Lauren "Oboe" Urban
This week we have an epic interview from professional Bard, @laurenoboe!
We got to speak about Lauren’s own history with TTRPGs and the power of friendships forged at the table.
How did you first discover D&D?
When I was very young, in grade school, my parents got me the red box in hopes that I’d find other kids to play with. But between my social awkwardness and the Satanic Panic, I ended up just playing the intro adventure by myself a bunch. Fast forward to 2009, and decades of loving RPGs in video game format, and I started listening to the Acquisitions Incorporated podcasts with them playing 4th edition. I was moving across the county to Seattle, knew I needed a way to make some new friends, and the release of the 4th edition red box made me all excited and nostalgic. So I went to my FLGS and found a game to join!
How could we encourage more women to jump into the D&D community?
As D&D has grown into a hobby that can be performed as entertainment in front of others, it’s been a way to show the incredible diversity of people who play D&D. The more streams/shows/specials that are out there filled with a wonderful mixture of all kinds of people, the more likely someone at home will easily see themselves as a person who could play D&D and fit in the community.
What has the TTRPG community come to mean to you?
The most important thing is the lifelong friends I have made playing games with so many wonderful people. TTRPGs are such a powerful interactive experience that it really forms some special bonds between those I’ve played with. On top of that, the last few years I have been incredibly fortunate to join casts of shows performing D&D in front of an audience, which has filled my love and need to have a performing outlet as the orchestral world has shut down. Playing on stream, with friends I adore, has filled my soul and kept me going for a long time.
As part of the Idle Champions team, where can you see D&D and TTRPGs heading in the future as they move into different platforms?
I love our Idle Champions Presents shows, where we are able to feature Content Creators playing the characters they created and are in our game, and the players of Idle Champions can vote to affect the D&D stream! That kind of cross media cohesion highlights the power of both types of games, TTRPGs and video games, and I would love to see more!
What's it been like joining the Children Of Earte crew as Neb, over on Demiplane?
It has been an absolute joy! Having played for a few years with Hope, Jen and Adam, this new show is a chance to have fun with friends with all new characters. And Deborah and Alicia are absolutely fantastic people who I am thrilled to get to play with! Neb has been a character concept I’ve had for a while, and to be able to have her interact and grow with these other characters has me excited to get to Tuesday nights so we can play again.
Having played and DMed in so many amazing streamed games, do you have a favourite moment you'd like to share with us?
Just ONE? A WEALTH springs to mind!
My favorite moments are character interactions, because I value how the story has affected and changed the PCs. Having the chance for my PC and another player’s character to ask questions, talk through issues, work on ideas, argue with each other, console one another…I live for those moments! As a DM my favorite moments are when my players take the reins and just TALK, and if they have interesting/deep/difficult/wonderful things to talk about then those are the moments I feel like I’ve done a good job as a DM.
So all my moments are when my interaction with another PC has affected my PC in some meaningful way. Penelope giving Orkira a pebble as a sign that she still cares, even when she is afraid she isn’t real. Alyndra teaching Orkira how to write a book, so she could craft the most important book of her life. The absolute joy of sharing snacks with Desmond. Mulling over questions, problems, and solutions with Saesha as they watch the sun rise. Harold preparing the hottest cup of tea he could manage to warm Orkira up. There are dozens more, snippets of interactions that change our characters in small and big ways.
As a DM, do you have any advice for players out there tempted to step behind the DM screen for the first time?
Find yourself a short one-shot, an adventure you could play through in 2-4 hours. One of the most intimidating parts of being a DM is becoming overwhelmed at how much you think you need to know/create/prepare, which is something that becomes a LOT easier once you’ve had some practice running a few games. So make those games easy on yourself and keep it short and simple! Once you’ve run a few short adventures you’ll learn the most important things you need to know as a DM: what are you really good at improvising, and what do you need to prepare ahead of time. Every DM is different, and once you have run a few one shots you’ll have an excellent idea of where your strengths are. That makes preparing and running longer adventures, or whole campaigns, a LOT less daunting!
As a musician, how do you like to incorporate music into your games? And how could we bring more music into TTRPGs?
Ironically I don’t use music in my games! That’s because I get VERY easily distracted by the music, my focus is pulled into the orchestra and away from the table. But I know that’s a pretty unique issue tied to my classical background. For those groups that love ambient music/sounds while they are playing, it can be a wonderful way to add to the immersion at the table. But I do suggest you check in with everyone before you start putting that playlist together!
What safety tools do you use at your table? And what difference did their introduction make to your games?
I use two different tools for my games. One is an anonymous spreadsheet my players can access at any time, with a list of common things that can be on a lines and veils list. Players can mark off their comfort level with all of those situations, and add to the list if something is missing. Since it’s anonymous, everyone can feel comfortable marking things and accessing that sheet so the whole table knows what should be avoided. The other is the X Card, which I’ve found to be the simplest and easiest way to make sure players have a way to indicate during a game when a topic or situation is making them uncomfortable.
These tools have made a HUGE difference in my games, both as a player and DM! I remember running a 4e game where the party encountered a group of giant spiders, and I had no idea until I was putting them down on the board that some of my players were seriously arachnophobic. Fortunately we were good friends who had played together a long time, and I was able to pivot pretty quickly to turn them into gigantic bunnies. But it was awkward, uncomfortable, and I felt horrible. With these tools in place, I have a lot more confidence running a game my players will enjoy, and as a player they’ve given me the confidence to be clear about my own lines and veils in the games I play. Especially as I love my characters digging into emotions, dealing with hard decisions, and being horrifically challenged…knowing my DM knows the situations and lines that both I and the other players do not want crossed, it gives me the freedom to go to serious places without fear.
What would be your dream project?
I love the interconnected stories that a lot of us have been able to do across tables and streams. We’ve been able to do it with guest stars jumping into another show, or with short campaigns like Idle Champions Presents. It goes back to my love of character interaction, because the more characters my PC gets to experience, the more amazing moments we can create! And I love the few times I’ve been able to participate in an Epic, where many different tables play at the same time in the same adventure, all working in different ways towards the same goal. So I’d love a stream made up of players whose characters have come from different shows, and room for guests to join in for several episodes, to have crossovers that have the time to have some emotional resonance.
Thank you so much to Lauren for taking the time to speak to us! You can catch Lauren in so many amazing actual plays. Make sure you’re following her on Twitter if you’re not already to make sure you get all the news.
Also, check out Lauren as Neb in Demiplane’s Children Of Earte show with DM Deborah Ann Woll!
Lauren sits behind a DM screen, her chin resting on her hand and smiling towards the camera. She has short, dark hair and is wearing a black shirt.
Behind Lauren is a dramatically lit bookcase filled with books and sparkling objects.