Interview with Allen, author of Whispers of the Voidbringer
- Your TTRPG experience
- Favorite TTRPG moments
- Inspiration for Whispers of the Voidbringer
- Unique elements of the Whispers of the Voidbringer
- What advice do you have for parents, teachers, etc?
- Future plans for the series
- Find a copy!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a father of three, and that has sort of been my main identity – I’m a husband and father of three. My kids are 6, 8, and 10 years old, and we play a lot of D&D.
I’m from the Philly area; I’ve lived here my whole life. My day job is that I’m a doctor. With the three kids, I don’t have time for too much else. That’s just kind of what happens, but it’s fun.
When did you start playing tabletop RPGs?
I probably should have started playing as a kid, but I didn’t. I played Magic the Gathering, I played Warhammer 40k. That all sounds right up D&D alley, but it never came up with my friends. So, I honestly knew nothing about it until only a couple years ago when some guy that I worked with made a joke about D&D.
I was like, “that sounds pretty cool – do you know anything about it?”
He told me to watch Critical Role, which, I think, like a lot of people these days, was my introduction to D&D. This was a little over two years ago now.
With that guy and a few others from work, we started a game and played pretty regularly, until COVID started. Then, we stopped playing, but, by then, I had gotten my kids into it. We don’t play one constant game with the kids – just, when we have time, we play a game.
Steph: That’s funny because I started in pretty much the same way – my brother got me hooked on Critical Role, and it just kind of rolled from there!
Yeah, it just sort of clicked. A few others and I were all watching and were like… we could do this! This sounds like a lot of fun! We’ve had a blast with this ever since then.
Like I said, it probably should have come with everything else I was doing as a kid since I was in all the other fandoms, but D&D just never came up until a couple years ago. Now, I’m like… why have I not been doing this for forever? I don’t know.
Can you tell us about a favorite in-game moment you had?
At one point, my middle child wanted to DM. She was maybe 7 and DM’ing for the rest of the family, and she was running an encounter with a purple worm and a remorhaz attacking us, but she really didn’t want them to hurt us, and she didn’t want us to hurt them. It really just turned into us convincing them that they should be friends.
One showed up, and we started fighting it. Then, the other showed up, and we started fighting that one too. Then, we got them fighting each other, but she didn’t like that. So, we switched to, “hey, you’re both big, maybe you’d like to play together?”
She went with that, and it worked! She sort of let us off the hook there. It was fun watching her working through what these two monsters are all about. Maybe that’s not how most people would run those monsters, but I was happy that she was able to pull all that together. Also, her brother let her get away with that… he kind of just wants to fight everything.
When she and her sister play, it’s about making friends with unicorns, and let’s get pets. They don’t want to fight anything. I frequently end up doing a different game for them versus for their brother and the other kids in the neighborhood that he’s gotten hooked on the game. They’ll come over and do heist missions, and they seem to like that. The great part of the game is that you can do whatever you want.
What inspired you to write your book?
It started with watching Critical Role. At night, I would tell my kids the stories of what they were doing, obviously edited for content. I was always sort of bummed because I know my son would love to listen to it, but he just is not quite old enough. So, I thought, what if I wrote a story that felt like that, but it was with kids?
I listened around to some podcasts that have kids in them, but it just didn’t feel the same. We couldn’t get into it. However, everyone wants their kids to read. I figured, let’s see if I can write a story that my kids will like. My son liked it and gave it to the other kids in the neighborhood who liked it, so we decided to see where it could go.
It was just creating that feel of watching someone else playing D&D, keeping it clean, keeping it for kids, and also keeping it true to the spirit of the game by not dumbing it down.
What are some other unique elements of your book?
The idea is that this is the story that’s happening at the table. This is what’s happening in the fairytale. I tried very hard to stay true to the mechanics of the game. I have a notebook full of dice rolls and numbers and tracking spell slots. I tried pretty hard to tell the game as it would be played out at a real table. That was fun for me.
There were scenes that I struggled to make the scene true. My wife would make a suggestion, and I’d be like, “well, you can’t just cast the two spells or concentrate on both at the same time”.
I had to make work in a way that was still D&D. I hope other people that read it and know D&D see the attention. This is a story that is being played in D&D 5e. You can see the peaceful conflict resolution in the scene with dire wolves. The girls went right to that and wanted to just talk to them, so we made it happen.
I set up elements that will come up later. The plan is for five books, and I did a bunch of DM tricks in the first book that aren’t foreshadowing but are back-shadowing. I’m going to leave all these details that I don’t know about yet, but down the road, I can think that this will be a great thing to link back to that detail from earlier! Back then, I didn’t know what that detail fully was, but now I do.
What tips do you have for parents, teachers, babysitters, etc who are trying to introduce tabletop RPGs to kids and new players?
One of the first things that they find intimidating is that rulebook for D&D. I know that there are other TTRPG’s that are less intimidating with regards to what you need to read in order to start, but I also know that D&D is the most recognizable game.
The biggest thing is that the players don’t need to know the rules, but the DM needs to know the rules. That’s the way that I play with my kids.
My 10 year old has read about 12 of the Wizards books, but the 6 and 8 year old haven’t. They’ll ask what to do, and then it’s up to the DM to help figure out how to make that happen.
I can help tell them what to roll or get or who to go to, but the players don’t need to know all those rules. Once you have the characters created, the DM needs to help facilitate the story that the kids want to tell.
Last summer, all the kids in the neighborhood would come play on our back porch, I’d bring out dice, and I had character sheets in my head for them. I would just tell them how to roll and how it went, so the focus was on the story. I would put them in places, and they would have fun trying to figure it out.
They really do enjoy telling the stories themselves.
For example, in the book, it is a level of role-playing above my kids, they aren’t transcripts of our games, but for the battles, I’ll sit down with my son and play it out. He has the three kids in the story, and we’ll try to work it out. In the final fight of the book, there was time that the evil mage was going to cast a second fireball, and I was worried they weren’t going to survive, but my son was like… that’s what he would do! So, we played it out, and that was a lot of fun.
Any last words or info about the series?
It is written at a level for middle schoolers.
Book two in the series just came back from the editor, so I’m aiming for the end of February to early March. It’s got a cover that I’m REALLY excited about. I’m in the process of updating my website to show that new art.
Book three, I’m hoping to finish the rough draft today or tomorrow, so I’m moving right along with the story. That one, I’m going to aim for late spring to early summer.
If I get all the time that I have been getting to work on it, I’m hoping that the five book series will be done by the end of the calendar year.
I’m enjoying it – it’s fun to write, it’s fun for the kids and me to play the battles. They have a big role in deciding what happens. They help with it, and that’s fun.
Thank you for doing the interview! I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!
I wrote a review of Whispers of the Voidbringer, which you can find here, and, to find a copy of the book and series, check out the book site here!
If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!