It wasn’t long ago that Zac and a group of foolhardy adventurers gathered round in secret council to embark on their greatest quest to date… start a Dungeons & Dragons podcast. Little did he know that this quest would take him on a journey that would last many years, over 200 episodes, several live streams and even lead to working directly with the creators of the game themselves! Even after all this time, Zac’s still passionate about rolling dice and doing silly voices with his friends. I Speak Giant’s current campaign reached episode #123 and his live stream adventure “The Boundless Glory ” going live every Monday from 19:30 AEST. We thought it was about time to catch up with Zac and see what he has in store for his next adventure.
Firstly for the uninitiated, can you quickly summarise what Dungeons & Dragons is?
D&D is a game where you collaboratively tell a story that’s guided by rules and dice rolls. One person is the Dungeon Master, who describes the world and pushes the plot forward. The players embody characters and roleplay out their decisions and choices. The outcomes of those choices are determined by dice rolls.
That’s the boring answer, the fun answer is that you and your friends play silly buggers and do funny accents all night.
Now that we’ve got that covered, what inspired you guys to turn your Dungeons & Dragons sessions into a podcast?
I Speak Giant happened honestly because I wanted to reconnect with my friends. I had been making a podcast with some friends for a while which eventually petered out from life stuff. About a year later, we all realised how much we missed creating fun stories together, and I was really into D&D at the time so I press-ganged them into playing with me. Four odd years later we’re still doing it and I’m still having a ridiculously fun time every time we record.
It takes someone special to be a great Dungeon Master. What made you want to take up this key role and how long have you been doing it for?
I think we all turn boring facts into stories by default. We all make narratives out of the weird interaction you had picking up groceries, anecdotes from the terrible day at work. Being a dungeon master is just my outlet for storytelling and hopefully, after five years I hope I’ve become sort of okay at it.
Dungeons & Dragons lends itself incredibly well to being recorded in podcast format. Have you found that you have had to change much from your previously un-recorded sessions to your recorded ones?
I did have to break my habit of excitedly standing up and walking around the room when I was villain monologuing. Apart from that, we try to keep things as you’d have in a home game. At the end of the day if it’s not fun for the players it won’t be fun to listen to.
You’ve transitioned from only being a podcast, to some sponsored live stream content. Now you live stream regularly on Twitch with The Boundless Glory. How does being behind the camera feel and do you enjoy streaming?
Streaming has been such a natural move. Finally, my wildly flailing, expressive hands have found their medium. One of the biggest differences is to actually see the live reactions from the chat. Also, the community of other streamers have been so welcoming. I’ve already got two more campaigns in the works with some truly wonderful people.
Especially during lockdown, it’s been nice to have a reason to connect with social groups, and Audio-Technica (have you heard of them?) gear has made playing remotely so much better.
We were lucky to be involved with your Wizards of the Coast “Descent into Avernus” live streams. But how did it feel to work directly with the creators of your favourite game?
Utterly ridiculous. A friend of mine described it as, “your local pickup basketball game getting noticed by the NBA”. Which isn’t too far from the truth. Ultimately, it was so much fun getting to be involved with Descent into Avernus and then later the Rime of the Frostmaiden. It allowed us to put our own brand of silliness on official content.
Speaking of sponsored content, what’s the process like branching out to new territory? What tips do you have for any other creators looking to dip their toes in something that is different from their usual?
We did branch out into Call of Cthulhu for a few sponsored episodes which is an incredible cosmic horror tabletop system. My personal tip for anyone trying a new system or setting is to watch a bunch of genre movies and shows with similar vibes. For me, I binged X-files, Lovecraft Country, and The Exorcist. Scared myself senseless, but I got a good handle on the cliches and tropes of the genre. We also shook things up by having Luke step in as the Dungeon Master.
You’ve brought plenty of great guests along for your various adventures. However, the tone and energy of the show have always remained the same. What’s been your favourite memory from a guest character?
All of our guests have always smashed it out of the park, bringing something special to the show. One moment that always jumps to mind is when we introduced AJ Lamarque to the show, who played a medusa. I was setting a very serious scene, an Archdemon had just unpetrified her, and was negotiating her obedience. AJ responded in such a ridiculous cockney accent that it turned the whole scene on its head. The whole vibe went from tense to hilarious from his first line.
Also a shoutout to Lucky, who joined us for a part of our Descent into Avernus game which hit a lot of dramatic, heartbreaking notes. No spoilers, but I did make them cry, which is always a win as a DM.
Lastly, a little hypothetical for you. The heroes of I Speak Giant go into lockdown. You get first dibs on who is your bubble buddy. Who do you choose and why?
I think I’d live to regret this, but Lontray. He’d be terribly chaotic a lot of the time, and definitely end up breaking your favourite mug, but you’d always be entertained.