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RPG Storytelling: Chat with Mike Atchley of DAWN OF DRAGONS

Wondering what it takes to create an audio story based on tabletop gaming campaigns? Mike Atchley, the game master behind DICE TOWER THEATRE: DAWN OF DRAGONS, can tell you that and more. With Dawn of Dragons debuting this week on TFN Audio, the Fantasy Network’s new podcasting and audio drama channel featuring indie creators, Atchley joined us for a conversation around his podcast drama, and the exciting things happening in sci-fi/fantasy audio storytelling right now. Here’s what he shared with us.

Dice Tower Theatre: Dawn of Dragons - a fantasy, family-friendly audio drama streaming on The Fantasy Network

TFN NEWS: Tell us your background and how you got started in storytelling.

ATCHLEY: I have always loved entertaining and telling stories. I was the guy in the high school garage band, and when that fell apart, I learned about ping-ponging tracks in an old home karaoke machine. I became my own band playing all instruments; then I returned to garage bands, punk, metal and goth back in the mid-1990s.

Most of my experience came from running local shows and live sound with the other groups we buddied up to. Over time, I started writing more concept album work personally and joined more friends in the studio, building huge soundscapes in multiple layers. I dabbled in film, applied my sound design skills to some local work and ultimately saw that path led to Dice Tower Theatre.

How did you get into creating audio dramas/podcasts?

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Dice Tower Theatre is our own tabletop game for entertainment, and I’m the dungeon master. So I was taking game notes of our story and blogging them, but the players would rarely read them. Moments would get lost because no one remembered that character. Pretty common game table problems.

So I decided to record a little one-man audio drama, like the Star Wars radio play or the read-along book stuff we had as kids, drop some soundscapes in and score it for fun. I threw it up on SoundCloud and tagged my players to listen to it. Well, my other friends could see this post, and they listened too. They wanted to know more about the story. I took the notes down and told the team, “I’m going back to the beginning—because I really love our story.”

What do you love about audio for storytelling?

The imagination is so powerful. When you allow it to take the driver’s seat and focus on a single sense, you can explore an infinitely wider range of the other senses. You imagine smells and tastes; the soup by the fire crackles and smells savory and the hardwood smoke mingles with the soft baked bread. You can taste it too. You hear a distant rumble. No, wait—it’s a roar. The roar of a dragon.

How did you find the actors, writers, and production team for the show?

I was fortunate enough to have our whole table be associated with an acting troupe. The principal roles are largely being played by the game players themselves.

As I progressed through creating the show, I reached out to other creators and talent in the community to see if they would like to volunteer for parts. This is where the partnership with Daniel Nichols from HappyGoLukky really formed. We help each other wherever we can. He’s a wonderful creator, and we really matched up perfectly with each other.

For the music, largely that was written and performed by myself. I wrote the script, and sat in the editing seat for the first few seasons until Joleen and Cody offered to help. They are awesome.

How did you support the making of the show?

It was largely myself and volunteers for the first few seasons, though now our Patreon is taking some edge off that. As that grows, I hope to use it to build new stories our fans will come to love.

What has been the most rewarding part of making Dawn of Dragons?

The friends we have made have been some of the most amazing people out there. We are bonded by a desire to make great art, and that’s been wonderful. Other than that, it is so great to be creating again. I fell into a pretty dark depression that this game pulled me out of personally, and it has given me a wonderful creative outlet.

What advice do you have for creators interested in making their own podcast/audio drama?

Write what you feel passionate about. Don’t write for the sake of writing. Be your number one fan first.

What’s the best way for listeners to stay connected and support you?

Tell people about DICE TOWER THEATRE: DAWN OF DRAGONS, or drop us a note on social media. (Find us on Twitter.) We love hearing about people getting excited for the show, and there is more adventure coming out soon! Join us in the TFN Discord for any questions you might have about the show and to engage with all the other great content creators!

What excites you about being part of TFN?

Being part of The Fantasy Network to me is being part of one the best collectives of creatives in the world. Many of the creators on the network were ones who have been quoted or referenced at tables and parties for years, and to be working with many of them now is an amazing feeling. I feel even more inspired to create!

DICE TOWER THEATRE: DAWN OF DRAGONS airs Tuesdays and Thursdays on the TFN Audio Channel. Listen here.

About Michele

Michele has been writing and editing professionally since 1997. In 2017, she launched full-time into her own copywriting and editing business, serving marketing firms, service businesses, nonprofits, book publishers and consulting firms, as well as indie authors. She serves as Editor of the science fiction website Recursor.tv and The Fantasy Network News. Michele is also co-founder of Writing Well Creative Writing Workshop and co-founder of Two Birds Author Services.