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Reporter Bill Lynch is starting a podcast! Well, once he figures out how he’s supposed to do that and comes up with a name and gets it approved by management. Join us for a very special One Month at a Time.

Hard plastic dice clattered against a table.

Voice actor Sam Riegel rolled low and the demented, but somehow good-hearted goblin girl, Nott the Brave, gleefully led the “Mighty Nein” down a spiral staircase.

On the way, moving deeper within the temple of the false serpent, Nott stepped on a pressure point, triggering a trap. The stair steps tilted, turned into a slide, and this group of valiant and not-so-valiant heroes slid awkwardly to the bottom, landing at the feet of venomous snake people who were clearly up to no good.

All of this happened while I pushed a lawn mower from left to right and right to left, slowly clipping away the tall grass of my shaggy yard.

I was into my second hour of mowing and had another two to go. I could hardly wait to hear what happened next during this episode of the “Critical Role” podcast, the first podcast I ever loved.

This was all still very new to me.

Over the years I’ve talked to plenty of people who are celebrated for podcasting, including Justin McElroy from Huntington (“My Brother, My Brother and Me,” “Sawbones” and “The Adventure Zone,” among others), Anna Sale from Charleston (“Death, Sex and Money”) and John Hodgman (“Judge John Hodgman”), but I’ve never been a fan of the platform.

When a podcast was good, it sounded like a radio show. When it was bad, it sounded like junior high kids talking over the school’s PA.

I wanted to like them. The basic idea of having a radio show you could listen to on demand was very attractive. It was the same reason people like to stream television. Why wouldn’t you want to listen to what you want when you want instead of letting someone else do that?

I wanted to like them, but I didn’t find a lot to like.

Most podcasts I found were little hobby talk shows or public affairs programs. I’d get interested for an episode or two, but then grow bored and go back to listening to the radio, streaming music or listening to audio books.

My problem, it turned out, was a lack of imagination.

Then over the winter, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons online with my friend, Todd.

Todd is a doctor in Ohio, but he and I were roommates for a couple of years after college. I sometimes refer to him as “my once and future roommate” or “my retirement plan.”

He and I starved together back when we really were just figuring out what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. Todd has done really well. His basement is probably nicer than my house.

But I have phone numbers and emails for all kinds of famous people. That’s pretty cool, too.

Todd said his gaming group needed another player and wondered if I’d want to give it a try.

I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons back during the great “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s when television preachers and church youth groups swore that oily-skinned nerds who liked reading about hobbits and listened to Ozzy Osbourne were going to usher in a new dark age, featuring heavy metal demons wearing spandex.

The joke was on them.

Hobbits became cool and Hollywood made a bunch a movies about them. Ozzy Osbourne, the presumed “Prince of Darkness,” became a reality TV star with his family and that dark age everybody was worried about was ushered in by Reaganomics, 24-hour cable news channels and, I think, the Dave Matthews Band.

Playing Dungeons & Dragons had been a way for me, a skittish 12-year-old, to make friends who liked “Star Wars,” comic books and stories about knights and wizards.

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I played off and on for decades, but the game had changed quite a bit from when I was a teenager. When I joined the “Masters of Isolation” group online, I quickly became frustrated and felt out of my depth.

I’d read the new rules but hadn’t seen them applied. It felt a little like learning a new language without actually hearing it spoken.

One night, while waiting for more players to log onto Skype, one of the others began talking about the “Critical Role” podcast, which featured a group of working voice actors who got together Thursday nights to play Dungeons & Dragons.

While this sounded weird to watch, I thought, “Well, they televise poker games and chess tournaments. Why not?”

I downloaded an episode and expected very little.

I hoped to hear how they played this game I was trying to relearn and pick up some tips, so that I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious with my new friends.

But it was much more than just listening to professional nerds roll dice and play “let’s pretend.” I loved the story and enjoyed the cast who brought the characters to life. It reminded me of live radio theater, scripted, but also full of improvisation.

“Critical Role” was heavy on the humor (quite a bit of it was rowdy and foul-mouthed), but the show had heart. There was a feeling of family among the characters and genuine affection toward the fans of the show, the “Critters,” a community that interacted with the cast and could be rallied to raise money for charity.

I was hooked before they got to the mid-show break. I wanted a “The Traveler is my co-pilot” bumper sticker for my car, a sort of running joke within the podcast — and I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car.

After that first episode, I went back through the archives and found a better starting point and have been slowly working my way through several years’ worth of weekly, three-to-four-hour episodes.

I listen while on long drives or as I’m cutting grass.

Finding “Critical Role” opened up the world of podcasts to me, finally. It connected with me and sent me off looking for other podcasts suiting my interests. It also showed me that maybe I could do something.

I’ve kicked around the idea of starting some kind of podcast at the newspaper for years. Before the pandemic, the newspaper had a weekly news podcast and I thought maybe I could do one about local arts and entertainment. But that kind of podcasting looked suspiciously like work.

I do have some radio experience. I’ve been reading weather and announcements for West Virginia Public Broadcasting for 18 years, but I’m no great talent. I’m just sort of reliable and know enough not to swear in front of a live microphone.

With summer and summer travels coming up, I thought I could give podcasting another try. I could explore the local podcasting landscape and maybe give a shout-out to a few. I could also try to develop my own little podcast.

To help me get started, I talked with Cathy Caudill, the newspaper’s digital editor. She sent me a list of things I needed to figure out before I really even got started.

I needed a name for the podcast and needed to make sure that name wasn’t taken by anyone else. It would help if the name also wasn’t similar to another podcast.

I needed to decide how often the podcast would be available for people to listen, what day the podcast would launch and how long each episode would be.

I needed a logo or cover image. I needed a landing page, a digital promotion plan and this was all before I got around to making my first episode.

I needed a lot of things that I hadn’t even considered besides, “Let’s start a podcast.”

I had no idea, so I went to the library and picked up a book.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch, 304-348-5195 or follow

@lostHwys on Twitter.

He’s also on Instagram at and read his blog at

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