Tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons are experiencing unprecedented levels of financial success and mainstream attention, as celebrities from around the world have declared their love for tossing dice. The next major D&D event will feature a player that will be familiar to fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as Rock M. Sakura will be a player in Reality RP, where she will step off the runway and put on a robe and wizard hat.
The next major Dungeons & Dragons event is D&D Live 2020: Roll w/ Advantage, which will consist of several live-streamed events due to COVID-19. The event will introduce the next D&D campaign as part of a show called Reality RP, which will force ten players into an uneasy alliance as they try to work out the identity of the traitor in their midst. Reality RP will give fans the chance to learn more about the setting through social media, in order to discover which players are telling the truth and which are lying to further their own ends.
One of the ten players in Reality RP will be Rock M. Sakura, who was the second contestant to leave the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but she attracted a huge fanbase for her infectious personality and for outfits that were inspired by anime and video games. We spoke to Ms. Sakura in the run-up to Reality RP, which will run from June 18-20 and will combine D&D with elements from reality TV shows and social media.
Tell me about Reality RP, as D&D Live 2020 is going to be a bit unusual due to real-life circumstances.
So, basically it’s a live roleplaying event we’re going to be doing over the course of several days and it has a lot of interactive elements with audiences. We’re doing it on multiple platforms, we’re doing it on Instagram live, we’re doing it through different social media platforms. It’s like, super immersive, is basically what it is. Since we’re all inside, we feel that it’s such a good idea to play with all of these different social media platforms and to get people really really involved. There’s a reality TV show aspect to what is going on with our event, so it’s right up my alley and it’s something I can really relate to, so I’m really excited to be part of this event.
I’ve heard it being described in a similar way to The Circle.
That’s a really good way to put it yeah. Reality TV and roleplaying have a lot in common when it comes to improv and charisma and those are some key things that I’m keeping in mind going into all of this.
At the previous D&D Live events, some of the players showed up in full costume. Will everyone be making the effort to attend the digital event in costume? I’d like to think that you of all the players will have the most on hand to make a really good costume, but will you be making an outfit for the event?
I have a lot of experience making costumes and I have a lot of experience performing, so you better believe that my costumes will be out there. I’m trying to see if I can make a practical set, but I don’t have the Jim Henson team on me right now, so it might be made out of cardboard. It might be more kitschy and campy dynamic.
Reality RP has been described as a mix between D&D and the party game Mafia/Werewolf. Were you familiar with either of those games going in and if so, do you consider yourself to be good at them?
I was very familiar with Werewolf going into this game and I have to say that I’m not very good at it. I’m very bad at bluffing and I’m a very honest person, so it’s hard for me to have ulterior motives and to be subtle with what I want to do. First and foremost, I am a performer and an actor. It’s new territory for me, so I’ll really have to bring my A-game to succeed. I’m also good at telling when other people are lying, so I suspect that aspect will work in my favor.
I’m curious about how you first got into tabletop role-playing?
I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I did have a select amount of friends and D&D one of those things I kind of fell into on a Friday night. I would hang out at our local tabletop gaming store, mostly because I think nerds are really cute, I really like those nerd boys, they… you know, they like Mountain Dew and Cheetos. So I’d go to the local tabletop gaming place and I was introduced to D&D. I was also into Community by Dan Harmon and he has a show called Harmontown which is a D&D podcast and also on the show they’ve done D&D homage episode, and I thought that episode was so fun that I kind of want to emulate it and see if it’s just as fun as it looked like on the show. And the first time I played D&D I probably laughed until I peed myself. I have a really chaotic energy when it comes to D&D.
How popular do you think nerd culture is in the drag community? Did you bond with other contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race about geek stuff?
Well, especially on this season, there were a lot of geeks on this season. Nerd culture has always been ingrained in drag culture, at least where I’m from, and there are typically a lot of nerds in the drag scene. This season we had me, Dahlia-Sin, Heidi ‘N Closet, Nicky Doll, we’re all big anime fans, and Jackie Cox was a huge Trekkie, I would say that nerd culture was really represented well this season. Drag Race has also had a lot of successful queens on it, like Dax Exclamationpoint, Jinkx Monsoon, BenDeLaCreme, Phi Phi O’Hara. We totally bonded over geek stuff over my season, mostly because there are some times when we were creating our makeup and we can only talk about the drama that is going on in the season for so long. and when the cameras are off we can’t really discuss anything regarding the show, so the only thing we have to talk about is pop culture. A lot of the girls actually bonded over anime and cartoons. I’m not sure if any of the other girls played D&D actively, but I know that a lot of them would be really good at it. (By that I mean they would be really bad at it, it would be interesting to watch).
So, you’re a big gamer. While in lockdown, what have been your go-to games over the past few months?
I’ve been replaying Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on Nintendo Switch, the trilogy. I’ve been revisiting Tekken. I used to play Tekken competitively, I’ve been very into fighting games for a long time. My last partner, I met at a video game arcade. We were dating for ten years and part of our weekly ritual was to go to the arcade. I was more of a fighting games and rhythm games kind of person, like DDR. I play a lot of Animal Crossing. It’s a huge ally for people who have clinical depression, it just makes you feel good.
Now I know you’re a big fan of the Pokémon franchise and I was wondering what your thoughts are on Pokémon Sword & Shield, as they’ve had a polarizing reaction from the fans?
Here’s the thing, I did not buy Pokémon Sword & Shield. I’m a big Pokémon fan. I really don’t appreciate when game developers lie to their fanbase to get money and Game Freak lied. Game Freak took out all of those Pokémon from the Pokédex and could have easily just imported them all, and they’re making people pay for DLC for Pokémon that they already have the assets to. They really just want more money. The game itself was so short that it doesn’t really justify the $60 that goes into it. It’s also content that, if you want everything in the game, then you have to buy both versions or have friends to trade with, but you typically have to buy both versions. So at $60 and $60, that’s $120, and then you have to pay for DLC.
Are you familiar with the new Pokémon in the game? The ones from the Galar region?
Oh yeah, they’re so ugly. I cannot with them. The creative director of this game was the guy who was the creative director for Generation V, and Generation V is usually regarded as fans as having one of the worst Pokémon designs. He made that f****g ice cream Pokémon. Like, I get the design, but it’s stupid. If that were a real Pokémon, I’d probably let it melt out under the sun.
I’d eat it, I think it looks delicious, but I wouldn’t keep it as a Pokémon.
Oh, true true true, yeah. Maybe if it was a snack, but not as a companion. It’s not something I’m supposed to love and cherish.
Yeah, and the garbage Pokémon from the same generation.
I do like Garbodor. Garbodor is relatively cute trash. I understand they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel on what they can turn into Pokémon and I understand the argument that, you know, Generation I had Grimer, Voltorb, Magnemite and all of these unimaginative Pokémon. But those Pokémon speficically are too detailed and too referential to everyday objects and things that people use.
Oh god, I hate Klefki. That generation really suffered because it added a new type and it also has the lowest amount of Pokémon introduced.
Last year you did a video about who the most Dragalicious Pokémon are and this was before Pokémon Sword & Shield came out. Do you think any of the new ones would make the list if you did that video again today?
Lemme look at the Pokédex.. Oh god… these Pokémon designs are so bad. From the list of Pokémon we have, Hatterene definately would be a Dragalicious Pokemon. Not because of her color palette, as pastels aren’t used a lot in drag, but mostly because the shape of her hair. We like a good backcombed wig, we like a big va-va-voom moment with the hips. Let’s see… Impidimp looks just like Crystal Method. She looks just like Crystal. I’ve seen a lot of drag queens with the same body proportions as Dracozolt. They’re the fossil Pokémon that have big lower bodies. They look like they have baggy pants but they just have big hips. If I had to choose one more for the list… probably Cramorant. It’s the bird with the fish in its mouth. Because drag queens know how to suuuuucckkk!
I know you’re a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, what did you think of Final Fantasy VII Remake?
Final Fantasy VII Remake was good until the end. It got really convoluted and it was like, it wasn’t really a remake. It felt like they were trying to shove a new generation’s Advent Children down my throat. Also, Square Enix is getting very convoluted with its plots. I think what it is, it’s Kojima syndrome. The more games that you make, the more you try to top yourself with crazy story elements, plots and twists. People lose sight of what they originally liked. The graphics were really amazing, Cloud in drag was exactly what I thought it would be in HD. That was the only thing I remember people talking about. It feels like whenever Square Enix hypes up a game it lets down at least in the ending.
Which is your favorite Final Fantasy and which character from the series has influenced you the most?
I have a very niche game as my favorite Final Fantasy, my favorite is Final Fantasy Tactics. I think the story is absolutely amazing and the battle system is so immersive. We like playing RP and D&D so, numbers just turn us on, they get our nipples very hard. So, that’s my favorite game in the franchise, but I have to say the character that influenced me the most in the series is Quina from Final Fantasy IX. Color palette-wise, she’s so interesting, I remember seeing her concept art and being completely enamored with all of the different colors. Just the way that the character design was integrated so well with practical art. I have a lot of Amano’s work in my house as references for costumes I want to make.
Yes, her original design was very different. It was way more colorful. The PlayStation couldn’t really deal with that.
Yeah, I really appreciated that they kept Amano on as a concept designer for the bulk of the Final Fantasy series. Because his art is so iconic. But his art is so referential to contemporary fashion, mixed with old art.
I know you were eliminated earlier than expected from RuPaul’s Drag Race, do you have any hope of appearing on a future season of All Stars?
I would love to come back to Drag Race on an All Stars season or bring me back next season, or season 14, or whatever. Bring me back in some fashion. I love Drag Race so much, I would love to come back in any shape or form. But if I came back to an All-Stars, I’d love to come back in and compete and have this mindset to demolish the competition from the beginning. Going in, I really wanted to celebrate my city San Francisco and really show what we are about, but I’ve already done that. I used designers and hair stylsts just from my city, and if I went back into All-Stars. I would really focus on making my visions come to life and get designers from all over the world.
Wizards of the Coast has revealed that the D&D fanbase is now 39% female, with around 1% being trans/non-binary. This is a huge change from years ago. What do you think has led to such a drastic shift in the audience of D&D?
I think a shift in nerd culture, especially with gatekeeper nerds, I feel like nerd culture has been inherently very misogynistic and chauvinistic even though a lot of nerds consider themselves to be disenfranchised people. Nerds feel very persecuted socially, and it kind of justified a lot of people’s chauvinism or sexism. Our culture is evolving and nerd culture has started to be more respectful towards women in the culture and being inclusive, and also, nerd culture is breaking into the mainstream, so a lot of social norms are making their way into conversations and the way we interact with people. I always felt like nerd culture was so detached from like the social norm, the way people interacted, but now that it has become more mainstream, that kind of dialogue is there now. There are movements now like Cosplay Is Not Consent and people who are holding each other accountable.
Did you expect the outpour of love from fans after leaving the show, especially as you haven’t had a chance to meet many of them face-to-face due to COVID-19?
I did not expect the amount of love I’ve been getting since being on the show. Mostly because I left second and from the time I left the show to the time that the episode aired, I was still convinced that no one was going to like me, solely on my placement. I was so surprised, it really says a lot about how it’s not how long you’re there, it’s your impact. It’s about the stories you tell and it’s also about getting your screentime and if you run into the room and if you jump on the floor and do a Simpsons reference, then people will take notice.
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D&D Live 2020 will take from June 18 to June 20. You can check out Rock M. Sakura on Instagram and Twitter.