Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interview with the Herald - Anna

Who better to start off the Herald's interviews, than with the lady of the Flanaess, the grand cartographer of all that is Greyhawk, the lovely lady Anna.

This is the first in a series of interviews that I will be doing. This interviews will be focused on  individuals that have impacted roleplaying or Greyhawk in my opinion, one way or another.

Section One: Information
What is your name?
Anna B Meyer.

Where are you from?
I'm from Sweden, but I moved to Corona, California in 2010.

How old are you?

What do you do for a living?
I do fantasy maps and nature, landscape photography. Right now I'm in the situation to be able to concentrate on my passions and I intend to make the most of it!

What are your hobbies or interests?
Politics and trying to understand how the world works. Hiking and being outdoors, even when it's not part of my photography job. Travel to new places often beside the tourist track. I also read a lot but I hardly watch television. Didn't even have one for over a decade. But believe it or not I'm a nerd who likes technology - a lot :)

Do you have a blog or website?
For my Greyhawk maps Atlas of the Flanaess Project ,as well as a Facebook group for my maps Flanaess Geographical Society I also post on the Canonfire! Forums I have my own personal page on Facebook, Anna B Meyer and for my photography Anna's Photos

When and what was the first roleplaying game you played?
I'm typical of my generation, started playing D&D 1979-80. It was during winter and I don't remember if it was before or after New Year. 

How long have you been playing roleplaying games?
Since that first time in the winter of 1979-80. There have been months in between sessions some years but have always been there as one of the big passions of my life.

Do you prefer to be a Player, Game Master or Both?
I like both roles but if I had to choose one it would be Game Master. That is what I ended up to do. At first because our great GM move away and someone had to do it. Didn’t like it at first but for some reason the players did. When I saw them wanting to play when I was GM my confidence grew into a passion in its own right. Now I love to see players who keep coming back to my games.

What are your favourite roleplaying game(s) to run?
It started with D&D and I have tried most of the old classic games like Traveller, Call of Cthulhu and many others. D&D was the game that I liked the most and stuck with. I have GM'ed all editions of D&D and I'm one of the strange breed of gamers who have enjoyed them more and more since they have introduced more interesting components to the game. My interest in 4th edition waned when they didn't support it properly and the world building and other "deeper" aspects of it never really materialized.

Now I'm using the Pathfinder rules and some leftovers from 3.5 to run my Greyhawk campaign and I like that system so much I will find it very hard to change. It has all the components I want and more. It also supported by a large and creative ecosystem of fans, indie publishers and big players like Paizo, that is where I feel at home!

Has playing roleplaying games had an impact on your life?
Yes indeed. For me I think role playing have shaped me deeply in many ways big and small. It boosted my creativity and made me see new possibilities, to think outside the box. Trying to read and understand the rules gave me an understanding of English few of my classmates in my Swedish middle school had, it gave me a second language. To design and run adventures forced me to try and understand how a world work and it got me interested in politics and economy. That made me study both at college and I have worked in the political field. Being a GM is perfect leadership and management education. So it helped me in work and politics to interact with others and to run projects. Now I'm bringing it full circle by using what I have learned in other areas of life back into my gaming and mapmaking.

Section Two: You the Player
When last have you been a player in a roleplaying game and what character did you play?
Last evening I played my Elven Ranger/Fighter aspiring to be an Arcane Archer in Pathfinder organized play.

Do you prefer to play in a small or large group when playing roleplaying games?
A group of 4-5 players and a GM usually are optimum in my experience. Fewer players tend to limit the creativity and "suspension of disbelief" at the table. Larger groups slow down action to much and cause too many distractions.

How often do you get to be a player in a roleplaying game?
Not often enough! My fate has been to be a GM over the years and I must blame mostly myself for it. But I would love to play more it would make me a better person and GM and be so much fun. Thanks to Pathfinder organized play and the many great gamers in the area that is exactly what is starting to happen.Now I usually play at least once a week and GM at least every other weekend sometimes more.

What do you think is your biggest weakness is as a Player right now?
Having GM'ed too much! I need to think and act more as a party member and realize I'm not responsible for the whole session.

What could you do to improve your game as a Player?
Learn more about the world I'm playing in. Must sound weird coming from me but I haven't learned much about Golarion. I guess I'm reading so much Greyhawk stuff I'm getting a bit lazy when it comes to being a player; I want to just play and learn as I go. To defend myself I accept that behavior in players when I'm the GM. But it makes a better game with more prepared players as well as GM's.

Describe your perfect session as a player in a roleplaying game:
When I feel part of a greater story and it is gearing up for a grand event like a big battle and working through initial encounters or finding the weapons and magic to deal with the big evil and having the fear of losing a high level character in the coming mayhem. Then the big event takes an unforeseen direction and the whole party is frantically trying to cling on for dear life.

How would you describe the group that you currently play in?
Since its organized play the continuity isn't the same with stand alone modules and different players from time to time it works really well. Most of the players are the same and it gives me lots of fun. It also gives lots of opportunities to play different characters. If I could combine this with a normal gaming group and my sessions as a GM all my gaming desires would be fulfilled.

Do you have a memorable moment that you would care to share as a player?
I still remember the feeling of excitement when I realized my character had a whole world and more to explore and interact with. That mental state altered me forever and I will forever cherish that feeling and the game that made it possible.

What do you do as a player to prepare for your usual game sessions?
Not enough, I should do more background studies. That is one of my promises for this year.

Where and how long do your roleplaying sessions last?
Since its organized play we meet at a game store and play for 3 hours a session, sometimes having 2 sessions on a Game Day.

Section Three: You the Game Master
When last have you been a Game Master in a roleplaying game and what adventure did you run?
Less than a week ago and I ran a session in my Greyhawk campaign set in the Principality of Rel Deven, using the Pathfinder rules.

Do you prefer to referee a small or large group when running a roleplaying games?
Five players are the best I think, enough to make the game "lift" but not bog it down during combat.

How often do you get to be a Game Master in a roleplaying game?
Too often...laugh. Haven't said this in public before but my players bribed me with money to run more games at times. Hm... maybe I could make it a business.

What do you think is your biggest weakness as a Game Master right now?
Not enough experience as a player. I need to have more experience having played various classes and races.

What could you do to improve your game as a Game Master?
Be a player more often and still run games as a GM.

Describe your perfect session as a Game Master in a roleplaying game:
To create that tangible aura of anticipation and fear at the table as the story dawns on the players and see them rise to eagerly grasp it and making themselves a part of it. Unbeatable!

How would you describe the group that you currently GM to?
We didn't know each other before and are still in the "getting to know each other" stage. Experience levels are from beginners to seasoned veterans and that is something usually gives a good dynamic of beginners enthusiasm and the comforts of experience, this group is a shining example of that.

Do you have a memorable moment that you would care to share as a Game Master?
The best gaming sessions I've run was when we barricaded us in a friend’s basement for a whole week to conclude the fate of Good in Greyhawk.

When it was time to try and save Furyondy from the onslaught of Iuz the party got selected for a special mission, to find the true name of Iuz himself It started as a covert ops research effort and developed into a behind enemy lines operation. they was able to get the info through creative thinking way before I thought they would. They got chased back to safety by the Iuz and his most evil of henchmen.

We had so much fun and nerve-racking close calls that week that we onetime played for 26 straight. We had planned that week for months and it was a huge success (for us perhaps, but not friends and family who didn't see us for a week

What do you do as a Game Master to prepare for your usual game sessions?
The way I look at the how gaming works is to so both the big and the little picture when planning my games. The big picture is the events that happens in the game world around the characters. To portray this "big picture" and make it influence and react to the characters actions are a key aspect of running a great campaign. 

Despite its importance games I've played in as a player have often lacked most of this important dimension. The reason for this is that it is dynamic and therefore hard to put down in writing, most published adventures leave it out. It is the infrastructure of a good story so vital and can't be neglected.

The little picture are the events that take place where the characters are and can be seen and interacted with by them. This aspect is much more the player’s responsibility and they should have much liberty as possible to form their characters actions. This aspect are also guided by the rules so it's important to have a common understanding and agreement in how the rules should be used.

This became very philosophical but role playing are serious for me. Much more than what rules and edition you use, I'm not a number cruncher and optimizer.  Having fun - together with friends - long term, are my goal with gaming. That means building adventures and campaigns like a great epos with tedious and hard part too, for the overall fun.  

Do you use published material or create your own?
I use lots of published material I would say all I can lay my hand on (and I have a lot of Greyhawk material). But I have never run a module as it is written. For me it is all raw materials I use to construct my own personal World of Greyhawk. But I read all of it and use most of it and then tweak it and play with the part to try and present the best possible environment for my players to have fun with their characters. I create a lot of material in order to try and do so.

Mostly maps and tons of notes that I digitized using MS Access and moving to the cloud using Evernote. Soon I will have a note of every place on my map and hundreds of NPC's, organizations, items and tons of more Greyhawk stuff that I have read about or invented myself.

Do you make use of maps and minis during your roleplaying sessions?
I use to have a ceiling mounted video-projector hooked up to my laptop and used it as a virtual tabletop. This was before any of the fancy software apps existed so I used CorelDraw, Photoshop and other graphics programs to show maps, counters, handouts and other illustrations. It worked great!
Now we play in a store so no projector and we have resorted to battle maps and miniatures. not bad but lacking the inspiration prepared maps and art can have. I'm working on a solution for that.

If there is anything additionally that you would like to share, that I might have overlooked please do so here:
There are way too much talk of editions and rule minutia and not enough of good gaming and what is important. Rules ARE important but they are only one bit of a great role-playing experience.
The industry are going through its biggest change in its 40 year history right now I think. Just like publishing in general it is in turmoil and some would say crisis. If you're selling books with rules in them that is definitely so. But if you're in the business of creating the tools for friends to go on imaginary adventures together, this must be the best times ever!   

There you have it folks,  if you enjoyed this interview and have suggestions on who to interview next drop me a mail. If there are any Questions that you would like to see added to my future interviews let me know.


  1. That was an awesomely long interview and a good person to start with! Well done Rory. I can't praise your efforts enough!

  2. Great job, Rory, and a great subject---Anna's as fun to read about as to chat with in person :D


  3. Well, the guys have already said it all.

    Good job, Rory. Looking forward to your next one.

  4. Excellent interview Rory, though some of the questions were redundant. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    Anna, you are one exceptional lady and an absolute asset to the Greyhawk community!