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Anything You Wanted To Know About D20 From Orion Black

In this interview we talk about dimension 20’s production in general, Misfits and Magic, and even some questions about The Seven which premiers Aug 18th.

So, last week I interviewed Orion Black – Dimension 20‘s creative director. You can watch the entire interview on my YouTube channel:

Below you’ll find a full transcript of the interview if you prefer to read it instead of watching a video.

You can follow Orion on Twitter here: Orion Black.

And you can follow me here: Oren Cohen.

Enjoy!


Oren Cohen:
Thank you so much for being here. How are you doing this fine morning?

Orion Black:
I’m doing pretty good. I slept well.

Oren:
Awesome. So, we’re here to talk about Dimension 20 in general and a little about you. There are so many questions. I got a lot of questions on the subreddit. And unfortunately, I don’t think we can get through all of them, but I did pick some and it’s going to be interesting. So before we-

Orion:
Is it the D20 subreddit?

Oren:
Yeah, Dimension 20 subreddit.

Orion:
Oh, geez.

Oren:
Yeah, they’re-

Orion:
This is going to be interesting.

Oren:
They’re great. I actually kind of source all of my questions for Brennan from there, and it always turns out so well.

Orion:
Oh, yeah. My thing about any place that has a D20 gathering is that it’s like having a bunch of detectives who are looking for you. So before it’s like, “Oh, it’s fine, it’s just a Reddit.” Then it’s like, “These people want to know so many things that are in my brain.” It’s just a thing to get used to. So there’s nothing wrong with them at all, it’s just a new part of my life.

Oren:
Yeah, there were so specific questions, but yeah, I took that away for us. There are a lot of interesting questions to go through anyway. So before we dive into Dimension 20 in general and the seasons themselves, I did want to kind of introduce you. So if you can take a few sentences to tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do as a creative director in Dimension 20?

Orion:
Yeah, I can do that. I’m Orion D. Black. I hail from Northern California in the Bay Area. Lived there for many years. And I am sort of a vagabond of both land and entertainment. I just, I didn’t go to college almost at all, and I definitely did not go to college for entertainment stuff. I’ve just been studying all my life because it’s interesting to me. So shout outs to everyone who doesn’t have a college degree and wants to go far in life, you can do it. But yeah, I am the creative director at Dimension 20, which is the funnest thing ever and also pays my bills, so very happy. And-

Oren:
And that’s important.

Orion:
Yeah. Putting those two things together it’s solid stuff. And my job is to pretty much figure out how we’re going to present a show, what shows we’re going to present, what we’re going to record, what we’re going to put in production and all of the aspects of what that show is going to be like. So, the sort of editing style and the music decisions, and art, and cast members, and sometimes GMs like you’ve seen with Aabria. A lot of stuff.

Oren:
Yeah, we’re going to talk about that later.

Orion:
Yeah. It’s my job to basically oversee everything, and I co-wrote the season with Aabria, and with Brennan I co-wrote some of The Seven. So when y’all see that come out, there’s a little bit of me in there.

Oren:
I can tell you that from personal experience seeing Misfits and Magic, I’m going to call myself out here and say that I am going to be 34 years old next month, and I grew up with Harry Potter.

Orion:
Happy birthday.

Oren:
Thank you. Every year that Harry Potter was growing up, I was at the same age when the books came out in my country. So, this was like, seeing Misfits and Magic, it was such a good, modern take on that world which always looked like there’s so many unexplainable things over there, like Brennan calls out the owls and all the inclusiveness stuff. So that’s very like personally, I loved that season. It was amazing, and I hope to see more of that coming-

Orion:
Me too.

Oren:
Next seasons and all that. For me that’s great.

Orion:
We’ll see what happens.

Oren:
Yeah. I’m sure you know what happens and-

Orion:
Absolutely. I always know.

Oren:
I mean, I had a tradition with Brennan in one of our previous interviews asking him very challenging questions, and then roll a dice, a D20 dice, and he would answer based on my results. So one time I got I think, four, and he didn’t say anything. But one time I got 17, and that was one number higher than his DC, so.

Orion:
Nice. Nice.

Oren:
That is good. So we’ll see. Maybe I’ll challenge you to do that as well later.

Orion:
Sounds interesting.

Oren:
Yeah. Okay, so I’m going to dive into the questions here. For those at home, I won’t say the name of the person who asked the question, but you’ll see it on screen when the video comes out. So it’s mixed, some of those are my questions, some of those from Redditors, and all that. So, how was it to come into a team with an already established fan base? Were there any challenges to deal with or any benefits to make your job a little easier?

Orion:
Yeah, there’s a lot to it. There’s a lot to it. One thing that’s really nice is that the D20 fandom is one of the best fandoms that I’ve seen out there. At the very least on the Discord, people are pretty cool and people have been very respectful. And I spent a lot of time there for a while just trying to normalize my presence. And yeah, everybody’s pretty chill.


The difficulty in jumping into something like this though, is that there’s already, there’s an established flow and there’s a way that people expect things to happen. And even though I always want to mess with people’s expectations, the only way to properly do that is to understand their present expectations so that you don’t go so far that it’s like, “Oh, this is way too new,” and it feels weird. It’s like I want people to be uncomfortable because you can only grow when you’re in an uncomfortable place, not your comfort zone, right? So I’m trying to get the fans to expand a little bit on their ideas of a couple of things about how we work. And we’re going to be doing a lot of that probably for a long time.


And so, the fan base overall has been chill. I don’t get a ton of DMs or a bunch of messages or I at least have not seen long letters about me from someone or something. Everyone is really good and they really self-moderate in the community which I appreciate. It’s a really, really big world to be stepping into on the side of when it’s fan-facing. But for me, my job is to work with 10 people, and never at the same time, they’re are all different departments. It’s really like there’s this one thing that always weirds me out because I just forget, but I talk to Brennan fairly often because we work together and we also happen to be friends.


So, sometimes just like any other friends, I’ll text him random shit or whatever. And I’m just messing with Brennan and it’s like, Brennan, my friend is in my head, or Brennan, my coworker is in my head. And then I’ll go on the internet and someone will be like, “Oh, my God. Brennan is the greatest DM I’ve ever seen in my life. Here’s all these things and how he charted a map.” And I’m like, “That guy’s a goober.” That’s how I treat my friends is I’m like, “I love you. You’re a weirdo. That’s why we’re friends.”


So it’s because a lot of our stuff is just so low key because when the show, when the camera comes on, you’ll see, “Hey, I’m Brennan Lee Mulligan, and we’re here with Dimension 20, and today we’re going to be playing some Dungeons and Dragons. Everybody ready to play some Dungeons and Dragons? Yeah. Hello, heroic high schoolers. Woo!” That is an amazing side of Brennan, but that’s a very rare Brennan. So that’s one of the things is whenever people are like, “Oh, Aabria,” or whoever, is that I send Aabria TikToks and morning messages being like, “You’re amazing. Go crush it.” And she also sends me stuff like that. It’s very, very sweet.


So it’s all just like it’s this very small world thing that every time I take a step outside of it, it’s like, “Wow, this world is huge.” But it’s kind of nice because these people deserve it. All the actors and the performers and stuff all really deserve all this attention, and the fans treat them pretty well. And there’s always room to treat people better, so go ahead and do that. But y’all are doing a solid work. And I’m not putting my face on camera on the show because I don’t want to be famous in this industry that much. That’s above my pay grade is what I’ll say. You’ll have to pay me a lot more to put my face on a camera.

Oren:
That’s interesting. I mean, there were people that asked if we’ll ever see you as a PC, like running a PC on one of the seasons. Is that something you’ll consider?

Orion:
So, I’ll give you a scoop that Nobody knows, okay? I like doing this because if I’m gonna have an interview with someone, I’ll have a little something juicy that is not at all important to me anymore, but it’s some pretty cool knowledge. When me and Brennan first started talking about me working with Dimension 20 there was a whole strategy, a whole plan with a bunch of options as to what to do. And because Brennan was doing everything by himself on the creative side, only with the help of producers and stuff, so he didn’t even really know exactly what things were gonna be like, because he’s like, “I don’t know how much of the workload is going to disappear for me or what you’re going to do, yada, yada.”


So one of the things at first is when I was like, “Yeah, I want to run shows,” Brennan was like, “If you want to GM, you should GM. GM a show, do it.” And I was like, “No. I don’t ever want to do that.” I was like, “I don’t ever want to do that. That sounds horrible.” But it was it was kind of joking. I thought about it for a while. The first thing I said was, “I got to think about that,” because there is a huge difference between being behind the camera and in front of it. It’s like I can do these interviews and people are still like, “Oh, that’s a executive or something.” In front of the camera, all of a sudden it’s like people want to really, really get into like your life and stuff, and that is totally fine for people who are good with that.


I think Aabria is amazing with that. Aabria is just so charismatic and has this great way to establish boundaries, but also gives a lot. Me personally I’m just like, “Nah, that’s a different kind of work.” So that’s what I ended up thinking about, it’s why you probably won’t ever see me as a PC or a GM. But I will say that there is a time limit on that thought because I have decided that after a certain amount of time, I will review that question and go, “Okay, do I want to be a PC? Do I want to GM?” So it’s not completely impossible. It’s just not going to happen for a set certain amount of time.

Oren:
Okay. You do realize that this answer is going to haunt you for the rest of time?

Orion:
That’s why I didn’t tell them the amount of time because if it was two more days from now and people were coming at me, I’d be like, “No, it’s two years from now. That’s what I meant.”

Oren:
There was one question… Also, just a side note, I just realized that I’m looking at your video feed and it looks like I’m always looking down instead of looking at my camera. So I’ll try to do that more often. Anyway, the question. “The premise of Dimension 20 as a show was full seasons with the core cast, with side quests between full seasons. We’ve now seen Mice & Murder, followed by Misfits and Magic, and now next week The Seven premieres of side quests. And the new season and setting for the core cast was revealed in the latest newsletter. Walk me through the shift that Dimension 20 might be doing and how much weight core cast seasons will have going forward?”

Orion:
I think yeah, this is a sort of thought that a lot of people have been having in a way because they’re like, “What is this that’s happening?” What I can say is that we just don’t think about things as… We think that there’s a main cast season, and that’s usually going to be the regular amount of episodes that we have for that. But everything else is just stuff that we want to do and figuring out the length of what would be best for that in particular. Because The Seven for example, happens in Spyre with Canon characters and my favorite cast thus far, and it’s 10 episodes. 18 episodes would probably still be really fantastic, they’re amazing, but 10 just sort of feels like it fits for the story that’s being told there. And we have the flexibility of having as many episodes as we feel like we need. I did four episodes for Misfits and Magic and people are so upset. Whether they hated it or they love it, they are very upset that it’s four episodes long.

Oren:
Yeah, I read your thread on Twitter. I think you handled it very well, but yeah, people were like-

Orion:
I do what I can. Well, the thing is, is that nobody knew this was going to happen except me. That isn’t to say that they didn’t believe in me or the show or anything like that, it’s just that as a business it’s something new, so you just really don’t know what’s going to happen. Everyone has the enthusiasm and trust in my work. And as we continued to work, they were like, “This is incredible. We’re just going to knock this out of the park.” But before all of that you have to make a decision on the number of the episodes it’s gonna be. So it was like four is a good place to start and test it out. And so we did it.


And now I’m leaning towards going for more episodes, because the things that people have complaints about are the same things that I and the cast members, and everybody kind of feels as well now that it’s like, we’ll probably do more episodes. If you see a four episode thing or less than that it probably will be some special event or something. I want to go up in episodes so that we really get to flesh things out, both for the sake of the fans and for us to make sure we get all the stuff we want in there.

Orion:
So you will always get a main cast season as long as they want to keep playing the game, as long as Brennan wants to keep playing the game. And as far as I know, they both do. Both parties, they love playing with each other. When they’re all talking it’s electricity in the room, it’s great. As for literally everything else, just wait and see because if you find it confusing now, you will be spun around in wonderland blindfolded trying to figure out what direction to go in because things are just going to continue to change, but you will end up getting a lot of amazing stuff that you like, and the size is going to be much more accommodating for everybody involved, so.

Oren:
Okay. I remember, Brennan in our last interview he said that it’s becoming increasingly… I think that was his words. It’s becoming increasingly easier to make longer seasons.

Orion:
Yeah.

Oren:
So, okay. We’ll see. I’m excited.

Orion:
We’ll see is my answer to everything at the end of the question.

Oren:
Circling back to Misfits and Magic, I did want to ask you how was the idea born? Did you and Aabria come up with the idea for this event/side quest? Was it something you came up with or did you come up with her together? How the idea came to be?

Orion:
So, the way that I work is highly collaborative. I have pitches. Before talking with Aabria, I had a bunch of pitches as to what the first show could be. And I had one that I wanted the most, but we wanted to talk about it because as the person not playing the game I want the GM to have as much comfort and flexibility with the mechanics in the game as much as they need. Something that they’re familiar with, that they want to do. And Aabria is one who brought forward Kids on Brooms, and it was really just, “Let’s do magical kids.” And we all were talking about a couple other things and we were like, “No, this is great.” And then once we just established that was what it was going to be, Aabria and I ended up having creative meetings.


From the first meeting, it just exploded. And the first things sort of we decided what are the themes going to be? How are we going to challenge stuff? Of course, how are we going to address like transphobia and things? How are we going to address the issues we face growing up with reading the stuff where it was like, “Wow, I love this and it’s so hard to love this at the same time”? And face those things, and what was the big bad going to be and the effects of classism?


One of my best friends lives in London, and we talk a lot, damn near every day. And she tells me a lot of stuff about… Because we talk about our lives in like me here in the US and her there in London, and how things are a little bit different and stuff. And how over there, classism is almost just as strong or maybe stronger than racism in a strange way. That because if you have a particular accent, you might only be able to go so high up in society because that accent represents-

Oren:
Wow.

Orion:
A class that isn’t accepted, right? So my friend has two different voices-

Oren:
Wow.

Orion:
Because she’s Jamaican. So she has an English accent and also a Patois accent.


If she just like was like, “Oh, here’s what I grew up having,” it would probably be a huge block for her. And so she has this… Also, I mean, because she’s from, I mean, she grew up in London that it is also authentic that she has this other accent that is just this kind of English accent. And I know it’s that something that people brought up, like Aabria doesn’t have a ton of accents, and so that’s not something that ended up getting hit on very strongly. And maybe that’ll change in the future if we end up doing more MisMag. But we wanted to at least make sure that the core of everything was classism, and how there’s this huge separation of people and cultures and how there’s a lot of unseen decisions being made just by only considering a certain class of people.


So it’s like a lot of people recognized early on how much a lot of things didn’t make sense because the headmistress would say something and they’d be like, “Wait, you just said something else. That doesn’t make any sense.” And she’d just like wipe it away, right? And that’s the whole way that they treat everything in the world that we created is that like, “Oh, you’re doing tracking with all of these kids and you don’t actually care about what happens with them, you care about keeping up the established same way that you do things because it results in a certain…” That’s why it was 10%, 10%, 10%, 65% or whatever.

Oren:
Yeah.

Orion:
And it was a deliberate choice that me and Aabria made, and then everything kind of stemmed from that. And then everything that was created was really just like hand-in-hand. We were in meetings just chopping it up, typing furiously, and just deciding, “Okay, how are we going to expand on that premise? What funny stuff are we going to put in here? What kind of stuff do we want to potential leads to lay for them for the players?” All sorts of stuff like that. And it was there were only a few things in there that I’m like, “Oh, that was 100% me because the vast majority of them are just me and Aabria having this wild fun time together.”

And there are a bunch of things that are 100% Aabria, and I love those because I can point those out and be like, “That wasn’t me. That was Aabria’s genius 100%. You got to give her 100% credit.” But it’s fun, and I don’t think that anything in the show, to be honest, I don’t think that anything in the show even in post production work was mostly my work. Still all was heavily influenced by Aabria’s vision and the world that we ended up creating together. And it informed so much, and it made it super easy for me to continue on with the work in post.


So Aabria absolutely smashed it out of the park, and it is my job as a creative director, my style is to lend that power of creative director to the person that I’m working with, and then just being sort of like a filter in order to help process things to be the way that the company needs them to be. And it’s super easy when working with someone who’s extremely talented, extremely experienced, so kindhearted, and just a ball to be around.

Oren:
Aabria is amazing. I love her GMing style so much. And I did recently start watching Xandria. So shout out to that. That’s amazing. Hashtag summer of Aabria.

Orion:
Yeah. I am very much trying to take the summer of Aabria and turn it into the era of Aabria.

Oren:
Amazing. Okay, I want to circle back to Kids on Brooms for a second. So that was new for Dimension 20. That’s a new system. We watched Dungeons and Dragons, D&D 5E for the majority of the seasons. How likely is it that going forward, we’re going to see other systems to tell stories?

Orion:
Extremely likely. Something that I can definitely just say is that I’m going to always pick the game that is the best for the show. The thing about D20 up to this point isn’t just that… Playing Dungeons and Dragons of course is something that’s very familiar to people in general, but it’s the system that Brennan knows front to back, and it’s the system that the players learned and so they’re very comfortable with it. If a story comes up that would better suit a different game, then it’s possible that if the cast so chooses, they would play a different game that better fits that thing. But it’s just D&D is probably always going to be sitting there at the core because they’re familiar with it and they like the game, and they don’t have to relearn a bunch of new stuff.


But like you’re seeing there are tons of other shows, and everything that I write, it’s most likely not going to be D&D unless I really do think D&D is the best thing to use for that story. And there’s only really one situation where I would find that to be true. But you’re going to be seeing a lot more games by a lot more people and I want to diversify the level of the first thing that came to mind is notoriety, but of prestige in the industry because like Kids on Brooms is a game that is pretty high up there in that it has a book and not a lot of games have even books at this point. But I want to have games played that are from books that have been put out and have sold really well, and I want to play games that are on a single sheet of paper on itch.io. So it’s just whatever happens to fit, it’s gonna be what I use. And the team is super supportive of that, and it’s a lot of fun.

Oren:
That’s so exciting. Kids on Brooms was fun to watch, but in terms of systems, it was so refreshing to see other systems being used. So I’m all for diversifying that. Okay, so, one question I have here for you is what are some of your favorite bits that wound up on the cutting room floor? I guess from Misfits and Magic.

Orion:
That is mostly stuff that we wrote Aabria and I that didn’t get to make it in because it was only four episodes and we lost a lot of stuff. I’m not going to give away anything super important or anything, because if there’s more Misfits and Magic, maybe we’ll use some of that stuff. But when they went to Biggles Bog, they had a lot of different places that they could go, and so we fleshed out a lot of different businesses that were there, and characters that were there, and things that you could buy, and just all the things that we built the world out of. So Biggles Bog is a lot bigger than what you saw.

Oren:
Oh, that’s awesome.

Orion:
Yeah. And it’s all there, so if they ever go back to Biggles Bog or back in MisMag, you’ll see some more places probably.

Oren:
Wow. Okay.

Orion:
There is one thing that I did that I won’t give away and it’s that because I think the moment of when that happened was hilarious is that the kind of workflow that I enjoy is, once Aabria has an idea, a main line idea, then I will take over the details so that she can just continue on the flow of the mainline idea. So I made a character where they would always, they had a poem for everything, like a rhyme, but at the end they would always not rhyme the last few words.


It was just so hilarious to me for some reason. It would just be like, “One, two, three, me and my friends. Five, six, seven, I’ll meet you at the…” Rather than saying end, it’d be like, after going on a long journey, there is a plateau by which you would reach to just absurdly going in some other direction. And I made a lot those, like a lot, which was super fun. So maybe if we get more MisMag and we run into a character that rhymes until they don’t, y’all had a little bit of a scoop.

Oren:
Rhymes until they don’t.

Orion:
Yeah.

Oren:
Also, how likely is it for another MisMag season?

Orion:
That is a great question. I will say that we love MisMag a lot and we would love to see more MisMag, we would love to make more MisMag. We have to see what the cast wants, what availability is like, how that fits into our schedules, all sorts of things like that. So it’s already been said I think on Twitter and stuff that we definitely want to do more Misfits and Magic. The likelihood in my opinion is probably pretty high, but no promises. So-

Oren:
Okay. No promising.

Orion:
It’s like it’s the era of Aabria. What if Aabria is doing 1,000 other things and it’s like, “Well, we just can’t a MisMag”? So, we’ll see.

Oren:
It’s like, we’ll see. Okay, what do you think makes D20 unique in the ever growing world of actual play shows and podcasts? And how do you plan to develop the brand while keeping and accentuating that uniqueness?

Orion:
It’s a great question.

Oren:
Not mine, but okay.

Orion:
Thank you, Redditor. From the beginning when I was just watching the show, I already thought what separated D20 from everything else was there’s a fearlessness to the way that D20 approaches all aspects of the show, that it’s like, “Okay, we’re going to be playing Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of people. Well, most of them don’t know how to play the game.” That’s fearlessness. Or, “We’re going to be doing comedy,” which can be very flexible and it’s vastly like improv. So that’s right there, that’s just like playing with fire, but they know how to do that in a controlled space, and they just it’s putting a lot of trust in your performers and in the cast that you have in your production team and your writers and all that kind of stuff.


And getting into some real political values in every single season is risky. A whole side of the internet can crash down upon you. But Brennan has a lot of what makes D20 unique, and the main cast season has a lot of what makes D20 unique, but there’s also like the side quests, the other guests that we’ve had on, and now even other GMs. There is something specific about D20 that makes it special. And that thing… Well, actually, it’s not even just one thing, it’s a few things. But we write those down, we target it, we focus it.


Especially me and Brennan have had so many talks just about with Aabria coming on as a GM for example. We then had to ask the question for the first time, what does a Dimension 20 GM look like? Because Aabria is not going to be like Brennan, Aabria is going to be like Aabria and that’s why she’s here, we want Aabria. But also, what is it to be the GM of Dimension 20? And so getting into things like that, that gets into the very unique aspects of what we do, how we do our comedy.


One thing that I will kind of say specifically, a lot of it is the care and effort that is put in to make sure that everybody who is a part of the process is informed, getting the things that they need, that they’re safe, that they have resources, that anything that they need or want. Like if we wrote something in and maybe that thing is particularly upsetting to someone that they have an easy and very accepted way for them to be like, “Oh, I don’t want that,” maybe, whatever it happens to be. We’re a recorded show, so if at any time someone’s like, “You know what, I need a break.” We’re like, “Absolutely, let’s cut.” Our producer will come up and be like, “Hey, do you need…” All in PPE gear with gloves on and a face mask, or like a face shield and be like, “Hey, do you need water? There’s a room to rest, anything at all.”


And that’s what really makes it for me is that everyone puts on their best performance because we make them as comfortable as we can. It’s kind of like what I said earlier with the way that I’m creative director and that I do creative directing is handing off some of the power and then just moving everything out of their way so that they can do what they do. And taking care of these individuals with these really great ideas about how they want to do a plot line or a character and stuff like that is both in game being a GM being able to move with that and allow those stories to converge, and allow these actors space to do their scenes, and all sorts of things like that. So it’s really just the fluidity and trust that we can have with each other as a cast and crew. That is one of the central parts of it.


Oh, how are we going to do it in the future? I’m gonna do some weird shit. But that core principle is going to be there at the forefront of it all. That’s what you will continue to see as well as some other things. It would just be way too long to get into all the things that we talked about, but it’s exciting.

Oren:
I can totally say that as a viewer, the dynamic, like the relationships, especially between the core cast members, but also watching side quests and all that, the dynamic between the players has always been they know how to play off one another. So they’re really close and know how to play and all that. So I think what I’m trying to say is keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working. It’s awesome. It’s amazing.

Orion:
It turns out that I have a real knack for casting. I’ve been knocking it out of the park lately. So all the shows to come, stellar casts. They just all function together really well. That’s the weird thing about me is that Brennan once said that I’m like Neo in the matrix, that I just read the code of D20 one day and was like, “I know how this works,” because I was sending him… It’s kind of a funny story. I wasn’t fully sure yet about how to make shows, like D20 shows specifically. I was kind of in the ballpark.


And so what I would do is at any time of the day I would just text Brennan a concept, like a whole paragraph. Not expecting a reply, just being like, “Ba-ba-ba-ba.” And if I had a couple, I’d just, I’d send a couple and I’d just say, “I’m just putting all these here so that I have them somewhere.” I’m always goofing around with Brennan like that, saying, “I could have written notes,” but I’m like, “Hey, Brennan, I’m gonna text you.” But I was putting down stuff, and Brennan replied to two of the ideas and was like, “Oh, that’s pretty good. Yeah.” Those were things that were in a position that could be structured, that with a little bit more work they could get to that point where it would be a really solid foundation.


And then something just clicked in my brain and all of a sudden I was just [grr 00:42:09]. I came up with five shows in two minutes. I was just going off. And I was just like, pow-pow-pow-pow, enter, pow-pow-pow-pow, enter. And Brennan was like, there was a long pause. And Brennan sends back a text and he’s like, “You’re like Neo in the matrix. You just read the code of D20, and you fully understand how this shit works now.” I was like, “Yes.” And so-

Oren:
That’s great. I love it.

Orion:
When it comes to those things, sometimes I don’t understand why I make certain decisions that are really good. They just happen to be really good decisions, but I can’t… Like casting for example, I’ll go, “Oh, these people are gonna be great together.”


But yeah, it’s just seeing the code, and that is a super important aspect because that code is the uniqueness of D20. And so it’s all of those things have to come together, those special things that maybe I don’t even have words for sometimes. But yeah, I mean, you all watch the show and definitely feel how amazing and unique it is, and how that it’s just wild energy. It’s the same for us, we’re just in there having a blast. So I don’t think there’s ever gonna be a shift in D20 content that is so… Even if we change a bunch of things, the core of it will always be about those interactions and about how we play the game together and how we tell stories together. That’s what makes a good pizza. We got all the toppings. We got the cheese, we got the [inaudible 00:43:57]. I’m just kidding. I’m just saying random stuff.

Oren:
That’s incredible. Yeah. Okay. Is there a particular step in the creative process you would say is most essential in making a fantastical world feel real?

Orion:
In making it feel real. Yeah, actually. I didn’t have an answer to the question until you asked it. But yeah, I think it’s actually relatability. That what makes it feel real is that it has to be real to you specifically. There has to be something that’s like, “Oh, I know what that is like,” so that you can attach yourself to all of the things. That’s why individual characters, people attach themselves to characters so well because those characters are relatable, whether it’s relating to them personally or having traits that you like in people. Like Jammer, for example is Lou Wilson energy is just a beautiful thing in this world.

Oren:
That’s right.

Orion:
And Jammer is just… God, I love that guy. Just 10 out of 10 human. But the energy and support that comes from Jammer is both uniquely Jammer and uniquely Lou. And so the relatability there if you’ve already watched the show, or you know Lou a little bit from watching the show, if you know that energy, it draws you in so easily that you’re like, “Bow, I love this character,” because this character is like an extension of Lou’s imagination with all of that good energy that he brings to people. And Sam, for example, Danielle, Wow.

Oren:
She killed me with that, “We don’t know you.”

Orion:
Yeah. Danielle knocked me on my ass a couple times with just how funny and quick and smart she is. And immediately, she made a character that’s super relatable. She was like, “Oh, they’re gonna be a Twitch streamer and an Instagram person and doing Mac Bong, doing all these things that are culturally relevant to us right now.” And because we’re all surrounded by entertainment all the time, knowing kind of what that influencer kind of parody and also sort of reality bending thing is like, and then just being charming as hell and super smart as Danielle, it’s super easy to become relatable. So many people, so many people have looked over at Evan Kelmp and been like, “Yeah, that guy. Misery, I know that guy.”

Oren:
Yeah, that guy.

Orion:
And Erica probably has my favorite character in the show when it comes to the purpose of their character because that character is like a younger Erica that doesn’t just represent her, but a lot of people in that time period. And so she’s calling back to younger versions of us and pulling us forward and taking that journey with us of, “Hey, now you’re a straight up younger self, you’re going to see one, all the mistakes and weird shit that you did. But two, you’re going to see how that develops and grows when you’re in this different situation, when you have a little bit more control, when you have a little bit more experience to like figure things out.”


So yeah, Erica, honestly, I feel like everyone should go back and watch the show again, and just hyper focus on Erica’s performance and you will see things that you probably didn’t see the first time around, because she actually laid so many detailed and nuanced elements into her character that by the end it’s like, “Oh, you were just like 10 steps ahead.” She was just… But yeah.

Oren:
I do want to talk about the wand stuff and all that, but I do think it is interesting to see how in four episodes all the characters had amazing transformations in their individual journey. But Erica really smashed it, yeah-

Orion:
I agree.

Oren:
“Is there anything Orion and the team would have done differently on Misfits and Magic? And what is Orion looking forward to the most in upcoming projects?” Okay, so the last part of the question, if you can talk about, feel free to talk about, but let’s focus on the first question.

Orion:
Yeah.

Oren:
Yeah, if you had a chance to change something now.

Orion:
Oh, geez. Like, from the position of my job as a staff member, a bunch of organizational things, but people probably don’t care about that.

Oren:
Yeah, probably.

Orion:
I’ve taken a bunch of notes into like, “Oh, I kind of want to do this at this time, or I need to organize that.” None of you care about this. But what I would have done differently is well, one thing is I would have physically been there because I did not go. And-

Oren:
Oh, okay.

Orion:
There is a big difference between being there and not being there and doing my job. Not that it made anything worse for me not being there, but just there’s a big difference. I think also this is probably like a lot of people feel this way too but I would have done five or six episodes rather than four, if I could go back in time because I think we could have fit everything in five, but I think we could have really let everything breathe with six episodes. But we learned, the trailer drops, immediately was a smash hit, we knew it was gonna blow up and we were like, “Why did we do four episodes?” Everybody’s like, “Whose idea was that?” It’s all of our idea but you’re like, “Yeah.”


But that’s it mostly. I think that when I think back to the show and how everyone performs, and what the creative process was like, and working with our composer and our illustrator, and the people on our team doing the animation and the graphics and managing our time, and our producers and stuff, everybody just was so wonderful that the only things that I think about are we should have just done more of it.

Oren:
Yeah, okay.

Orion:
Because when it comes to getting better at things, that really comes down to the boring organizational stuff. Like even I have narrative notes about things that ways that I would do things a little bit differently. But it really is, hey, just give people more time to shine and you’ll have a brighter star, so.

Oren:
Okay. The thing that you said about the four episodes and doing more, I fully agree. I did think there were things in the past that Dimension 20 did like sort of one shots and I would love… I don’t know how the team feels about that, but doing one shots was great. Small adventures in a familiar world could have been amazing. And now that the world is opening it up so maybe that could be an opportunity.

Orion:
There is a lot of possibility ahead for Misfits and Magic content. I can say at the very least is that world is not going away. We put way too much into it and there’s still so much to see that in some way it’ll come out.

Oren:
Okay, awesome. Okay, here’s a good one. What has been some of the pleasant surprises of working on Dimension 20?

Orion:
Everyone is great. Straight up, I try and tell people that I’m not inflating when I say that everyone is great. It’s not me going, “Oh, well, I don’t like Susanna or whatever. Or James is an asshole but I don’t want to say so.” It’s none of that. Really, everyone is great. We have great meetings where we just talk about how we function as a team, how we can support each other better, how to take the next process, bringing forward our different opinions on how to help certain things move along or whatever, and that is what makes it awesome. It’s not like we never disagree or people don’t get into a work fight when you’re just going back and forth about a thing. But none of that stuff is, none of it carries anywhere because it’s all just us trying to figure out how do we make the best show? And if we do that…


And actually not even just that, but how do we make the best show? And how do we have a lot of fun while doing it? And everybody is focused on those two things really hardcore. So the favorite part for me is absolutely how much? I don’t think there’s a meeting we’ve had where I didn’t laugh. There can’t be. There couldn’t have been. When I really actually think about it, absolutely could not have been a meeting that we’ve had where I did not laugh at least once because that’s what it’s really like is that we all know that we’re doing a very serious job and we’re we’re doing all this amazing stuff. And it’s a lot of work, and it can be very difficult, but it’s still fun.


It can only really still be fun if we take it with that attitude. And everyone has signed up to take it with that attitude of like, “Wow, this is my job, and jobs are tiring and it’s still work, and my job is awesome. That’s the energy everyone brings forward and it brings a lot of respect to each other as well because we’re all just gracious with one another, just glad that someone was around doing what they do, so.

Oren:
My profession is a software engineer. And let me tell you, I would have given a lot to get a salary for playing games, like playing role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons for a living.

Orion:
Absolutely.

Oren:
Okay, so now I’m going to jump to some questions about The Seven, and then we’ll wrap this up.

Orion:
Okay.

Oren:
Okay, so, “The Seven is the first in-person season since Coronavirus. Can you tell us a bit about the challenges the production team had to face in this new world?”

Orion:
Production challenges, there were definitely plenty because we did things that haven’t been done before. The first of which definitely being a composed theme. That was very different, and they were kind of shaky on it at first because the things were new. Again, it’s like the four episode thing. It’s like, “How do we approach this? We don’t have a protocol or something on how to do things.” So it was like, “Yeah, how are we gonna make this happen?”


But our composer made it really easy for us, Nick Nall. They were absolutely fantastic to work with, highly recommend them for anything. Just always had something coming back pretty quickly, so it was really easy to go like, “Here’s the process, everybody, here’s how it’s going.” And as soon as they heard something, which was pretty soon in, they were like, “No, this is amazing. We need to do this. Look, this is absolutely fantastic.” And now they’re super on board. It really, it’s just like trying a new food. It’s like I’m coming forward to be like, “Hey, have you ever tried this before?” And they’re like, “I’m a little nervous, but I’ll do it.” And then they eat it, and they’re like, “Oh, this is delicious. Let’s have this for dinner,” right?


So that was definitely a bit of it. And then figuring out all the elements we need to do to get it in there. And have it prepared at certain times because we wanted to have that in the show at certain points as well, so that it wasn’t just at the intro, so that it really is like a carrying theme. And if you notice, we have different versions of that theme play in the show. I think we have at least two but maybe three versions of it that play through the show. And I know that there’s the different slightly more modern version is somewhere in the later episodes while we have like the classic version in the old one. All these sort of flavors and feels to add to the production value and the narrative.


And figuring out the illustrations and the whole process for that because we were like, “Oh, we’re gonna have illustrations, but let’s animate them slightly so that it’s not just fully still. And who are we gonna have as our animator? Oh, well, now we have people who are good at particular things or different, because like people who can do backgrounds really well too. And are we going to break it up with different artists?” And all sorts of questions.


Adrian was absolutely fantastic to work with and made all of that much, much easier on us. It was definitely a challenge to start and then when we found our groove, it was just smooth as butter. For example, speaking of Erica and Kay, there’s that scene in Episode Four where all of the rats and mice and birds, and Erica is just laughing super hardcore. That wasn’t in there. The episode was ready to go, and I was reviewing it, and that scene happened. And some music played and stuff, and I was like, “No. This has to happen very differently.” Because it wasn’t bad, it was just I realized this was the climax of this person’s character.


So I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna go find a song that’s perfect for this. It’s gonna be some fucked up menacing stuff, and we’re going to get that. And then I went over, I went to my producer and said, “Hey, I need one more. Give me one more.” And he’s like, “You got it.” I run over to Adrian. “Adrian, I need this thing and I need it fast.” And Adrian was like, “You got it.” Just super quick, everything came together, and we got that image. It’s my favorite illustration because of that.


And when Adrian gave it to us, like the composition of that one is absolutely bizarre and scary and perfect. And this consistent transformation of her character hit the point where the two parts of her realize each other, and it had to be perfect in my mind. I was like, “This has to be perfect,” and we hit it exactly the way I wanted to. And it gives me chills seeing it because it’s like I imagined what the impact of the scene would be like, and it is there, just really strong. There were challenges, by the end of it we were moving quickly enough to be able to fit in some necessary elements. So it was we got on our feet pretty quickly.

Oren:
That’s awesome. Okay, there is one new element in The Seven which is called TaleSpire. Now, I didn’t research TaleSpire a lot. I did get to know the tool. But I did want to know, how is it like to create sets for the season in TaleSpire? Is it something that we’re going to see in future seasons as well? We’ve seen Roll20 in I think both of The Unsleeping City and Mice & Murder. So what do you think?

Orion:
We are going to see more-

Oren:
Or what do you know, Orion? What do you know?

Orion:
I know too much. This falls into we’re going to use whatever works best for whatever season. So TaleSpire is something that we really like, obviously. We used it quite a bit. We worked directly with the developers. We pushed it to its boundaries and found out how far we can go, and you’ll see the things that we did with that amazing program.

Oren:
Yeah, it’s mind-blowing just from the trailer.

Orion:
Yeah. Building it and all that kind of stuff was I mean, Rick Perry, built the sets, Rick Perry and Hannon. I don’t know Hannon’s last name, but shout out to Hannon as well who was making sets. And we just went in and we played tested them. We went over notes. There were physical builds, just really rough physical builds that we were like, “Okay, how would we want this to look before we put it in there and stuff?” And thinking about all of these options, which was so fun.


And then we went in and went into spaces that weren’t created yet in a 3D model. Rick would show us like, “Okay, this is what this part is going to look like. Okay, now, what are we going to fill in? How does this go? What is the fight going to be like here?” We started building everything around what’s supposed to happen in that space? So it’s like, “Oh, well, if they decide to do this, then how is that going to affect the whole layout of this place if they decide to do this over here? Or what if they decide to do whatever the hell they want to do and things go wild? How are we going to have the space to facilitate whatever is gonna happen?”


And so we think a lot like that. It’s extremely tactical in a narrative and battle sense, because we play test the things and we’re like, “Okay, well, this character has flight. So does this space of distance matter? How are we going to make it so that things aren’t available to get to or that are more difficult? Or make it so that they might want to prioritize something else?” It’s a lot of thinking. It’s just like being a GM, except you’re with other people where you’re like, “How can we prove this as much as possible to try and get outcomes that we’re prepared for? Outcomes that we’re not prepared for are just as welcome, but Brennan has to do more work.” That’s like, “Oh, I have to make up a new character all of a sudden.” That kind of thing.


So we definitely, yeah, try to do a lot of work on each one of these individual areas, and it’s super, super fun. And if we’re going to see it in the future, I would say probably just considering that TaleSpire did a really good job of working with Dungeons and Dragons. And so if that happens again, we might use TaleSpire again. I think that would be a decent fit. Or we might go back to using physical Rick Perry sets. It’s just, it really depends on what’s going to be the better fit for the show. And that’s I know that I’ve answered that as the answer a lot of times, but it’s so important to me that it is that way because I want to treat every single individual season like I want you to be perfect in your own way. And while there are things that are generally established as consistent, we also want each season to feel a little different, so.

Oren:
Okay. I think I speak for all the fans when I say that Rick Perry, we all love him. We all love his work. So-

Orion:
Amazing fella.

Oren:
Yeah. Anything that Rick Perry makes, amazing.

Orion:
Agreed.

Oren:
Okay, so we talked about a little bit about The Seven, which was great. I will try to catch Brennan again for talking about the story and characters and all that.

Orion:
Oh, when you talk to Brennan, tell him Merry Christmas.

Oren:
Merry Christmas?

Orion:
Yeah.

Oren:
Okay, like just say Orion said, “Merry Christmas”?

Orion:
No, just say Merry Christmas. I didn’t tell you anything.

Oren:
Okay.

Orion:
It’s just a running gag, okay? It’s just a running gag.

Oren:
Okay, awesome. Good to know.

Orion:
I’ll tell that story one day, not today.

Oren:
Okay, the last thing I want to ask you is what are you most excited for fans to see in The Seven? That you can tell, of course.

Orion:
Oh, the cast?

Oren:
Okay.

Orion:
Absolutely. Hands down from the beginning when we tested that group of people, we had a zero session that was so… The first thing that I said was, “This is going to be the funniest season of D20, straight up.” But it’s not only the funniest season, like the relationship that these ladies have with one another goes so deep so quickly that you can see both the characters and the cast really coming together and being able to have so much space to be the characters that they want to be and to choose and play the stories that they want to play.


There are a lot of times where because they’re all, I think all of them except for maybe Izzy are GMs. I don’t know if Erica GMs a lot, but for the vast majority of the group have GMed. And if not GMed, have been players for a long time with very small two exceptions. And the amount of collaborative storytelling that goes on in The Seven and how fluid it is, I really think The Seven is gonna knock people all on their asses to be like, “What is this? This is wild.”

Oren:
I am so excited.

Orion:
It’s a good time. It’s a really good time.

Oren:
Yeah. Okay, Orion, thank you so much. It was an absolute joy to talk to you.

Orion:
Oh, same here.

Oren:
Anything else you want to say to the fans before we wait together for the premiere?

Orion:
What I want to say to the fans? I want to say thank you for the support. I know it’s probably a generic thing. But every time I get a message or email or something, someone telling me like, “Thank you so much for the work that you do,” it means a lot. And people have been doing that a decent amount, so thank you for doing it. We are going to continue to try our best, and our best seems to be pretty damn good, and it’s getting better all the time. And that’s in part thanks to the fans and some of the feedback that they have some times and the dialogues that they have with each other. So just keep doing what you’re doing. And yeah, we’ll make it rock.

CollegeHumor, Dimension 20, Dimension 20 interview, Dropout, I interviewed D20's Creative Director, Interview, Orion Black, Production, Storytelling, Writing

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