I’m on the outside

I’m looking in…

That line really speaks volumes to me about my life. I often seem to others that I’m in the mix of things getting involved being super friendly. In truth I’m not, for me I’m as the song lyrics by Staind say on the outside. That line sums up the nature of this blog or at least what this blog means to me. You see I want to talk about impostor syndrome and for me it’s that, the fear of being discovered, that keeps me outside. It keeps me from becoming part of any one thing because then everyone would know.

Know what you ask… well it varies for me depending on the situation and remember this is just my experience with it for others it might be different. Although if this can help someone understand the fear someone goes through with impostor syndrome then well I’ve achieved one good thing at least.

With my closest and dear friends those I’ve known 10 plus years and those I’ve met more recently I fear you’ll discover me for what I am. A terrible person, selfish, a bad friend, arrogant and rude. I sit waiting and watching convinced that these people I respect as highly intelligent surely will work out what a terrible person I am. You can’t all be friends with me because I truly am good or kind, it’s but luck, by chance and I fooled you all well. That’s tiring I must admit I spend so much of my time convinced you’ll all catch me in this lie that I’m constantly over worrying, apologising & trying to make up for a thing I may not even have done other than in my head. I honestly don’t think I’m smart or funny or any other positive word.

Within the d&d community, well one day honestly, I think you’ll all chase me out, probably with pitch folks. Every time I’m invited to do something, join pocket mimic, join encounter RP… there have been other twitch channels that have approached me, the other collaborative work that I’ve been involved with, well I’m waiting. Waiting for someone who will realise I’m a fake, that I know nothing, I can’t d&d and I certainly can’t DM. How my players haven’t discovered that I’ll never understand! It truly baffles me some days to why anyone would think I bring value to the community or have a valid voice or opinion I mean after all it’s not talent that has bought me this far. It’s nothing but luck, the right place at the right time or good blagging skills. I can list you 100 reasons why and none of them are that I’m talented or skilled, my only talent lies in my ability to fake it.

Work well the idea of being an expert of knowing what I’m talking about baffles me. I listen to people agree or commend my work and really, I’m not sure how they don’t see it. I hear the words come out of my mouth and to me anybody could say them, there is nothing new or profoundly clever in what I say. Currently I’ve been involved in a massive, complex and important bit of work and people keep looking to me for advice. Me??!! And then they listen it terrifies me that they haven’t seen the truth yet. What I truly am an expert in is faking or the sell. I can dress it up and sell it in pretty words. Mostly I’m hoping that thing I once read is true as I hope and pray that people don’t discover I have no idea! I mean I don’t even think of myself as clever or capable. Yes, I have a degree and yes it was a good grade but I scraped that, it was a fluke, somehow someone took pity who knows, but it can’t have been skill or talent right?!

The hardest battle is that this isn’t every day and the intensity isn’t always the same. This makes me feel and sound like I’m flip flopping. One day I may say to my players for example ‘ok I finally see what you all see and maybe I got this DM shit’. Eventually, it maybe hours it might be days or weeks the voice will say ‘but you know it’s just luck, Right?! Just chance you managed to pull this one off’. I live in this perpetual battle of one side of me condemning and the other slowly getting weaker in the battle as it stammers ‘no… but… well actually…’

So, I don’t join in more than I must. I make friends but I keep most of them at arm’s length, in the year that I have moved I’ve had so few of my oldest friends or people from my closest group over. There is an element of subconscious distancing I’m giving them the chance to make that polite exit from my life without a scene. I don’t tell them this of course as there is a chance they might stop me instead I make myself look busy in the hopes they forget. Then of course it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because they don’t reach out and stop me from doing the thing they have no idea I’m doing. Then I can go ahha! I was right look at them not fighting for my friendship they realised I’m not worth it.

It’s the same with the creative endeavours, everyone I know is so impressed I’ve punished two short stories. Well that’s easy, it was fluke and a friend was publishing them, she took pity on a friend who wanted to try their hand at writing. In truth I honestly know this isn’t true her publishing house is something she’s worked hard and she wouldn’t publish shit for the sake of a friend. However, it’s easier for me than accepting the truth… that I might actually be good at something right? My brain skirts from that thought.

I know this is not fair, I do the people closest to me a disservice after all these are intelligent, passionate, inspiring, strong people they are not fools. I’m slowly learning to listen to them to trust them. If I trust them with my life then surely, it’s not any hard to trust them on this? Some days it is easy, others well the voice whispering to me is louder. I’m learning to talk about it so that people understand the complexity of the relationship I have with myself. I’ve had both talking therapy and CBT I know the tricks and tools to manage it, trying to look at it with a different perspective. I’m learning to trust, if you don’t think I’m a fraud maybe I’m not. It’s a slow process and one I need to think about daily as every so often something new will happen and boom the thoughts are there ‘you’re a fake!!!’, ‘you’re a fraud!!!’.

And mum before you email me or leave a comment (although always much loved and appreciated) I know in theory the truth of what you’ll say it’s not that I don’t. I get the mechanics that with a good IQ for example I must be intelligent I just don’t really connect me with that thought. I’m also ok for me this is less about confessing a thing I’m in the midst of, that I need help. It’s a frank look at what my brain says compared to what you all say is the truth, what deep down I probably know as the truth….

When the impostor syndrome hasn’t got me in its grasps.

Finally, it’s an honest look at the thoughts around it and to say you’re not alone, I get you. I know how hard it is to sometimes accept that maybe you are all the things people around you and your achievements show. Have faith in the people around you for they have faith in you. Maybe reach out… talk… Step inside.

Advertisements

Another day another Gatekeeper in D&D

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but there was a ruckus in the community and you know I love a good opinion piece. So, as the latest gatekeeper war in the community simmers down, the crumpled mass of words the only sign there ever was one. People have blocked and are moving on. I’ve been thinking about the article that this person wrote to sum up their original tweets. No, I won’t share the article here, I won’t mention their name, simply because I have no interest in giving that arrogant and condescending attitude more space that it deserves. Trust me it’s easy enough to find on Twitter and probably will be for days…

However, while I was streaming last night, I think he referred to those who stream d&d as fake hipster and actors, I thought about the nonsense of his points and tried to sift through the postulating arrogance to find a response.

So here are my thoughts and yes, they are just that, my opinion and take what you will from it.

The crux of his argument was that those who only watch d&d on YouTube and in streams cannot classify themselves as d&d gamers. He also went on to discuss how streamers were themselves fake hipster d&d players or actors getting paid and reading scripts. That they gave an unrealistic view of the game of d&d. Finally, that those whose only interaction with d&d is to consume these games have no valid place to talk in the community. He later, in tweets, went on to deny there was a community *looks at her 2000 strong Twitter following* oh trust me sir if you are in the right place there is most certainly a community.

Let’s break these points down shall we, well on the face of it with the d&d gamer comment I guess you could say if someone does not play a game they are not a gamer. The conversations have swung back & forth but what is the definition of a gamer? The dictionary definition is:

Gamer

/ˈɡeɪmə/

noun

  1. 1.

a person who plays video games or participates in role-playing games.

“every gamer has suffered from small-screen videos”

  1. 2.

NORTH AMERICAN

a person known for consistently making a strong effort, especially in sport.

“he’s a gamer, always ready to go that extra mile”

Ok so participates in the traditional sense is someone who physically participates in the playing of the game. Let me show you another view point, go check out some of the d&d streams for a moment, here try this one EncounterRP you see how the viewers participate? Did you see how the entire game we played was dependent on the way they participated? Our viewers are vital to the game we play so if they are participating in the game would that not make them gamers?

However, putting this aside for the moment I personally am not sure the term gamer is totally fit for purpose in a community that, in the digital age, has grown the way it has. This brings me to his insistence there is no such thing as ‘The Community ‘ now there was a time when this was maybe true when d&d players largely only interacted with their friends and maybe those at the local games clubs who played. Sometimes there were occasionally visit to a con where you could meet other like-minded people (sounds a bit like a community to me). Then BAM the digital age and suddenly writers and artists, producers and content creators could all collaborate. Suddenly people from all over the world could join in a community and enjoy discussing and creating this wonderful game together. Those people who loved the books and the rules but perhaps never had the confidence or chance to play could find a voice and a place. If you want to tell me there is no such thing as the d&d community I could give you 100 examples to show you that you’re wrong. But I’m going to give you 1, the Cake and Writing Desk short stories ONLY exist because of d&d these are written by those in the community born out of their love of the game and their characters. It’s drawn by those in the community, edited, produced and read by those in the community and it features works from people all over the world sharing 1 common love…d&d now that is community at its finest. There are more podcast and creators that you could ever probably listen to each of these creates and adds a voice to the community and some being discussion bases give those who never have played an understanding of the game.

Now the fake ass, hipster cool actor’s streamer comment, well unfortunately this was a comment largely aim at Critical Role. Yes, they are all actors however I know it’s confusing because that is their day job but guess what actors are normally average people with normal average likes and oh my god THEY CAN LIKE D&D TOO!! I mean Vin Diesel & Joe Manganiello are examples of this however I’d probably not go and challenge either of their d&d cred to their face if I were you… Joe after all probably has more d&d cred in his little finger than most of us will ever have.

However back to Critical Role right let’s just get it out of the way now yes, it’s a very different game to the old school game and yes, they act. While we are there oh gosh they have new players and girls!! However, some of those players have probably been playing d&d longer than many of us. This game wasn’t about a bunch of actors trying to make money out of d&d I mean considering that when the stream started 3 years ago, Geek and Sundry only had a few thousand subs & nobody was doing this I’d say it would have been a poor way for actors to make money. If this gentleman had bothered to read or research CritRole he’d know this, they are as Matt Mercer always said a bunch of ‘nerdy ass voice actors playing Dungeon and Dragon’ they are just that Nerds playing the game they love.

Yes, the game has changed it a very different beast now compared to early editions but guess what that’s ok… things change and evolve. But that doesn’t mean your fun is wrong, you want to play OSR you do that and good on you but you know what someone else can play full on RP story arc based d&d too, It’s all valid. There is an argument that ‘new players will expect a certain DM or game type thanks to Matt Mercer and Critical Role’. I mean yes that’s true to a degree, but there have ALWAYS been diverse types of players those who like to Roleplay and those who prefer to Rollplay and there are those who flit between based on in game events. Guess what EVERYONE’S d&d is valid, it is our job as a DM to establish what our game is going to be like and maybe yes; some players won’t like it and they’ll go to find a different group been there done and that it’s ok, not everyone will like your game. Ok I will agree that the hardest thing being a DM in the post Critical Role age is that most of us will never be Matt Mercer this is very true but that’s ok too and actually most players I’ve met who came to d&d via CritRole get and understand this. They’ve probably seen more games and a wider variety of play styles than you realise.

You see it’s very easy to assume that all d&d YouTube and streamers are actors because there are a few who are also actors. However, the rest of us are just idiots playing a game we love and are just hoping someone will watch. I play in two games and I DM a 3rd as well as about to guest in a 4th. One of the games is streamed 2 are not & the 4th will be on YouTube I can tell you this now; the silliness, the laughter, the ridiculousness is the same in all of them. We are not playing to the audience when we are dying with laughter that is 100% genuine. The only real difference is in my home game I don’t have chat participating.

So, my point is before you want to gatekeep understand the beast as it has become. Before you want to assume what d&d streamers are or aren’t research, watch, learn. If you don’t like what Critical Role has done to your game that’s fine you still get to have your game the way you want it nobody said you must play their game. Finally, before you want to dismiss someone’s voice in the community understand that even if their participation is only watching it or listening to the vast podcasts out their they are still valid, they are still allowed because guess what they are participating too. You can play d&d and any other ttrpg anyway you want, you can have or not have at the table anyone you want. You can even sit in the corner and grumble that there is no community and it’s not as was in your day that’s ok too… but before you try to take someone’s vaildness away try & understand where they come from. Approach it in a reasonable fashion because a conversation is not where you say your opinion is right… just because and everyone else’s is wrong, end of no further debate. There are so many ways to play d&d and as far my experience has shown me there always has been, after all d&d is a game of make believe.

 

The Uphill Climb to Defeating Stigma

So I’m buying a house, if any of you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am buying a house. You ask what does that have to do with defeating stigma well this, part of the process when you see your mortgage broker or adviser is life insurance. Meaning that if something happened to one of us the mortgage is covered and the survivor wouldn’t need to struggle paying it on their own. Great I thought we’ll have us some of that, just in case, you know it makes sense, seems like a sensible thing to do. Except for me currently it’s not that easy see the insurance company won’t insure me…. Why you ask?

Well you need to fill in a survey for them to decide if they can cover you, there is a question innocently waiting to trip you up… Have you in the last x years ever thought about or attempted suicide? Well we all know my medical history with my mental health by now so it probably isn’t a surprise I ticked the yes box because I have had thoughts of suicide less than 2 years ago. Then I get a difficult call from my mortgage broker telling me that I’d been declined for life cover; I simply asked ‘was it the mental health side of things?’ She went back, checked and then had to explain to me that the insurer admitted to her that they do not distinguish between suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions and that they consider them equally a high risk.

Wrong and wrong so very wrong

  1. Let’s be clear here suicidal thoughts and acts are two very different things I may think about ending it but that does not mean for one instance that I will. To assume that is to not understand the complexities of mental health and suicidal feelings.
  2. I’m sorry but neither of those make you a risk, that just is degrading I am as at risk of getting hit by a bus as ending it. More to the point what if I had attempted it to automatically assume that makes me more of a risk than someone else is just damaging and perpetuates the stigmas surrounding mental health.
  3. The time frame they asked I think was the last 3 or 5 years so I have suicidal thoughts nearly 2 years ago myself, thank you for thinking that all the work I have done to improve my wellbeing is nothing. Thank you for putting me in the same box as you would have done at my worse. Thank you for deciding what makes me a risk without understanding the nuances of my mental health.

This morning I went on Mind’s website to read their definitions of suicidal feeling you can find it here in their A-Z Mental Health according to their website:

 “Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life. Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide, or making clear plans to take your own life.”

See there is an ever so slight distinction in those two lines, we all know what the act of suicide is but feeling can range as the next line shows, and those feelings do not automatically equate to a suicide attempt. Now do not get me wrong I know from experience that those feelings can easily become an attempt, but to assume that and to figure either way we are a risk is damaging and irresponsible.

Some other key comments from Mind’s website on suicidal thoughts are as follows:

“Everyone’s experience of suicidal feelings is unique to them. You might feel unable to cope with the enduring difficult feelings you are experiencing. You may feel less like you want to die and more like you cannot go on living the life you have.”

See that line there? It isn’t as straight forward as always feeling like ending it, sometimes it’s more about feeling that you just can’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, is that different? Well in a lot of ways yes. You see there are so many nuances and complex emotions involved in mental health and a bundle approach to handling all is very dangerous.

Finally I would like to share this comment from Mind’s website:

“Suicidal feelings can be overwhelming. How long these feelings last differs for everyone. It is common to feel as if you’ll never be happy or hopeful again. But with support and self-help, the majority of people who have felt suicidal go on to live fulfilling lives.”

Apparently the insurance company in question doesn’t seem to think this; to them I am as much of a risk as I was at my worst 18 months – 2 years ago. Thanks, because you know what that takes away from me? All the hard work I have done to do exactly what that statement above says, to go on to live a fulfilling life. It removes from me the pride I have in working so damn hard to focus on my wellbeing  and to put my mental health first, damaging, disgusting and downright hurtful approach to dealing with a sensitive subject.

Another outcome is today when talking to my partner about him seeking help for his own mental health issues was that he said the experience I’d had makes him nervous to seek help. He simply doesn’t want to be black listed as a risk because he took the stand to support his own wellbeing and mental health because in essence that is what this is. By being strong enough to stand up and say ‘Yes I have Mental Health Issues’ I am now an insurance risk, way to go with all the talk in modern society of ending stigma to you know make me feel like a stigma, but I wouldn’t insure my life with your company if you paid me now.

Tell me a story – Make it a good one, make it have battles and…

So for this blog I wanted to talk about storytelling and the involvement of storytelling in D&D and the ability to be a good storyteller and it’s importance to being a good DM. What does a good storyteller mean to a DM? If you aren’t imaginative or creative at spinning tales do those make you a bad DM? Is storytelling all that D&D and being a DM is about? Well OK the intention is to answer these questions or possibly it’s to inconsistently ramble till there are enough words for a blog, whichever happened first most likely.

So the other night I was chatting with my boyfriend about creating stories and day dreaming as a way to stop your mind wondering to those unhelpful , dark thoughts that it tends to when you are on your own. He was saying he wanted to try and create more stories in his head to keep his mind active and on positive thoughts, and because he’s just venturing into being a DM my response was ‘just think this might give you more story ideas so you can run some more games’. His response was that he felt  he wasn’t creative enough at storytelling to do more that encounter heavy one shots, and certainly (he says anyways) not as creative or a storyteller like I am.

Now here’s the thing I don’t consider myself a story telling, I do not consider myself if I am honest the most creative of people.  Yes I have created an entire world (my own cannon and very little out of the books) I mean OK I even have a story published and I work in marketing none of that to me really in my head makes me a story teller. My sister is a story teller – she wrote a book and everything so she certainly has proof, I like to call myself a weaver of threads. For me being a good DM can mean a lot of different things and I am not sure being an excellent story teller alone is one of them. I say this because some people like puzzle games or encounter heavy games, games full of traps and tricks, games with very little role-playing – all of these count as valid ways to play Dungeons and Dragons or in fact any RPG. After all there is no right and wrong way some people think in terms or skirmishes others in terms of deep character development. Story telling is one small part of an overall – it’s the bit that can wrap around the encounters – the bit that helps the characters grow and develop, but is that always necessary? Is that how every game must be played?

Also out of interest who is actually telling the story you, the players, or both? There are so many paths and twists that are starting to appear in my story and they aren’t all down to me. The players took the handful of notes I scribbled down and into them they fed their beliefs, their emotions and suddenly I am bribing them with cake to forgive the Gods who only got things wrong because players and I had to write their God chosen characters out of a game.

I think there is a lot more that goes into being a DM and for me personally I think it’s those things I tap into rather than being a storyteller. Firstly an ability to use what is given to me, see here’s the crux of my point so much of the apparent ‘storytelling’ I do is to take what the players hand me and develop it, use it and most importantly play with it, some twists and turns can come from what the characters do as much as the twists I create in the overall story. I am always mentally storing what they say and do to use at a later date to my own advantage and possibly to theirs. To me the key is being able to think on my feet and improvise, to use common sense and just think how would that look, work, sound, feel, the rest really guys is down to you – you give the colour and flavour – it is you who pulled that NPC out of 2D obscurity and right into the main plot.

More importantly I think the key to being a good DM is to just do it, stop questioning and second guessing you grab a book and go for it. Remember we all DM differently and we all play D&D differently your way is not wrong being a good DM for each of us is different so don’t compare yourself, I’m no Matt Mercer or Chris Perkins but hey I am still a DM and I’m never going to say any different. Also remember just because you are new your ideas are just as valid the way you do it is just as right as everyone else – that’s what’s great about a game where we make it all up in our minds – your mind is just as awesome as the next persons.

What’s your DM/GM style?

So what’s your style?  Are you fast and loose with the rules, or a bit of a rule Lawyer? Do you carefully craft a world spending hours on prep, writing and researching your world? Or are you more likely to go in with no notes and make it all up in the spur of the moment? Or perhaps you sit somewhere in between. Are you out to kill each of your players or make them heroes? The more I meet both Dungeon Masters and Games Masters the thing I am learning is we are all so much alike and so vastly different at the same time. The best part of being a Games Master or a Dungeon Master it is there is no right or wrong; there is no hard & fast rule to what makes a good DM because a good DM comes down simply to what type of game you want to play and if you and your players are right for each other and the game style. Some players and Games Masters do not work together, nothing wrong in that – no failures here you learn and move on and up to new games.

Personally I’m the King and Hero maker type I want my players to succeed and become heroes, but only in my main campaign. I have spent hour’s thinking about the world and their journey and for the most part I would rather they made it to the end and got to save the world, stopped the bad, reached level 20 and receive their epic Boons. However, I am also not going to force that hand, hey if they die they die, just because the Gods have chosen them as Heroes that does not mean they have never ending lives. Also on that factor, bringing back someone from the dead isn’t, in this world, always going to be easy just because they have a Cleric, I might want them to be heroes but I don’t want to make thing easy and I certainly don’t want them to go through the campaign without suffering because really where is the fun in that?

In One-Shots it is a little different and my DM style is a lot more let’s see how much damage we can do and what fun we can have. It’s silly and ridiculous and about pushing the characters and the rules as much as possible. Although I will be honest as I have gained more experience as a DM that side has come out more both in one-shots and occasionally in my main campaign. When I started last year I pulled my punches metaphorically so to speak because I didn’t really know what the players would be capable of and what was achievable at the different levels. With more experience under my belt and a little bit of trial and error and a lot of talking to other DMs that knowledge is getting stronger and I am getting more confident.

When it comes to creating a world, a session, one-shots and the rules I play it pretty fast and loose. For the rules I don’t worry too much if my interpretation is right or wrong so long as the game runs smoothly the players over all have fun (because well it’s not always exactly fun, it can be terrifying being a player.) and that they players and myself agree (or at least they accept) my interpretation of the rules. We sometimes talk it through and if I make a ruling that they aren’t sure of I am happy to discuss and hear their point of view. As for prepping as much as I style myself of Matt Mercer school of DMing (and no not because he’s cool or well-known I just like his style and it works for me and my heavily story & Role-playing based campaign) that is where my similarities end. I wish I could be more like him in his in-depth planning and creating – with a variety of voices and accents I could reel out at a drop of the hat, however the truth is I am not and I do not think I could ever be.  For me the impulsive, improvised element works, I get too stressed if I over plan and the story becomes to ridge. I create better and, I think, more interesting things if I think on my feet rather than spend time meticulously planning and writing things down. I really struggle with the concept of writing session notes, other than bullet points to trigger my memory on what the town is like, the people of course (mostly) key NPC names – until I have forgotten one that I’ve had to think up in the moment and then forget to write it down.

I will be honest my style doesn’t always allow for remembering intricate details and I don’t think my world will ever be as beautiful or as fully realised as say it is in something like Critical Role by hey this is a hobby that is good for my creativity, confidence and my mental health and therefore I am not going to stress if my bit of fun isn’t done the right way or I could be more in-depth – see that’s the point all are styles are different and nobodies is better or right. You DM you and I’ll DM me and so long as we all have fun and as a group of friends, laugh, cry, feel sacred and all the other D&D related emotions in between then you did right.

Trying to Thrive rather than just Survive

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has the theme Surviving or Thriving as this week is just over year on from the worst point in my mental health to date; I wanted to look at my own surviving and to see if I had finally reached the destination of thriving. So having listened to the Mental Health Foundations podcast (which if you haven’t and would like to you can find it here) I most certainly during 2015 and the first half of 2016 was surviving. I barely could keep my head above water, just trying to keep on top of the washing, life, house work, work, friends, relationships and everything else was a struggle I just felt I was drowning more and more.

So am I thriving right now? Well I am certainly facing life’s stresses and dealing with its challenges better, I guess you could say I have found meaning and a purpose and I am trying to reach out and form closer relationships. It’s only really when you sit down and look how far you have come you can see that you no longer just survive on a day to day basses. For the most part I don’t think of myself as feeling different to 12 months or 18 months ago, because I guess I am too close to my mental health and to me and because I survived for so long that I am not really sure what it felt to do anything but survive. Although when I think about it I do not really relate to the person who tried to throw themselves out of a (slowly) moving vehicle, or wanted to smash their face into the mirror to get off work.

Do not get me wrong I am not saying I have it figured and I am not saying that I am fixed and that I won’t ever have a relapse. Even over the last year as my overall mental health has got better there have been relapse moments and times when I thought I would never break the damaging mental cycles. There was an occasion where I took myself off my medication and have an awful full on slip right back into all the surviving techniques from before. Every day is about working on good mental health and what I have realised it’s like good physical health, it’s not something you do once a month or every so over. To keep good physical health you must take care of yourself, I learnt this recently when I have flu, now I have never had flu before and I have never been bed ridden. I was off work for two weeks and felt terrible, but what I had realised was that I wasn’t taking care of myself, I had stopped really thinking about what my body needed to be healthy and over time my immune system got worse and I ended up bed ridden. Since then I am making a conscious effort to eat more of the right things and do more of the things that promote good physical health. At the same time also taking physical care of myself is a habit and taking care of my mental health is becoming a habit too.

In the same way it is important to do this with your mental health, I am trying to do more of the things that make me feel stronger. Connecting with people on a personal level and trying to build rewarding relationships with them, I’d begun this before I had even realised I was. Now it is about actively continuing it. Recently I was looking over old pictures with a friend (I mean pictures that are 10/15 years old) and one of the things she kept commenting on is how happy and full of life the girl in the pictures looked you know what though this year I recognise her, I see her in me. There are still stresses I mean I am trying to buy a house, have a full time job, travel daily to London and I am terrible at adulting but don’t we all struggle with life’s stresses but I am not hiding this time because I know right now I can deal with those thing. Will I always be able to, well I guess that comes down to the continuation of focusing on thriving – I don’t think it’s a one off thing and I do not for one moment consider myself better or fixed.

Every day I make the pledge to myself to be kind both to others and to me, without self-care I won’t continue to thrive but I also won’t without the kindness, support and love of those around me. It is important each and every one of us to continues to thrive, to challenge stigma and to fight for better mental health support, because the only way we all will thrive with Good Mental Health is if the support networks are there. For young and old, wealthy and poor everyone deserves equal access and equal chance to thrive. Those of us who are able to Thrive shouldn’t be the lucky ones, because we were lucky enough to get professional support, because we are lucky enough to have friends and family nearby.  Everyone should have the chance to stop just surviving and to final thrive.

 

 

 

Running in the Shadows…. Trying out new RPGs

So one of the things I promised myself this year was to not only play more RPGs/D&D with the community from online but to also actually try a variety of RPGs. I have played a few systems but most of my current roleplaying experience is Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition which I love, but I really wanted to try more and to try other systems there is after all such a massive range out there to play.

So I have started running in the shadows with my new group ChummersInc. If you’d like to catch up on our smooth operation and skillful handling of the complex world of shadow run, well you might need to wait for a while, instead I’d recommend you catch us here on the lovely Hanno Ziegler YouTube page, and enjoy how we bumble through covert missions and a world of undercover behaviour. We’re currently playing 5th Edition which I’ll be honest means little to me as I have no experience of 1, 2,3 or even 4th edition, although I gather there are a few changes here and there. I also gather from talking to other players and GMs that 5th edition is cleaner and slightly easier and the core rule book is less complex. However if this is so then I never want to look at the older editions rule book – 5th is in-depth enough for me. If you want to know more technicalities of it I am sure there are plenty of reviews out there comparing the editions, as a side note they’ve probably also actually read the core rule book – which I might have not actually done yet.

Anyways I digress so I haven’t really read the core rule book, but I know what I needed to for Princess Glitter to be born. She is a young troll teenage girl, who believes some day dreams can come true and a prince will one day sweep her off her feet and she really will be made a Princess. She loves the finer things in life and has a taste for fancy things like Champagne, loves all things pink and glittery oh and she’s talented at hurting people and I mean really hurting people. So far she’s ripped arms off enemies who have stabbed her. Pulverized faces into the concrete all while wearing pink leather hot pants, teeny tiny pink bikini, huge biker boots and yes in pink and a long black leather coat and finally her hair is a fabulous rainbow of colour. This by the way is a little doddle that Hurm provided me so you can get a feel for Princess. If you haven’t checked Hurm out his twitter is here @Hurmly he’s a great DM and you can find him streaming some of his games online, sometimes he does doddle streams too – I’d highly recommend you check his things out.

IMG_20170504_075641

Shadowrun has been fun to play and a very different RPG system to D&D it reminds me of the White Wolf, Vampire the Masquerade system but with D6’s rather than D10’s. Similar in the sense that you have attributes and skills and the amount of points in those areas determines how many dice you get to roll for whatever it is you are doing. The more skill & ability you gain the more dice you would have to roll. This has pros and cons I have found unlike D&D where you roll 1 dice and add your modifier to it, in theory as your modifier is higher  for things you are proficient in that usually means (although dice being as they are, not always) you have a high chance of succeeding in your actions. In shadowrun where your dice pools increases and you just roll more D6’s you really are subjected to the luck of the dice, nothing to add just roll all your dices and hope for some successes. I always seem to naturally have a good relationship with my dice and do well, but for those Wil Wheaton’s out there I am sure that can make for an interesting game.

Really am enjoying spreading my RPG/tabletop wings and trying out new games, have so many plans for this year. Finally will have access to a dining room table for gaming purposes and might even have a chance for a full games room.  So this means I need more games to play to make getting these things worthwhile so always feel free to make suggestions. In the mean time I shall run some more in the Shadows and really finally try to get my head round the rule book. Shadowrun is certainly less straight forward to D&D 5th Edition (which I’ll be honest I haven’t read all the rule books, all the way through for either) but as both a player this is really something I should do. Especially as Shadowrun is dangerous we can get hurt so much as so easily, thankfully I took high pain cos that last session 8 points of damage would have left me on some nasty minus otherwise!

 

 

 

A year down the Line – CritRole, D&D and a Community of Shared Experiences

A year down the Line – CritRole, D&D and a Community of Shared ExperiencesSo it’s a year on from the first time I wrote about Critical Role, the community and what it all means to me. So where are we now a year on, well wow so much happened the fandom grew and grew and well exploded. Like any family we’ve had ups and down and disagreements all round, when you join something as creative and passionate as this community you are going to get apposing thoughts.

There is even now, as I write this, disagreements waging which I feel in many minds over, you see part of me feels that it is difficult to criticise or demand of something that is improv. The actor in me who has done many improv sessions in the past and whom often waits until she’s opened her mouth before assessing her words feels it is hard to pull people up for a spur of the moment game. However on the other hand is it really just a game anymore? Yes it’s a streamed D&D game but is it now, with more 30000 subscribers to the channel it’s on, a talk show of its own and merchandise, a piece of consumed media and more than just a D&D game? Where is the line between the two and how much responsibility do the cast owe the community? I honestly do not know the answer and flit from one side of the argument to the other, what I do know is I have never seen so much criticism from one community and that is both good and bad. Don’t get me wrong not all criticism is bad and I do not think we should just sit by and consume without engaging, however I also know that the place of privilege I guess I come from doesn’t really give me a voice in this over all argument.

What is more I like to sit in a place of sparkles and positivity, which means I accept possibly more than I should but I will fight the right corner when needed, but honestly I also don’t think it is my place to criticise. No I am not saying you shouldn’t either – if you have a good point to raise, something that should be said then do it, that’s what is great about this community the amount of passionate, intelligent people who have so much of value to say. What we need to be remembered that same passion that goes into asking for representation also is the beating heart of the creativity artistically, writing, creating campaigns and worlds cosplaying that makes this community. This community blows me away with the people you find here, there are so many of you who create, who are talented and well the art is astounding. I have never been part of something before that feels so positive. I have met some of my closest friends who live all over the world, thanks to this crazy show with nerdy voice actors playing D&D. These are people I visit or will visit who have or will visit me, whom I speak to regularly and value wholeheartedly. I have bought friends from my day to day life into the community.

Due to Critical Role I found the creativity, not just with being a DM and creating my own world but writing and art. I have submitted short stories to be published and I draw and do photography again something that I had done in so long, and that is purely and simply down to your encouragement and belief. I guess for me that is the heart of it, for all the criticisms and I totally get many of the points. For the increase in the fandom (there are so many of you now – I find new critters all the time, gone is the day I knew you all), for all the errors and mistakes that may or may not be made by the cast and community – you know what I will always be glad I was here for the ride. Watching something that was so small when I first found it online and the community was tiny to see it explode into the juggernaut it is blows me away. This has been a wild ride but let’s not forget to really enjoy it before it is over, rather than spending time squabbling lets embrace each other’s points as valid and allowed and get down to the serious business of watching some nerdy voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons and in the meantime it is a pleasure every day to know you community and thank you for the opportunities you provide.

Starting the year the way I plan to keep going…. Scaring the hell out of my PC’s and all the D&D

So at New Year we chose to see out 2016 and in 2017 playing D&D, for me with what D&D and more importantly being a DM meant to me throughout 2016 I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a new year. We introduced two friends to D&D as well and there really isn’t anything I love more than first time players, I love explaining the rules, getting them to build their character sheets. I love that moment when they stare at you blankly with a rabbit caught in headlights expression but later when the sheet is done, the dice rolled, the stats chosen, the feats taken and suddenly it all makes sense, it all seems to easy – so this was a perfect new year gift to myself!

So what was the game – well we played 5th edition because I honestly feel as an introduction to D&D it gives you all the fun and feel of older editions but it is less rule heavy, a lot less rule heavy. It allows for more character flow and there are less ‘um I think you’ll find the rule says….’ moments, perfect for new players. The setting – As I haven’t yet used the pre-planned campaign stuff that Wizards of the Coast have produced this was once again a Kat brain inspired one-shot. Partly I haven’t used the pre-planned stuff because when I first started I did not know much of the original settings and lore and felt I needed to know it all if I was going to dabble in the world. I am finding that this is slowly changing meeting and talking with other DMs and Players is slowly helping me understand the wider D&D world – there is a wealth of information out there and so many willing people who want to help, advice and encourage you to grow as a DM. To be honest though I do largely like to make up my own settings, worlds and lore – for me I find it easier to put that work in than base it in a world I do not know well enough. As it was over the Christmas naturally I wanted to do a Christmas themed one-shot. I also wanted to combine some of my favourite stories into it. This session very much had Critical Role inspired elements, it was heavily Joe Hill’s NOS4R2 inspired with your typical Christmas dream sequence – it was scary, silly and all the Vampire’s… oh and of course they went to Christmas Land.

This game was a fantastic catalyst for the new players, who knew of D&D and RPGs for years but had never felt comfortable dipping a toe in the RPG water.  They now have play in several one-shots, have joined my main campaign and one of them is about to take part in a PugMire Campaign that will be streamed, I honestly couldn’t be prouder. The way they have taken to RPing is warming to watch and makes me proud to have been their first DM. As for me I am working on an honing my DM skills, I had an aim to play more D&D this year but more importantly more D&D with the critter and RPG community – so that means you lot. Have I managed this? Well I’ve done 2 one-shots and joined a monthly campaign which is 2 one-shots & 1 monthly campaign more than 2016.  Because I’d played so little D&D I had very limited experience on what makes a good DM. As wonderful as Critical Role is and  as inspiring Matt Mercer is as a DM it is a lot to live up to if you are insecure or new to the whole thing.

Also in Matt’s defence he has been doing this for years and is making a show out of his game so he sort have needs to be tight and slick with his DM skills but when you are new and not sure what you are doing he can inadvertently be a lot to live up to. Playing other games with different DMs has helped me to be more comfortable with my mistakes and to feel surer of my story and the rules. As much as I think I am a better DM than a player and personally if you asked me I am a DM and not a player, playing and seeing others DM has really helped grow my ability and skill.

So this is a quick overview of D&D and the beginning of 2017, there is so much I haven’t written about yet. Playing in the Shadows and becoming a Runner, branching out into writing – oh and filling up what time is left when not running in the shadows or DMing with Neverwinter, now that has been an experience for me. I am making no promises here but lefts hope this is the start of a little more regularity.

 

 

When you call me beautiful… the life of the insecure

I am going to preface this with simply saying this is not an ego piece nor is it designed for you to tell me I am wrong or say ‘oh but you are beautiful’. I am not fishing for complements here I can assure you that. What I do want to do is learn to be more honest with and about myself. With that honesty hopefully it will not only help me, but give some insight to those around me about my weirdness. Maybe this will even reach out to you – perhaps my sharing will give words to your own thoughts and feelings. As today is Time to Talk day – I chose to talk about part of my Mental Health I don’t often talk about my insecurities and physical dislikes.

I really struggle with compliments I honestly do not understand what the etiquette is if someone says you’re beautiful or pretty, sexy… blah blah blah. This goes as much for my boyfriend as when anyone else says it, for example if you compliment me over twitter I usually just say something along the lines of thanks, but I am I meant to compliant you back? Doesn’t that then sound false? How do I make it sincere when it feels like I have been prompted? It’s even worse when it’s the boyfriend, he is so flattering and so loving and I am like ‘Uh… yeah… um…thanks’ mean while my head is going ‘COMPLMENT HIM BACK!!!!’ Followed by ‘No don’t, how fake will that sound I know wait, then do it,’ ‘how long?’ ‘I don’t know – 10 minutes, is that too soon?….JUST SAY SOMETHING!!! START WITH THANK YOU!!!!’ – darling if you are reading this, this is why sometimes for just a few seconds I stare at you – this is what is going on behind the eyes.

The other problem is that I do not get why you compliment me, now I can be subjective in the sense that I understand that I have nice shaped eyes, that my mouth is a fairly nice shape, that my hair frames my face well and my cheek bones are a nice shape. All together that sounds like I should think I am beautiful… far, far from it. I can look at the individual parts but the package is nothing special – it’s tired looking, and well it’s just a face, it to me is just average. It’s difficult to explain as I do not think I am ugly I just do not think I am anything special – I exist in this state of just being an average face one that at times I just don’t like.

This leads to most people having no idea I am not confident, no idea that I am insecure. That I really do not like the way I look. Sometimes my insecurities lead me to being embarrassed I’ll hide or cover up the part that is being complimented and yes even after 11 years of complements from the boyfriend I will go all coy and shy, hide my face – I just simple do not know how to handle it I am not sure I ever will. So remember when I am weird about things this is why – be gentle, be understanding – more importantly if you feel the same be reassured that I know that feeling, I know the insecurities and I know it goes deeper than just a pretty face (or not.).

A lot of this feeds into feelings of value and lack of worth, when I do not feel worthy I certainly do not feel worthy of complements. Every day I will struggle to feel worthy and every day I do it reminds me to tell you – you are worthy too.