James Loftis, full-time college student and dungeon master of the podcast Arcane Etc., found his love for the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), his junior year of high school. Ever since he tried it out with a group of theatre friends, he's been hooked.
"I love how the game guides storytelling and teaches you about narrative, tension, and character," James said. "I also really love the limitless possibility; every game is unique."
James's love for writing, however, extends back into his early childhood years. Since he was young, he wrote television shows and movies alongside his cousin, and together they'd perform them.
"I've always had a passion for storytelling," James said. "I have been exploring numerous creative platforms and mediums, such as directing, acting, D&D, or even now podcasting, to share all my crazy ideas."
Because college, work, and life experiences in general take up a large chunk of his time, it’s not always easy to make time to write D&D episodes and schedule games. But, he makes the time anyway, following his passion and creating a fun game for him and his friends to experience.
“One trick is I try to make D&D prep or worldbuilding time fun activities or a reward for myself. A little treat when I’ve accomplished tasks, that way it doesn’t add to my workload, ” James said. “It’s about mindset and time-management.”
Sometimes, finding the creative ideas for each D&D episode can be difficult as well, but he always manages to create something unique and thrilling.
“[I find the creativity] within the stories I like. Whether that’s movies, video games, any kind of books, or real life events. The game itself supplies a lot of inspiration… as well,” James said.
Eventually, James’s passion for D&D blossomed into the desire to launch a D&D podcast with his friends. He wanted to create a place to practice his storytelling talent, while also turning his hobby into a serious business.
“I wanted to make something with my friends, something that we all created together, a love letter to our own adventures,” James said.
Like any other business, starting up a podcast had its fair share of struggles. Adding in microphones, mixing, and aiming for good quality sound offers new challenges to the D&D games.
“There is a huge learning curve when it comes to operating microphones and running a quality podcast,” James said. “It can also be challenging balancing D&D for the podcast and D&D as just a hobby; there are major differences in running the game for just friends and running it for an audience.”
However, James has learned how to overcome these difficulties and, throughout this process, has found what works best for him when managing a podcast.
“Planning ahead is key. And polishing your podcast and continuing to strive to make it better is fun and rewarding!” James said.
Of course, Arcane Etc. is more than any ordinary D&D podcast. The story follows a group of newbie adventurers, played by quirky college students, as they travel through the world of Kipos, encountering magic, evil, and all sorts of quests. With the help of James’s creativity, and the player's decisions while in character, a brilliant story forms for all to enjoy.
“The storytelling comes from all of us. I just try to make a world that I’ve always wanted to play in, and I focus on getting a reaction out of the players, whether that involves laughter or cries of terror,” James said.
Down the road, James hopes to build enough following to open a patron (and quite possibly a movie), but until then, plans to continue producing great-quality for his fans, as well as his friends, to enjoy.
When asked if he had any advice for someone wanting to begin a podcast, or any other creative project, James said, “Keep going. Push through the stress, criticism, failures, and challenges. Put it out for the world to see and let that motivate you to keep making the experience better and better.”
You can find Arcane Etc. on Spotify here, and on Instagram here.
*In Arcane Etc., I play as the character Nim, but have remained as unbiased as possible. (It’s a really good podcast.)