Hi, I’m Shaz. I’m currently a stay at home mom of two little ones and a total nerd. I love to read, cook, crochet, and watch anime. I have a background in the sciences, so I’m also into sci-fi and real life science too. I also love going to conventions and cosplaying.
How long have you played games and how did you get into tabletop gaming?
My parents are big board game players, so I’ve been playing those since I was little. But, I didn’t really get into games until college when a friend introduced me to Settlers of Catan. It was a very different sort of game than I was used to playing and I thought it was great.
Ah! I love Catan. Always enjoyed turning sheep into bricks into wheat.
Sheep are my favorite!
What was your first game?
Settlers was the first of this new wave of board gaming that I played. As far as RPGs go, my first experience was through video games. We had Final Fantasy on the NES and games like Kingdom Hearts later on. When I was in college, World of Warcraft came out, and we all go into that. Playing Warcraft was really what got us to try out Dungeons and Dragons because we liked the RPG aspects of WoW, but wanted something where we interacted in person more.
It sounds like you started playing D&D with the some of the same people you played WoW with. Do you feel like intra-party dynamics change at all when playing an MMO versus a traditional tabletop game?
The dynamics changed just a little bit. A lot of the time we played WoW, we all played in the same room on our laptops because it was easier to communicate. So it wasn’t like we had to get used to playing face to face. But I do think that WoW has a much different pacing than D&D. Like, if you have some downtime, there’s plenty to do on your own. Or if you just need to putter around a sell items or hunt for quests, you can do that on your own time. In D&D, all of that happens with the group for the most part. And you never quite know when you’re going to run into fights or have lots of plot to run through. With WoW those things are a little more certain, so the group is usually just going through big quests together and not the “boring” stuff.
Do you prefer tabletop RPGs to MMOs at this point, or do still enjoy both?
I prefer tabletop RPGs right now simply because I like the group dynamic that we have. We started playing D&D through Roll20 because one of our group members was diagnosed with a chronic health problem and it makes it hard for him to get to our house to play in person. Roll20 works really well, but I miss the in person playing a bit. So when we can, we have a true tabletop night and break out the other board games.
Do you have a favorite game or favorite genre of game? If so, what about it appeals to you?
Right now I think my favorite board game is Firefly. I’m a fan of the show, but it’s an excellent board game anyway. I like any games that have co-op in them or at least games where the point isn’t really to complete with the other players so much. I enjoy playing competitive games, but since that’s how a majority of games are played and it’s nice to play something different. It also makes for a nicer gaming environment when you’re not screaming obscenities at your friends during the game. We’ve got the Game of Thrones board game as well, and people are very, very unhappy after a night of that game (aside from the winner, whose usually grinning like an asshole). So I’m glad that there are more and more co-op games coming out now. I can’t wait for the Ghostbuster game to come out.
Sweet! I hadn’t heard there was a Ghostbusters gaming coming out. I feel like we’re seeing more co-op games in the space lately. Have you seen the Pathfinder Card Game? It’s a “GM less” way to enjoy the RPG and kind of a co-op game from what I hear.
I’ll have to look into this!
What games have you not tried, but would like to?
I’ve heard good things about Betrayal at House on the Hill and the Arkham Horror games. Unfortunately, like a lot of board games, they’re pricy, so we haven’t picked them up yet.
What was your first character?
I can’t remember my character’s name, but she was a half-elf warlock. I played with her with my college D&D group. I wish I still had her character sheet, but it was lost during one of my many post-college moves.
What do you use for inspiration for your characters?
I guess I try and make characters that I would find interesting if they were the character in a book or movie I was reading/watching.
Do you have a favorite kind of character to play?
I usually end up being some sort of magic user because I don’t think I play fighter characters very well. Warlocks are my favorite because I like the background of the character (the idea that they’ve made a pact with some sort of magical creature) and I enjoy lighting things on fire.
Do you run/GM games?
Yes, I am the currently DM for my D&D group.
Do you run pre-made adventures or create your own material as you go?
When we started, only myself and one other player had any background in D&D. So when we decided to try out D&D with our gaming group, we bought the 5th Ed. starter set, just to make things easier. This is my first time DMing and with the new edition, going through the pre-made adventure has made things run more smoothly. We’re almost done with the starter campaign and after that we’re going to try out a created adventure that I’ve tied into the pre-made campaign.
What do you use for inspiration for your campaigns?
I’ve got a lot of sci-fi/fantasy elements stored up in my brain, so it’s just a matter of picking a choosing ones I like and then trying to put some new ideas in there.
What’s the hardest and or easiest thing about being the DM? What’s your favorite thing about it?
The hardest thing about being a DM is finding the right pace. First there’s the issue of balancing times when the players are exploring or fighting and the times when they need to get information or go to a town to rest/buy/sell. If you never give the players downtime, then the plot can get really thin and I don’t think that’s very interesting. But some players get annoyed when they aren’t punching monsters in the face. Secondly, players like to approach things very differently and sometimes that can cause pacing problems too. If you have a player that really likes to be strategic, things can slow down too much. On the other hand, if you have a player that just barges into places without much thought, everyone can get bogged down in endless fights.
The easiest thing about being DM, at least for me, is making calls about odd rules or strange things that players think of. I’m not a DM that really hammers everyone about sticking to the rules because I don’t think that’s very fun and when you’re stopping to check books all the time, it destroys the storytelling. I pretty much let my players do what they want, assuming they can make their rolls. My favorite thing about being a DM is botch rolls. We stole a house rule from the D&D podcast Nerd Poker where if a player rolls a 1 on a check or attack, they have botched. I then roll a D100 to see how bad the botch was. Anything over 75 is bad and the closer you get to 100, the worse it is. A 95-100 on a botched attack probably means that character is dying in a hilarious way (like lighting themselves on fire on a botched fireball). Every time a 1 comes up, it’s like Christmas has come early.
What would you say to people who are curious about gaming but have never tried it?
It seems like board games in general are becoming really popular right now. There are tons of new ones coming out through big companies and small ones with Kickstarter. There’s so much to choose from, there has to be a game that you’d like. And there’s lots of resources! I watch Will Wheaton’s Tabletop show, have an account with Boardgamegeek.com, and I’m lucky enough to live near a few stores that specialize in games and have really helpful staff members. If you’re interested in D&D specifically, many game stores run D&D beginner groups and roll20 (the online RPG gaming site) also has lots of open groups for new players. I also highly recommend the D&D starter set. It’s not very expensive and will give you a taste of D&D before you fully commit.
Anything else you’d like to say about gaming that we haven’t covered?
Games are a great way to spend an evening with friends and family! And as I mentioned, there’s plenty of places to connect with people online as well.
Promote yourself and/or your stuff! Tell us where we can find you online, please?
You can read about my boring life and my adorable kids on twitter @phoenixphire24.
Thanks so much for your time, Shaz!