Category Archives: Podcast

Taking Responsibility for the Fallout is Dragons Breakup

What a crew, huh?

Fallout is Dragons was an actual-play RPG podcast / livestream show I ran from January 2014 to June 2016. It used my friend’s homebrew Pony Tales RPG system and was set in the Fallout: Equestria fanfiction setting. Looking back over my body of RPG work, it’s still probably the best campaign I’ve ever run overall.

Towards the end, though, there was a schism in the group, one person was forced out, and the show continued.

I’m not going to make this about naming names or pointing fingers or creating a thorough account of what happened. I don’t have the Skype chat logs (and have little desire to hunt them down even if they did still exist). I can hardly recall anything that was said; all I can vaguely recall is that some unforgivable things were said as things blew up.

Only now, after my emotional and mental breakdown back in 2019 and months of struggle and therapy, do I begin to have a grasp of my own role in what happened, how I let it happen through neglect. Because I wasn’t even conscious of what I was doing at the time.

Some background, though.

I was emotionally traumatized by my (very stressed-out due to other factors) parents at a young age. I was yelled at a lot as a baby and as a prepubescent child – the worst times being totally at random, going from 0 to 100% in-trouble with no ability to comprehend anything other than that I dun fucked up somehow. I developed hypervigilant personality traits and avoided conflict at all costs, and whenever conflict broke out around me, I always assumed it was my fault somehow, fled to my room to hide, and spent the next few hours blaming myself and trying to figure out what I did wrong.

That probably spells out most of the story right there, but I have a little more to add.

Between 2014 and 2016, I was on my prolonged, steady decline at my dream college. The hypervigilance I’d developed both as a child – and as a teenager having to take care of my newborn baby half-brother – made homework and teamwork impossible for me to complete with any rigor. Furthermore, I was struggling with undiagnosed sleep apnea, stealing away all my deep REM sleep and slowly driving me insane.

And yet, pretty much between the middle of my teenage years and 2019, I was in the mindset of pretending nothing was wrong with me. At all times. Putting everyone else ahead of myself and my needs. Except that my needs and traumas and fears still controlled me, unconsciously. I just pretended that I wasn’t feeling it so that the delusion of success could continue.

Knowing all that now, what happened during the complete breakdown of the Dragon Mawlers’ group cohesion – and specifically, what I did to enable it, let it fester, and let it blow up out of control – becomes so painfully, obviously clear to me. Every time people yelled during a call, I froze up like a deer in the headlights. When the yelling turned into prolonged arguments, I avoided them and stayed out of it as much as I could, maybe throwing in a judgment call or two here and there because I was the leader and I was expected to do something. When it finally blew up, I took the path of least resistance that made the conflict stop so that we could all pretend that things were fine and move on again.

It was neglect born out of fear. Deep, traumatic, unresolved fear. The fear of a 3-year-old, 6-year-old, 11-year-old, 14-year-old, all simultaneously flashing back and wanting nothing else than for Mom and Dad to stop yelling.

It’s not an excuse. A group’s behavior trickles down from the top, and I was the leader, both as the DM and the showrunner. Not only did I neglect and avoid problems, that became hard unspoken policy for everyone else too, until it couldn’t be avoided anymore. And when the worst of it broke out into flames, I basically didn’t support anybody. I hid, I dodged, I muttered indecisively, I attacked whoever seemed to have the weakest position and the most to answer for when easy opportunities arrived. I was the worst kind of boss.

And knowing what I know now… if we turned back the clock, I would not be able to act any differently. Is it theoretically possible that the conflict could have been avoided, that some adult, mature compromise could have been reached if we had tackled the problems sooner? That’s a big maybe, but this isn’t a maybe: I wasn’t capable of doing any of that. I wasn’t able to be a mature adult about anything, because I was a teen in arrested development treading water to pretend otherwise, neglecting everything – including myself – that needed attention.

My players deserved better. Fallout is Dragons deserved better. I was a bad leader and a bad DM in the long run, and its shortcomings rest at my feet.

I’m still paying for that neglect. It all came to a head in the summer of 2019, where I couldn’t deny the pain I was ignoring anymore and everything broke down. I’m now in a purgatory where I can’t even go outside and be around strangers without having a panic attack within an hour, which means I can’t find gainful employment. Patreon and the patient kindness of the handful of friends and family members who believe that what I’m going through is real are the only things that have kept me alive and afloat the last few years. And even then, that arrangement still means I’m stuck with someone who regularly and uncontrollably triggers my post-traumatic stress buttons.

I don’t bring that up – any of this up – to gain pity points in the context of Fallout is Dragons. I’m mainly pointing it out 1) for the possibility of slight schadenfreude for those I’ve wronged with my neglect, and 2) to demonstrate that what I’d done was a pattern of behavior that I later paid (and am still paying) inevitable consequences for.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my counseling and therapy, it’s that we are all, as individuals, the sum of one unbroken and interconnected chain of events. Pretending that parts of that chain didn’t happen or don’t exist is just taking an emotional loan out from the future. Eventually you have to reckon with it somehow or go mad.

Just needed to get all of that off my chest at 3:30 AM, I guess.

Spudventures Hiatus/Post-Mortem

Logo by Space Jawa, who I have frustrated time and again by canceling at the last minute

Sucks that this blog has ended up the place where I announce and explain all the sad news, but heck, it might as well go somewhere.

Short version:

  • The Spudventures podcast is going on indefinite hiatus, though some of its games will go on privately.
  • I’m reevaluating my relationship with tabletop RPGs as a whole.
  • Friendship is Dragons is still continuing.

Long version:

I haven’t been playing much D&D or other tabletop RPG systems in the past year, let alone podcasting and streaming in general. A lot of that’s understandable – we’re all adults with less time on our hands, the pandemic’s hit everyone hard in so many ways, and health always comes first.

With me personally, though, there’s been this growing sense that my desire to play tabletop RPGs has gone down over the past year. And with the show having cancelled at the last minute for nearly two months straight – and, more importantly, me not feeling all too excited to eventually get back on the horse, as it were – I’ve had to kind of face facts this week.

Because it hasn’t been fair to my fellow players and GMs who do still want to play.

Over the past year, counseling has been helpful and I’ve made a lot of great strides in my understanding of my own emotions. But it’s also opened a lot of emotional baggage that I repressed for over 15 years, punctuated by many points of pain in my life that I couldn’t afford to process until I had even begun to start healing. I am still firmly in the “it gets worse before it gets better” phase of my journey, and overcoming or even learning to cope with my symptoms as my new “normal” is still very far off in the future.

What does that have to do with D&D and other TTRPGs? Basically, I’ve been grappling with the idea lately that my primary motivation for getting into RPGs in the first place was escapism. All the stress I was dealing with at home, I wanted an excuse to get out and away from it. Turning those games into a show was an extension of that, creating a regular obligation and harvesting positive feedback. And as I’ve started to confront the actual sources of my stress (and still live with some of them currently), I’ve found that my escapist distractions have become less effective. The desire to escape was the original spark of joy that drew me into the fantastical world of TTRPGs, and that flame has been withering to embers.

I don’t hate TTRPGs, to be clear, not one bit. They’re still a fantastic cooperative medium with endless complexity. But I have become slightly disillusioned with them. The space has limits, and those limits don’t satisfy my desperate emotional needs – and it’s not fair to demand that from the players and GMs I interact with while I’m going through this.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed my level of mental and emotional need go from “Hang out with me for a bit” to “Please take care of me and tell me I’m doing a great job”… That’s just not a good state to bring to a table.

So I think I need to take a break from tabletop RPGs, reevaluate my relationship with them. The current system of “I play these games to escape and feel better” isn’t working because I’m trying to escape less and playing them doesn’t make me feel much better.

The podcasting and streaming aspect of the show became sort of a trap like that. As I have become more and more acutely aware of my own social anxiety, the stress of pulling myself together and “putting on a show” has caused me to cancel on more than one occasion because I’m dry-heaving at the thought of it. Which makes me feel bad because I shouldn’t be feeling bad at all – this is supposed to be fun and games with my friends! I should be happy to make the time! But no, I’ve actually been somewhat relieved to be on an unofficial hiatus for months at a time. And that’s just not fair to my fellow players.

It’s not as though I’ve made it big as a podcaster and streamer anyway.

(Not that making it big should be a requirement for doing something. If you like doing it, you should do it. But if you find over time that you like doing it less and less…)

Spudventures in general has also kind of strayed from the initial goals I had for it, kind of in an inevitable way:

  1. I wanted it to be a podcasting show where the cast would rotate every week, so that people who’d been following me via Friendship is Dragons and Fallout is Dragons for years could get a chance to play, especially first-timers. In practice, over time it became the vehicle for a small tight-knit friend group of the same players over and over, self-selecting because they were the ones most able and comfortable to play in random games on a weekly or biweekly basis.
  2. I wanted it to be a vehicle for exploring a bunch of weird and strange systems and concepts in the TTRPG space, indie games and personal passion projects and the like. In practice, we’ve spent about half the runtime playing D&D 5th Edition, playing a funky remix/mashup of established modules. (Not a bad campaign, that, but not what I had loftily envisioned.)
  3. I wanted it to be essentially playaround filler between the last “big” campaign, Tales of New Dunhaven, and whatever the “next” “big” campaign would be, and I thought playing around with different systems would revitalize my drive just in time for the next big burst of inspiration to drive me to put another epic-length campaign together. That burst of inspiration never came in the three years or so this has been runnning.

I don’t regret Spudventures. I don’t regret the path it took, and I don’t regret the games we played, the things we tried, and the lessons we learned. And on its own, “not living up to the unrealistic and grandiose vision at the start” would not be reason enough to end a venture like this.

I’m just going through a really rough patch right now. The show isn’t really helping with that, and it’s actively hurting the games of the groups I’ve been playing with. So, as hard as it is to say, the best option for the indeterminate future is to put the show on hold. To free myself of a stressful obligation I legit can’t handle right now, and to free my friends from my own flakiness.

I plan to take this time as a break from playing RPGs in general, until I can come at them again from a healthier starting point than sheer, desperate escapism – that desire to write myself a story that I control and I can make supremely cathartic and gratifying for myself. I still plan on writing Friendship is Dragons; I haven’t lost my spark in that project yet, despite everything.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully thanks for your understanding.

Patreon in July: Milestone Updates

I can hardly believe that the Patreon experiment has been going as well as it has.

That said, I’ve been pretty slow to get around to those two milestone promises I made back when we got started. But there are reasons for that, as well as bonus complications to talk about, so I will elaborate upon them now.

Milestone #2: No Webcomic Ads

There are still ads on the Friendship is Dragons website! Why? Well, because I’m waiting for one last payout, so what little money I’ve earned doesn’t go to waste.

Yeah, simple as that.

Basically, Google Adsense doesn’t pay out until you earn over $100, and the banner ad on FiD generally earns me about $45 a month. So it takes three months for me to get a payout. A welcome payout for sure, but if I’m only getting one measly payout every three months, it starts to get annoying.

Thus, around the 22nd of this month, I’ll collect my payout and then remove the ads from Friendship is Dragons.

Milestone #1: Proper Podcast Hosting

This one’s a bit more complex, and is part of the reason I’m putting the word out today.

When we started Fallout is Dragons, well, I didn’t know much about podcasting. Since we passed this milestone, I’ve spent just about all month researching everything about podcasting – file sizes, formats, hosting services, best practices, sites to avoid, RSS feeds, iTunes policies, the whole nine yards.

To summarize what I’ve learned: One, just putting links on Dropbox is not RSS feed friendly and that means we have to rehost everything, and two, we have a very large podcast on our hands here.

Because we’re recording a tabletop game, our episodes tend to last 2.5-3 hours. Even at really low bitrates, each file averages about 80 MB an episode. Publishing three or four episodes a month means we’re asking for a lot in monthly storage space.

Fortunately, I think we’ve found a nice new home on libsyn. I’ve just started it up and you can even grab the first few episodes on there now. But I’ve already reached my sizeable monthly limit with just those first five files.

We don’t have to wait for it to play catch-up over the next several months, though. Libsyn does provide a migration service where they’ll approve and archive whatever you need for a one-time fee of $0.05 per MB. To get everything up to Session 16, that comes to about $61.

Sadly, this month’s Patreon funding (thanks for that, by the way) has already either been spent or preemptively allocated towards many other things. I’d rather not wait a whole month to get Fallout is Dragons up to speed in its new host, so the remaining option is to crowdfund it.

Sumarry/TL;DR: If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, consider donating to my Paypal (not my Patreon). If I can crowdfund at least $70 (adjusted for fees), I can get all of Fallout is Dragons up on libsyn as a legitimate podcast.

Otherwise, thanks for supporting me, either financially or just by looking at the stuff I make. Continuing to be creative is what keeps me sane these days, and your encouragement reassures me that I’m not wasting your time.

P.S. I’m open to suggestions when it comes to extra stuff to offer on the Patreon page (new Milestones or Rewards, or rather the Milestones-as-Rewards scheme I’ve been using so far). I’m still very new to this whole shebang.

Fallout is Dragons – Session 0 – Flametongue

It’s been a great while since I’ve been in the DM’s seat. This foray into the world of tabletop RPGs, using the Skype rules of the Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony system and set in the Fallout: Equestria universe, will be the first campaign I’ve actually started and run by myself, which is a scary thought. Still, it’s a special occasion, and this adventure promises to be so much fun that I just want to share it with the world.

So, living up to my namesake of trying new things, here’s the first (or zeroth) episode of Fallout is Dragons, a pony-themed tabletop campaign podcast.

MediaFire link
YouTube link

With any luck, this should become a weekly thing. This is where you’ll find the podcast links for now. The project now has its own tumblr, and the updates will go there now.