Welcome to Tavern Talk Thursday! This is a weekly column where we chat with a member of the TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) community to learn more about how they found themselves at the table, what they love about tabletop gaming and other fun things. Think of it as a little sneak peeks into the minds of our fellow players and DMs.

The air has chilled, and it’s time to tuck in by the fire for another Tavern Talk Thursday. This week we are chatting with an incredible writer, producer, TTRPG player and all-around fantasy geek – Matt Young. When he isn’t charming his way with well-placed puns or perfecting his David Bowie impression, Young is writing and producing TV series like the upcoming third season of CW’s Kung Fu or older episodes of Blindspot. Check out his favorite stuff about the TTRPG and Dungeons and Dragons community below!

Keep up with Matt Young on his social media! (Twitter/Instagram)

RELATED: Check out more Tavern Talk Thursdays!

Matt Young

Dungeon Crawl Classic

Julia Roth: Let’s chat your TTRPG back story! How did you find yourself at the table?

Matt Young: When I was about nine, my friend Chris invited me to his house to play a new game called Dungeons & Dragons, which was about, in Chris’s words, “wizards and knights having adventures and fighting monsters.” With that well-executed elevator pitch, he had my full and undivided attention, and to his house, I went. I remember he had the Holmes blue box with the Dave Sutherland dragon on the cover, and he ran me through a couple of rooms in the Caves of Chaos in module B2 – The Keep on the Borderlands. Beyond those specifics, I can’t remember much about that first game, and I’m sure I had no idea what was going on – I just rolled whatever weird dice Chris told me to. But I do know that my nine-year-old mind was utterly blown, and the game quickly became my obsession.

JR: Favorite world to adventure in?
 
MY: I’m a sucker for gothic horror, so Ravenloft holds a special place in my heart. The original AD&D module was a turning point for me in what could be done in a published adventure, and it remains a favorite to this day. I’m currently in a 5e D&D campaign that takes place in one of the Domains of Dread, so it’s fun to be dipping a toe in that setting again. I’ve been dying to run Curse of Strahd since it came out and am hoping to start that up sometime soon. I also love the 1920s setting for the Call of Cthulhu RPG and Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar setting for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (which is probably my current favorite game).
 
 
JR: Favorite one-shot adventure?
 
MY: A few come to mind – the aforementioned I6 Ravenloft; a seafaring horror module for the DCC RPG called Creep, Skrag, Creep!; and my fave of all faves – module UK1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which has both seafaring and gothic horror elements. I guess I have a type… SSoS is just a perfect adventure with a haunted house, pirates, the hidden lab of a long-dead alchemist, rot grubs… Freaking rot grubs. Few modules, especially early ones like that, had so many opportunities to explore all the pillars of D&D – exploration, combat, and social interaction – and Saltmarsh nailed them all.
 
JR: Backstory or class first?
 
MY: It really depends. I’ve been playing a ton of DCC lately, which is super deadly at lower levels, so you kinda go into it knowing that creating an extensive backstory will likely be a waste of time. In a game like that, the character is most often revealed through what they do at the table and the choices they make during play, rather than anything that was decided beforehand. In D&D, I sometimes start with a backstory, but most often, it’s just, “Oh, this would be fun to play,” or, “Can I do a David Bowie impression for the next six months to a year that won’t make my friends want to strangle me?”
 
 
JR: Favorite spell and why?
 
MY: I dig the Warlock’s eldritch blast in D&D, especially with the add-ons you can get for it as you level up. That ability to customize is fun. In DCC, pretty much any spell. It’s a system in which magic is much more unpredictable, and every spell typically has a secondary effect called Mercurial Magic, that may or may not have anything to do with the spell. For instance, your casting of magic missile may look nothing like mine (yours may look like energy arrows while mine looks like a flight of eagles), and our Mercurial Magic effects when the spell is cast might be anything from a rain of frogs to the creation of a planar rift. It’s bonkers and so, so fun.
 
JR: Who has been your favorite character to play?
 
MY: I loved playing Garrick of the Verse, a College of Valor Bard, in my friend Ryan’s game. During a lot of sessions, I’d improvise a soundtrack on guitar and would occasionally make up a stupid song or two. It’s a toss-up between Garrick and Chortle McFortle-Hortle, the War Cleric Tortle, a soft-spoken ass-kicker with a sloooooow Southern drawl. 
 
JR: Do you have a particular race/class you enjoy?
 
MY: In D&D, my favorite classes are probably Bards and Paladins. I love the Bardic Inspiration mechanic and the class flavor in general, while Paladins most often put me in the mindset of Arthurian Legend, which is where my love of fantasy fiction began. In DCC, I most enjoy Warriors for their Mighty Deeds of Arms mechanic and Wizards for the game’s gonzo magic system. If I’m playing a non-human, I tend to enjoy playing elves and dwarves (call me old-fashioned).
 
 
JR: Is there something that you build into every character? A fun trait or a special item?
 
MY: It’s specific to each character, but I usually try to find something in each that I’d get a kick out of leaning into every game. It might be a voice or an accent or just an item or person the character cares about. A little something to anchor me to them and perhaps spark something in the other players or the GM that might lead to potential story opportunities.
Cover art for Dungeon Classic Crawls and Call of Cthulhu
JR: What is your favorite system to play within?
 
MY: I love D&D, and always will, but lately, I’ve been playing a ton of Dungeon Crawl Classics. It’s like a streamlined and simplified Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, with a beautifully chaotic and dynamic magic system, elegant implementation of the Warrior’s abilities, even weirder dice than D&D, bonkers epic adventures even at low levels, and a tone that calls to mind the best elements of RPG’s from the ’70s and early ’80s. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it generously rewards creative play, and it always feels like you’re adventuring inside the world of a classic heavy metal album. I also really love the Basic Role Playing system that Chaosium uses for Call of Cthulhu – it’s percentile-based and offers a very different kind of experience than you typically get in a d20-based system like D&D.
 
JR: Tell us about the wildest adventure you have been on?
 
MY: I was a player in the D&D adventure Descent into Avernus. It had a ton of wild and cinematic moments, including floating down to the hellscape in an improvised hot air balloon and ambushing a dragon inside of a hellwasp’s nest. We had a ton of fun in that setting, and Ryan ran the Hells out of that game.
 
 
JR: What has been your most impactful moment at a table?
 
MY: When I ran Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden, there was a beat in which one of the characters took an unexpected fall from a great height and plummeted to his death. The moment was truly shocking, and the players all treated it with near-reverence. It was a powerful experience that I’ll remember for a very long time.
 
JR: Favorite dice to use?
 
MY: My sparkly purple Eldritch Blast DCC set from Impact Miniatures has rarely let me down. In addition to the standard RPG dice, it contains a d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30. They seem really weird to people new to the game, and I’ve heard some complaints about their inclusion in the rules, but from my first roll of that weirdo d7, I was hooked.
 
JR: Would you rather face off against an entire dungeon of undead or charm your way through a royal court?
 
MY: I love mowing down monsters, but I’m at least as much a role player as I am a roll player, so if I had to choose, I’d go for the royal court. They probably have better snacks, too. Food court. See what I did there?
 
 
JR: Favorite TTRPG Monster?
 
MY: It’s kinda cliché, but I love good ol’ fashioned dragons. They’re utterly terrifying, and with the right table, encountering one can be an unforgettable experience. Also, pretty much any creature from the Cthulhu Mythos – they’re all so weird and cool.
 
JR: Good luck charms or rituals before a game?
 
MY: I usually grab some kind of boozy drink and a snack, then go over the recap of last week’s game. 
 
JR: Who is sitting at your dream table?
 
MY: I already get to play at my dream table! But besides my current gang, I think it would be fun to run games for specific established groups – bands, theatrical casts, office co-workers, families, etc. I’m always interested in how real-life interpersonal dynamics shift when the game begins, and the dice start rolling.
 
JR: What are you most looking forward to within the TTRPG world?
 
MY: I can’t wait for the new edition of the space horror game Mothership, coming out later this year. I’m also eager to get my hands on the new printing of Old School Essentials; DCC: Dying Earth (based on Jack Vance’s novel series); the 5e Lord of the Rings RPG by Free League; Brindlewood Bay; and I’m sure I’ll check out Wizards of the Coast‘s Spelljammer and Dragonlance settings. There’s just too much good stuff coming out all the time!
 
 
Julia Roth
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