Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 16 – Katrina Ostrander

Katrina Ostrander bio pic
Katrina Ostrander

I’m joined this week by Katrina Ostrander, Fiction Editor for Fantasy Flight Games Fiction and Story Team Member for Fantasy Flight Games. She talks about her early experiences in gaming, which were mostly comprised of play-by-post games. She speaks about the benefits of her play-by-post games, and how she started to play in tabletop sessions. Katrina describes her experiences playing in gaming groups comprised of all-men and all-women, and how those groups tend to approach RPGs in different ways. She discusses her method for running quality games that engage player emotions, and offers advice for how to deal with the anxiety that comes with the duties of gamemastering. She details her roles over the years with Fantasy Flight Games, including her work on highly-scrutinized intellectual properties such as Star Wars and Legend of the Five Rings. She closes the interview by discussing potential future projects, including designing a game that would connect with the younger version of herself.

Enjoy the 16th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

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Ego Check: Grant Gould, Freelance Illustrator

In Spring 1999, Pacey Witter was a season away from kissing Joey PotterPresident Bill Clinton was dealing with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Star Wars fans around the globe were camping out to buy tickets to the long-anticipated Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Remember that feeling of anticipation? There’s going to be a new Star Wars movie! And we’re going to see it on the big screen soon! At the time, I was in the process of completing my first year of graduate school at University of Minnesota – where Jesse “The Body” Ventura was residing as Governor of Minnesota. Looking back, it was a strange time!

Being a huge fan of Star Wars and not wanting to miss out on getting a ticket to the first show, I searched online for the nearest organized line – a task that was not as easy as it sound because social media like Facebook and Twitter didn’t really exist yet. I found a nearby group through an online message board and not knowing what to expect, I left class and drove 20 minutes outside of Minneapolis to a suburban theater. I immediately connected with the other guys and girls in what became simply known as The Line. There was a shared language we all understood – we were all nerds, damn proud of it and the enthusiasm and camaraderie was contagious. During the following days when I wasn’t in class, at work or home sleeping – I was at The Line.

New roleplaying game in development from Grant Gould.

One of the great people I met in that movie theater parking lot was Grant Gould. Grant is currently a freelance illustrator and developing a new roleplaying game, Blade Raiders, but back in 1999 he was just another guy camping out in line for Star Wars tickets. We shared many of the same interests and he and his friends were hilarious. If you’d like to read some truly unfortunate quotes – including several from yours truly – from The Line regarding Star Wars fandom and the build-up to Episode I, then check out this issue of The Minnesota Daily – the student newspaper for University of Minnesota – which profiled the people waiting in line to buy tickets. None of us knew about the trainwreck that was thundering in our direction. How could we have known!?

Grant and I stayed in touch after the hoopla of Episode I died down and he invited me to a party the next year in June 2000. I had recently graduated with my Masters degree and was leaving Minneapolis for good, but I really wanted to see all the people from The Line one last time. I decided to stay an extra week in town for the party and leave the next morning. At the party, Grant introduced me to his cousin, Emily. Four years later, Emily and I got married and we celebrate our eighth anniversary tomorrow. Without Star Wars – I don’t meet the love of my life – and I owe the equivalent of a Wookie Life Debt to Grant Gould.

Below, I interview Grant Gould about his journey from standing in line for Episode I tickets to working officially as a freelance illustrator for Luscasfilm and other big-name franchises like The Lord of the Rings. He talks about his long history of playing roleplaying games and his motivations for designing his own game, Blade Raiders. I’m obviously biased, but Grant is good people – and if you feel so inclined, then please check out his Kickstarter page for Blade Raiders.

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Ego Check: Tracy Hurley of Sarah Darkmagic

One of the blogs that assisted me during the early stages of forming an identity as a Dungeon Master was Sarah Darkmagic. The author’s description of her process of taking on the DM role and its many challenges was inspiring. The site also featured a number of Downloadable Delves that I was able to easily insert into my campaign, which saved me a great deal of time and stress while preparing sessions for my players.

Once I started my interviews, I had targeted the writer of Sarah Darkmagic, Tracy Hurley, as a subject for an interview. Over the past few months, Tracy was kind enough to share some time with me to discuss a variety of topics. For those of you who are familiar with her writing, she expresses herself intelligently and passionately. Her talents have taken her from blogging on her own site to writing a column for Wizards of the Coast. Below, she discusses a variety of topics including her first steps into roleplaying games and her views on sexism in the RPG industry.

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Ego Check: Anna Kreider of Go Make Me A Sandwich

I have been an observer of numerous discussions about sexism in gaming in recent months. My plan was to write a post about the subject, but I could not decide on a specific theme for an article. I did not want to be just another male writing about the topic, but I though it would be interesting to have an in-depth discussion about sexism and the gaming culture with a person quite knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. Thankfully, Anna Kreider of Go Make Me A Sandwich agreed to spend time discussing a variety of topics related to sexism and the greater geek culture.

I first became aware of Go Make Me A Sandwich after listening to a DM Roundtable Podcast. I visited the site and was impressed with the content. Anna has supported her assertions that the gaming culture is sexist with analysis and often hilarious comparisons of how male and female characters are dressed and portrayed in games. During the past month, we had an extended conversation about sexism in the gaming culture. Specifically, I inquired about the individual gamer’s responsibility in changing the culture and how Anna continues to enjoy sexist games and continue with her blog in the face of great resistance from sects of the gaming community. We also discuss sexism in other realms of geek culture and how some games move closer and closer to a form of pornography. I believe the two of us were quite honest throughout the discussion, and encourage readers to pay close attention to the segment on cognitive dissonance, which is a subject I will return to in future posts.

Please enjoy the interview with Anna Kreider; I realize this is a topic people feel strongly about and I encourage you to keep your Comments and questions respectful.

Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. Could you please introduce yourself, and talk about how you first became interested in gaming?

Hi, there. The canned introduction I usually give goes something like: My name is Anna, though online I mostly go by Wundergeek. I write a feminist gaming blog called Go Make Me a Sandwich, in which I explore issues of sexism in gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

I’ve been playing video and board games pretty much my entire life, but I didn’t start roleplaying until my then-fiance (now husband) introduced me to gaming and got me started. Sadly, our tabletop group has long since fallen apart, but I still do LARP. So I guess I don’t completely fit the stereotype of the woman who didn’t start gaming until her significant other introduced her to it, but I think it’s fair to say that my husband definitely made me nerdier. (Not a bad thing.)

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