Podcast Roundup 3: The Master Plan; The Voice of the Revolution

Two roleplaying podcasts this week. Next week, I hope, two computer and/or board gaming podcasts, but sinus infection ate into my listening time and ability to follow new-to-me podcasts.

The Master Plan
by Ryan Macklin

The Master Plan is a biweekly half-hour podcast about roleplaying theory and practice by yet another guy associated with online retailer Indie Press Revolution and the story games/indie scene in rpgs. A lot of the folks I’ve recommended listening to, and a lot of the ones still in my queue, are part of this community—they play together when they’re in town, they comment on and test out each other’s games, they appear on each other’s podcasts, the whole deal. They happen to be talking about a lot of the most interesting things going on in rolegaming right now, and many of them are also really up on news and experience of new releases in play. So it’s their own fault for being so edifying and entertaining. There are other kinds of rolegaming bloggers and I’ll be getting to them, but applying the simple test question, “What makes me really happy, intrigued, or otherwise well served?” keeps leading me to more and more of this particular network. Even though what I want out of my own games often differs a lot, they ask great questions and the way they get to answers serves me well.

Ryan has a much more focused format than some—there’s usually one thing that’s really on his mind at the moment, and it takes up almost all the time. In episode 36, it’s play style—what do players do, how is labor divided, and so on. He does as good an exposition as I can think of having heard lately about “traditional” roleplaying games and the basic differences with games where the mechanics deal with narrative control and then the victorious contender has a much freer hand, and the big wide tradition of engaging storytelling.

(Ryan did miss something: turn-taking is quite common in fanfic and some kinds of collaborative fiction, and filk-song gatherings, and things like that. It was an extremely early influence on RPG design thanks to science fiction fans who discovered D&D at ’70s conventions without necessarily being wargaming at all. This was much more prominently visible in the first decade or so of RPG publication, but it’s there in the DNA of design even now. On the other hand, his explanation of how storytelling is responsive to the audience, can engage the audience for input, and so on, is so darned good that I forgive him for not having known Lee Gold thirty years ago. :) )

Not all creators are very interesting to eavesdrop on as they think out loud. Ryan is. He’s got an ongoing project of his own, as do many of his friends, and he’s great at capturing the learning process in compact nuggets. I come away from each episode I’ve listened to fired up to go create more stuff of my own.

The Voice of the Revolution
Paul Tevis and Brennan Taylor

The Voice of the Revolution is the official podcast from Indie Press Revolution. It’s a little longer than “The Master Plan”—more like 40 minutes than 30—and wider-ranging, with segments on what’s new at IPR (at the beginning) and a roundup of what they’ve been playing lately (at the end), and a handful of segments on this and that along the way.

The highlight for me of episode 22 is a ten-minute conversation with Robin Laws about story structures and what we do with them in rolegaming. Robin Laws is one of the most consistently inventive folks working in the gaming biz, often running well ahead of other people’s trend awareness, trying out all kinds of things about the resolution of challenges, subjects for play, and just about every part of play. He’s written a ton of really practical advice, and manages to maintain good productive relations with a much wider range of folks than, say, I do. He’s also a long-time friend I haven’t been in touch with enough for a while, and it’s always great to hear what he’s been thinking about lately. Paul asks good initial questions and good follow-ups, and makes it a very productive segment indeed.

These guys are messing with my sleep. See, sometimes I settle into bed with a bunch of podcasts on my iPod and listen to them instead of reading something. Well, this whole IPR/Endgame/Story Games/etc. axis keeps getting me infused with fresh ideas and I end up getting up to poke at writing them down, and by the time it’s worked out, the sleep cycle’s shot to pieces yet again. Confound them all!


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