The theater has a saying: without a crew, actors are just people standing on a dark stage, screaming to be heard. And Caster and Cantrips is no different! Today’s Spotlight is on our irreplaceable Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia.
Deanna talks about her excitement for Casters and Cantrips, the difference between streaming and at-the-table playing, and combining her love of nerd culture with her skills and a photographer and filmmaker.
RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
DA: Hi! I'm Deanna and I've worked as a photographer/videographer for about six years now. I'm 27 and live up in Salem, MA, but I grew up just north of NYC in Rockland, NY. My nerdom began with Pokémon cards in elementary school and grew out into video games from there. Most of my free time in high school was spent in Azeroth, and when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in college, I was completely hooked. That's been my go-to game ever since. Because life is a little tricky sometimes, I'm just finishing up my bachelor's in Photography/Video/Film at Montserrat College of Art and I'll be done this December. I've done a little bit of everything production-wise - sound, video, stills, etc. - and that's what I'll be doing for Casters and Cantrips!
RP: What projects are you working on now?
DA: I started working in only still photography, but as I've developed as an artist, I've started working more and more with video. I was drawn to documentary projects in my personal work and decided to combine my two loves - video and Dungeons and Dragons - in a series of documentaries. The first was a short feature I did on the Critical Role community where I conducted street-style interviews with people at PAX Unplugged. It was a lot of fun to make and, while there are things I would do differently about it now, it had a great reception. Matthew Mercer even took the time to comment on it, and Geek and Sundry wrote an article about it! The second piece is currently in post-production and covers the length of a one-shot run by our very own Anne Richmond earlier this year. I'm hoping to have it finished by late November and start submitting it to festivals after that.
RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?
DA: I was at GenCon this past summer (for the first time!) and I made sure to take some time to check out the Active Player Network booth while I was there. Anne and I knew each other from working the New York Renaissance Faire and we got to talking about current projects. I mentioned that I wanted to start streaming a live-play D&D game and when she mentioned Casters and Cantrips to me, I was really excited to be a part of it. I can't wait for the games to begin!
RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?
DA: After seeing a little bit of what Miles has in store for the party, I'm really interested in seeing the world he's built. It's such a unique combination of elements that I'm afraid to spoil anything! You'll just have to come watch!
RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?
DA: I think the interactivity of this game allows for another layer of improvisation to the story. With the mechanics we've created, the audience feels like another player at the table and I'm excited to see how they will affect the story.
RP: What are some of your favorite board games to play and why?
DA: I'm very classic when it comes to board games. My favorite by far is chess, but I gravitate towards anything with a deep strategy to it.
RP: Are there any specific types of games you look to play or collect?
DA: My friends started buying me older editions of Dungeons & Dragons and I fell in love with them. I've started a small collection of modules and other RPG systems that I add to almost every time I come back from my local comics shop. I also have a small chessboard collection.
RP: How do you find people to play with?
DA: My favorite gaming session I've ever been a part of came about when I asked my friends if they knew anyone who wanted to play D&D but never had the chance. I ended up running a one-shot for 10 complete beginners and it was the most fun. My advice for anyone who wants to play but doesn't have a group is to just start asking people around you if they want to start a game! I can't tell you how many times I mention D&D in a coffee shop to someone, only to find the person at the next table is looking for a group to join. Nerds are everywhere!
RP: How on Earth did you handle a one-shot for TEN new players? That’s incredible.
DA: Hahah, thanks! It wasn't easy, but I got very lucky with the players I found. All of them were very focused and respectful of each other, which made managing the game much easier. Honestly, looking back on it, I think the hardest part was finding a time that worked for everyone. We spent about 3 hours building characters and 3 hours actually playing. I went in with a setting - a carnival - and a few mini-games for them to play and the rest was a wild improv session. There were only one or two rounds of combat involving a few players and the rest was roleplaying and skill checks which made the pacing pretty quick as well. I also enlisted the help of a couple experienced players to act as coaches. They helped answer questions while the rest of the group kept moving forward - I definitely couldn't have done it without them. Thanks Astin and Mike!
RP: How do you think streaming has affected the RPG and the game communities? And for you personally, do you prefer a streamed game or the ol’ fashioned group of people around a table?
DA: Streaming and recorded games (like the very many actual-play podcasts that exist) are a fantastic way of developing a community around the game and I think it's played a huge role in TTRPG's resurgence in recent years. The diversity of the visible community does so much to dispel the stereotypes of what an RPG player looks like, and invites everyone to be a part of the game, regardless of gender identification, color, sexual orientation, or anything else. I find it very inspiring and taking in all of this media has given me the confidence to fully embrace this part of my nerdom. I personally prefer sitting around a table for my own games, but that's not always possible. I usually play in person, but GM online, and I find that works really well for my schedule and style.
RP: Do you attend conventions at all?
DA: Yes! PAX Unplugged last year was my first convention, so I'm no veteran by any means, but conventions are so much fun to go to. I spend a day in cosplay (usually as Beauregard from Critical Role) and at least a day taking photographs. Both things get me talking to a lot of people during the day and making some friends in the process.
RP: How do you balance gaming with your real life?
DA: That's the trick, isn't it? I'm in a unique situation where I can make my hobby my job, which means I'm pretty much always involved with some part of gaming at one point in the day or the other. Sometimes I'm doing more work (editing, researching, etc.), sometimes I'm playing more (I do a lot of guest playing), and sometimes I'm just sitting on the couch doing nothing - the balance changes week to week.
RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with playing games?
DA: For TTRPGs, don't feel like you have to know everything about the game to start playing! Yes, it's good to read the books and know all about what your character can do, but no one expects you to know every detail right out of the gate. A good group will understand and help you through the session so that everyone is having a good time. That's the most important thing - have fun!