INTERVIEW With Kat Faye, Dungeon Master of D&D podcast, Dames and Dragons
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of sitting down to interview Kat Faye, the Dungeon Master of a D&D podcast called Dames and Dragons. I got the chance to talk to her about some of the creative challenges of writing a campaign for not only a roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons, but also for a podcast with a listening audience.
(Some basic aspects Dungeons and Dragons to keep in mind: Players roll 20 sided dice to decide the outcome of actions they want to perform in the game. Rolling a 20 means you complete the action, no matter how crazy it is. Rolling a 1 means you critically fail at performing the action, and you may even end up taking damage. For those of you who may need to brush up on what Dungeons and Dragons is and what it entails, creatively, you can get the long and short of it here.)
Kat, Thank you for meeting with me today!
To start, tell me a little bit about your podcast, Dames and Dragons.
Dames and Dragons is what we call an actual play podcast. We sit down and we play Dungeons and Dragons together for… a long time every several weeks. It’s not scripted, we don’t have that many rules about what goes on. So we’re playing an actual D&D game and just recording it and editing it and making it more consumable for listeners.
So the Dungeons and Dragons game that you play, it’s not just Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a story that’s also being crafted for a listening audience. So how is it different crafting a D&D story for a listening audience, as opposed to just your players?
It’s a little bit more of a balancing act, because a lot of things that I would love to do for my players to make it a very interesting game would also make for a very boring podcast. That’s something I’ve seen that’s a pitfall that you have to be very careful to avoid when you’re doing an actual play podcast because what you end up with is a very meandering story without much sense of plot or structure. But at the same time, you also don’t want to get so deep into your plot and your structure that it becomes not fun for your players.
Right, or inorganic for the audience.
Yeah! Because a big part of doing an actual play podcast is that you want to present something that feels like a very natural and organic experience. A lot of it is just… letting go of your ego and rolling with the punches. You’re going to get punched in the face a lot.
So, there’s obviously a large amount of improv that’s involved. How much do you try to predict what your players are going to do, or have you given up on doing that?
I’ve more or less given up, but there’s a certain amount of what’s called leading that I do. There are a lot of articles written about leading your players. You don’t want to put them on a track and railroad them, but you want their journey to make enough sense that they will naturally want to go a certain way. So I try to do that.
So then, in terms of story, it seems you have the most control over world building. How much world building did you do before the podcast actually started and how much did you leave open for malleability?
Yeah, I’m not sure where the players are going to go. I’m not sure what’s going to be important, and the more world I have built, the more I have to draw on when I get asked a question I’m not prepared for. So even if I get asked details about a god I don’t know, I have the full pantheon of gods that I’ve created. If I know Fenrir is the wolf god, then I’m able to take that and say, “okay, we’re looking for a myth about Fenrir off the top of my head. I know he’s about these 3 things. Let’s make something up!”
So that’s the kind of world building I do. It’s really as preparation for the improv I’m going to have to do later.
So, one last question. Talk to me about the way that the rules of Dungeons & Dragons can affect both the storytelling of the actual game and also the narrative appeal for an audience when you are recording your game for a podcast.
Oh, that’s a big question.
Yeah, I know. Sorry, haha.
When you’re building a story what you’re using the rules for is basically creating consequences. So your player characters – and yourself too – can’t just do something and have no consequence or risk. So you’re creating risk. Sometimes I’ll say, “Well, if my villain rolls a 13 or higher they’ll be able to do this and if they don’t, they can’t,” and that forces me to think on my feet if they fail that roll. Or I lie.
Yes. Yes I will admit that as a DM.
How often do you lie?
Not as much as you would think. I really try to stick with the roll, but if something happens where it’s like, “Oh they rolled a 1. They can’t roll a 1 here,” I have to lie.
Like narratively it can’t happen?
Yeah, narratively, it would be like, if Torva, the main villain, rolled a 1, I would have had to just go, “Okay, it can’t be a 1. It can be low but it can’t be a 1.”
Right like, Torva rolls a 1, he spontaneously combusts and dies, the podcast is over.
Yeah! There are some times where it just can’t happen, and there’s some times where it will be like, “Okay, it didn’t hit, but at this point, I really do want to raise the stakes.” So I try and – when I cheat, I’m doing it because I’m trying to direct the story in an interesting way.
And I assume that’s something that wouldn’t really happen if you were just playing D&D outside of a podcast?
Yeah, when we were just playing for fun, I never cheated on rolls. If for some reason the villain rolls a 1, that’s cool, this is going to be hilarious, we’re all going to laugh about this. But it’s very different when you’re doing it for an audience because you’re trying to think of how people are going to interpret this.
That’s so awesome. Well, Kat, thank you for joining me today.
You’re welcome, Kaitlin. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.
You can find Kat at @Kazzbotz on twitter, and Dames & Dragons at damesanddragons.com, @dragondames on twitter, or listen on iTunes!
Meet the contributor:
KAITLIN HATMAN is an extraterrestrial living in secret on planet earth. She is a poet and fiction writer, occasional artist, and smalltime podcaster who loves dogs and D&D. One time she met Hulk Hogan at a Perkins.