Welcome to our Creator Spotlight blog series! Nearly every Monday, we’ll focus on a different wonderful industry creator, as an individual, including Paizo staff, freelancers, contractors, podcast players, streamers, YouTubers, licensed partners, and more. The format is a list of standardized questions from which interviewees can choose. Request the Creator Spotlight form by emailing email@example.com. This week we're shining a spotlight on our PaizoCon guest of honor, Vanessa Hoskins! Let’s get started!
Name: Vanessa Hoskins
Role (if not staff): Freelance Author, PaizoCon 2022 Guest of Honor
Social Media Handles: Twitter @NinjaCatVanessa
Tell us about yourself. What is your bio? What's your story behind the bio? Why do you do what you do?
A few weeks ago folks got my dry, more business-y bio in the PaizoCon 2022 announcement blog. While it’s true that I started writing for Pathfinder in 2013, it’s difficult to get to know a person through a formal bio. So let’s get informal.
I’m a queer transgender woman, though I only discovered this about 5 years ago. I literally discovered this about myself through playing and writing for Pathfinder. While I was writing Pathfinder Society Special 8–99: The Solstice Scar, I devised the character of Medda Spiritbearer, a central NPC to the adventure. While writing it, a trans friend of mine was talking about how there could be more trans representation in Pathfinder Society (there’s loads now, but back then we just had one character and she was… played for laughs. It wasn’t good.) I thought, “I can make Medda trans, sure!” I started researching transgender women, what it means to be trans, and even got a popular trans consultant to assist with writing the character. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the way trans women experienced the world, the feelings they had about themselves, were startlingly relatable. I came out about a year later. You can read more about that here.
I’m a non-athletic video-game nerd at heart. I love playing on PC and consoles, you name it. I find gaming in all forms to be an engaging form of puzzle solving, storytelling, and dopamine production all rolled into one. Some of my favorites are the Final Fantasy series, Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Street Fighter II.
I have a film degree! …but I’ve never used it professionally. Even though I’ve been trained as a writer and director, by the time I graduated I had a steady job in Information Technology and the film industry was in a bit of a slump, so entry level jobs were difficult to find. However, I do find use of my degree constantly while working on creative projects. The axiom “Always preserve your options,” has resonated with me throughout my careers. Essentially, “don’t limit yourself to a decision before you have to.” In film this meant shooting in color, even if you wanted black & white as an end result. By shooting in color, you have more “channels” of light to adjust before desaturating everything. And if you want to keep that red umbrella red? You can isolate it from the filters instead of having to colorize it later.
My passion for TTRPGs is greater than just about any other form of entertainment. I’d rather be rolling dice with friends than watching a movie, going to the park, or just about anything. It’s my #1 thing I’d want to do with my spare time, given the option. Dice and characters and settings! Oh my!
Tell us about a project you are particularly proud of!
I’m extremely proud of Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-07: From the Tome of Righteous Repose. It was the first evergreen PFS scenario to start above 1st level, and it’s essentially a build-a-dungeon. When I was asked to write it, I remember thinking about how so many evergreens at the time were the same story and maps over and over, but with slightly different foes. I wanted something that really felt unique at the table, and gave GMs the creative control to homebrew their own dungeon crawl (within a limited number of pre-approved options). There’s even a way to roll up a random set of challenges, which is how I always run it. I allow the players to roll on the tables just before running the adventure, so I don’t even know what I’m running until we get started.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Pop culture mostly? But not just what’s popular now; I draw from the cartoons I watched as a kid and books I read as a teen. I also play the “what if” game a lot where I take a set of given circumstances and ask myself “what if ___ is really happening?” or “what if the NPC is really a ____?” These brainstorms usually land a few chunks of gold (or at least silver) that I can then build into a fun adventure!
What are your goals or dreams as a creator?
I’d LOVE to open my own video game studio and make the kinds of games I loved as a kid. So… that’s just what I’m doing with Ninja Cat Games. It’s a little start-up studio I’m still trying to get off the ground, but so far it looks like it might just be a rocket ride!
How have you seen immersive fantasy worlds and cooperative strategic play bring people together and create lifelong friendships?
Through the Organized Play system, mostly. After having volunteered as a Venture–Captain for years, and gone to Gen Con for even longer, I’ve meet people from all over the country—all over the world! It’s really amazing, and I feel really lucky to have met so many awesome people in all different places around the world. Sometimes my wife will mention a city or European country and I interject, “—Oh, I have some friends who live there!”
Sitting and a table and sharing an experience with other people, and working together towards a common goal, is a way to open lines of communication and friendship like nothing else. And because the players are all working together rather than against each other, there’s no animosity like in… say… competitive professional sports.
What piece of advice that you have been given as a creator that is either so great that you have to tell us about it, or so awful that you have to warn us?
I have two good pieces of advice, and they go hand in hand:
- Everyone is late at some point. I rallied against this for a while early in my career. I’d say “Not me! I’ve never been late and I don’t intend to start now.” Then… then I had some really challenging months and fell far behind several projects. I even had to “give back” some assignments or parts of assignments so that I could take care of the things going on in my life. I was devastated. I’d never been late before. I was so PROUD of that… but that’s just what it was: pride. It’s ok to be late, and it’s ok if you fall behind sometimes. You just need to…
- Communicate with your Developer. Let them know about issues you’re having, parts of the plot that aren’t jelling, or a monster ability that you can envision conceptually but just can’t get in words. And if you’re overwhelmed and not be able to turn your words in on time (and within 5% of the word count), then just talk with them. They might be able to buy you more time. They might want to re-assign some words. That’s ok. Just communicate with them and be clear and honest about the expectations of getting something done, and with good enough quality to print.
Please tell us about your pet!
My cat, Bella, is a black American shorthair. She is a cuddle MONSTER. That’s all she ever wants is to cuddle (or to be left alone to sleep). Recently she’s decided that “tent time” is the best time: that’s when we lay in bed and lift our knees up to create a “tent” under the covers. She likes to sleep down there.,/p>
If you could be any iconic, who would you be?
If I could be any iconic I’d be Seoni. She’s hot, she has powerful magic, and these awesome magic tattoos. Plus she’s really smart and a good leader.
However… I’m probably most like Merisiel. I’m kind of a disaster, but well intentioned. I saw the wrong thing at the wrong time, much to my wife’s dismay, and when I get angered, I get can get stabby (verbally, of course).
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
New York City. It’s the greatest city in the world, and when I’m there I feel like I’m in the right place. The first time I visited is when I was about 25 and I brought my little brother along. We walked all around the city, slept on a bench, visited museums, and just hung out in Central Park. From that moment I knew that I wanted to live there someday.
Creator Spotlight: Vanessa Hoskins
Monday, May 23, 2022