– Woohoo. WIL WHEATON: Did you know that classic fairy tales are actually more gruesome and horrible than we know them to be? They were actually designed as morality tales to terrify children into staying out of the woods, listening to their parents, and never talking to wolves. For example, in the original “Rapunzel” the handsome prince climbs her hair only to find out that she is actually an alien dragon controlled by a robot. She eats him. In the original unedited “Cinderella,” the glass slipper is actually her cousin’s face.
It is too horrible for me to describe on a family program. When these tales reached American shores, they were sanitized for a more delicate audience, though they retained their classic characters. Today on “TableTop,” Chris ‘Doc’ Wyatt, Amy Berg, Mike Phirman, and I will find out what happens when a fairy tale is created in these modern times. Will it be sanitized and gentle? Or will it hew more closely to its gruesome, robot-filled, 16th-centure roots.
We will begin, as we always do, once upon a time. “Once Upon a Time” is a wonderful, cooperative, improvised storytelling game with a fairy tale theme. Players will work together building a story from a hand of cards, each containing a fairy tale element, like a crown, a kingdom, a dragon, a sword, or a witch. I may have made a robot card and put it in this deck, but you can’t prove it. The players will work together to tell a fairy tale by playing cards out of their hand and incorporating the elements on those cards into the story.
There are three ways you can become the narrator. The active narrator can pass control of the story to you. If the active narrator mentions an element you have on a card in your hand, like a dragon, you can play that card and now you are the narrator.
Finally, we have these cards called “interrupts,” which we will explain when they come up in play. This is not really a competitive game. This game is really about telling a story.
But we are all sort of working against each other in one significant way. Every one of us will have a secret ending that only we know on a card just like these. We will try to steer the story slowly toward our preferred ending.
The first player to use all the cards in their hand and bring the story to their desired conclusion is the winner. A lot of us playing this game are writers, and to paraphrase one of my very favorite writers, the story is the thing. Let’s find out what happens once upon a time. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: My name is Chris Wyatt, but everybody calls me Doc.
I am an independent film producer. I was one of the producers of the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” and a few others. I’m also a freelance animation writer. MIKE PHIRMAN: My name is Mike Phirman, and I’m known for music comedy. And I’m known for being the “Phirm” half of “Hard ‘n Phirm,” which is a music company duo.
AMY BERG: I am Amy Berg. I write TV and movies and stuff. WIL WHEATON: Rules for “Once Upon a Time” state that the player who looks most like a storyteller goes first. So, how many pilots have you sold this year? MIKE PHIRMAN: That I can talk about?
None. WIL WHEATON: How many pilots have you sold this year? CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: To friends, or to actual networks? WIL WHEATON: Probably networks.
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: No, none. WIL WHEATON: OK, I have sold zero, although my show TableTop was renewed. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Congratulations. I’m glad to hear about that. WIL WHEATON: How many have you sold, Berg?
Sorry. How many pilots have you sold, Berg? Is it more than zero?
AMY BERG: It’s more than zero and less than 10. WIL WHEATON: Is it more than one? AMY BERG: Yes. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Inclusive?
WIL WHEATON: Is it more than two? AMY BERG: Possibly. WIL WHEATON: Is it three?
AMY BERG: It is three. WIL WHEATON: I knew that. MIKE PHIRMAN: Game over.
WIL WHEATON: Yay. All right, you’re going to go first then because you are the most storytellery. All right, so everyone has looked at their endings? Yes, all right.
I’m not quite sure how this is going to land here. My ending is a cautionary tale, as fairy tales so often are. You must learn the importance of choosing the proper companions. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: I’ve got an ending that involves a tyrant. It says the tyrant was destroyed and everyone was happy. Which means if I’m going to win this game, I’ve got to introduce a tyrant at some point.
MIKE PHIRMAN: My ending card was a little disappointing because it was evildoers are thrown down the well. AMY BERG: So my ending is, two people who are very much in love somehow get parted. One of them perishes, and the other one is injured in that process.
I totally got this. All right. So, gentleman, once upon a time there lived a giant named Frank.
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: I love giants. WIL WHEATON: Frank the giant. AMY BERG: Frank lived in a cave. WIL WHEATON: I love him already. AMY BERG: Yeah. Frank lived in a cave.
WIL WHEATON: Frank the Giant lived in a cave. OK. AMY BERG: And he was very, very nervous about most things, because he’s a giant and he was the only one around. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: There are no other giants?
WIL WHEATON: Is he the last of the giants? AMY BERG: He’s is last of the giants? He’s the last remaining giant. WIL WHEATON: Frank, the last of the giants, wow. AMY BERG: Which means, you know, no getting it on with you a giant girl, because, like, there’s none left. It’s just him.
So he’s very nervous that people are going to discover, possibly find where he lives. Because he’s an outcast. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Because people want to kill him. AMY BERG: I think people want him dead. I think he’s scary.
He’s different from everyone. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: If people saw him, what would he do? AMY BERG: I think I think they would challenge him verbally to a duel. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: OK. Verbal duel with a giant sounds– they kill all the other giants verbally? AMY BERG: No, they use this weaponry. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: They were fighting, I guess, the giants.
Weapons? AMY BERG: Actually, it was bigger than that. It was actually a global thermonuclear war. WIL WHEATON: Whoa. AMY BERG: And he’s the last one– MIKE PHIRMAN: Card number three is global therm– WIL WHEATON: There was a global thermonuclear war.
MIKE PHIRMAN: How many of these would survive that? AMY BERG: When you get a card that says “global thermonuclear war,” you think two things. Oh crap. And this could be really cool. The people who started the war, they were just trying to get rid of the giants.
And luckily, his– MIKE PHIRMAN: Just trying to do a typical giantocide. AMY BERG: His personal giant cave was protected with whatever material protects people from that kind of radiation. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Plastic sheeting. Plastic sheeting protects you from nuclear– WIL WHEATON: There’s no plastic sheeting in a fairy tale. AMY BERG: I think maybe aluminum foil or something like that. So he was protected, and so were the people that caused the war.
Because they live in a bubble in the village where they all live. And the people are known as the Nordic Tribe of um, um, um– WIL WHEATON: I think three ums means you’re rambling. I think three ums is a ramble.
AMY BERG: Fine. I took a card. Go. WIL WHEATON: Great.
So, Frank, the last of the giants, has a terrible secret. In this cave, he has a fire pit. And then that fire pit, of course, burns a fire. AMY BERG: Really? WIL WHEATON: However, it’s not natural fire.
AMY BERG: What? WIL WHEATON: It is a muse of fire. MIKE PHIRMAN: Fire muse. WIL WHEATON: It is a muse of fire. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: And this is the Secret? WIL WHEATON: Yes.
The muse of the fire is named Steve. Steve the fire muse and Frank the giant are in love. And their love can never be– CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Consummated.
WIL WHEATON: Consummated is a word I was trying really hard not to say. But it’s one that’s going to be there. No, it’s a word that [INAUDIBLE]. AMY BERG: It’s on tape now, buddy. If a fire muse and a giant want to get together, I say that’s a-OK. WIL WHEATON: The question is not, would I date a giant named Frank. The question is, how did I ever get over it?
Frank and Steve now live alone in this cave. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: That’s tragic. MIKE PHIRMAN: So people, they don’t know where he is, though?
WIL WHEATON: No, because it’s very far away from the bubble village where the protective people live. And every day, Frank the giant and Steve the fire muse do this thing that Mike’s going to tell us. MIKE PHIRMAN: Oh yeah. I’ve played “Once Upon a Time” every day for the last 17 years. So I should really win this game.
I’ve played it twice, maybe a handful of times. So what they do is, they will go down to the local swamp, right. Every area has a swamp. WIL WHEATON: Every cave has swamp attrition. MIKE PHIRMAN: They’re popping up everywhere. WIL WHEATON: You pay extra for that.
MIKE PHIRMAN: That’s true. So they have a pretty decent swamp. AMY BERG: Which is kind of messy, though, I would imagine, because of the war. MIKE PHIRMAN: Yeah, it’s probably a lot more red than it used to be. And giants bleed a lot.
WIL WHEATON: Yeah, full of blood. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: A fire muse isn’t threatened by the water in this swamp at all. MIKE PHIRMAN: By the way, swamp. WIL WHEATON: Glad you got that out there.
Good work. MIKE PHIRMAN: Yes, the swamp was Arugapharrrrr. WIL WHEATON: Arugapharrrr. AMY BERG: Arugapharrrr. MIKE PHIRMAN: Arugapharrrr.
AMY BERG: So, Phirman named the swamp rarrrrrr? Or something. I might have been missing a constant or a vowel. Or several. WIL WHEATON: Havarrrrr? No.
Havarrrr. Regional dialects give me a really hard time. MIKE PHIRMAN: So, the local swamp, they down there. And what they would do is, Steve the fire is actually kind of the ugly duckling of his family. Right?
AMY BERG: Hard to love, except by giants. MIKE PHIRMAN: Yeah, exactly. Because not only is Arugapharrrr a swamp, it’s actually Steve’s parent. They’re like those animals that only needs one to go forward. It’s not a sexual thing. AMY BERG: An element birthed another element?
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: The swamp gave birth to a fire muse? MIKE PHIRMAN: Exactly. WIL WHEATON: That makes sense. That’s what happens after a global thermonuclear war. MIKE PHIRMAN: Yeah, that’s totally plausible.
WIL WHEATON: So they go down there every day to visit Steve’s parents? MIKE PHIRMAN: Yeah. Or what’s left of them. Global thermonuclear war is also not good for the wetlands and living and swamp folk.
So they go down there, and it’s kind of like giant to a graveyard, going to a cemetery. So they go down there and they’re very sad. And what they do is, pass. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: They go down there to make a plan. They’re planning how they can express their love physically. Because normally the heat of Steve’s fire keeps them apart.
And that’s when it occurs tell them that if only the giant were actually a robot, made of metal with the high melting point, he could hug Steve. If only he were a robot. WIL WHEATON: Fairy tales are full of robots. All three little pigs? Robots.
Goldilocks? Robot. Red Riding Hood? Not a robot. Grandma?
Robot. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: But they need make a plan so that Frank the giant can become Frank the giant robot and express his love to Steve. Their one goal, Frank and Steve, is to also become parents and have a child together.
They don’t know exactly how that’s going to work between a giant who wants to be a robot and a fire muse. AMY BERG: In vitro? Oh wait, no. WIL WHEATON: In robo. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: So Frank needed to figure out how to become robot, or part robot, and he did that by passing to Amy Berg.
AMY BERG: Well, they didn’t do it yet, because it was actually a bone of contention between them. And they would argue relentlessly about this. And even Steve’s parents got involved.
Frankly, they didn’t want Frank to be with their son in the first place. There was another fire muse down the river they really wanted to set up Steve with. WIL WHEATON: So on this particular day when they had gone down to visit Steve’s parents and hatched the plan to convert, somehow, Frank into a robot, Steve’s parents dropped this terrible bombshell on them. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Not the actual bomb. AMY BERG: No, that already happened.
WIL WHEATON: They revealed to Steve, we just don’t think Frank is right for you. We think fire muses should be with other fire muses. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: That’s so close-minded. WIL WHEATON: It’s terribly close-minded. It’s awful. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Lone cave-dwelling giants should be allowed to marry fire muses if they choose.
Even if they’re born of different elements. WIL WHEATON: Steve and Frank responded the way that you would expect them to respond. They said, your opinion eats a dick.
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: You have a card for that? WIL WHEATON: I wish I did. And they left. They left the swamp. They said, Steve’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. Muse, we will never see you again.
Because we only need to have people who support us in our lives. And they went deep into a nearby forest and began mining the materials necessary to build the exoskeleton of the robot. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: An exoskeleton for their love. WIL WHEATON: Now, as Frank was pulling large pieces of ore from the earth, they heard a voice behind a tree, and it said something from Mike Phirman.
MIKE PHIRMAN: Oh, that’s interesting. What was it? Oh, sorry. OK, yeah. Playing with Wil is a little like playing with a vampire where, if you’re a foot away from him, he can glamour you when he starts telling his details and you forget you are supposed to be interrupting him and playing as well. So that voice said, you guys should not be here.
You guys are off limits. This mining area belongs to the kingdom. Like royalty kingdom. AMY BERG: Like, the bubble kingdom? Or is it a different kingdom?
MIKE PHIRMAN: No, like, the bubble kingdom. Which was named Djrjhjan. Djrjhjan. D-J-R-J-H-J-A-N. AMY BERG: I really hope we don’t go back to the swamp because I don’t remember that one.
WIL WHEATON: The swamp was named Arugapharrrr. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Mike’s coming up with some names that are really funny, but are really hard to remember. So when I get a chance to tell the story, I have to move to new locations because I can’t remember the names of the old locations. WIL WHEATON: I don’t know why anyone is having a problem with inventing words because, first of all, “arugapharrrr” is a word already.
MIKE PHIRMAN: Steven and Frank are like, yeah, we’re just going to be here for, like, a few minutes. We’re getting a little bit of ore. WIL WHEATON: And then we’ll be out of here. MIKE PHIRMAN: Yeah, and he’s like, oh let me guess.
You guys are making some kind of exoskeleton to down download your brain into so you guys can be together. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Like a love robot. WIL WHEATON: What? MIKE PHIRMAN: And they’re like, are you serious? You know about that? How do you– And he’s like, look, I’m the spirit of the forest.
And I’m just telling you this because I’m very wise. And I’m trying to help you guys out. Here’s what you need to do. You guys need to go to a much different place, like Kahiman or Albuquerque .
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: What are those places? MIKE PHIRMAN: Oh, those are different locations on the other side of the water. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: But what kind of locations?
MIKE PHIRMAN: Oh there are also mines, deserts, cliffs. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Do they houses at all? MIKE PHIRMAN: Oh, some of them are near villages. It’s very important that it was near a village. I can’t wait to find out why.
WIL WHEATON: What’s the name of this particular village? CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Well, the mine was near a village called Robot Town. AMY BERG: Well, sure. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Robot Village, I mean to say. Robot Village. WIL WHEATON: It aspires to be Robot Town one day.
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: One day It helps to become a city. But only if enough revenue is generated by their key industry. The key industry in Robot Village is the creation of love robot suits. AMY BERG: Of course. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: I’m really struggling at this point, because I’ve got a dead-weight card in my hand, which is “clothes.” And the main character of our story is a fire demon, fire muse, which presumably doesn’t wear clothes.
So unless one of the other players happens to randomly say, and by the way, he’s made a fire and has no clothes, I’m not really going get to play this card. So they traveled all day and they traveled all night, and they finally got to Robot Village, where they said, we want to acquire one of the love robots so we can be together. And the people of the village said, [INAUDIBLE] stuff.
AMY BERG: Well, the people in the village were shocked to see a giant, frankly. Because they had a whole war had broken out. And Frank was the last of the giants. And so now they look at Frank, and they’re like, A, we don’t have a suit big enough for you, and B, holy [BLEEP] you’re a giant.
So they were totally scared. And they, in fact, decided that the only way to– WIL WHEATON: I actually know what happened. AMY BERG: I think they chase them out of the village, Wil. WIL WHEATON: No, I think you played in aspect and I’ve got an interrupt. I will tell you exactly what happened.
The villagers were frightened by Frank’s largesse. They were confused by Steve the talking fire, they’d never seen that before. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Outrageous. WIL WHEATON: Yeah, it’s a big deal. So the villagers quickly formed a council, as they so often do, and the council said, let’s keep them here. Let’s make them part of the village.
But we’re never really going to give them a robot suit. We’ll just sort of string them along. They were making mischief. AMY BERG: That’s terrible. WIL WHEATON: They were making terrible mischief. And Frank and Steve came into this group, and they were now given a group of little companions.
There were four little dudes, little villager guys. And they were– AMY BERG: They were little dudes? WIL WHEATON: Yes. WIL WHEATON: Maybe tiny dudes?
WIL WHEATON: They were so tiny. Yep, they were so tiny. AMY BERG: And what were their names, those four dudes? AMY BERG: Deedle, Dum, Horrachman, and Dave.
MIKE PHIRMAN: Why’d you look at me? WIL WHEATON: Yeah, of course, Dave. MIKE PHIRMAN: I just remember a harrrrrr sent at me, which I think was Amy.
As a reaction to the names that I’ve put out, I think Amy was trying to harrrrr for having made her make so many sounds today. AMY BERG: But these companions, it turns out– MIKE PHIRMAN: Really, they’re not just, like, hanging around them. They’re making sure– AMY BERG: Yes they’re like spies. MIKE PHIRMAN: Tiny, tiny spies.
AMY BERG: Tiny spies are the worst. Because you never see them coming. Frank’s huge, so they’d need to be in his hand for him to hang out with them. WIL WHEATON: So what happens when he’s with these companions? Do they take him somewhere?
AMY BERG: Well, the companions are disguised as his friends. But, in fact, are secret agents from the swamp. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Swamp agents.
For the parent. WIL WHEATON: From the swamp of Arugapharrrr. They were sent by Steve’s parents to keep an eye on them.
Because although they threw their hands up and said, get the hell out of here, we don’t approve of your love. MIKE PHIRMAN: It’s Frank and Eve, not Frank and Steve. AMY BERG: That’s right. They still love their son, and they want to make sure he’s OK. So they’ve sent these four little companions, whose names you guys will remember. MIKE PHIRMAN: The four tiny companions, if I remember correctly– CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Was it Tweedle or Dum?
No, Dweedle Dum. MIKE PHIRMAN: Bilbo? CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: A series of guttural noises and Dave.
AMY BERG: And their job was to– CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: To keep them apart. Is that what you said? AMY BERG: Yeah, well, now they’re settled. They’re actually enjoying living together in peace. And they have these four companions, who they think are there for their amusement. WIL WHEATON: That’s a lot of talking without a card, Amy Berg.
That was a lot of talking without a card. CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Rambling. AMY BERG: Their goal was to chase them out of the village so they would, once again, be on the run. They wanted to create chaos in their lives. To break them up.
MIKE PHIRMAN: That’s a nasty plot by that swamp. WIL WHEATON: They are bad people, super bad people. So now, having been deceived by their new companions, the companions say to them, let’s go on a mission. Because we know that there is a great treasure that we are going to go on the hunt for. So they head out into the deepest, darkest of deep, dark forests. And they begin the hunt for the treasure.
And as they go out and find the treasure, the treasure, as it turns out, is at the bottom of a well. MIKE PHIRMAN: When Wil laid down with the well, I thought, oh, well, I clearly have a shot at this. I mean, everybody moved out of the way. I got them right there. The problem is, I still have like five cards. Basically, everybody else is going to have to stop talking for like a half hour for me to get through these things plausibly and to reach evildoers being at the bottom of this well.
WIL WHEATON: Now, this presents a problem. This presents a real problem. Because if Steve the fire muse goes into the well in an effort to pick up the treasure, he’ll be quenched. AMY BERG: Oh God. WIL WHEATON: So as he looks there, he says to Frank, Frank, you’re too much of a giant to go into this well.
AMY BERG: He’s so big. WIL WHEATON: But I can go into this well. And I can pull up the treasure for you. MIKE PHIRMAN: Who was saying this? I’m sorry.
WIL WHEATON: This is Steve, saying this to Frank, as the companion stand back like this. But he knows that if he does that, he will be forever lost. AMY BERG: Wow. WIL WHEATON: I know that this is a cooperative game. I’ve made a very big deal about how this is not about winning the game.
But it’s tabletop where I never win. I am one card away from victory, and I got them talking about companions. AMY BERG: That’s tough for Frank.
WIL WHEATON: It’s really tough for Frank. AMY BERG: Yeah, he’s super sad about that. Super duper sad. He’s like, dude, please, lover, Steve. Please, gosh, don’t do that. I mean, I will go.
I can build a deeper well. I can just sort of like, you know, go in there like, brraahh. And then create a bigger well. It’ll be fine. I can get the treasure. You don’t need to go in there.
So Frank does this. And he gets stuck. He does this and he gets stuck. And in order to save Frank, Steve has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Steve’s got to go down the well. Steve goes down the well. MIKE PHIRMAN: Where Frank is currently. AMY BERG: Yes, where Frank is. And he rescues his beloved.
Unfortunately, this– WIL WHEATON: How many cards do you have left there, Hidey? Hidey McHidehands. AMY BERG: Unfortunately, this results in his demise. WIL WHEATON: Steve dies. AMY BERG: Frank gets to the top of the well. And he’s all alone, and he’s injured, of course.
But eventually his would was healed. But his heart remained broken forever. WIL WHEATON: Wow.
AMY BERG: That’s so sad. WIL WHEATON: That’s a really sad story. AMY BERG: I mean, they blew up this entire people. And then he lost the one person that loved him. WIL WHEATON: That’s a bummer story. AMY BERG: Totally.
CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: And Frank’s got to go back to the swamp, to tell the parents. AMY BERG: Oh my god, he’s got to tell the parents. MIKE PHIRMAN: Aren’t they dead? AMY BERG: The parents? CHRIS ‘DOC’ WYATT: Did they die?
WIL WHEATON: They die in the expanded universe. AMY BERG: Harrrrr. WIL WHEATON: Amy Berg. AMY BERG: Yes. WIL WHEATON: You’ve used all your cards.
You’ve brought the story to a satisfying conclusion. You stole it away from me with one card left to go. I was there, I was on the doorstep. AMY BERG: I know. WIL WHEATON: I think I’m going to go ahead and declare you the winner of “Once Upon a Time.”
So you guys, listen. I think we worked together to tell an incredibly satisfying story. And I know this is the losers’ couch, but I feel like we’re not really losers today. MIKE PHIRMAN: All right, let’s go to the winners’– WIL WHEATON: Wait.
In that sense, we’re losers. But listen, hang out on this couch. It’s very comfortable.
I spend a lot of time here, so I know. I’m going to go downstairs and present Amy with her award. Now I would like for you to have your very own “TableTop” Certificate of Awesome.
AMY BERG: What? This is so cool. WIL WHEATON: Yeah. I’m going to fill in your information on it. So go ahead and give me your back here. Cross off “largest recursive kitchen.”
I don’t know why that’s there. And the “TableTop” story champ. Presented to Amy Berg! With an exclamation point. Let me sign it so its all official. And here you go.
AMY BERG: Suck on this. WIL WHEATON: Here, let me seal it so everyone knows it’s not fake. AMY BERG: Oh my god, it’s official now. WIL WHEATON: Make your victory speech. AMY BERG: Nice.
Well, It’s kind of what I do for a living. So, duh. WIL WHEATON: Thanks for watching. Until next time, play more games, and we’ll see you right back here on “TableTop.”