Since I started watching Critical Role a few months ago, I have become quite obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. I quickly realized that while playing D&D is a lot of fun, what I really wanted to be is a Dungeon Master. It unites some of my favorite creative outlets: writing, drawing, acting, and directing. Despite my enthusiasm, it seemed quite daunting at first because there appeared to be so many aspects to it, so I started reading the source books and searching the internet for tips and advice. There is a lot of great stuff out there, so this might become a series of sorts, and I want to start today by talking about one of my more obscure finds—a series of YouTube videos titled Dungeon Master 101 by Acreletae. She has a lot of great advice on the basics of DMing: from organizing your notes and planning strategies for sessions and campaigns to creating non-player characters and cities.
Once upon a time I was one of the many people trying to catch up with Critical Role. During this fantastical, entertaining slog (and it was a slog at times) fellow fan Noodle suggested to me that I take a different route with my catch up plans: instead of watching each 3+ hour episode, I read the summaries of the episodes instead. “What a perfectly logical solution!” I thought. While my stubbornness eventually saw me through the 20-some episodes I was behind on, I ended up enjoying the site Noodle linked me to, Project Derailed, for its other nerdy content and reviews.
In mid-2016, the U.S. presidential election had just kicked into high gear with the announcement of Orange Cheeto Dust as the Republican presidential nominee, and I started looking for a comical podcast to take my mind off things. A friend of mine recommended The Adventure Zone, a podcast by the McElroy brothers, without really telling me what it was about. Mostly what I knew about the McElroys was that they were from my own home state and had some well-known podcasts, so I went in with absolutely no knowledge of the game they were playing, laughed at some jokes, and listened to an episode or so when I had the time. Before I knew it, I had somehow gone from “an ep whenever” to “three or four eps a day” because I was so invested in the story, and it’s definitely one of the few things that keeps me laughing even in this news vortex of despair. Now that The Adventure Zone is hurtling towards a sure-to-be hilarious and heartrending finale, I feel like it’s past time to try to get some of you to jump on this train with me.
Minor spoilers below!
Harry Potter is a pillar of civilization by this point. What began as a series of children’s/young adult novels is now a virtual empire, with eight movies, several spinoff books, movies of the spinoff books, theme parks, and the website Pottermore to ensure that the franchise is constantly alive and being added to. Given the impact this series has had since its release in the ‘90s, you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the Western world who hasn’t been influenced by it—and it would be nigh-impossible to find someone who hasn’t read the books that have shaped a generation.
You’d think that, but you would be wrong—Mike Schubert, a twenty-four-year-old American man, has never read the Harry Potter novels that so defined the childhood of his peers. And so, in a grand experiment, he’s sitting down to read them all one after the other, and discuss them with his Potterhead friends in this week’s web crush: the Potterless podcast.
Are you guys fans of speculative fiction podcasts but find it hard to actually find said podcasts? Me too! That’s why I’m so happy to be able to tell you guys about the Procyon Podcast Network, a largely female-led team of podcasters who are also concerned about the lack of good fictional podcasts. As they say on their Kickstarter:
Formed in November 2016, the Procyon Podcast Network began as the brainchild of several audio drama fans hanging out in a private Slack who wished there were more cool genre fiction podcasts out there with interesting and diverse characters. Eventually we figured, hey, here we all are. Let’s be the cool genre fiction podcasts we want to see in the world.
Procyon is the name of a star, but it’s also the scientific name for raccoons, thus leading to the adorable astronaut raccoon mascot you see above. Speculative fiction, diverse characters, and a cute animal mascot? What’s not to love? Find out more about them and how you can support them after the jump!
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am a firm believer in the idea that there need to be more happy stories about queer people. Thankfully, certain creators seemed to agree, and back in 2015, I was able to buy Dates Volume 1, an anthology of queer historical fiction. While it was created through Kickstarter, I didn’t back it at the time… because I didn’t know it existed until my at-the-time comics shop held a release day party. However, I’ve got a second chance to help out this awesome team, and that’s why my web crush this week is Dates Volume 2, and their currently active Kickstarter.
Margins Publishing, the creative team behind the comic, describes their mission for the Dates series thusly:
Every queer person knows how hard it is to find ourselves in fiction, and how much harder it is to find fiction where our stories don’t end tragically. And of course, it’s particularly difficult to find happy queer characters in historical fiction. We wanted to work towards evening the score, and the result was Dates 1: a 176 page celebration of queer identities of all kinds, across the world and throughout history. We were thrilled by the reception to Dates 1, and we knew people still had more stories to tell, so we decided to do it all again. And just like last year, there are no tragic endings. [emphasis theirs]
Whenever I get pulled back once more into that YouTube whirlpool—which is basically my life right now since winter decided it wanted to majorly shit on us one last time—I tend to go for one of two things: conspiracy/horror videos and review shows. Ever since Channel Awesome became exceedingly less “awesome”—there were rumors of mismanagement and general ego inflation, and I just didn’t like the people who decided to stay on the site—finding reviews for things I actually cared about was a bit of a crapshoot. However, thanks to an opportune link in the sidebar of a completely unrelated YouTube video, I managed to find myself back on Lindsay Ellis’s channel (she was previously “the Nostalgia Chick” when she was a part of Channel Awesome) and was subsequently led to Dan Olson’s media review channel, Folding Ideas. Low key and introspective, Olson presents his analysis with a good mix of easy to understand technical terms, a dash of social commentary, and sometimes even a bit of humor. And hey, anyone who doesn’t immediately start their review of No Man’s Sky with “aaaah!! It was the worst game everrrrrrr” is okay in my book.