James Haeck, Lead Writer for D&D Beyond and Coauthor of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Critical Role's Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting joins the pod to educate me about how Critical Role overlaps with elements of the RPG and D&D landscape - and how it also has carved its own niche. He discussed the evolution of Critical Role and how it only recently became an independent entity outside of Geek & Sundry and Legendary Digital Networks while also clarifying my prior misconceptions about Critical Role being "under" Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. James and I ponder what Critical Role's success may mean for tabletop RPGs and empathize with individuals that may question the money that is being raised. I disclose my initial interest and envy from the success, and we both discuss the perils of focusing on the successes and failures of others while trying to create content. I thank James for delving into these questions, and we both acknowledge our lack of adequate solutions for these dilemmas. I shift gears with James to ask about how he got involved in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, and prod him for suggestions on how to get the most out of the content provided in the book. I selfishly wanted this information as my group my find their way into an urban setting soon! This is a worthy conversation, and I hope you give it a listen!
Marc Allie joins me to talk about his history of "being geeky when geeky wasn't cool." He talks about his early memories of playing Dungeons & Dragons and how he jumped into the online community with his blog, The Learning DM, during the 4th Edition era. We spend some time remembering fondly elements of 4e D&D and talk about the transition to 5th Edition. Marc and I spend a good portion of the show talking about our shared enjoyment of Transformers, which hit us both in our formative year in the mid-80s. We talk about why Transformers persists while other franchises from that era have fallen in terms of greater public consciousness. He details his efforts to write a haiku for each episode of the original animated series, and we discuss our enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the Transformer films in recent years. We both agree that Bumblebee is wonderful, and hope the future is bright for additional films that will come from Bumblebee's creative team. Enjoy our stroll down the space bridge memory lane!
Ed Grabianowski (aka, "The Grabster") joins me on the show to talk about his career as a freelance writer for outlets over the years including io9 and How Stuff Works. He speaks to his start as a writer for a local newspaper in Buffalo and how that led to other writing opportunities as he continues to work on a novel. He discusses the pressures involved in producing content for an online audience that is bombarded with an endless stream of content. Ed also talks about his musical project, Spacelord. Ed performs vocals for the band, and he details their journey in the independent rock scene. While Ed provides details about Spacelord's influences, a few samples of their music are including to give listeners a taste of their sound. The band is GOOD, and you should give them a listen! Ed shares a hilarious story about the cover art for the latest Spacelord album, and we close the show by rehashing our efforts in 2016 to narrow down to the best 12 songs from the Use Your Illusion albums by Guns N' Roses. If you haven't read our takes on this, then go do that now.
I'm joined this week by Jase Nolan, also known as CinderAscendant on Twitter and Twitch. Jase talks about his style of preparing and running Dungeons & Dragons sessions. He shares how he got started casting Hearthstone matches, and how the skills learned in "Talkstone" help him narrate elements of a D&D session. He speaks to sources of potential burnout as a DM and highlights the need for DMs to know the adventure and setting they are running. He offers some of his tips and tricks for running effective sessions, and then we conclude the talk by discussing the Hearthstone community including how Jase has felt welcome as an openly queer individual.
Kevin Hovdestad joins the pod to educate me about his years of work in the realm of Esports. He talks about his years of experience as a freelance journalist writing about Esports and how that led to career opportunities as a Director of Market for Catalyst Esports Solutions and most recently an Associate Editor with Blizzard Entertainment. He discusses the rise of Esports in recent years, and the potential bubble in the industry. He offers solutions for some of what ails Esports such as the need for a "Netflix for Esports" and finding ways for more people to easily consume and pay for Esports content. We discuss how games are now designed to be an ongoing service rather than a stable experience in addition to the ever-shifting landscape of Esports, and how the relationships between developers, players, sponsors and promoters is complex.
I'm joined this week by Kyle Newman, one of the authors of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. You may also know Kyle as the Director of Fanboys (2009) and Barely Lethal (2015). Kyle talked with me about the genesis of Art & Arcana and how the four authors came together on the project. He discusses how the book was originally organized and plotted out by the creative team, and how they navigated the balance between dissecting and celebrating the nostalgia of Dungeons & Dragons. I asked Kyle how mining nostalgia has been different in the Star Wars and D&D fandoms over the years. We focus on the segment of D&D history that covered 3.5, 4th and 5th Editions, and emphasis that we both enjoyed what 4th Edition had to offer. He clarified that he wrote most of the chapter on 4th Edition, and we discuss the community's relationship with that era of D&D and how it led to the current 5th Edition. I asked him about the past two years of his archaeological delve into D&D's history to learn where he thinks D&D will go next. Tune in for the full context of his comment, "There will be a 6th Edition."
I am joined this week by Elizabeth Roithmayr-Clemens, the New Jersey Area Director for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). She shares her experience organizing community activities and advocating for greater suicide awareness and education. She speaks about losing a family member to suicide when she was 14 years-old and losing a friend to suicide more recently in 2013. Elizabeth describes her work for AFSP, and highlights how donations to the non-profit organization are used to educate the public, advocate for better policy, support survivors, and fund additional research on suicide. We discuss our ideas for reducing the stigma about mental health services, and increasing the likelihood that people will be willing to talk openly about mental health symptoms.
I'm joined this week by Steve Lubitz, host of the Off Curve podcast, a show about Hearthstone that Steve records while driving home from his job. He talked about the creation of Off Curve and how he has been a fan of Blizzard games since the original Diablo. He shares his thoughts on the differences between Hearthstone and other card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
We talk about the shifting Hearthstone meta, and how resources like Vicious Syndicate and Hearthstone Replay have changed the game for both the players and developers. Steve highlights some of the current challenges in Hearthstone including the lack of tournament mode and engaging end-game content for veteran players. We explore some ideas for how to keep the meta fresh, and answer a listener question about the possible mechanics that could be added to improve the game.
I'm joined by Danny Rupp, co-founder of Critical Hits.
I'm joined this week by Danny Rupp, co-founder of Critical Hits and a very active participant on social media discussing Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. Danny talks about the origin of Critical Hits and how it gained increased prominence in the early days of 4th Edition. We spend a good deal of time on his approach to worldbuilding and how his background in architecture helps him design dungeon and story elements for his gaming sessions.
We discuss player management at the table, such as how to ensure that efforts spent by the DM to create an interesting world and plot connect with the motivations of the players and their characters in the game. We answer a listener question about worldbuilding and offer strategies to help DMs efficiently build his or her world while pulling the players into the setting.
Since we recorded on World Mental Health Day, Danny and I also talk about mental health issues and how they might affect gameplay at the table. We provide examples of how players bring everything to the table each game, including possible stress, anxiety, depression and suffering. We offer advice on how to be patient with players and cultivate an environment of trust for players to support each other.
This week I'm joined by Aaron Retka, Managing Editor for Geeks Who Drink. For the uninitiated, Geeks Who Drink is "a homegrown Pub Trivia Quiz modeled after those in Ireland and the UK" that covers "everything from celebrities in trouble to wordplay to bad television." The quizzes are held in bars and breweries across the country, and Aaron spoke with me about how much effort goes into crafting each and every question.
Aaron speaks about how he got started with Geeks Who Drink in 2006 as a freelancer, and how that evolved into his current role as Managing Editor. He discussed the elements that make a pub quiz good and relayed that the primary purpose of the quiz is to keep people entertained, "We want people to get the question right." He shares some tales about his years of being a Quizmaster, including some stories about dealing with unruly patrons and dressing up as Dolores Umbridge for a Harry Potter Theme Quiz.
I inquired about the growing popularity of pub quizzes, and how it might intersect with the toxic side of fandoms. Aaron provides some frank commentary on gatekeeping in any given fandom, and how the motivation of Geeks Who Drink is to be inclusive to a wide variety of players and fans.
I should also note that Aaron is family; I married his cousin in 2004! He's a wonderfully smart guy that is gainfully employed creating pub quizzes. I mean, how cool is that?