Nate, how long have you been playing D&D? What has your experience in the TTRPG world been like?
It wasn’t that long ago; I got into my first D&D game at the end of August 2017. A close friend of ours (Nate’s partner is Cayla) started a game online. It was a learning curve figure out both Roll20 and the rules of D&D at the same time. In fact, we spent the first two sessions just figuring out our characters and Roll20. I really enjoyed the social aspect of it, but I didn’t really connect with the characters until the DM stepped down. I don’t want the game to go away, so I stepped in to DM – that was Christmas of 2017.
When I started DMing, I spent a month going through the DM’s Guide to learn about the barbarian, rogue, and ranger classes so I could flesh out the game to make my players feel like they were using their characters in a way that was meaningful to them. I think the hardest thing when I started was that at that point, we were running with three players and I was DMPCing. I can separate what my character does from me telling the story, but I’ve found that it’s hard as a DM to play a really fleshed out PC and DM at same time.
My favorite part of DMing is the ridiculous shenanigans that people throw at you. You have an idea of where you think the story might go, but it never happens. The plan never survives the first encounter. Now I am about 95% No Plan when it comes to DMing; I just have story beats that I want to hit to give them lore and get them involved in the world. I lay those out a bit in advance, but how they get there is up to them. Sometimes I will make up encounters for different scenarios, but most of the time I’ll make up encounters on the fly. If players show special interest in a particular aspect of the world, then I’ll plan ahead to give them the lore dump and a scenario for a certain area.
I understand that you have recently come out as bisexual. Have roleplaying games helped you explore or express your queer identity?
I don’t know. Honestly, probably not a whole lot. For a long time, I wasn’t verbally out, but I was never shy about my actions or how I treated my friends or what I said. A lot of people were like, “Yeah, that tracks” when I came out. A lot of the characters that I play are more fluid in what they’re open to. My first character was a bard, but there was no idea that they could have a romantic interest in the world. The character was ostracized from his family and trying to figure out where they fit into the world in general rather than pursuing a romance.
I tend to play females more often in games that give me the opportunity. In video games like Dragon Age, where the option to romance men and women is there, I’ll figure out which character is most interesting to me and I’ll romance them.
Who did you romance in Dragon Age?
I’ve only played Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I romanced Sera. At first, I couldn’t stand her character, but the more characters you add to your party, the more interesting her interactions become. Her character is similar to my D&D characters – pretty chaotic. When I realized that, I thought I’d give it a try to romance her! A lot of it is “What can we do to prank these people all of the time.” She’s not what you stereotypically expect an elf to be, which I like, and she had a fun story. She hides things because she feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere; her attitude is “If I’m having fun, I don’t have to think about anything else!” Being able to draw that out of her was really satisfying.
You have told me a little about some creative and detailed worlds that you are building for D&D. What interests you most about the worldbuilding process? What part is the hardest?
When I build a world, it’s usually built around an event of some kind. The game that we’re playing now for DMTK, I built in 2018. It all started around a plague… Before that, everything in the Overworld was prosperous. There was peace, technology, and all sorts of things. Then a plague ravaged everything and everyone went underground. In the campaign, all of the players start in the Underdark, where there are huge mountains in a massively cavernous space, including an ocean with multiple coasts. The whole idea was that it’s been 200 years since everyone went Under. I want the characters to figure out what has happened to the Overworld, and will it be safe to go up and check it out?
I have a really hard time with continuity and figuring out what’s going on in the world when the players are doing one thing but there’s stuff happening elsewhere. I always have things going on in the back of my head about what’s going on on the other side of the continent, but I struggle with figuring out how do those move forward when players aren’t interacting with them.
I’ve recently tried to finish campaign 2 of Critical Role – I’m on episode 120. One of the really interesting things I’ve been trying to glean from Matt’s DMing (spoilers) happened when they all ended up back where Sam’s character lived with her husband and kid. The town was ravaged, and they were like “Oh, what happened?” and Matt responded, “If you decided to come back two weeks earlier, you might have been able to stop it.” Whoa!
Once, I had a group that talked their way out of a whole dungeon. The idea was that there was a sleeping dragon under the mountain that had been sleeping long enough that it was covered in rock. The kobolds who worshipped it built a temple around the dragon. My group went to the temple, got some lore, and said, “No, we don’t want to deal with this.” They handed over a bunch of really expensive spell components and magic items to the kobolds in return for the thing they were looking for in the temple. Instead of waking the dragon by taking the stone like I planned, the kobold shaman finished his ritual, absorbed the dragon, and turned into a giant kaiju. But the group just took off in their airship and said “Nope! Goodbye!”
What advice do you have for GMs who want to get better at worldbuilding?
The biggest thing is focus on a city or a place that is important to your world first, then figure out how that place interacts with other things. Think about how cities interact with each other. What does each city look like? Are there specific regions that people live within? Is it all just one area with self-governing cities? Then figure out the land around the cities and how the cities impact the land around them. How does trade work between cities that are more advanced with smaller communities that are less advanced?
What nerdy interests are you most excited about right now?
Up until a month ago, I was playing a lot of FF14, and I feel like I need to get back in, especially because a new expansion in November. I’m part of a ridiculous guild with a bunch of anime nerds that are on all of the time. They do a lot of events, like playing hide and seek every night.
I also really like anime; it’s my weekend guilty pleasure. I’m watching My Hero Academia right now, and one of my favorite shows is Restaurant to Another World. It’s about a Japanese café where every Saturday, a door shows up in the fantasy world side and wizards and dragon folk show up to this regular guy’s restaurant to eat.
Do you have any recommendations of queer nerdy content that you would like people to know about?
- Ice Cream Dice – Marc is an absolute gem. He does great work, and has a lot of fun with his unique dice brand. Bonus points: he is Canadian and from Edmonton.
- Bee and Crow, authors of World of Wyldrvir – Bee also DMs the Frost Walkers Podcast.
- If people are interested in the weird shit people do – Cayla, Halli and I are going hard on The Human Exception podcast. This project has been a lot of fun, and we get into some really weird stuff. In one episode, we talk about Mount Rushmore and how behind Lincoln’s head there is a time capsule with a tunnel and everything. We also cover the weird conspiracy theories that people have about the place. Our second episode might be more interesting to Roar Cat Reads readers – we talk about the origins of the word “homosexual” in the Bible. Eventually, there will be episodes coming about how I was raised, so stay tuned!
Thank you, Nate!
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