Jeez, I have been a grump lately. Posted a couple feisty comments on other people's blogs...something I generally try *not* to do (especially with gaming blogs...everyone should have a kind space in which to express their geeky ideas). But my "tolerance dial" for certain types of bullshit is close to zero at the moment, and I guess I've got an itchy trigger finger.
And I'm not sure what exactly is making me a grump. Stress? Lack of sleep? Financial pressures? The state of the world in general? I don't know. Bunches of stuff combining, probably (duh). So, as a way of hitting reset on Ye Old Dial, this post will give me a chance to vent my spleen on a few things. Feel free to come back on a later post if you're not interested...
Been listening to several podcasts lately, of various types. Let's just say I've had a lot of stuff I've been doing that doesn't require much cognitive thought (I can't read, write, or research with headphones on). Some of it has been NPR-type stuff...stuff on health or parenting or whatever. But much of it has been game related...not just reviews and analysis (which I dig, both for info and for different perspectives/ideas), but also actual play stuff (when I can get it) or folks' recaps, thoughts, and observations on actual play.
Two of my favorites (which I haven't mentioned in previous posts) are GGNORE and Unlikely Adventurers. They are very different from each other but are similar in several ways that interest me:
- both I find to be VERY amusing (though Unlikely Adventurers is NSFW material)
- both are podcasts by "young" gamers: Unlikely Adventurers are in their early 20s, GGNORE are (I think) around age 30 or so.
- both podcasts are by folks who LOVES the "D&D"
- both podcasts are very knowledgable (they know their subject matter)
- both feature active gamers that use the 5E rule sets, though they all started with earlier editions of the game
GGNORE has been running longer (since 2015). I haven't had a chance to go though their entire catalogue (they have some multi-hour AP episodes), but I've hit a dozen or so since I found them a couple months back. They appear to be young professionals (with families) who live in the south (southeast) United States. They are very funny but their humor is mostly "clean" while still plenty irreverent. Despite using 5E as their preferred rule set, DM Daniel has some very "old school" sensibilities. They make use of pre-published adventures (everything from T1: Village of Hommlet to the more recent Tomb of Annihilation) but set it in their own campaign world of "Alabamia." While they still make use of "rests" and "death saves" they've taken any kind of raise dead/resurrection magic out of their world...dead is dead in Alabamia. In addition to AP recordings, they provide recaps and analysis, and I find them to be both thoughtful and insightful on things from adventure design to convention play. If you're a damn Yankee like myself, whose only exposure to southerners has been the American southwest or movie stereotypes, GGNORE is well worth a listen. I haven't caught the most recent podcasts (last one I heard they were running Dogs in the Vineyard using 5E tropes and DitV rules/themes...crazy bastards), but...well, that's only because of these other folks...
[EDIT: I did go back and listen to the most recent couple podcasts. Roll Tide]
Unlikely Adventurers features two young ladies (Becca and Macy) shooting the shit about D&D and ridiculous character ideas they have. They are extremely funny and foul-mouthed, self-deprecating and irreverent in the extreme. They are also exceptionally knowledgable about D&D...both play in regular campaigns and DM their own campaigns. I've heard they have an AP episode or two, but I haven't found it yet (while they've only been 'casting since 2018, they have more than 50 episodes and I've only hit about seven). Especially interesting was their recent discussion with fellow DM/guest host Travis, in which he discusses his ideas on running a campaign (and his comparisons between D&D and other "long-form" storytelling mediums, specifically anime and pro wrestling). All of the people on this show are under 25, and they're from this area (the Pacific Northwest, if not Seattle proper).
[EDIT NUMERO DOS: Found some actual play podcasts where Becca runs a one-off for the ladies from Unnatural Twenties, a podcast group I hadn't heard of before. Again, very entertaining, and an interesting window into the way one might run a 5E game. Shades of White Wolf with the cinematic "cut scenes," but vid gamers (I'm sure) are versed in this kind of thing and (perhaps) have come to expect it]
[I should probably note that I've met Becca Morgan before...briefly, and years ago. I do not know her personally, but she is the daughter of an acquaintance]
What I find fascinating in comparing these podcasts is that while "role-playing" (both playing a character and playing in character) is an important aspect of the gaming experience for both, the importance of "storytelling" is very different between the two. The GGNORE "boiz" aren't particularly interested in playing out story arcs...they're reviews of WotC's Adventure Paths are pretty telling. They're also sincere and explicit with what what they find to be interesting and enjoyable in their gaming, what works for them and what doesn't, and while they dutifully jump through 5E's hoops of character creation (creating backgrounds, bonds, choosing factions, etc.) it's clear that any kind of backstory is near useless to the immersive experience they're seeking in the game.
Contrast this with the UA ladies (and buddy Travis), whose war stories imply a deep interest in exploring situation as it impacts the characters they create. They talk about story arcs and recurring (NPC) characters and how the backgrounds/personalities of their various characters interacts with the game in-play. Yes, it's still D&D...they also discuss combats and broken rules and normal adventure-type stuff, too.
[also their simultaneous loathing/fascination with bards, which I'm starting to believe is a universal thing across all editions and generations of players]
...but their approach to the game feels (to me) far more "meta" and far less "immersion." These appear to be folks really bent on creating a story out of their game, rather than an experience...or, rather, the story IS the experience they're looking for, regardless of whether or not it's absurd or serious as hell. I may be misinterpreting, but it reminds me very much of the type of gaming I was doing back in the 90s...just, you know, 25 years later.
Anyhoo, they're both fun, both educational (in terms of "educating grumpy archair grognardia like myself about the varying states of D&D"), and both worth a listen. Neither one has convinced me to give 5th edition a whirl...quite the opposite, in fact. But they're helping to crystalize my ideas on what's important to my game, while still providing entertainment as I run around doing stuff. Check 'em out.