Review: Lakeshore & Limbo

★★★★☆


If you haven’t heard me talk about Lakeshore & Limbo yet, I’m surprised. You also probably have, since I keep tweeting about Nef and Sassy. That’s this show! I get to talk about one of my faves! Yay!

Disclaimer: While this is a requested review, all the thoughts in this review are 100% my own.

Lakeshore & Limbo is… I honestly don’t know how to describe it. It’s about a team of private investigators who look into supernatural mysteries and it’s a good day when they don’t accidentally kill someone, or steal a baby, or kidnap the Grim Reaper. One of them used to be a cat. They adopt a teenage girl who has spent the last however many thousand years living in people’s dreams. They have a group of fans that are literally called the Necropunks. I love and hate them at the same time. It’s a good show, y’all.

The mysteries are of course, amazing, and I’ll get to them in a minute, but the real strength of the show are the leads. The main team are composed of Vince Melody, a former movie star who is immortal somehow, Abe Cohen, an immortal mage who spends all his time reading romance books, and Sassy, a cat thief who used to be a literal cat. Now, all of the characters are fantastic and I love them all very much. But SASSY. She is such a good character. She steals things from everyone but pretends to have broken the habit through Vince’s good morals… rubbing off on her? I guess? It’s okay, Vince is clueless, she doesn’t need a good reason. “Hardened Criminals” is a really good Sassy arc, and shows her truly struggling with what direction she wants her life to go in. Also, basically every Sassy line is perfect. Tina Arfee is absolutely incredible.

One of the reasons the show works so well is that the players all know each other really well and can play off of each other’s strengths to make the story the best that it can be. They have really great chemistry, and they seem to have a good understanding of what will make the other players uncomfortable. Their improv is absolutely amazing, with no lags or moments that feel wasted. Add to this well developed and interesting mysteries, and you’ve got a show that knows how to deliver a good product.

Overall, Lakeshore & Limbo is a fun show for those looking for a bit of a lighter mystery show. I would recommend it to fans of TAZ: Dust or Stellar Firma.

Website Twitter

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, blackmail, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, injury, blood, raised voices, gore, zombies

Advertisements

On Finales: TAZ: Amnesty

So the The Adventure Zone: Amnesty finale came out last week. And it was, well, bad.

Episode 36 was a two and a half hour final episode and Amnesty’s official “finale.” But the McElroys have been referring to the episodes as part of the finale since about episode 30. Episodes 30-35 ranged in length from just over an hour to a full two hours. Which adds up to over seven hours of “finale” material before the actual finale. For comparison, the TAZ: Balance finale wasn’t even six and a half hours.

To be clear, I am not of the opinion that Amnesty was never going to be good because it’s not Balance. I have always maintained that Amnesty had great potential and that, until recently, it was living up to that potential. So what happened?

Well, I think a big part of it was an emotional disconnect. Amnesty ran for about a year and a half, only half the time that Balance had. Obviously not as much time to get as attached to the characters. But I don’t think it was the audience’s disconnect that ruined the finale. I think the McElroys didn’t feel as connected to their PCs this time around.

Now, obviously, I can’t say what these four men I have never met feel. Maybe they did feel a strong connection to their characters. But that ~10 hours of finale content? It’s a heck of a lot of goofs for a story about stopping the end of the world. Especially considering that these goofs came from characters who should be mourning their friend. 

If you read The Podcast Dragon regularly, you’ll know that I completely missed that Ned died until the beginning of the finale when Clint began playing Thatcher. And while part of that is on me, I think that the McElroys really fell short in how they dealt with Ned’s death. We get nothing from the rest of the Pine Guard about how they feel after their friend died. Even Aubrey, whose last interaction with Ned was tense and should have been the catalyst for plenty of emotional turmoil, feels absolutely nothing.

And I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to believe that the world is in danger when a scene is interrupted for a dick joke?

A lot of the finale also felt very unplanned. Nothing shows this more than Griffin’s reaction to Duck calling Minerva honey. That was clearly not discussed beforehand, and feels very tacked on. Which is what much of the finale felt like. Seeing what the characters I loved went on to do felt like… nothing. I just did not care because the finale made me feel so disconnected from the characters.

Finales are difficult. Obviously. You have to wrap up an ENTIRE SHOW in just one or two episodes. But with ten hours at their disposal, the McElroys could have delivered something absolutely incredible. Instead, they absolutely destroyed their second arc.

Review: Husk

★★★☆

Your alien fix without having to go into space.

Husk is a sci-fi podcast that deals with the aftermath of Dmitri Ivanovic’s disappearance while on a trip with his best friends. Both are abducted, but when only Rebecca returns, suspicion falls on her. The first season focuses on a different character each episode. They are currently releasing season two, which breaks this format to feature multiple characters per episode.

All of the actors do an incredible job, but I want to focus on Skye Stafford’s performance as Olga. She has to embody a single mother with a missing son, a role that is not only difficult to do well, but also incredibly emotionally taxing. Stafford rises to the occasion and delivers a fantastic performance. Her episode is absolutely devastating.

Husk’s approach to aliens and their relationships to humans is quite interesting. Rather than the usual “aliens experiment on humans,” the Borrowers have no interest in Rebecca, and are instead only focused on healing Dmitri because he’s sick and they can make him better. I’m really interested in what Husk decides to do with the Borrowers, especially considering the current situation on Earth.

One part that I don’t love is actually in the most recent episode, in which one of the police officers, Gina Sorenson, complains about people not seeing police officers as human and thinking of them as unsympathetic and heartless. And while I do agree that there are police officers who think like this, it was annoying hearing it from someone who we’re supposed to be rooting for.

Overall, Husk is an interesting new take on alien abductions. I would recommend it to fans of The Van or Blackwood.

Website Patreon Twitter Facebook Instagram

cw: violence, death, guns, drugs, medical procedures, enclosed spaces, grief, raised voices, illness

Review: Oblivity

★★★★

I still think the logo looks like an alien (it’s not).

Oblivity is a comedy scifi podcast about a research team studying on Pluto and the commander that has been sent to look after them after years on the front lines of an intergalactic war. There’s also a cyber gerbil, but definitely no danger.

The stars of Oblivity are obviously the fantastic cast of characters. Each episode deals with a new definitely-not-life-threatening danger that the team has to work out, and they’re just the right level of dysfunctional to be interesting to listen to. Enough that it’s funny, but not enough that it’s infuriating. The actors all do a fantastic job, and most episodes feature a guest to the station. Often the guest is the one bringing the danger, but not always. The team definitely provide enough danger to get by.

I loved how Oblivity approached their plot. It reminds me quite a lot of EOS 10’s first season. The first chunk of episodes are stand alone comedy, and then the last episode throws the ragtag group of disasters right in the middle of an intergalactic conspiracy. The pacing is beautiful, and I was on the edge of my seat for the entire finale, trying desperately to figure out what was going to happen.

Overall, Oblivity is a fun, optimistic story about how you can be isolated and around family at the same time. I would recommend it to fans of EOS 10 and We Fix Space Junk.

Oblivity is currently running a Kickstarter for their second season!

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram

cw: violence, death, war

Review: Arca-45672

★★☆

Or: Saving the world doesn’t have to involve genocide.

Disclaimer: This is a requested review, but the opinions expressed below are 100% my own.

Arca-45672 is the story of a group of military personnel (and one scientist) sent to the exoplanet Arca-45672 to connect with the new branch of humanity there on the eve of humanity’s collapse on Earth. Once there, they must contend with both the new branch of humanity that emerged on Arca-45672 and the native species on the planet, as well as each other.

I am disappointed with Arca-45672. And it’s not for any particular reason. It’s just… very average. There were a few plot holes that I found frustrating, and I think the show could have benefitted from a less condensed narrative time-wise, but it’s not as if it was a bad show. I think it has the start of a lot of really great, interesting things, but just needed to fix a lot of smaller issues.

For example, I think that the species on Arca-45672 and how they interact with one another is interesting, and I think a strong story could come out of them. However, a lot of what we’re told about them is a bit info-dumped, and so it gets confusing to jump from lore into action and leaves the listener feeling more than a little lost.

I think the easiest way to fix this would be by expanding the timeframe that the narrative has, both in world and in terms of actual episodes/episode length. Arca-45672 is 8 episodes running about 30-40 minutes long each, and has a lot of complex lore and political intrigue going on in there. If the story were spread out over more episodes and gave the characters time to breathe between scenes (the entire story takes place over the course of about two days), I think it would be a lot stronger.

Overall, I think Arca-45672 has the foundations for a good story, and I’m excited to listen to more of what the creators produce in the future, even if I didn’t particularly care for this story.

I would recommend Arca-45672 to anyone who enjoys a good humans-die-off-through-infertility story like Lesser Gods or a small cast adventure story like Continuum Force.

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram

cw: violence, death, suicide, screaming, body horror, murder, guns, fire, war, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, colonization, injury, blood, raised voices, loud noises, gore, genocide

Review: The Ordinary Epic

★★★☆

Disclaimer: While this is a requested review, the opinions expressed below are 100% my own.

An actual play show but even the players are fictional.

The Ordinary Epic follows a group of five friends as they play DND. It follows both their imagined, in-game lives as they try to stop the world from being taken over by an evil god, and their real lives as they fall in love and try not to kill each other.

I really loved how the story switched back and forth between the game world and the real world. The listener becomes attached to both versions of the characters, and they want both to succeed in their goals, rather than solely focusing on caring about the real world characters. It reminds me a lot of The Guild, but if The Guild actually like… showed us their characters and game lives.

I also adored the characters. I was attached to them by the end of the trailer, and that attachment only grew. They’re all so dynamic, with their own strengths and flaws, and the actors play them beautifully. It also makes sense that they’re all friends, while still allowing for differences and points of conflict between the different characters (particularly Emo and Dom).

Spoilers ahead!

One part I didn’t like was the last episode with Athena getting angry at the others. It felt like we were supposed to side with Athena, but she was kind of really in the wrong? It’s the DM’s job to set up an enjoyable story for their players, but no episode demonstrates how bad Athena is at this than “Modern Day Thack-tivism.” You have a player who repeatedly says they don’t want to fight orcs and it causes conflict each time? Stop making the party fight orcs. You’re just a bad DM now. I’m hoping season two deals with this in more depth.

End of spoilers. 

Overall, The Ordinary Epic is a fun show about how our real lives and imagined lives can intersect in ways we can’t begin to imagine. I would recommend it to fans of The Guild (a fun webseries here, not a podcast) or stories about unlikely fandom friends like Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back.

Website Twitter Patreon

cw: raised voices, blood, injury, toxic relationships, violence, death

Review: The Lucky Die

★★★★

Disclaimer: While this was a requested review, the opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

Do you like angry women? Do you like lesbians? Do you like angry lesbians? Boy, have I got a show for you.

The Lucky Die follows a group of death row inmates as they try to stop the apocalypse in exchange for their freedom. Along the way, they try to solve the mysteries behind the deaths that landed them in jail in the first place, and learn that friendship is the real magic. And also that Roll20 hates you.

I have to start off this review by talking about how much I adore Zaltanna. She is *such* an incredible character in her own right (and is currently my phone’s homescreen), but I want to focus specifically on her anger (spoilers ahead!).

Zaltanna is the only lead who actually did commit the murder that landed her in jail (and many other murders on top of it). She is a vengeance paladin who began murdering everyone in her old gang after they kill her wife. Her  plotline for the first couple of arcs is fuelled by anger and vengeance. And the show lets her be angry. I don’t think I need to explain how rare it is to see women being allowed to be angry. Sure, the other characters may tell her to chill out when she starts murdering randos, but they also understand where she’s coming from, and the players never frame Zaltanna as bad or an antihero because she comes from a place of anger.

But she is also allowed to begin healing from her anger. She’s allowed to begin loving again, and begins to be fuelled by her love for her friends and family, rather than purely anger. And as someone who has BPD and struggles with overpowering emotions, including anger, it is so beautiful to see a character who is able to learn how to control her emotions and use them for good, without first being told that she’s wrong for having emotions. I connect to Zaltanna so much, and I am so happy that there’s a character out in the world like her.

(End of spoilers)

There is a lot going on in The Lucky Die, and while I’ve focused primarily on Zaltanna in this review because she is my personal favourite, the show is carefully to give each lead their time in the spotlight. The players know how to balance each storyline and make sure that they aren’t speaking over one another. While the characters often disagree and argue with each other, the players approach these scenes with mutual respect, which really helps when trying to see both sides of the argument (and as this is a show about stopping the literal apocalypse, a lot of these arguments can be very life or death).

I’m going to talk briefly about one issue with the show, so spoilers ahead again!

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t reached this part of the show. I’m about halfway through the arc this takes place in, so I don’t have first hand knowledge or an opinion on it myself, but I’ve spoken to a couple of people about it and would feel uncomfortable if I left it out of my review.

One of the recent arcs follows the party as they try to rescue Zaltanna’s wife, Odette (she’s not actually dead, btw). The arc ends with Odette choosing to become a god, rather than to continue living (I believe she’s on the brink of death due to possession). This raises some concerns as it means that all of the leads have backstories and motivations that come from a dead woman. Which is… not great.

(End of spoilers)

Overall, The Lucky Die is an intense fantasy adventure for those of you craving more gore and less goofs in your actual plays. I would recommend it to fans of other actual plays about dying gods like Rise of the Demigods or other dark shows like Dark Dice (who make an appearance on The Lucky Die).

Website Twitter Facebook

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, body horror, murder, existential talk, death threats, gambling, kidnapping, torture, slavery, grief, addiction, injury, blood, electrocution, gore

Interview with Russ Wilde, DM for Prism Pals

Russ is the DM for Prism Pals, an all queer, all nonbinary/genderqueer, actual play podcast about trying not to be murdered by a creepy guy and also babysitting the children you’ve accidentally adopted just because you were all arrested at the same time. Russ is an absolute sweetheart and one of my favourite people in the podcasting community, so this interview was a lot of fun. Russ uses he/they pronouns.

_______________

Where do you draw inspiration for the world of Prism Pals?

Well it depends. A lot of the initial world building inspiration came from music. I love listening to music when I write and I find that it shapes my world in strange and mysterious ways. Newer parts of it have come from movies or books. But the best place I have drawn inspiration from is from stories that disappointed me or let me down.

What made you want to DM this game rather than being a quote-unquote “player”? (DMs are 100% still players) 

I was okay with either role, but quite frankly, I was more worried about DMing than I was about playing. I feel like the DM for a “public” game faces a lot more criticism than players face, over things like whether a ruling was unfair, or they messed up a monster rule, or if there are plot holes etc. etc. I wasn’t super confident in my DMing and I’m still not. There are certain days where planning for the game feels like it’s weighing down on me, and after games I deal with what I call a “DM Hangover”. But honestly, I was the only one who could. Sam didn’t feel comfortable with DMing. Kyle and Ollie had never DMed, and Ben was terminal. In the end, I tried to swallow my fear and went for it.

I think a big part of it was how much I wanted the show to exist. I think that’s why I choose to DM. Because without a DM, the show couldn’t really exist, and if I was the only option then gosh dang it I don’t care if I’m horrible because this show could mean something important to someone.

Prism Pals does have an overarching plot, but as a DM you’re known for leaving a lot of events up to chance. How do you balance those two sides of the game?

That depends. When it comes to main story beats, such as the Arrival of Malachi or the Trials of The Platinum Ambitions, those aren’t chance. I have decided on those moments beforehand. But a lot of that was just setup for the story. Since then I’ve been relying more and more on chance because everything is tee’d up already! I think a lot of the worry about chance when it comes to TTRPGs is the question of “well what happens if they do this??”, and I think the best answer to that question is just “Figure it out if they do it”. I like improvising and honestly I don’t do a ton of balancing. I trust my players and they know there’s a larger story. So I have to trust them to play the game and see what they do, just like they have to trust me to not throw a TPK at them! [Editing Note: A TPK is a total party kill.]

Not all of the players are in the same room when you record. Do you find there’s a difference between how you play when you’re in the same room vs over video call?

Oh totally! When I’m in a room with people, I am much more emotive and my physical actions are bigger and bolder. When I’m playing online and I can’t see my players faces because I have all of my notes up, I am a little more reserved. It’s something I struggle with when it comes to character voices and things because often times movements help me get into a character.

A lot of people question the appeal of actual play podcasts. What interests you about this genre of podcasting, and what led to you deciding to make one of your own?

I cannot emphasize this enough… I. Love. TTRPGs. So that was enough to get me interested in AP podcasts.

And then I started listening to shows along with friends, such as Sam! Sam and I are co-creators of Prism Pals, and we decided to make our own podcast when we were listening to other shows and realized, “Oh hey, we could do this!”. The barrier of entry to podcasting, (while not super accessible), is much lower than things like streams and other methods of entertainment.

What drew you to create the guild masters that you did?

Well, I made the active decision that I wanted a very diverse group. So I went through and designed all the guildmasters over the course of several months. The party only reached Mal’ra and the Guildmasters in episode 14. I started planning for them around episode 4 (which was our second recording session). The Guildmasters were incredibly important because the Platinum Ambitions is a global organization in the world and I wanted it to be clear that this is a world where traditionally marginalized groups have power. These are some of the best battlers/thinkers/inventors etc. in the world of Tahim’Ka. Every single one of them got where they were because they fought for it and they proved themselves.

Creating a fantasy world with marginalized characters can sometimes be difficult, as you try to balance not wanting to make that world have the same problems as our world (colonialism, racism, homophobia, etc.), but also not wanting to dismiss those problems as trivial. Did you find that you struggled with that at all?

I did struggle with it. I did a lot of reading and research for the story and looked at ways that other stories had failed. I looked at those mistakes and have tried my best to avoid them. In addition, I did make a very active choice to include racism in the world located within the country of Hashar, and that was a choice I made for the specific reason of my own personal intersectionalities. I have dealt with so much racism within my life from areas of the queer community, and it was important to me to show that as it is part of my own experience.

The party has met multiple gods/children of gods over the course of the campaign. How did you choose which gods/god children you wanted to feature?

So far (as of the time of this interview) the party has met one god and four god children. Forge and Galvana were always going to be a part of the story, just because of Holland and Vayu and how those characters were built. When it comes to the others, such as the unnamed child of Dust, Mistress Aqualis, and Scaldron, they were all chosen based on where we were in the story/how the plot was moving. I really want to feature more of the gods because of how much I love the system I built for the gods. It’s meant to be an amorphous entity with a lot more flexibility and the meaning of “Worship One, Worship All” is something that I really want to come through in the story.

Do you have any DM role models?

Of course! Mark Hulmes and Griffin McElroy are my two biggest DM role models!

If you could do a crossover episode with any other actual play show, who would you want the pals to meet?

The gang from Titans of All’Terra! Gibs would absolutely explode with excitement about the Stone Golems and Holland would have some people to help babysit the kids for a minute, and Vayu would get to chill with another super relaxed monk. It would be a good time (and Gibs would 100% try to drive a golem).

Do you have any advice for fledgling DMs?

Rules are great and all, but they mean nearly nothing if you aren’t having fun. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of new systems! D&D is great for some people, but if you have trouble with Planning, something that is Powered by the Apocalypse is much better. I personally adore Dungeon World. If you can’t remember a rule, make it up! You are the DM and you get to make that call. ALWAYS HOLD A SESSION 0 TO MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR PLAYERS ARE ON THE SAME PAGE!! WITH NOT ONLY YOU BUT ALSO EACH OTHER

If you lived in the world of DND, what race/class would you want to be?

Dragonborn Wizard. I wanna be able to cast spells, and also breath weapons are cool af.

Last few questions! What are your favourite audio fiction shows that include marginalized characters?

Wolf359, Godsfall, The Bright Sessions, and The White Vault

What would you like to see more of when it comes to representation in audio fiction? What would you like to see less of?

MORE FAT LEADS. MORE DISABLED LEADS. MORE NEURODIVERGENT LEADS. MORE TRANS LEADS.

LESS RACISM. LESS TROPES. LESS BURY YOUR GAYS. LESS “MARGINALIZED PEOPLE ARE THE VILLAIN” STORIES

What is your absolute dream story?

Dream Story – A lot of queer folx. Oodles of found family and diversity. A delicate slice of life story showing their lives and the beauty and struggle of queer lives. Takes place over a year and as the lives of the main cast changes so do the seasons, very visibly. Each season of the show (which corresponds to the actual season changing) contains a huge event. Whether that be a funeral, someone moving, a birth, a wedding etc. Each season contains a big event which changes the following events. Each season shows the lives of this queer family who found one another and loves each other no matter how many arguments or petty fights they get into. Start in summer, end in spring.

Review: Continuum Force

★★★☆

The podcast equivalent of Timeless, except with aliens.

Disclaimer: Although this is a requested review, all of the opinions expressed within are 100% my own.

Continuum Force follows a team of scientists who are experimenting with time travel when they discover that a group has been tampering with the past, setting humanity on new paths. The scientists begin travelling back to the same points in an attempt to stop them, only to discover that things are more complicated than they first appear.

First of all: I’m a history nerd, I immediately adore this from that premise alone. But Continuum Force really does hold up to that solid premise.

Continuum Force plays a lot with how things appear and how much people know. The audience only knows what the leads know, so they struggle with the same questions of which side they should be on and what the sanctity of history is worth. They also have to wrestle with the question of the worth of different lives, which I think is kind of exciting and I’d like to pause and talk about this briefly.

The “Pax Romana” arc grapples with a possible timeline where Rome didn’t fall. Humanity at present seemed to be better off and more united. It seemed like a brighter future. But one of the team doesn’t exist in that timeline. So many of the characters aren’t able to appreciate the appeal of that timeline, because of what was missing. The timeline where Rome fell was the “right” timeline because it had her in it.

But part of the show is questioning whether the history we know now might be the history that’s already been tampered with. So maybe they aren’t quote-unquote “supposed” to exist anyways. Maybe there were people that were supposed to exist who are now missing. What lives are being changed and lost as the two teams meddle with time? It’s a fascinating question, and one that Continuum Force deals with really well.

Also there are aliens that are more advanced than we are, and it’s everything I want from alien stories. Stop assuming humans are special in the galaxy, that’s boring.

Oh, and there’s an AI with an accent that isn’t American or British. So that’s something.

Overall, Continuum Force is a time travel show that deals with complex themes while also having fun. I would recommend it to fans of Timeless (a very good TV show, that I would also recommend if you enjoy Continuum Force. Crossover?) or fans of Oracle of Dusk.

Website Twitter Facebook

cw: violence, death, suicide, period-typical homophobia, screaming, murder, guns, existential talk, war, sirens, explosions, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, xenophobia, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, illness, fire

What does “underrated” mean?

One word I see thrown around a lot (and I admit I’m quite guilty of this myself) is “underrated.” It’s typically used to describe a show that the speaker feels is underappreciated, and deserves more recognition, however it can also be used to describe an actor, writer, composer, and editor.

But in a community like ours, what truly counts as “underrated”? After all, no one has Netflix level production teams or Hollywood fame levels. So, wouldn’t you be able to call any show or creator underrated?

Well… yeah. And I think that’s okay.

From my perspective, when someone says their favourite show is underrated, they mean that they wish it were getting more attention. So I don’t think anyone can be wrong about whether or not something is underrated. It’s all a matter of perspective.

In my opinion, Caravan is massively underrated. But I also don’t think I’ve seen an Audio Drama Sunday since it came out where it wasn’t recommended. And on the flip side, I rarely see Queer Dungeoneers recommended on Audio Drama Sunday, but I think it’s just as underrated. And both can be true. There can be more than one underrated show.

And this same principle applies to thinking that shows are “overrated.” Maybe you think that Caravan’s not as good as everyone says. Maybe you’re really not that into Westerns and you wish everyone would stop talking about the gay cowboys. And that’s fine. I don’t agree with you, but you’re allowed to feel that way because underrated/overrated all comes down to feelings and opinions.

But I also think recognizing value is important when we’re talking about things being “overrated.” Caravan is a show created by a nonbinary and queer person of colour. Its lead is a fat bisexual Indian man who is allowed to openly express attraction and is described by (I’m fairly certain) every character as gorgeous. There is unmistakably value in Caravan not only existing, but being embraced by the audio drama community.

So go ahead. Talk about how your favourite show is underrated. Because you know what? It probably is.