Many folks dream of spinning their passions into something profitable — or even sustainable. Aram Vartian, a self-described Dungeons & Dragons geek who, like many, discovered the role playing fantasy game as a kid, is almost there.
Godsfall (godsfall.com) is an original fantasy world told through a game of Dungeons & Dragons played each week with Vartian recording himself as the Dungeon Master and four other players over a four-hour session. He then cuts it down to one hour and layers in music, voice overs and special effects until it sounds more like a radio drama than an actual play podcast. It ends up being one long saga about four young people who have been given the powers of the Old Gods, making them superheroes in a time of knights and castles.
The LGBT-embracing (several characters are matter-of-factly out) podcast has proven wildly successful. Vartian and his cohorts get about 50,000 downloads a month and a Kickstarter campaign launched last week raised $20,000, which will be used to publish a 200-page full color book with maps, art and characters from the Godsfall world. It can work with any Dungeons & Dragons game.
Vartian was 8 when a babysitter introduced him to the D&D world.
“I was completely obsessed from the moment I rolled up a wizard and cast my first Magic Missle,” he says. “Now to see how supportive the actual play podcast community is, is amazing. I have never been involved in media that was less about individual success and more about the success of the community. It’s very refreshing.”
Vartian freelances by day as a multimedia producer. The 40-year-old almost-D.C. native (his family moved to Fairfax, Va., when he was 3) is single and lives in Logan Circle. He enjoys photography and, of course, Godsfall in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out shortly after my 15th birthday. The hardest person to tell was my friend Chris whom I told by saying, “I’m gay and I’m in love with you.” He was (and remains) straight, and we were both kids in 1991 Virginia. He held me until I stopped crying.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Alan Turing. He beat the Nazis, helped invent modern computing and was still too delicate to understand that neither accomplishment would save him from intolerance.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Tracks. I know my memories will always be rosier than the reality, but that place had a special magic I’ve yet to see again in D.C.
Describe your dream wedding.
I’m standing next to someone I truly love and admire who challenges and supports me. Everything else is decoration.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
The school-to-prison pipeline. As a nation, we are obliterating a generation of youth for convenience and profit.
What historical outcome would you change?
It would be impossible to change any significant historical event without creating an earthquake throughout all of time that came after. Too risky, I’ll pass.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Woodstock ’99. It was every bit insane as it looked on television.
On what do you insist?
Treating everyone working for the public — waiters, bus drivers, DMV clerks — with kindness and patience because their job is hard.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Me yelling about politics and/or the police. This interview could be published any time before or after now and my answer would be accurate.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Assuming this is something as easy as I take a red pill to switch and a blue one to switch back, I’d buy one of each and see what it was like to be straight for a week. If I could take both at once and turn bi, I’d probably just stay with that.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is much that currently lies beyond what we understand as our “physical world” only because we lack the technology to explore or even recognize it. There is no cosmic mystery — given time and resources, humanity will unlock every secret of the universe.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Pay more attention to our LGBT youth than our Pride parade sponsors.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
The iced mochas at Dolcezza are so damn good.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The idea that equality can be gained through a pair of rings and a bridal registry.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’ve got my sights on an ENnie Award at the moment. I like obtainable coveting.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That my life would change when I picked up a camera.
Washington is a truly lovely city that is eminently walkable. And if you don’t like anyone, no worry — most of them will be gone in two or three years.