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Part 2 of our interview with Jon and Jef, the hosts of System Mastery. Listen to Part 1.
- When picking games to evaluate, Jef and Jon look for unique games with something fresh to discuss, regardless of actual quality. Strange is better than ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
- Ambitious moves whether or not they work.
- Disconnects in thought between intention and implementation gives them a lot to talk about.
- One of Jef’s favorites is when designers inject a lot of their own personal opinions inappropriately.
- Kevin Siembieda, creator of Rifts, is a sweet dude and fun to talk to.
- Jon has so many opinions on Herbert Hoover.
- Their next patreon goal will move Expounded Universe to a weekly show.
- Jon and Jef have been working with the author of Strike! to develop the Blimpleggers rpg.
- They are working with James D’Amato on a game where you build the rules as you go.
- They’d also like to grow the house brand with a few more San Diego nerd podcasts produced by other people.
- They’d like to do video content, but there are significant logistical obstacles to surmount.
- The ultimate goal of any podcast is to have a pig butler, and System Mastery is no different.
- Advice: Don’t go into podcasting with any kind of monetary goal.
- Go into podcasting to produce quality content, and allow people to support you if they wish. Do it for the love of doing it.
- Find the community that wants what you’ve got.
- There’s a lot of luck involved.
- One of the weirdest things to Jef is that people now consider them experts.
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Jef and Jon are the hosts of System Mastery, a podcast dedicated to exploring the silly and sordid history of roleplaying games through the ages. In each episode, they pick a new strange old RPG to read, discuss, and more often than not, make fun of. Over the four years they’ve been doing this, they’ve branched out into movies, skits, live action roleplay, and most recently, making fun of Star Wars.
Note: This is part 1 of a two part episode. Listen to part 2.
- System Mastery started when Jef approached Jon with the idea of doing a game review podcast in August of 2013.
- He was inspired by the movie review podcasts at the time.
- Jon had been considering doing youtube videos at the time.
- A lot of System Mastery’s format choices come from a mixture of podcasts and YouTube inspirations.
- Both Jon and Jef consider themselves natural entertainers.
- Jon had previously tried to make it as a stand up comic, but gave it up because he doesn’t like living in a van.
- Jeff’s attributes his taking that step to become a podcaster to being entirely driven by whim.
- Jon and Jeff have been friends for over a decade. They started talking about Nintendo, and the rest is history.
- A lot of their comedic bits come from just friendly casual riffing between the two of them. One of them comes up with an idea, and the other is willing to roll with it.
- 75% of what they come up with is too weird to put into their shows.
- Jon and Jef don’t work from notes or plan their podcasts out, but Jef takes notes as he reads the material they’ll be discussing, to help him remember.
- Expounded Universe is an exception; the material requires it.
- Other than that they have a strong ‘no research’ policy.
- They recommend not listening to the episode about your favorite game first. Listen to something you can be more objective about.
- Once a year they get a listener who will form an intense vendetta against them for about a month.
- The community and their fanbase are overwhelmingly podcasting.
- There’s very little competition within their podcast sphere. It’s all very supportive.
- Their fans send them a lot of old and obscure games.
- They started their patreon to raise the $6/month to pay the show’s hosting fees. By the end of the first month they were bringing in $50-60.
- They never expected System Mastery to take off the way it has, and find the experience humbling.
- After a few months of releasing episodes they announced their podcast on the Something Awful forums, RPG net, reddit, and EN World.
- System Mastery has joined with former guest James D’Amato’s One Shot Network.
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James D’Amato is the host of the ONE SHOT Podcast, co-founder of the ONE SHOT Network, and half of Paracosm press.
- James views his creative work as using tabletop roleplaying as a storytelling medium.
- It’s harder to build an audience than it was 5 years ago, but the podcasting buy-in is lower. Marketing is one of the primary challenges.
- James learned about and fell in love with RPGs in college.
- James practiced stand-up comedy in high-school.
- Other comedians just seemed like sad tired old men, and that didn’t look like it led to a good place.
- He took an improv class and saw that the instructors didn’t seem unhappy.
- He moved to Chicago to improve improv, and was introduced to Earwolf’s “Improv for Humans.”
- He and his friend Alex decided to create a show of their own
- Podcasting doesn’t require passing through a rigid system to book gigs, and allowed them to set their own schedule.
- They created the Overshare, which was picked up by Peaches and Hot Sauce
- Patrick O’Rourke approached James and asked him to create an Actual Play RPG podcast.
- James saw that most Actual Play shows were DnD focused, when gaming is so much broader.
- They came up with a format that allowed them to tour different game systems with a rotating cast of guests.
- Their focus on a broader game base and high caliber performances helped them take off quickly.
- Starting now would be more difficult as podcast quality has generally risen over the years.
- Everyone has their own path into how they do what they do, and directly following someone else’s path isn’t effective, but if you look to the successes of a lot of people, you can figure out how to make “you” work.
- One of the big factors in One Shot’s success was Pat O’Rourke’s focus on quality equipment.
- If you’re dong an Actual Play podcast, have a microphone for each player to have a competitive footing. James recommends the Yeti Blue Pro. It offers both USB and XLR line options, and is thus upgradeable.
- The free software Audacity is a perfectly adequate piece of software for every level of podcasting.
- James believes that Twitch is the future of entertainment along with Netflix and HBO.
- The successful production companies cater to narrow niches.
- Podcasting is radio on demand, Twitch is the equivalent of live television. Twitch is where the money is going to be.
- Time is their biggest limitation; One Shot Podcast is a full time job, but Twitch is also a full time gig.
- You will soon see RPGs designed to operate within what opportunities Twitch provides.
- James’s new project is the Dungeon Dome, his first attempt to really take advantage of the medium. It’s a PvP gladiator game, and he’s running a kickstarter to fund it.
- The story arises from the procedural stories generated by the interactions between the characters.
- Spectators will be able to impact the matches.
- Backers will have greater influence. They can create items and events that are featured in matches.
- High level donors will be able to co-create characters that will exist within the context of the game space.
- The key is that they are offering engagement rather than exclusivity.
- After Dungeon Dome’s first season of 15 episodes, James will focus on game design and new narrative projects.
- The bulk of One Shot’s income comes through Patreon
- Patreon is not a place to build an audience, it is a place to monetize the audience you already have. You need to have the actionable audience.
- This audience is going to be 5-10% of your total fans for podcasts, less than 1% for less engaging art forms.
- Give yourself the time to grow before deciding if you’re a success or failure.
- Podcasts are higher engagement than other media. You spend an hour or so a week with the hosts in your ear. This creates an intensely intimate investment.
- You are acting on this good will. You don’t need to treat it like a product, or a kickstarter. You are giving the people who think of you as a friend the opportunity to contribute to your existence.
- Don’t let Patreon pressure you to the point where your life suffers.
- Successful milestones focus on how your life will improve, rather than potential future projects.
- Have faith in yourself as an artist, and never break yourself on a project. If something requires you to destroy your life, it’s probably not worth it.