A dozen or even a score of Insane Worlds might be the sort of thing the average Judge could handle, but a 1,000 of them? Such a level of insanity must be met with equal force and, so far, we are pleased to relate that during Judge Brendan’s many Game Therapy: 1000 Insane Worlds sessions he has somehow managed to pass all of his Willpower Saves and thus retain a tenuous grip on his own precious sanity . . . for now.
So before the inevitable happens and our Judge succumbs to the madness induced by so much flat out old school gonzo-gaming, we’ve collected his thoughts on his personal favorite 1kIW Judging experiences in this Top 10 Episodes of 1000 Insane Worlds article. Every episode title in Brendan’s Top Ten list has a link straight to the episode in question, and makes for a great introduction to this Twitch series, the complete archive of which may be found on YouTube.
Judge Brendan’s Top 10 Episodes of 1000 Insane Worlds
by Brendan LaSalle
The 1000 Insane Worlds show, streamed on the Goodman Games official Twitch channel, has now been on the air longer than Freaks and Geeks, Supercar, and Firefly. That is a responsibility to pop culture excellence I don’t take lightly.
I love the show’s format: a fresh new DCC adventure every week, each one in a new setting. You can see in the early broadcasts how we were still learning the tech and how to best utilize the format. I love the first episode – Gun City Blues – but the sound and the way my tiny laptop camera looked make me cringe now. Still love that adventure though, and still very much love that world.
I’m taking a hiatus from writing adventures for 1000 Insane Worlds for now to let me focus on *ahem* other projects, but I fully mean to return to the series and the format. This is the only show that guarantees to bring you 1000 Insane Worlds and I mean to do it or die trying. Or retire trying. You know what I’m getting at.
You can go back and watch the old episodes on YouTube, and if you want to see the awesome flexibility of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system and some truly awesome, hilarious, and at times thoughtful and touching live play, I think you should. But where to start?
To help folks pick out which episodes they want to start with, I’ve put together my list of our Top 10 Episodes.
For this list I’m including episodes of Game Therapy, but not including games run by other Judges (who am I to judge them?). So here now in no particular order is my list:
One part mean parody, one-part dark comedic romp, with a soupçon of internet slapstick, Wizard School answers the question: what would a YA novel magician school look like if it had DCC magic and wicked Sezrekan as school headmaster? This one is a riot. Jeff Bernstein showed up two hours late, and somehow it only made the episode even more fun. If you have ever wanted to see a demon pull a fledgling magic user’s soul out and lick it, this episode is for you.
The debut of my first original Lankhmar adventure streamed on Goodman Games Official, and Jen Brinkman played. No pressure! Rewatching the episode as I write, it’s funny how visibly terrified I am, but I’m very happy with how this adventure turned out given it was my first playtest. I have since run this adventure several times at online conventions, refining it a bit every time, but this first epic showing pretty much hits all the major points I wanted to hit, and was a huge laugh to boot. I hadn’t thought about all of the consequences of manipulating the magical map from the inside, so the last half-hour is way off the rails, which truly made the story better than its original conception.
Part 4 of my proposed Black Sabbath pentalogy, Planet Caravan is a swords and planet-style adventure I’ve been running for a while now, and I think it shows in the episode because the story goes smoother than most. The lyrics of the Sabbath masterpiece absolutely inform this adventure, which I originally wrote for Laura Pirkola and Clay Williams. This one had some engaging action and excellent role-play on behalf of my fantastic player crew, and I’m super happy how it turned out. We have so much fun that this episode winds up getting a sequel so we could tell the entire story.
This adventure has some real magic to it. Inspired by both the Black Company novels and an extended AD&D campaign I participated in as a tween, the Black Drum Legion is a fantasy mercenary company retained to fight in a war between two patrons, The Three Fates and Azi Dahaka. I love how the core of this adventure is a group of warriors facing off against a group of wizards, and I love how creative and strategic they have to be to survive. The gang did a phenomenal job portraying professional soldiers, and gave me some great role play. This adventure also illustrates the power of Mighty Deeds of Arms, and they come up again and again. I’ve gone on to run this adventure several times with extraordinarily few changes.
I got to work on Brett Brooks’ great Primal Tales adventure setting, and wanted to do an adventure for it but wasn’t sure what direction to take it in. I was stumped until I saw Surviving the Game again . . . Bingo! Humans sport hunting anthropomorphic animal folk with the ability to fight back. I despise animal cruelty, and I loved to put my players in a situation where they could be primals turning the tables on evil sport hunters. This adventure went off the rails almost immediately and the last two hours are a glorious improv session where everyone involved shared a bit of the worldbuilding fun. My power went out before we finished, which spawned our first ever sequel, also well worth watching. Check out this episode, and definitely check out Primal Tales.
Mutant Sprawl High is my paean to Troma Entertainment, specifically The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. The adventure got away from me a bit but I am still in love with my little weird corner of mutated Fresno, where a chemical spill turned a section of the city into bizarre mutants who just sort of live there now, working and going to school while walled in with all the other mutants. This one makes my top 10 list because I can’t stop thinking about it and coming up with new adventures I want to run in The Zone. Silly and sweet, and it reminds me more of my prom than is strictly healthy.
I’m almost ashamed at how much I love this episode, given that it’s the most self-indulgent adventure I’ve ever written. The Grand Manse – influenced heavily by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels and Shakespeare’s comic romances – represents me making one of the fundamental errors of world building. To wit: I crafted a fantasy heartbreaker world because I desperately wanted to play in it, something absolutely designed for my personal sensibilities. No regrets: Tim, Anthony, and Chase do an amazing job as a trio of ne’er-do-wells given a quest to help a melancholic noble youth to find True Love. This episode features the two best ropework spell results I’ve ever had at a table, and only one fight in a full three hours. Love this session.
Shudder Mountain is a fantastic setting, I have an excellent group of players for this episode, the adventure went beautifully, and somehow my favorite bit of this episode is the fact that I didn’t have to suppress my Georgia accent at all. I feel like this episode could be a movie, with the fantastic characters the gang made up and Michael Curtis’ brilliant setting. I also got to debut a real-life cryptid, the Yalkum Scratcher, the monster that generations of my wife’s family have threatened naughty children with. I’m really proud of this adventure and I mean to see it in print someday.
Running my first Skull and Crossbones Classics adventure for its creator, Bob Brinkman, was somehow even more intimidating than having his wife in my first Lankhmar adventure. Nevertheless, this wound up being a supremely fun and action-packed episode with some outstanding roleplay from a great group of players. For once, the game went more or less like I guessed it would go, an event as rare as seeing a falling star while wearing a rainbow wig. I loved playing Lemoncutt the Imp so much that there is a 100% chance he shows up in something else. Fun fact: I learned just enough pirate lore, historical knowledge, and nautical terminology to sound like I knew what I was talking about. Aargh!
A few friends were like, “Oh wow I’m sorry you have to run a game on your birthday . . .” Opposite! This game was exactly what I wanted to do and wound up being the highlight of my week, if not year. Run on my 50th birthday, this anarchic romp features myself as a magical gateway to a dungeon entirely made of my favorite D&D illustrations, that a funnel group of Gen Con attendees have to invade to save none other than Harley Stroh. The game is wild and unpredictable and so much fun – a perfect birthday.