Carnage Munchkin

This past weekend, I spent some time weeding my game library. One of the treasures I stumbled across was this pair of cards from Munchkin Carnage, a fan-made version of Munchkin made by longtime friend of Carnage, Tom Mechler, which he ran at Carnage on the Mountain in 2013, the convention’s first year at the Killington ski resort. The hook was that players would encounter convention staff and other Carnage references as monsters, treasures and so forth in the course of the game. In my case, I got recognition as an role-playing game field marshal for Carnage — though I’m pretty sure that photo is of me running a Hellboy scenario at Northeast Wars — and as the producer of Carnagecast.

In retrospect, making Podcaster with a live mic a level one monster is rather poetic. Carnagecast never got the traction and audience engagement that I hoped for. It was a great learning experience, though, especially with learning to recognize your audience’s behaviors and interests.

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On Figuring It Out Yourself

The slogan Last week on The 40 Year Old Boy, “Let Me Get on Up,” the titular boy, Mike, had an epiphany of sorts. He’s been podcasting for eight years now, delivering a weekly monologue of absurdity with commendable regularity. This week, though, might be the first time he produced it himself. If it was a joke, it’s embedded throughout the episode, as Mike bemoans having to learn Audacity after putting it off for eight years, and Lili the producer laughs gleefully throughout as he comes to grips with having to figure it all out after leaving the work on her for so long.

The validity of Mike’s gripes aside, the chord he struck with me this week was figuring stuff out. When you’re on your own and you don’t have knowledgeable primary sources in your circle of friends, if you want to get anything done, you have to figure stuff out, whether it’s how to play a new board game or how to produce and publish a podcast. Problem-solving is a muscle to develop. Experience breeds eventual success, and success breeds confidence.

Happily, we live in the era of the internet, where there are innumerable how to guides and tutorials on any subject imaginable. The knowledge is available. You have to be willing to start somewhere, though, and you have to be willing to try and see what happens. I taught myself to play Arkham Horror thanks to the rules reference created by Universal Head — now the Esoteric Order of Gamers — and my disinterested yet patient cousin Margot. When I wanted to make a podcast, I figured it out twice. Once in the typical manner, with the PowerPress plugin to publish Carnagecast, and then a no-money route for Held Action Theatre, both times creating a podcast that, from the outside, looked and sounded like any other you would find in the iTunes store. That second time it was entirely about experimenting and testing the workflow. I’m still pretty proud of pulling together so many disparate parts to make a well-produced, syndicated podcast.

The same attitude went into creating Decked! I wanted to learn about publishing video on the web and building a YouTube channel in addition to putting out content for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. It also gave me the opportunity to experiment with live streaming a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, and learn about the software and hardware needs for that style of show.

To circle back to what first got me thinking about building the problem-solving muscle, it’s easy to put up barriers for ourselves. Mike puts up barriers of “I don’t know how to do that,” when he has access to resources to figure it out. I put up barriers of “I don’t have anything worthy to say.” While I enjoy overcoming technological and process-related problems, thinking I don’t have anything worth saying is a barrier with which I still struggle. So I give myself defined spaces in which to work on that, like starting up a blog about tabletop games, for instance. Most recently, it’s becoming fluent in Call of Cthulhu and better able to riff and ride a conversation to make commentary meaningful and entertaining.

And I am, of course, looking for the next opportunity to either exercise skills I have — I still harbor hopes of being able to focus on producing a podcast, rather than being producer-host-everything else — and learn how to do something new. I don’t want to talk about it publicly yet, but I have been learning about and implementing a live streaming installation that’s proven educational and unexpectedly challenging. (The educational part being “don’t needlessly complicate your solutions, Chet.”)

Carnagecast 60: Winter Weirdness 2015

carnagecast-rss-image-300With Winter Weirdness this past weekend in Barre, I took the opportunity to record an entirely solo episode of Carnagecast, talking about what I got to play and do that day.

I went out of my comfort zone on this episode. I always prefer to have another person with whom to converse on the podcast, but in this case, time was short and I was reminded there are people out there who have made the monologue their format of choice, like Mike Schmidt of The 40 Year Old Boy and Mike Luoma of Glow in the Dark Radio. Now, both Mikes are professional talkers and significantly practiced at their craft, so I’m thinking of this as a tiny glimpse into the format, a way to get a sense of what it’s like.

And after my first attempt — not counting short intros and outros I’ve done for prior Carnagecast episodes — I will say that recording solo is nerve-wracking. Every slip of the tongue is amplified when talking to oneself. Next time — and I guess there will be a next time, because now I can no longer lament not being able to line up a guest in time to post for Monday morning — I think I’ll go for more of the audio essay style, probably because I plowed through a head of Rumblestrip Vermont episodes over the weekend. I am nothing if not a palimpsest of influences.

Carnagecast 58: A Recap Full of Carnage

carnagecast-rss-image-300After a nice post-convention rest, we are back with a new episode of Carnagecast, talking about how A Fistful of Carnage went. Ray and I spent most of our weekends in the Snowshed, so we have the inside skinny on role-playing games and card games. The new Dungeons & Dragons edition turned out to be the most demanded game in the role-playing hall, which says a lot for the name’s ability to outlast nerd rage.

It’s a nice little conversation, and I’m glad to be back in the swing of recording episodes. Listen in!

Carnagecast 57: Gulveig

carnagecast-rss-image-300Ray flies solo in Carnagecast this week as Andrew Valkauskas, designer of the Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok talks about his new card game Gulveig, what Carnage-goers can look forward to at the convention next month and plans for Fate of the Norns as a tabletop game property in 2015.

Maybe I shouldn’t break the fourth wall on this, but I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone to learn that I ran the board on this episode. I made an inadvertent tribute to one of my favorite comedy personalities, Paul F. Tompkins, by blurt laughing off-mic when I was supposedly absent from the recording. We struggled with Skype on this as Andrew gamely kept shuffling his desktop arrangement to eliminate the issue, but I hope you’ll stick through the rocky audio.

Carnagecast 56: Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League

carnagecast-rss-image-300This week on Carnagecast, we talked with Al Spader from Jetpack Comics about Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast’s new Adventurers League organized play structure and what Dungeons & Dragons-related fun folks can expect at A Fistful of Carnage in Killington this November.

Probably my favorite part of this episode was sitting more fully in the producer/engineer’s seat, which is my wheelhouse by trade and inclination. Ray leading the interview gave me the opportunity to focus more on making sure everyone sounded good. Sometimes this makes me feel hyper-critical, as I want to re-take every statement covered up by incidental noise, but having the freedom to watch the audio levels and listen for quality without also tracking the conversation and moving it forward was a rare treat for me, and greatly enjoyed.

Carnagecast 55: The Legend of Curly’s Errata

carnagecast-rss-image-300Our run-up to A Fistful of Carnage, Vermont’s tabletop game convention the first weekend in November on the slopes of Killington Peak, continues with a new episode of Carnagecast. We talk about the newly unveiled schedule of games, our first trips to Carnage and agree that, on reflection, taurine is not a meal.

The preparation for Carnage and professional commitments keeps me busy these days. After the convention, my plan is for the podcast will return to an every other Monday schedule. We’re on the final leg of 2014, but like winter, Carnage is always coming. It’s important to pace oneself through the winter and spring months in keeping the Carnage flame alive.

Carnagecast 54: Shuffle Up and Deal

carnagecast-rss-image-300Amid all the hubbub of the Carnage book posting on Monday, I didn’t get the chance to relay some other doings. Carnagecast posted a new episode as well: Shuffle Up and Deal. Ray and I talk about card games, mostly.

Ray’s a Magic man for a long time running. I got out at Homelands, because it was just that terrible, by all accounts. He informs me on the Elder Dragon / Commander format, and I carefully pick the moments where I ask him to expand on something.

I get to talk about as openly about Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game as I’ve ever gotten to without feeling the burning pity of someone who likes something else better.

And you know, after we recorded this episode, I did teach Ray Call of Cthulhu, and sent him on his way with Romance of the Nine Empires. I got to see the truly glory of the explorer Roald Ellsworth, bouncing in and out of play with Ultima Thule. Ray found that one. It was pretty cool to see in action.

Carnagecast 53: A Fistful of Carnage

carnagecast-rss-image-300A new episode of Carnagecast posted last night. Carnage staffer Ray joined me to talk about the upcoming A Fistful of Carnage game convention in Killington, Vermont next month, November 7th through the 9th.

We talked a bit about what’s on the schedule — keeping it spoiler-free, of course — and some things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Killington. It gets cool up there on the mountain in November!

The convention book should be mailing out and appearing online imminently, so I took this episode as an opportunity to get back into the swing of recording, as well as recognize the culmination of a great deal of background work is about to pay off for all the attendees who have been looking forward to another great weekend of playing games at Carnage.

And seriously, I will be hanging out at the Snowshed information desk most of the weekend. Come say hi!

Carnagecast 52: Penny Press

carnagecast-rss-image-300At last week’s Game ‘n Grill game day, I got to interview[1] Robert Dijkman Dulkes and Matt Golec, two local gamers who not only designed a game of their own, Penny Press, but entered it in a design competition and emerged as co-victors. Now they’re raising funds to make the game even better than what their prize money enables.

We talk about how the game plays, their design process, the experience of participating Tabletop Deathmatch, which is part concept pitch, part reality series, and more.

Go listen to it!


[1] Fun fact: we recorded this episode in a Sunday school art room.