How has your tough love message changed the hobby for the better since you took to Youtube?
Bill Cavalier (BC): In the two years since I’ve started using YouTube to bring my PROFESSIONAL ADVENTURE COACHING to the masses of unwashed gamers who are CLEARLY doing it wrong, we’ve seen the AD&D books reprinted, a whole new version of D&D get underway, and a plethora of wildly-successful RPG KickStarter campaigns. I’d like to take credit for that. Some people will say I can’t. I would like to remind those people that I am a BASTARD.
BD: Being an adventure coach seems like the perfect job to most gamers. But few have achieved your level of success or fame. What sets you apart from the less successful adventure coaches?
BC: Look, EVERY gamer has an opinion on how to play the game – that’s just part of our genetic make-up. The difference between Lesser Adventure Coaches (or LACKEYS, as I like to call them) is that MY opinions are RIGHT. (For those who would disagree, I would refer you to the last sentence of the previous answer.)
On Winning the Game
BD: For years we were told “you don’t win D&D” but you seem to take the view not only can you win D&D, you must win D&D. Is this an accurate assessment of your position and if so, what are D&D’s victory conditions?
BC: A Lesser Adventure Coach (or Type V Demon, as I like to call them) would say that loot and XP are the hallmarks of a successful D&D game. WRONG. Loot and XP are firmly in the purview of the DM, and in my experience, that guy’s a JERK. A stingy, stingy jerk. If you’re settling for loot and XP, you’re just licking tablescraps off the salad bar in the Old Country Buffet of Imagination. The REAL sign of success: GLORY. Killing a troll is easy. BEHEADING a troll with your battleaxe, with one hit point, bathed in alchemist’s fire and ochre jelly… THAT’S what a D&D victory looks like. NOW you’re not only EATING from the Buffet of Imagination, you’re cooking your own sirloin steaks and guzzling fro-yo directly from the nozzle! The game is great when YOU MAKE IT GREAT! Just make sure to get a fresh plate every time.
BD: We all know you love dwarves, half-orcs, fighters, barbarians and clerics. Suppose you were in a full-length campaign where, out of fairness to the other players, you were not allowed to be any of those races or classes; what alternative combo would you choose and why?
BC: Minotaur Wizard. 1) Minotaur = BADASS. 2) FIREBALL. 3) THERE IS NO THREE!
BD: You have taught gamers how to be better players, but what about Gamemasters. Beyond funny voices, what other qualities does a good GM need?
BC: A good GM realizes it’s not HIS game, it’s OUR game. Sure, someone has to make the map, and put in the creatures, and come up with some sort of perfunctory shoe-string plot which we’ll all dutifully ignore. But a good GM doesn’t just CHALLENGE players, he creates moments of opportunity for MAXIMUM GLORY. Maybe that’s a rickety minecart the party can use as an impromptu battle chariot, or a jug full of electric bees, or a magic sword that shoots poison fireballs. WHATEVER. When the players do cool stuff EVERYBODY WINS. Also, a good GM doesn’t make the players bring all the snacks. KICK IN ONCE IN A WHILE, CHEAPSKATE.
BD: You’ve proclaimed your hatred of gnomes to the public. You have such disdain for them that you refused any comment on gnomes in your Guide to Racial Profiling. This would seem to go well beyond a simple critique of racial abilities or bonuses. Are there personal reasons for this anti-gnome stance?
BC: Look, I’m a BASTARD, it’s ALL personal! So in one of my early Con experiences, the GM handed out pre-gen characters and when all the squabbling over characters was over, I got stuck with the gnome. You know what I did that adventure?? I RODE A BADGER. I cast AUDIBLE GLAMER. And I got killed by a GIANT LEECH. Needless to say: TRAUMATIZED FOR LIFE. It was at that point I realized: Shorter than a dwarf, AXE TO THE NECK. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Gnomes. Feh.
BD: Recently, actor Tom Lommel from Fear of Girls claimed credit for your fame in a recent interview. He also called your advice “terrible and over the top”. What is your response?
BC: I’ll begrudgingly agree that guy is magnetically handsome in a quirky, hey-can-you-check-my-computer-for-malware kind of way, but there is NO WAY he is qualified to pass judgment on my advice. He’s not even a LESSER Adventure Coach (or “Gnome Illusionist” as I like to call them.) He’s more of a WANNABE Adventure Coach (aka “Giant Leech.”) If I ever meet him face-to-face, there is going to be a THROWDOWN.
BD: Your victories at the gaming table are certainly without precedent. You beat the Temple of Elemental Evil and have claimed at various points to have stats ranging from 17 to 20 (the odds of which are astronomically low). No one doubts the validity of these claims, but some have suggested these may not be the product of natural talent. Pointing to your frequent bursts of rage, and constant threats to punch people in the face, the question of stat doping has come up. How do you answer these charges?
BC: Hey man, nobody will admit it to your face, but EVERYBODY buffs. Bear’s Endurance, bless spells, Gauntlets of Ogre Power – it’s EVERYWHERE. I’m not naming names, but let’s just say I know a certain DARK ELF with a pair of SCIMITARS who wears a Girdle of Stone Giant Strength under his fancy pantaloons. So, yeah, people TALK about keeping the game clean, but when you’re staring down a horde of gnoll archers about to unleash a pack of fiendish dire wolves on your party… you do what needs to be done. Hate the game, man, not the player. The FANS demand it, I just deliver.