Thinking Critically: A D&D Discussion
  • Danilo Vujevic
29 episodes
A discussion show with different guests each episode. We take a single concept or idea and discuss what that means within the D&D framework to help you get the most out your sessions, whatever side of the screen you sit on. Consider it an NPR-style, variety bucket of thought-provoking analysis and humorous anecdotes!
All music by Kevin MacLeod.
Art by Béi: https://www.beiworkshop.com/

Episodes

Disaster
2021 May 071h 2m 18s
This episode I am joined by Heath, a.k.a Dag of Dahgda's Cauldron, and we discuss the surprisingly vast topic of "Disaster". With we start with how, much like conflict, it's an essential part of any adventure whether it's small-scale or apocalyptic. We they go on to compare the merits of setting a campaign either before, or after, a disaster, and how that flavours and shapes the experience. Of course, not all disastrous events happen in-universe, many take the form of social and interpersonal issues at the table. Dag and I discuss a couple of these including the D&D rite of passage of hearing "sorry, I can't make it" five minutes before the session! Finally, the finish the episode by chatting about ways to manage and reframe disaster, real or misconceived, including the dreaded TPK!
Lore
2021 Apr 301h 1m 38s
Welcome to the season 2 opener! We are flying out of the gate with a super interesting discussion all about lore with Steven from The Travel Log. This episode will be useful for both DMs and players looking to flesh out their creations using published work, lightening the creative load. I start by quizzing Steven on a few places I've heard of, but have no idea where they are or what they're like. Steven explains how the Sword Coast and the Forgotten Realms fit together, alongside a brief history on other famous locations such as Neverwinter and Baldur's Gate. He goes on to explain how the different editions of D&D aren't just a rules update, but also directly impact the setting and lore - I never expected the mechanics and setting to be so intrinsically linked! After detailing the hidden history of his favourite race, the Yuan-Ti, we discuss ways players can add dimension and flavour to their characters by integrating pre-existing lore into their backstories. Finally, to bring us home, we debate how retconning "new" settings (such as Exandria) into established material impacts the game.
Season 1 Wrap Up
2021 Apr 161h 2m 16s
Well, here we are, 25 episodes later and a whole lot wiser! This is the wrap up and retrospective for season 1 and boy, what a journey it has been. This episode doesn't feature a guest, but instead you can humour me for an hour as I take a look back at the past six months and what it's meant to me as a player, DM, and human being. But first, the show would be nothing without the listeners and guests, so I take some time to thank all you lovely people, it's not hyperbole to say you've changed my life. Then I take a listen to a few of the episode snippets that I never got round to publishing, and embellish a little as to how they made the cut. Fair warning you'll have to excuse me tooting my own horn in this section, you have been warned! Then the second half of the show is dedicated to the Q&A. I had questions submitted from my guests, listeners, and my players and some are really spicy! It's a varied bunch, so if you want to hear about how it's impossible to disassociate the "human" from the "DM" alongside me gushing about my favourite NPCs, this is the section! And to close out the episode, I announce the listener-only competition that went out in episode 25.
Health
2021 Apr 091h 8m 54s
CW: In-game, player-character death, injury, harm, sexual identity, allusions to suicide and euthanasia. Player mental health & disorders and physical exhaustion.
Fudging
2021 Apr 021h 2m 24s
This episode is (unfortunately?) not about the delicious sugary treat, but instead the DM tool of "fudging dice"; changing the outcome of a roll behind the screen. For this discussion, I'm joined by Bart Wynants, a.k.a @critographer, author, historian, and all-round inspiration machine. Off the back of Bart's extensive, seven-part Twitter thread, we discuss the finer points of this particular incarnation of DM fiat, and how it's a bit of an iceberg of unseen issues. Firstly, it's not limited to just altering the result of a dice roll in secret, and it's pervasiveness can take many forms: dice tables, magic items, difficulty DCs, etc. I go through my personal realisation of how public rolling completely changed the game for the better, with no drawbacks! We come to the conclusion that fudging is less a DM tool, and actually a symptom of a deeper problem - seen as an exceptional occurrence. Through the use of the "five-whys" methodology we can get to the bottom of why the need for fudging has manifested, and fix it at the root, which is easier than you might expect!
Agency
2021 Mar 261h 7m 2s
For this insightful episode I am joined by Scott, a.k.a @optionalrule, and we talk about the incredibly important topic of agency. It's a term that gets bandied around a lot, carrying with it an awful lot of weight. In this hour, Scott and I begin to unpack some of that weight and how it can drastically and dramatically impact the gameplay experience. Starting by clarifying some common misconceptions and misinterpretations, we define what "agency" really is within the TTRPG experience. When you have so many options on the table, where do you draw the line? Indeed, the GM is player too with their own pool of agency, and it's that trading of agency which leads to interesting and dynamic games. We finish on the importance of trust, something not always directly associated with agency, but the two are often intrinsically linked. The more you trust each other, the more you're willing to part with to increase the enjoyment of everyone at the table, and I can't think of a more poetic explanation than that!
Rules
2021 Mar 191h 5m 41s
Oh dear, hopefully we don't make any enemies with this episode all about the rules! Andrew Block and I discuss a range of topics interspersed with luke-warm takes and personal opinions. If that doesn't sell it, I don't know what will! We open with a discussion around the 'Rule of Cool' (RoC) and how it often belies the tricky nuances around modifying rules on the fly; there's often a wider impact that isn't always immediately visible. Indeed, D&D is a game of two halves where all the players work together to maintain a satisfying balance. Do you focus on verisimilitude and a believable universe potentially at the expense of "cool" set pieces? Or do you throw caution to the wind and allow audacious feats of heroism, possibly sacrificing standardisation and consistency? Ultimately, the rules are there to facilitate a story, so if you're achieving that, you're doing fantastic!
Encounters
2021 Mar 121h 13m 49s
This meaty episode is all about encounters within your TTRPG game. I'm joined by @XhangoGames and somehow we manage to squeeze an awful lot into a little over an hour! We sandwich mechanical examples for spicing up encounters alongside ways to reframe interactions with NPCs; turn "misses" into misfortune! Xhango opens the episode up with the elegant definition that all encounters should be a "dramatic question" - every interaction (environment, NPCs, and adversaries) should all put something at stake, what could be lost? This includes benign encounters with merchants and even each other. Check out Xhango's latest product on DM's Guild, the Candlekeep Codex!
Acting
2021 Mar 051h 23m 48s
For this special [natural] twentieth episode, it's my pleasure to welcome Ben, Darrel, Vicky, Grace, and David from No Small Rolls (@nosmallrolls), the amazing actual-play podcast where there are no small rolls! It's a laugh a minute as they take me through their experiences in producing NSR, and how they've approached portraying a character based on a sheet full of numbers. It was interesting to find out how a career in acting affects the D&D experience, or more accurately, how it doesn't. Ultimately, there is no silver bullet to successful role play (whatever that means!), and no single person is "more suited" to the experience than any other. Alongside such earnest guidance, you can also hear me mess up in literally my first sentence, learn how to buy friends, and appreciate how slippers can give you proficiency in stealth!
Improvisation
2021 Feb 261h 5m 33s
This episode I'm joined by Daniel, a.k.a @eos_rakonto, and we talk about the fine art of improvisation. Starting with the frankly embarrassing realisation on my part that almost everything that happens in a given game is improvised, we move on to discuss a number of tips for DMs on how to deal with the dynamic nature of play, and role playing on the fly. We end on ways to improve your own character role play at the table, especially for those that find it intimidating. Daniel is sincere, knowledgeable and insightful, and it was a pleasure to have him on the show.