The Games We Play is an ongoing feature in which we speak with some of our favorite creative minds about the games in their lives—past and present. Today we’ve got an actor, comedian, author, and podcaster giving us: The Henry Zebrowski Interview!
Henry, and his co-hosts Ben Kissel and Marcus Parks, have often made references to Dungeons & Dragons—and RPGs generally—on their podcast. Perhaps not too surprising for someone whose job is often to pretend to be someone else! We caught up with him to see if we could learn more about his relationship with tabletop gaming!
Everyone roll initiative for our Henry Zebrowski interview!
When I was a young man, my manager—who is still my manager after 15 years, which is rare—gave me one of the best pieces of advice I could get. Be everywhere: make a really wide base for yourself as an artist and you’d really be surprised what comes out of it. My generation of comedians were all taught to be their own directors, producers, and camera persons. We’ve been multi-hyphenates for over a decade. It actually played well into the rise of the internet media world from 2007 onward because you’ve got to make your own stuff to make it in show business if you are not born a millionaire or into a show business dynasty.
But to answer your question, I am very tired.
I’ve heard enough D&D references in Last Podcast on the Left to guess that you have more than a passing acquaintance with the topic. When and how did you start playing? Which edition? Do you remember your first character, or maybe a favorite? What happened to them?
I don’t remember the specific edition, but I started playing tabletop RPGs when I was around eight or nine, so 1992 or ’93? My cousin Eric — full metalhead, hair down to his butt, Pantera do-or-die — was my first DM. My first character was a Chaotic Good Wizard Elf named Ignatius Nostradamus. It didn’t last that long, but I fell in love with the idea [that] you can literally do anything. A good DM can really make an immersive experience.
That character just fell by the wayside, but I would go on to play later editions with a group of comedians. We had a fairly long campaign for a bunch of people very busy on the weekends. It lasted, like, two years. Now I’ve played Call of Cthulhu way more than D&D just because that’s what my friends were playing. I also help Jared Logan sometimes with his RPG stream Stream Of Blood.
You’re a skilled improv actor and have a knack for impressions. How much of this comes out when you’re gaming? On a side note, I’m betting you’d be a hell of a gamemaster. Do you have any experience on the other side of the screen?
I absolutely go full-character when I am roleplaying. Jared Logan was the DM for my longest D&D campaign and he would give us a re-roll token if we made an extremely in character moment happen. We were playing Call of Cthulhu, and when I was rolling out my character I only had like a 5 SAN which means you start almost fully insane. And I just played it to the hilt, blowing up group scenarios and making the absolute wrong choices. It was a blast. The character didn’t last long because of the circumstances but it was good while it lasted.
I have never DM’d – it’s very hard! Maybe one day I will be mature enough to run my own campaign.
What’s it like out there for a gamer in the entertainment industry? Is it hard to find people to throw some dice with in Hollywood?
Absolutely not. Everybody loves an RPG once you break down the rules, especially a bunch of Hollywood Hams. But what is difficult is finding the time to set aside: I had to stop my last game because we had to keep reminding ourselves what the f**k we were just doing because it would be months in between sessions.
Do you get to do much gaming these days? What are you playing?
Right now I am finding my way back to console games. Last Podcast Network just helped design a tabletop game so I am writing them more than playing them.
I LOVED the new Dune turn-based RPG — of course I am a massive [Civilization] 6 head, so it appealed to me immediately. Recently, I started trying to fight my way through Crusader Kings 3 which is complex and interesting. You know what game I loved that surprised me? It was called Omori, very freaky emotional game. Also, I am obsessed with Disco Elysium; I played it through twice. But I need more games! Send me all the recommendations because I need help occupying my brain when I am on flights and in hotels.
You can pick any three people, living or dead, to run a game for. Who are they, what are they playing (race/class), and what kind of adventure are you running?
If I could RPG with three people, it would be:
L. Ron Hubbard. Definitely a Chaotic Evil wizard, but I bet he’d like to be a bruiser cause he’s small.
Charles Manson. Is there a better Rogue in the world?
Noble Knight’s Game Recommendations for LPotL Fans
Our web team at Noble Knight Games are loud-and-proud LPotL fans, and we’ve compiled a selection of games that we think will scratch your itch when you wanna take the horror, weirdness, and occult from your headphones to your tabletop!
In Horrified: American Monsters, cryptids from across America have been drawn by an unknown force to terrorize the community. Work together to defend your home from Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, Mothman, the Ozark Howler, and the Banshee of the Badlands. Each monster presents a unique challenge, and players can adjust the difficulty by playing against a new group of monsters each game.
With a unique deduction mechanic, Cryptid is a game of honest misdirection in which players must try to uncover information about their opponent’s clues while throwing them off the scent of their own. Each player holds one piece of evidence to help them find the creature, and on their turn they can try to gain more information from their opponents.
Be warned—give too much away and your opponents might beat you to the mysterious animal and claim the glory for themselves! The game includes a modular board, five clue books, and a deck of setup cards with hundreds of possible setups across two difficulty levels. It is also supported by an entirely optional digital companion, allowing for faster game setup and a near-infinite range of puzzles.
You will travel back in time to 1893 to explore the twisted and unpredictable World’s Fair Hotel. Race to collect evidence while battling through the absurdities of a chaotic, booby-trapped castle – all while dodging Holmes himself. In Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes’ Murder Castle, you will explore rooms and collect evidence, while battling backstabbing overnight guests and evading Holmes in his thrilling house of horrors.
The 2nd Story Expansion expands the game by incorporating an Automa mode and the ability to Play as Holmes with 4-7 players.
Most people don’t believe in monsters, but you know the truth. They’re real, and it’s your task to bring them down. This revised edition of Monster of the Week brings that adventure to life.
Monster of the Week is a standalone action-horror RPG for 3-5 people. Hunt high school beasties a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, travel the country to bring down unnatural creatures like the Winchester brothers of Supernatural, or head up the government investigation like Mulder and Scully. This book contains everything you need to tackle Bigfoot, collar a chupacabra, and drive away demons.
Born of the U.S. government’s 1928 raid on the degenerate coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, the covert agency known as Delta Green opposes the forces of darkness with honor but without glory. Delta Green agents fight to save humanity from unnatural horrors—often at a shattering personal cost.
In Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, the players are those agents. They fight to save human lives and sanity from threats beyond space and time. Delta Green’s percentile-based rules are compatible with 20 years’ worth of Delta Green scenarios and sourcebooks.
They are all around us. Secret conspiracies are everywhere. In Illuminati, you increase your wealth and power to take over the world until only YOU reign supreme.
Now, this classic game of conspiracy and world conquest has been updated to include current events and up-to-date references! Illuminati is for two to six players and contains 110 cards with new card back designs. It features new art created by Lar deSouza, known for his 2008 Shuster Award-winning online comic Least I Could Do.
As a winner of the Origins Award for Best Science Fiction Boardgame, Illuminati is one of the all-time greats. Now that it has been modernized for the 21st century, you’ll wonder whether it’s really only a game as you scheme your way to world domination!
Fourth edition Kult features a completely new rule-set, and updates the setting to present day. Escape your nightmares, strike bargains with demons, and try to stay alive in a world full of pain, torture, and death.
In KULT: Divinity Lost, the world around us is a lie. Mankind is trapped in an Illusion. We do not see the great citadels of Metropolis towering over our highest skyscrapers. Nor do we hear the screams from the forgotten cellar where hidden stairs take us to Inferno. We do not smell the blood and burnt flesh from those sacrificed to long forgotten Gods. But some of us see glimpses from beyond the veil. We have this strange feeling that something is not right—the ramblings of a madman in the subway seems to carry a hidden message, and, when thinking about it, our reclusive neighbor doesn’t appear to be completely human when we pass in the hallway. By slowly discovering the truth about our prison, our captors, and our hidden pasts, we can finally awaken from our induced sleep and take control of our destiny.