It’s 2 in the morning so I’m going to ramble for a little bit about this fun little game called Dungeons & Dragons and why it matters so dearly to me. You might have already heard this from me before (especially if you follow me on twitter) but bear with me.

I’ve been playing DnD for a over decade now, though I’ve been familiar with it since I was kid growing up outside Lake Geneva, WI (it’s hard to avoid when that’s where the whole thing originated from). I had cousins who loved it but most of them were older boys who didn’t really care for a whiny girl to join (I can’t really argue against that – I was a pretty whiny brat).

When I was in college, I had a pretty rough time. Depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, rehab, the works – I was a mess. I was 20 years old when I was invited to join my first game (I’m 31 now for those counting). I didn’t care so much for the other players, nor did I really understand the rules, but I definitely understood the element of escapism. It was exactly what I needed at the time in my life. I loved being someone else. Someone stronger. Faster. Taller. Magical. Someone with much higher charisma than the awkward and insecure woman-child I felt like in real life. My relationship with DnD has changed a lot, but that feeling hasn’t. It’s still true.

I’ve grown a lot over the past ten years. My play style has definitely evolved. I try to push myself to be different types of people that I wouldn’t normally be: sexy, shy, ill-mannered, confident, nervous, loud, anything. It’s hard but I love that part of the challenge. (I had never played a barbarian until my husband suggested it to me a few years ago and now I’ve found it’s by far my favorite class – and the one most requested for me to play by friends.)

After playing this game for so long I’ve come to understand the technical aspects of it pretty well, but it’s the emotional elements of the game – the journey of the storytelling – that keep me at the table. The emotions from me, my characters, my friends – it brings us closer together. More real. The people I play DnD with have become the people I trust the most in my life. There’s something about RPGs that enable people to leave their walls behind and open up to each other. I find myself to be the most real version of me when I’m playing my fictional character.

January will mark 2 years since I became sick and have had to watch my own body begin to deteriorate around me. I lost my job, I lost some friends, I’ve lost most of my ability to walk. My day to day life has drastically changed from what it used to be. It has been the most trying time of my life. But every week I play this silly game with those I love and it keeps me going. I get to be someone who can run and jump and save people and hunt and protect and I get to be myself – silly and hopeful and relaxed – with my traveling companions in a made-up world all our own. This game has helped motivate me. Has kept me from giving up on my worst days.

I never expected 10 years ago to be so indebted to a tabletop game. But Dungeons & Dragons has saved my life on more than one account and I will forever be grateful. I play in 2-3 campaigns a week now and between doctor appointments and hospital visits, it’s what keeps me sane. Escapism isn’t always the healthiest coping mechanism but let me tell you, my therapist very much approves of it because it gets me to socialize, have fun, and reminds me of my own inner strength. She’s so into it that she’s even started doing her own research about the game and how it helps in psychology, especially with kids. One of the first things she always asks me in our sessions is “So how did DnD go this week?” She knows that’s the best way to get me to start talking. It’s a whole other world to her but she recognizes the mental care it gives me and encourages it.

Sometimes, like now, I just get really really emotional over DnD especially seeing how incredibly popular it’s gotten in the last few years. It’s wonderful. I’m thankful Jake got me back into Critical Role too because I’ve met so many new friends through it. This community has grown so much in the past decade it’s overwhelming but in a good sense. Almost all of my friends have at least heard of or seen a DnD campaign in progress or tried their hand at an RPG game, and it blows me away how inclusive and welcoming the world has become since I first began my DnD journey.

All of this is really just to say, thank you to all my friends and to the good folks at Wizards of the Coast for working so hard to make this little tabletop game the best thing in my life. I wouldn’t be the same person without it. Hell, I might not even be here at all. So thank you.

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This much-awaited (much, much, MUCH awaited) Kickstarter project is the brain child of my friend Clay Gardner (with gorgeous illustration work by Niko Geyer) and pretty much SHATTERED its goal within hours – JUST hours. It’s called OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game and I am so excited to start playing this game. I love anime, and I love tabletop RPGs, so I feel like this was made for me. And it seems, a lot of people feel the same way. The original goal was $7,500 but at the moment of writing this, they’re sitting pretty at $90,728. Holy crap, right?

“OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game is exactly what it says in the title, a tabletop RPG lovingly crafted to capture the diverse worlds of Japanese animation. Save the princess (or prince!) from a fire-breathing dragon, tackle invading squadrons of giant robots, or find true love amid campus hijinks—everything you need is inside!”

Clay was sweet enough to take a moment of his time and answer a few questions about his awesome Kickstarter campaign. I figure the man behind the project would be able to tell you a little more about it than I can. So let’s start!

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The Interview: with Clay Gardner

01. Tell us a little about your Kickstarter. Where did the idea for it come from and who is all working on it?

I wrote the beginnings of OVA around ten years ago. I was just getting into anime heavily, and I wanted to represent the shows I was enjoying in role-playing form. But at the time, I felt constrained by most games available. Many great and fun systems existed, of course, but nothing seemed to let me create the character I wanted to. Even point-buy systems, which on paper were supposed to open up possibilities, always seemed to punish making cinematic decisions. Having a character good with both a gun and martial arts had very little to do with a character’s effectiveness in the game, but almost always resulted in a crippling reduction in available points. And so too with multiple flashy attacks, or really anything done for the sake of “being cool.” I wanted a game that embraced doing things for the fun of it, and soon, OVA took shape. I released it as a PDF in 2005, with a print run following the next year.

This Kickstarter is for a new, revised version of OVA. The game holds onto the same ideals I had a decade ago but is improved with all the experience I’ve gained in the time between. A brand new layout, art done by a single talented artist Niko Geyer, and many refinements and expansions to the rules make the game better than ever before. It’s OVA as I knew it always could be.

02. What was the hardest part about putting together a campaign like this?

I hope it’s not too much of a cop-out answer, but I feel like getting the whole thing together was the hardest part! By itself, each element was a lot of work, but being able to juggle creating a video, the page graphics, all the groundwork for promoting the kickstarter, and all the text the project required at the same time…well…I’m glad it’s all done!

03. What has the process been like getting OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game together? What came first – stories, characters, worlds, etc? How do you keep it all organized?

Because OVA already existed in some form, working on the new edition sort of jumped between everything in no particular order. I’d spend some time creating a new character, who’d inspire a new rule or revision. Or maybe a new rule would change the way I thought a character should be written. But I think it was always about characters at heart. That is why we play role-playing games, after all, and I wanted to make sure that every part of the new OVA was dedicated to making the process of realizing a character as simple and fun as possible.

As for how I keep it all organized, I tend to jot down all my ideas in text files before introducing it into the actual manuscript. After I had the manuscript more or less complete, I began typesetting the book while making small revisions I felt were appropriate. I guess you could look at each file type like a different draft, with the actual InDesign layout file being my last pass for the text.

04. What advice do you have for others who are thinking about starting their own RPGs or Kickstarters?

Take the time to make your page look as good as possible. While a solid idea will get support based on its own merit, a professional presentation instills confidence in a project and shows that you’re the kind of creator that is serious about bringing a product to completion. Show finished, polished examples of your work in action, and if possible, make graphics that spell out exactly what each of your pledge levels offers.

If you’re kickstarting a game (be it an RPG, a board game, or even a video game) give visitors a way to try it out. Whether you offer a print-in play version, a condensed copy of the rulebook, or just a demo, people appreciate being able to know what they’re getting and not just acting upon a sales pitch.

Oh, and plan to take the whole first day off so you can dedicate it to your Kickstarter. *laughs*

05. And finally! If you were to sit down at a table to start playing OVA, who would be your ideal/dream RPers to play with? Can be anyone, living or dead. Who would they play?

That’s a tough one! If we expand the “anyone living or dead” magic to include breaking language barriers, I think it would be fascinating to play the game with Japanese story-telling greats like Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka. And of course Ryo Mizuno of Record of Lodoss War fame. I wonder how he’d feel about OVA’s rules in comparison to systems like D&D and Sword World that formed the basis of so many of his stories?

What characters would they play? Ones from their own tales? New ones whole-cloth? Hard to say…but it would be kind of magical if one of them took up the Game Master’s hat instead!

Keep Pledging for Rewards!

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Right now, the goal is to hit $100k and I fully believe they can do! Let’s help get them there – if they get there, a new reward will open up, and I would love to get my hands on it. So what are you waiting for? Go kickstart this project!