It’s our first Tales from the Tavern interview of the new year, so we’re kicking off 2023 with an interview with Elly Runnals. Elly stays busy with lots of writing in the TTRPG space, so let’s hear more about what she’s up to! She can be found on Twitter at TTRPElly!
What Elly does: In the TTRPG sphere, my primary “thing” is writing! I founded, wrote, and maintained a Savage Worlds-focused website for nearly two years, dedicated to explaining and exploring that system’s mechanics with examples of how they actually play out at the table. The primary way I did that was through narrative, long-form campaign session recaps, essentially telling a story and then highlighting how the game mechanics informed and supported narrative decisions and vice-versa. I also write the session recaps for Keith Baker’s Threshold campaign, in which he runs sessions once a month for his Patreon supporters, and have done some additional freelance work as well. My site is currently under construction while breathe some new life into it, so stay tuned!
Social Media: Twitter @TTRPElly
Do you prefer GMing or Playing, and why?
I currently do and have done both in multiple systems, and I overwhelmingly prefer playing. My favourite thing as a gamer is exploration, and as a player, I love participating in the story as it unfolds. I am also someone who does best creatively when I have something to focus and hone in on, and when I only play one character—as opposed to being the GM and having to play every NPC!—that means I get to dive deeply into their personality and story and evolve and play it out over the emerging narrative in a way that I don’t have the luxury to do when I’m in the GM chair. And while my players always find ways to surprise me, there are only so many surprises in store to discover and join along with when I’m the one who’s read the module we’re playing and my role is to be the one putting the main story in front of them to see what they do with it. I greatly prefer being on the other side of that!
I also find GMing exhausting. No matter how much I love it, no matter how well a session goes, I always feel spent at the end—which goes back to, I do best when I have something to focus and hone in on. When my focus has to not only be split but razor-sharp to transition between roleplaying, adjudicating rolls and scenarios, determining and remembering what information players need and is appropriate for them to have in a particular scene, deciding how to respond to the plot hooks they bite at, keeping a good bennie economy going (only when running Savage Worlds, obviously), tracking everything for planned or unplanned combat and then running it, all while ensuring that we hit or at least move towards story beats and also end the session on time and in a narratively tense or interesting place…it’s a lot.
What other hobbies are you interested in?
When I’m not running, playing, or writing about TTRPGs, I am a visual artist whose passions are photography, composite photography, and mini painting. I’m also a classical musician, avid birdwatcher, knitter, and huge Formula 1 fan.
Describe a favorite scenario you ran or played in a TTRPG
At Chupacabracon 2021, I unintentionally wound up in a late-night game of Prowlers & Paragons run by Robert Dorf of Mobius Games. This session was a 2.5-hour love letter to classic lucha libre cinema, and our characters were a luchador team driven to rescue the manager of one of the PCs from the clutches of the evil Dr. Professor Satanica—who was abusing her academic tenure to to evil!—and her henchman, Jazz Hands Vampire. We ultimately saved the day by tag-teaming in to help a fellow PC spin-kick the shark tank in which our fearless leader was wrestling said shark (as one does), cracking the glass and leading the PC inside to ride the shark out of the tank and guide it to eat Satanica. And it was all done using P&P’s mechanics. Robert was an amazing GM, we all laughed so hard for the whole session that people at other tables kept stopping to stare at us, and also the PCs manager who we rescued was an alien who looked like a cross between Youppi, and Ewok, and Alf.
Have you ever felt like an outsider in the TTRPG space? Describe if you can.
Very much, and often. There’s a lot to say about this topic, but for here, I’ll leave it at this: the TTRPG community, online and offline, has a very long way to go still in order to be welcoming for women. There are a lot of ingrained, passive, systemic attitudes that remain entrenched even in TTRPG spaces whose members consider themselves uniformly progressive, and get expressed in a wealth of frustrating and hurtful easy that often make me want to throw in the towel. Being talked over, dismissed, demeaned, ignored, and “well actually”d by men—even and sometimes especially when I have more experience or knowledge of something than they do—is the cost of participating in TTRPG spaces that aren’t gender-segregated. And it SUCKS. I feel like an outsider almost every single day that I work up the energy to participate in yet another conversation that ends with me being dismissed and demeaned.
Something else you’d like us to know about you: I am, by the official rules of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (having a speaking role in a film with or with someone who had a speaking role in a film with Kevin Bacon), two degrees from Kevin Bacon.
Elly is so busy! We appreciate her time!