The Art of Changing Lives

If you were to have talked to me a bit over a year ago and asked me about podcasts, I would have just shrugged and said that one of my friends was really into them and that would have been the extent of my knowledge. I really only thought of podcasts as information streams, since that is what my friend listened to. They were simply an audio medium to learn stuff from.

Enter July 2017. I was bored listening to the same music time after time driving into work, so I decided to find myself a few RPG related podcasts to listen to on the commute. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, so I looked for a good advice podcast about D&D and happened upon the Dungeon Master’s Block. The main reason I picked this one? It had over 100 episodes and was recently updated, so they must have been good, right?

Turns out, it was fantastic! I was hooked. I learned so much about DMing after having been out of the hobby for quite some time. After catching up on their entire backlog, I wanted more from these folks. Thankfully they had other network shows like The GM Showcase. I headed over there to hear from some prominent GMs in the business and was given a bout of entertainment that blew my mind. Two concepts were introduced to me at this point. Actual Play podcasts and One Shots. However, the latter of which didn’t really cement into me until I started listening to She’s a Super Geek, which was directly because of Senda’s amazing game of Fate that she did on GM Showcase! Also, the way she pitched her show, talking about how they played many types of games with women as the focus, particularly in the GM seat, intrigued me greatly. Senda was also an absolute pleasure to listen to on her episodes, so how could I resist?!

From there, She’s a Super Geek turned me into a polygamerous fiend. I wanted to listen to all of the podcasts and play all of the games! It was remarkable! There was this entire world of entertainment that was hiding just below the surface of my life that I just didn’t know existed before. SASGeek even is responsible for me becoming a game designer! It had that big of an impact on me.

The final piece of my listening experience with podcasts began after I branched out to more and more RPG related podcasts, enjoying every minute of it. This is when Interference came along and released its first episode. Yes, I’m now talking about the Audio Drama subset of podcasts. This format blew. My. Mind! This directly lead to me giving Girl In Space a try, cited as inspiration for Interference, and I became so instantly hooked.

Really, though, this is just the surface story of why I love podcasts, as well as podcasting, so much. During my journey, I ended up becoming the webmaster for the Block Party Podcast Network, the network that the DM’s Block created. From there, I was fortunate enough to work with Rich Howard on updating their website, which was an absolute blast to do. And from there, Rich invited me into a special twitter group that was filled with prominent podcasters. It was a group designed to talk about podcasting and to learn about the craft of creating your own podcast or making it better. Also, it was about friendship.

This group of people included some people I’ve been idolizing from the start of my listening career. I mean right there was Senda and Rich and people from Protean City Comics, and so many more amazing people. I was starstruck but also incredibly humbled to be added to this community. The conversations would come in waves, sometimes about podcasting, sometimes about life. This wasn’t just a community of people helping people in podcasting. It was a family of friends who were continuously there for one another and it was quite beautiful.

Queue a quiet January evening. It was shortly after the New Year and I was just thinking a random thought, and posted it on Twitter. It was an idea for a podcast that sounded super fun to listen to. And I already had the name mostly picked out. It made use of alliteration and was just a fun idea all around. The initial idea for “Character Create Cast” was conceived that evening. People seemed to like it, but I didn’t pay much more heed about it until the next day.

That’s when I started talking to my new friends in this Twitter group about this hypothetical project. I love character creation, but there aren’t many (if any) podcasts that would create a group of characters for many different systems and then talk about the process with guests. Holy enthusiastic response! They convinced me that I needed to create this thing, but I knew I needed a co-host in order to have a good dynamic. It just so happens that Amelia was also part of this amazing group of people, and she was also super jazzed about this podcast idea! I asked her what she thought about being my co-host, and she said yes!

Developing Character Creation Cast has been a dream come true. But it’s a dream that I never envisioned having until this past year. Amelia has shown herself to be the perfect contrast to me. Also, she brought a level of organization and creativity to the project that I never would have thought of before collaborating with her. We did test sessions, we had google hangout meetings to discuss the format and other aspects of the show, I even did some practice editing while we prepped for our first recording. It was so remarkably fulfilling!

Then we recorded our first episodes with our guests and that’s when the real work began. I agreed to do the editing starting out since I had both a vision for some of the show’s format, but also because I had some extra time in the mornings to do so. So I taught myself editing from scratch, and it was such a beautiful experience! I found myself getting into a zen like state going through the waveforms, slicing out the little ticks and ums, making people sound amazing with a little bit of post processing work. It was creating something artistic, like a sculpture but the marble was the waveforms.

Then came the big release in April of this year. We dumped two full series worth of episodes all on day one! That was nearly 6 hours of content and months of work. Then came the waiting game. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to see that people seemed to love what we were doing! This unlocked a completely unique feeling I hadn’t experienced before and I had become instantly hooked. I was all about making our edits as clean as possible and making us all sound really good and Amelia was integral to getting the show outlines together and helping to keep us very organized. We were making a podcast. We released a podcast. And it was a beautiful process from start to finish. I officially became a podcaster that day we launched.

Weeks went by and we released more episodes. Guests were talking about us to their friends and we were riding high on one of our favorite recordings to date. Then One Shot happened. We were planning to expand our podcast repertoire with special episodes that we were going to be putting up on our own Patreon page. For $X you would have gotten access to Character Evolution Cast, and the first topic we wanted to cover was character voices. The first person we wanted to ask about covering that topic was James D’Amato, head of the One Shot Podcast Network and all around great guy. I was familiar with him at this point, but had not listened to his work at that time due to being trapped in a beautiful array of other podcasts trying to catch up. Amelia, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck when it came to asking him. She was a huge fan of his and it was his podcast that was responsible for getting her back into the hobby.

So, Amelia sent the email, knowing it probably would have been a while before he got back to her, since he was sort of known for being super busy and not getting back to emails too quickly. He got back to us within the hour and he did so knowing full well he was going to blow Amelia’s mind. He not only wanted to record the episode with us, he wanted to meet us both in Chicago to record it at their professional studio. And not only THAT, but he wanted US on HIS network! I was in a meeting at work at the time this response came, so when I got back to my desk, I noticed that my phone had exploded with Amelia freaking out just a bit. After that point it was a whirlwind to get to where we are now.

The point of this part of the story, really, is to show how much podcasting has meant to a lot of people in this community. James D’Amato changed Amelia’s life twice here. Once with One Shot, inspiring her to get back into role playing, and a second time with taking interest in our brand new baby podcast and bringing us on board this exciting train. She went to GenCon this year and got to hang out with so many remarkable, creative people, and podcasts made that happen. And going back even further, podcasting changed James’ life as well. It’s now his primary job instead of just a hobby, and it put him in a position to change my life, along with Amelia’s.

Fast forward just a little bit and introduce one of the biggest hearts in this community, Tess, who is also a part of the aforementioned group on Twitter. She has always been a positive force in this community and she created a podcast that celebrates so many different people that, traditionally, hadn’t had much of a voice in the RPG community. The “I Am Hear” podcast has been not only a delight, it’s been a game changer. It is helping to bring so many wonderful people’s voices to the forefront of the conversation in this community and it makes me smile every time I listen to a new episode, but she didn’t stop there! She went and organized this whole event. International Podcast Month was something she spearheaded into being, and it’s been… well, indescribable how perfect preparing for this month has been. The collaboration with people from other amazing podcasts has been second to none. I’ve run a game for an amazing group of women that I’ve only been able to listen to previously. I was IN a game with some of the most prominent women in this community, and I nearly cried just knowing I was able to experience that. It also spawned something I completely didn’t expect.

Remember those audio dramas I mentioned previously? Well, this special month, and especially Tess herself, inspired me to actually write and create my very own audio drama podcast! How did this happen? Well, one day, during Pride Month, Tess asked about our LGBTQ+ characters that we’ve played at the table or just loved in actual play podcasts. Just so happens, my absolute favorite role playing character was named Mishra, and she was a super powered, pansexual, feline alien stuck on Earth who was secretly in love with her best friend/roommate,  Amy. Mishra happened to die trying to save Amy before she was actually able to confess her love to her, and this crushed me. Telling my story to Tess inspired me to write a six page short story based upon Amy dealing with the trauma of losing Mishra, as well as the surprise conclusion to her story with Mishra. The story made me cry. It made Tess cry. And it inspired me to convert the story to an audio drama short for IPM this year.

That’s when Tess invited me to something very special. She knew I was inexperienced in the audio drama community and brought me into Wil WilliamsPodcast Problems discord server. This was a community that had a lot of prominent audio drama people in it, from writers to sound designers to producers to fans. I was able to ask some questions of them all there, but most of all… I kinda fell in love with all of these beautiful people. I didn’t expect to become so emotionally attached to this seemingly random group of people from the internet, but they were so remarkably authentic, so remarkably helpful to one another, and so quick to shower everyone else with love. It was like my podcasters support group on Twitter only turned up to eleven. The best part of this community? Podcasting did that. Podcasts brought these people together at random times throughout their lives. Podcasting kept them together to create something absolutely beautiful, and something so absolutely peak humanity: love, support and creativity.

After revelling in this beautiful community, I held auditions for my one shot audio drama for IPM. I became just so engrossed in the whole process that I knew I had to expand this idea into something bigger. This community helped build me up to the point where I went from “could I do this” to “I need to do this”. I needed to see how Amy and Mishra first met, how they became best friends, how they grew to love one another, and how they were too scared to tell one another how they felt… and how Amy immediately dealt with Mishra’s death and beyond. It was a very compelling concept that I couldn’t shake, and thus Side Heroes was born.

Now, here I am. I have one fairly successful podcast under my belt. I’ve gained more friends than I thought possible. Friends that I would do anything for. Friends that I have never met in person but would open my house to without a second thought due to how much love and how much trust I have in their character. My heart has expanded countless fold since joining this community. Podcasts like Wanderquest started toying with my emotions and then The Far Meridian completely broke me in the best way possible. Up until that point, it was difficult for me to openly cry, but after breaking down and ugly crying when I got to the end of season one of TFM, I found myself more easily able to access those emotions when it came to so much else in my life. This has been locked away since middle school and, now, a podcast has given me an amazingly precious gift… a gift of experiencing deep emotions outwardly as well as inwardly.

And now you know my podcasting story… most of it, anyway. I hadn’t even touched on my Valentine’s Day #ShareTheLoveCasts hashtag on Twitter or my #MicroRyView posts where I review every episode of every podcast I’ve listened to. I love podcasts. I love supporting and raising up podcast creators. Not just because they are super entertaining. Not just because they can be hugely emotional. Not just because they are an amazing creative outlet for people making these podcasts. In addition to all of that, one major reason I’m discovering on why I love podcasts and why I love creating podcasts is because they change lives. They connect us with some of the best, most generous, most beautiful and loving people on this planet. They are pretty magical, if I say so myself. You are reading this as part of an event celebrating podcasting. You are either a fan, a creator or both. You are important to this community. You are beautiful and you are helping to shape this community and hobby, and you are loved because of it.

So, I ask you… How has podcasting changed your life?

RYAN BOELTER, CHARACTER CREATION CAST

Find Ryan: https://twitter.com/lordneptune
Find Character Creation Cast: http://charactercreationcast.com/

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