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

Advertisements

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.

Review: Main Street Mythology

★★★☆

Myths to explain the modern world.

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

Main Street Mythology sets out to explain the modern world through a set of new myths and a new pantheon of gods. Each episode covers about three or four different myths, exploring gods such as those of streetlamps, roadways, and cars. Main Street Mythology can be found in the Newton’s Dark Room Presents feed.

I really liked how Main Street Mythology approached the myths. They draw on familiar story structures (a young god who yearns to explore the world, breaking from responsibility, seeking out help during a famine to save the town) while also keeping a very modern feeling to it. Garbage trucks are great beasts that have been tamed and are fed our garbage to keep them from eating us. Main Street Mythology combines the magical and the mundane in a beautiful way.

The actors who have been hired to read out the myths do a fantastic job. They all have that steady, calm voice that you associate with audiobooks, and it feels like curling up to hear a bedtime story. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that you’re sitting around a fire, listening to a storyteller, just like old myths would have been told.

From my perspective, Main Street Mythology does a good job at exploring modern myths without being dismissive of polytheistic religions or implying that they are outdated. However, I am monotheistic, so I would like to hear from polytheistic folk what they thought of the show.

Overall, Main Street Mythology is a charming show, perfect for listening to before bed. I would recommend it to fans of interconnected anthologies like Strange/Love, or magical modern day stories like Flyest Fables.

Website Twitter Instagram

cw: violence, death, grief, death, illness

Interview with Sammy Madafiglio, Game Master for Queer Dungeoneers

Sammy Madafiglio is the Game Master for Queer Dungeoneers, an all queer actual play podcast about trying to stop the apocalypse and not getting killed by a demon for bringing your girlfriend back to life. It is one of my favourite shows, and interviewing Sammy was so much fun. Sammy uses they/them pronouns.

What drew you towards using the Dungeon World system for Queer Dungeoneers?

Like a lot of people, my first tabletop RPG was Dungeons and Dragons. It’ll always be my first love, but as a DM, I found it so cumbersome to plan sessions knowing there were so many details I had to have nailed down ahead of time, or otherwise I’d be fishing through a bunch of sourcebooks trying to bring things together. I first experienced Dungeon World through Friends at the Table, and the collaborative way they played just seemed a lot more keyed in to what I was interested in. You don’t have to make everything up front; make what’s interesting, and dive deeper into that. Having my friends to draw on as a resource is also such a boon, since they’re funny and smart and all have their own experiences, and that style is at the core of a Powered by the Apocalypse game like Dungeon World.

What made you choose to tell a more humorous story rather than a more serious one?

I wouldn’t say I chose it; it chose me. The way we play is very improv heavy, and I think as a group we lean towards the boisterous and extravagant. I guess I never really consider being funny in my prep, or in my play; a lot of the stuff that people find humourous is unexpected, or jarring, or strange. But those are all qualities of the kinds of fantasy worlds I’m interested in!

I guess the humour is a lens that makes absorbing our world enjoyable. I hope what’s left once the jokes wear off can resonate with people.

How do you balance the serious parts of characters’ backstories and the plot with the humour that Queer Dungeoneers is known for?

I often don’t! There are certainly times that we make jokes during the serious moments. I think it helps integrate those moments into the rest of the show, and gives that authentic feeling that we’re five people experiencing something new together. In the same way as a serious moment doesn’t mean there can’t be humour, there’s rarely times where we’re just making jokes without underlying stakes. Even if it’s funny, those kinds of moments often don’t make the cut.

Had you played with any other members of the party prior to Queer Dungeoneers?

We’d all been playing RPGs together for over a year when we started! It’s really how we became friends. The full group for our other games is larger, but I had to set a limit for this because I didn’t want to DM for like 7 people (Hi MASKS group!!!! I know you’re reading this). I think that experience is why we have the trust and the confidence to bounce things off each other, knowing that the other person will “yes and” you.

I think it’s also helped me understand everyone’s specific strengths, so I know what kinds of moments to throw to each of them.

Do you find there’s a difference between playing TTRPGs when you’re recording them versus not recording? 

In our setup we try to minimise the difference. We have one mic in the middle of the room, and we’re all spread out around it. Because of the level of editing I do, I’d rather that everyone just stays in the moment and enjoys the game, and lets me handle whipping the recording into shape. Having said that, there are times I have to break that feeling by telling someone to stop making some noise, or by doing retakes. I also think the nature of releasing episodes of the podcast each week changes the way we conceptualise the game, since the players listen back to the sessions and are much more primed on what happened on whatever point we’re up to in the released episodes. Also, since the episodes are so edited, their memory of past sessions becomes shaped by what I chose to include. A handy (if ominous) trick for keeping things on course!

Do you have a favourite NPC to play? 

Oof. My two favourite genres are oblivious, sweethearted characters who just want everyone to get along, like Boulder the halfing oresperson, or Brumpo the dog, and catty characters who stir everyone up, but still have their vulnerabilities, like Samira the wind elemental. I think I like that second kind because  it lets me embrace a side of stereotypical femininity that I’d really rather not test out on my friends. A lot of my PCs end up falling into that trope, and it’s a lot of fun to rile people up! (I don’t end up very popular when I play those characters though :P)

Which Queer Dungeoneers PC is your favourite?

Is this question even legal???? I would say probably Nim or Kremora, but they all find ways to surprise and delight me.

What is the most rewarding part of making Queer Dungeoneers

Having a growing library of now 30 episodes that have helped bring my friends closer and make them more confident in their own abilities, with great goofs and a storyline that gets deeper and more interesting and could literally go anywhere, with a small community who get to find some joy in this weird world by listening to us. What’s not to love?

You clearly have an idea for the plot and where you want the story to go. How do you plan for sessions knowing that the party could decide to just completely ignore those plans but you still have to deliver a satisfying conclusion for listeners?

In the beginning I had no idea where this was going – no plot, no worldbuilding, nothing. Through the player’s actions, a kind of trajectory has emerged, and I’ve started building up world details and future events around that trajectory. At this point, I certainly know a lot more about what’s going on than the players, including their task after this arc is complete – but I have no idea how this story will end, or if they’ll reject their task and find another way to resolve their current situation (which is something they’ve discussed). How will I wrap it up in a satisfying conclusion? By continuing to ratchet up the stakes, and trusting my friends to work with me.

Increasingly, I realise my role as a game master is largely to introduce problems. The players have the toolset and the creativity to come up with solutions (and they have every time so far).

Has there ever been a time that a player completely threw your plans out the window?

I don’t know how to answer this question without spoilers, so here’s a list of episode numbers where the players completely flummoxed me:  8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 22, 25, 29. And they sure rattled me plenty of times in between. My plans are always short-term, and these moments help cement what comes next, so I’m grateful for them.

Queer Dungeoneers has a set timeline for saving the world. How do you keep them on track, particularly since so much of their travel is randomized? 

That’s up to them! A lot of the tension I’ve tried to build in is around that time limit, and their management of it, especially now they have optional secondary goals and very little time to achieve them. I think the way I’ve tried to do things, is they’ll have enough time if they stay on task, but I try to introduce temptations along the way to get them to squander time. I think in the second mission, we’ll see a much more open setting where they’ll have a lot more freedom (but also responsibility) in how they use their time.

Where do you draw your inspiration? 

This is always a hard question because I think the brain is just a melting pot of everything you’ve consumed, but I’ll call out some stuff that I love. Steven Universe is heart-filled fantasy with fantastic representation, a strong set of beliefs that resonate through the entire show, and great pacing in the way episode-long plots build up details of something much bigger.

I also love Final Fantasy, especially Final Fantasy X. I believe the FF games are fundamentally broken, but there’s something about the combination of splashy, inspired graphics and stilted writing that reveals an actually quite interesting story that makes certain entries in the series really sit with me in a very deep way. Right now I’m playing all the Kingdom Hearts games, which have a very similar vibe, and I find myself getting genuinely invested in the characters despite – or because of – the numerous flaws. If I ever make something that creates that feeling that Final Fantasy does without being saddled with all the baggage, my job will be complete.

If you could do a crossover episode with any other actual play podcast, who would you want your characters to meet? 

I think Jacque and Charlene from Heartbeats could use a bit more chaos in their life. Let the QD crew loose in Heartbeats, I don’t think there’d be much left afterwards.

Do you have any advice for fledgling GMs?

*gets out megaphone*

*Unfurls banner I already had prepared*

MAKE 👏 SURE 👏 YOU 👏 HAVE 👏 FUN 👏 TOO 👏

You’re doing great and it’s a game and please just enjoy it!

Queer Dungeoneers is an explicitly queer show. Do you ever feel any extra pressure to deliver good queer representation because people come to the show expecting it rather than having it be a pleasant surprise? 

Occasionally. One difficulty is that non-player relationships aren’t really at the forefront of what I’m doing, and so when relationships are portrayed, they’re generally fraught with disaster. On the gender side of things, we have a lot of characters that use they pronouns, but no big exploration of the trans experience (despite the fact 3/5 of us are trans). I think that’s fine, though – the guarantee we offer is that we’ll look beyond the default social lens, and generally be accountable for what we’re portraying in our fiction.  We’re not trying to narrow what we do to just exploring queer issues. I’m sure over time and over seasons, we’ll touch on a lot of issues, and provide different examples and perspectives – but we’re in no rush.

Some of the Queer Buccaneers that the party meet are in a polyamorous relationship. The relationship itself is very complex, and the characters involved have a complicated history. Polyamory is rarely represented in fiction. Were you worried about the reception of your portrayal of a bit of a messier dynamic?

As I mentioned before, one of the struggles with representation in this story is that for a relationship to be relevant to the players, it generally has to be dysfunctional in some way. There have been two polyamorous triads in the show so far, one which is fairly fraught but ultimately seems to resolve happily once the members start communicating, and one which is tragic. I think these are two messy representations of an underrepresented group, but they’re messy in different ways. In the future, we’ll keep introducing polycules, and they’ll likely be messy in different ways again! So, I was worried, but I think the path to representation lies in layering lots of different perspectives on the same issue.

Of course, this gets trickier because I’m not poly myself, and my experience with polycules is mainly with triads where the partners are exclusive with each other. I hope I can keep growing and learning and stay open to feedback and the experiences of others to portray polyamory thoughtfully.

What are your favourite audio fiction shows that include marginalized characters? 

Flyest Fables does a great job of touching on different marginal identities in an uplifting way. Of course I’ll always love The Adventure Zone too, and while I hesitate to hold up work by successful cis white men as touchstones of diversity, I still love Lup, so too bad. Oh shoot, and of course Friends at the Table!

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: #ownvoices, effortless diversity, looking beyond social norms and breaking apart the assumptions of your world instead of just slotting diverse characters into a world that still considers them different.

LESS: Making a “big deal” of diverse characters in texts. Not in the sense that it doesn’t matter, but in the way that it can actually be really othering to have the existence of someone like you treated as astonishing. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t show your excitement over a character that represents you – more that people from outside that experience shouldn’t be putting so much focus on the representation that it leaves no room for the character to just be a person.

What is your absolute dream story?

It’s a fantasy story, in a world that doesn’t behave like our own. Details are dripped to us slowly and satisfyingly. Halfway through, something happens that casts everything in a different light, and makes it worth revisiting the whole first half of the text. The main character is trans as hell, and a lot of cute girls smooch (there’s lots of other good representation I promise but THIS IS MY STORY LET ME HAVE THIS). The ending is satisfying, conclusive, but leaves your brain running on what the world would look like in the future. You think of the story often, and feel warm inside.

Review: The Titans of All’Terra

★★★★

A family friendly family show.

This review is a result of me hitting one of my ko-fi goals! I let my followers choose what show I review next, and Kyle suggested The Titans of All’Terra. I’m going to make a small disclaimer upfront: I’ve only listened to about a third to a half of the show. Usually when I do these reviews, I’ve listened to the full show. But I kind of didn’t plan super well for this? So here we are. (I will be finishing the show though, don’t worry)

The Titans of All’Terra is a family friendly actual play about titans returning to roam the world again. At the same time, the politics of All’Terra begin to collapse. A small crew of adventurers end up having to save the world, completely by accident. The game is played completely by people related to each other. Also, there’s German gnomes.

I am absolutely in love with the world of All’Terra. It’s got such a strong connection to the sea and nature, and there’s a feeling of spirituality that seems to flow throughout it all. I can’t place what story exactly it reminds me of, but it pulls me back into early chapter books and adventure novels that I read when I was younger, and there’s a real sense of coming home to the world.

I really love the player characters. There’s a nice mixture of goofballs, balanced between goofball and serious, and then trying to be serious but also lowkey a goofball. They play really well off each other (aided no doubt by the players’ familial relations to one another). Their friendship feels very natural, rather than a group of four people pulled together by chance, which they largely are.

The show does have a bit more table talk than I like, but it’s always the cast joking around and having fun with each other, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it usually would.

Overall, The Titans of All’Terra is a goofy actual play that’s fun for the whole family. I would recommend it to fans of goofy actual plays like Quest Friends! or shows with a well-rounded team of misfits like Kids on Bikes.

cw: injury, war, murder, death, violence

Patreon Twitter

What does representation mean to me?

It’s Pride month! Over on Twitter I’m marking the occasion with #PodcastPride, a daily celebration of queer characters and creators in podcasting. And I love these characters. I really, really do. But sometimes I’m acutely aware of what’s missing from those celebrations. People of colour. Disabled people. Trans and nonbinary people. Not to mention people to experience intersections of the three. Sometimes it feels like those gaps can never be filled, because our voices get drowned out.

But there are people speaking up. There are people doing the work to make sure that marginalized folk within the queer community are given the space that we need. And there are obviously much larger concerns than just representation (I would love to not be scared of assault, personally). But representation of marginalized groups in media can affect the real world.

I still cry when I find out that characters are trans. I get choked up when there’s a queer man in media, especially stuff that’s more mainstream. It normalizes my life. It tells me that my experience is real. That I exist. That I’m not broken or wrong.

You may think that podcasts, especially fictional podcasts, are such a small part of media, that the representation contained within them doesn’t matter. But it does. I had a panic attack when a show people promised me was good had people misgendering the trans characters and saying that they weren’t really the genders that they said they were. When I found out that a character that I had related to strongly and saw myself in was also a queer man, I burst into tears.

Representation will have an effect on people whether you think it will or not. It’s your chance whether you want it to be a good effect or not. And I for one sincerely hope you make it a good effect.

Review: Strange/Love

★★★

An anthology about all the strange ways we fall in love.

Strange/Love is an anthology podcast of love stories (of all kinds) that are more than slightly out of the ordinary. Each episode focuses on different pairs at the end of their love so that the listener gets the complete story.

The sound editing for Strange/Love is absolutely gorgeous. There’s usually soft music playing in the background of episodes, but it never overpowers the speaker. The most recent episode, “Waiting to Die in a Tent, A Few Thoughts on Valhalla”, also features an Icelandic folk song.

The actors all have soothing voices that pull you right into the story. The episodes are the perfect length: they don’t drag, but you also aren’t left annoyed because the story wasn’t fully explained. I really appreciate that the stories aren’t solely focused on romantic relationships.

But it just wasn’t my thing. There is nothing bad about Strange/Love. They have strong writing, editing, music, acting, everything. The stories just weren’t for me. I’ll still keep listening to the show because it is really good, and I definitely still enjoyed the stories, even if they weren’t my cup of tea. And who knows, maybe one of the future stories will absolutely blow me away (and judging by the future episodes section on their website, there’s a good chance they might).

Overall, Strange/Love is a fantastically produced show about the weirdness that is love and how little control we can have over our lives sometimes. I would recommend it to people who like stories about weirdness hidden in the shadows of our world like Archive 81 or stories that play with reality like The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.

Website

Content Warnings: violence, death, suicide, body horror, spiders, murder, NSFW, alcohol, fire, existential talk, drowning, war, not safe for driving, grief, injury, blood, insects