Interview with Sam Bartlett of Roll & Play

One of the most enjoyable things about putting together random tables is the inspiration I get for my own games. Writing down a list of strange plant life or coming up with the names of mysterious books immediately triggers story threads in my mind that the characters in my games can discover or explore

A slightly different interview with Sam Bartlett, the creator of funded kickstarter Roll & Play

Q&A with Sam Bartlett of Roll & Play

How did you get the idea for Roll & Play?

I have been a DM for a number of campaigns over the years, and one of the things which is always challenging to manage is the randomness of roleplaying games. I began using random tables to improve my games – I found they helped me to control the chaos (mostly!) but still keep things exciting and fun.

I am a graphic designer and have specialised in book design for the past 6 years, so the idea of creating a book full of tables came quite quickly. I wanted a book that could be used during a session as an improvisation aid, or before a session to help with planning (flicking through random generators can really trigger your imagination). I knew I definitely wanted the book to be made with wire-binding, as there’s nothing more annoying than when the book you’re using slams shut halfway through a game.

In my day job I design books for toy and hobby brands like LEGO, which is a lot of fun as you can be bold with colour and imagery. I really wanted to use this approach for Roll & Play, by turning what’s essentially pages of data and lists into something visually impactful.

What made you choose Kickstarter?

Publishing the project on Kickstarter was originally the end goal, but it turned into a springboard towards something new!

After designing, styling and writing the first few pages I wanted to send it out into the tabletop roleplaying game community to see if anyone else would find the book useful. When the first two or three people were interested and backed the campaign, for me the project was complete. I was humbled and taken aback by the response that it had in the days and weeks that followed.

Using Kickstarter as a platform highlighted an appetite within the community for a product like this, and helped to reach game masters across the world. The project turned into something much bigger than I could have ever imagined.

What are your most painful lessons you’ve learnt from Kickstarter so far?

The way in which the project expanded (and this being my first Kickstarter campaign) it suddenly became a lot bigger than I had initially thought it would be. The campaign was funded overnight on day one, and we smashed all of our initial stretch goals within the first 24 hours… this was of course amazing! But, with this achievement also came more stretch goals to plan and global logistics to figure out.

That is all behind me now though, and I’m really happy with the way it came together! Getting the book fully completed, printed and shipped is much more within my comfort zone, so it’s great to be back focusing on that, and I now have the experience to take on future Kickstarter projects in a way that’s less exhausting.

What is the most fun thing about creating random tables?

One of the most enjoyable things about putting together random tables is the inspiration I get for my own games. Writing down a list of strange plant life or coming up with the names of mysterious books immediately triggers story threads in my mind that the characters in my games can discover or explore.

I’m sure other game masters will get the same feeling when they flick through the book in December!

Ghastly Nightmares from Roll and Play's Instagram

How do you use random tables and generators yourself?

Generators can really help when you’re in a pinch. The tables I will probably use the most in Roll & Play will be the loot generators (players are always asking me what they find), critical hit/fail results and NPC names.

Random encounters are also really good to have in the back pocket, travel can sometimes feel a bit dull and these encounters are a really fun way of spicing it up – especially when your players decide to go on a four and a half day hike to find some cockatrice eggs completely out of the blue. One of my groups did this recently!

What is the most interesting RPG generator or tool you’ve seen?

I mean, there are so many! I really enjoy following other creators on social media. Dungeon Master’s Workshop is a favourite of mine, Tom is so creative and the breadth of magical items he produces is amazing. I also enjoy following DND Barn for weekly rules and creature wisdom.

What other RPG projects would you like to tackle?

After the success of Roll & Play, I would love to design and create a follow-up title in the same vein – next time tackling a genre that isn’t fantasy, there are so many different RPG systems out there to explore. First things first though, I want to make the initial Roll & Play book the best it can be before I think too much about future projects. I want to deliver the first one really well.

Where can people find you on social media?

You can keep up with Roll & Play on Instagram (@rollandplaybook), Facebook (/RollAndPlayBook) and Twitter (@rollandplaybook).

If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, the Roll & Play Pre-Order Store is now open! Here you can reserve a copy for the second print run, shipping early next year

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

I would love to take a second to thank all of the 7,596 backers that pledged to Roll & Play within the 39 day campaign.

You turned this pet project into something much bigger than I could have ever imagined.

Designing and producing a book like this really is a dream come true so thank you all for your faith in the project, I know that you are going to love using the book as much as I am creating it!

More Interviews

You can find more more Creator Interviews on Rand Roll.

I have a discord for discussing random tools and tables and I'm also on instagram as rpg_generators with random tables and gens.