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Today we talk with Mistress Ari Winter host and player on many actual play ttrpg streams.
You can find them at
@gmistresswinter on BluSky, X, Threads, and Instagram.
link tree:
The Tabletop Talespinners Network is host for All Our Faults and can be found at
Let’s hear from Mistress Winter!

actual play screen cap

How did you get started in ttrpgs?

I was in Scouting through most of my adolescence. In the summer, my troop would join others from the area in a big multi-week camping event. While I have plenty of other good memories from those summers, there is a single moment that changed the trajectory of my life forever. I had made friends with a pair of brothers. One of them, Todd, asked me if I knew what Dungeons and Dragons was to which I answered in the negative. He pulled me into an empty (but open) tent and sat me down. ‘I’m going to give you a scenario.’ Todd began, ‘You describe what you want to do. You are a wizard. You have a couple of spells available to you including one that allows you to shoot fire from your fingertips. You’re exploring a dungeon when you come upon a large hole in the floor. What do you do?’ With what little context I had, I explored the hole and activated some water system that would drown my character. ‘If you’re stuck on what to do, you can always use your spells to get out.’ he suggested. I went with that idea because it seemed logical. He nodded gravely, ‘You burn through the bars now covering the hole to escape, but are now down a spell. You could have just turned the handle on the wall.’ From that challenge on, I was hooked. Every weekend I could find to stay over at the brothers’ house and play D&D, I did. Very quickly, my friends recognized a talent for storytelling and dubbed me DM after only a few sessions.

What made you decide to get involved in actual play shows?

As many others, I got my start during the 2020 Pandemic. I had a lot of time on my hands and started running games for conventions. Specifically, Hunters Entertainment (Alice is Missing, Kids on Bikes, Outbreak: Undead) was looking for game facilitators for the virtual cons as well as showcasing some of their upcoming games through ‘community plays’ streamed one-shot games. I was more than happy to sign up. I caught the bug from there, joining up with campaigns by independent groups like Heroes & Hooligans. In 2021, I launched my own Twitch stream channel and started a regular Pathfinder 2nd edition actual play that lasted over a year. I’ve since put my stream on hiatus as I dive into work with the Tabletop Talespinners Network. I suppose my choice to perform in actual plays is driving by a combination of my passion for inviting audience to feel deeply and a love of performing that I can’t satisfy otherwise.

Did you have a background in performing before starting actual plays?

Acting has always been a calling of mine. I fell in love with plays, musicals, and movies as a kid. I remember pestering my dad to include me in a high school production of Dracula when I was only 7 or 8. I learned to sing and act (I was not made for dance) through school and community programs. My crowning achievement at the time was being cast as Jean Val-Jean in Les Miserables during high school. Le sigh. Good times. I went to college in Pennsylvania and received a BA in Acting and Directing. Sadly, my life took off in other directions and a professional acting career got put away.

Could you tell us some of the main differences between playing an actual play versus playing a “home” game?

The audience is the difference. Having an audience changes the expectations surrounding a game. As a GM, you have to take into consideration the sensibilities and enjoyment of the audience. Extreme topics or sensitive subjects cannot just be privately joked about. They must be approached respectfully and with as much warning as possible to protect those who support your content. Further, as a GM, there is more pressure to tell a cohesive and complete narrative. To an audience, it’s very much like watching a TV series. The better the story, the more invested the audience is going to be. And a GM must manage the group focus, plot the story’s arc, and help their players understand timing (Don’t drag out a scene needlessly for an hour) and goals (focusing on the main quest instead of a bunch of side quests with no story impact). By taking a game ‘public’, you are inviting the audience whose very presence will change everything.

Do you prefer being a GM or being a player in actual plays, and why?

I’ve had some experience with both and I’d say GM. Ultimately, I love the story boarding or creative process. Weaving intricate plot threads offered by the player characters into full blown campaign arcs is so satisfying. Watching my players’ reactions when there is some reveal brings me no small amount of joy. Sure, playing is great and I’d love to do more. But GMing is where I thrive.

What is your current favorite ttrpg?

It has to be a tie between Alice is Missing: The Silent RPG and Monsterhearts 2; for similar and different reasons. Alice is Missing is one of the most innovative game I’ve experienced. On top of that, I’m an audiophile so having a great soundtrack to a TTRPG takes it to the top. And without fail, my AiM groups have always had a cathartic experience. Like AiM, Monsterhearts 2 is heavily focus on the collaborative storytelling. Everyone gets to contribute heavily and with the right group, the narrative is emotional and impactful. Monsterhearts may not have a built-in soundtrack, but it can be episodic and allows for its players to explore the entire range of human existence throughout its rule set.

What ttrpg would you like to play, but haven’t had the chance to try yet?

Vampire the Masquerade. There have been so many conventions or casting calls for VtM but each time they come around, I am unable to join the table for some reason.”

Thanks, Mistress Ari!

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