Press Start Leadership Podcast

Conversations With Christopher: Brandes Stoddard

June 21, 2021 Press Start Leadership Season 1 Episode 27
Press Start Leadership Podcast
Conversations With Christopher: Brandes Stoddard
Show Notes Transcript

In this week's episode of the Press Start Leadership Podcast, we introduce Conversations with Christopher with special guest Brandes Stoddard.

We discuss with Brandes Dungeons and Dragons, video games, Game Design, and his thoughts on Leadership, Mindfulness, and Awesomeness.

You can find Brandes Stoddard at:
Tribality: www.tribality.com
Harbinger of Doom: www.brandesstoddard.com
Patreon: www.patreon.com/brandesstoddard
Twitter: @brandesstoddard
Also, his podcast is Edition Wars: http://www.thetomeshow.com/category/edition-wars/


Link to my FREE ebook: 5 Heroic Leadership Skills

Music by: Joey the Mad Scientist

Hit subscribe/follow and be sure to check out: https://pressstartleadership.com/

Support the show (https://paypal.me/pressstartleadership)

Joey The Mad Scientist:

Hey there press starters and welcome to the press Start leadership podcast, the podcast about game changing leadership teaching you how to get the most out of your product and development team and become the leader you were meant to be leadership coaching and training for the International game industry professional. Now, let me introduce you to your host, the man the myth, the legend, Christopher MEF Sood.

Christopher Mifsud:

Come back to another amazing episode of the press Start leadership podcast conversation, Christopher. On this week's episode, we have a longtime friend and colleague, writer, editor designer in the game industry, Brandis Stoddard Now, let me introduce you to Brandis daughter. Hi, everybody. I'm very pleased to be here today. Excellent. Thanks, Brandis. So as I said, in the introduction, your longtime friend and colleague of mine, known each other for a long time was gamed, for a very long time, we worked together on a couple projects. But I know who you are, but not everyone here is gonna know who you are. So I always like to ask my guests. What's your origin story? What is the origin of brantas?

Brandes Stoddard:

So when the planet of Dungeons and Dragons was exploding in a distant galaxy, I was jettisoned by people who no longer thought I had any future there and landed on this planet raised by a mild mannered, unassuming state court judge and, and his wife, a teacher. in Marietta, Georgia,

Christopher Mifsud:

man, they had no idea today,

Brandes Stoddard:

some portions of this are true that will be left to the audience to determine. So I grew up in Marietta, Georgia. And I got into playing video games on the apple, two GS, and then into tabletop games in 1992 or so thanks to some, like Choose Your Own Adventure style books with stats that TSR released in those days. Okay,

Christopher Mifsud:

so it wasn't it wasn't Steve Jackson, sorcery ones because,

Brandes Stoddard:

right, those are, I think, a little better known, but I don't think any of the ones I was looking at were those I'd have to dig them all up to tell you who made all of them. But I had it in my head, because I was 11 that I would somehow be able to back form a real tabletop game from these. And so I was trying to design a tabletop game before having played a tabletop game amazing. This did not what's the word work? But it was still an interesting experience. Like ultimately I was trying to make something that you could recognize as Dragon Quest one in tabletop form because that was my experience of what a role playing game was.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure you were You're so you're coming from the side of role playing games video game first, then role playing game second I got a slightly different experience, but I get where you're coming from. Yeah.

Brandes Stoddard:

And so in 93, I got into Dungeons and Dragons in d&d second edition and stuck with that though, I did branch out into a few other tabletop games. It was very self taught. And so I didn't have other people's introduced me to games they loved it this is a time period in which a lot of my peers were getting into like Kismet Ninja Turtles. Yep. Or the the six Star Wars or whatever you got. And I didn't find those. And so I don't have those those experiences that you and a lot of other friends have from that time.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, actually that those were my core games like I did d&d, but the the D six Star Wars The 2d Ninja Turtles, inherently sadly riffs but you know, like those fantastical worlds We're in Shadowrun even Alright, yep, those are the ones I was picking up but cursory on the outline because I wasn't doing that the only game that that because d&d wasn't my lifeblood the only one that I was really looking for was dark sun and I remember waiting for dark sun because it kept getting delayed like a million times but I kept seeing that poster in the game shop and keep going wins that game coming out and then asking the because as an annoying teenager to the to the clerk. And I was like, but Darkside man, this poster has been up for like two years now wins this freaking game coming out and they're like, go away. I'm like, all right, well keep playing riffs or whatever I was playing then ElfQuest ElfQuest JRPG. I think I picked up a copy of that. During during that I'm not ashamed. That was cool.

Brandes Stoddard:

So I managed to make friends with one of the guys at the local Waldenbooks who he was he was the guy in the store who had the knowledge of their, like role playing stock. And so like it seems weird now, it's kind of nonsense now. But it was okay for me to just call up the store as for him and ask what was new in d&d? And that's because, yeah, because it was very What even is the internet? This was a reasonable way to find out what was going on in like product. And so I got into birthright that way. And I got into Forgotten Realms that way. I wish I'd gotten the darks on. But I just missed the boat on that one. I wish I get the plane scape, like at this point. And yeah, I wish I had, you know, all of the original box sets for plantscaping spelljammer. Because we do the resale please get boxsets it's bananas. Well, fair enough.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, there's that.

Brandes Stoddard:

But But yeah, like, it was very heady time for setting design. And a very strange maybe stagnated time for rules design and d&d. Oddly, I think those two, like fed each other really, in a positive way. Like the rules being pretty stagnant meant that they're pouring a lot of creative energy into it the settings.

Christopher Mifsud:

True, true. And that's what we got. There were many bombastic bombastic settings back then.

Brandes Stoddard:

Absolutely. And also, they were much more comfortable than they have been ever since with this setting has its custom rules that you don't use anywhere else.

Christopher Mifsud:

True. True. Because now, yeah, now it has to be as flexible as possible, right? Because, yep.

Brandes Stoddard:

You whenever you think about it, you think about maybe the, like, blog line, and when he's rules of birth right at one extreme, and the, like, weapon composition rules of darks on at the other end. Those have no business in a campaign that's even two degrees of separation from each other. Right there just such different ideas. Anyway, well, you know, if that's your life, man,

Christopher Mifsud:

well, that's and that's why we had riffs.

Brandes Stoddard:

So, so from there. I was staying involved in d&d through third edition, played a lot in college. Then got into doing some freelance editing for a third party material with Donald Trump star operation Quick Launch for our friendly hammock. And because of that work, Lee hired me to work at Icarus studios in 2006, which relocated me to North Carolina. And then you and I had met before then, but I think that's where it really gets to know each other a

Christopher Mifsud:

lot better. Sure. Sure. Yeah. That's where the regular gaming sessions and work sessions and more work sessions, probably the gaming sessions, though. Yeah, the other way around.

Brandes Stoddard:

But yeah, well, and we also that is also major time when my experience of tabletop games really diversified widely. Because we were playing pen dragon. You're running earthdawn. There was a Song of Ice and Fire campaign. You ran some vampire just everything under the sun was getting paid after hours in the office. And it was great. It was a really it was really wonderful creative hothouse. That I think everyone needs at least once in their lives, if they're going to be in the gaming industry. It doesn't have to be tabletop games. But you need to play has that kind of time. But you can just completely sink into it. Right? Yeah. Also,

Christopher Mifsud:

tabletop stuff to that tabletop, sorry, board game stuff other than Yes, like, Yeah,

Brandes Stoddard:

well, no. And, like, we had something like, six or eight, tabletop games going in every two weeks cycle. And then every night that I wasn't playing a tabletop game I was writing is just completely insane. Because World of Warcraft was at its worldwide dominance peak, right then. And so it was a very heady time. And then there were a bunch of shakeups with Icarus studios, I went over to visit Ron for a while, that didn't work out. They came back to us fortunate enough to come back to Icarus studios for a few years. And they'd gone from an MMO studio to a mobile game studio, as you know. And there was still a interesting and creative time. But things had really changed because the studio so much smaller. And so many of our friends had it scattered to the four winds, just with how things go. Then in 2012, was the coast announced DND, next as the public play test phase of fifth edition. Okay, so they had two solid years of public flight test. And so my gaming groups were deeply involved in that. And like, updating characters with every new packet release, and then that campaign just continued, with more character updates right into fifth. And, yeah, that's it's been very much about my gaming experience in fifth edition, has become unbelievably dominant in the tabletop space. DND has always been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Sure. Well, I guess it's now the 8000 pound gorilla. It's not, it's not the only thing going not by a longshot. But it's never been bigger than it is now. It's just insane. How much streaming and actual plays and in the pandemic, driving people to virtual tabletop spaces, has increased its fan base.

Christopher Mifsud:

Definitely. It's it's the known entity, for sure. It was always a known entity, but it's like definitely the known entity. I think those big like you could take it to the prevalence of tabletop now is probably where the popularity of wrestling was in the early 90s. Were like the web, you know, like the Monday night wars and stuff like that. It's not I mean, it's popular with some folks, but not as popular as it was back then. I think that's the level it's sort of like what you're talking about is, is like tabletop is now a thing, right? And it's not like I mean, it's the thing that's more commonly accepted. It's the thing that there's a lot more variety there. There's there's a there's it's like Baskin Robbins, there's a flavor for everyone.

Brandes Stoddard:

And it's hard to look back now and see how the satanic panic happened. Like that just seems very odd.

Christopher Mifsud:

Well, well, I mean, look around and still see where the credit came from. But

Brandes Stoddard:

fair enough. Sure. I mean, maybe you went up top here, there, but

Christopher Mifsud:

it's true. It's my it's my it's, it's actually it's at my it's my Dumbledore beer now, but it can be the devil, but

Brandes Stoddard:

like, acceptances gotten to a place in, in the States, even here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, where Walmart and Target carry Dungeons and Dragons. No one bats an eye. It's not the type of conversation. Sure.

Christopher Mifsud:

It's true. And like, again, like the varieties out there. There's bespoke, right that means you can get like custom and like high end grade like d&d nowadays, right like just just now launched the dungeon dragons Aslan relaunched something with ravenloft, right? Yep.

Brandes Stoddard:

They've brought the classic ravenloft setting into fifth edition. with veterans guide driven loft. That's a it's a really big deal. They've greatly diversified The freelance writers they're bringing in for projects. And so the the cultural breadth of veneration schedule ravenloft is unlike anything that the game has seen before. I mean, there are people from India telling stories to tell you horror stories about an Indian culture, an Indian domain of dread. That's just as similar for Mesoamerica. It's just, it's a really beautiful time

Christopher Mifsud:

is really nice. And on top of that, there's people that are selling like 500 $399 bucks is sad. Yeah.

Brandes Stoddard:

So it'd be Lynn grins doing, like player handouts to an incredible level of quality and fidelity. So nice that they have sets that run from Yeah, as you're saying 300 to 500, or whatever, I don't price them. I can't afford them. It's I think,

Christopher Mifsud:

I think we I think we discussed the price on another on another conversation with Christopher, the other guests. I just keep bringing it up, because it still blows my mind. Because I remember like, like, the dice I could get were, you know, blue, or red or green? Or maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe translucent slightly. But now there's like metal and gold and like real gold and real diamond. You know, if you want it, you can get it. And it's there. there for you. There's custom tables for your family of gamers so that you can all eat at your table, then open it up and play all your tabletop games and not lose your spot in the game that you're playing. Because why not?

Brandes Stoddard:

Yeah, like, the thing is, you don't need to sell very many to make it make the project worthwhile. So

Christopher Mifsud:

you got Kickstarter. Now you didn't have that back in the day. So yeah.

Brandes Stoddard:

Oh, man. What Kickstarter has done for tabletop gaming, in particular, is

Christopher Mifsud:

wild and made my wallet lighter. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Yeah. I sure do. I sure. Do you like recent Kickstarter these days?

Brandes Stoddard:

Well, like Kickstarter has been a huge part of my career as a freelance writer. Let's talk about that. Yeah, so let's see. So in the very end of 2014, the fifth Ed had just come out. So I, I've been reading my blog for years. And then I got asked to come on today. Hold on that blog. And you say, well, it's where you go on the web and write about things. No, but what's your blog? My blog is brand new starter calm. Over helper, Chris. Never mind. You're not the first you're not the last. So Brenda started calm is my blog. At the time, I was reading a blog spot now it's on WordPress. thanks to the help of our very dear friend Wendy Haller. And so I've been reading about d&d all through d&d Next, and move to talking about fivey among other gaming topics that the blog covers. And so there was a new gaming website that a guy named Sean Ellsworth and Mike long had just started up called triviality calm. And they asked me to come right for them, because they always knew more writers. That's that's how it is you got to feed the beast. The Beast loves content. And so I started writing for them.

Christopher Mifsud:

I'm doing is being the beast being d&d players?

Brandes Stoddard:

Pretty much. Yeah. The audience, the blog, whichever you want to see is the all devouring force in your life. Yeah. So so right. I started writing the history of the classes for them. And after we were working together on this for several years, Sean Ellsworth decided that he wanted to try to release his homebrew setting the seeds of hodari. Okay, through the ffiv open gaming license. And so we started a Kickstarter for that. Our initial ask was 10,000, Canadian, which is sort of very middle of the road for first Kickstarter asks. It's, I think, at the time was just under 8000 us and we wound up getting 52.5 Canadian, which is a really nice set of stretch goals. And so I was doing reading and editing and design and development for for that book, along with a bunch of other friends. Colin was already writing for our friend Colin McLaughlin, I should say, was already writing for tri Valley at the time. We also recruited other folks that Sean knew other folks that I knew. And we had a really great creative team for that project. Then when that was done, it was at the end of season adoree, our final stretch goal we committed to releasing under the seas of adoree, which was an aquatic supplement, originally is going to be just a PDF. We kept writing.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, of course, you know, what writers do?

Brandes Stoddard:

Hopefully so. So now it's been its own new Kickstarter, that was even more successful in the first one. Yep, feel really good about it. And so that's going to be its own hardback release. And so we're in the middle of that now. And again, here, I'm writer, editor, designer, developer of extraordinary whichever hats, you know, any given piece of text needs from me. But it's still so very much Sean's baby, then we just have a most of the same creative team back. And we're working our way through it. Then, I've also worked as a developer for a couple press on their recent cellphones Kickstarter. So see, I wrote for the rain second edition. To that the setting book that goes with rain second edition rain realities, in which my wife rabbit Stoddard, and I wrote the gifts of starlight gifts of stone setting. It's another way that Kickstarter has been very good to us. Just all kinds of different Kickstarter projects, it's so easy to add a stretch goal, where you get, you know, a freelance writer or to to commit to somewhere between two and 10,000 words. And the dollar total of the stretch goal is gonna pay there per word. So I guess we're good. Excuse me, I need to cough, mute myself.

Christopher Mifsud:

Those listening missed out on that incredible cough, but it was quite a cough. But if you're watching the YouTube version of this, you still got to catch it. So it's a truly truly throat cough. I'm sure. He was. But that's, that's awesome. It's great. That Kickstarter, maybe that's the thing, right? We're just saying Kickstarter gives a lot of opportunities to folks too, who aren't maybe in the mainstream. Working with watse and doing doing the work there. But you recently got to do something with watse, too, right?

Brandes Stoddard:

I did in January of 2020. When everyone had heard about COVID-19, but didn't yet know, really, that it was going to be, you know, our lives from here on out. I was contacted by Christopher Perkins to potentially write on something that was at the time called Project microwave. And I got two written adventure for Wizards of the Coast. That was published in candlekeep mysteries.

Christopher Mifsud:

So it's that just came out like a month or so ago, I guess.

Brandes Stoddard:

That came out in March. So two months.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah. Okay. Very cool.

Brandes Stoddard:

And so that was super exciting. Definitely one of the highest profile projects I've ever worked on in as a freelancer. And just a real delight. My work on that ended in about june of 2020. So then all those intervening months, just, I'm sure this is fine.

Christopher Mifsud:

It's we're just waiting for life to get back to normal so that things could move along, right? Yeah. Sure. So we're gonna take a ticket, swipe, swivel to the, to the right for a moment and talk about some a little different, but why not different here here. We talked about it all the time. And it's a common topic is leadership. So I'm always curious to find out from all my different guests. How do you define good leadership? Right? we all we all know what poor leadership is. And we've all had plenty of stories explain that. But what's good leadership? How does one? How does how does one be a good leader?

Brandes Stoddard:

Yeah, I think that the core is figuring out the the way that a person most wants to contribute to a project, and both helps them achieve what they want to contribute, and make that part of what everyone else is able to contribute as much as possible. It's certainly feasible that I want to contribute way more of this in the project needs. Oh, sure. Sorry, friend, we'll give you as much space to work on that as we can. But you know, we just don't have room for a father 1000 word, Lord document to go in this game. not speaking for personal experience, anyway.

Christopher Mifsud:

But I think I think that's great. It's a really, it's an awesome example, right? It's letting you know, learning, learning what your team wants to do, and making that finding ways to incorporate that into the projects and the work that you have, right. So if you know somebody wants more opportunities to write a certain thing, or work on a certain thing, then when those opportunities come available, making sure you you know, you mark those people for for doing that. Or if someone wants more once an opportunity to grow into leadership or whatever, right finding moments where they can lead small projects, and have an effect and kind of get that experience. But they don't necessarily, they won't necessarily damage the project or anything else by like being too much for them, right? It gives them the room to grow, and expand and pick up new skills, while still contributing to the overall goal of the business scenario. And I think that's a perfect way.

Brandes Stoddard:

So that I think is like, in my head, the terms are going to be wrong, because I'm not in management spaces. But I think of that as the core of bottom up leadership. That's sort of arrow pointing upward. The core of arrow pointing downward leadership is protecting people from things that, you know, other groups or higher ups want that aren't reasonable. Of course,

Christopher Mifsud:

right? It'd be that buffer. Yeah, no, it's it's the it's a give and take there and leadership. And I think that that is, there is definitely a place for it. And it's definitely and I think it happens in Project leadership more than anything else, right, where it's very good that you communicate as a leader, as leading a team, what your team is capable of, and what they want to do, or, you know, or think they should do, right? So because they're bringing their expertise, like you said, from the bottom, and you communicating that upwards, and then the feedback that you get from above, making sure that it's digested in a way that it can go to your team and be productive and conducive to, you know, actually getting projects done and not shattering their dreams and hopes and so forth. And yeah, or D railing them because they it's so such an earth shaking an idea that is uncomprehending to the team, why anybody would think that but you as the manager have to distill that into truth. That is Bible

Brandes Stoddard:

thinking. You're thinking back to another of our shared experiences. There's also a flavor of leadership, that is not about being a leader for your specific team. But being a maximally effective member of a larger team. That is still a leadership task, which is like shaking the tree enough to make other people who are unwilling to do their work, do their work.

Christopher Mifsud:

Wow. Yeah, that that. That was tough. It's like, yeah,

Brandes Stoddard:

it's really tough. And I'm not really talking about like, when, when a member of your team, someone who's clearly, you know, a direct part of your hierarchy isn't going to do the work. But more. There's this guy over this other department who is give me a lot of No, that's impossible. Well, it's not impossible. You're just not excited enough about it to do this stuff.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure. That is that is. Yeah, that's a good cross functional team motivation, finding a way to communicate to the other team or find the wiggle through the Yeah. Is not supposed to get that stuff going. Yeah. But that is I mean, that is that is the goal there. Right there. They're helping out. Ultimately, they're helping out the overall company and objectives of the teams that everybody there and trying to get every week everyone happy.

Brandes Stoddard:

And reminding everyone involved that, no, we all share the same goal of wanting to end product to be as wonderful and successful as possible. Yeah. Is, is the core of it. Right? Just, it's easy for people to kind of stagnate.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure, sure. And it's easy for people to just say no, in the beginning, first thing to do is say, No, the guy needs to they say, No, they don't want to hear about it. Or they get a little bit of a stall before they have to hear about it again. Yeah, and yeah, but no, it's it's very true. And this is an important part of leadership to get to get that they get that going in there. So another another important question, not leadership related, but a favorite subject of mine is doughnuts. What is your favorite donut? I will destroy some Boston creams. Boy howdy so what I yeah, yeah, Boston creams are fantabulous Not gonna lie on that one either. I want to circle back actually to like you mentioned you mentioned something that got you when you get started in triviality back in the day and it was the history history of the classes and I like I glad you brought that up because that was a very fun read and I highly recommend anybody watching listening to this that they actually go back and check it out because if you ever if you've only experienced fifth edition and you experienced the classes there are off editions an excellent edition and and you know obviously we it took it took many many journeys and many changes to get to the point where we are now with the classes but the classes Yeah, the classes have gone through many different iterations some not so much some have pretty much you know been been pretty pretty steady but some had some crazy ups and downs and takes on themselves Ranger over over the over the years and I think you did an excellent job and it was something fascinating to me because I won't lie I tend to play the same classes most of the time nowadays and over the years same independent no matter what the additional is in fact the only reason I play something different is because they added something I think would be it right like warlord when they added that that was became my new my new Fave for a while there so they kind of get rid of it and so the big still

Brandes Stoddard:

a sore subject on on the Twitter's Be very careful bring this up on the Twitter's it's an understandable

Christopher Mifsud:

subject. Yeah. What anyway, but you you did an excellent I just maybe talk about that, like what got you started on doing that and maybe talk a little bit more in depth and I just kind of highlighted it there of what you did and and what got you going on that because it was it was pretty it's it's pretty cool. It's an undertaking that only someone who is truly devoted to the two digit drive coming from the planet of dng. And and being a wayward, wayward member of that society to who would study its ancient laws and teachings and then put them together into something that's a little bit more digestible. For for the new up and coming end and for those who wish wish also from the planet of d&d nostalgia a little bit about

Brandes Stoddard:

Well, I mean, the main drive here is there really love crumbling scrolls? Just but if the scroll is crumbling, as I unfurl it to read the ancient texts, it's just it really adds something. But no, what happened was during during sort of the span of d&d Next, this is before running for triviality. I'm just writing my own blog. I started really digging into Okay, so this Ranger thing, they're doing stuff for the Ranger. What in God's name are they doing? And the Ranger has this identity crisis that goes all the way back?

Christopher Mifsud:

Does. It was the first class I ever played though. I think the second cause everybody, but

Brandes Stoddard:

so I wrote this series of three articles in my blog that were just a proto form of issues of classes I was talking about, you know, okay, so this class gets its start in one of the earliest magazine articles, from tactical studies, rules, the strategic review their magazine, right

Christopher Mifsud:

For dragon and dungeon magazine, all

Brandes Stoddard:

right, but it's still 1975. Right? born yet. Same. And so it's this. This is incredible, incredibly old thing. It's been in d&d since as near the beginning as you can mark, like, it comes into the game at about the same time as the thief.

Christopher Mifsud:

By Okay,

Brandes Stoddard:

yeah, but but you still see people who argue that there's no place in d&d. So a lot of that has to do with the identity crisis. And call your arranger its earliest tradition is a very strange move. Unless you, like, want to take this very skewed view on who Aragorn is. And it's just it's a very strange thing, because straight up is airborne, right?

Christopher Mifsud:

I mean, that was where

Brandes Stoddard:

its initial concept is clearly supposed to be Aragorn. Hmm. And even then, it's weird, because they are both arcane and divine casters. They're both sorry, magic user and cleric casters, at a certain level, which, what know, how is it doing that? Sure. Whatever I took,

Christopher Mifsud:

I took your favorite, favorite enemy. So I could have a displacer beast, which was the stupidest choice ever. back then.

Brandes Stoddard:

But But that all comes much later. Right? So so it does. Because I'm still talking about original d&d. Oh, yeah. Where they can do all of this while wearing plate armor. But they can't have many possessions. It's a whole thing. So there are stealth rules. There's no hiding rules at this point in the game. So they are sneaky, that sort of thing. And anyway, it just, it goes forward addition, over addition, kind of bouncing all over the place in how much it is or isn't getting closer to what we have now. Second Edition is where it really picks up the preference for two weapon fighting.

Christopher Mifsud:

That's it. Yeah. Lighter armor. Right.

Brandes Stoddard:

Right. And the really curious thing about it, is that according to the designers of second edition, it doesn't have anything in the world to do with restored. It's just his coincidence, dressed is doing all of this to up and fighting, because that is a future of drought at the time. Yeah, because it's supposed to be a ranger thing. And they they weren't trying to support as, as a dress thing. They just thought Rangers should do weapons. Sure. And so they're they're sort of the two weapon or bows class. And yeah, they become sneaky because they get people skills. This continues on into third hybrid class hybrid, hybrid class. And unfortunately, that often, often will mean sort of, okay, at two things not graded either of them. That's, that's always a danger with anything that's trying to be a hybrid. They get spellcasting starting at eighth level, so late enough that most players don't have experience it their most experienced arranger as a non casting class. This continues to be a major point of contention in online conversations, you know, should Rangers be spellcasting as as a core part of their game loop? Well, d&d has firmly said yes, fourth edition is the only edition of the game in which Rangers are not spellcasters by eighth or ninth level. And sometimes quite a bit earlier. In in fifth, they get spoiled by second level. And no matter how much people argue like, this is the this is the the fixed point of the universe here, it's not going anywhere. Which is not to say that there wasn't a Americana article in the very early days of fifth edition, with a non spellcasting Ranger. And there haven't been multiple articles of Ranger revisions along the way to offer some alternate view of the class that just digs into its identity crisis in a different way. Because it's like it's stealthy and Light Armored, but it's not a rogue. It is tough like a fighter but doesn't have a seat. back that up there. You're going to be burning thread points very quickly, but not the way barbarian does They could be the party tank, but they can't, but they could. Like, it's especially weird in fifth edition, where they only started with two subclasses. And those are very contentious.

Christopher Mifsud:

As you say they weren't they weren't people's favorite sub classes either.

Brandes Stoddard:

Even though the people who love them really love them, the people who love the semester love B semester, B semester is just very much about there are right choices and wrong choices. And that kind of system mastery in decision making is in itself contrary to the design ethos of fifth Hmm. So not great. And then that started off again. The decision decisions you make in hunter are interesting at first, and then they kind of taper weirdly, I don't know. It's, it isn't that it's bad. It's that it is all built on a sort of lower point in the Gonzo scale. Then the other classes and that's going to cause like a cause tonal dissonance.

Christopher Mifsud:

But so if you want to hear like read a whole history of this done on that if you if you if you weren't if you had any questions about Brian his chops, as far as knowledge base goes on this, you could literally he can talk about this literally for hours on end. And I know that for a fact. And also, the good thing is because you can talk about it for hours on it, he can write about it for days on end and has And so again, I highly recommend checking out his work on his work easy log or durability or anywhere else.

Brandes Stoddard:

Justice through the classes. Easily hundreds of 1000s of words. Yeah,

Christopher Mifsud:

yeah, it's it's he's literally covered. He covers every class. I you admit in there, I think you skip a couple things right here and there just because you're like, I could talk about this, but I'm going to glance over it. Because

Brandes Stoddard:

right now I haven't actually finished the series. I still have to do wizard and cleric, and barbarian and sorcerer and multiclassing. Maybe it is getting pretty close to though.

Christopher Mifsud:

Quit slacking. I know right? I was about to say he did. He did all the good classes. But didn't you? You said you haven't done sorcerer yet. So I guess he's still one last.

Brandes Stoddard:

I'll be a wizard fan until the day I die. Sure.

Christopher Mifsud:

I understand. The so one of my questions for a lot of folks is what's your favorite tilt up system? But I mean, I guess we know what it is. But please, maybe maybe tell us what your close second.

Brandes Stoddard:

So So I have two systems that are always jockeying for second place, right? For me, those are over the edge. I don't care which edition I love all love. Both editions of play. They're actually three editions of the edge. I played two of them. The second edition, which came out in 92. And then the 25th anniversary edition which came out in 2017 of the get actually reached my house in hardcover in 2018. I love this game so much. It is conspiracy weirdness is setting the modern day and it is always been ultra rules light. The 25th anniversary found a way to be even more offer rules late than its predecessors. that's saying something. And I can run conspiracy thrillers in this all day long. And I just love it. And whether the other the other is major the awakening. Okay, yeah. Run, run a couple of awakening Chronicles that have just been a really good time. I love the like, still pretty modern day conspiracy weirdness. But here it's more esoteric conspiracy, and occultism. It's just, it's really, really fun. I'm still trying to get my head around the second edition of awakening. It is very high crunchy compared to the already pretty high crunch first edition. And it kind of makes my eyes bleed. But I want to understand it because I want to get the run major again. And there were problems with first that I think they're trying to address and I appreciate that. But I'm just a huge fan of both of those. There are other systems. I like all So, but those three are kind of my my trifecta.

Christopher Mifsud:

Okay. And what about what about when it comes to video games? What's oh my god I'm playing? So yeah, I was so that's it. That's a big one. But okay, just wait, maybe, what do you what are you playing right now? And what's your go to fall back if you like, you know if you get to be trapped on an island had to play a game again or something, whatever.

Brandes Stoddard:

Alright, so so far we're gonna be stuck with one game for an insanely large amount of time. Well, I mean, I might actually finish a playthrough of points get torment if I were trapped on an island for a long time. I love games like hollow Knight, like just Just give me a Metroidvania that'd be happy for a long, long time.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure, sure. I like better videos myself.

Brandes Stoddard:

And then you get you get your dark souls. That is the very high difficulty, not 2d Metroidvania. Right. But they've the similarities between hollow Knight and Dark Souls sort of explain themselves. One is to the the other isn't? That's most of it. And right now I'm also playing dead cells, which is a How is that? It's it's sort of blending roguelite and souls like, in an interesting way. And that's that's pretty great. It doesn't become Metroidvania. Because exploring doesn't like, stay fixed. It's a roguelike. But it's really good. The action is fast paced, and fluid. And that feels very good. This is actually very strong. So do recommend.

Christopher Mifsud:

Nice.

Brandes Stoddard:

And then also things like slay the spire and monster train those roguelike deck builders, those are those are really my deal with those. But then you've got things like Pillars of Eternity. I love Pillars of Eternity, that that old school like the line that runs straight through planescape torment and boulders gate and icewind Dale get through pleasure, eternity. Yeah, of course. I love that. That's strong writing and big decision making dungeon crawling. That's absolutely my deal. No surprise there. It's

Christopher Mifsud:

no not at all very deeply inflected, of course. So another another question I like to ask folks, is how do you find your Zen like, how do you find the column in your life? I know you're, you know, you're busy writing you have heavy, heavy work life. But you have a family life too. Right? If your wife you mentioned, yeah, I know you have kids. So like, how do you find some zen, especially after a year like 2020? where there wasn't a lot of escaping that. So have you escaping to your own, you know, your husband?

Brandes Stoddard:

Well, so it's interesting. You asked me that right now, because it's something I've been struggling with a lot lately. But we went on a few days of vacation to go see my wife's parents. And then my parents kept our boys for a few days. My wife's dad is still recovering from COVID. And so they just really needed some some extra support from us. And we were down there for several days. And while we're down there, I got the sinus infection that's causing cough you've been hearing all day. But also, we watched the movie about time with Donald Gleason, and Rachel McAdams, and it really, like struck me just the right way. I had my first conversation with a therapist going to therapy for the first time. And then we also finished our like, as soon as we got back, we finished our series run of the good place, or just third series run. And those three things, your two media experiences and a really good conversation really resetted me in an important way, and helped me to take a break from some of the things in in my life and especially in my creative work that really are otherwise I can't let go Like, I really struggle when I complete a creative project, not to try to keep solving problems better. And think about how I could do it better next time or it came so close to getting it, right.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure. That's being a game designer, but said instead of being a Big Sur, certain mental state of game design, not all games are like, right, I understand it's

Brandes Stoddard:

alright, and been in tabletop gaming. And in video gaming, you can at least release a new edition. But in a performance art, like a live action role playing game, I can't ever do it again. Because it was just that time and moment. There's no way no matter dedication, actually lets me fix that thing that we have yet. But right. But but emotionally, I can't let go of that. Sure. But about time is a movie about, like, acceptance and releasing regrets. And so that was very meaningful to me at the time. Yeah. And so I've actually, like, after being being in some kind of Rocky places, emotionally for, honestly, the past year and change. I'm actually doing great right now. I mean, physically, so dang mess, but emotionally vulnerable in a while.

Christopher Mifsud:

That's awesome to hear. I'm really happy for you, man. That's really good. Excellent. So I want to switch to it not so serious question after that very serious answer. And important, but so what do you say, but I am really glad to hear that. That you're doing you're doing better after his rookie year for everyone and for trying to come out of it the best way that you can, like, my difficulties

Brandes Stoddard:

aren't greater than anyone else's, I would never mean to imply that.

Christopher Mifsud:

No, I didn't think he did it all. So don't worry about that, again, everyone is everyone is doing their, the best they can with the life that they've got and the cards that are dealt with, right. And so we just all need to be supportive of each other in that manner for 100%. For that, for sure. Um, so, I was gonna ask you, what do you put on your hot dog actually, next to lighten the mood, but, but you know, so, usually, mustard, ketchup and mustard, or just Sriracha? siracha Okay, it's not that good chili dog, too. Yeah, yeah, that's fair. That's fair. Catch. That thing still keeps confusing the hell out of me. But you just you mix it with mustard. Still mustard? Yeah. Fair enough. Fair enough. The so people, people who did not have the good fortune of being born on the planet of d&d, and maybe David had the years of, of, you know, immersion and dungeons dragons, but loves tabletop, a lot of d&d are really into it nowadays. They weren't there. You know, they're, they're looking to kind of like, either get started as a writer. Do do things in the space, do what you do. But maybe, you know, obviously, you know, I think a lot of my guests prove that it's it's not overnight, right? It's a lot of its dedication. But if they want to get started, what would you What would you turn? What would you tell a young a young brand is if he was, you know, just just coming about the days like, what what would you recommend to someone just getting started into the d&d, or tabletop role playing community or gaming community in general? Like, how would they get started? Where would you recommend they start,

Brandes Stoddard:

so Okay. In some ways, it's the best time we've ever had to get started. And in some ways, there's some things we've we've lost a little bit like, blogging now isn't where it was. There was a golden age of gaming blogging, that sort of sparked off in 2008 ish, and ran through about 2013. A lot of gaming blogs have closed their doors. Though, we're still kicking pretty hard over it, triviality. So, but I'm not really gonna say go start a gaming blog. If that's your passion, then God bless you. But what you do have now that we didn't have any of that time is the DMS Guild, okay? The open gaming license that will help you publish on dry throat RPG or h.io, or whatever, that's great. That's wonderful. It's constraining in some ways, and it can be much harder to, like, drag your reading audience to just drive through or to, to buy your product. Though, of course you can do for your pay what you want, if that's if that's where you are with it, I don't recommend it, I do recommend charging a flat fee for your work. Even if you're a beginner, I'm very serious about this. Okay, but but I want to be very explicit about what what the options are. Sure, it's important. So the DMS Guild, you're getting a smaller cut of your review your retail price. But since you have no manufacturing cost per unit, the odds are pretty good that you'll sell two to three times as much. Just because the VMs gold community is pretty good at driving audience to product. That's been my experience. Obviously, I can't speak to everyone's experience. I've been doing my best to build an audience through blogging and writing on the bird site for a long time now. And so if I look like an overnight success, it's because it's taken me, you know,

Christopher Mifsud:

11 years. Exactly, exactly. Very, very few people, even if they don't want to attribute all the hard work that is earlier, it still takes time to get the build up the skills, the reputation, the exposure, the everything

Brandes Stoddard:

I've been incredibly lucky in, in my friendships, I've had friends who have done me huge favors in, hey, I've got more work in this thing that I can handle, can you come split this with me put you in contact with this publisher, we'll have more work for you in the future. That's why I started writing for red publishing. So I start working for Dr. ality thanks to a man named rich Howard, very good friend of mine. Working for red publishing, is how I met Dan Dylan, who now works with the coast. And so he talks to people who need a third party developer, and it's obviously not where he can legally take on. That's not how was the ghost works. But, you know, he saw that I'm gonna get my work done. I'm gonna do it to as high standard of quality as my, my capacity allows. And so he can feel good about giving money to other people. Right?

Christopher Mifsud:

So would you would you say networking and or not being a bad person being generally a little person would, would be would be a good tip for, for people starting off in? Yep. Perhaps Don't piss off a lot of people in the community. Because it's this market. It's a big, it's a growing community, but it's small communities.

Brandes Stoddard:

Well, the actual diems guild creative community is still real tiny is real tiny, for people who get past about one or two products. So it's absolutely network and be a decent human. So she's gonna do and do what you say. Like that, that kind of just, honesty is very crucial. You need people to trust you need to trust that you're going to get done right, you're gonna get done when you say you're gonna do it.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, it's good, good work ethic. Right? You know, and being and being a freelancer I think it can be it'd be it's, it's tough steps. If you've ever been a freelancer, it's definitely a different setup. You know, consulting is different, very different than a nine to five per se. And you have to have a, you know, a very strong work ethic on your own to kind of deliver and meet deadlines and things like that, and even a lot of freedom.

Brandes Stoddard:

Yep. And the world thing, but the guild is you're working for yourself. No one's gonna come scold you for not getting the thing done. Unless you're part of a collaborative project. If if you're the boss, then like, that thing doesn't get released until you finish it. And you've got to live with whatever you put in it. So that's a big deal. It's it's really important.

Christopher Mifsud:

It is, I agree. Any any other advice?

Brandes Stoddard:

Like my intro to writing in games and and all this is now 15 years in the rearview mirror, maybe it was a little bit more. So it was January 2005 was our working on dining star operation Quick Launch with Lee Any advice I would give is so dated now as to not be super helpful.

Christopher Mifsud:

Well, I would I disagree. But that's fair. If you you know, I think your advice you give it right there is good, but

Brandes Stoddard:

I don't think it's repeatable in that way as well, I'm sure. Sure.

Christopher Mifsud:

Sure. But I mean, like, in essence, like if you know, folks that are working on stuff, and you're interested, let people know, right? Oh, for sure, for sure. And get involved. And then I know you're talking about like, professional tabletop. But you've mentioned briefly LARPing, and stuff like that, right? There's other ways the right I mean, there's lots of other, there's more than d&d, there's other things that you can write for, maybe it's a smaller audience, but there's maybe easier in in that environment, then then I definitely

Brandes Stoddard:

think people have been very successful in the indie sphere. That's it can definitely work. If you can get the you get the the foothold of an audience, just, you know, some people who will help proselytize for you. And if you have a good grabby pitch, Kickstarter, man. Sure, from beginning, beginning, middle and end of the conversation like that, then all you have to do is deliver what you say you're going to deliver. And the audience will come back, because they give you the mailing addresses. Yeah, yeah. If you deliver, the audience will come back for the second product. Because you've got their mailing addresses.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, exactly. You have their mailing addresses, email mailing, you have a way to contact them again, right. It's a lot of folks will talk about this and other places, have a mailing list, create, start building a mailing list of your own, have it on your website. The thing is, is like Facebook or other places, like platforms can go away and shut down or lock you out. But they can't take your mailing list away from you. So create an alias. Oh, look, we got a special guest. I do I do we get one eventually. So but we're going through the end of the way. So it's alright. But it's good. It's good to get a special guest in there. The brand is maybe tell everybody one more time. And it'll be in the notes. And it'll be elsewhere all over when we were posting this, this podcast and this YouTube video. But where can everyone find you tell all all the places that the world that can that they were looking to learn and read more about fifth edition or any edition and the history of it and so forth, where they find Brandon Stoddard on the maps. So all of that. Come, sir, that again. Sorry about that. romba and

Brandes Stoddard:

so Caritas tell us. Yeah. So all the history writing is on trevallies calm. You can also find my writing on Brenda Stoddard calm. On Twitter, the birzeit I'm at Brenda Stoddard, seve Patreon that is Brenda Stoddard is a real benefits to having an unusual name posts on Facebook and movie, but I don't do any writing. Or just reposting.

Christopher Mifsud:

Yeah, I think you can just catch most of it. Most of the stuff goes goes up on the on the bird site, as we said, check him out on at his personal blog, become a Patreon. Tell me a little bit about that. In Britain, his Patreon support is is he's not asking a lot actually folks and you get the seed, you get the goods earlier. So maybe talk a little bit about that real fast before

Brandes Stoddard:

we so so yeah, my Patreon is just kicking me a few bucks to support writing that's gonna be free anyway. Nothing is exclusive. It's just three days early. For free, that's what you get for $1 for $5. You get to see some works in progress that I haven't turned into completed works yet.

Christopher Mifsud:

And they're fine. They're fine. They're good reads.

Brandes Stoddard:

I've been pretty consistent about two releases per month. You also get my DMS guild releases for free as a member of my Patreon. Then we also had, like triviality had a PDF release. That was just part of the triviality Patreon, but we also released it through my Patreon. Awesome, very cool. So yeah, well,

Christopher Mifsud:

thank you so much, Brian. It's really appreciate you being on here today and taking the time and and giving us a brief. A brief history lesson isn't d&d there and you're at least in your history to which is not quite as extensive but almost as extensive as d&d, it seems so.

Brandes Stoddard:

Well, I don't know. 274. But yeah, brother. It's been a delight to talk to you I definitely enjoyed getting to play some tabletop games with you again online during this pandemic. That's been. It's been wonderful. And always good times. I'm

Christopher Mifsud:

big fan of it myself to

Brandes Stoddard:

people outside. We'll see you stateside again. sometime in the future. Yeah, that

Christopher Mifsud:

might be 2022. But we'll see. We'll see. We'll see how the borders how the borders lighten up in a bit or Yeah. Yeah, man. Cool. Thanks again, so much. Awesome. That's this week's episode of press Start leadership podcast. As always, thanks for being awesome. If you haven't yet, make sure to give us a follow. Till next time. If you haven't downloaded my free e book five heroic leadership skills, click on the link in the description. Tune in next week for your next episode of press star leadership podcast. Thank you.