Storytelling Breakdown Blog Entry 038

Magic You May Have Missed – By Ben Clemmer. 

If that title sounds familiar, you might have played visual trivia games on DVD bonus features for early Harry Potter films. The movies have been on my mind ever since watching Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.

That said, this blog post isn’t about Harry Potter. 

Instead, I want to focus on two things. The first is saying thank you to everyone who helped make season two of Storytelling Breakdown a huge success. The shows and topics had a range.

S02E01: We’re On A Mission From God – Blues Brothers, with a Spotlight on Baby Driver from Lucas Gerke

S02E02: Fake Doctors, Real Dramedies – M*A*S*H and Scrubs, with Spotlights on Black Panther and Blues Brothers from Larissa Whitaker and Rob Martinez respectfully

S02E03: Rogue Producers: A Star Wars Story – Playing a Star Wars RPG using the Fate Core system with Stephen Stachofsky, with a Spotlight on the Jedi code from The Deus Vult Podcast

S02E04: Meyer Productions Presents: The Clemmer Cut #RestoreTheSnyderVerse – The DCEU with Lucas Gerke, with a Spotlight on the Fate Core Star Wars campaign with Casey Stombaugh

S02E05: Bo Burnham Breakdown – Bo Burnham: Inside, with a Spotlight on RWBY from Jacob Ganser

S02E06: A Trip To The Aquarium, A Deep Dive Into Modern American Mythology w/The Omniplex – Comic books and the media inspired by them in our first full episode crossover, with a Spotlight from John Jehl, Ethan Sternke, and Alex Shinn, the creators of Intel

S02E07: Cinematic Icons: Hitchcock & Spielberg, Vertigo & The Last Crusade – Classic film conversation with Jane Martin and Don Clemmer, with a Spotlight on Heart of Ice with Bryant Rozier

S02E08: How Do You Make That Sound? – A scientific deep dive on voice acting with Dr. Colette Feehan, with a Spotlights from Caleb and me on Downton Abbey and a Critical Role Battle Royale One-Shot respectfully

S02E09: Cinematic Icons: Halloween Eras – Our favorite Halloween movies with Stephen Stachofsky, with a Spotlight on Mythic Quest from Ella Abbott

S02E10: Cinematic Icons: A Meeting of the Five Families – Gangster movies with Stephen Stachofsky, with a Spotlight on One Night In Miami… with Kibwe Cooper

S02E11: Boardwalk Blinders & The Roaring Twenties – A deep dive into Boardwalk Empire and Peaky Blinders with Carolynn Stouder, with a Spotlight on The Secret of Kells with Jeremy Stroup.

I would encourage listening back to all of our season two episodes, especially our season finale when Caleb and I were joined by Carolynn Stouder. We got to geek out about two phenomenal gangster dramas and I suspect we’ll look back on that show as the end of an era.

Because we’ve got even more things coming in season three that will be amazing.

The first two episodes of Storytelling Breakdown for 2022 are already in production with the main bodies of the episodes already recorded. That said, there is something that I meant to bring up in an episode that I will instead detail here, maybe a better title is “Magic I May Have Missed.”

Stephen wrote a blog post a while back, detailing his own journey into becoming a DM for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. While he and I often edit each other, I was more on the lookout for structure than content at the time because Stephen was well ahead of me in the world of D&D. I didn’t own any of the books. I had played the 4th edition of the game, but had never played 5th edition or DM’d any edition for that matter. 

We posted that blog in December of 2020. A lot has changed since then.

I was coming into things with experience running Fate Core. I knew I had played and liked D&D, but I wasn’t sure I could follow Stephen’s road map as simply as he’d laid it out. In hindsight, I probably could have. I had spent months rewatching the episode of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop that introduced me to Fate Core and reading up on the game online before I finally got the book for the system (thanks to Lucas Gerke) and realized things were pretty much as I’d built them up in my head. Could D&D be similar? 

I talked about the Critical Role Battle Royale that tipped the scales for me on the Spotlight of our September episode. Watching Matthew Mercer run a crazy session of combat, the most intimidating aspect of the game for me, was a revelation. By the end of it, I understood the decisions the players were making and how Matt was reacting to their moves. I felt comfortable with the scenario. It was time to make some common sense investments.

While I do probably over 80% of my RPG planning on my laptop, it has been so good to have the three core books Stephen talked about in more detail on his blog. The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual are amazing resources for creating your own world and understanding the core mechanics of the game. Being able to page through them when needed was huge for me. I talked about in a previous blog post how digital resources deemphasized the importance of backgrounds a bit. The last time I worked with a friend to create a character, we did things entirely by hand and by the book, making sure to leave bookmarks where we were referencing his race, background, and weapons. We were using a homebrew class.

Two major pillars came later. The first was discovering online homebrew content, a large chunk of which was available for free. I found modules, stat blocks, maps, and all sorts of other things I could use to plan without costing anything. I also began to weave together some of the homebrew modules in my head and in my world so a party of adventurers could move from one to the other and every town or city they visited could be home to at least one, if not several, adventures. One of my parties that I now DM has already played through four of them. This was an idea for structure that I already had in the works, but I wondered if it was a good one as I started making plans for my first sessions.

And then I discovered Matthew Colville.

The first time I caught wind of one of his videos, I didn’t even watch it. I was watching a different D&D YouTuber who did a video talking about the concept of giving bad guys in D&D additional actions with different triggers. I did watch Colville’s video on this much later and got his breakdown of villain actions. I liked this idea so much that I used it for the first boss fight I put my players through in my second session ever DMing 5e.

I was not feeling well one weekend and as I lay on the couch for most of the day, I decided to treat Matthew Colville’s “Running the Game” videos like a podcast. I cued one up and then laid back, rested my eyes, and listened to videos that did two things that were really inspiring. The first was giving me a bunch of new ideas for sessions, stories, and homebrewing a campaign that I had never thought of before. The second was reaffirming a lot of things that good DM’s do well. I was glad to hear many ideas already lined up with things I was doing or planned to do.

In 2021, I ran 16 D&D sessions. More is on the way and I’m excited to see where this world continues to go as more characters and layers are added to it.

I’m also extremely excited for this next season of Storytelling Breakdown. Larissa and Stephen are already doing an amazing job as co-hosts. Our newest episode drops this Friday.

Thank you to Brittany Smith and Stephen Stachofsky for contributing pictures to this post.

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