How ‘Charisma Saves’ Made Me Fall in Love with Dungeons & Dragons
The party is preparing for battle. There’s Elenya, a strong, determined young woman who cares deeply for her friends and protects them at all costs; The Professor, a purple horned time-traveler with a sharp, biting wit; Icilius, a highly skilled gunslinger; and finally, Ivellios, a snowy owl who has been away from home for five years, but not by choice.
They are in the thick of it in Ivellios’s home city, preparing to battle great foes, surrounded by houses and a nursery.
“The Aarakocrans should really learn about the efficiency of grids.”
“How dare you! They’re birds, goddammit. They fly. Their roads aren’t dictated by lines and straightness.”
This is Sarah and Hugo talking, who play Elenya and The Professor, respectively. Every session of Charisma Saves is similar to this: the characters go up against life-threatening situations as their players crack jokes and poke fun at each other. This is the beauty of Charisma Saves, a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign streamed online once a week.
D&D is a tabletop role-playing game. Every player (save the Dungeon Master) creates a character to play, and they choose from a variety of races and classes to craft them. For example, The Professor is a Tiefling (race) and a Bard (class). The Dungeon Master (Jake) carefully designs a world for the characters to explore. They can get into battles, journey across land and sea, eat, drink, have fun, fall in love…the possibilities are endless. It’s like playing make-believe, but for adults.
Before watching Charisma Saves, I had only passing knowledge of D&D. I liked the general concept of playing a character in a fantasy setting, but it never quite connected with me — until I watched Charisma Saves.
Hugo (The Professor), Sarah (Elenya), Alex (Ivellios), and Randy (Icilius) have been playing these characters for a long time, well before they started streaming their sessions online, and it shows. Each of them has a distinct personality.
I asked each of the players to tell me their favorite aspect of their character.
Sarah (Elenya): “Her capacity to love. She might get frustrated with the others, specifically The Professor and Ivellios, but she loves every single one of them, to the point where she would sacrifice herself for them.”
Randy (Icilius): “He’s a man without a strong moral compass. He lost a lot of himself in the shadowfell, and he’s still trying to learn how to be a functional person again.”
Alex (Ivellios): “He is confident and not afraid of anything, and it’s the opposite of me in real life, and playing him as actually helped me become more confident of a person.”
Hugo (The Professor): “My favorite thing about The Professor is probably the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to sate his curiosity. From digging through piles of human refuse to discover what’s hidden inside, to performing field autopsies on monsters, he’s willing to go pretty far to find the truth, and I think that’s a useful trait in an adventurer. Sometimes answers are buried under gross stuff.”
A huge part of what makes these sessions so enjoyable for me is Jake, the Dungeon Master. Jake creates the world in which these characters play. He helps guide them through events, sets up the scenarios they encounter, and creates NPCs (non-player characters) for the main group to interact with. One of my favorite NPCs so far is an Elf named Kasdin. Jake gives him a higher-pitched, older sounding voice, with lots of flavor and character. Kasdin has a huge (currently, in my viewing of the sessions) unrequited crush on The Professor. He is very much aware of this crush, and many exasperated sighs are heard whenever Kasdin makes a flirtatious comment his way.
Jake is crucial to the success of this campaign. He is a fantastic storyteller, weaving scenes together like a beautiful tapestry. One in particular that solidified Jake’s talent for me was when Icilius very briefly died in combat (before being brought back to life by Elenya). In those few moments after death, Icilius had a vision of a cabin, the home he shared with his deceased wife, Julia. Julia was there, waiting for him. The way Jake described the vision and the heavy emotions of Icilius made those images palpable.
Fans of Charisma Saves had this to say: “The characters are hilarious and play off each other really well, the world is very interesting and really sucks you in, and the action is heart stopping.” Also, “Come for the nerds, stay for the box levitation.”
When I asked Jake, he described it as “The second best D&D stream on the internet.”
Between Jake’s expertise in being a Dungeon Master and the group’s commitment to the roles they are playing, Charisma Saves is truly a wonderful, emotional, and hilarious experience. I am extremely excited to continue my journey watching Charisma Saves, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the party.
And be sure to watch my earlier interview with Hugo and Jake about their main channel here!