Tabletop roleplaying games have been booming in podcasts, but there’s more to it than just actual play stories. There’s also a wealth of podcasts out there meant to help you run your own game and explore different platforms. Take, for instance, Character Creation Cast:
Character Creation Cast is a discussion and interview podcast where hosts Amelia Antrim and Ryan Boelter invite guests on to discuss different RPGs and then create groups of characters with the guests for those systems. It’s like a new session zero every series with new guests and a new system. This is done in a family friendly setting so that people of all ages can enjoy each episode.
Released between each series are special Character Evolution Cast episodes. These episodes dive deep into topics related to bringing your characters to the table and creating the best play experience possible. If the normal Character Creation Cast series are the 100 level courses, think of Character Evolution Cast as the 200/300 level courses for making and playing great characters.
Character Creation Cast is less about games being played in the audio, and more about how games are played. Character Creation Cast focuses on, naturally, character creation as a way of explaining how a roleplaying game works. The podcast structures its discussions almost like arcs: instead of only focusing on one platform, this podcast takes apart several different platforms, spending an episode or two just on character creation and then an episode on discussion. Each of these arcs includes a guest who’s worked intimately with the platform in some capacity.
Using character creation functions so elegantly as a way of explaining how a tabletop system works. In my experience, most players’ (and many GMs’) favorite part of starting a new tabletop campaign is building characters. It’s exciting picking apart specific, distinct customization to build a character, and it’s a specifically personal part of the process. Using character building to contextualize a world, mechanics, stats, classes, etc. makes them, in turn, feel more personal. Even though the listener isn’t building their own character, they’re getting to know the character through the lens of the hosts and their guests. As the hosts talk about their character, a stat goes from a simple number to something defining about this new person; a class goes from a description on a page to how this new person lives their life.
This is helped by the sweet, comforting, welcoming tone of the podcast. This aesthetic of comfort comes through in the intro’s light, floating piano bed music; the calm, patient pace of the conversations; the soft tones of the hosts’ voices; and the overall open-minded, excited discussion about the different platforms. There are some production moments that interrupt this aesthetic, namely the bleep-bloop-esque transitional song used between segments. While initially jarring, these transitions usually lead to a more energetic conversation, and it helps break up the tone from being too sleepy. Even when the game being discussed is purposefully dark–take Headspace, for instance, a gritty cyberpunk game–the conversation is kind and focuses on making sure your game is fun above all else.
For some, Character Creation Cast might feel a little cloying, but for others–likely those who have been pushed out of most nerd culture, which has been dominated by overbearing gatekeepers for decades–it’s a way to remind us that we are allowed in the space of tabletop gaming. Like other specifically sweet podcasts like Wonderful! or Song Salad, it’s also a welcome reprieve from the constant terror onslaught that is 2018. At times, this does still dip into the Good Conversation, Bad Podcast problem, but Character Creation Cast is so consistently charming I was always won back quickly after starting to tune out. This isn’t a good fit for someone who wants rapid fire tips on tabletop best practices; it’s meant to be a calm, contemplative conversation.
For those who haven’t yet started a tabletop game, especially if it’s because you’ve felt isolated or cast out by gaming culture, Character Creation Cast is a fantastic way to learn about different game platforms through a personal, engaging lens. For those who have played tabletops for years, Character Creation Cast is a way to break away from just D&D. For those who just want something sweet and nice to calm them down, Character Creation Cast can do that without feeling alienated; because the podcast covers an introduction to each platform, anyone can jump in without feeling lost. It’s a calm podcast that wants you to feel welcomed and have fun–something tabletop culture is slowly coming around to, largely thanks to D&D podcasts like this.
You can find Character Creation Cast on any podcatcher or on their website.