My partner and I often have a somewhat performative faux lovers’ spat about how he thinks I’m a dork, and how I think he’s a nerd.
Why we return to this discussion so often remains a mystery to me … although we are the same couple who once had a 40-minute “debate” about the relative benefits of stage left and stage right versus prompt and opposite prompt … so we are probably both dork and a nerd, and the semantics are a moot point.
Apparently, I’m a dork because I’m a Doctor Who obsessive who was reared on the novels of Jane Austen. And he is obviously a nerd because he can name every Roman Emperor and why they were important.
And then of course, there’s the fact that he plays Dungeons and Dragons. A lot.
He plays D&D with his friends, but also for a podcast called How To Win Loot And Influence Dragons, which we’re bringing to this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival for its first East Coast live show. Guest players feature each night, joining the original team.
D&D is a fascinating and complex form of storytelling, one that can be enjoyed by everyone, nerd, dork or otherwise. And since being introduced to it, I can honestly say it has changed my life.
In part due to nerd culture infiltrating the mainstream (Kim Kardashian openly revealing her love of anime, for example, and the Stars Wars and MCU franchises changing the nature of blockbusters) things that used to be considered uncool are now embraced by a digitally connected and globalised audience. The freedom to be passionate about niche artforms and cultural oddities, without the fear of being shamed, is one of the major benefits of our Global Village.
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My partner and I are both writers and we consume a wide variety of narrative forms. I frequently binge whatever’s trending on Netflix, I devour books, I enjoy poetry, I watch as many plays as I can afford, and I was front and centre for the opening of Endgame, so I’ve been around the block, so to speak. But after listening to The Adventure Zone, a live D&D podcast, the finale of their Balance Arc had me sobbing on my bed and subsequently walking around my house in a classical-Aristotelian cathartic daze.
Simply put, it was one of the most stunning narratives I had ever come across in my life. From then on, not only was I hooked on D&D, but also on podcasts. I remain spellbound by this new medium, and in particular, its ability to tell a compelling long-form aural narrative. Podcasts are like as-yet-undiscovered oceans of content, just waiting to be luxuriated in. Podcasts are indifferent to the central predicament of storytelling; that of maintaining an audience’s attention for a consistent, unbroken period of time.
After listening to The Adventure Zone and How To Win Loot And Influence Dragons, I became aware of the freedom that podcasting allows.
The improvisation and creative collaboration required to play D&D game is perfectly suited to the podcast format. The resulting product is all at once surprising, engaging and beautiful – and frequently refreshing with its inclusion of diverse characters within a fantasy context.
I don’t know about you, but if I have to experience another narrative written by straight white men with straight white men characters and just a few straight white women being dragged along the sides as either emotional motivation or just straight up sexualisation – I might scream.
Engaging with this game and exploring podcasts has informed my creative practice around storytelling in interesting and surprising ways. I am now less worried about making mistakes, and instead embrace them, following them to where they take me and in doing so, I have uncovered things about myself I didn’t know before. I believe anyone who explores like this, anyone with any creativity (which I also believe exists in everyone) will benefit from experiencing D&D.
So if you’re interested in D&D, storytelling, improv comedy, or all of the above, come and listen while a group of fantastic humans take you on a ride. Dork, nerd or cool cucumber, we don’t discriminate.
Because don’t we all deserve more interesting and daring ways of storytelling?*
How to Win Loot And Influence Dragons plays at the Kings Cross Hotel, September 27-29 and features Ben McAllister, Jackson Used, Grace Chapple and Thomas Owen, with special guests Erin Louise Taylor, Mikhail Mathias, and Kieran Clancy-Lowe. Production design by Ruru Zhu. Graphic design by Kirsten Browning. Produced by Curio Network with M. Saint Clair.
*Doritos and Mountain Dew not provided.