Ah, Mass Effect. A game series that has found its way into animation, books, comics, and most importantly, our hearts. It has also found its way into tabletop RPGs, including one that is in the form of a podcast, produced by the team members of Hyper RPG. I stumbled upon Mass Effect: Adventum, and was blown away by the immersive production, lovable characters, and gripping story. I listen almost daily on my drive to and from work and eventually thought I’d share the fun with more who may also be interested in joining the adventure. I conducted an interview with the co-creators of the campaign, Naeem Stewart and Bert Jennings, in order to spread the knowledge of this great Mass Effect story.
Radical: Who are you guys?
Naeem Stewart: I am a co-creator of the Mass Effect: Adventum Podcast. I edit. I record. I do the art. I do the social media. I’m a member of the cast, my character is Commander Nickens [laughs]. I was literally about to say, Commander Shepard!
Bert Jennings: I am the GM of Mass Effect: Adventum and the other half of the co-creators, but I don’t do any of the other cool stuff that Naeem does, so I guess he is one-upping me? I don’t know.
Radical: What is Mass Effect: Adventum?
NS: Mass Effect is an amazing universe that you can jump right into and have so much fun with. It has such a potential to have different types of stories that you can just create within that universe and just play with it, similar to Star Wars with a universe so big. Mass Effect 1-3, the Original Trilogy, was an amazing group of games that had so much story that could be told, so we decided to do that!
BJ: Mass Effect: Adventum is the love child of a group of people who really love the Mass Effect universe, but understand that the best way to consume content is to create content, so we’re making our own stories. I feel like the biggest thing, which is echoing everything that Naeem said about the universe as a whole being this amazing universe to play around in, is the reason why Adventum is a really cool way to get people who are unfamiliar with Mass Effect familiar with Mass Effect. This is because there are some people who would never sit down and play a game, and there are certain people who play games but would never listen to or play an RPG. The tremendous amount of feedback we have gotten from people who have literally had nothing to do with Mass Effect at all but have grown to understand it and want to learn more by listening to it has been amazing. Since it’s very much like a teleplay, it has caused people to not only embrace the idea of Mass Effect but also to pursue it. I had a buddy of mine who enjoyed the podcast so much, he sought out game content and ended up playing the entire series. It’s an amazing experience for me to know that this is someone’s first step into this universe and that they love it so much they’re going to keep expanding their pursuit of Mass Effect content. Mass Effect: Adventum is a good ambassador for the franchise.
Radical: How was Adventum born?
BJ: I was at the time working on Pencils and Parsecs, a Star Wars based RPG, but it was live on Twitch, so there was a lot of chat interaction in real-time. As the show was wrapping up, Naeem approached me about doing a Mass Effect RPG. I wanted to finish the other podcast before making a decision, but once it wrapped it was like, yeah man, let’s do this! Then from there it all spawned into debating whether we wanted to do something for fun or something we recorded. We eventually decided, screw it, we’re recording, and now we’re here.
NS: I used to listen to Mass Effect music all the time while working, and all of a sudden I got the idea of how cool it would be to do a RPG in the Mass Effect Universe. So I approached Bert and asked him if he’d be interested in doing it just for fun. No cameras, no incentives. I remember the look of defeat of his other podcast ending turn into hope at the idea. So we gathered up some other friends, Emily and Matt, who are both on the podcast and are also big fans of Mass Effect, and they also agreed to join. Tanaya and Evan were also interested and joined up too. Deciding to record came from me realizing we could make a high-quality adventure for people to listen to, which I noticed an absence of.
Radical: How do you prepare for your sessions?
NS: Oh man, that’s a good question! Well, it depends on what happened the previous session [laughs]. Right so let’s say something stressful happens in character, I take time to mentally prepare for something potentially worse to happen. Usually, I end up listening to the previous episode to make sure I take enough notes. That’s about it in terms of getting into the mental state of my character.
BJ: This is a really great question! For me, one of the biggest aspects of Mass Effect is the music. I normally do a lot of writing with work throughout the week listening to soundtracks. Anytime I’m getting prepped for an episode, if I’m writing out the story beats or mapping out what I want to do with stuff, I’ll listen to the soundtrack.
I also have a pretty good ritual of the day of recording: I wake up and because we start pretty early I grab some coffee somewhere and probably something gross to eat. I have an entire ceremony for myself at the Hyper RPG studios, which is where we record, where I get there before everybody else and set up my GM screen and checking my notes and it’s a very precise ritual. I take the order of everything and prepare for it all to be juxtaposed with the complete disorder of what happens within the session. [laughs] I have control over that ritual because the game is completely unscripted. Anything can happen to anyone, and all control is lost! We just play for fun, and there are times I’m making things up as GM, so during my pre-session ritual, there’s a moment of clarity and I have an idea of how I want everything to go, even if it doesn’t. It’s a pretty emotional moment, and in that moment, it’s the only thing that matters until we start and then everything goes out the window!
Radical: How has participating in Adventum changed your outlook on Mass Effect?
BJ: Damn. It’s changed in the sense of how these characters have begun to feel real and how it feels great to be back in the space [of Mass Effect] again. It feels great to be in a space where we are able to tell stories, especially right now when there is currently a desire for content – I’ll put it like that. Part of this whole thing spawned because the breadcrumbs are easily there, especially if someone is listening to the first 1, 2, 3, or 4 episodes; it’s easy to get an idea of where we’re going with this. It started with Naeem saying that he recognized a lot of people had a negative experience with Andromeda and wanted to see if there was a way to do things differently for the fans. Naeem and I love video games, and after talking about it, we noticed what sort of things we could pull from Andromeda but put our take and our spin on it. The intention is to maybe tell our own story in Andromeda – I mean who knows! Adventum has changed Mass Effect for me because instead of discrediting Andromeda, we can theorize that while all that was going on, this story right here was also going on. Because of my role as GM, I hope we can tell a story that feels more like a payoff while also fitting into the Mass Effect Universe.
NS: Oh boy. Where can I begin? Well, I think it feels like the story can fit right into the main storyline that occurs in 1-3 and Andromeda. I already loved the series already, but being in character makes me feel like I’m actually there. This podcast makes me want to take the universe and my character seriously out of respect for Mass Effect as a whole. I already appreciated it a lot, and now I appreciate it even more. Because of my participation in Adventum, I introduced my parents to the Mass Effect Universe, despite them not knowing anything about it. They listen to the podcast, and absolutely love it because of how immersive the universe is.
Radical: What has surprised you most about Mass Effect: Adventum?
NS: I think for me, the group that we established fits so perfectly. We hit it off right off the bat. In my experience, it’s hard to find the synergy that our group has. The chemistry developed very quickly, which doesn’t always happen in tabletop RPGs.
BJ: I echo everything Naeem said. The group has really astounded me right from the very first session. Some of our group hadn’t met each other before, and there were even some who had never played an RPG before this either. That blows me away. It’s amazing how well the group has stuck together, which I give credit to Mass Effect and its universe for. The storytelling and the universe it has given us allows for people to feel like they can easily be part of a team that stands for something bigger. That level of storytelling can be felt within the RPG setting, which brings the group closer together due to the level of risk and reward their decisions hold. The people who love Mass Effect easily connect back with Mass Effect.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Favorite Mass Effect Character?
Favorite Mass Effect Game?
Mass Effect Ending Choice?
BJ: Synergized first and then Destroy to see the breathing [laughs]!
What’s Next for Mass Effect?
NS: Make a better Andromeda sequel
BJ: RTS game!
(Insert self-promotion of my own list of what’s next here.)
Who would you like to portray other than your current Adventum character?
NS: Matt’s character, Vok Khirk.
BJ: Vok Khirk. I love playing the simplistic idiot [laughs]!
Those interested in embarking on a Mass Effect journey in the form of tabletop RPG podcast can find the podcast on most platforms. Their website has their full playlist as well and links to their Discord server and Patreon page. Patreon supporters get to listen to episodes a month early and have special permissions in the Discord server. The cast and the podcast itself can be found on Twitter, too.
Another shout out to Bert and Naeem, as well as the rest of the case for taking the time to do Mass Effect an amazing justice in the form of your story, performance, and quality of content. This is Radical618, and Adventum is my favorite podcast on the Citadel.