Swallows of the South is an actual-play podcast that uses the Exalted 3rd Edition game system. I am not familiar with this system, and one of the best features of this podcast is the Exalted Primer episode, in which GM (Storyteller) Quinn Wilson gives a good basic overview of the rules. It’s fun to listen to shows that use different systems, and I appreciate the diversity and creativity of creators who make so many different games available.
|Swallows of the South||Audio Only||https://swallowsofthesouth.com/||Mostly Bi-Weekly||PC-PG LD|
Swallows of the South began releasing episodes in January of 2016.
Swallows of the South is set in the world of Creation, which is the game world developed for the Exalted game system.
Swallows of the South is part of the RPG Academy Network of podcasts.
I should start this review by reminding all the readers of the wise words from the RPG Academy’s motto: “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” That’s especially true with podcasts because if you are having fun making a show you’re probably going to connect with an audience that will have fun listening. It doesn’t mean that every show can be or should be for everyone. And this show just isn’t my cup of tea.
Swallows of the South gave me a taste of a new game system in Exalted, and that is one aspect of the show that I enjoyed. I also like the fact that Quinn, the GM (or “Storyteller” in Exalted terms) has built an engaging and interesting story for his characters to explore. All the players are strong role players—that comes through clearly in the game and the episodes—but one player chose to create the most annoying damned character I think I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in an RPG podcast. The ironic thing about this character is that even the player says during table talk interjections at the table that she gets annoyed by Godwin and that she is certain people listening to the show get annoyed with him, too (she is playing a teenage boy who has serious angst issues).
The personal lives and perspectives of the players in a game don’t matter to me and should not matter to me, but I have to wonder if part of my inability to get drawn into this show past the annoying Godwin character is the intentional “gender bending” that is being done. From my days in high school I’ve been reluctant to play in games or allow players in my D&D games to play the opposite gender from themselves. It’s almost never possible for a man to play a woman without falling into some stereotypical tropes—whether they are positive (motherly, grandmotherly) or negative (oversexualized, heartbreaker). In several of the shows I listen to I sometimes hear the same problem when women try to play male characters. In the case of Godwin, it’s as if the player has consciously or subconsciously bottled up every bit of annoying “little brother” and “teenage horndog” angst she can muster and poured it into her portrayal of Godwin.
Swallows of the South is a show that comes out of California, and like many of the shows in the RPG Academy Network, the players are open about their love and support for the LGBTQ community and gamers from that community. It’s entirely possible that some of the sensibilities and more subtle subtexts of the show would resonate differently with listeners who are themselves part of the LGBTQ community. Or it’s possible that the appeal of the characters and show would just resonate more with someone of a different generation. Technically, I think the show is good, and I think I would like it much better if one of the main characters were not so damned annoying. But as it is, I simply can’t give it more than rating of three on the d6 scale in terms of my personal enjoyment.
The show gets a PG rating for being a game that has adult themes for an adult audience. The early episodes lacked much in the way of salty language, but once the cast stabilized the language has become more coarse. There is also a preoccupation with sex by some of the characters, and this involves both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Every parent has the right and the responsibility to determine how and when to share the birds and the bees with their kids, so they should probably screen the show and determine if it’s right for their children to hear. There’s nothing explicit in the show, but there are some awkward moments that could prompt kids to ask questions that parents would need to know if they are comfortable answering.
I believe Swallows of the South can and should find a strong audience. But I’m also not sure I’m part of that audience. I would encourage anyone interested in learning about the Exalted game system to listen to the show and see if it resonates with you more than it does with me.