Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Roll20 Voice & Raised on Radio

Okay, okay, stay with me for a minute. It'll make sense. I hope. 

I had an epiphany about my Roll20 DMing lately, and one of the problems I seemed to have conquered. That is, the adapting to voice only after decades of having a table full of folk looking at me. 

I decided to skip using camera for the most part because I might find it distracting. In a different way than actually be in front of people physically. I just knew from various Zoom meetings for work or whatnot that seeing each other was not necessary.  

Adapting to having a narrative happen with just my voice had some challenges. For one it turns out I like to gesticulate and make hand gestures and such when I am describing things in a game. So I have a hard time of breaking that habit when nobody can see me. And I've had to change a lot of my process to adapt myself to being descriptive without using my body at all. Sometimes in the last couple of campaigns on Roll20 I would think "why would anybody do it this way?" 

But I somewhat recently realized I loved doing it in this format so much so that I pretty much consider myself retired from face-to-face DnD. For a lot of reasons, but in large part I think because I remembered the power of radio DJs. And how memorable the ones I grew up with in Southern California are still for me to this day. And why. 

The first DJ I can remember from when I was a little kid was LA staple The Real Don Steele. 93 KHJ was the most listened to station, and though nobody knew what he looked like, for locals, he was a bigger celebrity than anybody in the movies. That's the power of local radio. You feel like you know them. 

One of my favorite Tarantino films is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and one of the reasons I love it is the soundtrack is a tribute to Don Steele in a way his location work was a tribute the LA I inhabited as a child. He's practically a side character, as Brad Pitt drives down Burbank Blvd with Don Steele introducing songs and commercials. It sort of blew my mind. At one point a commercial for a shampoo or something called "Heaven Sent" plays on the radio, and I flashed back to infancy. I immediately remembered the commercial with the catchy tune. I got chills hearing it. As a kid when the TV wasn't on, the radio was on, and I must have heard the commercial a hundred times before I could tie my shoes. It was a powerful nostalgia feeling. I had to be only like 5 or 6 at the oldest when that commercial was a thing. 

And that is the power of the voice of radio. What is another power? Well, you get such an image of your mind of your favorite DJ, you get blown out of the water when you see they look nothing like you imagined.

I swear to God I always though
Don Steele was a black guy. 

It seems that every 10 years or so you get new DJ's. In the 80's we loved World Famous KROQ, and we always imagined the radio station being like a circus or something, where Devo or Elvis Costello might just be hanging out in the hallway. Richard Blade, Poor Man, Swedish Eagle, Rodney Bingenheimer, and others just seemed be magic. 

Mark and Brian were huge in LA in the late 80's and into the 90's. I'm kind of ashamed of being such a fan. They were such dorks. I remember me and a buddy going before work to some stunt at the Culver City station they were doing live. Getting lifted by a crane and dipped in fudge, and we all got M&Ms to throw at them. It was like a wild rock scene. All these hot young secretaries and retail clerks where there too, screaming like Springsteen had showed up. These guys were huge but looking back I don't think they were that funny. By the late 90's I was like "boooring..and they are just ripping off Stern." But man, the magic of radio. Of just hearing the voices. And they talked about things I Loved that they grew up on. Batman, Gilligan's Island, The Munster's.

The fucking mullets were not
all that magical. 

OK, the point is as soon as I started thinking about the power in a radio voice, the mystery of it, I saw the advantage of it in a D&D campaign using just voice. You start getting comfortable with it and do things with it. To be more articulate and descriptive. No flailing hands needed. Though, uh, I still gesticulate. No need to eliminate it really, as long as your voice is conveying what is needed. 

The mystery of radio is the mystery of a faceless voice. And I feel I am starting to harness that mystery. The DM is an omnipotent presence. Eliminate the body and I feel you can tap into that in a way you cannot when the group can see you sucking down the beers while wearing a Rick and Morty T shirt. 

As an aside, another great thing for me is the mute button. I have a tendency to interject a lot when players are talking among each other in character. So that button is a great way to censor myself. 

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