In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we talk to Hannah Culbert of the Dames and Dragons DnD actual play podcast. We discuss the story and setting of the podcast, the cast, beetles, top hats, dungeons and dragons, beyblade, and the art of making a performative, long-running actual play.
Materials Referenced in this Episode
- Hannah Culbert
- Dames and Dragons
- Other Stuff
Welcome the RPGBOT.news. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra
and Random Powell.
And we have a special guest tonight. From the games and dragons podcast. We have Hannah Culbert.
Hannah Culbert 00:31
Hello, I’m Hannah. I use they them pronouns. I’m just a humble fool. But I’m also a cast member on games and dragons, and I design merch and run our online store.
Awesome. Also cool, cool art on Twitter. That’sa thing too.
Hannah Culbert 00:45
Oh, yes, I do make art, additionally. Dometimes I forget the things that I do, because I do too many things.
You need the things like literally listed in front of you. What are all the things that happen in any given day?
Hannah Culbert 00:56
Absolutely. All right, Tyler, what’s happening?
So I’m a longtime listener of Dames and Dragons, and Hannah is one of the cast members on the podcast, so we’re very excited to have you today, Hannah. So in your own words, describe demons and dragons for listeners who may not have listened before.
Hannah Culbert 01:11
Oh, golly. Dames and Dragons. So yeah, we’re an actual play D&D podcast. You know, I think it’s summed up fairly well, that it’s about teenage guardians fumbling attempts at heroism and the occasional fart joke. It’s got great original music by our dear friend Noel, who is also on the show. So our DM, Kat, has created a fascinating world and a wonderful pantheon of gods. And we as players come in, and are just terrible little weiners in in this beautiful world.
I have to say, as a big fan of world building, and in particular mythology, there’s a decent amount of greek-influenced mythology, which is a thing that I am a big fan of. So like, how has that real world comparison influenced both your perspective of the game and also you think the whole world in general?
Hannah Culbert 02:08
Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s really a nice coincidence that I already had a really big interest in Greek mythology, and that Kat, our DM, has created this pantheon of gods that definitely, I think draws influence from I mean, a lot of different mythologies, but I can definitely see the Greek comparison in that like Greek mythology on our world, and our podcast, Avalis, Gods are basically extremely powerful, immortal people. And like normal people, they can be capricious and dangerous. Unlike people, though, when they have a bad breakup, or just a bad day, they might level a city or create a new season. So yeah, their stories are interpersonal, and often tragic. And like Greek gods, they’re always getting all up in each other’s business.
One of the cool things there, right? Big pantheon of gods big story, but ultimately, the podcast settles around like a particular character, who… Hey, I’ll not spoil for anybody who are going to drag into it, but right, eventually becomes or is named as Mary. And so there’s a person there’s a human being, maybe not a human being, but you know what I’m saying, that you can ultimately center the story around. How has that character driven the narrative in, like, past arcs and how is that maturing as the podcast goes on?
Hannah Culbert 03:20
Ah, well, I don’t know. I mean, I… spoilers. How much should I…? I mean, I guess, you know,
Like, minimal specifics. Broad strokes.
Hannah Culbert 03:30
Gotcha. Yeah. Well, yes. So one of the main characters on our podcast is a player character that Kat plays, Mary. And well, we she kind of gets named that by her friends. Since what she’s officially called is just “The Goddess.” She lives on this floating island that her predecessor raised up into the sky to protect people from the chaos of the world below where gods kind of run rampant and mess things up all the time. So yeah, Mary is an incarnation of a goddess who basically gives birth to herself, and then incarnates in the next body and continues to kind of pass that down through her matrilineal line.
Nice. And, right, and then things went terrible.
Hannah Culbert 04:22
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, spoilers. But, yeah, there’s conflict in our podcast. Yeah, our main player characters are characters who were kind of raised from birth to look out for the goddess and be her guardians. But there’s something kind of odd that has happened with the incarnation cycle. And that’s kind of where we begin our story.
Awesome. Let’s stop for a second. I actually want to pop back a little bit. So how long have you been doing the podcast together? Or how long has the podcasts been running, I should say.
Hannah Culbert 04:57
The podcast started. I actually joined a little bit later than the others. So they were, I believe, starting to record in 2016, and then releasing episodes in 2017. Let’s see, remind me the first part of the question again?
Oh, essentially, like how long have the podcasts been been running? And then kind of my follow up to it, which I hadn’t asked, but let’s go and do it now. How does everybody know each other? Like how did how did the group of players and the DM come together to put this together?
Hannah Culbert 05:23
We all met because we all went to the same arts high school for juniors and seniors. Sophie and I were in the visual arts program and Kat and Juniper and Noelle, were in the language arts program. It’s funny, you know, we were all part of the same big friend group. I thought that they were very, very cool. Inexplicably, they have told me that they thought that I was cool. Which is wrong, because I regularly wore top hats. And I did call myself the king of the school. So..
If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think anyone was cool in high school. So… there you go.
Hannah Culbert 06:02
My mom helped me make them.
Okay, that is actually cool.
Hannah Culbert 06:06
My mom helped me make them. I could not have made them without my mom. Shout out Heidi. Top Hat making queen.
That’s even cooler!
Hannah Culbert 06:08
Awesome. I now kinda want to see pictures. We should have a link in the show notes if that’s possible.
We can have a link in the show notes to a picture. Just in case. In case you’re wondering what a top hat is, like, we can totally we can nail that down for you.
Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of like an obscure. you know, I don’t know if like the average listener is going to be able to visualize it, but…
Why is a top hat a top hat? Like, where are people putting these other hats that aren’t top hats?
Well, no, see, because what happened is to make a top hat, you take the top and you turn it upside down, and then you start building loops of fabric around it. And that’s why it’s called the top hat. Don’t fact check me.
I was 100% in.
All right, so, so, Hannah, tell us about your character in the party. Tell us about Slake.
Hannah Culbert 07:01
Oh, golly, let’s see. Slake. So slake is a half-orc Fighter. They’re a teenager like the rest of the main cast. They’re very enthusiastic, if a bit naive, and they they serve a beetle god at the very beginning of the show. They’re very much raised to to be a competent Fighter, but they’d kind of rather be making weird sculptures out of found objects and talking to bugs. And not in, like, a magical, they could communicate with bugs way. They’re just really lonely.
Okay, so like the bugs aren’t talking back.
Hannah Culbert 07:38
I mean, you know, you know how it is when you talk to bugs? You just kind of like, you just picture what they might say back.
I’m gonna… Yeah, yeah, no, I know exactly what you mean. For the listeners at home, I would like you describe this a little bit more.
Hannah Culbert 07:53
You know, you just you look at like, you go outside. And you know, you you see like, a nice little one of those. Those, like, Japanese beetles that are invasive, but like, really cute. And it lands on your knee, and you tell it about your day. And then, like, you can just, you can just picture in your little mind’s eye or your mind’s ear what it might be saying back to you.
Yeah, it’s like, you don’t have to stay here if you want you kind of like raise your hand a little bit to help them take off. They don’t take off. They want to be with you.
Hannah Culbert 08:18
Not… Yeah, absolutely. Everybody. Yeah.
I am curious about this. So you say that you have this, like, your character was a follower of this beetle deity. Now, in a in a setting where the gods are this involved in daily life, is that a like is that a much more like, oh, yeah, you know, just be a good enough Fighter and you’ll probably get a visit from your deity or something like that, or is this more, you know, kind of the traditional favorite thing where like, yeah, there’s Gods we know they’re like, theoretically humanoids but they’re often celestial doing God knows what.
Hannah Culbert 08:54
Yeah, are gods, you know, they vary in degrees of involvement. My character is raised by another orc to be a vehicle of the will of Yo-Un the beetle God, the God of monsters actually, on our world. So yeah, my character doesn’t meet Johan until kind of the story begins. And Johan has something that they want Slyke to do, but yeah, our gods they’re around. They’re probably not appearing to most people on a lot of occasions. But you know, Greek gods, too, like, they get around.
Famously do alright, there’s like a fun thing here buried in what you’ve said. So, like, I’m a parent, and I’m raising, like, kids to worship this beetle deity. I’m imagining like pushing them to like, yeah, it’d be really nice to the bugs. It’s a good idea to talk to them from time to time, because if you don’t, they gotta monsters is gonna show up and talk to you about it.
Hannah Culbert 09:50
Yeah, I mean, honestly, it’s solid, solid parenting technique. And the thing about slake, I think, is that it’s a thing where it’s like no one asked you to do this. I think. Like, it’s very much like orcs in our world. They respect monsters because monsters are what they’re getting, you know, a lot of like food and resources from.
Hannah Culbert 10:12
Yeah, my character specifically just really likes monsters and really likes bugs. And I mean, I think that kind of has to do with some, you know, psychology type stuff. I mean, if you want to ask me about beetle symbolism, like, I’ll talk about it.
So I want to ask about Yo-Un a little bit more. So if I remember right, the first time you one appeared in the podcast was when Slake was introduced, like early in that, that first time that you were on the show? Was Yo-Un already in the setting? Was that something that you came up with, that you came up with with Kat? How did that come about?
Hannah Culbert 10:51
Yeah. Well, the guardians who are, you know, kind of the main characters at the beginning of the show, they all are sort of raised in a clan that’s presided over by a different animal god. So there’s a wolf clan, a crow clan, and a deer clan. And when I was conceptualizing my character, I was like, Oh, I kinda would like to have some sort of animal icon. Kat didn’t even actually ask, Oh, you need to have an animal icon and have that be your thing. Just like Slake, you know, no one asked me, but I’ll do it anyway. So I wanted to have like a beetle, because I view beetles as symbols of resilience and survival. Like I think of cockroaches, which are animals that people generally don’t value or want around, but they’re really hard to kill and I admire that about them.
That’s fair. That’s fair.
Hannah Culbert 11:38
Yeah, that was an animal I was definitely resonating with. I was kind of having a rough time, too, when I first joined the podcast, as someone who struggles you know, sometimes with, like, depression, I can appreciate how beetles just keep on living, no matter how bad it gets.
Also, sometimes they fly.
Hannah Culbert 11:52
And that they’re just neat little guys, you know?
Hannah Culbert 11:55
What’s not to love?
I think there’s like a crazy statistic. It’s like, if you if you like enumerate all of the living species on Earth, I think half of them are beetles. I think that is actually true. Maybe like a third, something like this, way more than you would actually think.
Hannah Culbert 12:08
I mean, even if that’s wrong, I’m gonna choose to believe it, because it just, it just makes me feel so secure.
Here’s what’s gonna happen. We’re saying here, right now. It’s gonna be in the transcript. Therefore, it will be linkable, citable. Now it’s an internet fact.
Hannah Culbert 12:20
Yeah. Ah, yeah. Wikipedia, here I come.
We’re gonna up on Snopes in 10 years.
It’s gonna be great!
All right. I’m gonna try and put a bit of a bow on on harping on this. Here you are. yYou you’ve devoted your life to this deity, and then here you go to join a group that’s like, no, no, we’re literally protecting this one deity who is walking with us. Is there any… presumably I would know this from sort of sort of interaction, but like, is there ever any, like, inter-deity conflict between, like…
Hannah Culbert 12:55
Yes, I mean, definitely. In this case, my… so my deity Yo-Un works for Veony, who is a scavenger goddess, it just so happens that the main characters have already encountered this scavenger goddess and she kind of owes them a favor. Yeah, Yo-Un ends up sending slake to go and help the Guardians on behalf of Veony. Yeah, I mean, we’re very polytheistic. I mean, I think it’s like with Greek pantheons. If you want something to happen, like if you want to do really well on a test, maybe you’re gonna pray to the god of knowledge. You’re not, you’re not limited to sticking with just the one deity. And I think something I like about Greek mythology is that people seem to be aware that in Greek mythology, they don’t look at gods like as like, Oh, these are these wonderful, perfect beings that never do anything bad and that we should just be totally devoted to. They’re like, no, they’re kind of… they’re kind of jerks sometimes, but you know, if you’re nice to some of them at the right time, maybe something good will happen to you.
Yes, I have the body of a Greek god but it’s Bacchus. Like, that sort of thing happening. Yeah, I think absolutely. Like you bring up the idea of being polytheistic versus being monotheistic. And where you were going was that you would worship or you offer praise, you would request help like you, you you send out wishes, right? You pray. Where my head went, was the literal belief in multiple gods. And that’s fascinating to me. So it’s like, what do you what do you mean you only believe, like, there’s two gods standing here, pick one. Pick two. What are you gonna do?
Hannah Culbert 14:30
Yeah. We’ve had jokes like that before where it’s like, talking, talking to a god you really don’t like and you’re just like, “I’m an atheist.”
If I don’t believe in you, you can’t hurt me. What? No! That’s not how this works at all.
Hannah Culbert 14:48
I saw, too, in your notes, the idea of religion and I think it’s interesting because I almost… when you do have gods that walk right, lik, when you can visibly see they are very much real and directly influencing you, it almost is like, is it still a religion? I don’t know.
Yeah, that doesn’t. It’s like we’re not doing these ceremonies because we believe it’s the right thing to do and it’s a way of like honoring a tradition and a heritage. We’re doing the ceremony so he doesn’t burn down the village.
Hannah Culbert 15:16
So one of the primary conflicts in the whole podcast is that inter-deity conflict between warring factions. God of war is kind of a big deal in the setting. We’ve seen a few of the gods appear in in person, quote, unquote, on… in the podcast.
Remind me which one… You mean which one I killed? There’s a hawk, there’s a boar… Yeah, which one did you kill?
Hannah Culbert 15:41
It was the hawk, but I don’t want to make a big deal about it… Like, It’s just a standard kind of… thing.
Yeah. It wasn’t casual. It was professional.
So with the ability to kill deities, and with at least one under your belt at this point, like the party, the parties what level 11, 12 right now?
Hannah Culbert 16:06
Yeah, we’re right about 10 or 11, I think,
Okay. Which deity are you planning to kill next?
Hannah Culbert 16:12
Oh, I mean, I don’t know. Like, I don’t want to like, I don’t want to limit my options. You know, like, I, I feel like I’m still kind of figuring myself out. So we’ll see who we kill next. It’ll be like a fun surprise.
I feel like the perfect line is like “the next one who crosses me.” That’s the one I’m gonna kill.
Hannah Culbert 16:28
Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m not cool enough to have thought to have said that.
No, I’ve heard you were pretty cool.
Hannah Culbert 16:35
Yeah, well, I do have top hats. So I guess indisputably, I am pretty cool.
Which implies you have tops, incidentally, I’ve learned recently. And tops are awesome.
Hannah Culbert 16:46
Well, Beyblades mainly.
That’s the like the automated version of making top hats. You get the beyblade, and then… anyway.
Hannah Culbert 16:56
I sound like a bond villain.
You really got to, like, rip it and get the thread going. Perfect. Absolutely. That’s what we should do.
Hannah Culbert 17:03
New business venture.
This is insteresting. I mean, this just reminds me of like the 3.0 supplement where that we last got a lot of information about deities.
I thought you were gonna say Beyblade,
No, that would clearly be Tasha’s where we got artificers. Duh.
Hannah Culbert 17:21
Where is the, like, D&D Beyblade supplement.
I’ve seen the dice that are shaped like tops where you can like spin them and then it lands. We’ll have a the link in the show notes folks.
This might seem like Deities and Demigods, you know, a book that I heavily referenced for one particular character for reasons that we don’t have time to go into. Nor should we. It was really interesting talking about like, in 3.x, if you wanted to become a deity, in the standard setting of Grayhawk, where we don’t have you know, go past the trial of get drunk and pass out and become a god, if you want to become a deity, you basically had to kill or talk one of the gods out of their post. It seems like, you know, you guys are becoming pretty powerful characters in your own right at this point. Are there any dreams of apotheosis?
Hannah Culbert 18:11
Oh, I mean, we do have kind of a central conflict with one of our… Well, a couple of our, two at least of our main characters on the show, who are… one is Mary, who you know, is yeah, this reincarnation, who’s kind of… the thing about being a god in our world with Kat’s world building is that when you live for a very, very long time, you tend to, you know, lose your mind and your humanity, which is not super great. There is kind of this tension where, you know, we’re trying to protect and defend our goddess and we need her power to help save the world. But at the same time, there is, yeah, a tension between staying human and the other, the other option. And we have a demigod, who is our close friend, Falin the betrayer, the kind of name that you automatically just trust.
Welcome him in the circle, put your arms around them.
Hannah Culbert 19:10
We, like, I believe, like the very moment that the characters met him, they were just like, he is our best friend now.
Stabbed in the back often.
Hannah Culbert 19:19
We will, like, we won’t even allow him to betray us. It’s fine. He’ll be trying to stab us and we’re just gonna, we’re just gonna hug him so hard that the knife won’t even be able to penetrate our tender backs. But I digress. I don’t know where I’m going talking about my good friend Falin and how he’s not going to stab me.
It is totally not going to go wrong.
Hannah Culbert 19:42
That’s what I’m hearing. Nothing could go wrong here. Listeners at home, if you, if you take nothing else away as you listen to the Dames and Dragons podcast, Falin the betrayer: good guy. Has your back.
Hannah Culbert 19:55
I mean, he is though. You know, he’s just, he’s just a little guy. He’s just doin’ his best. It’s not his fault he got named that.
You build one bridge, they don’t call you a bridge builder. You betrayed one entire village and and all of a sudden everything’s… Yeah. Terrible people.
Hannah Culbert 20:10
Well, you know, he was he was assigned betrayer at birth, so…
Oh, well that’s… okay.
That’s a that’s a problem.
Hannah Culbert 20:18
Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s rough.
Yeah, that I feel like a mistake has been made. And I think we should all acknowledge that a mistake was made. Hm. So I do want to step away from like the setting and the content of the podcast, and I want to talk about making art. So one of the things that got me as I started listening and started going through… a lot of actual play podcasts or actual play shows, you know, first of all varying degrees of quality, I think yours is up there. It’s a very high quality podcast.
Hannah Culbert 20:50
People enjoy that. 100%, like hop in. Now that being said, both high quality and low quality, when somebody says like, Okay, I need to do a voice it’s immediately, Well, I’m gonna do an accent and it’s probably going to be British. Right? I mean, no, okay. Yeah, I’m getting… it’s like, how did people talk in the olden days? Obviously, everybody
Hannah Culbert 21:12
They’re all bri’ish!
Speak English, but they still feel it with a British accent. Exactly! 100%. What I really enjoyed is… I feel like the cast does an amazing job of conveying emotion, excitement, like passion for things without always like resolving, it’s like, oh, well, we’re going to do an accent now. Like, you can actually hear the enthusiasm, which to me sounds like a character’s voice. Hear real emotion. It’s almost like as you’re doing the role playing, you’re role playing, and I think that’s wonderful.
Hannah Culbert 21:41
Oh, well thank you. I love to do a silly voice myself. But, you know, I mean, yeah. Like, what’s the word? I feel like once you get used to doing a voice, it’s probably easier to emote in it. I mean, Slake kinda hurts my little baby vocal cords a little bit. But, but yeah, I mean, the more you do it, like, the more it just sort of becomes an inextractable part of you.
Yeah, I really enjoy it. And please save your vocal cords.
Hannah Culbert 22:15
No, it’s it’s really cool to me. And I hope folks also enjoy that. I feel like if you’re a person thinking about like, How can I roleplay? How can we do character? It’s like, I don’t want to learn to speak cockny. It’s like, okay, well, there are alternatives. And this is a fantastic example that I think is worth looking at. One of the things that I wondered, how, how do you think about approaching the actual play podcast, where there’s a setting and a history and you know you’re building a story, and you know there’s consumers of this story outside your circle? Versus when you’re sitting at home, and you’re playing, you know, a home game, with no microphones anywhere nearby?
Hannah Culbert 22:48
Yeah, I mean, there’s Yeah, definitely differences. One thing that’s just really great is the fact that cat juniper and Noelle, they’re all writers. They’re all they’re all storytellers. They’re all I mean, I think all of us. Just as a preference, we tend to be people who are more focused on kind of the storytelling and world building and, like, character interaction aspect of D&D versus more of the mechanics. We’re ultimately all working together to just try and tell the best story we can tell. Yeah, we’re all trying to tell the best story we can tell. Yeah. Just using D&D as a vehicle for that.
No, I think that’s awesome. And it gets towards that point, so, your release schedule, you release one hour episode every other week?
Hannah Culbert 23:30
Pretty much. Yeah, yeah. Occasionally, they’re a little longer, a little shorter. But yeah, that’s the general schedule.
It’s like, no, at one hour period, we cut it, I don’t care what was happening in middle of it. Mid-sentence, we’re done. Absolutely. And towards that you won’t necessarily have combat every single session, maybe every other session, that sort of thing. Because the storytelling is the thing that excites you. And I think it’s what excites your audience as well. But of course, it is DnD. Occasionally, conflict, you know, conflict arrives at combat. And here, you have super awesome characters who can execute on that.
Hannah Culbert 24:00
Thank you. Yeah, yeah, combat’s always an interesting challenge for us. I mean, not that, not that there aren’t parts of it that we enjoy. But yeah, it is. I do think it can be hard trying to find ways to keep combat fresh and interesting when you’re doing a serialized podcast where you’ve done… and you have a set kind of number of actions and things that you can do. But I feel like Kat does a good job of putting us in, you know, interest… She gives us lots of environmental stimulation in our enclosures. So I’m grateful for that.
Podcaster zoo. There we go.
I’ll be in my trailer. So where can folks find Dames and Dragons?
Hannah Culbert 24:39
Ah, yes, we are on… Well, we have a website damesanddragons.com. Got a Twitter @DragonDames. We’re on Patreon. And let’s see, oh, Tumblr. And we have a fan Discord, and that’s a lot of fun too. So if you’re looking to you know, talk to other folks who are into it, that’s a great place. Yeah, and our website kind of has all the links to everything. So it’s a good centralized location.
And awesome. And we’ll put a link in the show notes so folks can find that as well.
Hannah Culbert 25:07
Hannah, where can we find your art? Because it’s awesome.
Hannah Culbert 25:12
Thank you. Yes, I, I would love for people to find my art. I am @ThistleBeetle on Instagram and Twitter and Tumblr. And I also have a website, just HannahCulbert.com. So yeah, if you want to, you want to see what weird nonsense I’m up to, please do.
Alright. Well, thank you so much for being with us. We’ve really enjoyed it. Hannah Culbert.
Hannah Culbert 25:37
Well, thank you so much for having me. It was a lot of fun talking to y’all. And yeah, if folks want to please check out the show. We are wrapping up… Golly, is it arc seven already? And yeah, if you’re looking for good jumping on points, I would say start at the beginning. But we do arc recaps as well. So if you’re wanting to catch up quicker, or you know, skip certain bits or binge, that’s a that’s a thing. And another option, if you’re intimidated by our current number of episodes, I would highly recommend checking out a little bonus campaign that we did. It is… the first few episodes are publicly available on our Patreon, and they’re set in our same world as the main campaign. But they’re different characters, it tells a different story. You don’t need to be familiar with any of the rest of it to know what’s going on. And it kind of has a weird, old Hollywood feel, which was not planned, but happened. And I’m very happy about it.
Awesome. Awesome. All right. Well, if you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcast and rate us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast and helps us to reach new listeners. You can find links in the show notes. You’ll find the affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well as on RPGBOT.net. Following these links helps us to make this show happen every week.
This is the second or third time where it’s like there were no source books.
There were no source books.
There’s no source book., right? I’m not insane?
No, we didn’t talk source books.
No, actually we talked about third edition deities and demigods.
Oh my god, yeah.
No, I actually meant… Okay, Dames and Dragons Sourcebook. Are you ready to announce it live? I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Internet, don’t, don’t panic.
Aw, I had one more question I forgot to ask.
Hannah Culbert 27:22
Who is Chantelle?
Hannah Culbert 27:24
Oh, who? Who is Chantelle? I mean, who, who am I? Who is anyone? Who is Chantelle? An icon, a concept, a lifestyle? That’s for you to decide.
Is Chantelle really a lifestyle?
I was really just waiting for like, Oh, who is Chantelle? and then they just disconnect.
Hannah Culbert 27:44
Oh, you can definitely edit that in. Oh, that’s a great idea. Just have it be dead air after that.
Perfect. Good, good. All right. Awesome.
Hannah Culbert 27:57
That was a good time.