Nerds on Earth
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Interview: Troy Lavallee, Dungeon Master of the Glass Cannon Podcast

If you haven’t listened to the Glass Cannon Podcast, then, oh friend, do I have a nerdy treat for your ears. The Glass Cannon podcast is a play through podcast that uses the Pathfinder roleplaying game system, and the Giantslayer Adventure Path specifically.

The Pathfinder RPG system is fantastic, the podcast is hilarious, and the story is incredibly compelling. So I captured their DM, Troy, and brought him back to Nerds on Earth HQ. He was questioned thoroughly, then released (mostly) unharmed.

Pathfinder RPG: The Glass Cannon Podcast

Clave: What’s the origin story for the Glass Cannon Podcast?

Troy: I actually didn’t start listening to podcasts until recently. Living in New York, the only opportunity I could even fathom sitting and listen to podcasts would be on the subway, but I like to use that time for reading.

Troy Lavallee, DM of the Glass Cannon PodcastAs I started getting back into stand-up comedy though, I became obsessed with the podcast Tuesdays with Stories hosted by two up and coming comics. It’s honestly the only podcast I listen to besides our own. But when I first started listening, I branched out to some RPG pods like Nerd Poker and The Adventure Zone and that got my wheels turning.

With no disrespect to them, I was listening the whole time thinking: my gaming group is WAY funnier than this AND we play the game at such a higher level, why the hell aren’t we doing a podcast?! [1] So I pitched my idea to Joe and Skid and here we are!

Clave: I love that you guys play through a published adventure path. So many play through podcasts use homebrew content, yet I don’t have the heart to tell them that their stories just don’t have the same polish and flow as a published adventure. What was your rationale here?

Troy: We’re all pretty much obsessed with the Pathfinder RPG. Between the five of us, we’re currently playing in or DMing five different Pathfinder Adventure Paths and we always say we wish we had more time to play all of them! [2]

It physically pains us that we can’t go back to the first AP Rise of the Runelords and just run through all 17 of them consecutively. In many ways, the podcast was just an excuse to start a new one. Paizo puts out such quality content, but with D&D 5E getting all the love lately, we really wanted to make sure people knew how phenomenal the Pathfinder system is.

There are countless D&D podcasts clogging the internet ether, but with the dearth of Pathfinder pods out there, we knew if we could ever find an audience, ours had a great chance of standing out.

Clave: Yet Pathfinder can be pretty persnickety when it comes to rules. In fact, there could be a legitimate danger of losing listeners amidst the +1 -2 +3 -1 math gymnastics. In fact, I’ve noticed that when the game is starting to bog under the details, you’ll gently scoot things along. Is this something you are consciously doing?

Troy: A lot of people ask us how much we edit our episodes and to be honest, it’s not very much. We cut out long pauses if I’m drawing a map or if someone’s mumbling math to themselves, but for the most part we keep it moving.

PZO9091_500Early on, there was so much role-playing in those first half dozen episodes, we were nervous that once we got bogged down in the mechanics of plus ones and d20s, it could be a drag for listeners especially those who were tuning in for the story and not the dice rolls. So we made a decision early on to both keep it moving and keep it exciting.

We don’t just say, “Ok, I attack that orc. I rolled a 16. That’s a hit? Okay, 3 damage.”

Instead we say, “Ok, my character sees that the orc just slashed my buddy across the chest and now his blood is boiling. He charges up to him, dropping his bow, drawing his falchion as he does then attempts to slash the orc across the face! I hit him with a 16! The falchion hits the orc right between the neck and the top of his shoulder for 3 points of damage.”

Clave: You are a great DM, so I’m going to make you brag on yourself a bit. What are a couple strengths you think you bring to the table?

Troy: After a good 18 year hiatus from pencil and paper RPGs, I got back into the hobby like five or six years ago, yet only started DMing a year and a half ago. It didn’t take long before I became obsessed again and I just wanted to play as often as I could find the time to do so.

Skid, Joe and I were in a couple games but I wanted to do more, so they suggested I find a Paizo campaign and run it for them. I then devoured the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide and Core Rulebook, read as much as I could about running games, and we started the Jade Regent Adventure Path last February.

I don’t know if it’s my background in acting and comedy or just my OCD attention to detail, but I really took to it.[3]

I think I also have a really good sense of story and I posit that’s always going to be the most engaging aspect for the players.

Obviously they wanna fight cool monsters and find sick magical items, but if every key moment of the game doesn’t somehow reveal story, or in lieu of that at least have the characters questioning what’s happening and how it’s all connected, they’ll eventually lose interest, which is one of the main reasons that most gaming groups dissolve, I think.

But if you can create a story that makes your players salivate about wanting to play the next session, you’re doing something right and I think I do that pretty well. In the end, if the players are interested in what I’m creating with what Pathfinder’s giving me, then there’s a great chance the listeners will be interested as well.

Clave: Now you have to brag on your players a bit. What strengths do they bring both individually and collectively?

Troy:  None. They all stink.

No, they’re great.

Skid (who plays human Cleric Gelabrous Finn) just plays the game on another level. I think that’s why we butt heads over the rules so much because he’s so unbelievably creative and has the ability to embody his eight dimensional characters so well, that I constantly frustrate him with the mechanics of the game that he might feel stifles his creativity.

I’ve never played with another person who so perfectly envelops his characters. If Gelabrous ever bites it, as amazing as it will be for our listeners, there’s a good chance Skid will disown me as a friend.

Joe (who plays half-orc ranger Lorc Irontusk) is a student of the game. He’s like me in that when we’re bored we’ll just read about cover and concealment rules or how the Climb skill “really” works, etc. We just love learning about the rules of the game, however minor, and then playing them to the best of our ability.

He always drones on about how uncreative he is, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. He’s the perfect balance of trying to play the game the “right” way (whatever that means) and role-playing how he truly believes his character would act in each situation without being unbearable about it.

BarronI think Grant’s (who plays dwarf gunslinger Barron Redheart) strengths lie in his attention to detail. He already knows the ins and outs of what Barron’s new powers will be when he reaches 10th level in six years. He’s newer to Pathfinder, but he just dove in head first, researching and learning, and putting great thought into his character.

He’s also great when things don’t go his way, which I love as the DM who is constantly causing his character strife.

Last, and by all means least, is Matthew (who plays human witch Gormlaith Kall). I was actually just introducing Matthew into another campaign I run the other night and we stopped at one moment and said, can you believe he’s only been playing for less than a year!

Matthew’s very cerebral but also has this intense creative side as a writer and that marriage works perfectly for playing Pathfinder. Add to that the fact that he doesn’t carry all the baggage of a grognard, he comes to the table with solutions to problems that NONE of the other players would even think of.

They may not always be possible within the rules of the game, but his fresh perspective has proved invaluable to creating crazy story moments.

Clave: What are the hopes for the future of the Glass Cannon Podcast? I, for one, can’t get enough of your content, so I’m wondering if you could possibly play all the adventure paths and release 60 episodes a week.

Troy: My hopes for the future of the podcast is that, if nothing else, we finish all six books of Giantslayer, which would probably clock in at about 180-200 episodes…and then immediately start another Adventure Path!

Since we’re using copyrighted material, it’s not like we can make money on the podcast through advertising or selling What Would Omast Do? t-shirts, so ideally we’d love for Paizo, Inc. to discover us and maybe bring us on as some sort of consultants/ambassadors.

It would be amazing for the group to do live podcasts or panels at conventions like GenCon or PAX or even in gaming stores and with Pathfinder’s support, I think we could introduce this hobby to a whole new sub-section of people that otherwise would have never even considered putting down their gaming controllers in favor of rolling dice.

Not to toot our own horn, but I think what Joe’s doing with his weekly “We Are Stupid” column on our tumblr where he explains all the mistakes we make on a weekly basis in comparison to the actual Pathfinder rules is just phenomenal. What a great meta-way of teaching the fans about the game by explaining how we, even after years of playing, still make the same mistakes over and over.

Come on, Pathfinder! Discover us! We’re doing yeoman’s work here!

Clave: What else are you geeking out on?

Troy: I think being in multiple Pathfinder games has filled my geek quota for the next three decades, but I’m an avid Playstation 4 gamer sitting in not-so-quiet anticipation for the release of Dark Souls 3 next year since 1 and 2 are two of the best, if not THE BEST, video games ever created.

In fact, I think that’s why my players (fake) hate me sometimes, because I try to raise the difficulty level of the Pathfinder games to the insane difficulty of the Souls series.

I’m also mid-way through Book 2 of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive which is the only series I’ve come upon in a long time that rivals A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book Way of Kings blew me away and I’m even more floored by the second book, Words of Radiance.

Clave: Thanks, Troy, you are free to go now. Run quickly before I change my mind. The rest of us should plug in our earbuds to listen to the Glass Cannon Podcast.

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My hope from this interview is that folks would not only be introduced to a wonderful new podcast, but also gain some insight into what makes for a great DM.

And because I am generous, I also interviewed the players from the Glass Cannon Podcast with hopes of getting insight into what makes a great gaming group and why the Pathfinder RPG is so great. That interview is so full of content that it was split into two parts: Part 1, Part 2.

[1] Indeed, Troy first dabbled in podcast creation just last year.
[2] The Giantslayer Adventure Path is so well done that it’s worth a purchase simply to read through it. Just don’t read too far ahead, or you’ll spoil the podcast!
[3] Maybe Neon Deion taught Troy how to DM.