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Interview With AJ Winters

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AJ Winters | @WintersTaleCo

she/her

Our interview this week is with AJ Winters, the Creative Director and Dungeon Master for TTRPG content creation company, Winters Tales. AJ spoke to us about her history with TTRPGs and story telling, and how that lead to creating her own business with Winters Tales.

AJ also gave us all the info on their upcoming show, The Chronicles of Aelwyn! This great new show is hitting our screens on August 2nd over on Winters Tales’ Twitch. Don’t miss the chance to jump in at the beginning of this exciting new show, and support the amazing creators bringing this story to life!

What first inspired you to create your TTRPG content creation company, Winters Tales? And what has that process been like?

I have been making creative content from the moment I could tell stories; from writing short novellas and poetry, to deep dives into lore for novels I have endless drafts of. From performing in the “lounge room theater” to my (less than enthusiastic after the 34th presentation) family, to real stages and even theater school. From throwing myself headfirst into the film industry, and then striving to write and produce my own short films. I found that as long as I was telling stories, whatever the medium, I was at my happiest. But when I realized that I could combine all of my passions and my true love (fantasy) into one career path, I knew I needed to go all in. It started with an invitation to a group of female TTRPG players and the question ‘what would you like to see more of in the TTRPG community?’ and when the answer was ‘more female Dungeon Masters at the forefront,’ I knew what I wanted to do.

I spent 2 years guest starring on other Twitch channels as a player or Dungeon Master to learn the craft and live-streaming medium. Then I launched my own YouTube Channel in July of 2021 featuring a World Building series where I would build the world we would eventually play in, one week at a time. When it was financially viable for me, I let go of some hours of work to dedicate to the launch of our Twitch Channel in December 2021, where the community could now join in on the world building and future TTRPG show enthusiasm. When I had a thriving community of people who were interested in the world and story I was building; I got to the actual building. Eight months of producing, casting, crafting and building the immersive studio for The Chronicles of Aelwyn. And now, a week from now, we launch our flagship TTRPG show from the first D&D studio in Australia, with a female DM at the helm and an incredible team of diverse Australians behind it all. We could not be more excited.

We’re super excited for your brand new show, The Chronicles of Aelwyn! What can you tell us so far and when will this show be hitting our screens?

The Chronicles of Aelwyn is set in the land of Aelwyn; a world we have been building for over a year through our YouTube series and weekly world building streams on Twitch. Set in a ‘Magic-punk’ world, the six characters will be waking up with no memories of who they are; meaning the six players do not know anything about their characters. Not even their names.

I am incredibly honored that my players have the trust in me to be able to pull off a plot line like this, going into a livestream campaign without any clue of their races, classes or backstories; but I have complete faith in them as the amazingly talented performers and improvers they are, to be able to thrive in the challenge. The Campaign launches on August 2nd at 8pm AWST on Twitch.tv/WintersTales with the stream being uploaded to YouTube later in the week (for those that cannot catch it live.)

As a world builder, we’d love to hear about your process and inspirations when creating the world for The Chronicles of Aelwyn.

As a woman with ADHD, I escaped to the world in my head a lot more than I lived in reality. I would tell stories as a way to express myself and communicate with others, so world building feels like a second skin to me. But it wasn’t until I made my process more public, bringing the World Builder series on YouTube to life and asking the community to join in on the prompts, where I actually found my new passion: collaborative worldbuilding. It takes me back to being a kid and playing with pure imagination, without bounds. Now I spend late nights on the phone with team members, bouncing ideas back and forth until something shiny and perfect for the story emerges. I have taken the imaginary conversations I’d have in character with other characters in my head, and now speak goblin or villain monologue with friends in the kitchen. Not only that, but every Wednesday night, I world build alongside the Winters Tales community; where boundless creativity fires off in chat. Each of these avenues keeps my brain constantly inventing new plots and threads to pull at, but more than that, our discord of creative, like-minded world builders and storytellers now does the same for each other. 

So ‘The Chronicles of Aelwyn’ is as much our friends’ and community’s, as it is ours. We cannot wait to share what we’ve taken from the prompts and suggestions, and fleshed out into tangible parts of Aelwyn.

With the surge of interest in D&D and other TTRPGs in recent time, what affect do you think this could have on the community and industry?

The resurgence of popularity in D&D and TTRPGs is incredible to see; from more livestream actual plays popping up, to the explosion of interest that Stranger Things season 4 sparked, even the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie. Not only are more people finding the hobby, but the gathering of like-minded creatives is inspiring a lot more indie creators to develop their own systems and homebrew content. By joining and expanding these communities of previous outcasts now turned mainstream, where creativity and acceptance is at the forefront, we have an amazing opportunity to build each other up. The industry will also continue to grow with new works, new games and new creators emerging; whether we chop and change platforms or mediums, this ‘game’ has become a lot bigger than we could have ever imagined. Not to mention the added benefits roleplaying games has been seen to have on those who may struggle with communication and connection; it is affecting positive changes in the space. So long as we continue to grow and foster that positivity and passion, we can continue to make the world a bit brighter for those who need it.

What would be your dream TTRPG project?

As cliche as it may sound, this upcoming campaign is my dream TTRPG project. Having a fully immersive studio with multiple cameras, lighting effects, battlemaps, a (live!) soundscape designer and interactive props, just makes the magic of D&D a little bit more real for myself, the players and the audience. Though this is also just the beginning for Winters Tales. We have a lot more creative projects in the works from TTRPG content on our YouTube Channel, to more livestream shows and even short films.

Image description:
AJ is standing under an autumnal tree, backlit in golden light. AJ has long red hair and is wearing a long blue coat with a hood, looking over her shoulder to the camera.

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