Greg Leatherman, founder of VRECast, joins me to talk about his life as a gay man and what it’s been like for him playing tabletop RPGs since the 1980s. He details the origins of the Very Random Encounters podcast, which randomizes as much as possible for character creation and story lines.
He explains the concept of safe spaces and how his life as a gay man forces him to consider changing his behavior to blend in to decrease the chance of violence against him. We talk about the lack of male affection in popular media, and he offers a suggestion to listeners to begin to change this culture.
Many, many thanks to Greg for being willing to share his experience and life with us.
Enjoy the 45th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
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?
Enjoy the 31st episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
NOTE: There are spoilers for The Last Jedi in this article. Please stop reading if you have not seen the movie yet.
When I started writing this article, the first paragraph detailed my excitement for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and how the only expectations I had were that it would be a good movie. At one point in the original article I wrote, “I was happily absent of expectations before the film.” It felt true when I wrote it; it really did. As I kept writing, I realized it was not true. It was actually far from true! I had many expectations for the film beyond it being good. I was just unaware of them all.
There is a moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda warns Luke not to take his weapons into the cave. Luke asks, “What’s in there?” And Yoda responds, “Only what you take with you.”
Consciously and subconsciously, we all have expectations about what Star Wars should be. And when The Last Jedi challenges those expectations – or openly subverts them – it triggers an anxiety reaction. How we monitor and process that reaction likely goes a long way to determining if we thought The Last Jedi was a “good” movie or not.
I’m not here to tell you how to react to The Last Jedi. What I am suggesting is to review the expectations you had about the film and franchise because I was unaware of many of my own expectations. Overall, I thought the film was brilliant, and I would like to harness the nervous energy I experienced during those two-and-a-half hours while watching the movie on opening night.
Because that feeling of plunging into the unknown was pure electricity.
My response to the Rorschach test of The Last Jedi is below.
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 then 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. Here is a brief segment of this discussion:
I’m a person of color and… finding groups of gamers that are diverse continues to be a challenge. It can be very difficult to find other folks who look like me. And that’s not a huge problem; I’ll play with whoever wants to pull up to the table. It would be nice to have a bit more diversity in gaming. And I’ve encountered that on both ends – both as someone who helps run a community and have new gamers come to us, and as someone who goes to conventions and wants to sit down at tables with strangers and play games with them. It doesn’t happen very often but every now and then – I’ll get a funny look. Like, “Oh, hey, don’t see people like you very much at the table.” And I just shrug and play, because I’m there to play…
The representation problem isn’t just at the tables. It’s also in the content. I have a very difficult time finding folks who look like me or who represent stories outside of the Western European norm in the content published by tabletop RPG creators… To quote Avery Brooks who played Ben Sisko on DS9, “It is very important that brown children and brown people in general can see people who look like them in contemporary mythology.” And I really hope more effort is made… In addition to being at the table, it really needs to start showing up in the content. And I think it’s not going to start showing up in the content until more creators like Quinn [Murphy] are employed by the publishers or contracted by the publishers and say, “Hey, look. We need to tell these kind of stories. Let’s go ahead and hire the people that can tell them.”
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.
Enjoy the 20th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 9 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Shanna Germain, co-founder of Monte Cook Games, and an acclaimed writer and game designer. She covered many topics during our discussion, including her work as an activist and advocate in and out of the gaming industry. She speaks about her work with Monte Cook Games and how she balances the demands of writing novels and designing games. We spent an extended amount of time on the concept of grief in gaming, and this led into a discussion of politics and the recent statement by Monte Cook Games titled, Our Core Values. We conclude by talking about her roleplaying game for young children, No Thank You, Evil.
Enjoy the ninth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 8 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Allison Rossi, Dungeon Master for Adventurer’s League and Social Media Manager for a Competitive Overwatch League. She discusses her entrance into tabletop roleplaying games several years ago and her experiences playing Dungeons & Dragons as a new player. She offers suggestions for helping new players feel comfortable playing D&D, and speaks about the trials of being a young woman running games for organized play. During the second half of the interview, she talks about her involvement in competitive Overwatch and provides useful strategies for find more success in that game. You can watch her play games on Twitch as well.
Enjoy the eighth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 6 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Susan J. Morris, a fantasy author and editor that is best known for her work editing Forgotten Realms novels for Wizards of the Coast and novels for Monte Cook Games. She has published multiple books herself and designed Dungeons & Dragons for Kids. She also wrote a writing advice column for Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog. In the interview, she spoke about how she started running roleplaying games and transferred that experience into her professional life. She speaks about growing up as a homebrewer of campaign worlds rather than relying on published content. She speaks about her experiences working with Wizards of the Coast and Monte Cook Games, and the unique challenges of working with new content in the Forgotten Realms. She details her work as an editor, and offers advice for those interested in publishing their work.
Near the end of our talk, Susan shared some words that I want to highlight below. She spoke about the challenge of being a writer because it is a task that does not often result in positive feedback. I think her words are vital for all of us involved in producing creative content:
If you’re not writing for yourself, you’re going to be very disappointed long-term. I think you need to write things you love and that you enjoy — and then you can share them with other people, but the enjoyment should come from the writing and from doing it for yourself. Everything else should be kind of secondary or you’re very dependent on other people’s opinions for your happiness and fulfillment, which I think is never a good way to go. Writing as it is has very few moments in which you get reinforcement.
My guest for Episode 3 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Teos Abadia, writer for companies such as Wizards of the Coast and Kobold Press. Mr. Abadia is very active in the Dungeons & Dragons community, and you might be more familiar with his Twitter handle, @Alphastream. He has been adding comments to my articles on the blog since 2011, and has been a wonderful source of support over the years. I’m proud to have him on the show!
We spent a great hour talking about publishing original content for roleplaying game companies and what it is like to be heavily involved in the Organized Play movement for Wizards of the Coast. We devoted the second half of the podcast to a discussion on diversity in RPGs including where the industry has come from and where it can go in the future. Our conversation took place about one week before the election, and some of it seems to foreshadow the results. For example, while getting into a question, I voiced the following:
It certainly seems over time it’s becoming more diverse and that’s a wonderful thing. I think with that it brings some challenges – and you could even connect this to political factors going on in our country right now. As there’s more diversity, there’s a segment of the population that was rather enjoying the status quo and privilege that was there with what was happening before, and now things are changing – and people don’t like change sometime so that’s bad.
If I could go back and edit myself, I would succinctly say, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” That’s a quote that has been going around a lot these days. I am considering writing a personal post about the election, but I may just keep things to myself; I need to think on it more. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Mr. Abadia and I discussing diversity in RPGs.
He also shares some tips for writers and designers looking to improve their work, and we close out the show by briefly reviewing our favorite Pearl Jam songs. Because Pearl Jam is the best of all things!
Enjoy the third episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. My plan is to release new episodes the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. The next episode will post on December 6th, 2016.