An Interview With Carla Harris: DM Of The “All Female, All Awesome!” DumDumDie Podcast

Dungeons and Dragons has a famously poor reputation when it comes to appealing to women. Society has a go-to picture of roleplayers as misanthropic man-boys, hiding in their parent’s basement, pretending to be an elf. A picture not helped by generations of fantasy game-art that depicted women with improbable proportions, chainmail bikinis and what I have taken to calling “battle-cleavage”.

One of the things we should all be proud of is how the roleplaying community as a whole has pushed back against that image and taken strides to become far more accessible to different genders, races and the LGBT community.

No-one is saying the problems are gone, but women like Satine Pheonix, Shelly Mazzanoble and the female cast members of Vox Machina, Force Grey and the Waffle Crew have become an important facet of the public face of our hobby. Highlighting that gender should not be a barrier to the enjoyment and satisfaction of RPGs.

Another sign of this increased accessibility is the rise in numbers of all female, live-play podcasts. When I discovered the DumDumDie podcast on Twitter I was blown away by the storylines, their incredible roleplaying and the general sense of humour that pervades every episode.  Luckily their DM Carla is very community minded and I was able to steal some of her precious time to sit down and chat about what it’s like starting up an all-female D&D podcast.

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Could you tell us a little bit about the show and maybe introduce yourself and your players?

We call the show an “all awesome all female podcast” set in my homebrew setting of Calendos. We are a mixed bag of roleplayers, I had never GMed much before but have played for a bit. Nicole (Darby the Half-Orc Wizzzzaaard) and Kutloano (Rain the Dwarf Paladin) had never played any roleplaying systems before. Wednesday (Xantillarion the Sexy Rogue) is very experienced but hasn’t played D&D in ages and Kirsten (Oriole- Half Elf Sorceress) has played quite a bit but still relatively new.

I think we have a great mix of experience and wonder and surprises. New players think differently and it also hopefully shows our listeners that anyone can get into D&D, especially women! I think we work well together because we love creating a story together and even though we range in geekiness from me (LARP, Cosplay, RPG, gaming…..) to Kut and Nicole who aren’t that geeky, it all comes together because D&D is for everyone who enjoys going on a journey. The show is co-produced by Tristan (the Sound engineer of awesome) Jacobs of Masidlale Productions and Kirsten Stewart (not that one but the half elf sorceress) of Man-in-the-Moon Productions.

The show focuses thus on story and, while we might make some rule mistakes, the story is amazing and we would love comments assisting us with the rules, so please do leave them.

 

When did you start playing RPG games and what was the first one you were introduced to?

I started playing RPG games about three years ago, maybe four. The first one I played was a Dresden Files setting one and actually can’t even remember what system, I think it ran off  3rd edition D&D. I was also playing a Fairy Tail themed game within the FATE system.

 

What made you want to start up a live play podcast?

I was part of a YouTube actual play session which I loved and my friend wanted to start a live play podcast as part of his research theory on “improvisational play as theatre” and that’s where the seed began. Now it’s an awesome game where we can share our joy with others and hopefully more females and get them to join the game, plus if you have to record it gives you the impetus to make every session.

 

Are there any other liveplay shows that inspired you or that you watch?

Well I used to be on Bacon Battalion RPG, and amongst us all we watch/listen to Critical Role, Dragon friends, Glass Cannon Podcast, Acquisitions Incorporated, Harmons Quest and probably more but those are the tops 🙂 As I’m the GM I also watch: How to be a Great GM (which I used to be the marketing goblin for), Dawnforged cast and Satine Phoenix’s GM Tips.

 

What were some of the major obstacles you had to overcome to get your podcast going?

Hmmm… Buying the equipment I guess, because this is something we started for fun and so buying microphones (and ours are super average) is expensive. Luckily our local comic book store gave us some money towards the mics. The initial learning of how to edit the podcast was a struggle but luckily that’s left to Tristan our sound engineer and the mastermind behind initially starting the podcast.

 

Did you make a conscious decision to create an all female show or are the cast of the show just your normal gaming group?

It was a conscious decision because coming from a research point of view initially, we wanted to explore the element of new players and the dynamic of an all female group. Additionally, when looking for new players it is easier to find women who haven’t played as compared to men, so we had more choice in forming the group that way. Plus we thought it would be fun and different 🙂

 

Do you work from a script or is the show 100% live on the night?

100% live which is why there may be rules oopsies 🙂 But Tristan does edit out some of the math and mumbling. He’s awesome.

 

Being the DM is a lot of work at the best of times. Has running a the podcast added to the amount of prep you need to do for each session?

It hasn’t added to the prep, I do the same amount. However, I do need to pay attention to not touch the mic and it gives me a chance to relisten to last weeks episode so it helps me to remember every session perfectly. In that way, it actually helps and makes it a bit easier in that I don’t have to rely only on memory and notes of the previous session alone. I’m sure every DM has looked at their last set of game notes, read something like ‘Gold elf left’ and thought ‘What????!!!’ it’s super helpful.

 

What’s the best thing about running your own liveplay?

My group! These women are amazing and always surprising!

 

The Dungeons and Dragons, and RPG, community as a whole is largely male dominated. Has this caused any additional challenges that you’ve had to overcome? What has the reaction to the show been like, from the community?

So far we are quite small and so haven’t gotten any hectic reactions but I have noticed, having been on Bacon Battalion and now this, that more women contact us which is awesome. We have gotten quite a few messages from women who say they would love to join us or play and when we ask if they’ve played before or still play, they usually say they don’t play anymore as it’s hard to find a group. 

I think we provide a safe space and example of the fact that women can roleplay epically well too. People seem to really enjoy the show and the fact that we explore different genders and sexualities and voices (*cough Darby and my NPC’s ever-changing voices cough*). But yes it is a male dominated community and I know I was only introduced to RPG because my boyfriend at the time asked me to join his game, even though I had been LARPing for a year, I wouldn’t have heard of it or known if he hadn’t added me and then when we broke up it was hard to find a new table.

It is male dominated but so is the whole geek community, generally, so challenge wise I think there are fewer women playing because they don’t know to ask about joining a table and people don’t think to open their games or tables to them.

 

You’ve mentioned you LARP as a Soviet Soldier. What came first LARP or D&D?

Larp actually, my first one was a political larp based on Vampire the Masquerade and then I started in a Nero game as a HOOOMAN fighter (I just wanted to hit people with boffer weapons 🙂 ) then came tabletop and dnd.

 

Other than DumDumDie what other projects to you have in the works at the moment?

Well I also do a fun YouTube channel with my friend called Dinos N Dames where our dinosaurs go on geek adventures and interview people (We’ve interviewed James L Sutter and John Layman) because they like Dinosaurs not because we are super great…yet 🙂 and then I do Cosplay and Geeky Burlesque under the pseudonym Meme Le Meow. 

 

Every DM has at least one great D&D story, what would you say was your best D&D moment?

I don’t know if this counts because it’s not as a DM but it’s about an adventure I wrote? I wrote a Dread Module for our local roleplaying convention last year. And weirdly I was performing about a month ago at a Burlesque charity function and met this couple from the audience who were geeky (they came up to me because my piece was LARPy, the geek is strong with me ) and so I was chatting to the woman and the guy was chatting to my partner and they were discussing their best roleplaying moments. As you do in a nightclub :). The woman’s boyfriend said, ‘I played this game at the local RPG con and it was amazing and the best game I’ve ever played! It was a Dread Game.’ Then my boyfriend said ‘Well Carla wrote it’ and we all laughed and he was super happy 🙂

DM wise I ran a sheep module for new players at a Welcome to Geekdom Day (A day at the local comic store to introduce people to geeky hobbies) and I used their crit fails to create ambience instead of just failing. So the Goblins (players) were trying to stab a bear with daggers but ended up writing “kick me” in Goblin on the fur. Once they defeated the Bear, the one Goblin player skinned it and wore a cloak saying “Kick Me”. Which was great…… until they encountered another Bear. It was lots of fun and they enjoyed it so much that most of them bought Player’s Handbooks on the day 🙂

DumDumDie really is one of the best live-plays I’ve come across and well worth a listen. You can find Carla, her crew and their excellent podcast in the following places:

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Twitter

Facebook

iTunes

 

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