Interview with Dan and Rachael: cohosts of Almost Bedtime Theater, a TTRPG podcast for families!
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Rachael (R): Oh, I don’t like talking about myself.
Dan (D): Haha! Well, we both have a tendency to be shy and introverted, at times! Well… I am a parent!
R: And I’m a kid! You like playing video games, and you like to record, but you don’t like to edit at all.
D: Haha, editing is its own special pleasure! We need to teach you how to edit so you too can enjoy.
R: No, no!!
D: Well, let’s see, a bit about us… this is hard! We’re big readers.
R: I like math, and I read about whatever I can get my hands on. I like ones where kids are the main characters and fantasy books, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and Keeper of the Lost City. I’m reading The Mysterious Benedict Society right now.
D: There were those dragon books too.
R: Yeah, Wings of Fire – I read the first five graphic novels, and last year, I read the sixth and seventh. I haven’t read the others yet. I should just show my bookshelf!
D: We like lots of fantasy, and I get more into sci-fi as well, and we like writing stories and playing video games.
R: And I like stuffies! I have lots of stuffies.
D: My day job is data analysis; my background is in epidemiology, so a good time for me is getting to wallow in some good data.
R: There’s a whole shelf over there full of books on data.
D: Yep, data visualization and math and some physics.
How did you get started playing tabletop RPGs?
D: Let’s see… we got started with you…
R: Before I was eight.
D: Yeah, I would say by the time you were about five, we were playing role playing games, and possibly before then. It was story game stuff where it was less about the rules and more about the narrative. Occasionally you’re using dice or something for randomization.
R: And I hooked onto D&D, the most complex one that we’ve gone over. I’m like, give me rules! Feed me rules!!
D: I think we can blame a good amount of that on the Dungeons and Dragons and Daughters podcast, because you just absorbed that!
R: Every afternoon, I would come home from school and listen to it – I remember I would relisten to it through every episode like ten times!
D: I was certainly listening to a lot of RPG related podcasts, and I was trying to find a podcast that I could share with her, and it was very hard to come by! I stumbled across that one, and it was perfect!
R: Oh, I should relisten to it all, they probably have more than a hundred by now! The voices! Greg was very high pitched, haha!
And how about you, Dan?
D: Interestingly enough, I was about your age when I stumbled across the D&D Redbox from the 80’s in a used bookstore. I saved my money up and got it! That was the start of getting my hands on role playing games and reading through them but never actually playing with anybody. I just kept accumulating games!
I was very introverted, so I didn’t have anyone to really play with. I one time convinced my mom to create a dungeon for me so I could go through and play, and, looking back on it now, that must have been such an odd request, but she went through it and drew me up a map and determined what I would find in each room! That sticks with me!
Finally, somewhere around mid-high school, one of the trumpet players in band was going to run a game, and I was like… really?!
I ended up playing quite a bit there, and he graduated and it was dead again. In college, I finally went out to a roleplaying game club and learned about Paranoia and all the White Wolf stuff and so on. Eventually I got to play for several years.
And now I have somebody to play with all the time!
There’s a whole different landscape now! Before there was just D&D, and now…
R: It’s D&D AND BEYOND!
Can you tell us about how you both started Almost Bedtime Theater?
R: Maybe I mentioned the idea – I remember a whole bunch of encouragement from him saying, “oh, we should do a podcast! We should do a podcast!”
D: Haha, I remember it a little differently!
R: I remember we were making dinner and you were trying to think of what we should name our podcast, and you were coming up with these weird names, and then finally we were like…. The Bedtime Theater!
D: I think we started out just recording some of our sessions. We were playing periodically and Rachael ran a game for me, and it was just… AMAZING. I loved it!
R: Oh, I remember that.
D: It was the very first game you ever GM’d, and you wanted to do D&D, and it was wonderful! You totally made it up from scratch – there were kids and castles and a dragon. It was amazing! I wrote it down afterwards as best as I could remember it, and I just wished I had that recorded. Then, I went looking into what steps were needed so I could record some of our sessions.
R: You got an app…. Fortnite… haha, no Ferrite!
D: Yep, Ferrite! So, we had some recordings then, and I was editing those just to have it. Then, in the depths of the pandemic, you had been listening to a lot of Dungeons and Dragons and Daughters and said we should do a podcast. I asked what you wanted to do a podcast about, and we brainstormed that you wanted to do something with games, and we knew that podcasts with role playing games with kids were hard to come by, and you agreed to it without prompting, so I figured we were good to go!
R: Oh, but the naming session… that was horrifying!
D: Oh, the naming session! Almost Bedtime Theater was something I’d been using for a long time almost as a brand.
R: You’d always say something like “goodnight” or “now it’s bedtime”.
D: Yeah, I was looking for a catch phrase, but it didn’t stick, hahaha! It was all about the idea that the best stuff happens right before bedtime. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone to go to bed without the theater, so we would play Almost Bedtime Theater. So, that was the roundabout way that we started! It’s been something we’ve continued to do when it’s fun, not holding to a schedule or anything, just having fun.
R: Every weekend we try to do a little, every Saturday with my cousin Leah.
D: We are getting to play every weekend now.
R: We’re doing Strixhaven!
D: They’ve gotten enrolled and made it to their first day of class… and they’ve already got a rival and are plotting.
R: I want to kick him in the shins.
D: You can’t kick him in the shins! We also really want to do Inspirisles!
R: You really want to do that one.
D: Leah too because she’s learning sign language.
Besides being a tabletop RPG podcast for kids, what is extra unique about Almost Bedtime Theater?
(Rachael had to step away at this point, but we did continue to chat with Dan)
D: I hit up Reddit to see what a lot of people were looking for, and I kept seeing people saying either their kid or niece or sister wanted to play role playing games… How do I teach them D&D? And part of me was like… I’ve discovered that there’s more than D&D! If you’re set on D&D, there’s a ton out there for simpler versions.
I also noticed that with the pandemic, people were looking for things to do with their families, and tabletop RPGs was something they were willing to try. I started asking on Survey Monkey what would help, what did people want to see, what would help?
We ended up with maybe seeing someone play episodes for beginner parent GMs, reviewing systems to get word out about games other than D&D, and running actual plays. That last one, we were playing anyway, and it gave us a way to use the recordings; I want them anyway. A big part of Almost Bedtime Theater is that, for parents who want to know how to run tabletop RPGs, you can listen for 30 minutes and see what to expect.
We also played around with reviews on content and looked for stuff that had more to them than just “murderhobos”. I had to figure how to package that – an actual play would be full of spoilers if you listened with your kids, but some of it is open enough that your game isn’t going to also be this game. We haven’t really tried it too much, but maybe we’ll talk about it versus putting the whole actual play on the podcast.
Although, we could do ones like Under the Floorboards – that’s a really fun one. You’re devising what your adventure is going to be during your character creation, so no worries about spoilers because it’s going to be different for everyone.
The research and all the what-if’s can really get away from you sometimes! There’s a lot of different paths you can take.
I am one who will try to become an expert in something… scope creep is real… and I started to realize just how big this is! You got to pick your niche. I had played briefly with coming up with a list of resources, and then I found TTRPGkids and was like… phew, someone’s already done it!
More recently, I’ve stumbled upon Michael Low, and just all the focus on teaching! It’s wonderful!
Haha, I have no time, but I want to know it all! I’m delighted to see just how much is out there now for RPGs with kids and education. When I started out, I could find like… three things, but now! It’s awesome!
And what you’re bringing to the table, giving your daughter a voice, that’s huge to add to the space!
That was another big point – it was difficult to find family friendly stuff, and when you did, it was almost never actual kids playing. D&D&Daughters did, and getting to hear them… it is a whole different experience. The stories they come up with!
How has playing tabletop RPGs helped your family?
One of the things that I’ve really loved about this is being able to add Leah, Rachael’s cousin, to the mix. When we were doing things solo, Rachael said that she was having concerns that when she was the only character, she had to do the smart thing. She wanted to do the wacky thing, but if she did the wacky thing, what would happen?
I reassured her we’d just have fun and go with it, but being able to expand the player base a smidge gives that allowance to let her be the wacky one and someone else is always there to help cover.
It’s also been an amazing way to get to connect with Leah. We’re in Illinois, they’re in Arizona, and we’d only get to see each other once a year for the holidays. Then the pandemic showed up, so it’s been 3-4 years since we’ve been out there last, but now we get to chat every week!
It’s also just a great way to do stuff with my daughter, and we can share the stories and recordings with family members… It’s all good stuff.
What advice do you have for people thinking of starting tabletop RPGs or who are introducing new players to the game, specifically to kids?
I think a lot of it comes down to not worrying too much about the rules. I am very much a rule of cool DM… and make it as collaborative as you can. That’s where the fun is.
I lived D&D 3.5 and all the crunchy bits and percentage points and everything. Now, for me, it’s the stories. Rachael, haha, I know where she gets it, is one that’s crunchy, but we also have it all about the narrative. I hope she comes out with a balance.
I would say to go towards that story that you can build together, and the rules and crunchiness just need to be at a level that everyone wants. That includes everybody – everybody is a player whether they are a player player or the DM, and you all need to be having fun. If that means ditching half the rulebook, so be it!
When she was young, we had this cardboard and duct tape cube to use as a die, and she would just play with it – it came down to can you roll it and then we do something with that number? It’s been good!
Thank you very much for the interview Dan and Rachael! It was great getting to chat, and I look forward to hearing about your games in the future!
Almost Bedtime Theater is an awesome podcast, and I hope you get the chance to check it out! If you do, please let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are!
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