From time to time The Lab conducts research on its associates. We kick off our series of interviews with:
Who are you?
Who are your regular cast members and who / what do they play?
AJ (me) as the DM & Host of the podcast; Jason plays Enothe Strife, an Elven rogue; Mark plays Bork Mantut, a Halfling fighter; and Eden plays Pronce, a Human wizard.
What systems do you regularly play?
We regularly play D&D 5th edition, but switch over to various other systems in between D&D story arcs. We’ve previously played Star Trek Adventures, and have short story arcs planned in Star Wars: Saga Edition RPG, Tales From The Loop and Shadowrun 5th Edition.
What’s your current content schedule?
We’re currently in the middle of our second D&D 5th Edition storyline – The Relics of Meilar. There are still several episodes left in this one. After we conclude this story, we’ll be debuting our Star Wars: Saga Edition storyline, with a new group of players (same DM).
How did you come about?
Having previously co-hosted a general nerd-stuff discussion podcast with a friend for 5 years that had recently ended, and wanting an excuse to both to continue podcasting and to play more RPGs, I figured I’d combine the two!
What has inspired / inspires you?
This is a tough one. Mostly I try to stay away from general fantasy tropes when writing storylines, but it’s tricky because some tropes are there for a reason – because they work! I’m generally more interested in telling stories about the people involved or about how humans deal with crazy D&D-type stuff like magic and monsters, rather than about the magic and monsters themselves.
What has been your most memorable moment?
We’ve had a few, but I’d have to go with the time that our wizard and fighter, while hungover/still drunk, attempting to carry out an investigation, and their line of questioning of a local hunter almost giving the fighter a nervous breakdown. Out of character, it was one of the most fun times we’ve had playing the game, and we couldn’t stop laughing. Hopefully, that fun came across in the recording.
What has been your most memorable NPC?
There’s a few coming up that are hopefully going to be pretty memorable, but as for so far, I’d have to say Officer Bowerick. He was the head of the town-watch for the small village that the party has spent most of their time in. He didn’t like outsiders poking their noses into the watch business, and mostly wanted a quiet life. As such, it was probably inevitable that the party took an immediate dislike to him; even going as far as our rogue stalking him through the town on more than one occasion, because they didn’t trust that he wasn’t scheming against them. He turned out to have just been having an affair with the Mayor’s wife; which the rogue took the opportunity to expose as the party left the village.
What has been your favorite system to play?
I’d have to say D&D 5th Edition, as that’s been the majority of what we’ve recorded so far. Other than that, we had a short, 4-episode arc, playing Star Trek Adventures, with our friends from the Spocklight podcast, which was really fun. I’m looking forward to what we’ve got coming up though.
Do you have a recommended System / Setting / Supplement for a GM?
Stepping away from D&D, I had a lot of fun playing Star Trek Adventures, and for GMs, the 2d20 system that it uses is something a little different from your standard d20 system, that gave an added extra dimension to the whole thing. Along with being an interesting setting, it’s just a good system, mechanically.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get more involved with genre?
I think when it comes to picking a genre to play with, go with what you find the most interesting. If you’re playing within a genre-type that you already have an interest in, then you’ll find it way easier to find inspiration and great moments, than if you were trying to force yourself to play in a genre that you’re not too fussed about.
We’ve been playing a lot of D&D on our podcast, which I really love, but my first passion has always been more sci-fi than fantasy, so I’m really excited about some of the more sci-fi oriented games we have planned.
Do you have any favorite casters?
As far as RPG-casts go, I’m a big fan of The Adventure Zone; Dice, Camera, Action, and of course Critical Role. We’ve been really lucky to be able to connect with so many great RPG podcasts like the Lore Maidens, Wizard on the Wynd and Penance RPG too.
I do listen to a lot of non-rpg podcasts also, such as MBMBaM, Harmontown, Spontaneanation and The Greatest Generation. There’s way too many to name here!
A couple of our players, Mark and Eden, also record a pop-culture discussion podcast, called Popped Culture.
What do you think makes a good player?
Being willing to listen to everyone else playing, and letting everyone have their moment. Teamwork is a real factor in most RPGs, and if one player is taking over every situation and being unwilling to work with the others, no-one is going to have a good time.
What do you think makes a GM?
The ability to improvise, listen to your players, and not be too precious with your storyline. Everyone is there to have fun, and it’s going to be so much better if you’re willing to adapt your story to what the players are doing, rather than forcefully railroad them through a story that you have prewritten, word-for-word.
What do you think makes a good group dynamic?
Having a similar sense-of-humor is really important, I think. Some players are always going to be a little bit more serious than others, but everyone being able to laugh together is going to create way more fun moments that you’ll all be talking about weeks later, than anything else. A close second would be ensuring that going in, everyone knows what to expect from the game, and what they want to get out of it. It’ll really help avoid any awkwardness later on.
What do you think makes a casted episode?
This is more of a technical point a lot of the time, but pacing. It’s about keeping up the momentum a lot of the time so that the episode doesn’t drag for the listener. This ranges from taking out long pauses to sometimes removing complete parts of scenes. We try to keep our episodes to roughly an hour each, and sometimes it can be hard to keep the right pace of story and momentum, but I think we’ve done a good job so far.
Do you have any advice for new players?
Don’t be afraid to ask if you have a question about something, rather than suffering in silence. Everyone was new at some point, and most other players will be more than happy to explain how a rule works or how you do something in game.
Whats next in the schedule?
We’re returning from our January hiatus on Thursday February 1st with a special double-length episode, GM’d by one of our players. It’s the first time that he’d ever GM’d an RPG EVER, and he did an awesome job.
Whats next for the group?
Putting together our Star Wars campaign for later in the year.
Do you have any shout outs / last words?
Shout out to Pizza Hut, for finally opening a branch that’ll deliver to my house. We also just put out an album of soundtrack music from the podcast, go check it out!
We’d like to thank Pretending With Dice for being our first guinea pig with our interviews. Any side effects they might be experiencing should wear off before they return next week (Feb 1st). We’ve got more interviews to conduct so let us know if you have anyone you’d like to see in our testing chamber!