When I began the ‘People of the Twitterverse’ I interviewed a young lady named Brandi who helped run the Gamerstable podcast. I didn’t really go into too much detail about the podcast and that was really remiss of me – because it’s bloody good. I went and listened to it (oh, alright, all of it). One of the things that made me know that the cast and crew were the sort of folks I’d like to have beer with was the description posted on their site;
‘We are nerds, from before the time when being one was cool. We have played a lot of roleplaying, board, card and miniature games over the years and have become jaded and crass about them. We are opinionated elitists that love nothing more than bagging on the folly of others.
‘To us, PC means two things… Player Character & Personal Computer. If you are easily offended by toilet humor, foul language or the total depravity of the human condition, this podcast is probably not for you.’
So I cranked up the old internet machine and emailed the chaps and chappettes over at the Gamerstable website. Being the lovely people they Eric, Dan and Mike agreed to me poking my nose into their business and looking at their pictures (can’t imagine why my ex-wife has a problem with it; I’ll beat that restraining order someday).
So who are these people and what is it that they do?
‘My title is moderator for Gamerstable,’ Eric tells me, ‘and the second most talkative after Dan. I am the president of Sidetangent Productions, a fancy way of saying I produce the shows and am the primary force behind them. We are a creative bunch, and I welcome input from the cast as well as friends and family, but ultimately the buck stops with me.
‘I am a gamer; Openly Gamer, as we like to call it. Which means that I embrace who I am. No shame. Just pride. It has taken a really long time for me to become comfortable with myself to openly discuss my chosen hobbies and interests, especially with whom I work.’
Having been a life-long Warhammer player as well as a D&D nerd for a very long time, I can sympathise. I think Eric hits the nail on the head when he says, ‘Now, I Don’t Give A Fuck. As matter of fact, it has opened a lot of doors that I never knew existed and introduced me to a lot of people who share my interests.’
I think we all have stories about that time when we revealed that we like rolling dice and clobbering hobgoblins. It’s liberating to finally say it and to have a person respond positively. I remember when, in a job interview no less, I rattled off some bull about doing group collaborative problem solving on the weekends when the interviewer laughed out loud and asked if I played D&D before revealing that she was currently playing a level nine dwarven monk (I know right?).
‘I’ve been called a narcissist,’ Eric tells me, although having listened to the podcast I can only joking agree with him, ‘a control-freak, and a sociopath… and this is from my friends. I’m not an easy person to be friends with. I tend to latch on to an idea with the ferocity of a pitbull and I will run with it, jumping in with both feet; no fear, no regrets. I welcome challenges and opportunities to be creative, but can be a bit intense about it. Bossy, that’s a nice way of putting it.’ To be fair to Eric, that sounds like every gamer I’ve ever encountered. Heck, that sounds like me; don’t worry Eric, if you’re as bad as me then you’ll at least have company in Hell.
That said, if Beelzebub puts aside a devil for Eric then I reckon most of the cast will benefit from a group discount.
Dan describes himself as ‘bad at self-assessment’. But he has seen the lamplight of the Omnissiah so all sins are null and void as far as I’m concerned. For the machine! ‘Gamerstable started as a way to get side conversation out of our system so we could focus on gaming, however we have found there is no end to our capacity for side chat.’ We had a DM that used to use celestial lightning to control our chat. That guy was a dick – your way is better.
‘I have always thought we would end Gamerstable when we ran out of interesting things to talk about, and talking about gaming and RPGs, really talking about them I have learned that this “hobby” of ours is much bigger than I ever gave it credit.’
Mike, by contrast describes himself as an ‘old school grognard (grumbling) DM of the group as such a lot of the guys defer to me for D&D related questions or perspective. I am probably perceived as too quiet on the podcast but they all know I’m loaded with knowledge if they can get it out of me.’ So… you’re like a quiet Bard?
So, what’s been the best experience thus far?
‘We started two traditions that we’ve turned into annual events, both at Gen Con,’ Eric explains. ‘The first is what we call our Gen Con Wednesday meet up. The first year was purely by accident. We camped out at The RAM Brewery intending to hang out and people watch, but a weird thing happened. Friends, listeners and cast members of other shows began showing up and hanging out with us. It is truly a very cool thing to have people who listen to the show chat me up. Meeting listeners is awesome. It’s actually kind of surreal.’
‘It’s a great feeling,’ Mike agrees.
‘The second tradition is our annual Gamerstable Appreciation Awards Dinner. Its origin was more good fortune and the generosity of an awesome friend. Greg (an occasional guest on the show) backed a Kickstarter at a ridiculous level, and one perk was dinner with Steve Long and Larry Correia. Greg suggested that instead of just he and his wife eating with them, how about we make it a thing. We’ve done it every year since. Our guests of honour (which are different every year) have been great. It’s awesome to pick the brains and share stories with some truly talented people. On the con floor you may share a few words, so getting them to ourselves for an hour or so is something I treasure.’
Dan, for his part, recalls putting together the Victoriana Actual Play. ‘Going way back I called Eric to talk about it. We wanted to produce something that reflected how I think most people envision the game when they play. At the end of the day I was really happy we produced something that serves as a positive ambassador to the hobby.’
What was your first experience with roleplay?
Mike, with a wry smile explains, ‘1983 when a friend of mine showed me the fascinating hexagonal Darlene maps and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He then explained the concept of Dungeon Mastering to me. I quickly took over the DM screen after that and haven’t given it up since.’
‘I’d say my first experience was with Brandon and some older guys,’ Dan says. ‘It was AD&D 2nd Ed in a basement with pizza and foul language; I played a halfling thief who hooked a drow with a grapple on this thing called a crit.’
‘When I was in fourth grade my family moved to a new town and a neighbourhood with very few kids my age. It was a very lonely summer. Luckily there was a nearby bookstore that I could walk to (along some very active train tracks). There I found Choose Your Own Adventure books, and fell in love with them. A couple of years later, my family moved back to the town I had previously lived. I was in junior high. One day I saw a couple guys with the D&D red box on the table. I sat down and watched, intrigued. I instantly connected it to the Choose Your Own Adventure books that I loved. Later I sat with my friends (Jayson and Mike) at lunch with a hand-drawn dungeon map and had them trace their route with their finger. I told them that it was D&D, but Mike quickly corrected me (elitist). He’d played D&D before and owned the books. We asked him to bring them to school and started playing in the lunchroom. We’ve never stopped.’
If what they’re doing sounds great … then job’s a good’un as far as I’m concerned. But it’s not all ponies, rainbows and BloodBowl (seriously, BloodBowl is the fucking best); it takes a lot of work. The group work on making solid content for the show and regularly take advice or discuss topics with their listeners.
‘We are always gearing up for the next actual play drama. Deciding on a genre is the hard part,’ Mike tells me. The team have begun casting for additional voice talent, and writers to help them with their projects.
‘Our 8th Roleplay Drama will be the most ambitious project to date’ Eric explains. ‘ It will be a multi-season production that is currently projected to be 5 seasons. It’s set in a fantasy world that I have been developing (very slowly) off and on for 10+ years. Also, speaking of Roleplay Dramas, our brand Openly Gamer Theatre will be launched as its own entity this year. It will feature role play dramas, actual play podcasts as well as scripted audio dramas. My hope is to attract actors, writers as well as gamers who are willing to join up and have their stories told.’
Did I mention that I played Hamlet in university…
I think that I’ll bring the article to a close here, albeit with a mellow final thought. During the interview process with the crew there has been a theme of acceptance, both self-acceptance and external acceptance. Getting on better terms with ourselves has mostly to do with self-acceptance. And it’s only when we stop judging ourselves that we can secure a more positive sense of who we are. Which is why I believe self-esteem rises naturally as soon as we cease being so hard on ourselves.
I think that, as some of the world’s original nerds, we understand having our lunch money taken and our books tossed into ditches. It takes quite a lot to like yourself after you become convinced that you shouldn’t be liked. Perhaps more than anything else, cultivating self-acceptance requires that we develop more self-compassion. Only when we can better understand and pardon ourselves for things that earlier we assumed must be all our fault can we secure the relationship to self that till now has eluded us.
I’ll end on this quote from Eric, because I think it’s so moving and also it’s a wonderful start to the new year.
‘Gamerstable, as a concept, began with the tragic death of our friend Brian. He was an original member of the gaming group and his passing left a big hole in all of us. I realized, as a few years passed, that very little of Brian remained. A few character sheets and other memorabilia but it didn’t seem enough and still doesn’t. I wanted to preserve something that was exclusively us, but didn’t know how to do it. Then two things happened that changed my life forever.
‘The first was because of Mark, an original cast member. He has a background in film and audio production and started a podcast called F’d Up in Middle America. A sketch comedy show featuring him and our friend David. I heard it for the first time in 2010 and instantly fell in love with it. Mark and I had collaborated on a couple writing projects in the past and I begged to be on the cast of his show. He agreed and I learned a lot about the process of audio production and script writing. Unfortunately Mark wasn’t as motivated as I needed, so I began looking for another outlet.
‘That’s when I heard Fear the Boot for the first time. Dan Repperger’s show was (and is) such an inspiration for me. I knew after devouring the backlog of episodes I had found my outlet. A gaming podcast that would be a permanent record of our gaming lives together. A reminder of who we were. So when someone is no longer with us, maybe that hole won’t be so big.
‘I keep a picture of Brian above the computer that I write and edit from. His memory is what keeps me going.’
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. http://www.ccfa.org/