Greg joins me this week to discuss his career path before joining Wizards of the Coast in 2015, and details his roles and responsibilities as Senior Communications Manager for Dungeons & Dragons. He talks about his love of tabletop roleplaying games, and provides a compelling answer to the question, "What is D&D?" Greg discusses how D&D is built by a lean staff of approximately 25 individuals, and how many of those individuals have long tenures on the product and with each other. He speaks about the growth of streaming and video delivery services, which has allowed the tabletop hobby to expand into newer audiences in recent years. He briefly reviews some internal data that shows the average fan of D&D is skewing younger and more diverse, and he explores how Wizards of the Coast can continue to increase outreach and representation to broaden the fanbase.
I'm joined this week by Dr. Megan Connell, a licensed psychologist who is currently using Dungeons & Dragons in two therapy groups to teach children social skills and empowerment. She speaks about motivations for pursuing a career in psychology, including her decision to join the military after the events of 9/11. Dr. Connell provides her insights into how dungeon mastering is essentially "people management," and how DMs can use specific skills to improve gameplay for all involved. She covers how important it is to talk with your players to establish ground rules and resolve potential conflicts. She details her use of a Session 0 for all new campaigns to accomplish these goals. We review how mental health symptoms can manifest for players at the table, and present some strategies on how to address these situations. She talks about her Psychology and D&D video series featured on YouTube and her stream, Clinical Roll, which features numerous mental health professionals playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Jerry, known as The Dread Gazebo, talks about his views on the changing climate around tabletop and vidoegaming this decade. He speaks the lifespan of gaming blogs and the rise of streaming. He details his enjoyment of Shadow of the Demon Lord, and answers questions regarding gameplay. Jerry presents his thoughts on streaming culture, and how it often turns into a toxic environment. We explore the social contract of playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and long for briefer gameplay experiences. We close the show by discussing the unique aspects of forming close bonds with others online because of gaming, and how those bonds can shift when we actually meet each other in person.
Duane has been cultivating Hammer Gaming, a community for like-minded players who wish to avoid the toxicity that is often found in online games. He speaks about consulting with other gamemasters like myself, and we talk through an example of how we collaborated to flesh out various characters in my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Duane delves into his experiences as a person of color playing video- and tabletop games, and the obstacles he has encountered over the years while trying to engage with the hobby. He offers advice for other players and content creators to make gaming a safer space for a wider audience. He details how Hammer Gaming came to be created, and how it has evolved from a World of Warcraft guild to a vibrant community of 40-50 friendly gamers. We close the show by talking about Destiny 2, and he tries to convince me to dive in when it releases for PC.
Listen to Enrique Bertran, better known as NewbieDM, discuss the evolving Dungeons & Dragons landscape during the past 10 years. He shares his insights about how roleplaying games continue to get closer to "mainstream" status, and how 5th Edition D&D is a good system. We spend time reviewing D&D's latest adventure, Tomb of Annihilation, which Enrique says "is 5th Edition running on all cylinders" and "the best adventure Wizards of the Coast has put out... since at least 2008." He delves into the specifics of the adventure - without too many spoilers - and offers Dungeon Masters advice on how to run the game a bit differently than published to enhance the experience of the players. He speaks about the benefits for using online tools such as D&D Beyond and Roll20 to run his gaming sessions, and talks about his desire for official adventure content from Wizards to be briefer. He concludes with thoughts on a possible future project geared toward a roleplaying game for children.
I'm joined by Jeff Chin, Co-Founder of Road to Infamy Games, and he speaks about lessons learned from successfully launching two prior games through Kickstarter. He details Road to Infamy's latest Kickstarter campaign, Bowties: The Dapper Drinking Game. Jeff talks about his inspiration for the game and the development process for taking the game from initial conception to playtesting and hopefully manufacturing. We discuss social behavior as it relates to consuming alcohol in public spaces - and playtesting games. He answers questions about the possible competition with other Kickstarter campaigns, and how he has embraced collaboration with other creators.
I'm joined by Ohad Zach (ZachO), General Manager of Vicious Syndicate and writer of the weekly Data Reaper Report, which provides comprehensive statistical analysis for Hearthstone. He spoke about his fandom of Blizzard games and joining forces with Vicious Syndicate to create a new type of meta report for Hearthstone. He discusses the initial concept for the Data Reaper Report, and how the report has improved since it launched in May 2016. He speaks to how the accurate data analysis in the reports have altered the Hearthstone landscape - from how tournament matches are called by casters to how the meta adapts and settles after a new expansion release. At various times throughout the interview, Ohad responds to my anecdotal perceptions of current Hearthstone gameplay with analysis based on tens of thousands of game results. For example, he details how the current Hearthstone meta is perhaps the healthiest it has ever been, why the Warlock class is in such a bad state at the moment, why Pirate Warrior in Wild is not as strong as people may think, and how Crystal Rogue shapes the Standard experience. He talks about the latest addition to Vicious Syndicate, the Wild Data Reaper Report, which provides a similar type of statistical analysis to the Wild format. And we explore the casual and competitive allure of Hearthstone in addition to how Vicious Syndicate overlaps at times with Blizzard staff, streamers, professional players, and a thriving online community.
I'm joined this week by Katrina Ostrander, Fiction Editor for Fantasy Flight Games Fiction and Story Team Member for Fantasy Flight Games. She talks about her early experiences in gaming, which were mostly comprised of play-by-post games. She speaks about the benefits of her play-by-post games, and how she started to play in tabletop sessions. Katrina describes her experiences playing in gaming groups comprised of all-men and all-women, and how those groups tend to approach RPGs in different ways. She discusses her method for running quality games that engage player emotions, and offers advice for how to deal with the anxiety that comes with the duties of gamemastering. She details her roles over the years with Fantasy Flight Games, including her work on highly-scrutinized intellectual properties such as Star Wars and Legend of the Five Rings. She closes the interview by discussing potential future projects, including designing a game that would connect with the younger version of herself.
This week I am joined by Wayne June, voiceover artist and narrator with extensive experience in the audiobook industry. He is perhaps best known recently for his work as the voice of the Darkest Dungeon; he performs the lines of The Ancestor, who serves as the narrator throughout the game. Wayne first discusses his years as a musician and touring with the guitar icon, Johnny Winter. He pivots to detail how he became interested in the voice recording business, and how he found a niche in "creepy" literature such as volumes of H.P. Lovecraft works. Wayne talks about the shift from collaborating in a band to the isolation of voice work, and how the request from the Darkest Dungeon team thrust him into the gaming community. He shares the process for finding the voice of The Ancestor, and what it's been like to gain attention for his work in the game. He closes by talking about current audiobook and gaming projects.
This week I'm joined by Chris Benefield, a longtime friend I first met during our days in graduate school way back in 1998. Chris has a masters degree in Educational Psychology, and is now working toward an advanced degree to become a school counselor. In the episode, we discuss our history of arguing, "Who is the bigger nerd?" and explore how social comparison theory affects geekdom, "Sure, I'm a nerd - but I'm not THAT nerdy." I ask Chris why he cannot get into tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and he asks me why I'm unwilling to dive into Magic: The Gathering (MtG). He discusses the merits of MtG, and we explore how games like Hearthstone, SolForge, and Eternal scratch a similar itch. We delve into our approaches to mindfully engage in hobbies and time management, which leads into our use of social media - for better and sometimes worse. Along the way, we review our trip to GenCon 2012, and talk about trying to remain a nerd while parenting young children.
Enjoy the episode, and please provide feedback if you would like Chris and I to continue recording similar discussions as we are considering spinning this off into a separate podcast.