Rogues Portal had the pleasure of interviewing is Josephine Maria. She is the Founder of PanopLit (@PanopLit) an RPG publishing group and community for LGBTQIA+ gamers.
Rogues Portal: What is your background or history with the game?
Josephine Maria: I’ve been playing for 22 years, started when I was six years old. My mom was the DM and grew up playing with my siblings. In college, I branched out and tried to join groups, was my first time playing with people that weren’t my family, but they were interested in other topics (One session we had to crawl through a magical vagina), and it wasn’t the best experience I had with the game. I started DMing on my own, to help create an environment and space that I was more comfortable with along with the players and their consent and topics everyone was comfortable with.
RP: What do you like about playing DnD?
JM: What I most love about playing is the collaborative story aspect of it. I’ve branched out to different role-playing games depending on if I want more of story-based experience or more combat. I tend to play the tank in D&D for the heavy combat. Along with the collaborative story aspect, I have a lot of happy memories with the game. Even though I’ve branched out with other roleplaying games, I feel at home with the D&D rules and settings. I grew up on the on the 3.5 rules for D&D and even with the jump to 5th edition, the rules and guidelines were still something I was familiar with and knew.
RP: How long have you been playing?
JM: 22 years total, a little over ten years on her own.
RP: Favourite type of characters to play?
JM: I love playing the tank, like being the heavy smasher. I enjoy playing characters that are bad in some way, a rogue with not a lot of agility or something like that. It makes the characters more complicated and makes the story more complex. I am more interested in the story aspect of the game more so having characters that are bad in some way makes the story more interesting.
RP: Are there any challenges you face as a woman playing DnD?
JM: There are several challenges I have faced as a woman playing D&D. My first experience playing on my own was with an all-male group and the crawling through a “magical vagina” aside, there were other issues with that first group. That was not the last time I have experienced sexism while playing. When I first started playing, I would be the only girl since not many people were playing at the time. The other people would either question my knowledge or rules of the game or make juvenile sexual jokes in the game with my character or would hit on me outside of the game. I didn’t memorize all the rules cover to cover so sometimes they would question me on something, and I wouldn’t be able to answer them, they would just use that against me to try and push me out.
RP: Were there any fears or hesitations or other things you might have had that stopped you from playing or kept you away?
JM: The appearance of the game being a male-dominated space kept me away a little bit at conventions. I was nervous about playing with people who have been playing for a long time. I was nervous about some of the traditional players, people who were criticized for playing the game in the ’80s and ’90s. They felt that they had to fight for their position and feel that new people who want to play are encroaching on their game and haven’t suffered like they have to play the game. Younger people get some extreme lash outs from them. Recently I started playing at conventions, and they have been some of the most fun and kindest people to play with.
RP: What are some steps that need be taken to make it more inclusive?
JM: Wizards of the coast have taken some good steps in terms of language, they use he/she interchangeably when talking about people, but I feel that they need to go further with language and start including they/them for people who don’t identify with he/she. I think they also need to hire more of a variety of people. They have Jeremy Crawford, who is D&D lead rules developer who is gay and kind of become a D&D gay icon, and that is a great step towards becoming more inclusive. They need to expand on that and hire more women, people of colour, trans, non-binary and generally more diverse people.
The community itself needs to change as well. There were a couple of years where I kind of backed out of the community because I wasn’t seeing myself in it. The harassment I experienced and unwanted sexual advances I received made me not want to be a part of it. I think there needs to be more of a variety of people playing the game as well. The more variety of people that are playing it, then the stories and the settings around the game will change too.
RP: What do you love about the game?
JM: It is a classic game. It set the tone for roleplaying games. I like the rules but especially the fantasy settings that you get to live in. I was never drawn to being a hero and can solely explore any area of this world in any way that I chose. When playing with other people, you can work with them and see how your character develops and acts based on those other people and the world as a whole.
RP: What are some things you want people to know about the game?
JM: One main thing I think people should know is that it is not as math heavy as some may think. The main point of the game is about moving a story forward. It can be about numbers but doesn’t have to be. The numbers are just there to help the story along and can determine different outcomes. The way people can run a campaign can vary greatly, some like battle heavy campaigns where you do a lot of fighting and combat where other campaigns are more about the story and interaction of players. Some campaigns are a combination of both. You just need to find the campaign that suits you.
RP: How would you encourage people to get into the game or how to start playing?
JM: First thing would be finding people to play with. Once you found people then get the rule books and read them over until you get an understanding of what is going on and can always refer to the books as you play. Convince two or three people to play with your first for one campaign. That first session will help you figure out your character and what you like when playing. Just get that one session going and then see from there.
Josephine Maria can be reached on twitter @JMYaLes.