We’re counting down to LacunaCon and Play Without Apology is pleased to partner with Women in Tabletop Gaming Month as we once again celebrate the incredible women who contribute to our local gaming communities!
We’re pleased to feature Katte Vergara, a GM and game designer from Iloilo City!
Hi Kat! Thank you for setting aside time to sit with us for this interview. As you know, June is Women in Tabletop Gaming Month. Can you introduce yourself and give us a bit of background on how you first started in the hobby and how long you’ve been playing?
Hi! I’m Karen but I go by Kat. The first and earliest encounter I had with tabletop gaming would be good old Snakes and Ladders when I was in grade school. Most would associate it now as parlor or cafe games but really, it’s still a classic.
Then I went through the motions of Scrabble and such before coming across YuGiOh. Back then I just collected cards for the art (who didn’t?). There would be a lull before I came across Dungeons & Dragons by complete chance.
If we count my years of playing casual Magic the Gathering, and I’ve been playing since 2012—about 8. If we count to my kiddie days then I guess I’ve been playing tabletop rpgs unconsciously my whole life?? Hahah.
Can you share a bit of your experience with D&D?
It was a random campaign which lasted the whole afternoon. My first character was a half-elf sorcerer because I secretly wanted to be mahou shoujo—a magical girl.
I [can’t] recall her name anymore—I lost my sheet after years of moving around, [but] I still remember her vividly because she almost got a crystal ball dropped on her head by our wonderful DM. After that was my MtG phase before I settled comfortably into D&D.
Now I’m running two homebrewed campaigns: one set in the Isles of Vilhem and the other being an isekai/supernatural plot set in modern-day Iloilo called Enkanters.
That’s really cool! Can you talk a bit about Enkanters and tell us what that’s about?
Hahaha well, Enkanters was originally a one-shot because I wanted to do a fun isekai (alternative universe) game.
[Me and my friends] had a talk about isekai and I was homebrewing Filipino creatures since I was using pre-made ones in my campaign and that didn’t really translate [that well]. It ended blowing up to a full-on campaign.
Every moment in that one-shot had me pulling creatures from memory on-the-spot from [the players’] short time in Sulad to their running around Biringan. One thing led to another. It was surreal and I appreciate how [my players] actually asked for more.
Can you share some sources that you refer to when crafting your creatures? Where do you get your inspiration?
At first, I used what I remember of folklore since I’ve been researching local [material] for my stories and for light reading. If I find myself stumped, I start off in Wikipedia (which is a good starting place) before branching out to any website.
Currently, I’m trying to get my hands on books on local folklore because they are hard to get in my area or need to be bought online which is a tragedy to be honest. These are important things to read on but [they aren’t found] easily.
As for inspiration, I guess it’s from the interest of my players. Especially when you give hints on what kind of creatures and they start speculating amongst themselves at the table. It’s fun to see them debate whether they’re facing a tiktik or a manananggal.
It adds to the roleplay and fun memories, as well as their knowledge on local lore on how to “fight” these creatures.
Given the time you’ve spent participating in tabletop, what would you say are the biggest challenges and changes that you’ve experienced from when you first started the hobby?
So far, the biggest hurdles would be how girls [are] avoided or shunned when they expressed interest in tabletop roleplaying games, especially in MtG and D&D. I was blessed to [find myself] surrounded by encouraging men and women. But others, who have told me their stories in passing, [didn’t have that].
In terms of D&D, [the challenge comes in] the ratio of players to DM. [W]e have a lot of players but only a few are brave enough to DM—this is especially true with women.
Now the hobby is not only growing in number but also in diversity. I’m glad to see young people playing tabletop games and even expressing interest to write their own games.
We understand that you’re from Iloilo. Can you tell us what the tabletop community is like in your locale?
Back then, being a geek was looked down upon. The community was small and scattered so you had to do lots of searching [to find a playgroup].
Today’s generation is blessed [because of] social media—you can find a community with just a few search words. Back then though, you also needed to have thick skin [to enter the hobby] especially if you’re a girl.
What challenges do you face when bringing new players into the fold?
In D&D, people tend to get overwhelmed by everything from the rules down to spell slots. I have to admit [it can be a steep] learning curve, especially when you take into consideration inventory of spells and items.
But the two greatest challenges [are actually] metagaming—which ruins the fun for new players—and schedules. I mean, what DM hasn’t experienced scheduling conflicts?
As a figure in the community, what initiatives do you support and how do you see the community expanding?
Inclusivity. As much as possible [in D&D] we try not to turn people away from the table—we welcome them. If they’re new, we ask [fellow] GMs who are playing as PCs to assist. If they wish to GM then great!
I’ve held small lessons on how to world build and give better narration. I’m proud of my group’s improvement as players and GMs when they get better and better at describing scenarios. We also help each other out because we all can’t remember the rules. If our DM gets stuck or asks on what skill check or save, we give them an idea.
Expanding the community always begins at your table. I don’t get mad when my players go off and make their own campaigns and lure in new players. I actually feel pride that I did my part.
Finally, do you have any advice to offer to those who want to start playing or GMing?
Man, I have a lot of advice.
That’s okay! We’d honestly love to hear whatever you can share.
Patience, patience, patience—it is the hardest [to learn] but the most rewarding.
When your players take awhile on a puzzle, don’t get mad. If they don’t get what you had in mind, but made a more creative solution, take it and go. Being patient and not losing your cool behind the screen [is important], especially when your campaign is derailed to god-knows-where. [This is] something players appreciate and [it encourages them to] keep on coming back for more.
In relation to that, never prepare too much detail. It saves you time and effort especially if you know your players tend to run around and do their own thing.
My boyfriend was actually the one who encouraged me to DM as a way to inspire me to write my novels and improve my action scene writing. A good piece of advice he taught me on preparation: have lore, have NPCs, and an environment. The environment is key especially for encounters, it will help you come up with encounters faster.
Also, for a better narrative, Matt Mercer gave the best advice: use your five senses. It helps immerse your players better.
How about for players? Do you have any words of wisdom that you’d like to impart?
Your DM is not your enemy. They are simply the story spinner and a guide for character creation. However, that doesn’t mean you can go and metagame. Always listen to the table and act on it. Respect both your DM and fellow players.
Thank you again for joining us for this, Kat! It’s great talking shop with more GMs who design with the Philippines as a primary setting. For readers interested to connect with Kat, she’s active on Twitter and Instagram! You can check her out at @katstrid and also drop by her website. She’s also working with some friends to release an original tabletop game, Kittens & Krakens (hopefully) by the end of this year!
Editor’s Note: This interview was lightly edited for clarity. Featured image by Gaspar Manuel Zaldo via Unsplash.
#LacunaCon2019 is this June 22! Interested to attend? Hop on over to our official Facebook event page!