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Behind the Claw Podcasts

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue.

Felbrigg Napoleon Herriot. http://behindtheclaw.blogspot.co.uk/
28 half-hour episodes (at time of writing);
MP3 format (~30-40MB per episode)
Free downloads, CC-BY-NC-ND.

I can’t say the podcast format is my cup of tea in general. I’m a bibliophile, perhaps a bibliomaniac. I love the tactile feel of books and the way they often smell. I’m used to the way you can read them straight through or keep your finger in a page while you refer to something else in the same volume. I’ve made them my life and my profession. So I find podcasts something of a struggle. Slow to listen to in comparison to reading the same amount of text, difficult to ‘access’ when looking up information, and often—it seems to me in many I’ve stumbled across—simply a forum for chatty sophomores giggling their way through an overlong broadcast of very little content. Nor can you easily speed them up at simple (or dull) sections or slow them down when the material takes more thought. And that’s before my complaint that they don’t stop when you fall asleep like a book or a PDF does. Although I suppose I should be grateful that nor do they fall on your nose like a book or a tablet if reading in bed!

So the Behind the Claw podcasts I discovered a little while back had everything against them in terms of drawing me back to listen to them every fortnight or so. And yet they do. These small, perfectly formed gems of Traveller goodness are available free from http://behindtheclaw.blogspot.co.uk/, where the podcaster also links to his Decopedia booklets for sale on DriveThruRPG which compile some of the podcast material as well as, more recently, his small, inexpensive adventures designed as one-offs.

Now in their third ‘season’ (each of ten episodes), each thirty minute episode follows a similar format with material divided loosely into two categories: ‘in game’ content and Traveller discussions. The first of these is focussed on Felbrigg’s own Traveller setting but which is generic and easily adapted to other Traveller games. Game content might include the My Galaxy segment where Felbrigg describes one of the worlds in his Tircesoe subsector (with map and UPPs available on the website), Story Seed which gives a short scenario idea, Creature Catalog (an animal that might be found in and around the Imperium), and People of Interest (no prizes for guessing it’s a character description). If you do want to look things up later, the website also lists the contents of each episode—a great boon.

The Traveller discussion segments might look into the email vault (for example, episode 26 looks at where a newbie might begin with Traveller), Rules Talk (taking a look at the detail of various Traveller rules, from nobility to comms delays and learning skills to reputation), possibly a review, which in #26, for example, is a guest reviewer (“DM Mike”) looking at Marc Miller’s Agent of the Imperium.

The various segments are presented in magazine format with introductory sound effects or recorded conversation snippets which give atmosphere and introduce each section. Mostly, it’s Felbrigg presenting, but occasionally there’s a guest, as mentioned. Segments generally last three to five minutes, although this can vary. The professionalism of the production and the gentle voice of Felbrigg—who I wasn’t surprised to learn also narrates audiobooks—make these a delight to listen to. He’s clearly thought carefully about the format and selected the content to provide variety and interest, drawing on his refereeing experience to offer material that is immediately usable. It should be noted that the podcasts concentrate on classic Traveller although they are generic enough to be of wider use. Better yet, the podcaster offers them on an “attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives licence” (CC-BY-NC-ND) so it would be both easy and legal to use appropriate segments as a briefing for players during a game, say, and allow the referee’s voice a rest.

I may not have been totally converted to the podcast format, but I’m certainly addicted to these particular contributions to the genre and love winding down at the end of the day with the dulcet tones of Felbrigg chatting about a shared interest and a shared universe of adventure. The intimate style gives the impression he’s in the room with you. Given the bias I confessed to at the start of this review, it says something about the quality of Behind the Claw that I’m so taken with these under-recognized aural experiences. I’d warmly recommend them. Every Traveller should have them on their playlist.