Way back in the depths of mid 2016, some folk from a small World of Warcraft guild called “Penance” decided that to keep sane during the many, many months of running the same raid content they should run “some form of RPG” over the guilds teamspeak server. This originally was going to be a ready-made engine such as Dungeons and dragons, but in order to significantly reduce the need to buy any books for generating characters, spells, etc Nikoli decided to rebuild his previously stripped down cyberpunk RPG engine into a fantasy RPG setting, with minimal rules for creation, minimal prior knowledge needed to join and generally a much easier way to bring everyone who was interested into the game at low cost.
They looked at using roll20 and similar online map websites that would help them run the game but after several nights of getting nowhere with the software, Nikoli decided it would be better as a purely “theatre of the mind” style RPG as the Teamspeak server allowing recording directly and a Dice rolling add-on to let everyone roll in the chat box.
So the RPG started recording in July 2016, originally just meant to be something to amuse the others in the guild. However, around 20 episodes in to recording something seemed to click. Ellie, the music student, wondered if she could edit the original episodes, add some backing music that she had written, and release them properly as a podcast, to see how the interest outside the guild went… and that’s how we came to be on Soundcloud…quickly moving to Libsyn and becoming active on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and recently Instagram.
Our motto of “Stay ambitious, even if you think you are rubbish” comes from that World of Warcraft guild’s motto of “Ambitious but Rubbish but Lucky”, created in reference to our social-focused approach to end-game content rather than pushing for speed or completion.
The Penance RPG system allows for complete free-reign for its players to choose how they want to deal with the problems they face. If they want to use some form of elaborate trickery to get past a guard or set a building ablaze they can… but for every action there is equally a consequence, and sometimes this sense of Karma can come back to bite them. Hard.
We feel that being able to tell a story with these characters and allowing them to grow as the story progresses based upon their actions rather than forcing character traits and attributes upon them has made for a better experience
We also have a varying number of characters per recorded episode. We typically have between 4-8 Characters plus the DM every week. This depends who is free to record the episode that week; the characters that aren’t present are assumed to be “asleep on the cart” or “asleep in the bag of holding” and will return in future weeks. This allows for a greater variety and keeps each episode feeling fresh and dynamic.
Seasons 1-3 and the start of Season 4 were edited by both Nikoli and Ellie. Nikoli does the first edit – which removes most of the “erms” “errrrrrs” and disgusting bodily noises that seem to come from the players during the recording. Ellie then does a finer edit, cleaning the audio and then adding music as well as hosting the episode. From episode 52, all editing has been by Nikoli and the episodes hosted by Belry.
We endeavour with each episode to leave as much of the base content as possible but it is sometimes necessary to remove elongated tangents (usually about whatever the players are drinking). We do not censor the content in the podcast, we feel that being able to explore some adult themes in storytelling and the subsequent consequences to the player interaction gives a better story overall.
Originally we started with 8 folks all from the guild. This dropped over time as some of the starting cast decided that they would rather not continue their adventure. To make up for this we added new folks. At the start of season 2 we added Belry (played by Ben) and at the start of Season 3 we added Andreadina (played by Rebecca). Both of whom have embraced the roleplaying side heavily.
There have also been a few changes on the technology side; we have decided to upgrade our podcast hosting package to one from Libsyn. Also we’ve recently had to bid farewell to our original Teamspeak server as the hosting site has closed down. From Season 4 onwards we use Discord and recording via Audacity.
Not at the moment. We have discussed it as it would help to cover hosting costs, but we would rather focus on having more content and be more engaged with our community before attempting to ask for help with the running of the site. Maybe we will look at it at some point in 2018.