The best TTRPG games allow you to draw from a plethora of cultures and histories to create a fully realized world. Many players desire fantasy elements that give them a way to escape their real world problems for a few hours, but just as many players want to see themselves reflected in the game world. This need for detailed, respectful renderings of culture is why it’s important to include designers, artists, and players from all walks of life. So, to celebrate Black History Month, let’s highlight Black creators that are changing the landscape and putting out amazing work.
Fans of the roaring ‘20s will love Hunt’s body of work. He revives classic versions of tabletop rulesets with a new thematic twist: 1920s gangsters and the Wild West. His Gangbusters and Tall Tales releases have high ratings on DriveThruRPG, with users praising how easy it is for new players to pick up the games. If you miss the OSR days and want to support a Black creator, check out Gangbusters or Tall Tales. There are a lot of supplements that add new types of stories to the games, and many are on sale for this month!
As an author with an interest in spoken word tradition, Ellingboe emphasizes the storytelling aspect of her games. Her first game was Steal Away Jordan, which challenges players to tell a story about the people living in a culture that allows slavery. Players carry their ideas through lifetimes, and in the process explore the long-term effects the institution of slavery has on people who are subject to it and profit from it. Her other game, Tales of the Fisherman’s Wife, has players participate in the storytelling game of Edo-era Japan. Ellingboe’s work captures the spirit of shared folklore, both in its shared nature and ability to give life to difficult subjects.
This designer, Prince expert, Youtuber, and “Kickstarter Master” is definitely worth following. Lasanta has funded several games through Kickstarter that you can now find through his Third Eye Games company. His ideas are always fun and unexpected, from a Lovecraft monster-busting school to a TTRPG where players are Part-Time Gods struggling to balance their supernatural duties with life in the modern world.
Lasanta also gives aspiring game designers a peek behind the curtain with his YouTube channel. He has several videos on subjects like the business of RPGs and what work goes into a well-designed product. He also has entertaining actual plays of his games and more serious discussions on being Black in the TTRPG industry.
If you enjoyed Marvel’s Eternals, then you will definitely want to check out Grayson’s latest work. Grayson focuses a lot on mythology with his TTRPG creations, from his sword-and-sorcery ATLANTIS saga to the Greek-style space opera HELLAS. But his latest blends myth with high-power superhero characters in the vein of Eternals. It’s called GODSEND Agenda, and it gives players godlike abilities like time manipulation or herculean strength. The goal is not to save the world, however, but to change it as you see fit. Will you do what the Eternals did and stay to the sidelines, or will you rewrite history as you see fit?
The Kickstarter for GODSEND Agenda is live now, so you can support Grayson and get the book before anyone else!
Simpson won the Indie Groundbreaker Game of the Year award in 2020 for Companions’ Tale, a fantastic map-building storytelling game. The premise is that there was a hero that saved the land, and now the players are left to tell their tale. The catch is that each player had a different relationship to the hero, and this colors how they tell their story. Meanwhile, players also build a map of the realm as they go, using the randomly-generated locations to detail their stories. Simpson’s game is flexible enough to act as the beginning of a full-on TTRPG campaign, or just be its own deep storytelling experience.
Best known as the creator of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG, Mike Pondsmith has been an influential creator for decades. His vision of a troubled future started in 1988 and is just as fascinating to explore today, as seen in the video game Cyberpunk 2077. Funnily enough, one of the more successful versions of the Cyberpunk TTRPG line was Cyberpunk 2020. Pondsmith was definitely ahead of his time in singling out 2020 as an “eventful” year for the world and the US in particular.
The Pondsmith family as a whole is a big part of the TTRPG industry. Mike’s wife, Lisa, is the general manager of the company. Their son, Cody, co-designs with his father on several major projects. The most notable father-son creations were Cyberpunk Red’s Jumpstart Kit and the Witcher TTRPG. Pondsmith’s skillful blend of anime influence, experience in game design, and world building has made him a true titan of TTRPGs.
Critical Role fans will recognize Jones’ work from the show’s jingles, but his skills go far beyond music. He’s played on the official Dungeons & Dragons Twitch page, is partnered with Dead by Daylight as a content creator, and uses his platform to give voice to other Black creators. He led the #BlackAF Roundtable where he and six other Black creators shared their experiences in TTRPGs while also raising money for The Bail Project. Currently, Jones is up for Gayming Magazine’s LGBTQ Streamer of the Year award. You can check him and other other nominees out and vote for him here!
DePass is the Cypher of Tyr and her work speaks for itself and then some. She founded I Need Diverse Games, a not-for-profit foundation based in Chicago that helps marginalized developers get the contacts they need to succeed. She created the new sci-fi RPG Into the Motherlands, a POC-developed project that will draw upon culture for its mechanics. DePass also entertains on D&D stream Rivals of Waterdeep and her own Twitch channel with several video games. Her Twitter is a great follow not only to see her take on TTRPG happenings, but also because she’s constantly boosting fellow creators.