Episode 32: Dungeons & Dragons (with Eric Silver)

We're keeping it fresh at Pairing with a brand new topic: games! Emma is joined by Eric Silver (Join the Party, HORSE) to talk about the original Role Playing Game, Dungeons and Dragons. Whether or not you play D&D, if you like storytelling, you'll love this episode! They talk about similarities between Nerd culture and Wine culture, gatekeeping v. inclusivity, and the importance of names. Plus: hot takes on Bards, The Kingkiller Chronicles, Dragon Wines, "sommelier-ing",  horror twins, Daddy Warlock, dope swords, a high constitution for Chardonnay, and Josh.

Eric is the host and Dungeon Master of Join the Party, co-host of HORSE, and member of Multitude Productions. Check out Multitude's website for podcasting resources, and to hire him as a podcasting consultant! Follow Eric on Twitter @el_silvero.

Check out our new Merch store! If you pledge on the Patreon between now and March 31st, 2019, you'll receive a free sticker at the $3+ level, and a free T-shirt at the $15+ level!

Can't commit to the Patreon? Throw Emma $3 on her new Ko-fi page, and see what she's up to!

Transcript: (By John-Paul Cirelli)

Emma: Hello and welcome to Pairing, a podcast where we pair wine with art and pop culture. I am your host,  Emma Sherr-Ziarko, and for this episode, we are continuing to mix it up by talking about a new, though perhaps not foreign, topic to Pairing, gaming and Dungeons and Dragons. I was joined by Eric Silver of Multitude Productions, Horse, and Join the Party, a D&D podcast.

Eric is a seasoned gamer and the host and Dungeon Master of Join the Party, which I highly recommend if you don't already listen to it. Like with Join the Party, you will enjoy this episode whether you're a D&D pro or you've never played the game before. I had a great time talking with Eric about diversity and accessibility in both the gaming and wine worlds, and also just about the different facets of storytelling and rule-breaking. So if those things sound interesting to you, you will love this episode.

Okay, we've got a bunch of exciting announcements this week. First, in case you haven't seen it, we've got merch. We are so excited to have our logo, designed by the brilliant Darcy Zimmerman and Katie Huey, up on t-shirts, tote bags, pillows, phone cases, stickers, and more. I'm working with Katie on getting a few more designs on our store, but for now, definitely check it out at thepairingpodcast.com/merch. I'll link it in the show notes.

In honor of our merch and our upcoming Patreon anniversary, we're going to be running a few specials in March. If you join us now through March 31st at the $3 or up level, you will get a free sticker. And if you join us as a producer at the $15 or up level, you will get a free t-shirt. Don't you want to show the world how much you love stories, cats, and wine? Do not snooze on this deal.

Speaking of Patreon, we are thrilled to welcome our friends at the Beacon Podcast to our team. It is so humbling to have the support of other creators. And if you haven't yet, go check out the Beacon Pod. If you like D&D and fantasy, you will surely love the Beacon.

Also, a huge thank you to Emma Cohen, whom you may remember from the Sorcerer's Stone episodes, who upped her pledge to become a producer. I swear she didn't even know that she would get a free t-shirt. She'll also get access to this month's bonus episode, which delves into the intricacies of wine bottle shapes and sizes. Thank you to Emma, whom even Eric would like if she were a bard, and to our advanced producer, Mara Zobrist, who is way cooler than any ranger I know.

Even if you don't join us this month on the Patreon, we have added merch as rewards to several of our tiers. So definitely come check us out at patreon.com/pairingpodcast.

Also, I have to say that the audio extras for this episode are especially good this week. It will make more sense once you've listened to the episode, but it's Winston reading a piece he wrote based on a board game character defeating Cthulha, daughter of Cthulhu, and you can listen to it for as little as $3 a month. It's pretty awesome.

Last little plug. I have created a Ko-Fi page for myself. So if you'd like to support the show but don't feel able to commit to a monthly donation, you can toss me a few dollars there. I'll also link that in the show notes, and you can check out what else I'm up to. And don't forget you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to your friends. Those are free but priceless ways to help us out.

I also wanted to make a little recommendation based on this week's topic. I just binge the show The Dragon Prince on Netflix, which I absolutely adored. It's an animated series from the creators of  Avatar and Korra that is based on many D&D elements. I watched all of it in about three nights, and I'm probably going to re-watch it again tonight while Winston's out of town. It's amazing. It's diverse. It's got dragons. Just watch it. You know you've got to binge something after Russian Doll.

Okay, there's a lot more exciting stuff coming up, so stay tuned. But for now, I'll shut up. Without further ado, (opening chord) here is Episode 32: Dungeons & Dragons with Eric Silver.  

(Intro Music)

-I'm very excited to welcome to Pairing  Eric Silver, Dungeon Master and gamer and podcaster extraordinaire.

Eric: (laughs)

Emma: And I am so excited to-- this is something that I've been wanting to talk about on Pairing for a long time. Even though we were just talking about-- it's not technically, like, an art form in the sense of what we've been talking about before, but lots of people have requested gaming episodes,  and I've been wanting to talk about it for a long time. So I am very excited to talk about D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons., and some other games with Mr. Silver here.

Eric: That's me. I'm going to talk about every game ever created. Congratulations.

Emma: Every  game ever.

Eric: And you're gonna have to pair wine with every single one.

Emma: Every single one. All right, let's go. So Eric, for those listening who maybe don't know, maybe give a little background on your experience with D&D and gaming.

Eric: Sure. Well, first of all, for people who don't know, Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game, meaning that there aren't exactly rules and winners and losers and points. But it's more about, like, telling a story together with your friends that is set within a world that one player, who is the Dungeon Master, kind of sets up the plot of that world.

So imagine that the Dungeon Master is writing a novel, and all of the players are characters in the novel, but the characters have agency and can kind of do whatever they want, and the plot has to follow them as they run around.

Emma: Awesome. So like kind of cooperative storytelling.

Eric: Yeah. I always think about this in terms of Harry Potter. Like, imagine if Hermione had agency.

Emma: (laughs) Don't we all wish?

Eric:  Yeah, because there's no way that she would actually do like half the things that J.K. Rowling tells her to do.

Emma: Right, of course.

Eric: So Ron is like, (groans) I hate all of this. In Hermione's like, that's cool, I'm going to go study. Deuces. And then the plot just needs to follow Hermione as she goes around there.

Emma: Which is the story that we are all begging for. Harry Potter from Hermione's perspective. That is awesome. I'm just going to start off real quick with just a little wine thing that I thought of.

Eric: Oh, please do.

Emma: Because-- so, you know a lot of people, when I talk to them about wine, they're like, oh well, I don't know anything about wine, I just pick it by the label. And sometimes that's not necessarily a bad thing, and I am often guilty of that too. And, as I'm sure we'll talk about, often dragons are not actually a part of Dungeons & Dragons, or  they don't have to be. But I am a huge nerd, and so I love anything with dragons on it. So there are a couple of wines that have dragons on the label that I wanted to recommend to people.

Eric: Oh hell yeah.

Emma: Right? So one of my absolute favorites is actually called Dragon, and it's made by one of the most prestigious producers in Piedmont, which is in Northwest Italy. That's where, if you've heard of Barolo and Barbaresco, that's where they come from. But this one is a white wine, and it's a blend, and so they call it a Langhe Bianco. And it's called Dragon. The winemaker is Luigi Baudana, and it does have a really cool dragon on it.

Eric: Luigi Baudana is the new character I'm putting in my campaign, so thank you for that.

Emma: Yes! Made it!

Eric: You started talking, and I'm like, I'm going to put that name in my campaign.

Emma: Yes, I love it. I love it. Luigi Baudana is such a great name, right?

Eric: Yes.

Emma: So that's my first recommendation. My second recommendation is a wine that I was actually drinking I think during the third episode of Pairing where we were talking about Ursula Le Guin. And that wine is called Land of Saints, and that's made by Angela Osborne, who's one of my favorite winemakers in California. So that one's a red wine, and I think that's a blend of Grenache and Syrah. So it's a little bit more of a full-bodied red, but it has a really cool dragon and knight on the label.  

Eric: Hell yeah.

Emma: Yeah, I was super excited when we got that in. So anyway, I wanted to start off by recommending some dragon wines.

Eric: Oh, thank you.

Emma: Oh, absolutely.

Eric: I feel so happy that these are real, these dragon wines.

Emma: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Everyone needs them in their life.

Eric: This introduction reminded me of two things that I definitely wanted to talk to you about.

Emma: Yes, please.

Eric: These are two things that are around sommeliering, which-- (laughs) which is obviously the word.

Emma: The proper term, yes. (laughs)

Eric: Yeah. So I think the first thing is, do you know about Josh wines?

Emma: Yeah, Josh Cellars?

Eric: Yeah.

Emma: Yeah, I do!

Eric: Isn't that bananas, that that's the name of a wine, is just Josh?

Emma: Yes. Yeah. I think the winemaker-- I think his name isn't Josh. I think his dad's name is Josh, and so he named the wine after that. But yeah, I actually really like the the Josh Cellars wines. But yeah, it's a very silly name. There's a lot of those in California. There's also a Justin.

Eric: (laughs)

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) There's Josh, Justin. There's probably a Jason.

Eric: First of all, that's amazing. Thank you so much.

Emma: You're so welcome.

Eric: This is tied into something that I have to do. I'm the Dungeon Master, so I'm the one who runs the story. So I need to come up with names a lot.

Emma: Yes.

Eric: And it's funny to me. Naming a wine is a lot like naming a book or naming a movie. Like you don't want it to be too on the nose, but you also want it to relate to the thing that's happening, and you kind of want to embody everything so that when people pick up the label or pick up your book or create this character, they know what they're getting into.

Emma: Totally.

Eric: But I always find it so funny with Josh wines especially, because I saw a bunch of commercials for Josh wines, and I'm like, why would you name your wine Josh?

Emma: (laughs) It's true. It's very silly. But I love that. It's like on Join the Party, which is the D&D podcast that you DM, in case anybody listening doesn't know that. It's amazing. You should go listen to that immediately.

Eric: jointhepartypod.com. Go check it out.

Emma: Go check it out. But that's one of the things I love about it, is that right off the bat, you get Alonso, which feels like a very D&D kind of name, and then you get Greg.

Eric: Yeah.

Emma: (laughs) And it's awesome. I love how you name the characters and your process of doing that. I think it's perfect, like a perfect blend of classic D&D and modern storytelling.

Eric: Yeah, I think that it's worth thinking-- well, first of all, thank you. That's very kind of you to say.

Emma: Of course. Yes.

Eric: Yeah, I think about how fantasy and our modern world collide in a lot of ways, because things that are in fantasy are fantastical because they are allowed, but things in our modern world are fantastical because we're like, what are you doing? This makes absolutely no sense.

Emma: Right.

Eric: So it's funny that you say it, because Alonso Kiko is an inverted name of Kiko Alonso, who is a football player.

Emma: Oh my god, that's so funny.

Eric: But like, that's a real name. But Kiko Alonso is way more buck wild than Alonso Kiko.

Emma: That's really true. I love that.

Eric: Just pulling from what we have around us. Which is also the funny thing about Josh wines, because I couldn't believe that it existed, and I kept-- (laughs) I thought that, like-- I mean obviously, yeah, he named it after his dad, but it's like, who was the person that names it Josh? So I kept making this silly voice for it. Like, (in silly voice) "I'm Josh, and these  are my wines!"

Emma: (laughs)

Eric: And then I ended up making Josh into a character from our live show.

Emma: Oh my god, I love it!

Eric: So he was the head of the parks department, and because I love giving myself voices that I find funny, I'm like, (in silly voice) "I'm Josh! You have to save the parks!"

Emma: (laughs)

Eric: So the way that other people name also affect how I name. Like, the way that people choose to name things in the modern world affect how I'm going to name this fantasy world. Because I want it to be as-- not even disconcerning, but like, the only thing I can think of is fantastical or like fictional or silly. Because I mean, what we find silly here is just going to be as silly when you put it into a fantasy context.

Emma: It's totally, totally true.

Eric: The other thing that I wanted to bring up-- so that's one, that's Josh wines.

Emma: Yes Josh. Glad we got that. (laughs)

Eric: The other thing I wanted to bring up is how do you get into wine so much? Like, it seems very antiquated in a way that it makes me think of the way that people used to get into role-playing games.

Emma: Yeah. That's actually a really great connection. I love that. Thank you. I think that in some ways it's very similar. How I relate my journey through wine and wine education is very similar to my theater education. Or, you know, what else was I really into in college? I was into, like, Spanish. It's kind of like learning a language. It's a discipline. And to me, it's like there is so, so much to learn about wine, and it is important to learn about, as you say, kind of the "antiquated," quote-unquote, stuff. And learn about the basics, learn about those techniques, and learn about how wine is made traditionally, how it has been made for thousands of years. But there's a whole lot of young, new winemakers or people in the wine industry, and they are really trying to keep it fresh and keep it new.

I think that relating that, as you did very expertly, to role-playing games, I think that a lot of people kind of have this idea of D&D that's very similar to an idea of what wine and getting into  wine is, which it's very niche and very specific, when really, I think that both are things that if you get into them a little bit, you learn how accessible they can be and how much fun they can be.

So for me, I find wine fascinating because it really helps me-- it kind of helps me understand the world a little bit better. At the end of the day, my mantra with wine is "if you enjoy it, then it's good." You know? Tasting wine is totally subjective. If someone tastes a wine and says, "Oh, I get strawberries and salts and metal in here," it's like, okay. You get that because you tasted it, and you can't be wrong about what you perceive.

Eric: Sure.

Emma: That's just my rule. But I think that that's a really great way to kind of equate getting into wine, wine education, etc. with role-playing. Because, as you can hear from listening to Join the Party, it is not necessarily what you would think if you think Dungeons & Dragons.

Eric: Right. Yeah, when you're talking about this whole thing-- nerd culture is like if you took all of the traditions that you believe-- it's like you walk into Buckingham Palace and there is a very specific way you're supposed to greet the Queen. But with nerd culture, it's like those things calcify with in like six months, and then it's like, yes, this has been our tradition forever.

Emma: Right. (laughs)

Eric: So it's like when you're talking about being a sommelier and you're talking about wine, we're talking about hundreds and hundreds of years of this--

Emma: Tradition or--

Eric: --institution, or just, like, the trade of being a sommelier.

Emma: Yeah, the trade. It's like the industry. Yeah.

Eric: Right, but D&D has been around for only since the '70s, but there have been like six editions of it, and it keeps changing. But then automatically people have like, this is what it is. This is how it's going to be. It will not change.

Emma: Yeah.

Eric: So that's something that I have to think about all of the time. I mean, I am a straight, cis, white male who has a very steady pop culture diet of people who would traditionally enjoy Dungeons & Dragons, but I also want it to be for everyone. Which is similar to what I think-- like, you are a human person who I have met, and you also have this wild, intricate, deep knowledge of wine, and you are coming--

Emma: (reluctant groan)

Eric: Well, I'm going to say compared to everybody else.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) No, thank you. Thank you. Yeah.

Eric: Because it's mostly about comparison to the general population.

Emma: Yes. Yes, I would say--

Eric: Like, you know much, much-- if there are a hundred people in a room, you probably know the most about wine in the room.

Emma: It's possible. It's possible. Maybe maybe like one or two other people would know more than I do.

Eric: Exactly. And that's how I feel about Dungeons & Dragons, but it's it's my job to make people also want to play the game that I'm doing. Because it's crazy, because there are so many things that are like a tradition, because it is like a trade or a job and needs to be passed down, so there are experts, but Dungeons & Dragons is a game. And it has just as many barriers and gatekeeping as wine tasting.

Emma: Absolutely.

Eric: Which blows my mind.

Emma: And you know, I don't know enough about the culture of D&D specifically that brought it to this point where only certain people really get into it. What I think what is so wonderful about what you and the rest of the Join the Party team are doing is, like, really making it accessible, and that's a wonderful thing about podcasts, I think, is that that's a really great way to make something accessible to people who wouldn't necessarily go after that or look into that. And that's sort of my idea with Pairing as well. I wanted to make wine accessible, in a way, while still kind of teaching about it.  I'm not trying to dumb it down or anything, but I am trying to make it interesting in the way that it's interesting to me.

Eric: Yes.

Emma: And so again, I see that connection there. So yeah, and I'm curious about what you think about where D&D is now. And maybe you could talk about a little bit how you got into D&D and gaming and stuff like that.

Eric: I would love to.

Emma: Yeah, that would be awesome.

Eric: So I can start with how I got into it, and I think this might segue way very nicely into media criticism. Because honestly, I do think about this stuff a lot, so I will try to make this as palatable and not niche as possible. So I'll start with my story, and it turns out that this story is very similar to the way that a lot of other people got into it.

Emma: Awesome.

Eric: I knew about Dungeons & Dragons for a while just because I was kind of on the fringe of a lot of quote "nerdy" exploits. Like, I love board games. I love video games. I was around a bunch of nerdy other people. And after a while, I just wanted to play, because I just wanted to participate. So at one point, I got to play with a bunch of different people who were trying to put together a few games. And then I started just being a Dungeon Master because I-- well, first of all, not many people want to do it because it's a lot of undertaking.

Emma: It's hard. It's really hard.

Eric: It is. It's difficult, but also not as difficult as you-- okay, that's a whole other tangent.

Emma: Well, it's a lot of work, I would say. I think you probably have to put a lot more time into it than if you just play.

Eric: Yes, you have to know all the rules, and you also need to build a story and everything. But I kind of just jumped in feet first because I wanted to do it, and also I wanted to be this storyteller. I used to play this game with my friends called Scenario. And basically the game was just like my friends would tell me a scenario, and I would come up with a genre-based story about all of our friends in this scenario.

Emma: I love that. I want to play that game.

Eric: It's funny, because the game is just me telling you a story.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) Hey, I'll still play it.

Eric: It's really good. And I mean, I've known these people for so long that it's like all of my friends occupy very specific archetypes in my head. So it got easy for me because I could identify it. But after a while, I just wanted to do this thing, and then I started DMing for Julia Schifini and for Amanda McLoughlin, and we had this game going for a little bit just because I wanted to do it. And I did make Julia cry on a story that I came up with after like 20 minutes. I just want to say that out loud.

Emma: (laughs) Success! Success!

Eric: Yeah, then we started putting together Join the Party because there were a lot of things that were lacking in the Dungeons & Dragons space that we thought that we could do better, honestly.

Emma:  Yeah.

Eric: I have a whole other treatise about that, but I think that there was a lot to be desired both from a story perspective and audio perspective and an inclusivity perspective.

Emma: Mmm. Yeah, absolutely.

Eric: Which I think is tied to a larger idea of nerd culture and who we are allowed to accept and who is allowed to enjoy the things that the people who were traditionally beaten down as nerds or geeks-- shoutout to the '80s for cementing that and calcifying that.

Emma: Woot woot.

Eric: So yeah, thank you. And that we could kind of open it up. And then I started my first actual campaign is one that I decided to put on a microphone. Which was a choice.

Emma: Well, it was incredibly brave, but you really made a really wonderful thing, and I really think that you're right that you filled a gap in what was missing. You mentioned inclusivity, and I think that that's a huge part. I guess it is a huge kind of problematic issue I see in a lot of nerd culture. So I commend you for that.

Eric: Listen, I have such complicated feelings about it, because it's like on one hand, I'm like, yes, I want everyone to participate. I want everyone to feel like they are a part of this story and I care about it. But honestly, it is-- and I've talked about this before-- but it's like it's easy for me to write diverse characters because my life is pretty diverse. I know what it's like to have different types of people as friends and in my community. So when I started Join the Party, I'm like, this should start out as a wedding. Hmm. What if the wedding was two dudes? Cool. And then I just start writing, and alright, these are my main NPCs. And I find that both important and easy. But it's like, oh man, I don't know how-- did you see my chase mechanics? Like, yo, I spent so long trying to figure out these chase mechanics.

So it's hard for me to reconcile the fact that something that I find easy is also something that I find so important. And I think that there's this massive gap where the mechanics, or the hardness of the fantasy or the sci-fi, is what people lean on so much that they ignore the inclusivity. This bothers me so much. You know the Name of the Wind books?

Emma: Yes. Yes, I do.

Eric: Or what do they call it? The Kingkiller Chronicles?

Emma: Kingkiller Chronicles, yeah.

Eric: So I read it before, and I have some feelings about it.

Emma: Yeah?

Eric: So Patrick Rothfuss is heralded as this new Tolkien, and also because he has a woman in it, it's like a big deal.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) Oooh, a woman!

Eric: Yeah, shoutout Patrick Rothfuss.  

Emma: Yeah, way to go.

Eric: He gets to play in all these Dungeons & Dragons games, and he's like this font of feminism in the fantasy space, right? But there's this part in the second book, which bothers me so much, where Kvothe basically saves this woman from basically sex slavery. She was like kidnapped and--

Emma: I think I remember this, yeah. I read it a long time ago.

Eric: Yeah, she was kidnapped by people who were like bards but were bad, and he's like of good bards, but like the bards are also gypsies, and it's like this whole thing. It's super strange. So then as he's on horseback and riding her back to her town, she's like, I hate everyone so much, I hate the men who did this to me. And then immediately Kvothe comes back with literally saying, "Not all men are terrible."

Emma: (groans)

Eric: And we're just going to ignore the fact that he just says "not all men?" Like we're just gonna let that one slide, dog? And the world itself, I mean, I think of it as like a beacon of world-building, and I know that people love it because it has a very hard idea of economics and magic and the way that the world functions. But it's like, I'm not going to ignore the fact that your main character just told a woman who is redeemed out of sex slavery, "Not all men." Like, I'm not gonna let that slide.

Emma: Yeah. So I think I read the second one probably like five years ago or something like that. And sort of before-- I mean, not before all this was happening, but kind of before the MeToo movement came to a forefront, and so I think that didn't register for me as clearly. I think I remember feeling weird about it. I was like, hmm, that's a weird thing, but it wasn't quite as on the nose as that sounds. I will have to go back and revisit. But yeah, I think  for Patrick Rothfuss and The Kingkiller Chronicles, there are great things about them, but there are very problematic things about them. Just as in both, I think, gaming and wine culture, there are great things and there are kind of progressive things, and then there are really antiquated, non-inclusive things.

Eric: Yeah.

Emma: This is a quick sidebar. I. got into a bit of a row once with one of my co-workers who was a straight, cis, white man who wanted to tell me what it was like to be a woman in the wine industry.

Eric: (laughs)

Emma: And eventually his argument was like-- because I was challenging him--  I was like, you have no idea what it's like to be a woman in the wine industry. And he was like, well, talk to my mom. I was like--

Eric: Yikes.

Emma: Why do I want to talk to your mom? (laughs) He was like, well, because I love her, and she knows I'm a feminist.

Eric: (groans)

Emma: I don't want to talk to your mom! Anyway, quick sidebar. Quick sidebar. And yes, there's a lot of problems in the wine industry with sexism. Racism is a huge one. I don't know-- this is one thing that I kind of wanted to look into-- there are not very many out people, or at least out queer people in the wine industry that I know. But I think there's like--

Eric: Interesting.

Emma: I mean, in kind of restaurant culture, sure. Absolutely. But in terms of winemakers and  sommeliers, I can't think of any. Which is, you know, kind of problematic. Very problematic. So anyway, so that's something I think about in the wine industry as well, which is in many ways a rich white man's club. And it's growing past that, and a lot of people are making strides to move past that, but it's definitely a problem.

Eric: For sure. Hmm. I have so many thoughts about that.

Emma: I know. I know. (laughs)

Eric: So I think that I'll try to hold onto two here. So the first one is when you're talking about (laughs) this guy is trying to prove to you that he is being a feminist by telling you how your experience is. I'm like, that's how I feel sometimes when I am a Dungeon Master. Like, I'm creating this world and trying to populate it with as many different types of people as possible, but I can only truly tell one story. So it's like I feel like I'm doing some amount by putting these people in, but that's when I always point towards what Amanda's doing-- Amanda McLoughlin-- as Inara, who is our bi disaster rogue assassin.

Emma: (laugh) Yes. She's amazing.

Eric: She truly is. But I love pointing towards her autonomous work as a player, because it's by her wanting to be this person that I have been able to  flesh out her world. It's like, well, Inara has crushes on older women. How many older women can I throw it at her so that it is extremely funny when she fails all of her flirting?

Emma: (laughs) Yeah.

Eric: So it's like if I didn't have that character, I wouldn't be able to flesh out this world in this way. So it's like I want to point towards someone who's-- her existence is like the engine that also fuels the amount of representation that I can actively put in my game, on one hand. On the other hand-- so that's one-- the other thing is that what you were saying about who sommeliers are, I think, is also the same. And what bothers me also about Patrick Rothfuss is that he occupies only these two archetypes of nerddom. People who are allowed to revel in these. You have the Chris Hardwick on one side, and you have the Wil Wheaton on the other side.

Emma: Yep, yep.

Eric: So they're both straight, white men, but Chris Hardwick is the charismatic, take no prisoners, just tear you down nerd on one side. And then Wil Wheaton is this classic, beaten down but still has this community of people surrounding him, and so he's allowed to do whatever he wants because he has all of his nerd friends behind him. And on one hand, we found out that Chris Hardwick is a terrible person.

Emma: Yep.

Eric: I cannot remember off the top of my head if Wil Wheaton is a terrible person.

Emma: As far as we know, I don't think he is.

Eric: I don't think so, right. But it's like Patrick Rothfuss can slot into this Wil Wheaton archetype and be this person.

Emma: Right, right.

Eric:  I'm not even saying-- like, not only are there no occupying spaces for anyone who doesn't look like these people, for people of color, for queer people, for women, women or non-binary people. There's also not even that space for that many different type of men.

Emma: Yeah.

Eric: Which also eliminates a lot of the stories that we can tell. Which is so difficult. And my story going into Dungeon & Dragons is traditional. Like, I found it, I read all the stuff, and I then did it. But a lot of people don't have that story or weren't allowed to get their hands on the books or be enthusiastic about it.

Emma: Right.

Eric: Which is related to what you were saying about a sommelier is this person that we have in our head, who is this rich, white guy who was able to drink wine for 20 years and go to Italy whenever he wants. And it's similar to the person who is allowed to be a propagator of Dungeons & Dragons and share it. And then that person is the one who shares it with all of his friends, and his friends all look the same like him.

Emma: Exactly.

Eric: And all have the same ideas. So I always tack onto when I say I am a straight, white man who is doing this, I also have a very specific pop culture diet. I'm always sure to say that, that it's like I was allowed to revel in this place because I was allowed to be this person, and other people weren't.

Emma: No, absolutely. And I think that's very responsible of you to recognize.

Eric: Yeah, it's difficult to just keep that in mind, but at the same time it was like, yo, check out these chase mechanics that I came up with, though.

Emma: Right? Yeah. I was just thinking about it. I was like, I'd like to think that I'm the Felicia Day of the wine industry.

Eric: (laughs)

Emma: Because she's one person who has sort of started being recognized as an authority in nerd culture, and that is really cool. She, again, she is at least a woman, but as far as I know, she's not queer, and she's white. And so there's a lot of privilege there too. But I remember a few years ago, like Gamergate and all that-- so horrible. You know, and stuff like that happens everywhere. It happens everywhere. And so I think that like projects like Join the Party and people like you in gaming being very conscious of the content that you're putting into your games, I think that's really, really important and will eventually help it be more accessible and more inclusive.

Eric: Yeah, I can only hope so. I mean, thank you. I appreciate that. But--

Emma: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Eric: You never know what you're doing. And I mean, we have many people  reach out and say this is their first foray into Dungeons & Dragons and they want to start playing. And it makes my heart grow three sizes. But you know, you can only do so much. I mean, I just want to teach people so that they'll play the game that I love with me. If someone is open-minded and quick on the draw, I want them to be a part of my game. So I will do whatever I can to make it grow.

Emma: That's awesome. Just quickly, I realized I didn't mention I have a very small amount of experience with D&D. I was in one campaign in college that my good friend Sean Richard-- shoutout-- he was the DM. And Ariela Rotenberg, who is also on Wolf 359, she was also in the campaign.

Eric: Nice. Nice.

Emma: Which was super fun. As well as a couple other of our friends. And I played a druid elf, which is, you know, like the most me thing that I can think of. And again, listening to Join the Party has really inspired me to want to get back into D&D and play again, because it's so fun and really has opened my mind up to what the game can be. And you know, I was playing over 10 years ago, so I think that it has evolved a great deal since I was playing.

Eric: Absolutely.

Emma: Do you have any thoughts on that and how the game has evolved?

Eric: Yeah. I think that 5th Edition, which is the current one that people are playing and Wizards of the Coast are selling right now, it has really opened the door for role-playing. And Dungeons & Dragons has moved a little bit away from its roots as a-- you know it used to be a war playing game? Gary Gygax was super into moving soldiers, like recreating the Civil War with little  figurines and miniatures. And that's originally where D&D came from, but now it's become this like storytelling tool, and I think that it's become a lot more flexible. I mean you were playing 3.5, which is pretty much-- like, did you have like a board?

Emma: I think we did. Yeah, I think we did.

Eric: So being able to tell that story without needing a miniature, without needing a board, and being it all in your mind, it allows a lot more flexibility, and you can get out of a situation or conflict however you want. Which, honestly for someone who's on a storytelling podcast, very good for me.

Emma: Yeah, I think it would be tough if you were playing on a board, and it's like, you can move six spaces. That would be a little more challenging and harder to translate into an audio medium.

Eric: Oh, for sure. I DM differently as someone who's on the podcast as I would if I was running a game for you.

Emma:  Sure.

Eric: Because I can be silly. I can explain things easier by doing them in person. I can draw pictures. But for DMing on a podcast, I need to make sure that everyone can envision what's happening-- both my players and the audience-- or then it doesn't work. I think a really interesting way to think about Dungeons & Dragons and the way that it's grown, I talked to this woman, Lauren Bilanko, who runs my friendly local game store-- that is Twenty Sided Store in Brooklyn, New York. If you use Join the Party, you can get 20% off. (mumbles)

Emma: Go check it out. Go check it out.

Eric: So I talked to her for an interview. I asked her why 5th edition feels so much different than 3.5 or 4, and she said that Dungeons & Dragons is like a tree. And it first started out as a sapling that Gary Gygax planted into the front of his house. And then over the last 30 years, it has grown and grown and grown. And now with 4th Edition, which was very much board game and video game-esque, it became just this massive oak with branches that reach out in ways and blocks your driveway and knocks against your window when you're trying to sleep. And then 5th Edition is like someone cut down that tree and turned it into a canoe.

Emma: I love that. I love that image.

Eric:  Like whittled it down, and it turned into this thing that can truly-- yeah, I loved it so much-- it can truly go anywhere. And it is still made out of that tree, but just because it's become this finer product that doesn't have as much of the weight as it was while it was growing for 30 years. And I love that because it's like, yeah, I want this canoe. I want this canoe, and I want to go somewhere with it.

Emma: Yeah. That reminds me of something that I think you've said several times on the podcast, that the great thing about D&D is you're given these rules-- and I think it's referring to 5 specifically-- you're given these rules, but once you have the rules and you know the rules, then you can break them.

Eric: Exactly.

Emma: And that's sort of one of my philosophy as any sort of creative person. I love having restrictions. I love having rules. Because I think that that actually yields much greater creativity than if you're just like, well, here you go. You can do whatever you want. But then once you understand the rules, then you can break them. And I think that kind of yields the most satisfying creative moments in my life.

Eric: Absolutely. I totally agree with that. You know, Amanda has spoken about how she started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and her brother was super into RPGs and would play like every night or like every weekend in their basement. And she was like, yeah, I never was invited to play, and I thought they were just like rolling dice, and every time they rolled a die they just decided what would happen next.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs)

Eric: That sounds so boring. I'm so glad that that's not the game that we're playing.

Emma: Nope. Me too. Me too. You know, I had sort of a similar experience, because my brother, who is an older brother, he was really into RPGs. And he was really into Magic as well. I remember he played a lot of magic.

Eric: Oh my god, I could do a whole other episode about card playing games. Jeez.

Emma: Oh yeah. But my brother he was just super into like, you know, D&D, video games, role-playing games, card games, deck building games. And I didn't really get into it until college. And then since I've been with Winston, my now husband, he's really into board games specifically, and so we play a ton of board games.

Eric: Oh, that's awesome.

Emma: Yeah, but now I'm like, I really want to play D&D again. So I'm going to have to find some peeps.

Eric: Yeah. It's funny that you say that your brother was super into D&D and then you found it from a friend in college. I feel like when I talk to women who are into D&D now, they always say like, yeah, my older brother or my ex-boyfriend-- it's never current  boyfriend, it's always an ex-boyfriend-- taught them Dungeons & Dragons.

Emma: That's interesting. Interesting.

Eric: Right. And it's not to deny-- I mean, women have been working on D&D and RPGs since like the '70s. I mean, one of the original lands and modules called Greyhawk was created by women. A lot of these first drawings were designed by women. But it's like we lost all of that in the dark ages of the '80s when only male nerds were allowed to exist.

Emma: Yeah. No, totally.

Eric: And now it's like all these women are coming back to finding this game and be like, oh, I can be whatever I want, and I don't have to deal with anything? That sounds great. I have swords? Dope. But it's like they're only allowed to find it from-- this first new generation of D&D players are only allowed to find it from these dudes in their life, and then they're teaching it to other people. Which I find awesome, but it's also like, man, that's pretty telling, isn't it?

Emma: Yeah, and that reminds me a lot of, again, bringing it back to the wine industry, there are more and more women sommeliers, women in wine, you know, beverage directors, and mostly, I would say, winemakers is probably where women occupy the most space in the wine world. But so many of them do it because, like, their father was the winemaker, and they took over the estate. Or their brother. And it's only now that you're starting to see some women who just, like, you know, went to business school and then suddenly decided that they wanted to be a winemaker. So I think that's another little interesting connection there. But I think there are a lot of similarities between the two cultures and how they are growing and progressing.

Eric: Absolutely. That's why I came on Pairing, the podcast where you talk about culture and wine.

Emma: Yeah. Oh my god!

Eric: Drink it up. Pairing.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) That's our new tagline.

Eric: You can have it. I mean, I'm on your podcast.

Emma: Okay, sweet.

Eric:  Everything I say is legally yours.

Emma: Trademark Eric Silver.

Eric: It's true. Well, once you publish it, I can use it for fair use, and it's mine. So it's cool.

Emma: There we go. There we go. (laughs) So Eric, we've touched on this a little bit, but can you talk a little bit more about the actual  content and mechanisms of D&D?

Eric: Sure, okay. So I guess the first thing you need to remember is that we are telling a story. Like this is a game, but it's a game in the way that like, there was that game you would play in summer camp where it was just people asking each other emotional questions and everyone would cry at the end.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) Oh, I remember those. That's also like theater training. A lot of the theater training that I went to ended up with just crying at the end. There we go. (laughs) Don't know what that means.

Eric: So it's more like that. Everyone gets this thing called a character sheet. And a character sheet pretty much just tells you what you are good at, what you are bad at, and what you own. So what you're good at and what you're bad at comes down to six different stats. The first is strength, which pretty straightforward, picking things up, but also what your athletics are, like how fast are you at running? How good are you at using your body? Like in a powerful way.

The second is dexterity, which again self-explanatory, is more about your quickness. How lithe are you? How easy it is for you to sneak places or steal things or use your hands, use your feet awesome. The third is constitution. Constitution is kind of like the black sheep, because it's used more to determine your HP, like how many hits you can take. But really it's like how hearty are you? I love using constitution like if you drink poison or you drink beer, how good are you at drinking that thing?

Emma: For me, if I was drinking wine, my constitution is very high for wine, but if it's any other kind of alcohol, it's much lower, much faster. (laughs)

Eric: I love that. I want to be more specific about people's ability for constitution.

Emma: Yeah. You can use that in your next next game.

Eric: I will. I'll be like, roll a six-sided die, and whatever it is, I'm going to tell you what liquor you super like.

Emma: Right. (laughs)

Eric: That's very good. (laughs) This one usually comes at the bottom, but the last one is charisma, but I always think that pairs really nicely with constitution. So charisma is how good you are at talking to people. Are you able to convince them of something? Are you able to put on a show? Are you able to intimidate them is also one that I think about for charisma. How are you able to use your voice? So constitution is how do you use your body, charisma is how do you use your voice.

Emma: Perfect. Love it.

Eric: The last two are about your brains. So you have intelligence and you have wisdom. Intelligence is your street smarts or your adventuring smarts. If you are out and about, how are you able to determine what's going on with you? So intelligence might be investigation, where you're going to look at something closely. It might be about nature, so your experience out in nature. Animal handling is your ability to talk to dogs and pat them on the head.

Emma: Very relevant to Join the Party.

Eric: Exactly. Dogs are very important in our game. And then wisdom is like what have you studied? Do you know things about medicine? Do you know things about magic? Do you know things about-- oh, insight is also in wisdom. So it's like how much do you know about people and their ability to lie? Which is actually like a book learning idea, which I think is kind of interesting.

Emma: Oh, yeah. I like that.

Eric: Yeah. It's like have you studied how anthropology and how humans and sociology and how humans-- not humans, but like, people-- do their thing. Which I find interesting. So you assign a certain ability score to all these things, and then you're either good at them or bad at them. And then when you roll the 20-sided die, which is our die of fate, which tells us whether or not you have done a thing good or bad, you add or subtract a modifier, which is tied to your ability at that thing.

Emma: Cool.

Eric: So let's say that you have a 16 to strength, and that means that you are pretty freaking strong. So when you roll a 20-sided die to pick something up, you would add plus 3, which is the modifier-- it's in the handbook, just trust me-- you would add plus 3 to your strength roll, because it's like fate will say how well or not well you did, but your personal abilities--

Emma: But you have inherent abilities.

Eric: Exactly.

Emma:  Cool.

Eric: And basically, that dictates pretty much everything you do. I mean, D&D is about telling a story, but it's also about making choices as your character, doing stuff, having agency. I mean, a story will unfold around you, but characters are only interesting when they make choices and they do stuff.

Emma:  Totally. And kind of the more risks you take and the more choices that you have to make, the more interesting the story is.

Eric:  Yes. So everything kind of facilitates around that mechanic. It's like you roll a 20-sided die, you add your ability modifier, if you're good or not good at this thing, and then you do it or you not do it, and all of those things have consequences, which helps push the story forward.

Emma: Love it. Because that's just how life works.

Eric: Exactly.

Emma: You make choices, and it tells a story.

Eric:  And everything has consequences, even if you know it or don't know it.

Emma: I love it. And then so the other things involved in creating a character sheet are you choose a race and a class, correct?

Eric: Yes. So race and class kind of follow traditional ideas of fantasy. The joke about Dungeons & Dragons is that they pretty much just ripped everything off from Lord of the Rings and then went from there.

Emma: Yeah. But I'm glad that it has gone beyond that.

Eric: For sure. But only after we strip mined everything from Lord of the Rings first and then try to rename everything so that no one would know.

Emma: It's such a secret. Yeah. Winston and I talked about in-- because I did a bunch of Lord of the Rings episodes-- and we talked about how like World of Warcraft and Warhammer and all these various different kinds of games took from Lord of the Rings. Now I love seeing how it's kind of evolved, again, beyond that a little bit.

Eric: Yeah, it's funny because all of those things took it from the most recent  Dungeons & Dragons edition, which I always find funny.

Emma: That is really funny.

Eric: The thing that always stands out to me about that is like, our idea of a barbarian has stayed very static from traditional fantasy ideas. Like someone who goes into a rage or like a berserker state and then just can't be hurt and is muscle-bound and usually barbaric. Literally barbaric in the ways that we talk about them. Because that's a very traditional fantasy idea, and it never changed.

So your class is pretty much your fantasy job, and your race-- which is loaded in so many different ways-- but your race is like the type of fantasy creature that you are. And you have certain pluses and minuses from being any of these people, like you might have wings, you might have an ability to resist magic, you might be able to see in the dark, which is always a fun one for me. Race-- I wish there was a better name to call it than race.

Emma: Yeah, I agree. Because it's more like species.

Eric: Definitely species. Because it's not even-- race also implies all the problems that fantasy has, how everything about fantasy is really a metaphor for something else. And it only ties back into ideas of goodness and badness that are tied to who you are as a person and literally the color of your skin, whether it is black or green or regular white person. So that's a whole other thing. So the funniest thing that I find about it is if you decide to play a human as your species, humans aren't good at anything.

Emma: Yeah, I know. Who would want to play a human? I'm sorry.

Eric: I mean, it's like it almost punishes the person who doesn't have any any imagination. So if it's like, I want to be me, it's like, well, you're kind of good at everything, but you don't have any special powers. I'm sorry to tell you.

Emma: That kind of reminds me-- I don't know why exactly I thought of this-- but we played Dread a while ago.

Eric: Oh, I love Dread.

Emma: Which is an awesome game. Which, for listeners who don't know what that is, it's kind of like D&D. It's like a very like pared down D&D, but instead of rolling dice, you use a Jenga tower.

Eric: I love it so much.

Emma: It's so fun .And it's great because you can play a full game in one sitting. Sometimes. But we played a few years ago, and Winston DMed, and we asked a friend to come who really wasn't into it. And she basically just copied my character that I had created, and I was like, that's not how this works. I guess just talking about lack of imagination.

Eric: That's really funny.

Emma: Yeah. It was really funny. I was very mad about it, and then I took a step back and got over it. And I was like, this is fine. This will lead to a different, interesting story, because she ended up making all the different choices from me even though we had on paper very similar characters.

Eric: From a story perspective-- because Dread is supposed to be like a horror or thriller--

Emma: Yeah. Yeah.

Eric: So I like the idea in a horror movie, you just have two of the  same person.

Emma: Right? (laughs)

Eric: It's like, I think we should go in the basement! I ALSO think we should go in the basement!

Emma: It would solve so many problems in horror movies, because they all come from people splitting up.

Eric: We're both virgins! I don't know what you're supposed to do with us!

Emma: (laughs)

Eric: We're both good girls! We both want to sleep with the protagonist! Don't kill me yet. You have to wait! We're not kissing anyone!

Emma: No sex!

Eric: No sex at all, please.

Emma: (laughs) Oh, that's so good.

Eric: So the classes are really great. What I always loved about D&D is that as the game has shifted and changed, there haven't been a lot of different classes.

Emma: Yeah. I've noticed that.

Eric: Your jobs, or your abilities, are very static. There are-- let's see (counts) -- there are 12 classes, and I feel like it's only grown steadily, and we've only lost one over the course of the way that the game has gone.

Emma: Which one did we lose?

Eric:  The Mystic, I think. Which I think is a 3.5 Thing or a 4 thing and is not in 5 anymore.

Emma: It feels like there are enough other characters that have mysticism as part of-- or classes, I should say-- that have mysticism as part of their job description, if you will.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. What I like about D&D, especially in this new 5th Edition, is that there still are these ideas of archetypes which you need to slot into. Because it's like you need to have the-- in order to make the game work or a story work, your character needs to be some sort of character that people are familiar with so that you can tell a story.

Emma: Right.

Eric: But it's like the choices that you make as a person or as you do the actual story can be against or for type, because you are a complex, three-dimensional person while you are in this game. So it's like D&D provides the-- this is what we were talking about before-- it's like you need this concrete set of rules, this concrete set of story ideas, and then you can decide to break them or not break them if it's interesting.

Emma: Exactly. Yeah. No, I love that. And again, I'm just going to keep singing the praises of Join the Party. I will be your bard, if you will. (laughs)

Eric: (laughs)

Emma: Sorry, that was terrible. (laughs) But I love that, you know, like you've got a Barbarian and a Druid and a Warlock to begin with.

Eric: Oh, Inara is a Rogue.

Emma: Oh, I'm sorry. I meant Rogue, not Druid. But they all do things that are both within what you would think of that archetype and very different.

Eric: Yeah, the characters, or the people who play our characters, we thought we thought about that long and hard before we started the game.

Emma: Sure.

Eric: Tracy, who is our Warforged, who is this big robot Barbarian, has a rage switch. So he doesn't even have access to his own class mechanic.

Emma:  I love that. I love that.

Eric:  Inara, both as a as a teenager and as a queer person and as a rogue, she's not fully formed. So she doesn't really know what she's doing all the time.

Emma: Sure. Sure.

Eric: And with Johnny, I mean, Warlocks are usually this like edgelord, like dark, I will pray to Cthulhu and he will kill everyone sort of thing.

Emma: Right, right.

Eric: And then Johnny turned out to be this extremely positive, like, dad.

Emma: I love that. I love that. Daddy Warlock.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. So we thought really hard about the types of things that we were going to revel in, or the things that we would cast aside. And it's truly been a lot of fun. But it really shows how flexible these classes can really be. You are not your job. You don't have to be who you are within this job. Which I think is a thing that I try to think about a lot. And whenever I get the chance to be a character, I think about the ways that people use their powers as just like an extension of them as a person. I always try to, whenever I make a character or I think about someone who's going to occupy my world, I try to think of their job and what they're good at first before I fill in everything else. Because first of all that, that tries to keep me away from preconceived notions and stereotypes that I would lean on, because that's boring. But also everything about you or everything that happens from people comes from what they're good at and what they're not good at. And that's what I always like a place to start.

Emma: That's awesome. I think that's a really great place to come from while storytelling, world-building, character-building, etc.

Eric: It's a good time. I think it's really funny that you were a Druid. What do you remember from being a Druid?

Emma:  God. I don't remember so much about it. But I remember that I-- I forget if I shape-shifted.

Eric: Yes.

Emma:  I forget if I actually did. But I think I had an animal companion. I think I had a fox companion or something like that. It's really funny, because the only thing I remember vividly from that campaign is we did a one-off one day because a couple of the players couldn't come, and so we went into this dream sequence. And I remember Sean, my DM, had me go to this essentially Planet of the Apes in my dream. (laughs) And I think that that was supposed to come back at one point, but we stopped playing before it did, which I was really bummed about. Because I wanted that to come back.

But yeah, so the things that I kind of regret about that campaign is I had this idea-- again, like pre-conceived notion-- of what D&D was, and I felt like I created sort of an archetype and never really broke out of it. And at this point, I would be more able to recognize, okay, it's okay not to do all the things that you would think you would do as an Elf Druid. But I very much wanted to be like, you know, one of the elves from Lord of the Rings. You know, like very stereotypical. But I think towards the end, I started understanding the game better. And only once I really felt really confident in it, we had to we had to stop playing. Because I think it was my junior year of college, but everyone else who I was playing with were seniors, and so they all graduated.

Eric: Oh,no.

Emma:  I know. I was very sad. But c'est la vie. But yeah. Yeah. No, I'm pretty sure that I had a fox companion.

Eric: Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah, my favorite thing about Druids is that they can shape-shift. It's this thing called wild shape, as you might remember.

Emma: Yes.

Eric: And there's this one-- so there are a lot of subclasses within your class-- so for Druid, there's one called the Circle of the Moon. And the Circle of the Moon means that you are better at turning into other animals than other Druids. So I always love it, because I try to imagine the type of person who likes to be in animal form or has the ability to be an animal and wouldn't necessarily want to be in their bipedal form all the time.

Emma: Yeah.

Eric:  So I recently just played this character who was like a traveling salesman sort of guy.

Emma: Awesome.

Eric:  And he loved being in his animal form. And he always had a mask on when he was in his bipedal form instead. He was a Dwarf. So it's someone who felt freer as like a giant elk or like a scorpion or a squid than they did with their real face.

Emma: Wow, that's so cool.

Eric: I am such a sucker-- the two classes that I really want to play as are a Circle of the Moon Druid, and I'm super into Monks.

Emma: Yeah, I was going to say--

Eric:  I think they're super interesting.

Emma:  I was going to say if and when I play again, I think Monk is definitely up there for me. And I kind of want to play as like a Ranger or something like that.

Eric: Oh, for sure.

Emma: Yeah, that sounds super fun to me. Winston is always a Bard.

Eric: (groans)

Emma: (laughs)

Eric: I think there are Bard people and there are Monk people, and I am not a Bard person.

Emma: You're not a Bard person. Winston absolutely, 100% is a Bard in his daily life. (laughs)

Eric: Yeah. Can I give you a hot take about Bards?

Emma: Yeah. Yeah, please do.

Eric: Okay. And please, Winston when you hear this, I'm sure that you are a lovely, charming person.

Emma: He'll be okay. (laughs)

Eric: But I think people who choose to play Bards are cutting themselves off at the knees when they are playing Dungeons & Dragons, because when you play the Bard, you're like, oh, I am so charismatic and lovely. I'm playing the Bard because I get to sing songs and seduce people. But it's like, you can do that as any other class, and you don't have to have the power of music as your ability.

Emma: It feels kind of weird. The Bard feels the most specific to me of all of the classes, because it's like this is what you do, and it is tied up with playing music.

Eric: Yes.

Emma: While with all of the other ones, maybe with some exceptions because I'm not as  familiar, it feels like there's a lot more room for-- like, why couldn't you be a Wizard Bard? You know, like why couldn't you be a wizard who plays music? So it is an interesting thing to me.

Eric:  Bard is the only one that comes with a job. You're totally right. I just think it's weird that you are like the most classically charismatic thing in a game that's all about improv and improvisational storytelling. We already know you're a charismatic person. You're playing Dungeons & Dragons. Why are you Mary Sue-ing yourself into this so that you can play a fucking lute?

Emma: Right. (laughs)

Eric: So it's like I would much rather-- and it's not even like-- there are other ways to be charismatic. The thing that I always think about is that one of the species is a tiefling, and you're a demon person. So you have like this inherent charisma because you are strange and imposing. And so you automatically have plus two to charisma. So it's like you can be charismatic in a totally untraditional way, but Bards are like, nah man, this is "Wonderwall," and then, like, fuck a barmaid. I can't with it.

Emma:  Which I guess the challenge would be to play a Bard and not fall into that stereotype. Which I'm not exactly sure how that would work, but--

Eric:  There are a few different types-- like subclasses of Bard-- that are more like-- the other thing about what you were saying about Bards being a job is it's very much tied to Bard colleges. It's very much a profession. Which always is weird, because then you are locking yourself into this trade, which is always difficult. So there are some of these Bard colleges that teaches you how to be sneaky or teaches you how to be a charismatic hero instead. Someone who traditionally is a fighter. The only thing, there is a swashbuckler. So you're like inherently a pirate, which I think is pretty funny.

Emma: That is pretty cool.

Eric: But it's like it definitely locks you into something that I don't think does you any favors as a Dungeons & Dragons player.

Emma: No, that's totally fair. That's totally fair.

Eric: Winston can tell me I'm wrong, but you know, tell him that he should try being a Monk instead.

Emma: Yeah. I'll tell him. He also-- I'm not sure if he's ever played a full campaign of D&D. He's mostly has come in as a guest player to a few. And well, I'm mostly thinking of-- we also love this game called Eldritch Horror.

Eric: Yeah.

Emma: And there's a character in that who Winston fondly calls Black Jazz Wizard, because he's like an African American trumpet player from the '30s.

Eric: Oh my god.

Emma: He's actually pretty awesome. So after Winston and I played Eldritch Horror one time, Winston wrote a little short story from the perspective of Jim Culver, a.k.a. Black Jazz Wizard, defeating Cthulha, the daughter of Cthulhu, based on how things transpired in that game that we played. It's pretty amazing and he recorded it as an audio extra for our Patreon. So definitely go check that out. But I guess he just tends to go for the musically inclined character. But I would be curious-- I don't think he's ever played la full campaign as a Bard. I'll ask him, and I'll report back.

Eric: Yes. Please do.

Emma: I will.

(EDITED AUDIO) So I checked with Winston, and he has never actually played as a Bard in D&D, he claims. When he has guested or done one-offs, he has mostly played as Ranger, though he has played bard-like characters in board games and video games and generally supports them and the people who play them.

Eric: Also, fucking Kvothe was a bard, and I always thought that was--

Emma:  Oh yeah, that is kind of stupid.

Eric: It was like not only is he a hero, he's super good at jazzin' on the lute.

Emma: Right, right. (laughs) Come on.

Eric: It's like, oh he's so talented. That's why he's a hero.

Emma: (sarcastically) He's so dreamy!

Eric: He could make money for his art. That's so strange!

Emma: Yes, many problems with Name of the Wind.

Eric: Yeah. Many, many, many. The only thing that I would say, and this is what I was saying before, is that The Kingkiller Chronicles have a really fluid way of world-building.

Emma: Yes.

Eric:  That it's like you're in this city, and the city does exactly what you need it to do. So I was thinking about-- for people who haven't read this, which you don't have to, I promise-- but it's like at one point, it's basically like this guy is telling the stories of his own exploits, and when he was a kid, he got enough money to go to this very prestigious university. And the university is close to this bustling-- basically next to this college town. And the college town, much in the way that Hogsmeade is to Hogwarts, it's this-- I can't remember the name of the town. I literally just looked this up. Because I'm like, what's the name of that town? So it's like across the river from the university.

Emma: Right.

Eric:  The city itself has everything that Kvothe might need. It has all of these shops, it has this rich part of town where he can get into trouble with, it has different types of inns to demonstrate the economic disparity between poor people and rich people, and it also has this magical, heralded bard bar where you can jazz down. Oh, it's called Imre. Thank you Amanda, for looking that up. So it has this amazing-- it's like a jazz bar, but it's for bards, where people can get on stage.

So it becomes this conflict that he needs to enter himself into to move the story forward so that he himself can become more  heroic and do heroic things that are unexpected of him. But I'm like, damn, what a good idea of putting in a bard bar that has a contest into your world to further your story. It's so seamless that you don't remember that this thing which is ridiculous and out of nowhere is very integral to the plot.

Emma: Yeah, absolutely. No, I think there are a lot of really cool storytelling elements in Name of the Wind. I would say it's worth reading if you're at all interested in fantasy storytelling just to see like how he does it.

Eric: Yeah, definitely.

Emma:  But I agree. I know a lot of people who are just totally nuts for it, and I don't quite get it. Like I enjoyed the books very much,  but I didn't think they were particularly groundbreaking.

Eric: Yeah, it's true. (laughs)

Emma: Cool. Well, I guess I just had maybe a couple last questions for you.

Eric: Yeah, hit me.

Emma:  So you have been both a DM and a player, and I'm curious about-- I mean, you talked a little bit about it, but do you have a preference for one or the other, or they different but equal?

Eric: Oh, that's a good question.

Emma:  What your experience is with those two ends of it.

Eric: I would say that I think I like being a DM more. Because I like not necessarily having control over the story, but I like setting the table, and I like being able to put things on the table that I didn't think of before, but like while it's happening, I can flesh out the world in real time. Some of my favorite jokes that I like to make on Join the Party, or just in general, is like inhabiting these wacky characters that come out of nowhere. But I think that for any Dungeon Master you have in your life, you need to let them be a player, because I forgot about things that I didn't let my players do, or things that bothered me while I was DMing, because you forget. It's very different. It's like you're a player and a referee.

Emma: Yeah. Yeah.

Eric:  And if you don't get your feet wet, you just kind of forget what it's like to be a player again. So I recently got to be a player when I was playing that Druid guy, and I'm like man, I feel like I forgot how luxurious this is just to like ask questions and make choices and make jokes.

Emma: Yeah. No, that's awesome. To me, what I sort of equate it to-- this isn't a wine thin, but my other my other side passion/career/whatever in theater-- to me is very similar to the dynamic between a director and an actor, or being a director and being an actor. Like there are people who do both, and a lot of people say, you know, if you want to be a director, you should act first so that you know what goes into that. And that will make you a better director, just like I think being a player and knowing what it is to be a player makes you a better DM. I don't know. Maybe.

Eric:  No, I agree with that.

Emma: And yeah, and there are people who are more suited to directing or DMing, and there are some who are more suited to acting and playing, which doesn't necessarily have to be the same thing if you do both. You know, like you can be a director and prefer to be a player in Dungeon & Dragons. I don't know. That's just one thing that I thought about.

Eric: No, I totally agree with that. And I think the way that D&D ties with acting is like I don't necessarily want only actors to be in my Dungeons & Dragons game.

Emma: That would be miserable. (laughs) Sorry. I say that as an actor.

Eric: No, that's totally true, but it's like, this is an improv. This is an improv thing. So you have people who have experience coming up with stuff just from the jump.

Emma: On the spot.

Eric: But I think that a tendency with some Dungeons & Dragons games, when it's like you're getting all these quasi-famous people together and like, oh, you're famous because you were in movies and all this stuff, I think it hurts literally the diversity that you have in the room that everyone is the same job.

Emma: Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely .

Eric: So yeah. That was the other thing I think about sometimes.

Emma: Cool. Well, yeah, I know it's nice to have all sorts of different people, not just different identities, but different jobs in the room, which I guess is part of an identity. But anyway. Also, okay, I have one last wine thing to end on .

Eric: Yeah, do it.

Emma:  It's that I was trying to think of-- this I think would be too much. I was trying to think of different wines to pair with different races and classes, or species and classes, which I think would be a little too much. I could maybe do it, but the one immediate connection that came to mind-- again, talking about monks, there is a wine region in France called Chablis, which is in Burgundy. It's the north of Burgundy, and they make pretty much only white wine there and pretty much only made from Chardonnay. But the history of Chablis is that it was owned and curated and harvested by Cistercian monks.

Eric: Hey!

Emma: So yeah, there you go. So I think that Monks would definitely drink Chablis. (laughs)

Eric: Yeah, all those monks getting getting turnt on their own.

Emma: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Totes.

Eric: So that sounds about right.

Emma:  Their constitution for Chardonnay is really high.

Eric: (laughs) I like it.

Emma: Yeah. Yep. There we go. But back to you, any last thoughts? We've talked a lot about Join the Party obviously, but if there's anything else you want to plug.

Eric: Yeah, so I'm the Dungeon Master of Join the Party. I am also the co-host of HORSE, which is a basketball podcast that is about everything except for the wins and losses. We talk about internet beefs. We talk about drama. We talk about history. So basketball--I love games in all different types of ways-- and basketball is one of the games that I like. Much like Join the Party, even if you don't know anything about basketball, we think that it would be a great show for you to check out.

Emma: Totally. I'm not a huge basketball fan. I've dabbled. But I love HORSE. It's so much fun.

Eric: Yeah, there is-- (laughs) thank you-- there's just so much that goes on in this culture and institution of basketball in the United States that just fuels so much hilarity between-- like, people try to negotiate their million-dollar deals, and the fact that there are these people who are so athletic for a living and like privileged, but who they are as people is what  distinguishes them. And I think it's really interesting. And I think people might like that.

Emma: Totally. I highly recommend it.

Eric: Yeah, thank you. And you can find me on Twitter at El_Silvero. That's my name if I was a Lucha Libre wrestler.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs)

Eric: And you know, I always want to be on people's podcasts, and I want to write for your outlets, so just email me and hit me up and all that good stuff.

Emma: Yeah, awesome. Well Eric, thank you so much for being on Pairing.

Eric: Thank you. I learned so much about sommeliering.

Emma: Well, and I learned a lot about D&D.

Eric: Oh, nice!

Emma: So there you go!

Eric: We accomplished the podcast. Slurp it up! Dungeons & Dragons and wine: also has tannins!

Emma: Yeah. (laughs) You've come up with so many great taglines for my show!

Eric:  Dungeons & Dragons and  wine: they're grapes!

Emma: (laughs)

Eric: Nailed it.

Emma: Nailed it! That's it. That's it.

(outro music)

Pairing was created, produced, hosted, and edited by Emma Sherr-Ziarko with music and audio recording by Winston Shaw and Logo artwork by Darcy Zimmerman and Katie Huey.

If you'd like more information, links, and clarifications on what we talked about this episode, please check out the show notes. Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram at Pairing Podcast to keep tabs on what we're up to. Come check us out on Patreon at patreon.com/pairingpodcast, where you can pledge as little as $1 a month. You get access to exclusive content, customized pairings from me, live streams, and more.

Feel free to send us any thoughts, questions, requests, and pairings of your own on our website thepairingpodcast.com, by email at pairingpodcast@gmail.com, or on any social media platform. If you enjoyed the show, please consider leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts and sharing with your friends.

Thank you so much for listening. Til next time, read, drink, and be merry.