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End Notes, Episode 2

End Notes is our debrief session with the cast and/or crew of The End of Time and Other Bothers. It’s a bonus for our supporters on Patreon, but we’ve posted the first two here to give you an idea of what they’re like. To hear more, visit patreon.com/albasalix.

In this episode, GM Sean and producer Eli sit down to discuss how EOT fits into the canon of our scripted shows Alba Salix, Royal Physician and The Axe & Crown, and how we’re dealing with creating a biweekly show without burning out.

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Episode Transcript

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER (ELI)

The End of Time and Other Bothers: End Notes. Episode 2.

SEAN

Hello everyone! Welcome to End Notes, Session 2. This End Notes is going to be a little bit different than the other ones, and we’re going to explain why as we get into it. For this End Notes session I’m joined with co-show creator and Alba Salix wizard extraordinaire, Eli McIlveen.

ELI

(laughs)

Hello!

SEAN

So the whole idea of these End Notes is that we’re going to talk about the episode that just happened, and generally what’s going to happen is we do that at the table, so we record a session using our improvisation and role-playing, and then…

ELI

No one is allowed snacks until they give their notes!

SEAN

(laughs)

Yeah. And then—we used to allow everyone to go down to snacks, now no. So we end recording, we then start out—everyone has little green pads that they write down their questions on about that episode, and then we discuss those with everyone at the table. So you get to hear from the people playing Darcy and Eggerton and…

ELI

Blat.

SEAN

Blat, thank you—what was going on in their heads. They can ask me, what was planned? How did that go? We can just talk about it.

ELI

Because there are always questions!

SEAN

(laughs)

There are.

ELI

With Sean DM-ing.

SEAN

Sometimes some really crazy ones.

So there was—I just wrote down, “WTF happened to Episode 2?”

Episode 2 that you just listened to is not the full Episode 2. One of the challenges when we started this venture was me trying to figure out, how long is a session?

ELI

Yeah, because we’ve done gaming sessions that have gone on for an entire day, really.

SEAN

Thirteen hours, yeah.

ELI

(laughs)

Not recorded.

SEAN

And here we’re really focusing on the improv, so we’re trying to keep it in small spurts for the improvvers at the table. So we do shorter sessions, take a break.

But one of the challenges we had going in is that sometimes it’s harder to tell with improvvers how long a simple three sentences is going to take.

ELI

Yeah. Or a simple “walking down to a school from the top of a hill”.

SEAN

Right. Case in point.

So I had seven sentences written for Episode 2 and we got through three of them in the episode you just listened to.

ELI

(laughs)

SEAN

So the Episode 2 that we recorded at the table became Episode 2 and Episode 3. And that created some structural issues where I’m not sure if Episode 2 is going to be our strongest episode ever. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it. Wait until you hear Episode 3… and 4 and 5 are my absolute favourites so far.

That said, we had to split Episode 2 into Episode 2 and 3. So we have an awesome End Notes session with all the cast, and they are going to talk about the Episode 2 that you just heard and the Episode 3 that you’re going to hear.

ELI

Mostly about Episode 3.

SEAN

Mostly about Episode 3. In a week and a half, you guys will be hearing that. So that’s still coming. What we wanted to do because we split them, is we thought, hey, this is a chance for Eli and I to sit down—to say it in a long way—and just talk about some things that happened and what we’re learning in the post process of building this show.

So that’s what happened and why it’s now just us in this Episode 2.

So what did you want to talk about, Eli?

ELI

So yeah. I wanted to talk a bit about the process of creating this show. Because you had fallen in love with actual play podcasts, and kind of jumped at the idea of creating one; I was keen to do something more in the Alba world, and we had to kind of meet in the middle and figure out what that means.

SEAN

Yep.

ELI

We’ve talked a little bit—you talked a little bit in Episode 0 about what it means to be working in this world that has established “canon”, quote unquote.

SEAN

It actually was a real challenge for us for a number of reasons. One, because Eli went insane creating background…

(laughs)

ELI

Yeah. Never having DM-ed before, I’m like, “I will just make up loads of stuff about this city and—”

SEAN

I have stuff on the fauna and the breakdown of lives and plants and history…

ELI

I’m like, “Here are some details you might want to just toss in. I dunno! I dunno what you need!” I mean, your descriptions and things—usually you’ve just got a file card with some bullet points on, “This character looks like this, and this is what they want, in a word.” And the same thing for like, locations and stuff now.

SEAN

No, locations are a little more detailed.

ELI

Oh, OK.

SEAN

But yeah. So Eli had all this information. It was a little daunting GM-ing the first episode. It was hard for me to get my head wrapped around, how much detail, what am I reading versus going off—because I’m more a go-off-my-gut kind of guy.

ELI

Yeah.

SEAN

But the challenge was not the amount of data that was created. The challenge was, we didn’t want to build a story—we wanted to create an audio drama. And we wanted it to truly be story—not just story-first, we wanted it to be story. Full stop. Just story.

ELI

Yeah. There is a game mechanic underlying it, but we don’t really touch on it that much in the first arc, really.

SEAN

Yeah. You will see it a little more.

ELI

There’s a few test rolls… but yeah.

SEAN

A roleplaying mechanic is fun. A lot of us love roleplaying. A roleplaying mechanic is not necessarily good—well, let’s just put the cards on the table. Roleplaying mechanics are not good at telling stories. They are there to provide guidelines for a shared experience, and I think it’s been sort of well proven now that just setting up a microphone in a room will not create this amazing story, generally.

So one of the things I wanted to play with that we were trying to work out into this idea in the Alba world was improvisation-first. So improv is a powerful technique for a group of people to create a story together where nobody knows where it’s going.

ELI

(laughs)

Sean has fallen into the cult of improv in the last two months.

SEAN

I have.

ELI

It’s an incredible…

SEAN

So the challenge is actually, how do you allow a group of players to truly make offers to each other in improv without someone having to step in and shut them down?

ELI

Yeah. I didn’t want to be standing in the corner with the clipboard going, “Oh, no no, you can’t do that.”

SEAN

Right. But that meant we did have to navigate some things. Because Eli did get very upset at some early meetings when certain things were brought up, which we don’t have to get into. But we did have to navigate, what is allowed in this world? What are the rules? What are the boundaries? What can the players create on the fly?

You’re going to hear—I won’t give it away—there’s a pretty awesome moment coming with something that does not necessarily really fit in the Alba world. One of the players just went there. He pimped me; I gave him pimping power—

ELI

What does that mean?

SEAN

So it’s sort of a joke. In improv it’s called “pimping” when you sort of like, you’re giving things to another player that you know they have to accept.

ELI

You’re loading them down with, “OK, I bet you can’t play this!”

SEAN

Yeah, but it’s sort of—in a scene it would be sort of done more like, “Oh… you know, I love how your fingernails are all seven inches long and oh, your creepy eyes, so beautiful when it leaks—” I’m just giving whatever, but you’re giving things to a player that then they’re going to come back to you with, that they’re going to play off of.

And so sometimes I make a mistake—but it’s fun—of giving some pretty explicit pimping power to some people, and doing that with Blat, Carter Siddall, is dangerous, because he’ll go somewhere. He’ll use it. So, I don’t know if that makes any sense, but you’ll hear that soon.

So allowing for that kind of thing to happen was hard when we’re saying, we’re putting this in the Alba world. So they are back now in a time when Alba is alive. Like, we are just at the other side of the country, and there’s the opportunity for these stories to touch or cross. And we’re introducing—so anyways. So that was sort of—and it wasn’t just me. Eli had to—you had to come up with some ways to allow for rather bizarre things to be happening.

ELI

Yeah. And in the end I decided not to be so worried about canon. That was the big lesson in this, is that I don’t want the canon in Alba to be this cut-and-dried, ooh, we’re going to go through the technical manual every time something happens and yea or nay it based on how it “fits”. If it’s cool—it’s that, I think on TVTropes they call it the Rule of Cool: if it’s cool, then it goes. And I think that fits with your style of Game Mastering.

SEAN

But I think you—like, I want to get more specific—you actually created a city called Paradox specifically with certain attributes, that really allows for things there to be a little different.

ELI

Yeah. It is a very magical place. Like, this is possibly the most magical place on the continent, maybe the entire planet that Alba is living on.

SEAN

Yeah. And there’s crossroads and this whole parts to Paradox that we’re not going to talk about here because it’s super cool, that you’ve sort of built into Paradox.

ELI

Yeah. There’s the foundations laid for future adventures, either in this story or another.

SEAN

Right. So anyway, so that was sort of the challenge, I think, was a lot of time, us spending, figuring out, how do we get an environment where improvisation can be a really strong force and still allow roleplay and still allow the Alba universe to exist and one day—I’m saying it now—have a potential crossover with an Alba character.

ELI

Oh yeah. We so want that to happen.

SEAN

So Episode 2 is really just about getting them back into Farloria. They’re a little shellshocked. And again, we only got it through Point 3, which is my fault. But there’s really no way to get improvvers any faster. Like, they had a lot of stuff to build and create for themselves that starts to pay off in Episode 3. So that was really cool.

ELI

(laughs)

Oh, the “Long live Boltius” just killed me.

SEAN

Yeah, it was really great.

So one of the things I want to talk about was this idea that we’ve realized that we can’t have one bar for all the Alba shows. We’ve been having to wrestle with, what is the musical approach and the sound design for this show, where we could put it out every two weeks?

ELI

Yeah. We’re not going to be able to make it as detailed, and foley every single little footstep and action that the characters take.

SEAN

Says the guy who’s been up until 5 AM every night, trying to make it as detailed as possible.

ELI

(exhales)

Yeah.

SEAN

But we sort of had to have a moment where we had to say—you know, a lot of people are like, why can’t you put out more Alba Salix? And one of the reasons is that it’s an insane amount of work per episode. Not just to pre-produce and write and record and all that. But the post-production on Alba… one day I want to add up the hours. But it is weeks of Eli not sleeping, if not 5 or 6 weeks per episode. It is an immense amount of effort. And so the idea here was to create a show where we could put it out every two weeks, right? But that’s going to require us to spend less than two weeks an episode, like closer to a week.

And so I just wanted you to talk about some of the give and take, and how you’re approaching that. Because you’re still trying to create a pretty interesting sounding, distinct in the Alba universe, world. So what are you giving on?

ELI

Yeah. I mean, we want to bring it to life, but obviously we can’t give it quite the amount of detail and attention that we do for our scripted shows. Yeah, churning out about an hour of audio every two weeks, we’re going to be doing things like, there will be ambient sound, there’s going to be a music cue here and there where it kind of lifts the scene, and likewise, that’s how we’re going to be treating sound effects too. Like, if there’s a particular line or moment that the characters set up that a sound effect could really help sell, then we’ll put it in.

So the big example was Episode 1, with the explosion. Sean was listening back to it and going, “No, no, make the explosion bigger! Make the explosion bigger!” And not just louder, but longer. Make it complete chaos. So yeah.

SEAN

But—I gotta call you out here. Because that all sounds great. “Oh, we’re just going to do it where needed.” But I have caught you not sleeping now, and falling behind because you’re trying to hit a bar that you had set for Alba with this new show.

ELI

Yeah.

SEAN

So tell us about… what’s that like? What’s it like to be the sound designer on a show and having to use footsteps at the opening of Episode 1 were driving you insane. Probably still are. They’re not the right footsteps. And the old Eli would have been out getting grass, putting it in our basement, doing some crazy things to create a sound. So how are you—like how, emotionally, do you deal with the fact that this show can’t be the same?

ELI

Yeah, we had a big heart-to-heart at about 11:00, you were going to bed, and we just had to have this talk about, how detailed is this? And am I going to have to sort of “let go” and “compromise” and all of this stuff.

(laughing)

And you kind of talked me off a few ledges this show.

SEAN

Eli wasn’t going to allow—I don’t know if anybody knows—in Alba, no music is reused. I think some people don’t even realize. All the little stings, every episode the stings are different! The music has been modified.

ELI

Well, the stings I reuse from episode to episode, but never twice in the same episode.

SEAN

(laughs)

ELI

That’s why there’s about 20 of them.

SEAN

Right. So yeah. It’s been interesting to see you try and create something really interesting, but it’s weird, because I want great sound too. Like, there’s places where I’m like, I want more! But I think it’s just something we all have to deal with when we’re trying to put out a show more frequently: Where do we let go? Where do we focus?

ELI

Yeah. And we don’t have a team to lean on for the production stuff.

SEAN

Well, I think that’s a lot. We’ve covered a lot today. Thank you, Eli, thank you for joining me here today.

So again, we created this End Notes because, again, we split Episode 2 into two, so you listened to the first half of what I had planned as Episode 2. It is now the Episode 2. I can’t wait for you all to hear Episode 3; it’s awesome. And Episode 4 and 5, again, they’re our favourites right now.

So that’s going to be it for today. And moving forward, the End Notes are going to be a benefit for our Patreon sponsors. So if you want to learn more about that and how to get access to End Notes and early access to episodes and deleted scenes and all that cool stuff, you can visit patreon.com/albasalix.

And regardless, we will see you in about a week and a half or so, with Episode 3.

ELI

Woo!

Theme music plays.