The internet is filling up with D&D and tabletop roleplaying shows, but outside the live streaming scene, few have been as successful as Spencer Estabrooks’ One Hit Die. The cast includes Phil Burke (from Van Helsing and Hell on Wheels), Julie Orton (One Night in Aberdeen), Andrew Long (Sugar Skull Man and Hell on Wheels) and Mikaela Cochrane (The Valley Below). The plot has a bunch of RPG characters just trying to level up!
Here’s season 1 and episode 1 to set the scene…
Geek Native has been lucky enough to land an interview with Spencer Estabrooks, the talent behind the camera, and we ask him to share his tips on making a good show, plans for the future and about what he watches.
What inspired you to create One Hit Die?
I guess my experiences playing D&D since high school. I think every D&D group has people playing for different reason, looking to get different experiences out of the campaign wether its storytelling, ego transference, or straight up min-maxing to dominate. Not every character has the same goals. My experiences working in a office with a diversity of personalities were the same kinda thing. I thought the conflicts and fights that happen as they personality types interacting have a lot of room for comedy.
Can you tell me the evolution of One Hit Die – from a small AFA (Alberta Foundation of the Arts) grant and now to three seasons and partnership with TELUS Originals?
Twice a year the Alberta Foundation of the Arts gives money to artists to create film and video Art. We received a small grant (Yes, D&D comedy is a form of “art”) and were able to make the first 4 episodes. We won best fantasy series and best series at the ALT WebFest, and I was so happy with the way things went I wrote a Christmas Special… Crushmas, But we were still having trouble finding an audience and getting the word out to people what we are doing.
I approached Telus, a local cable provider, and they agreed to put our Episodes on their VOD, Video on Demand. They also gave me a small community access grant to create another season. We made Legend of the Lich Lord. When they launched it on their VOD service it ranked in their top 10 most watched that year.
Given its success, they asked it to become a “Telus Origial” and funded our third season. We also partnered with The Fantasy Network and raised bit of extra money through kickstarter to help with our post production costs. It’s been fun. Every season we get better in production and quality. Every season the characters feel more dynamic and natural. It’s kinda like every time we shoot we get more experience and every season we level up.
We’re hoping we’ll get a fourth season too, but it really depends on how well this season does. Did we get enough XP to level up? 😬
Can you summarize what One Hit Die is all about for us?
I normally call it “Lord of the Rings” shot like “The Office”. It’s basically a D&D meta-mockumentary. We shoot documentary style within a fantasy campaign. One question that people keep asking is “Will we ever see the players that play the characters?” and the answer is a quick “No”. It’s not like Gamers. We love Gamers, but our show is completely set in the fantasy world. There is no real modern world counter part and never will be.
Can you tell us a bit about The Devouring Dungeon? What should viewers expect?
Every season is a stand alone adventure. Like a one shot campaign, so you don’t need to watch previous seasons to enjoy it. I always wanted to do a straight up dungeon crawl. Rooms filled with puzzles and monster. So this season, the party is trapped in a dungeon that is constantly shifting rooms (like the movie Cube). Their goal is to find the “Fountain of Experience” so they can finally level up. Sadly, like all magic in OHD, everything is not always as it seems and it becomes more important to understand the secret of the dungeon in order to survive.
And after that? What are the future plans for One Hit Die?
I’ve got 2 more seasons in mind… but it really depends on continuing to increase our viewership and find ways to fund it. If you like it, please rate/review or share with your friends. It really helps us get support for another season.
Why do you think D&D and tabletop roleplaying is increasingly popular? Is it all down to live streaming and shows like One Hit Die?
No, I think the live-streaming and shows like OHD are a symptom of the increasing popularity. The world we live in, despite being more connected, can also be isolating and divisive. I think table-top and RPGs are popular because you bring people together and collaborate in creative/collective storytelling. Those kind of experiences teach creativity and empathy. I think everybody could use a little more empathy for others these days.
Do you watch any tabletop RPG shows yourself?
Mostly the narrative stuff. I like Gamers, AFK, Journey Quest.
What mistakes do you see most often when people try and capture the spirit of a good tabletop gaming session on camera?
I think most mistakes come from not having the resources necessary to have a strong production quality. OHD has issues with this swell. We get pampered by $10million scenes from Game of Thrones, but when you try to do something close to that quality on a limited budget is becomes impossible.. Costumes, makeup and VFX are expensive. Crews need to be paid and fed. There’s no way to get around that.
BUT, I think that if you’re telling stories from your personal experience and you put your heart into it, production quality doesn’t matter as much. People will forgive your production mistakes if your stories have heart.
Who do you think does it well?
The previously mentioned ones above? hahaha! There’s a ton of great shows out there that are doing wonderfull stuff. Ben Dobyns started something called The Fantasy Network. It’s becoming a home for a ton of great fantasy shows. (Gamers, Mythica, Rangers and more) Check them out.
I found this video called ‘Mimic Karaoke” that contains an interesting version of Monty Python’s “Sit on My Face”. What on Earth is the back story to that?
Sometimes I get ideas in my head and I’m like: “Ya lets do that. It’ll be funny.”… I had a mimic sofa on set for one day and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Although, you should have seen the look on the crews face when, after a 10 hour day, I said “Hey, guys can everyone stay a little later, I have a great idea for a music video”. They were good sports about it, and since the scene was already lit so it didn’t add that much more onto our shooting day.
Last year Geek Native published a pleading post ‘Mimics do not always need to appear as chests and doors‘ and you’ve nailed another example with the sofa. Could you add two more ideas to the list?
That’s a great list. I think a good mimic can be anything the party wants to interact with. A lure to bring them in. So a fountain or. well with something glimmering at the bottom. A large wooden table with a red button. A comfortable looking throne. Or maybe a toilet? A toilet with something glimmering inside? Would a member of your party dare to reach within?
How can people watch the latest season of One Hit Die?
If you live in Alberta or BC you can watch it on Telus VOD and you should. Telus has been a great supporter for our series and we’re hoping they’ll continue their support. Rate it. Watch it. If they see people love it they might give us some money for Season 4
Amazon Prime – US & UK – Again if you like it send a review. We’re kinda like tinker bell, if you don’t clap we die.
The Fantasy Network – World wide – These guys are cool and big supporters of indie fantasy.