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  • Zoey

Community Highlight: Shawnee

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

For our second Community Highlight, we speak with Shawnee, a professional GM, Project Manager, and soon-to-be empowerment coach.

Shawnee has been GMing D&D and other tabletop role-playing games for years, bringing her worlds to life. The same person who introduced her to D&D also introduced her to VR. Her team came second in our VR Role Play game jam, presenting a simple yet elegant role play that plays out differently every time. As a community GM, she has lots of plans for future games in Aexia!

Check out more about Shawnee on her website, and grab a seat at one of her tabletop role plays through her startplaying profile. She also hosts VR Role Play games as a Community GM in the Aexia Discord Server.

Join us as we explore the history of a professional GM who just wants to leave things a little better than she found them:

Zoey: Okay, so to start this off, can you just tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Shawnee: Yeah, so professionally about me, I am a project manager by trade. I essentially work on making sure everything is running smoothly. Additionally, I do life coaching, where empowerment coaching is the specific niche that I'm aiming for.

Additionally, I am a professional game master. I primarily run games through start playing. So I run D&D Monster of the Week, and I'm starting up a new one called God Killer by Connie Chang. They just came out with it a little bit ago, and I am obsessed with the concept.

Zoey: I am curious about empowerment coaching as a type of life coaching, what is that?

Shawnee: That is essentially where I get to go in and meet with people and help work with them to really just discover how they can improve in different ways. So that's kind of what I do personally and professionally. It's an interesting divergence from therapy because I think therapy goes in and assumes that the person is broken. Like there's an inherent kind of idea that something needs to be fixed with it.

Empowerment coaching approaches the person differently in terms of the fact that it assumes that the person just needs to be asked the right questions to find the resources that they already have and start using them to improve rather than fix.

I'm actually starting up the business for that soon. But I'm currently working with practice clients and like working towards my ICF, which is the International Coaching Federation Certification.

I've always wanted to help people in that regard because something that I believe personally is just that if you go into a situation, you have a responsibility to leave it a little bit better than you found it.

Zoey: I like that. I like that philosophy a lot. Shifting the topic a bit, how did you get into roleplay?

Shawnee: Yeah, so I had a friend in high school who fell in love with D&D and kind of dragged me into it. And very quickly - I had always been a writer, and so there were always stories running in the background of my mind - pretty quickly I started GMing just because there's a story that I want to tell within a world that just doesn't currently exist. And so that was my first campaign. It was back in like 2017 or 2018, something around there. …Initially, I think I went into it with a little bit of the wrong mindset, admittedly, because like I went into there to tell a specific story. But what I've grown to love is actually giving people moments where their characters get to really shine. I like creating emotionally intense or involved moments where the characters really get to go through and be like, this is who I am. And this is what I believe.

Zoey: Do you have a favorite character to roleplay, either as a player or a DM?

Shawnee: Oh, tough question. I think the character that I come back to the most is one of my first NPCs, but as a player. The character that I fixated on most was… Her name was Clancy Agalee… I had joined the campaign late, and it was a haunted house campaign. And so the GM was just like, "Oh, well, you have the choice here. You can either be like an agent that was sent from the agency that these guys work for to help, or you can be a ghost." And I was just like, "Ooh, let's go for ghost. I'm not really thinking about any of the ramifications of it." So that was all well and good. She was very kind of happy and upbeat until we found kind of her remains in the house. And then Clancy was immediately like… "Oh, I have feelings about this. And I don't have the space or the desire to deal with these feelings, so we're going to leave this scene as quickly as humanly possible." And so she did.

And then I just kind of kept popping up was just like this idea of, like... So frequently grief and loss in D&D, I think, is like, you know, you lost your family, your parents died, you lost your friend or whatnot. It was really interesting to play a character where it hadn't been intentional, but they were grieving their own life. And what they could have done, what their plans were, and the person that they were closest to, their sibling…

…One of the concepts that I've been hyper-focusing on for the past year and a half now is the concept of home and kind of… how do you make it and what you do when you lose it, or you've never known it? And for Clancy, it was just like, you want to go home, but you don't know where you go. And that was just really interesting to play and kind of explore through Clancy.

Zoey: I often find that type two fun can be more powerful than type one fun. Where type one fun is “Oh, this is really fun in the moment.” And type two fun is experiencing emotions like grief, loss, etc. Like you just described, where it's not necessarily something that you enjoy in the moment, but afterwards you look back on it and you're like, wow, that was a lot of fun. It's very cathartic, I think.

Shawnee: Yeah, it's just, it's an amazing one. And I think also there's kind of, that's the nice thing about D&D, I think, is like for a lot of people, you know, regardless of who you are, there's always… going to be feelings that you don't want to deal with in your real life. You don't have the space to deal with in your real life, or maybe you just like don't know how to express it period. And you can kind of get away with it in D&D. Like, I think something that's really, really interesting is that like, you can kind of explore in a safe way with tabletop and with role play in general. And it's just, it's a very, very cathartic and refreshing experience, I think.

Zoey: Yeah, I 100% agree there. As for my next question, how did you get into VR?

Shawnee: For VR, the same person who introduced me to D&D actually took me to my first VR arcade. And, like, just kind of, we were playing, I think it was like an Elvish warrior or something like that. And I think there was also Beat Saber or something. But it was just, it was fun. It wasn't like a super in-depth thing, especially since I historically haven't really played video games a ton. So, the controls are still something that kind of escapes me sometimes, unfortunately.

But after that, I went through and was just like, that was really fun. I'd love to get more involved in it and just kind of learn more and play more. But I didn't want to go to a VR arcade, so I saved up for a while and then finally got a Quest 2. And yeah, just kind of how I got into VR was very, very casual experience. And then, for Aexia specifically, I got involved through the Start Playing program when they were looking for GMs.

Zoey: Is there anything you particularly enjoy or don't enjoy about VR?

Shawnee: I think what I really enjoy about VR is it is kind of like immersion. I think if you're good at it in tabletop, then you can kind of leave your head and inhabit someone else's for a while. But it takes some practice, it takes some doing to get there. And it also takes familiarity with the character. For VR, that is… In some ways, it's easier to kind of inhabit that world and just be like, oh, I am this entirely different person for two hours. And that's really interesting, I think.

Zoey: You signed up as a community GM. What are some of the types of games that you're hoping to run in the future?

Shawnee: Yeah, I think you've kind of gotten a taste of some of the styles of stuff that I want to run through Good Night, which I'm so excited for when the portals start working again because I want to run that game officially.

But… horror would be interesting to do in VR, especially with the limitations since we can't create objects on our own, and there are no real monsters that exist. It pretty much entirely has to be in some effect psychological environmental and to a limited limited amount audio, which is just kind of an interesting set of parameters to work within. And so that's something that I'm interested in exploring.

Zoey: One last question. And that is, is there any particular message you would like to give to the Aexia community?

Shawnee: Hmm. I think just probably, you know, give it a shot if you're like, if you're wanting to play some games and like maybe there are no scheduled times available, reach out to some of the GMs directly and be like, “hey, I would love to play this game. Are you available during these times?” And we can probably work with you. I would love to see players being a little bit more active in the server because right now, we have a lot of GMs that are working on stuff.

Zoey: I just want to say thank you very much for this interview.

Zoey: It's always interesting to hear other people's experiences regarding roleplay, VR, and, you know, just their life in general.

Final Thoughts: Shawnee's journey through the realms of tabletop role-playing, empowerment coaching, and VR is nothing short of inspiring. Her commitment to making the world a better place, one session at a time, shines throughout our interview. To the community, Shawnee's message is clear: don't hesitate to reach out, connect, and explore the possibilities of VR Role Play in Aexia. Thank you for joining us and keep on the look out for more Community Highlights to come.

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