Em (She/Her) goes by Skald or Skald of Shenanigans and is an avid player, content creator and Game Master for TTRPGS. She is co-owner of Awfully Queer Heroes with Kel, which runs a live play podcast in addition to creating Dungeons and Dragons content, all of which promotes LGBTQA+ representation. When she’s not playing games, Skald currently spends time in pursuit of her PhD in mythological studies while balancing work and outdoor hobbies in the mix. She loves a good story, a hike in the woods, or a game session. She currently works on her own small supplemental content in addition to working with Awfully Queer Heroes, and is a player on their latest “Tower of the Soul” podcast.
What were your first experiences playing D&D like? What has kept you interested in the game?
My experiences with D&D took some time to build momentum. When I had only just learned to read, one of my school friends had an older brother who had the original Monster Manuals, which I used to spend hours poring over despite barely being able to read a word. The first game I played didn’t come until high school when I joined a mini-campaign with yet another school friend, whose father happened to be a professional DM. Being able to take on a different persona – to build and play a unique character – and to work our way through an adventure of endless possibilities was absolutely captivating in the best way possible. I knew from then that not only did I want to continue to play, but to run campaigns of my own.
Having some form of creative expression has always been important to me, and D&D is a critical part of that. Beyond just the creative elements, the social connections that can be made and strengthened through a good group can be wonderful. TTRPGs in general have since been a huge part of my life because of this. D&D was the creative outlet through which I was able to pull myself out of some rough spots in my past. Additionally, some of my most important friendships and human connections have been made in, and through, D&D. There is an endless potential for creative expression, collaboration, and human connection.
You run the liveplay podcast Awfully Queer Heroes, which you’ve described as “pure queer chaos.” Why do you think our readers should listen?
First of all, it’s a ton of fun. The group has excellent chemistry, the Dungeon Master is fantastic, and there is no shortage of laughs and ridiculous shenanigans thrown in with the more dramatic aspects of the adventure. Part of what makes this podcast unique is the emphasis on queer elements, especially inclusion and representation. This is reflected not only in the identity and orientation of the characters but of the players as well. Some of the topics that have also naturally emerged as elements of the campaign include things like found family, chosen names, acceptance, and more.
This particular campaign uses a module (Tower of the Soul) previously published by Awfully Queer Heroes. It is unique in that the players are aligned with the forces of “chaos”, playing races that are typically vilified in D&D and fighting against those who wish to bring order. It’s a good mix of fun and seriousness in the way it addresses the repeated issues of queer repression and ostracization. It’s a fun mix of advocacy and representation, mixed in with the kind of chaos that can ensue in any D&D session with no limit to crazy ideas, encounters, and unexpected yet hilarious outcomes.
What episode do you recommend new listeners start with?
Anyone who wants to dive in can’t go wrong with episode one. It sets the scene for the rest of the campaign, as well as giving listeners an introduction to the players in the podcast. However, for those wanting a bit more action and a straight-shot to the tower itself, episode two has a bit more combat and excitement. There are some small details that might be missed, however, so I would say the best place to begin, is quite simply at the beginning.
How do you think queer storytelling makes a difference to D&D?
I think it’s absolutely critical to get more queer representation into D&D. Firstly, because as in many other areas there is a not insignificant lack of it. Not only having content that contains and promotes queer elements but also viewing storylines from that perspective is important not only for combating prejudice but also for increasing the amount of representation that can be found in these games. It’s additionally important for the experience of the players. Increasing the amount of queer storytelling in and behind these games is important when it comes to players being comfortable and able to explore and express their own unique identities. To not only feel like they have the freedom to play in a setting that is welcoming to them, but to also feel comfortable in their own identity in
the play environment.
As a queer person, have roleplaying games helped you explore or express your queer identity?
Absolutely. At the time I started playing, I hadn’t actually identified myself as a sapphic. I frequently played male characters, mostly because I played in games with people who at the time identified as cisgender heterosexual, and I discovered that in playing a male I wasn’t underestimated in the same way I often was if I played a female character. Additionally, I found myself drawn to other female characters and playing a male made that acceptable.
Exploring different gendered roles and norms, being able to take on a different persona and explore those things in an environment where it was ‘socially acceptable’ for me to do so, were some of the steps on my own journey to coming out as a sapphic. Even presently, playing characters of different identities is a way of exploring my own persona, and expressing different aspects of myself.
You also make queer content on Kickstarter. What can you tell us about your creations?
There are a number of different projects up on Kickstarter, including the “Tower of the Soul” which is a level 1-20 adventure geared towards queer representation. Additionally, there is the “Sun Blades” spells and subclasses. The adventures, spells and subclasses all contain elements of queer representation (spells such as “Rainbow Bridge” and “Summon a Protective Lesbian”) or structure (such as in the “Tower of the Soul”) that is made specifically around increased queer representation and storytelling. Digital copies of previous Kickstarter content is also available on the Awfully Queer Heroes website.
What are you currently working on/selling?
We are extremely excited for our next project, which is “Adventures in ADHD”. The Kickstarter went live on Tuesday, March 23, and it is the largest we have done yet. The adventure is designed for levels 5-6, and is set in the Feywild. The party will adventure through a serious of quests to help an overwhelmed member of the Fey who quite literally ‘borrows’ their attention, giving them certain ADHD traits in return. In this adventure the sub-classes, spells, and quests are all designed to help educate players about the wide spectrum of ADHD symptoms while having fun along the way. There has been a lot of input on the project, as it is a topic that we want to do in a way that is respectful and accurate. The response from reviewers and play testers alike has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been additionally exciting to work on as it has a lot of content, including amazing artwork, STL files, token, maps, and more.
Do you have any recommendations of queer nerdy content that you would like people to know about?
The TTRPG sphere on Twitter is a surprisingly (for social media) positive space for creators and players alike. The number of projects people are working on and content that is being created is absolutely mind blowing. I would highly recommend the live play Pathfinder podcast from Bad Heroes (@BadHeroesCast), they are a fantastic crew and really fun to listen to.
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