Meet Dex Warren, the genius behind Jyn the Dragonborn Ranger, and his giant bat companion, Dame Shirley Batsy! Dex talks about being an actor that plays RPGs, how gamer and storyteller are two sides of the same coin, and what he is most looking forward to with the upcoming first show of Casters and Cantrips.
RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
DW: I’m a recent college graduate trying to make it as a performer in the city. Professional actor, amateur writer, full-time shady queen.
I was born and raised in Maryland and got my acting career started out of spite at preschool when I didn't get the solo in our class's performance of Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me. I'm currently in the cast of Rebirth of Rabbit's Foot which is an Off-Broadway Vaudeville hip-hop musical. We performed this March overseas in Amsterdam before bringing the show back home. I do the sing and act and dancy things. As for writing, I'm an amateur fantasy novelist. I grew up writing novels on wattpad though I've since taken a hiatus because life is busy. I look forward to getting back into that though.
RP: When/why did you start playing RPGs?
DW: I think the first RPG I played was my brother’s Pokémon red version because 90’s. It was the coolest thing because it was like playing pretend with friends but more structured. Play at home, then play pretend battles with friends at school.
RP: What are some of your favorite RPG systems to play?
DW: D&D 5e is what I’m most familiar with in the tabletop world so it’s my favorite. 5E feels a lot easier for me to pick up than earlier editions of D&D. I like that everything seems more streamlined, and as a new player that's very helpful for me to feel confident in what my character can do. I was first introduced to 3.5e which while exciting, was intimidating. For better or for ill the 3.5e campaign never got off the ground and I was able to hop into 5e. As a new DM for my own group, I felt that character creation was a lot easier to do in this edition. I doubt that I would have felt comfortable enough with previous editions to be able to Dungeon Master a group.
RP: How do you find people to play with?
DW: In college my friends found me to play. Then people got busy and scheduling became an issue so I decided to run a game if no one else would. I’ve now found that there are online groups for games which blew my mind but makes a lot of sense in retrospect.
RP: Do you prefer to play in person or online? How do you think the different playstyles affect the game you’re playing?
DW: I think they each have their benefits, and online allows you to circumvent distances that would otherwise be a barrier to playing. I personally haven't played online yet, but I'd love to try it because it means more games. My experience with in-person feels like my best fit where I can utilize body language as we go about gameplay. There's a nice intimacy with face-to-face that I enjoy. I think in terms of communication it's easier to address people quickly. In my own campaign it's a lot clearer to just speak to a character rather than letting someone know to whom I'm speaking if they have to video call in. I think if I played online then my videogame brain would kick in more in terms of strategy.
RP: Do you play board games at all? What are some of your favorites and why?
DW: My family loves Monopoly and we take it entirely too seriously. My favorite board game is Betrayal at House on a Hill (not to be confused with my favorite horror tv show Haunting of Hill House). I think I have an affinity for spooky type mystery thrillers at houses on or near hills. It’s my favorite tabletop because no two games are alike, because the board is made of tiles, and different events trigger the goal of the game which will change depending on whose side you’re on, which no one knows at the beginning until the haunt happens.
RP: Do you consider gamer an integral part of your identity?
DW: I absolutely consider gamer a part of my identity as a subset of my being a storyteller. I feel fortunate that I know my purpose in life is to tell stories. They are how I relate to the world around me and connect best with people. It’s one of our oldest and most important traditions teaching us lessons we wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise. To be removed enough to get the point without being blinded by proximity.
RP: How do you balance gaming with your real life?
DW: I have a survival job and rehearsals, voice lessons and dance classes when I can afford them, and the time required to sleep so I’m not a shambling mound. That being said there are a few hours in the evenings and weekends to get some gaming in either with friends or solo.
RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?
DW: I recently joined a podcast and through that connection was able to hop aboard this project.
RP: What was your character creation process like?
DW: The team had an idea for a Dragonborn Ranger which coincidentally matched up with one of my earliest character ideas for a campaign that never happened. So in a way, indirectly I’ve been prepping this for a while. Then over the years I had an idea for a hybrid between Fallout and D&D where Shirley Bassey had a giant bat as she flew over a battlefield inspiring troops beneath. It should be said I have an overactive imagination. That turned into the pun Dame Shirley Batsy.
RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?
DW: I think I’m most excited about the live elements of interaction with an audience. As an actor I’ve been on stage my whole life but never in this capacity which is exciting and scary. As part of my acting training we did a lot of improv, and periodically still do when certain friends visit. I feel so much of it is being flexible saying yes and to make things more interesting and juicy. I’m relying heavily on improv skills because I’m confused about everything, but I’m just happy to be here. That's not really a game-based thing. I just am lost with what's going on in life.
RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?
DW: I think the interaction will be a fascinating take on how story of each episode will go. I think our decisions have a lot more weight because the audience will get to express their support in various ways. I’m excited to see what y’all do.
RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with RPGs?
DW: For anyone starting off in RPGs I’m right there with you since I’ve played maybe twelve hours being generous. Listen to a podcast to see what kind of games you might like. Peruse books and see what catches your attention. And when you actually start playing, try and let go of whatever obligations you feel you have to be a certain way. Some campaigns are serious high fantasy some aren’t, some are quite campy and silly. I think a healthy portion are both. You’re here to have fun so set yourself up to have fun with your friends. Channel your inner six-year-old playing pretend. That kid’s onto something.