By Jairys Tak
The Called Shot Podcast, a Pathfinder Actual Play podcast helmed by GM Wes Smith, came to an end in 2018 after 52 episodes. Wes Smith and two of the Called Shot players, Adam Sims and Matt Brewer, have since founded the Back Patio Network along with Casey Davis and Hannah Sims. I had the opportunity to interview Wes to discuss the network and touch on their new actual play podcast Rocks & Runelords.
JT: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Wes. Let’s start here: what motivated you to create a podcasting network?
WS: That's a really tough question. At this point it feels like I've always had a podcast with friends. So to be not working on a podcast would feel very odd. But why a network, though? We wanted to do more than just an Actual Play podcast from the very beginning. Branding is a huge commitment of time and resources, so to combine what we had at the time, a network made sense. We want our listeners to know us as the Back Patio Network, not "The New Path Podcast" people. We want to build the expectation that we provide more than just 1 podcast. But why work on a podcast at all? It has been a terrific outlet for creativity. It combines my love for theatre with my favorite hobby of table-top RPGs, and I get to do it all with my best friends.
JT: Considering that an outlet for creativity is one of the things that drew you to podcasting, what made you decide on prewritten adventures over an original or homebrew story?
WS: The nice thing about Paizo's adventure paths is the hard work is done for you. Then I can tweak the story at key points to highlight the characters the players have invested in so heavily. I don't spend the time picking the feats and spells of a 12th level wizard to combat the party. I focus on the story elements of why the wizard is there, his motivations, how will he kill everyone, and what his cackle will sound like when he succeeds.
JT: It sounds like being behind the screen is something you enjoy. Do you find it to be a different experience being a GM of a podcast as opposed to an in-person game without an audience?
WS: Very much so. I react well to an audience, it's been that way since my high school and college days in theatre. I "up my game" a bit. The players do the same. They have more buy-in, concentration and focus. Their characters for an audience are top-notch with fun quirks and back stories. 20 years from now we will look on 2015 as the golden age of table top gaming.
JT: It's definitely a great time to be a consumer of table top entertainment: it's safe to say that there are more actual play podcasts out now than ever before. With that growing (friendly) competition, is there something that sets the Back Patio Network's content apart from the rest?
WS: I've really had to think about this one. I've also asked the group for their opinions. The thing that sets BPN apart is us. That is definitely hubris-speak, but we work to bring a quality podcast with the feeling that you are at the table with us. Lots of Actual Plays tell the story and act their characters quite well or have terrific audio cues, but we want you to feel comfortable listening to any BPN podcast as if you and I were hanging out in a bar or restaurant talking about hobbies. And we will cover a lot of hobbies by the time we're done. We are working to bring out a few more podcasts. The next one up is for anyone wanting to brush up on their Comic Book history. We have a sample already on our feed where we cover Sabrina. It is the Comic Book Cabinet Podcast up on all major platforms
JT: You mentioned that you want the listeners to feel like they're hanging out with all of you. What are some of the ways you interact with them currently?
WS: Mostly we do it by the way we talk when we're on mic. We want to be relaxed and not a 100% polished audio drama-style Podcast. We are also heavily invested in our Discord Community. We have a Play by Post RPG led by one of our community members and I'll occasionally run one to coincide with our Rise of the Runelords Actual Play. There are also quite a few folks on Twitter we keep up with and they are all a ton of fun and great community builders.
JT: Speaking of actual plays, what made you decide on Rise of the Runelords?
WS: We made the choice just when Return of the Runelords was being released by Paizo. Our goal is to play the trilogy: Rise of the Runelords, Shattered Star, and Return of the Runelords.
JT: That's a lot of Pathfinder to look forward to! With that, the Comic Book Cabinet, and other hobbies you hinted coming on the horizon, it sounds like there'll be something for everybody. Thank you again, Wes, for taking the time to talk about the exciting things happening on the Patio.
WS: My pleasure! If anyone wants to contact me, I'm on Twitter: @WestheGM or find the whole crew: @backpationet. Or join our discord, https://discord.gg/cykW3cK. We are all pretty active there. This has been a fun discussion, let's do it again real soon! Maybe over coffee and a board game next time?
JT: That would be my pleasure!
The Back Patio Network is Wes Smith, Hannah Sims, Matt Brewer, Adam Sims, and Casey Davis. Need something to listen to while waiting for your dice subscription box to arrive? Check out their podcasts and find more information at https://backpationetwork.com/. Back Patio Network logo used with permission.
Jairys Tak is a writer, IT professional, and all-around nerd. He is a Pathfinder player and GM, enjoys board games, and is probably drinking coffee right now.