Sirens: Battle of the Bards: An Interview With Satine Phoenix and Jamison Stone (Apotheosis Studios)

Satine Phoenix (The Sirens, Game Master Tips, and more) and Jamsion Stone (CEO of Apotheosis Studios, The Red Opera, and more) are creating a new Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition campaign setting, adventure, and Bard-centric sourcebook, Sirens: Battle of the Bards. The concepts and art are inspiring so, when I had the chance to talk with Satine and Jamison about this Kickstarter, I couldn’t turn it down.

Vlahnya+Satine+Phoenix+Sirens+Battle+of+the+Bards+Kickstarter+Apotheosis+Studios.jpg

EGG EMBRY (EGG): I’m excited to talk to you about your latest Kickstarter, what is Sirens: Battle of the Bards?
SATINE PHOENIX (SATINE)
: Sirens: Battle of the Bards is an artistically inspired 5th Edition campaign and setting featuring characters from my LiveStream show, Sirens. Vlahnya, the spymaster of Sirens, enables players to inspire revolution in this epic, Bard-infused journey set in the bohemian city of Salvata where Bards are thrown into the crucible of conquest and battle for the heart of a growing empire!

EGG: What inspired you to create over 300 pages of Bard for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition?
JAMISON STONE (JAMISON)
: Bards are near and dear to our hearts. Our last project was entitled The Red Opera: Last Days of The Warlock, an extensive, player-driven campaign and setting designed for 5th Edition, centered upon the oft-overlooked and much-misunderstood class: Warlocks. We had a blast with The Red Opera, and wanted to focus on Bards next. Partnering with Satine Phoenix was an honor and we are very proud of Sirens: Battle of the Bards.

EGG: If a player doesn’t want to play a Bard, will they still enjoy this campaign?
SATINE
: Oh, absolutely. You don’t need to be a Bard to enjoy Sirens, all are welcome in our new campaign and setting. The City of Salvata features ten districts, including battle colosseums, amphitheaters, comedy clubs, taverns, bazaars, underground magic fighting rings, and much more.

EGG: “A city of artists where Bards inspire revolution”. This is a sourcebook, a campaign setting, and an adventure, correct? Do you consider that line to be the guiding light of the campaign’s narrative?
JAMISON
: Absolutely. Sirens: Battle of the Bards is an epic 5th Edition campaign and setting set in the decadent city. Filled to the brim with over 300 pages, twenty adventures, over 10 new Bard subclasses, and countless magical items, this is a fully immersive adventure. Mystery, intrigue, and deception lurk within every dark alley. Through the course of the adventure, the players have to decide if they will sell out? Allow the city be ground to dust? Join the Emerald Cabal, the Rebellion, or forge their path. The fate of tens of thousands is in the party's hands.

EGG: The City of Salvata is not a mundane location, the art for it is breathtaking. Why did you create a musical skyscraper metropolis?
SATINE
: We wanted to create a radically new setting, and have crafted the bohemian City of Salvata to encroach closer to the heavens every century. For a millennium, this towering metropolis has fostered artists, muses, and sirens so as to perfect their art and lure down a deity during a rare eclipse when the stars align. Under the visionary guidance of the city’s Great Chancellor Calrath, Salvata has prospered in harsh desert conditions—conditions that forge coal into diamonds. And so, the City of Salvata is no different: failure is not shunned here but embraced as a stepping stone to success. Each century, another statue is immortalized, and the city climbs yet another step higher urging all citizens to strive for the vaulted halls at Salvata’s zenith.

Salvata+Sirens+Battle+of+the+Bards+Kickstarter+Apotheosis+Studios.jpg

EGG: The art is stunning to say the least! Who are you working with on the art? Will you and the other creators be subjects in the portraits?
JAMISON
: We at Apotheosis Studios love art, and feel that art, music, and epic writing are all necessary elements to immersive storytelling. And yes, both Satine, myself, and several other of our team members will be featured as NPCs within our campaign and setting. Vlahnya, who is played by Satine, and Vajra, who is played by myself on our weekly Couple’s D&D Show are fan favorites and we are excited to dive even deeper into their backstories here in Sirens: Battle of the Bards.

EGG: Most Bard memes and jokes are about seduction. While Bards can be great, well-developed heroic characters, certain players take them the other direction which can lead to, let’s call them, “uncomfortable encounters”. I know those types of encounters are not what you’re trying to create with this book, but they may occur. Will Sirens: Battle of the Bards suggest any gamer safety tools?
SATINE
: There are many ways to play TTRPGs, and aiding GMs in skillfully guiding their players is something I have discussed extensively on my historic Geek and Sundry show, GM Tips, and my currently running show Game Master Tips on my Twitch channel. We hope to create a framework to have our Charisma based Bards break free of some of their stereotypes and lean into their artistic and creative skills and roleplaying potentials, and have created Sirens: Battle of the Bards with this in mind.

EGG: That’s a great decision and I know your tips help gamers everywhere. You’re delivering more than an RPG, you’re delivering an experience with a soundtrack and a musical soundset, which feels perfect for a Bard-based campaign. For these albums, who are you working with? What feel are you expecting the music to generate among the players?
JAMISON
: Indeed! For The Red Opera we included a full orchestral soundtrack included in the book via QR codes. We wanted this to feel like an epic movie score and partnered with DiAmorte’s founder, writer, and composer Drake Mefestta and had it professionally recorded by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. That music turned out wonderfully, and fit the dark and brooding feeling of Warlocks perfectly. For Sirens, however, we needed the musical direction to be befitting of the Bard class, and our desert style city of Salvata. We are creating another epic soundtrack and are partnering with a lot of wonderful musicians, who will be unveiled during our Kickstarter. One of whom who we can talk about now, however, is American singer-songwriter and Godhead lead vocalist, Jason Charles Miller. Jason is not only a fantastic musician, but also a Siren, too, fully featured as an NPC in the book and it is an honor to work with him.

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EGG: You’re partnering with a number of companies for this campaign, who are they and what are some of the coolest items on offer from them?
SATINE
: We are so proud of all of our professional partners. We have a custom Wyrmwood Master Vault and Dice Tray; full set of custom shaped Level Up Dice featuring a comedy tragedy 2d mask, musical lute d4, stack of books 6d, trumpet d8, inkpot d10, paintbrush d10 percentile, banging drum d12, and "Mic Drop" d20. We have Campaign Coins, and full SyrnScape Sound set. We also have a wide array of VTTs (Virtual Table Top) too, including Roll20, FantasyGrounds, Shard, and Foundry VTT!

EGG: Beyond Sirens: Battle of the Bards, what else are you working on?
JAMISON
: Satine and I have so much in the works, but sadly, we can’t talk about it all yet! One very epic thing we are working on is Satine’s D&D in a Castle trips, which you can actually book right on our Kickstater. These are epic. Right now other than Sirens: Battle of the Bards, we are focused on our Twitch shows on [Satine Phoenix’s channel], our Discord servers at Gilding Light and Apotheosis Studios Discord are the best places to follow all of our epic RPG antics!

EGG: Since this Kickstarter campaign ends on your birthday, I hope you get an amazing gift from the fans! Speaking of, where can fans learn more about your project and follow each of you on social media?
SATINE
: Absolutely, other than our Twitch, and respective Discord servers, we love interacting with awesome folks over on our respective social media platforms, please come and say hello so you all can join in on the fun! Thank you so much and see you soon!

Satine Phoenix [is on] Twitter and Instagram. Jamison Stone [is on] Twitter and Instagram. Sirens: Battle of the Bards from Apotheosis Studios runs on Kickstarter through May 22nd, 2021.

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

Nothing is "scripted" in Critical Role outside of their one shots and short adventures (Undeadwood/Calamity/Elder Scrolls). The players bite at plot hooks presented to them, the DM talks to players about their backstory, and players talk between themselves in a group chat between games (when they can spare the time), but that's all normal stuff players do in most games.

Heck, they probably spend more time sandboxing than I would prefer. :geek:
 

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Retreater

Legend
Like…would you dismiss as a genre a new type of show wherein the actors improvise the to collaboratively tell the story, if it didn’t use a TTRPG as a dimension of the show?
I'm not against improvisation. I did watch the occasional episode of Who's Line Is It Anyway? Plus there's a new show called Murderville that sounds interesting:
For me the big strike against watching CR and other streams is the length. My attention span doesn't hold. I have a hard time watching a feature film of that length. A 3-hour film I usually have to split into 2-3 segments.
And I watch very few TV series on top of that. I dread getting a new 13 hour series.
So a livestream show - unrehearsed, unscripted - just isn't going to do it for me. If I can barely commit to watching the new season of Stranger Things (after following the previous seasons), I'm probably not going to ever get into streamed D&D.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Nothing is "scripted" in Critical Role outside of their one shots and short adventures (Undeadwood/Calamity/Elder Scrolls). The players bite at plot hooks presented to them, the DM talks to players about their backstory, and players talk between themselves in a group chat between games (when they can spare the time), but that's all normal stuff players do in most games...
While I generally believe this to be true, I think there are expections where they've talked through how they'll handle something that is potentially problematic, and then the prepare for how to deal with it. I don't think it goes as far as a script, but I think it happens.

An example is the discovery of the death of Tiberius. When I listen to the espidoes leading up to the discovery, I hear Sam's subtext as, "so are we heading there to do the thing yet? I'd like to get it over with and move on...." When I listen to their reactions to the situation, there is no processing time. They all just jump into their response.

I do not think this was scripted. However, I think Matt told all of them (or they otherwise agreed together) that they were going to permanently write Tiberius out by killing him offscreen and then showing it to the audience by having the PCs find his body in order to try to move on. They all knew Tiberius was in Draconia, so when the group found out Vorugal was there, it was clear what was going to happen, and they all thought about it and were prepared to unroll their responses. The responses the group gave were all really prepared and they all seemed eager to deliver their response in a way atypical for the group. Usually, a couple people jump in and others hold back, or take a moment to think before coming up with how to contribute.

I've also seen shifts in how things were addressed from Matt and the crew across the board that make me think they had conversations about avoiding certain topics that might not be acceptable to their entire fanbase. Some of the shifts I've noted are in how they talk about loss of capability to consent (in the context of charm, suggestion, mind control), words they use to describe enemies (discontinuing the use of some charged terminology after an event where someone used it in game and there was one of those momentary, "Oh $@!#, I said that on stream" reactions, etc...

Watch a few early episodes, and then compare them to recent ones. They're a lot more sensitive to having an audience now, and what that requires as an entertainer.

All that being said, I think their game is no less authentic than most. There have been times when I invite friends over to play board games and forget that I've been painting minis or constructing scenery for the next session. I've had friends notice something I've posted here (or elsewhere), and then note they knew what was coiming because of something I'd said. I've had a friend bring their brand new significant other to a game session where there were some adult storylines involved and had to adjust on the fly when the player's eyes suddenly realized how awkward and potentially relationship impacting it could be to have their new SO hear them talking about some rather ... GoT style things. I've also had goblins 'get knocked out' when kids were in the room. We may try to limit it, but the real world impacts all of our games and impacts the 'truth' of the stories we tell. We all face different impacts that we need to accomodate. CRs just happen to be ones based upon the business around their game.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
While I generally believe this to be true, I think there are expections where they've talked through how they'll handle something that is potentially problematic, and then the prepare for how to deal with it. I don't think it goes as far as a script, but I think it happens.

An example is the discovery of the death of Tiberius. When I listen to the espidoes leading up to the discovery, I hear Sam's subtext as, "so are we heading there to do the thing yet? I'd like to get it over with and move on...." When I listen to their reactions to the situation, there is no processing time. They all just jump into their response.

I do not think this was scripted. However, I think Matt told all of them (or they otherwise agreed together) that they were going to permanently write Tiberius out by killing him offscreen and then showing it to the audience by having the PCs find his body in order to try to move on. They all knew Tiberius was in Draconia, so when the group found out Vorugal was there, it was clear what was going to happen, and they all thought about it and were prepared to unroll their responses. The responses the group gave were all really prepared and they all seemed eager to deliver their response in a way atypical for the group. Usually, a couple people jump in and others hold back, or take a moment to think before coming up with how to contribute.

I've also seen shifts in how things were addressed from Matt and the crew across the board that make me think they had conversations about avoiding certain topics that might not be acceptable to their entire fanbase. Some of the shifts I've noted are in how they talk about loss of capability to consent (in the context of charm, suggestion, mind control), words they use to describe enemies (discontinuing the use of some charged terminology after an event where someone used it in game and there was one of those momentary, "Oh $@!#, I said that on stream" reactions, etc...

Watch a few early episodes, and then compare them to recent ones. They're a lot more sensitive to having an audience now, and what that requires as an entertainer.

All that being said, I think their game is no less authentic than most. There have been times when I invite friends over to play board games and forget that I've been painting minis or constructing scenery for the next session. I've had friends notice something I've posted here (or elsewhere), and then note they knew what was coiming because of something I'd said. I've had a friend bring their brand new significant other to a game session where there were some adult storylines involved and had to adjust on the fly when the player's eyes suddenly realized how awkward and potentially relationship impacting it could be to have their new SO hear them talking about some rather ... GoT style things. I've also had goblins 'get knocked out' when kids were in the room. We may try to limit it, but the real world impacts all of our games and impacts the 'truth' of the stories we tell. We all face different impacts that we need to accomodate. CRs just happen to be ones based upon the business around their game.

Right.

My son asked me to run a one shot he'd seen me run for my group - for his group (All 14, mix of girls and boys). I said sure, no problem. But as I was about to run it, in realized portions of the adventure were, well, rather adult themed for 14 year olds. I had to adjust, a bit before and a bit in the fly to avoid possible issues.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm not against improvisation. I did watch the occasional episode of Who's Line Is It Anyway? Plus there's a new show called Murderville that sounds interesting:
For me the big strike against watching CR and other streams is the length. My attention span doesn't hold. I have a hard time watching a feature film of that length. A 3-hour film I usually have to split into 2-3 segments.
And I watch very few TV series on top of that. I dread getting a new 13 hour series.
So a livestream show - unrehearsed, unscripted - just isn't going to do it for me. If I can barely commit to watching the new season of Stranger Things (after following the previous seasons), I'm probably not going to ever get into streamed D&D.
Yeah, it's probably not for you. Myself, the length is actually part of the draw. Nice, long drawn out viewing. And I love
long movies and lengthy TV shows, too. Different strokes.
 

DarkCrisis

Legend
CR isn’t scripted but it is a bunch of actors playing to the audience.

If it was played like an actual D&D session it would be fairly boring to watch.
 


Depends on your crowd: CR looks more like the games I've played in than a lot of forum discourse stuff, though the audience we ham for is just each other.we
Same. I've played in a lot of different games through the years, but these days my personal games resemble Critical Role or perhaps Dungeons of Drakkenheim as a close second. Of course, we're not nearly as attractive. :p
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Same. I've played in a lot of different games through the years, but these days my personal games resemble Critical Role or perhaps Dungeons of Drakkenheim as a close second. Of course, we're not nearly as attractive. :p
One time in College, a friend who had never played D&D but was big into fantasy literature and video games dropped in for a session of our game. He was fairly shocked by the experience, and described it as feeling "like a Tolkien character who wondered into a Joseph Conrad novel."
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm not against improvisation. I did watch the occasional episode of Who's Line Is It Anyway? Plus there's a new show called Murderville that sounds interesting:
For me the big strike against watching CR and other streams is the length. My attention span doesn't hold. I have a hard time watching a feature film of that length. A 3-hour film I usually have to split into 2-3 segments.
And I watch very few TV series on top of that. I dread getting a new 13 hour series.
So a livestream show - unrehearsed, unscripted - just isn't going to do it for me. If I can barely commit to watching the new season of Stranger Things (after following the previous seasons), I'm probably not going to ever get into streamed D&D.
That’s why I suggested Dimension20, to be fair. Episodes max out around 2.5 hours, but are often about an hour.

Although I also don’t really get this criticism, since I just watch about an hour at a time regardless, and most shows don’t have campaigns that run as many hours as CR.

Also…why compare it to watching poker if the time commitment is the issue?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
That’s why I suggested Dimension20, to be fair. Episodes max out around 2.5 hours, but are often about an hour.

Although I also don’t really get this criticism, since I just watch about an hour at a time regardless, and most shows don’t have campaigns that run as many hours as CR.

Also…why compare it to watching poker if the time commitment is the issue?
I think it makes sense that someone with attention concerns would not enjoy an activity that involves extended periods of paying attention and focusing, as stated by @Retreater . Personally, I often read a book while watching Critical Role since it moves at a sedate pace and I can engage attention variably...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think it makes sense that someone with attention concerns would not enjoy an activity that involves extended periods of paying attention and focusing, as stated by @Retreater . Personally, I often read a book while watching Critical Role since it moves at a sedate pace and I can engage attention variably...
Sure. I have to like play puzzle games or something. Same reason I rarely go to theaters for movies.
 

Retreater

Legend
Also…why compare it to watching poker if the time commitment is the issue?
Time commitment AND that I'm not especially interested. Like there's a chance I'd watch Dune or The Batman for 3 hours (though I haven't yet because of the time), but I don't have interest in watching a game for three hours. If I could zone in and out like watching hockey, without keeping up with a story or whatever - maybe.
 





But why would you even think that...? I'm genuinely curious what I'm thenworld gave you such am outlandish idea.
What?
Why would I think I derailed this thread? Because the topic is about a Kickstarter. Unintentionally it seems I have pivoted the discussing to talk about if CR is scripted or not. I think the discussion pivoted because of numerous posts and opinions on the topic. I don't see how thinking any of that is outlandish.
I mean, this is about as bizarre as claiming "obviously WotC writes all their books in authentic Sumerian cuneiform, and has them translated to English by a team of scholars."
What the...?
A similar response to your previous one. Neither of which make sense to me.

But it doesn't matter. Whatever this is, it's not relevant to this thread. Whatever this is, it's not important to me. Whatever this is, let's not spend anymore time on it. Please.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
What?
Why would I think I derailed this thread? Because the topic is about a Kickstarter. Unintentionally it seems I have pivoted the discussing to talk about if CR is scripted or not. I think the discussion pivoted because of numerous posts and opinions on the topic. I don't see how thinking any of that is outlandish.

What the...?
A similar response to your previous one. Neither of which make sense to me.

But it doesn't matter. Whatever this is, it's not relevant to this thread. Whatever this is, it's not important to me. Whatever this is, let's not spend anymore time on it. Please.
I mean that the idea that Critical Role is scripted is that outlandish. I presume that you have never watched the show, based juat on that idea, but where did you get such a bizarre idea? Seriously?
 


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