Meet the Dungeon Master – Interview with Joshua Failla

Meet the Dungeon Master – Interview with Joshua Failla

By Renae Failla

He’s a Computer Science University Student, specialising in Artificial Intelligence, a Real Time Analyst, an avid reader, game player, ‘The Beast’ in the final year of his high school’s theatre play of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast and he is also my brother – Josh.

But more importantly and less talked about, he’s also a Dungeon Master in the game Dungeons and Dragons. 


Now from an outsider perspective looking in Josh recognises that to many “…all we are really doing is rolling dice and talking with funny accents,” but it is much more than that, it’s about creating a dialogue. 


As we sat at the family dinner table, Josh provided me with some insight about the game and all the effort that goes into being the ‘Dungeon Master’ – with Mum interjecting, reminding us that “Sometimes people prefer doing that than studying.” Our discussion, in an immensely condensed version, went a little like the below. 


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It’s important to note my legend of Technical Terminology if your knowledge of the game stems from the little snippets that are shown in Stranger Things (referenced in the YouTube video above) – much like myself.


Technical Terminology:

Party – the group of people playing the game

DND – Dungeons and Dragons

DM – The Dungeon Master

Twitch – A streaming platform for gamers

Skeletal Dragon – a dragon who was killed and brought back to life

Paladin – The paladin is one of the character classes in most editions of the game

Wizards Of The Coast – Creators of the game


Why do you believe there has been a resurgence in the game and what do you attribute this to?


The resurgence of Dungeons and Dragons (DND) has been largely due to the increased media exposure that the game has had over the years. Since it’s advent in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dan Arneson, the game has been featured in shows such as Freaks and Geeks, Community and more recently Stranger Things.

Each of these brings new eyes on the beloved game. Wizards Of The Coast, the current manufacturers of the game, have also reached out to the creators of these shows and manufactured modules (short playable stories) that work within their created worlds. 


Prominent members of pop culture have also come forth and publicly announced their love of the game, notable figures here include Joe Manganiello, Stephen Colbert and Vin Diesel. Compounding this was the creation of streamed DND in the form of visual streams on Twitch and YouTube as well as in purely podcast form.

This phenomenon was started by a group of nerdy-ass voice actors calling themselves Critical Role.

Comprised of 9 actors all recognisable from video game and anime series, the Dungeon Master (DM) Matt Mercer, is well known for voicing the character McCree in the Overwatch series. Since Critical Role these types of shows have been cropping up more and more, all fueling this resurgence.


What is Dungeons and Dragons? Can you tell us a simplified version of how the game works?

A simple version would be, the DM thinks of a story they would like to tell, this could be a pre-written official module from Wizards of the Coast, the likes of which include the Curse of Strahd, Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Storm King’s thunder or the DM could think of a story all on their own, with their own cities and characters. Once the story is decided, the group will get together and create characters. The Player’s Handbook explains the bounds in which characters can be created (races, classes and backgrounds). The characters will then play through the story, this could take weeks or in many cases span years of regular meetings to complete the story.

Give us an example of a scenario/event that has happened in one of your games?

There have been many moments over the years that have been notable, I think one that stands out was when I was playing a Dragonborn Paladin (Zylas) and the party was fighting a skeletal dragon. The dragon had an ability that causes those looking at it to become so frightened that they cannot move closer to it or look at it for too long. This means that much of the party was unable to effectively attack it. Zylas was not affected by this because as a paladin he could not be affected. He maintained the attention of the dragon and with the power of his god infused in his strikes to deal more damage he was able run up the back of the dragon and crush it to the ground nearly dying from the amount of damage that he took throughout the battle, he fell unconscious and was saved by his party’s artificer Cassandra.

Who invented the game?

Gary Gygax and Dan Arneson, it was first published by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) and was originally 3 pamphlets, the combat was based on an older game from 1971 “Chainmail”. The game was revamped in 1989 with 2nd edition DND known as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Then Wizards Of The Coast (WoTC) bought TSR in 1997 and since then a few editions of the game have come out with the current edition (fifth edition) releasing in 2014.

What is the underground appeal and why did it become popular? What do you love most about the game?

I think the fact that the game is so free form with the DM being able to think up any scenario for the players, keeps the game fresh for existing players and intriguing for new players. The story can involve the party brawling with some ne’er-do-wells in a bar to doing the bidding of omnipotent gods. Also being able to attempt absolutely any action in any scenario makes the game diverse and branching. For example, if I was fighting a bear in a cave I could try to collapse the cave to get away, fight the bear head on or even try to tame the bear. These all might have varying levels of success and none of them can really be considered the “correct” option but all of them are viable.

If I wanted to start playing now how would I do this? Where can I find the rulebook and a party to play with?


There are a few ways you can try to find a party, there are online Facebook communities that are always starting new games both in person and online. Another method is to look on the Roll20 site who facilitate both playing and looking for groups. You could in theory play with someone from the other side of the world. If you aren’t able to find a group through one of these methods you could also get together a few friends and DM a game yourself, see how it feels, there is a free module that has been published by Wizards Of The Coast called Lost Mines of Phandelver. I’d recommend reading and running that module for a group and you will find your groove. 


There are many free resources that are available to new and existing players such as DND Beyond which is a site (by Wizards of the Coast) that allows a user to make a character using any of the standard races and classes with purchasable expansions should that be desired. Otherwise you could purchase the core books Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide and Monster Manual at Zing or any of your local gaming shops. If you are hard pressed to find them, they can be ordered online but if you can support your local shop then definitely start there.


To join the Dungeons and Dragons movement and to become a Dungeon Master like Josh, you can source your own party and use the Lost Mines of Phandelver as a starting point.


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To Be Human Is To Be Musical- We Ponder With Allison Davies

To Be Human Is To Be Musical- We Ponder With Allison Davies

words by Kate O’Donnell 


This month we pondered with the wonderful Allison Davies. 


Safe to say this interview left the heart full and the mind is buzzing with new information and some life-changing insights.


Allison Davies has this extraordinary ability to draw on her extensive knowledge of music, the brain and all of its mechanics, and present insights in such a way, that even the really big revelations of brains and behaviour is easy to digest and becomes common sense!


Professionally, Alli is known by many as a registered music therapist, her work with understanding brains and behaviours, neurodiversity, inclusion and her creation of the Brain Care Cafe. 

Growing up listening to Blues albums and Rock and Roll, Alli’s first words were out of a Fats Domino song. 


Music has always impacted her life, but it wasn’t until she was a neurologic music therapist that she truly understood the relationship between music and the brain.


It turns out, the information our brain gets from music, and the stimulation is far greater than you probably imagined. Relaxation music is not what you thought, and fast-paced music blaring on your road trip could encourage a lead foot and speedy driving—not joking! The mind boggles.

Allison davies Ponderings magazine
photo credit: ponderings magazine

So what is the essential aspect people NEED to understand about music and helping the brain?


According to Allison, it is critical to reclaim our musicality and to understand that to be human is to be musical. 


“Our brain is a musical organ.

We are all musical.

We are all driven by rhythm. 

All experience melody.

We all have voice and vibration.


We need to understand this. To feel and believe that we can use music in our homes, in our classrooms, and by ourselves strategically and therapeutically and in ways that will help us and support us.


Too often, we are led to believe that we aren’t musical. When it comes to music, there is no right or wrong. You can’t sing out of tune unless you’re singing someone else’s song. YES! Shower closet rock singers unite! There is hope for us all!”

ponderings image guitar shot
photo credit: ponderings magazine

Now more than ever, anxiety is peaking, mental health, exhaustion, and dysregulation is on the rise in epic proportions. The struggle is real. 



“Our brains were not designed for a fast-paced, expectation dense, highly structured, modern, Western, rushed world. No humans, no brains have had this kind of environment in the last 100 years.”


Alli’s expert advice: We need to pull back. If we use ISO and the current COVID situation as an example.- although it’s been a stressful and angsty time, with a lot of survival mode for a lot of people, simultaneously- our brain has had a break. We’ve been rendered choiceless and forced to pull back. Pulling back from information, back from sensory overload, back from too much socialising- this is the stuff our brain health depends on.

Allison davies Ponderings magazine
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There are a lot of things we could be doing more of for our brain to function at it’s best. 


Allison very successfully runs the Brain Care Cafe. More than a membership, the cafe is a library of brain care strategies and a community committed to making progress on their own brain care.


Allison defines brain care as “more of what helps the brain run and less of what shuts it down.”


In our daily lives, there are a lot of things we could be doing more of for our brain to function at its best. The Brain Care Cafe focuses on 12 pillar specifics that are really important for our brain. Each week Alli delivers a brain care strategy. There is an activity that will help the brain to regulate and function at its full potential. This Cafe is a library of brain care strategies. These are mostly musical based and all things we can be doing in our daily life, everyday anxiety management. 


photo credit: ponderings magazine
But it’s not just music therapy and a string of other titles and boxes that Allison fits into. Connection is key. From her picturesque sanctuary in Tasmania, Alli shares her thoughts and processes regularly on Instagram and Facebook. The landscape is intoxicating. Nestled amongst 40mt high gumtrees, you will find her bush bath. Complete with flowers, platter and a cheeky glass of wine this is the bath Mother’s Day dreams are made of! (swoon). When Ali shares a post, it feels like you are listening to a friend- and creates this beautiful space where you find yourself asking similar questions and parallel pondering!

It was no surprise when we asked our Ponderings question Treehouse or Cubby House that Alli chose Treehouse. Hands down.


Instagram Ponderings leaderboard

Tasmania – #thebarn TAS


Quirk factor: an award-winning converted barn

Just minutes away from cultural and culinary attractions in the CBD, you will feel like you are spending a night on a luxury farm. The young super hosts that own the property are also the architects behind the renovation with 1820s sandstone detailing kept intact.

With all the essentials and basic necessities for cooking, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of the home.

Marie stayed pre-COVID-19 in March 2020 and commented on the personal nature of the space as well as the extra special finishing touches

“Beautiful property tucked away in the middle of the city. Set up to feel like our own personal, special space straight away, a bottle of champagne on arrival!”

#thebarn has received 463 reviews and a 4.91 rating.

So there is a clear common theme within our collection! We hope you and your so enjoy our list of the quirkiest and most likely the most unique Airbnb stays around Australia and would love to hear if you get to try any for yourself. Leave a reply below.

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Australia’s Top Food Recipe Bloggers

Australia’s Top Food Recipe Bloggers

Written by Renae Failla

With a global pandemic spreading more than a little chaos across the globe, many Australians now have a newfound passion for cooking and baking following the strictly imposed 4 reasons to leave the house.

There is no reason to stick with boring recipes with this round-up of Australia’s Top Food Recipes Bloggers hailing from each state around the country. Sweets, breakfast, snacks and meals – they hit all the bases and live, breathe and think food every day of their lives.

VIC – Lisa Eats World


Having travelled the world, Lisa now calls Melbourne home. With roots spread from South Australia to Melbourne to London and then back to Melbourne again – it’s the Melbournian coffee and beaches that brought her back. Lisa’s blog is a mixture of her wandering reviews, recipes, travel and lifestyle. Lisa has been described as avid food lover since birth from her mum and her go-to’s are  “pretty sweet things”, brownies and cupcakes – which I have to say I am in agreeance on this one. This food blogger left her full-time role in marketing to pursue her creative passion and so came the blog Lisa Eats World.


Blog: https://lisaeatsworld.com/

Recipe: https://lisaeatsworld.com/2019/11/rosewater-and-pistachio-vanilla-buttercake/

NSW – Not Quite Nigella


Lorraine Elliot’s blog was born after her book ‘Not Quite Nigella’ was published by Penguin Books. Now the name of her blog, Not Quite Nigella features and range of multicultural recipes that are influenced by her home in Sydney. Lorraine has particularly taken a liking to Japanese, Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan food inspired by the places she travels, however, whether it be fine dining or street food – she has no preference!


Blog: https://www.notquitenigella.com/

 Recipe: https://www.notquitenigella.com/2020/07/08/mulligatawny-soup/

NT – Darwin Natropathics


Why naturopathy you may ask? Bonnie and Kate are the two talented ladies behind Darwin Natropathics – an all-encompassing hub for Naturopathic Services, Recipes and Webinars. They believe that “Naturopathy recognizes the important role that lifestyle, environment, nutrition and personal history plays in the health of all people,” which stresses the importance of a natural and holistic healing approach. Both ladies are qualified Naturopaths, but Bonnie is also a qualified pilates instructor while Kate has experience in fitness and weight loss training. Recipes featured on their page include breakfast, mains, drinks and more.


Blog: https://www.darwinnaturopathics.com/

Recipe: https://www.darwinnaturopathics.com/copy-of-acia-bowl

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TAS –  Olive’s Kitchen


Olive’s Kitchen derived its name from Olive’s Cottage – a beautiful property which is available to rent in Tasmania. The main writer of the food blog is Robin, who discovered his love of food and cooking from watching his parents cook when he was younger. His parents had a vegetable garden on their property and were very big on fresh produce. Robin and his family will visit the cottage in Tasmania numerous times each year and host barbeques with around other couples where each is invited to bring a dish.


Blog: http://cicadabay.com/oliveskitchen




WA – Sugar Salt Magic

Self-taught cook Marie is the lady behind the blog Sugar Salt Magic. Her favourite things to bake are sweets and she thrives on baking foods from scratch, however, when it comes to a savoury meal – comfort food that is easily shareable is her specialty. Marie takes a serious interest in knowing exactly what ingredients are going into the foods she is preparing for her friends and family. The ‘share meals’ on Sugar Salt Magic are ideal for entertaining.


Recipe: https://www.sugarsaltmagic.com/smores-mug-cake-recipe/

SA – It’s Not Complicated


Alex is the creative mind behind It’s Not Complicated. She left her jobs in the real estate and the airline industry to become a full-time blogger and now spends her days writing about food and growing her collection of cookbooks! Family and friends had always asked Alex how she made the food she set on the table, she always found herself saying ‘It’s Not Complicated,’ so it was a no brainer that this would be the name of her little corner of the internet filled with her passion for food. Alex partook in cooking classes with her mum as a child and this tradition has continued into adulthood. The recipes Alex features not only are easy to make but also utilise foods which you will find at your local supermarket and don’t need to go to multiple stops for.


Blog: https://itsnotcomplicatedrecipes.com/



QLD – Create Bake Make


Lauren is the gal behind Create Bake Make and she is ‘Baking [her] way through motherhood’. Starting the blog whilst looking after her newborn and 16 month old, Lauren’s passion came to life, featuring recipes that can use the assistance of the little ones. Her recipes include easy dinners, slices, lunchbox ideas and an array of Thermomix recipes.


Blog: www.createbakemake.com

Recipe: https://createbakemake.com/party-food-homemade-sausage-rolls/.


Now I don’t know about you but I will be spending some time on my self-improvement to master these recipes for my next Dinner Party!


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The Great Australian Pottery Revival

The Great Australian Pottery Revival

An ancient necessity that has evolved into a Mastercraft; the art of pottery is a beautiful process and has recently enjoyed a revival in popularity. Ponderers welcome to some of our favourite Potters from around Australia. 


Victoria – Bendigo Pottery


Bendigo Pottery is considered Australia’s oldest working pottery, established in 1858 this particular pottery so unique! Why? The pottery still retains a collection of ceramic wood-fired kilns which are some of the only ones left in the world. The kilns are no longer in use but remain in a museum for customers to view. Techniques that are utilised in this pottery are hand throwing, slip casting, jolleying and pressing. You can test out your wheel throwing skills in a half-hour lesson at $18 per person.



New South Wales – Pilliga Pottery


Pilliga Pottery in New South Wales is family-owned pottery, originating over 30 years ago. Johannes, the son of the original founders, is now the master potter.

Utilising local clays, Pilliga Pottery art can be recognised with designs such as the signature Blue Wren and Australian native flowers engraved on their pieces. Their pottery workshops start at $25 per person where you can take home your very own treasure dish.


Queensland – Colour my pot


This little pottery is a step ahead offering classes guaranteed to spark creativity with pieces ready to be picked, painted, fired, glazed and collected by you.

Pieces to paint start at $6 a piece with an additional $10 studio fee otherwise pottery classes are available for $85 per person for a 2.5 hour class. Especially handy during the COVID-19 restrictions are their take-home clay packs which can be purchased in-store for anyone who lives in Cleveland or delivered for an additional $5 within 40km of Cleaveland.


South Australia – Studio Potters

With a lengthy history, The ‘South Australian Studio Potters Club’ as it was formerly known, was established in 1954.

Now known as Studio Potters SA, the studio encourages the social and teaching aspect of pottery to help members advance and achieve their goals in all types of pottery.

Members pay for their usage of the club, and there is also a sales/exhibition area which faces onto Fourth Avenue. The store exhibits work by the artists from the club including platters, plates, mugs, bowls and pots.

The classes/workshops available here are for the more serious potters. Pricing and availability can be found upon enquiry.





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Western Australia – Winterwares


Winterwares derived its name from the creative founder’s mother’s maiden name ‘Winter’, her love for the season and the notion that “meals are considered more in winter”. 

Founder Simone Habholz left her fast-paced day job, attempted a pottery class and fell in love with art where she later developed her own range. Winterwares focus on monochromatic designs and employ the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi to create a luxury range of plates, bowls, mugs and vases. 

Simone invites customers to ‘Give [themselves] permission to slow down” in her creative workshops with private 1.5-hour workshops starting at $139 to create your own mug. At home pottery kits are also on offer, starting at $95.


Tasmania – Small Fires Studio

Small Fires Studio specialises in handmade ceramics for the table, kitchen and Botanics including bowls, espresso cups, mugs, jugs and teapots. Each piece is handcrafted with different washes, glazes and textures and stamped on the bottom with their signature ‘Small Fires Studio’ mark.

Muddle Ceramics Workshops are the linked workshops for the studio, offering adults and kids multiple workshops, plus special one-off play days that are only $50 each.



Northern Territory – Tactile Arts


Tactile Arts is a studio that focuses on supporting local emerging artists and creatives through textile and print, ceramics and glass and jewellery classes. Established in 1973, it is considered Darwin’s longest-running arts organisation. 

The organisation holds a yearly schedule of events which includes exhibitions, workshops and a retail store at Parliament House. Workshops here include throwing on the wheel and creating with clay. If you are a more experienced potter, you can choose to hire the studio starting from $15 for a 4-hour slot.


For many of you living around Australia, now may be the perfect time to try your hand at a beginner pottery workshop to see what all the fuss is about and discover your inner ‘Molly’ (Demi Moore from Ghost) with some wheel throwing, however, for those of us remaining in Stage 3 Lockdowns in metro Melbourne for the next six weeks, a take-home kit might be a good place to start!

Written by Guest Ponderer

Renae Failla

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