How did you get started playing/running TTRPGs?
I got involved in the hobby as a kid in the early 80s. D&D was very much in the zeitgeist and I seemed to encounter it in all sorts of popular culture. Once I saw the Erol Otus cover on the Tom Moldvay Basic Set I was hooked for life–I was already a great fantasy fan and the pulpy cover just thrilled my 10-year-old self. By the time I was 12, I was running three different D&D groups and playing up to 20 hours per week. Mostly D&D, but we also played Paranoia, Star Wars, Dragon Warriors, and Call of Cthulhu. I was in deep!
What’s your favorite TTRPG to play?
I’ve been mostly playing D&D Fifth Edition for the last decade, so I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating! It’s a terrific game, though – for people looking for epic fantasy, it really hits the sweet spot in terms of simplicity vs mechanical choice.
What TTRPG would you recommend for anyone new to the hobby?
I’m probably not the best person to ask since I primarily play D&D at the moment! The Fifth Edition starter sets are very good for beginners. At the other end of the spectrum, I’m going to use “No thank you, evil” by Monte Cook to introduce one of my kids to RPGs soon.
How often do you play or GM now?
My current D&D group meets once a fortnight on Thursday nights. We’ve been playing together for about 4 years and have taken one set of characters from level 1 to 20, and are up to level 13 with our second set of characters. The campaign is based in Calimshan in the Forgotten Realms, which I published a guidebook for a few years back. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve used it as a chance to revisit a bunch of published D&D adventures, both new and classics.
I also play pick up games during the week when I can and try to get to conventions. A few months ago I ran 4 tables at PAX Aus, which was quite exhausting. We played a game of my own creation, a weird World War II setting using 5E rules. I’ve run it at quite a few conventions now, and folks love it.
When did you start writing and publishing for TTRPGs?
Well, I’ve been writing ever since I stepped behind the DMs screen – and I think that is true for most of us. But my first official published credit was in an old school product called Morgansfort back in 2010, followed by some work in Petty Gods, which was published in 2013. But it was not until 2016 when the DMs Guild opened that I began publishing seriously. Since then I’ve published a few things with WOTC, but I’ve mostly focused on publishing my own material.
Do you have any advice for GMs that are thinking about publishing their own adventures or products?
I wrote a whole book of advice called The Anatomy of Adventure! But here are four quick points to get you started:
- Tabletop game designers are actually writers, so make sure you work on your writing skills.
- Read as many good adventures, old and new, as you can.
- Get hold of the style guide for your favourite game and internalise it.
- Start soon and publish often.
Do you have any advice about crowdsourcing TTRPG products?
I’m really a beginner in the world of crowdfunding myself, having only run two campaigns. I would advise folks starting out to make their first project small, have a low funding target, and make sure you have a completed draft before you launch. Do these three things, and you are unlikely to get into trouble.
How does your approach differ when writing adventures, compared to writing “advice” books, like “The Anatomy of Adventure”?
They are very different forms of writing! With the adventures, I tend to start with the germ of an idea and then outline and revise, filling in more spaces with each revision. The essays are written in a much more linear fashion, and I’ll have a readable draft after the first pass, whereas the first pass of an adventure will be like a skeleton with scattered gobs of flesh hanging off the bones. In both cases, I revise often once I have a readable product, testing and re-testing each passage for rhythm.
What else would you like to tell us that we haven’t asked you?
Anyone who wants to keep up with what I’m doing should subscribe to my newsletter: https://www.mtblackgames.com/newsletter. I send out heaps of free resources and advice every week.
Thanks so much for talking with us!