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.
With spring in the air, it’s time to dive deep into dungeons to avoid those seasonal allergies. But before adventuring begins, check in for another chat at the tavern. This week, we have the Average Adventuring Party podcast’s resident bard and responsible romantic, Steve Trinkl. He started from humble TTRPG beginnings and has since expanded his universe (and dice collection) alongside his wife, Stephanie Elizondo and friends. When Steve isn’t at the table, he is strumming away on his favorite string instrument. Keep reading to learn more about what he loves from the TTRPG community.
Keep up with Steve on social media! (Twitter)
Julia Roth: Let’s chat your TTRPG backstory! How did you find yourself at the table?
Steve Trinkl: My first actual tabletop group was myself, Stephanie (who’s now my wife) and our roommate at the time, Kurt, who now runs the Sidekicks & Sidequests podcast. Our friend Zane introduced us to the game because he was curious about playing it, and we’ve all been hooked ever since.
JR: Favorite world to adventure in?
ST: I honestly think I’m attached, to an unhealthy degree, to the world of Elura that we play in for The Average Adventuring Party podcast. But if we’re not including that, I think I’d love to play in the world of Creation used in Exalted.
JR: Favorite one-shot adventure?
ST: I ran an Art of Wuxia game based on the Three Kingdoms era of China and made characters for the rest of the group. There was an upright but crafty mercenary leader, a mysterious but friendly shrine maiden, a brooding and vengeful assassin and a berserker trying to present herself as a proper lady. The characters bounced off one another so well that I wanted to keep going with it.
JR: Backstory of class first?
ST: It depends on the situation or even the system. When I built Galdrien, I knew I wanted to build a bard and started from there. When I built my character for an Avatar: The Last Airbender game we’ve been playing on and off, though, I knew I wanted to play a defector from the Fire Nation.
JR: Favorite spell and why?
ST: Does it really get any more wish fulfillment-y than Cutting Words? Imagine being able to verbally burn somebody so bad that they simply cease to exist. It would make rap battles and debates a lot more lively, that’s for sure.
JR: What has been your favorite character to play?
ST: The elven bard Galdrien who is pure of heart and dumb of ass, no question about it. Part of it is that I’m a musician and thus always identify with bards. Still, he’s really grown into his own story via his interactions with the other party members, and the NPCs of the campaign have developed him in ways I would never have expected.
JR: Do you have a particular race/class you enjoy?
ST: I’ll play just about any race in a fantasy or sci-fi game, but as a musician who has the urge to quit the professional world and go into music, bards are the ultimate fantasy. You’re telling me I can just strum this stringed instrument and follow people about to help them out? I’m sold!
JR: Is there something that you build into every character? A fun trait of a social item?
ST: There’s usually a subversion of expectations. Take Galdrien: he’s a very handsome, charming, sociable bard and a romantic at heart. But he’s not the kind of bard who rolls to seduce. He befriends, he falls in deep and genuine love, and he tries to handle his relationships responsibly. I have a half-orc barbarian who’s thoughtful and has a strong sense of justice, and his mother was the orc, while his father was a wandering adventurer who fell madly in love with her. I don’t want you to necessarily know what my characters are about just because you know their class or what species they are.
— The Average Adventuring Party Podcast (@average_party) April 2, 2023
JR: What is your favorite system to play within?
JR: Tell us about the wildest adventure you have been on?
ST: Playing the captain of a mercenary airship in a steampunk-esque setting without widespread fantasy elements and full of political intrigue and then setting an entire island on fire before our airship gets turned into a sci-fi super weapon and we start blasting entire fleets out of the sky. But his villain arc didn’t really get started until they shot his twin sister.
JR: What has been your most impactful moment at a table?
ST: In the first campaign I was in, we were in a pitched battle against a powerful lich with the fate of the realm on the line. We were low on resources, and each of us had failed multiple death-saving throws. (This was in D&D 4E when failed death saves were cumulative until you took a rest.) When we found the lich, and he was monologuing, I decided to be bold. “We’ve got your phylactery,” my character interrupted, lying through his teeth with determination and confidence. My deception roll was a natural 20, and the resulting distraction allowed our rogue to move into a more advantageous position and allow us to disrupt the lich’s ritual and skip a battle that probably would’ve killed us. The DM was simultaneously flustered and ecstatic.
JR: Favorite dice to use?
ST: Different dice for different games! I have several sets of Foam Brain bard dice that I use for Galdrien in 13th Age since it’s a system where you’ll roll a lot of dice based on your level, and it feels appropriate. But when I’m playing a system that uses fewer dice, I might bring a nice metal set that matches my character’s color scheme. I’m a dice goblin, and I don’t care what Lou Wilson says – it’s fun to collect dice.
JR: Would you rather face off against an entire dungeon of undead or charm your way through a royal court?
ST: Probably charm a royal court. I have enough adventures and brushes with danger in real life just because of sheer coincidence, so I’m not about to tempt fate in a dungeon.
JR: Favorite TTRPG monster?
ST: I like monsters that can play roles besides combatants. Maybe that means that they can be treated like NPCs and reasoned with, bribed or intimidated. Maybe that means you figure out a way to get a rust monster to go after a set of metal bars blocking your way. If a monster has a purpose besides just being there to roll dice at you and have dice rolled at it, I’m probably a fan.
JR: Good luck charms or rituals before a game?
ST: I get myself a bubble tea before every game. Not because I think it helps, but because the bubble tea place is close to where we play.
JR: Who is sitting at your dream table?
ST: Don’t tell our GM Gary, or he’ll get a big head, but he’s gonna be there. And, of course, I’m going to have my trusty partner-in-crime Stephanie there. I’m used to playing with all of the AAP folks, so I’d want them there if they can. But then, I’m going to invite Brennan Lee Mulligan, Aabria Iyengar and Laura Bailey. There are others I’d love to have, of course, but I’ll be here all day if I start listing them.
JR: What are you most looking forward to within the TTRPG world?
ST: You know, with all this OGL drama, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the TTRPG community does to make content more accessible and alternate systems more widespread. Everyone should rotate systems now and then (ideally, when they take a break from a campaign and turn to another one).
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