At long last I finished the first season of Dice, Camera, Action!, a D&D webshow much in the vein of others such as The Adventure Zone and Critical Role. The events leading up to the final showdown with the vampire lord Strahd was as about as intense and chaotic as one could expect, yet as the dust settled I found myself wanting more. Yes, there’s another season out—which I started—but something about the way things finished left me seeking out some comfort fic both for the characters and to ease my shaken heart. Luckily, even amidst the seemingly small bounty, fanfic provides.
There are two things that become abundantly clear watching this narrative unfold: vampires are assholes, and the Waffle Crew has little, if any, idea on how to interact with each other. It makes sense: they’re four dissonant parts that don’t exactly make a whole, but continuously are forced to do so anyway whether it be by the will of one of the party members or the fact that if they don’t stick together, one or all of them will die. Barring this, the characters nor the setting seem like especially good fodder for in-character comfort fic. I always love being surprised, though, and in their fic Barovian Souvenirs, author Tracks perfectly encapsulates the lingering paranoia from escaping a vampire-infested hellscape where everything wants to kill you and the awkwardness between the partymates who, while trying to offer some form of comfort, don’t yet have a grasp on how to do this effectively.
Taking place immediately after the final episode of the first season, Barovian Souvenirs zooms in on the group during a supposedly normal day. However, Strix, the party’s anxious mage, keeps seeing shadows everywhere, terrified of the idea that the nasties from Barovia have followed them here and are waiting for the perfect moment to strike. After accidentally attacking the party’s stalwart rogue, Diath, while trying to vampire-proof his room in the inn, Diath attempts to soothe Strix by reassuring her that her paranoid thoughts aren’t reality. This leads to Diath thinking about his own past actions and fearing that the drastic measures he took while in Barovan have completely demolished his moral compass. He reluctantly seeks reassurance in the aloof bard Paultin, and Paultin then is left to his own thoughts and fears, which are somewhat assuaged by Evelyn, the paladin. And it all comes back to Strix showing an uncomfortable-for-her moment of concern for Evelyn, believing the paladin is off in the woods crying by herself.
“Can you just talk about your feelings already so we can get out of here?” Strix asked petulantly.
“Well sure,” Evelyn said brightly, “You know I’m always happy to talk to you! What feelings did you want to talk about? Because if it’s my feelings about Lathander-”
“Please shut up” Strix interrupted, burying her face in her hands. “Just… do the thing. The fears and regrets thing everyone else is doing. Before the forest monsters eat us.” Evelyn wasn’t quite sure what “fears and regrets” Strix was referring to. Then, a thought crossed her mind. Concerned, she asked
“Strix, is something bothering you?”
“What? No!” Strix shouted indignantly. Evelyn wasn’t convinced; Strix had, after all, followed her all the way out into the woods, and she had just said that Diath had been worried about her… The answer was so obvious she couldn’t believe she hadn’t realized it right away. Strix had some problem she couldn’t talk to Diath about, and so she had decided to come to Evelyn in secret to ask for help. Of course in typical Strix-like fashion, she was having a little trouble expressing what, exactly, that problem was, but Evelyn was more than happy to meet her friend halfway.
“You can talk to me about anything, Strix. You know I don’t normally approve of keeping secrets, but just this once we can keep it between us two, if you like. Is it something about Diath? Is that why you don’t want him to know about it?”
Strix buried her face in her hands and mumbled, “Why. Why are you like this?” Evelyn figured she must be getting close. But what secret could Strix have that she couldn’t tell Diath about?
“Is he secretly your brother, like Izek?”
“No!” Strix sprang to her feet as though she had been burned. “That’s- don’t even compare – no , Evelyn, that’s not a thing!” she shouted, flailing her arms for emphasis. “I just saw you sneaking into the woods and thought ‘Man what’s Evelyn doing in the woods? Everyone else is having feelings so maybe she’s going in there to cry or something!’ A nd then-” She ripped off a part of the bush, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. “Then this thing happened and this is why I don’t try to do nice things!”
Evelyn’s heart practically melted. “Strix, you came all this way just because you were worried about me? That’s so sweet!” She lunged forward and captured Strix in a hug.
“Let me go I hate you!” she screeched, clawing at Evelyn’s back.
“Strix I already knew Lathander blessed you with a beautiful soul but you always surprise me with just how brightly you make it shine.” Evelyn told her, blinking back tears from her eyes.
“Yep I’m great now can you put me down please?!”
Evelyn hadn’t noticed, but in her enthusiasm she had indeed lifted Strix clean off the ground. She set her back down carefully. Strix brushed herself off, and Evelyn did the same; she always did enjoy hugging Strix, but she just wished the hug didn’t come with so much dirt attached to it. Still, she thought to herself, being covered in dirt was part of Strix’s wonderful personality, and she wouldn’t change her for the world.
This chain reaction is such a compelling choice to show the bonds between the party. Each link down the chain shows that while they are connected, they’re also still distant from each other; there are parts of themselves that they have trouble showing despite having suffered through several near-death (and actual death) experiences with each other. However, this distance, the emotional turmoil, paranoia, depression, and whatever else weighing down on them does not keep them from forging meaningful bonds. And while I love found family fic where everything fits into place like it was always meant to be there, seeing these dysfunctional people with a myriad of problems continuously crash against each other and make mistakes, as if they’re subconsciously fighting for them to become a family, warms the cockles of my heart and makes me feel a little less alone.
If you haven’t finished the first season of Dice, Camera, Action! and are worried about spoilers, I will admit there are a few hanging around. However, the biggest spoiler is that they all survived the Barovia arc, which you could probably guess by there being a second, and soon third season with the same cast. Barovian Souvenirs is a completed fic, and at 5.5k words it’s a nice breather of a fic that will leave you hungry for that good character development in Season 2. If I’ve piqued your interest, make sure to check it out here at the AO3!