Note: this is a transcripted interview, edited for ease of reading
- Starting TTRPG’s
- Starting the Raised on DnD podcast and gaming with kids
- The best part of running the podcast
- Benefits of playing TTRPGs as a family
- Individual benefits to kids
- Advice for parents, caregivers, and teachers
- Closing words and links
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Nick Cardarelli. I am the host of Raised on DnD podcast. I have also been a dungeon master for 30 years. I am also a husband and a father to three teenagers. That’s right, they’re all teenagers all at once… oh my gosh! I have a bachelor’s of science in interpersonal and organizational communication from Florida Southern College. I’m an adjunct professor at Oak State College, and I’m also a trainer at my job.
How did you start playing TTRPG’s?
My friends in middle school were super smart, and they belonged to a program called Alpha. The Alpha Program was for those top performer students. Well, once they were done doing whatever the smart kids got to do in Alpha, their teacher introduced them to tabletop role playing games. I believe they started with Palladium Book’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they brought that home. They started playing them among themselves and wanted to get more of their friends in on this. I got the invite… or maybe I invited myself… I can’t remember. Anyway, we went from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to then… I had a box set of a Middle Earth role playing game by ICE. It was very complicated. Lots of tables, and it was difficult for 12 year olds to figure out. Well, got so excited about role playing games, we told my older brother. He said, “I don’t play those so much, but my friend does, and he said, he’d be willing to run and adventure for you and your friends”.
That was 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons in the late 80’s, and then from there, we played all kinds of games. We started playing Palladium Fantasy a lot. From there, Vampire the Masquerade and Call of Cthulhu, and things like that. That’s how it all started.
Can you tell us about the Raised on DnD podcast? What inspired you to start doing it?
Raised on DnD podcast gives inspirational interviews to parents, teachers, and family members who want to pass their love for tabletop role playing games to their children, family, and friends.
What inspired the show was… one afternoon, I was babysitting my children. Which, I get in trouble when I say that – when they’re yours, you’re not babysitting. Well, my wife left me alone with my three children. My children are 17 months apart, so, at the time, they were 4.5, 3, and 2.5. They were tiny.
We had watched all the Dora the Explorer and Veggie Tales and Wiggles that I could take that morning, and it was raining outside, so there weren’t any outdoor activities that we could do. I thought to myself… what activity could we do that would keep them occupied because we have hours left before my wife’s return.
So, I went ahead and got out the miniatures and pregenerated characters. I pulled out a battle map and the DM screen, and I put them all on the table and just started telling a story. The smallest one had to have enlarged dice so he wouldn’t choke. My 4.5 year old was reading her character sheet. My middle one was moving the figurines around the map. We had a wonderful time, and it probably kept their attention for about 30-40 minutes.
We had started playing tabletop role playing games together, and I started posting it on social media, and then we really got into it. My wife and I are fans, and I told her how the children enjoyed it. We posted online just for sharing with family and friends to say, “hey! Look what we did with the kids today! They’re nerds just like us.”
Then my friends started to ask me, “Hey, how do you do this? How do you play with your kids? Aren’t the rules complicated?”
At the same time, online, I started making friends with people who make tabletop roleplaying games for children, and we’re picking them up at the store, downloading online off their website stores… we would play them and post and tag them to say thank you for the great game.
Fast forward 10 years later, and I bought a microphone for online gaming to play Roll 20 with friends and family across the company. I also went to my brother, who is the host of an internet radio show and asked him what I could do with this microphone that was creative and helpful. He suggested doing a podcast, and I said, “oh! A podcast? That would be fun.”
I talked to my wife about it and asked what I would talk about, and she said, “Well, you’re really passionate about parenting, and you’re really passionate about gaming. Why don’t you try to combine those two things.”
We had basically been gaming with the kids for 10 years and had raised them on D&D, so… yeah, I can talk about that!
It wasn’t supposed to be an interview show, and it definitely wasn’t supposed to be a celebrity interview show. I just didn’t want to talk into the darkness like a lot of podcasts do, so I talked to my daughter to see her impression of being raised on D&D and her memories of gaming together. I wanted to get her perspective on the situation.
Then, I thought, well… if I’m going to interview her about the games we played, I can interview some of the people who made the games. I started to talk to them and ask if they would like to be on the show.
One of my internet friends on facebook was Luke Gygax. For the last 10 years, we’ve been liking things and commenting on each other’s posts, and I thought… well, he’s a dad. Maybe he’d like to be on the show? No… he’s Luke Gygax! He’s the son of Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D! But I did reach out to him, and, to my surprise, he said yes. I was so excited.
Then… oh no. I’ve set the bar. Everyone’s going to be like, “Who’s going to be on next?” but it’s been great. That’s how the show started… and that’s how it got away from me.
What is the best part of doing the Raised on DnD podcast?
Probably the most amazing thing is seeing how the different people that I interview look at tabletop role playing games. All of them look at it as a fun pastime, but seeing how doctors of psychology and counselors implement tabletop role playing games with their clients and patients… seeing how teachers and librarians introduce tabletop role playing games as a way to educate… seeing how parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, introduce tabletop roleplaying games as a bonding experience… It affirmed a lot of things that I believe about tabletop role playing games and also helped me really understand how this fun hobby of ours can be utilized in so many ways to help people.
What benefits have you seen from playing TTRPG’s with your family?
I think a lot of people like to focus on math, and when they’re tiny, it’s great for number recognition and things like that, but let me start with the benefits to the family all together.
The biggest benefit of spending time around the tabletop together is that bonding and that shared experience. It’s that way that we can connect on something. Especially with mine being teenages now, they’re all going in different directions.
I’ve got the young aspiring artist who is all into hip hop culture and tik tock and Fortnite. He’s 12.5, and he’s so correct all the time.
Then I have the just-turned-14-year-old who’s kind of dark and brooding, and he loves history and music. He loves learning obscure trivia.
Then I have the oldest who is 15. She’s just started working, is headstrong, eyes on the future, putting in the work and hours to make sure her dreams are fulfilled. She’s laying the groundwork for a good future.
I have these three very unique people living in my house, and it’s sometimes hard for us all to agree on what to eat, what to watch. When we all sit down at the table and have our unique characters go on an adventure together, that brings us to something common. It’s something that we can focus on and share.
What benefits have you seen specifically with your kids?
As individuals, what I have seen is communication skills and working through social problems. We emphasize a lot on the roleplay. We’re hacking and slashing monsters like everyone else, but we role play the town and talking to the shop keep. We negotiate with the kobold chieftain. By doing that, it allows the children to really stretch those muscles and learn social consequences in a safe and imaginary environment. That has been a huge benefit to each of them.
I’ve interviewed them also on the show – my youngest’s interview is coming up in this next season. My daughter talks about how it gave her confidence, to make decisions, to look at things critically.
My middle son is one of my favorite episodes because he is very shy. He did not want to do the show. He came in while I was playing on the computer one day and was telling me about something he was excited about. I just pressed record and started asking him questions along the same lines. It was all D&D related, so we did almost a whole episode. I said, “what is your recommendation for dungeon masters like yourself?” and that’s when he realized we were recording. He went with it and answered the question, but he said that he enjoys the languages, the culture and history of settings. He got into dungeon mastering, so he enjoyed the creative outlet that it gave him.
My younger son’s episode is coming up, and he talked about how super hero games are his favorite and it’s inspired his love of comic books and art.
Here, we have three very different people who got very different things out of the same experience.
What advice do you have for parents, caregivers, teachers, etc who want to start playing TTRPG’s with their kids?
My biggest recommendation is to always reach your children where they’re at. When it comes to genre or setting, look at the kind of media that they’re consuming. If they’re watching Paw Patrol, maybe talking animal adventures is the way to go. If thye’re older though and they’re watching shows like Riverdale or Stranger Things or DC’s Teen Titans, you want to consider other things. Look at what fandoms they’re into.
My daughter loves Star Wars, so we did a Star Wars adventure for her and her friends. Look at the media that they’re consuming, and that will be their hook to get them in.
Of course, with younger kids, have shorter sessions. With older kids, you can have more full blown adventures.
Any closing words or shout outs?
First, thank you for having me and interviewing me for TTRPGkids! I’m excited about the books that you have coming out and the free adventure that you have.
Also, when your readers see this interview, I will be in season 5 of Raised on DnD podcast, which is very exciting.
I have a roleplaying game module that is 5e compatible. It’s going to be family-friendly; it’s not going to be elementary kids per se, but it is going to be family-friendly. If you’ve got 8-12 year olds or even 12-20 year olds, it’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s going to be my first debut writing.
On raisedondnd.com, we have all the podcasts that you can listen to up-to-date, and hopefully, we are soon going to add a download page where you get three of my free adventures. One is a superhero adventure, one is a Star Trek adventure for your Trekkies out there, and one is a Star Wars adventure. These are going to be free for download so anyone can enjoy them.
And I hope to hear some feedback! If you like my show or like my guests, let me know and follow on facebook! That’s where we update the most.
Thank you Nick for the interview!