Will Patterson: Hi River, thank you for agreeing to speak with me. Let's jump right in. How long have you been a part of The Gauntlet?
River Williamson: I've only been around since 2016, back when The Gauntlet online was still new. In that day I mistakenly thought it was all straight, white men. I found out pretty quickly that was not the case, even though they were the majority.
What has been your favorite part of the evolution to today’s Gauntlet?
Over the past two years, I've been very pleased with how many more queer people are part of The Gauntlet as players, GMs, and creators. I'm especially proud of how many of us, me included, got in touch with our queerness through The Gauntlet.
Spending time with people who don't look, love, or live like you, but share an interest is instrumental in humanizing people we'd usually "other". It's not enough in itself, you have to be open minded and open eared helps. Beyond that, though, is the sort of games we play here. Monsterhearts, Pack of Strays, and other games which specifically address the PoV of non-mainstream people have a transformative effect on their players. Straight or queer. Out, questioning, or closeted.
What brought you to the hobby originally?
I first encountered formalized roleplay in middle school. My best friend and her younger brother played Advanced D&D. When I brought this up with my mom, she freaked and forbade my brother and I from playing. For context, her only exposure to D&D was the satanic panic of the 70s and 80s. She was also against my brother and me reading adventure fantasy (Conan, Lord of the Rings, etc.) because she feared that our delicate minds couldn't separate reality from fantasy.
We rejected her concerns and played without her knowledge. My very first action with my very first character was to fail a check for traps roll and badly die from an axe trap to the chest. I was hooked. In fact, I met my first partner through “D&D.” My partner and I were using roleplaying to explore our gender and sexuality and so on. The games were changing us, but not in a way my mother could imagine.
What current trends do you see in the industry that are particularly promising?
I'm going to echo my favourite RPG writers here (most of whom are LGBTQ+ folx). I'm excited to see so many new games that focus like a laser on a specific feeling or atmosphere. These games are usually small and have play procedure baked right into the game. Two that I haven't played, but am very interested in, are Alex Roberts' “Star Crossed”, and Phil & Senda's game “Turning Point.” The key feature of this style of game is that players can keep both the story and the system in their heads simultaneously.
You plan the perfect game night. What game? And are you playing or GMing?
You know that game where you're heading into the climax of a short campaign? That's my perfect night, regardless of which side of the GM screen I'm on.
Can’t argue with that. Thank you for your time River, and I look forward to the next time we get to share a table.