Spenser Starke Is Bringing Cinematic GMing To Candela Obscura Chapter 2

Published: August 28, 2023 11:00 AM /


An image of Spenser Starke next to the Candela Obscura logo. A blurry view of the cast sits behind him.

Candela Obscura Chapter 2 is right around the corner, airing Thursday, August 31st. With that, a whole new cast of characters will be taking up the fight against the Void and its horrors. Among them will be Spenser Starke, game designer of Candela Obscura (alongside Rowan Hall), and GM for this Chapter. 

This week we had a chance to hear from Starke on his DMing style, the world that we'll be invited into in Chapter 2, and what to expect of the cast and new mechanics.

What is Candela Obscura?

This new TTRPG system is the first of two that Darrington Press and Critical Role is releasing in the not-so-distant future. Players form a group of paranormal investigators solving mysteries related to horrific incursions upon our realm. 

Candela Obscura uses the Illuminated Worlds System which has an emphasis on short, narrative-driven games. In a game rooted in gothic, cosmic, and sometimes body horror players will not only need to stay physically strong, but also mentally.

Spenser Starke, A Cinematic Game Master

There have been a number of GMs to take the lead at the Critical Role table, some members of the Critical Role talent team, and even a few guest GMs, but this will be the first time fans of Critical Role and Candela Obscura will be able to witness Starke GMing.

"I love cinematic, emotionally charged storytelling, and I do my best to bring that style of play to any table I'm running!" Starke told me. "I want the story we are telling to feel like a movie, with our PCs as our protagonists."

Compared to TTRPG like Dungeons & Dragons, which are mechanically heavier, Candela Obscura allows for a lot more freedom in the things that players can attempt and even the items they bring along on each investigation. This cinematic approach to storytelling also makes sense knowing that Starke was a designer of Kids on Brooms, a wizard-focused expansion of the 'rules-light, narrative-first' Kids on Bikes RPG.

Starke continues that the desire for the PCs to drive the story forward results in being loosely prepared for anything instead of creating any hard tracks around the narrative. "I prefer to lay down the story's foundation, have some ideas of how things might go, and play to find out what happens.

Candela Obscura Chapter 2 - The Toll of War

For those excited to learn about the story of the Circle of the Needle and Thread, the name of the new party of players, Starke explained that "the tone of the campaign is a little darker and grittier than the last. The PCs are all either directly or indirectly related to the Last Great War, and its impact has ripped through them."

The cast of Candela Obscura Chapter 2
The cast assembled ready to investigate

Other players at the table for Chapter 2 include Luis Carazo, Zehra Fazal, Brennan Lee Mulligan, Marisha Ray, and Travis Willingham. "Luis, Brennan, and Travis are all playing characters who fought together in the Last Great War, with Zehra's character also serving as one of the field doctors on the frontline. Marisha's character was not directly involved in the war itself, but she has a deep history with Luis and Brennan that really makes her invested in their safety!"

While some of these characters have literally been in the trenches together, forging bonds, I did have to ask about the theme of social status and the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor that permeated through the Chapter 2 teaser trailer released a few weeks ago. 

"The social class difference between those who grew up in the wealthier parts of the city and those who grew up in the underbelly of South Soffit helps to create a unique tension between some of the characters that I’m excited for people to see!"

New Mechanics For Candela Obscura Chapter 2

While a Quickstart Guide did offer five pre-generated characters with a few skill options on display there's still a lot that we don't know about the Character Options that will be available when Candela Obscura fully releases in late 2023.

While the five Roles of Candela Obscura are known, in Chapter 2 we'll get to see further Specialities including "the Soldier, Doctor, and the Medium specialty, as well as the Journalist– and Travis’ character has a little bit of a twist on its specialty that I custom built for him. You’ll see it happen in the show down the road. Secrets!"

By the time Chapter 2 has concluded it will only be the Explorer Speciality that we haven't seen played in Candela Obscura, but the Detective Speciality won't have made an appearance at all. Knowing Travis' love of Werewolf transformations I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see a Jekyll-Hyde transformation allowing the final Speciality to be shown intermittently.

What's Next For Candela Obscura?

Candela Obscura will be released in full Late 2023 but many who have been interested have already experienced it via the Quickstart Guide, playing it at Gencon, or watching the cast of Chapter 1 show off its storytelling power.

"Chapter 1 premiered right as Rowan and I and the rest of the team were in the last stages of finishing the book, so it was unbelievably inspiring to see it finally out in the world as a show and get that little boost of dopamine. I think it really helped push us over the finish line!"

The cast of Candela Obscura Chapter 1 reacting to Robbie Daymond
Care from the cast as Professor Margrove does something unexpected, but Matt just seems to be thinking "yes, do it"

"Robbie Daymond surprised me the most in episode two when he “expanded his mind.” If you know what I mean, you know what I mean" alluding to a surprising (and somewhat disgusting) moment from Professor Howard Margrove "watching live as that happened was buck wild. I also just love literally everything about Auggie. Auggie lives rent-free in my mind and I would do anything to keep him safe."

When asked about what feedback to the Quickstart Guide (QSG) was like Starke prefaced his answer explaining "The main thing I’ll note is that the Quickstart Guide was just a preview of what is to come. A lot of the feedback we heard was around parts of the game that hadn’t been released yet,"

"The QSG was just supposed to be enough for people to get a sense for the general mechanics and follow along with the show."

For those who were asking about feedback or features that were already created Starke was happy about his "chance to showcase some of that work in the upcoming episodes, so I’m looking forward to people identifying these new features as they occur!"

TechRaptor would like to thank Spenser Starke for taking the time to talk with us about Candela Obscura Chapter 2 which will air this Thursday, August 31st at 7 pm Pacific via the Critical Role Twitch channel. The episode will then be released on YouTube the following Monday. Be sure to keep an eye on TechRaptor this week for an upcoming interview with Brennan Lee Mulligan on his experience playing Candela Obscura and being part of the Circle of the Needle and Thread.


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