HarmonQuest

Last night, I went to see a screen­ing of Dan Harmon’s new show, Har­mon­Quest.

HarmonQuest

I am a big fan of Com­mu­nity, Rick and Morty, and RPGs, so I was pretty excited about this. Oh, and there was a Q & A ses­sion with a panel of cast mem­bers after, too. I did not know much about the show before­hand, other than that it was going to be a tap­ing of Dan Har­mon and friends play­ing Dun­geons and Drag­ons. I was expect­ing some­thing like Crit­i­cal Role, where we watch the Dun­geon Mas­ter and party as they play for a cou­ple of hours.

Instead, it was shorter, about 23 min­utes like a TV com­edy, and started with the play­ers gath­ered around a con­fer­ence table. Spencer Crit­ten­den is the Dun­geon Mas­ter and sits at the head, and Dan Har­mon, Erin McGathy, and Jeff B. Davis are party reg­u­lars who sit along one side. Join­ing them each episode is a guest star. In the first episode, that was Paul F. Tomp­kins, but they will also have Chelsea Peretti, Steve Agee, Aubrey Plaza, Thomas Mid­dled­itch, and Kumail Nan­jiani, among oth­ers. They briefly talk about their RPG expe­ri­ence and then dive into the gam­ing ses­sion. The “in-char­ac­ter” seg­ments are all ani­mated, and the char­ac­ters look like the actors, except in fan­tasy garb. The show is filmed in front of a live audi­ence.

The gam­ing ses­sion itself is much lighter than Crit­i­cal Role. The char­ac­ters are less coor­di­nated with one another and seem to try weird things for the hell of it. The fight­ing is sim­pli­fied and Spencer han­dles all dice rolls. The only time I saw a char­ac­ter sheet ref­er­enced was when Spencer asked a char­ac­ter to dou­ble-check his total hit points to see if he died. The ani­mated com­bat is quite fun to watch, though. Every­one enjoyed see­ing lit­tle num­bers float up every time some­one took a hit, just like in video games. The lighter nature also opened up the group to be goofy and ban­ter more, which was hilar­i­ous.

After the episode, it was time for the Q & A panel. Jeff B. Davis, Spencer Crit­ten­den, and Dan Har­mon took some ques­tions from the mod­er­a­tor and then the crowd.

HarmonQuest panel

Sorry about the poor qual­ity. I turned off flash and held my phone over my head to get a clear line of sight. A few ques­tions in, Dan pulled out a flask and every­one was like, “We’re at a bar, we can get you a real drink.”

I learned that:

  • Har­mon­Quest is a spin-off of Dan’s Har­mon­town pod­cast, where Spencer just showed up in the audi­ence because “he knew it was their des­tiny to get together and play DnD.”
  • NBC Uni­ver­sal expressed inter­est in Har­mon­Quest before SeeSo (their com­edy stream­ing site) was even cre­ated.
  • The actual taping/gaming ses­sion is about an hour long, which they then edit down to the 23 min­ute mark. (If he could go back, Dan would want to make each episode a bit longer so they would not have to cut out as much mate­rial.)
  • Dan said this was his first time doing a multi-cam show, and edit­ing was sur­pris­ingly chal­leng­ing. (The hard­est part was get­ting audi­ence laugh­ter to not sound canned.)
  • When asked about the gam­ing expe­ri­ence of the guests, Spencer said that most guests had played 0 – 2 times. Thomas Mid­dled­itch is very expe­ri­enced and actu­ally drove straight from their tap­ing to his reg­u­lar Call of Cthulhu game. One of his favorite episode was with Aubrey Plaza, who really drove her ses­sion despite not hav­ing any pre­vi­ous RPG expe­ri­ence.
  • Dan as a player did not want too much infor­ma­tion or input about the over­all plot, but Spencer worked a lot with the net­work to flesh out a sat­is­fy­ing cam­paign over the course of the sea­son.
  • Spencer will also pri­vately hint to guests ahead of time if there is any­thing “above and beyond” expected of them. In the first episode, he asked Paul F. Tomp­kins to come up with a “great oath.”

The entire 10-episode sea­son goes up tomor­row on SeeSo for your bing­ing plea­sure. I will def­i­nitely be check­ing out the rest of the series.

Wildwood Canyon Hike

I signed up for HikeTheGeek when I moved down to LA to look for more out­doorsy things to do. They invited me to come on one on July 3, but I was already doing my neon tour, so I decided to go on my own on July 4.

The descrip­tion made me think twice, though.

Hello all,

Yes, this is an early hike! 8:08am

But, this will be the first hard hike I have done since my recov­ery for the past half year.
This hike is indeed called the ARSE BURNER.

Bring water! Bring a hat! Bring sun Screen! Bring Great sto­ries to share! Bring an oxy­gen tank!

The Good

  • Great work out.
  • Free park­ing.
  • Dog friendly (Bring a leash)

The Bad

I took my wolf on this hike once. Sev­eral times he wanted to give up. When we got back to the bot­tom he actu­ally fell over, and his tongue sim­ply hung out of his mouth.

This is the hike I like to call the ass burner. You will feel this on the hike, after the hike, and maybe a few days later.

It is like walk­ing up stairs for an hour or so, and then walk­ing down stairs for an hour or so.

Great view, real feel­ing of accom­plish­ment.

I decided to tough it out, though. So I woke up early, filled up my Camel­bak and threw it into my back­pack along with a Calpico and a Quest bar, and set off. I drove right by Porto’s, which was open but did not have a line yet. On the way up to the park entrance, I noticed that all the fire hydrants along the road were painted pur­ple and some­one had stuck goo­gly eyes on them.

By the trail­head is a cool sculp­ture called “Tree Spirit” which reminded me of a roommate’s art from my house back in San Fran­cisco.

Tree Spirit

As I cleared the tree-line, I could see the Bur­bank Police Department’s fir­ing range and CQC train­ing house.

Burbank Police firing range

The hike itself is very decep­tive. As the warn­ing in the invite descrip­tion sug­gested, there is a lot of ele­va­tion gain. Every time I crested a hill, I saw that there was either a small flat or a dip before the next climb seg­ment, which I had not even seen before. Very dis­heart­en­ing. Let me tell you right now, when you start, there are three cell tow­ers vis­i­ble along the top ridge. The top of the hike is next to the left­most of the three tow­ers.

I started strong, but started tak­ing breaks at every switch­back. Grannies with walk­ing sticks and lit­tle kids with pup­pies were pass­ing me up, but I did not care. There was one point where three ravens started cir­cling me, and I thought per­haps I was in trou­ble. But I forged onward!

When I was almost at the peak, a lady passed me on the way down and then squealed as she met her child­hood friend and turned around to go back up with her. The three of us reached the peak together, with the moti­va­tional stylings of the one who had already hit the top on her own. She loved say­ing how sat­is­fy­ing beers and hot dogs would be after this (truth), and that the peak was “just around the cor­ner” (lie).

From the top, there is a beau­ti­ful throne from which you gaze over your king­dom.

Wildwood Canyon hike peak

Sit­ting there, I had the best Quest bar of my life.

I took my sweet time going back down, let­ting fam­i­lies with small chil­dren pass me by and high-fiv­ing some shirt­less hiker bros who lapped me. I sat in the shade at back at the trail­head and enjoyed my cool Calpico, and then drenched my car in sweat as I drove home and promptly passed out.

Accord­ing to my activ­ity tracker, the total hike was 4.59 miles with 1,854 feet of ele­va­tion gain and took me 3:01:22 to com­plete. (I did take a detour at the top in an attempt to find the Tree of Wis­dom, but I took a wrong turn.)

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt

After “Trust on Trial”, I asked for a game kit for SCRAP’s “Zero Escape Puz­zle Hunt”.

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt

This was SCRAP LA’s first “Escape Park” style game, where you go around the neigh­bor­hood find­ing clues to solve the puz­zles on your game kit. It played dur­ing Animé Expo at the con­ven­tion hall and around Lit­tle Tokyo. For peo­ple with­out Animé Expo badges, there is a “cheat sheet” post­card with copies of the clues in the hall. It is very sim­i­lar to SCRAP SF’s “10,000 Trea­sure Hunters” games, which were coor­di­nated with Japantown’s JPOP Fes­ti­val. The game is free to play; I think 10,000 Trea­sure Hunters was a very cheap ticket just for crowd con­trol pur­poses. And both were of lower dif­fi­culty than stan­dard SCRAP games.

The over­all puz­zle hunt was very short. There were four puz­zle clues inside Animé Expo, which I got from the post­card. There are three remain­ing clues out­side. One was posted in the win­dow of SCRAP LA’s store­front, and the final two used sig­nage from busi­nesses in the area. Using edu­cated guesses, I did not need to visit the two busi­nesses, so the only clue from the entire puz­zle hunt that I needed to visit in per­son was the one at SCRAP LA. Even with the oblig­at­ory SCRAP twist for the last puz­zle, the entire game took me about 15 min­utes to com­plete on my own.

Slightly dis­ap­pointed, I made my way over to the end loca­tion.

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt end location

Instead of staff check­ing your phys­i­cal answer sheet at check­points, Zero Escape Puz­zle Hunt used a web­site check-in sys­tem. After you solved the final puz­zle, it asks you to post your suc­cess to social media. The end loca­tion staffers just check for your post before giv­ing you a prize. I got lucky num­ber 5 from the prize wheel — a post­card ad for Zero Escape — Zero Time Dilemma and a dis­count code for a future SCRAP game.

Theme
Puz­zles
Phys­i­cal Chal­lenges
Staff
Fun
Aver­age

Com­ing from an escape room stand­point, this was not SCRAP’s best work, but I am sure peo­ple who came for Animé Expo and got this as a treat enjoyed it. Espe­cially the ladies, who were unan­i­mous fans of the Jun­pei cutout.