Welcome to Tavern Talk Thursday! This is a weekly column where we chat with a member of the TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) community to learn more about how they found themselves at the table, what they love about tabletop gaming and other fun things. Think of it as a little sneak peeks into the minds of our fellow players and DMs.

Welcome back to the tavern for another fireside chat. This week we are chatting with the game master behind The Stubborn Heroes podcast, Adam R. Crymble. At the table, he spins epic tales of action and adventure for his friends and family. As a child (like almost all of us) he was a member of the Geekdom and found himself creating comics with character-driven stories. It was almost certain that one day Adam would find himself creating worlds and stories for all of us to enjoy.

Keep up with Adam R. Crymble and The Stubborn Heroes on social media! (Twitter/Instagram)

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Adam R. Crymble

Art for the Stubborn Heroes featuring player characters.

Julia Roth: How did you find yourself at the table?

Adam R. Crymble: Well, it all started with a lot of sleepless nights as I was battling extreme insomnia. Suffering from mental illness, my mind would put me through hell on a nightly basis, thinking about everything I had to do the next day or fixating on how much longer before my alarm goes off. I know there are people out there reading this right now that know exactly what I am talking about.

I was embarrassed and kept that part of me under wraps. There were entire weeks where I would barely catch a few hours of sleep if I was lucky. It was my failure to seek help that made it worse for me. I am sure you’re thinking “What does your insomnia have to do with your journey into the TTRPG community?” To which I would respond – the TTRPG community cured my insomnia.

In high school I played D&D 3.5 and dabbled in a homebrew Star Wars campaign with a few friends, but nothing more than a session or two. When I started listening to D&D Podcasts in 2015 I leapt into the rabbit hole! Listening to whatever TTRPG content I could find. I was inspired and started playing again. I read the DMG front to back, created my own world and campaign, and eventually The Stubborn Heroes Podcast in 2016. Since then my insomnia has disappeared. This community saved me and it still does to this day. I owe it everything.

JR: Favorite world to adventure in?

ARC: Is it wrong to say my own? If so, then I am not sorry! I love my homebrew world of Varian because it’s tailored to be shared! It is a vast multiverse spanning many campaigns worth of lore and history. I take inspiration from all of my favorite media and pop culture content, especially from the eerie Lovecraftian realms of Call of Cthulhu. Anything with lurking horrors, eldritch mysteries, and sanity-shattering environments really gets my creative juices flowing!

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JR: Favorite one-shot adventure?

ARC: I played Alice is Missing with a few friends of mine online, and it left me in tears. A roleplay experience like nothing I have ever had before, as you play without speaking a word to one another. I let myself be a sponge and just absorb every moment of it and I was left breathless and humbled by how it all played out. 

JR: Backstory or class first?

ARC: Whatever inspires you! In my experience that usually means backstory/character first. One of my favorite things as a GM is to delve into a character’s history, figure out their quirks, motivations, and family, and then build upon them. Integrating these details into my lore and helping my players create a rich and compelling backstory. It is much easier to decide on a class after you have all of those details worked out.

JR: Favorite spell and why?

ARC: “Detect Thoughts” because when I was a kid and someone would ask what superpower I wanted, I would always say “to read minds!”. The spell keeps me on my toes by allowing my players to uncover hidden secrets that I didn’t know existed. Many times I make it up on the spot, which has led to some entertaining roleplaying moments!

JR: Who has been your favorite character to play?

ARC: There was a one-shot I did on Hidden Nerdy Side’s YouTube channel where I played an old grizzled Vengeance Paladin named Dublin Moonbreaker. He was a lifelong monster hunter that came out of retirement after his wife passed away, seeking a worthy death so he could be with her. I was tasked with escorting a young princess across a battle-torn continent, and I just loved being this hardened warrior who found something to live for after he had lost everything.

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JR: Do you have a particular class/race you enjoy?

ARC: The versatile and ever-present Humans! (Boring right?) As a GM though, I have a fondness for the diverse and dynamic nature of the Human race. The possibilities are endless when playing a Human, as they can be found in every corner of any game and will fit right in. I find it fascinating to explore the rich tapestry of humanity, with its vast array of cultures, backgrounds, and motivations. Humans truly embody the spirit of adaptability and resilience.

Adam Crymble art for The Stubborn Heroes.

JR: Is there something you build into every character? A fun trait or special item?

ARC: Grief is a powerful emotion, and it’s something that I have had to deal with a lot in my life. With each character I build, I harness that grief. Whether it’s my Paladin Dublin Moonbreaker losing his wife, my Fighter Garry Gobliano who lost his fortune, or my Cleric Abraham who lost his child from a plague – grief, and loss drives every character I play in some way, and it is the catalyst that starts their journey.

JR: What is your favorite system to play in?

ARC: Aside from D&D, I would have to say Call of Cthulhu. Although I have tried some lesser-known systems like Blades in the Dark, Fiasco, and Numenera. Each offers a unique gameplay experience and touches my creativity in different ways.

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JR: Tell us about the wildest adventure you have been on?

ARC: Ah, buckle up for this one! Picture this: a dimension-hopping quest where our party found themselves in New York City, disguised themselves as Vin Diesel, and watched Cats on Broadway before revealing a Mimic disguised as a dumpster on stage! This resulted in a battle on the streets, aided by the NYPD and the news reporting that Vin Diesel had superpowers! It was a mind-boggling and exhilarating experience! 

JR: What has been your most impactful moment at the table?

ARC: (Spoilers) The death of Benjamin Grimshaw, one of my players’ characters in Campaign 2 of The Stubborn Heroes Podcast. It was outside of anyone’s control, but it was what happened after his death that impacted the table. The rest of the party had a funeral and gave speeches. It was a somber moment, and together they broke into the Negative Plane and retrieved his soul to bring him back to life. They risked everything to do it. It didn’t feel cheap, the death was felt and his return was earned. I am proud of how we handled it, as PC death can be a tricky thing for any table to overcome.

JR: Favorite dice to use?

ARC: I did some Admin work during the Venture Maidens Block Party 2020 on Twitch which was a fundraiser for The Trevor Project. As a thank you, Celeste sent me a beautiful set of fiery green dice that quickly became my favorite. There is also an obsidian metal D20 that was gifted from one of my listeners which I use to complete the set.

JR: Would you rather face off against an entire dungeon of undead or charm your way through a royal court?

ARC: Given the chance, I would relish the opportunity to charm my way through a royal court. To try and walk that delicate balance of wit, diplomacy, and quick thinking. Nobles are powerful people to have on your side in a fantasy setting, even if they make you sick to your stomach. 

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JR: Favorite TTRPG monster?

ARC: Among the vast array of monstrous creatures that populate TTRPGs, the Mind Flayer has always held a special place in my twisted heart. Their aberrant nature, psychic abilities, and the fact they can suck the brain from your skull makes them the best! They have such a wide influence across the multiverse which makes them a perfect villain to put in any campaign, and they really don’t require much of a motive. Why is the tentacle man eating the townspeople? Who cares! You gotta stop him!

Art for the Stubborn Heroes featuring player characters.

JR: Good luck charms or rituals before a game?

ARC: I am not a superstitious person in real life, but I do have some pre-game rituals! Hydration is key! So lots of water, and I make sure to eat a meal before we begin so I don’t snack while we play. Many times in the hours before a game, I listen to video game/movie soundtracks that are atmospheric and inspiring. This helps me get into the right mindset and fuels my creativity as a GM.

JR: Who is sitting at your dream table?

ARC: Gosh, I suppose I would have a mix of creative minds and some extreme personalities. Staples of the community like Brennan Lee Mulligan, Aabria Iyengar, B. Dave Walters, along with some dream casting of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Christopher Walken (Because I love me some chaos!). 

JR: What are you most looking forward to within the TTRPG world?

ARC: The continued growth and diversification of the community. For a long time, there have been gatekeepers that believed they policed and controlled the systems we love and were not quiet when someone tried to do something they didn’t like. Now, we have many voices in the community and I eagerly look forward to the emergence of new systems that are born from these new voices. The exploration of different genres and themes and the collaborative creativity that fuels our shared passion spawn new life into our community. The future holds endless adventures for us all!

Tavern Talk Thursday: MARK MEER

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