I wrote this about a year ago and for whatever reason never posted it. So I’m posting it now as is. Perhaps if the mood strikes me I may follow this up in the future.
I have some things I wanna unpack here in regards to the podcast. Nothing earth shattering, I just have some thoughts. It comes up every once in a while and I kick it around for a bit and decide not to do anything but I decided fuck it. So here we are. The podcast isn’t ending, not anytime soon anyway. As I’ve said during our show wrap we’d keep recording for spite if nothing else and that’s only half joking.
I’ve been involved in podcasting for 12ish years now. It all started with the release of D&D 4th Edition in 2008. To help push out the new edition WotC released a series of podcasts with the guys from Penny Arcade. Now I had never heard of podcasts and at that point wasn’t even playing any tabletop games at all, RPGs or board games. So 4th Ed not only got me back into RPGs but introduced me to this wonderful new medium of podcasting.
We delved back into the world of D&D, playing every other week. Vince was DMing for us and when his interest began to wane my buddy Glenn took over DMing duties and we started a side campaign. I started running an intermittent Saga Edition Star Wars campaign and eventually my own 4E campaign that ran right up until a little after Legends started and time became extremely tight.
In conjunction with that I ravenously devoured all the gaming podcasts I could find. I worked in a lab so I spent most of every day listening to podcasts. Some were good, some were bad but some were amazing. Icosahedrophilia, Thursday Nights and The Dragon Fisters were three of the highlights in the D&D space. One of the shows that I really glommed onto though was NerdBound. They just put a recorder on the table and that was it. Minimal editing so you felt like you were a player at the table. Minions of the Monster Master had the same feel. In some sense these were your friends, there was a connection even if you were the only one to feel it. Afterall you felt like you were at the table and just “one of the guys”.
Well it didn’t take long for me to join the NerdBound forums and reach out and say hey. Neil (yes our Neil) was very welcoming and we hit it off. They had a pretty active forum and we played tons of games as play by post, D&D, Rogue Trader, Trail of Cthulhu and Shadowrun to name a few. One of the other forum members, Tad, offered to run Rogue Trader for the podcast and I was able to get in on the game. We had a blast and it just reinforced that camaraderie that I had already felt from listening to the podcast. That was 2009, my first taste of being behind the mic. We continued to play Rogue Trader on and off with Tad and played a short campaign of Deathwatch as well run by another forum member named Andy during my tenure there.
Then I guess in 2010 Neil asked a few of the very active forum members, myself included to join the podcast as regulars. Of course I said yes and those of us who joined up became the B team. We wound up playing every other Sunday I think. We sort of filled in when the regular guys couldn’t make it. You have to feed that machine, it’s always hungry. It was a little of this and a little of that. We played Dark Sun for a bit, any number of one shots, Fear Itself, Savage Worlds, Battletech, Fiasco. It was great and along with my regular home games I was fully immersed in the gaming/podcasting experience. NerdBound introduced me to the wider world of gaming, up until that point I had only played D&D. I think at one point I was listening to like 30 different podcasts, something like that. Most of them were APs but there was a smattering of other stuff mixed in.
I did my part to help promote the podcast by joining other forums and talking up the show. NerdBound was the reason I created a Twitter account. It was easier back then in a lot of ways and it wasn’t my show so there really wasn’t any pressure in that regard. I helped out where I could and I was happy to do so.
It’s all kind of fuzzy now but I think in 2011 the NerdBound group slowly began to dissolve as did my gaming group with Vince. First Ryan moved and then I think Nick sometime after and eventually Jason. We continued to play and the other guys would remote in via Skype, just like I was doing. Then in 2012 I moved as well. Not that big a deal really since I was remote anyway but I think Jason moved right around the same time. Before the move I did get to meet the crew up at PAX East in February of 2012. Of course we had known each other for a while at that point but it was great to see everyone in person, hoist a few beers and play games in person. After that things just sort of fell apart. NerdBound died, it was there and then just gone.
I had gone from playing a shit ton of games to absolutely zero gaming in the blink of an eye. It was a real shocker. We had moved from the east coast to the southwest so I didn’t have a friend network out here, all of my gaming buddies had been online or local. Ultimately it only wound up being a few months without gaming as towards the end of 2012 I joined back up with Vince and his new group and I played remotely. Our play was sporadic and I played with them for about a year before I eventually dropped.
In the early part of 2013 I talked to Glenn, who had been running our side campaign, to see if he and his kids would be interested in playing again if I ran something. He agreed and we got the band back together with me at the helm. That game (D&D 4E) ran until about 2015 and I think we played once a month. It was the first time I had run a long term game and it was all homebrew, sandbox type shit. I felt like it went pretty well and I got into the crafting aspect of it. I was always making some sort of craft thing for the table and the benefit was that it distracted the players from any defect in my GMing. At least I hope it did.
Towards the end of 2013 I had my next brush with podcasting. Jesse (yup same Jesse) reached out to me to see if I would be interested in joining a new campaign he was starting for The Dragon Fisters. Again I immediately said yes and got to work on a character. I had met Jesse through the NerdBound forums way back when and even played some games with him. I had been listening to The Dragon Fisters for years so it was a little surreal to be playing with them or at least a few of them. We always referred to it as the Alt campaign but it was set in the game world that Jesse had created and it took place in a different era then their current ongoing campaign.
It was funny, while I “knew” Jesse I had never interacted with the other guys so we set up a one shot game to see how we all got along before making anything official. It was Dungeon Delvers, Realm of the Rat King, a little two page game by Brian Fitzpatrick. We all had the best time, It was as if we had been playing together forever. As we wrapped everything up Jesse was like sorry we can’t use you, that was terrible, and we all laughed and that was it, I was a member of the Dragon Fisters crew. I was on my second podcast.
During the last few years my personal life had been tumultuous at best. Well truth be told it was longer than that but we’re talking about podcasting not my personal history. Suffice it to say things weren’t great and they were eventually going to get worse and not too far into the future.
So it’s the latter part of 2013 and I’m recording every other week with the Dragon Fisters, running my 4E game and at that time, I think, winding things down with Vince’s game. My brother and I were also playing lots of Battletech. I’d go over to his house for dinner and then we’d set up a bunch of maps and roll lots of dice and count lots of hexes for a few hours. We eventually bought a sheet of plywood and made a “table” to play larger games of Battletech out in the garage. We were playing with 4 or 5 squads on an 8×4 playing surface, it was nuts. That snowballed into hand drawing thousands of hexes onto the plywood and buying a hotwire foam factory scroll saw so that we could make 3d terrain. This puts us into May of 2014.
This is around the time that the other shoe dropped and I wound up getting separated from my wife. It was a real shit show for a while but ultimately it was the best thing and I’m more than happy with how things have turned out. What I did find was that I would have a lot more time on my hands. Aside from starting a personal blog I tossed around the idea of doing a second blog dedicated to terrain crafting for D&D. I was already creating stuff for my own table so I figured what the hell.
I talked to my buddy Vince about it and he coaxed me into going bigger, making a website, doing a podcast, maybe interviews, the sky was the limit. So we started brainstorming ideas and I came up with the name…..Legends of Tabletop. Sounded self important enough.
Of course most of the rest of 2014 was dealing with divorce stuff but I still had my regular games going. I started seeing a therapist off and on. Legends was in its infancy and if we were going to see this come to fruition I thought we’d need some help. So I reached out to my former and current podcasting friends Neil and Jesse and asked if they’d be interested in coming onboard. I mean let’s face it, they had already or were currently running “successful” podcasts. To me it was a no brainer and lucky for me they agreed to jump in and really if nothing else it was a good excuse to hangout.
As 2015 rolled around Vince started working on the website and I started up the social media stuff. NecronomiCon was in August of that year so that was to be our official launch, the big push as it were. Rubbing elbows with industry insiders and passing out business cards like candy would be the order of the day. In the interim we had a soft launch, with our first official post dropping in April and our first ever podcast in June of 2015. I now had my own podcast as well as still recording with Jesse and the Dragon Fisters.
I thought it would be fine and it was for the most part. Time, as always, is a delicate balancing act and I was not always successful in managing that aspect of things. One of the first things to fall to the wayside was my home campaign. I no longer had the time to devote to creating the world. I’m a planner even as a DM and I just couldn’t keep up, not with work and being a full time single dad as well as the podcast.
As we undertook this new adventure my expectations were high, probably too high honestly. The shows I had been associated with had good numbers and I expected the same for Legends, I mean why not? Of course those shows had started about six years earlier when podcasting had been starting to blow up. Still, my motto was everything was yes until it was no, meaning we could attempt anything we wanted. Nothing was off the table, we just needed to work hard and figure it out. Turns out that’s not really the case but we’ll get there.
One of the first things I decided to tackle was putting together a podcast network. I mean go big or go home right? It all seems kind of crazy looking back on it, what the fuck did I know about podcast networks or podcasting for that matter but I was the captain now and it was full steam ahead. Maybe it was the fact that Jesse had the Dragon Fisters that initially prompted the thought, I honestly can’t remember. It made sense though, we could cross promote, which early on would help me more then him.
Jesse was friendly with the folks at Gamerstable so he asked them to join and I reached out to Tondi who was (and still is) doing Dice Heroes. Then I cast a wider net on Twitter and that brought Kurt into the fold. Kurt does the MFGCast, which at the time was more of a board gaming podcast. There were a few others, some didn’t last very long, others we had to cut ties with. It never really functioned as intended. I had thought that we could drive up numbers or increase our reach but that never really panned out. What did come of it is that I made some really good friends and that’s really what matters in the end.
We are still technically a “Broadcast” network but it’s a shadow of what it was, which was never that much to start with anyway.
NecronomiCon in August of 2015 was a rousing success and fueled my desire to do all the things. We scored a lot of interviews post Necro with the Cthulhu Crowd. When you say you have a podcast you get to talk with tons of cool people it turns out. We had also started recording games after Necro too. One of which was a short lived campaign of Star Frontiers run by none other than Oscar Rios of Golden Goblin Press. I think we wound up playing like 4 sessions before it fell apart. Funny thing is, I still have people commenting on those videos all these years later. Within the last year Oscar has actually started up his own youtube channel where he runs a Star Frontiers campaign called Citizen of the Empire.
When the Star Frontiers game stopped I found myself in a bind. I had started to think of the podcast as an actual play podcast as well as an interview show. I talked with Neil about it and asked him if I could release some of the old NerdBound episodes that I had been in. Mostly oneshots along with the mini Warhammer campaigns. That was to pay strange dividends later on but it plugged the gap and I set about trying to get a “regular” game going.
We’re now in the early part of 2016. Neil volunteered to run so we put a crew together and we started playing Fear Itself. Not too long after Vince started running a D&D 5E campaign. More is better, so the motto goes and by the end of 2016 Neil started running Rogue Trader was well. Rogue Trader is where our strange dividends paid off, not in the game that we were going to be running but the old NerdBound episodes. As strange as it may seem and how long the odds, Kevin, who played Emmaus Kore, found the podcast when I started releasing the old Warhammer games. He reached out to me on Twitter and was like hey you sound familiar and we got to talking. It was one in million, hell probably more than that. So when we started talking about playing Rogue Trader I told him you’ve gotta play with us and the rest, as they say, is history. Kevin also joined the Monster Hunt podcast and has GMed a few games for Legends as well.
We also blasted out 62 interviews that year with help from Leah who had joined the podcast after NecronomiCon in 2015. Things were spiraling a little bit at this point. I was doing unboxing videos, interviews, playing in three games, doing game reviews along with all the scheduling, research for interviews….the whole kit and kaboodle and we were still kicking around all these crazy ideas. Instead of just picking one or two things and focusing on that I was trying to do it all. By the end of the year the Alt campaign with the Dragon Fisters wrapped up.
At this point the numbers were coming up but not really where I wanted to see them. It had only been a year and a half after all but this is where I started to have a love hate relationship with podcasting and social media in general. Regardless of how much work I put in it didn’t seem to matter and shows that had started just months before would be outpacing us in downloads. Most days it felt like I was shrieking into the void and that really hasn’t changed. There’s plenty of reasons for it I’m sure, some of which is my own stubbornness but part of it is just the vagaries of the internet. I’ve made my piece with it for the most part.
So 2017 rolls around and we added another game to our growing list of AP’s. DayTrippers slipped into our little corner of the multiverse and the broken man known as Jack Nash was born. His friend Benjamin Fitch wasn’t long for our world but Charles Parsons remained and Reggie Carlisle broke onto the scene. DayTrippers has been our longest running campaign and started in March of 2017. This upcoming season is going to be the last and we’ll see what happens after that. We also released 43 podcasts that year taking us up to 132 “regular” episodes. Our D&D game would come to an end but Jesse stepped in to run a Cypher System game. It was homebrew, set in the same world as the Dragon Fisters other campaigns.
If I could sidebar here for a moment. Jesse is a crazy person……He has put sooooo much work into this campaign world it blows my mind. He has run at least four separate campaigns in this world spanning four different eras. It’s just bonkers, a calendar with holidays, an entirely new pantheon of gods and goddesses…….just the whole thing and I was lucky enough to play in three of them! But I digress.
Things started to slow down a bit in 2018. Not on the gaming side but the number of regular shows released dropped to 29. As numbers continued to stay stagnant I was less inclined to pursue that avenue of the show. Fatigue was starting to set in, well maybe not starting but really showing through. Podcasting is definitely a labor of love because if you don’t love you can’t do it. There’s just too much work involved and it can really be a grind. As always my friends made it worthwhile.
I had kicked around the idea of dropping the podcast but it always comes back to, what am I going to do with my time otherwise? This is something I wrestle with still today. What’s the other option, watch tv? Besides, the podcast provides a reason and an impetus for all of us to get together to hang out and play games. Could we play and not record it……probably but life has a tendency to get in the way and with the drive of the podcast I feel like it would slip away after a while. The podcast also provides for a creative outlet as does the gaming itself. Christ, most of us are using it as a form of therapy as well. There’s also the spite factor I mentioned earlier. It’s kind of a fuck you to the world that even if no one is going to listen to it we’re still going to record it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s how I’m wired. Lots of therapy hasn’t cracked that nut yet.
Things continued apace for 2019. Only 20 regular podcast releases. Our regular games had been paired down to Fear Itself, Rogue Trader and DayTrippers. The Cypher game came to an unexpected close when we lost John N for a while due to some personal stuff. We lost our DayTrippers game too but I had tons of episodes in the can so that never affected our AP releases. With both of those games shelved we started to play Other Borders, another game created by Tod Foley. It’s a Drama System game and we had a tough time getting into it but slowly but surely it started to come along. Then we hit a snag timing-wise and when we got back to it we were back at square one. We never did finish the campaign, another fallen soldier who never made it home.
During the intervening years the Dragon Fisters podcast had breathed its last. Truth be told it did not outlast the end of the Alt campaign by very much ending in mid 2017. Jesse was playing and running for us regularly but he had started to get the itch again and in January of 2019 the Monster Hunt podcast was born. He asked me if I wanted to play and how could I say no? I was now on my fourth podcast, my second with Jesse and doing two concurrently, Legends and Monster Hunt.
2020, what to say about this fucking year. It started out alright, I went on the Savage Cruise. It was a crusie put together by the Rock Mountain Savages. There were about 100 of us and we had our own little gaming convention on the ship. Pretty cool. Once we got back though all of this stuff started coming out about coronavirus. WTF is that, right? If we only knew. Well that’s a whole other story and doesn’t really affect this narrative because all of our gaming is online and luckily none of our various groups of friends got sick.
Kurt was one of our regulars, playing Randy Anders in our Fear Itself game. I had been on the MFGCast off and on but that would change in March. Kurt texted me and said he wanted to run a D&D 5E game and wanted me to play, one on one. I thought about it and told him I wanted to bring John in on it. I absolutely love playing games with John, he’s the best. Kurt seemed somewhat unsure but ultimately agreed. In March we started our campaign, I was now a regular on the MFGCast and was on my fifth podcast. I was doing (and am still) doing three podcasts at the same time. At least two of them I only need to show up for, so that’s something.
Our regular episodes dropped to our lowest output ever with just 8 releases. I didn’t really care, I wasn’t doing any scheduling at that point, I had pretty much given up on it. The numbers didn’t justify it. I mean we really wouldn’t be helping anyone in a substantive way anyhow. Besides, I was doing three podcasts already. Neil had a scheduled break coming up towards the end of the year because of personal stuff so I asked Oscar if he would be willing to run a Cthulhu Invictus campaign for the podcast. It would take the place of Rogue Trader and Fear Itself. We were down to just two ongoing campaigns. And well…..that was ok.
That brings us just about to the current timeline, 2021. I’m still doing three podcasts and if everything goes off I’m playing 10 sessions a month. In March I started running an Aliens RPG campaign for Legends. It’s planned to be a mini campaign, maybe 6-10 sessions. Should take us to the end of the year. After that Neil wants to run a Traveler Campaign. Again something discrete, maybe two seasons. Earlier in the year we made an attempt to bring back Fear Itself and Rogue Trader but that ran into……complications. Kurt, Jesse and Oscar’s games all run bimonthly and Aliens and DayTrippers are once a month. It’s still quite a bit but like I said earlier what else am I going to do? Well one of the things I decided to do, after much coaxing from Jesse, was to stop adding sound effects to the actual play releases. I had started doing it after the first year or so because it makes for a better “product”. I enjoy AP’s that have sound effects in them so why wouldn’t I try and make the podcast the best it could be. Ultimately the why is because it takes too much damn time and not enough people listen for me to devote that kind of time and energy. My editing time has dropped from 5-12 hours down to about 2. It was weird at first but it’s a matter of diminishing returns and now that I’ve made the switch, I’m good with it. It gives me more time and really that’s all that we got that matters. The other thing that matters, hanging out with my friends online and playing games, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
This is not what I had intended to write but I suppose in some way it was what I needed to write. My intention had been to write something for the website chronicling my podcasting history and while this does that, it does it in a way that feels different. Will I go back and do something for the site? Who can say, like many of the things I work on or even just ponder over once it’s “done” it has been exorcised in many ways never to rear its head again. I’ll stew on this one for a while, maybe even go back and add some other more personal details since if this gets posted anywhere it’ll be on my personal blog. Until then the little voice in my head has been banished at least for now. Time to move onto other things.