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Holly Conrad (born May 22, 1986)[1] is an artist, cosplayer, and YouTuber, also known as CommanderHolly. Her character in DCA is Strix Skizziks, a tiefling sorcerer.

Personal Life and Career Edit

Holly was born (and currently resides) in the greater Los Angeles area with her husband, Ross O'Donovan (otherwise known as animator Rubber Ninja, a Game Grumps member and a brief guest on DCA).[1,2,3] Since she was very young, Holly has "loved birds, nature [and] hiking" and has since adopted multiple pigeons, a dove, two cockatiels, a bearded dragon, and three cats.[4] She has also enjoyed dressing up since she was five years old,[2] and learned to craft and make costumes, which she began posting tutorials for on her YouTube channel.[5] Her online pseudonym Commander Holly was inspired by Commander Shepard, the lead character of Mass Effect and one of her favorite video games.[1] She was featured in Morgan Spurlock's documentary, Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope for her cosplay of Shepard, which she credits as responsible for her "start in YouTube".[5] She was also a cast member of the SyFy series Heroes of Cosplay.[5] She has also "worked in special effects, creating creatures and costumes in shops for Disney, Dreamworks, Adult Swim, and more." [1,5]

Holly started playing Dungeons and Dragons in middle school or early high school,[6,7] but says she actually first got "into D&D from playing the video games, like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment."[6,7,8] Her YouTube channel also hosts a series of video game playthroughs called Commander Holly Plays! [1,5]

She credits the storytelling aspect of D&D to being the "gateway to my entire career", with it molding how she shares her artwork and her stories with others online.[7] She enjoys using art as a medium for storytelling, having it evoke questions such as "why does this character have scars [or] weapons" and is especially drawn to otherworldly aspects, being heavily inspired by Planescape artist Tony Diterlizzi.[7,8] Holly earned a degree in Medieval History at UCSB and studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, "specializing in folk magic and Medieval literature".[5] She wrote a book when she was younger and says her next big project "is working on getting my (technically second) fantasy novel published."[2,7]

Since 2017, she has guest starred in three episodes of Penny Arcade's Acquisitions Incorporated.[9] She also made an appearance in the Acq Inc spinoff series "The C Team".[10] She joined her DCA costar Jared Knabenbauer, husband Ross, and several other members of Game Grumps on a podcast show of a 5E D&D campaign called "Dragons in Places" (DiP).[11] She also began her own online D&D tutorial series called "The Friendly Table" [12] and a beginner-friendly D&D livestream series "Divvy the Loot",[13] where she plays an Aarakocra wizard named Fancy Boi. She most recently developed a Planescape-themed D&D series called "Trapped in the Birdcage" that she DMs,[14] where her DCA costar Anna Prosser plays and Ross has also appeared as a guest. Per Holly, this series shares the same universe as DCA, but takes place a few decades before the start of the latter, with a crossover event already shown in one of the episodes.[15-17]

Role in Dice, Camera, Action! Edit

When Jared Knabenbaur was picked by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to put together a team of fellow internet personalities for their livestream D&D series "Dice, Camera, Action!", his friend Holly came to mind.[8] Given her love of Sigil and tieflings from the Planescape books, Holly chose to use Strix, whose "trash witch" looks were inspired by one of Diterlizzi's drawings.[8,18] Holly first came up with a version of Strix as her Neverwinter Nights online character, and has since "always played a tiefling and a sorcerer, but never the same one or the same name".[18] Strix's name has associations with both owls and witches in folklore[19], and Holly has admitted to a love of large-eyed birds like owls[4], and that "I love Owlbears irrationally. Like they're my spirit animal".[2]

Holly chose to play a character who "had self-preservation [as] one of their interests, because I've played characters before that were really reckless".[6] She enjoys playing "a crazy trash witch" because even though she's always panicking, she's also "gross and ridiculous, so I can still be funny".[20] She especially likes playing magic users, because "it gives you a lot of opportunities to to do silly stuff--and that makes me real happy--and be creative, like polymorphing giants into chickens, and using prestidigitation to do silly stuff".[6] Holly admits to having anxiety herself, and suggests that players should "take an aspect of yourself, like anxiety...and exaggerate that, and that makes [them] an interesting character to play, because there is that bit of yourself in there, and it also works through your own issues...[to] explore 'why do I feel like that?' and teach you a little bit about yourself." [6] She compares the tone of the DCA to the Guardians of the Galaxy, "we're like funny, but underneath there's a deeper message, and things we're exploring with our characters are things that people can relate to on a deeper level".[21]

If Strix were to multiclass, Holly predicts she would probably multiclass into Wizard "so she can know more spells".[20] If Holly were forced to let Strix die, she does have other tieflings in mind, one being her character Alba that she is using in DiP, as well as an overachieving "sassy academic elven wizard I keep around just in case".[20]

References Edit

[1] Holly Conrad. Game Grumps Wiki

[2] CommanderHolly subreddit.

[3] Ross O'Donovan. Wikipedia.

[4] "Why do I like birds?" YouTube.

[5] Commander Holly website.

[6] "D&D Q&A! (Patreon Questions)". YouTube

[7] Holly Conrad on D&D And the Art of Storytelling. Dungeon Life.

[8] Dragon Talk, 7/10/17 - Holly Conrad. Dungeons and Dragons.

[9] Acquisitions Incorporated Episode list. Penny Arcade.

[10] Acquisitions Inc: C Team: S2 E7. Penny Arcade Website. 

[11] Dragons in Places: Game Grumps Reddit.

[12] The Friendly Table. YouTube.

[13] "Divvy the Loot." Twitch channel.

[14] Trapped in the Birdcage Reddit.

[15] Holly Conrad on D&D's 'Trapped In The Birdcage'. D&D Beyond.

[16] Pax East 2018 - Dragonfly Theater - Wafflecrew Tea Time Q&A. Twitch.com

[17] Tapped in the Birdcage, Ep 6. Twitch.com.

[18] https://twitter.com/HollyConrad/status/938958719110361088. Twitter.

[19] "The "study" of mythological and folkloric implications of Strixes name". DCA Reddit.

[20] "I'm Holly! I play Strix! I know Magic! AMA!" DCA Reddit.

[21] SoA - Dice, Camera, Action interview. Dungeons and Dragons.