Pictured: Bright and Marmalade
Ethan (he/him): Honestly, I don’t really remember! I’ve been writing since I was a kid. When I was little my parents had an old typewriter and I loved putting the paper in and feeling the heavy clack of the keys; it felt special. Then when I was in school I always participated in the Young Authors program, and once I got to high school, I joined the school paper. The teacher who was in charge of the paper was also the English Composition teacher–the one we had to write a big 20-page term paper for–and he was kind of a mentor for me my senior year. He convinced me to get more involved with journalism and to focus on writing (I’d been planning to go into psychology, but I’m glad I didn’t. Thanks, Mr. Franks!). That was the first time I felt like writing could be something more than just an occasional hobby for me.
J: How did you come to the TTRPG hobby?
Ethan: I was interested in TTRPGs from a young age. I’ve always loved fantasy, mythology, and weird monsters, so that’s where a lot of the early appeal came from. Every time my family went to the bookstore, I’d go to the gaming section and just flip through Monster Manuals, looking at all the strange creatures inside. When I was about 17, an actual game store opened up a few towns over (I live in the rural midwest, and places that actually sell D&D stuff are sort of hard to come by if you don’t live in a big city), so I started going there with my friends pretty regularly. There was an older guy who hung out there a lot and talked with the owner about TTRPGs, so one day I got up the guts to ask him about how to start playing. He was super helpful. Then, when I graduated high school, my parents got me the D&D Core Rulebooks (4E at the time) as a graduation present, and I’ve been playing ever since–mostly Pathfinder and D&D, though I’ve bounced around to a lot of different systems over the years.
J: What does safety at the table look like to you?
Ethan: For me, safety starts with open communication. I think Session 0 is an incredibly important thing for TTRPGs; everyone needs that opportunity to sort of set boundaries and get on the same page. I’m almost always the DM, so it’s important to me early on to establish the basic stuff–”This is the kind of campaign I want to run, the tone will be like this, please try to include this thing in your character’s backstory”–but also to make sure that all the players are comfortable with each other and with the game we’re going to play. Session 0 is a chance for players to say, “I’m not comfortable with this aspect of the game,” so that I can adjust. For instance, I’m a big horror fan, but I don’t want to force that on someone who’s not comfortable dealing with some of those elements. I try my best to be approachable and open so that players feel like they can talk to me if they don’t feel good about something that happened in-game, and I also try to check in regularly after sessions to make sure people are still having a good time.
J: Can you tell us a bit about how Roll with It came to be?
Ethan: I’ve wanted to start a blog for a long time, and last year things just sort of aligned to allow it to happen. I love writing and editing; I was editor of my local newspaper for a few years, but covering small-town politics just didn’t interest me, so I left that job to work at a library. Last year I was acting as Director of that library, but I still wasn’t feeling fulfilled with my work. I was lucky enough to have something of a financial windfall, and my wife and I agreed that I should use the opportunity to leave my unfulfilling job behind and try to get back to writing and editing work–but this time, in a field that I actually cared about. Roll With It was born out of that as a way to put myself out there, build up a body of work, and keep myself writing.
J: Why crabs ?
Ethan: That’s a great question, and it’s one I ask myself every day. To be honest, I’m not sure! There’s something about crabs that I just find really appealing. It’s weird, because I hate spiders, and crabs are basically just the spiders of the sea. For some reason, though, I just love the little guys. I think part of it is that the word itself is kind of funny, and part of it is that there’s a huge disconnect between what a cartoonish crab drawing looks like and what an actual, real-life crab looks like, which I find interesting. Real crabs are kind of horrifying; cartoon crabs are cute! And easy to draw, too. At one of my old jobs, we’d have these long, boring staff meetings every week, and I’d keep myself entertained by drawing little cartoons of “The Meeting Crab,” a simple little crab sketch that I’d dress up in different ways. Plus, biologically, they’re sort of weird; I make some jokes in that post that are based on real crab facts–there is an actual difference between “false crabs” and “true crabs,” and it’s true that various animals have gradually evolved into a more crab-like state. Oh, and they walk funny and have big pincers, which is pretty cool.
J: What has your experience been with podcasting ?
Ethan: I love podcasting! I get very passionate about the things I’m a fan of, and I love digging deep and dissecting every page of a book or every frame of a movie. It’s way easier to do that when you’re talking with someone else! I can sit and watch a film over and over, but there’s always things I’m going to miss if I’m not hearing other perspectives. That’s why discussion is so important (and so fun) for me. In some ways, I think I even enjoy podcasting more than writing; so often, writing is a one-way street–I post an article, people read it, and maybe I get a comment or two, but that’s it. With the podcast, I get to hear other people’s ideas and opinions and reactions to what I’m saying. It’s collaborative, and that’s my favorite thing! That’s what’s great about TTRPGs, too: everyone is telling a story together, and it makes it so much better than a story I’d write by myself. The podcast has also given me the chance to meet some amazing people that I never would’ve gotten to talk to otherwise, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
J: When you aren’t playing or writing about TTRPGs, what do you like to do?
Ethan: A little bit of everything! I love reading (though I don’t do it as much as I should these days) and playing video games, particularly RPGs and tactics games. I’m currently playing my way through the entire Assassin’s Creed franchise, which has been… something else. I play some board and card games, too; my current obsession is Fantasy Flight’s living card game lines, particularly Arkham Horror and Marvel Champions. Champions is sort of top-of-mind right now because WandaVision has been putting me in a comic book mood! Speaking of, I love comic books; if you ever need obscure trivia about the X-Men, I’m your guy! I’m interested in film, too, and particularly enjoy horror films.
J: What is your real life TTRPG/Fantasy class?
Ethan: I think I’d have to say Wizard! Probably one in the vein of the wizards from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels: not particularly interested in actually using magic, but more than happy to let people assume I have all these cool abilities while in actuality I mostly just sit around reading and snacking all day.
J: What non-profit/charity can we help you signal boost?
Ethan: Mental health is a very important topic to me, so I’d probably say the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I’d also encourage people to support trans folks however possible; the Trevor Project, for instance, provides crisis intervention and other support for the LGBTQ+ community, so that’s a great place to start!
Photo Credit: Roll With It Blog