Step into the World of Hogwarts: An Exclusive Interview with David Brunell-Brutman
by Sunny Marques · Published · Updated
If you could make an Elixir of Adventures that would take you to Hogwarts, what would you do there? Who would you bring along?
David Brunell-Brutman created a “Sorcerer’s Stone” to make that elixir. With that and a few common ingredients, adventure is yours for the taking:
Elixir of Adventures, a recipe:
Take three to five people (including you)
Add two or more six-sided dice
Evenly distribute paper and pencils
Add the magic ingredient – Hogwarts: A Role-Playing Game.
Blend and enjoy.
David was roughly the age of a Hogwarts first year when his grandfather introduced him to Harry Potter. Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone started him on a magical path. He didn’t know it yet, but this journey would lead him to arcane knowledge.
Okay, maybe that knowledge was more niche than arcane. But we digress.
Role-playing was a way, way later thing for me. I dabbled a little bit with Dungeons & Dragons in college and then didn’t play that for close to ten years.
Then he discovered there was a “whole universe of indie tabletop role-playing games out there.” He began making small changes to games as he learned more, then bigger changes.
It just very quickly got to the point where I was hacking games and then just wholesale making new ones.
When David went looking for a Harry Potter role-playing game (or RPG) for a friend, he was unsatisfied with what he found. It wasn’t that there weren’t any, but there were none that conveyed the feeling of being at Hogwarts he was after. He went to work and half a year later, published Hogwarts: A Role-Playing Game.
In traditional RPGs, one person – the Game Master or Dungeon Master – leads the game and decides on major events in advance. Hogwarts: A Role-Playing Game, in David’s words, is a “storytelling engine.” There is a narrator who sets the scene, characters who choose what they want to do there, and dice that decide how well they do it. Thus, everyone writes the story as they play the game.
As Potter fans, we Sort ourselves (plus other people – real or fictional – pets, furniture we love/hate) as a matter of course. However, using House affiliation alone to decide upon a course of action doesn’t work well in storytelling any more than it would in real life. In this game, the characters become multi-dimensional as players assign points for five traits: bravery, cunning, intellect, loyalty, and magic.
It was philosophically important to me that the game does that.[…] You can actually look at your core Gryffindor trio as a microcosm representation of every other House. […] They are brave, but they also have a depth to them.
I wanted to get that in the game because that, to me, […] is more core to the ‘Harry Potter’ books than even the House system, that people have multiple aspects to their personalities and that it’s really how they act and what they do that defines them more so than where they have been Sorted. I am convinced that the Sorting Hat would agree with me on this.
There’s something powerful in taking an identity that is canonically maligned and saying, ‘No. You know what? This is what I’m about. This is who I am. This isn’t a bad thing.’
You can use your ability to be cunning to help people just as easily as you could use it to hurt them. Taking that back and owning it? There’s a lot of power in that.
Making this game was “a labor of love” for David, and it shows. He makes no money from it, as it’s absolutely free. Don’t worry, though – he does get something out of it.
Having people be able to […] tell their own stories and plant their little flag in the world of ‘Harry Potter’ […] is just the most rewarding thing in the world.
If you are ready to have that adventure, head to his game page and download a copy. If you’re looking for a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them type of adventure, also check out Hogwarts Beyond School.
Transcribed by Marissa Osman
Sunny Marques: I'd like to start out by asking how long you have been a Harry Potter fan.
David Brunell-Brutman: I've been a Harry Potter fan for a very long time. I started reading the books just before the third one came out. I would have been around 11 at the time. I really did grow up with them, and I was very close in age to the characters.
Sunny: I won't go into this interview telling you how old I was when I first started reading [them], but it was older than that. [laughs]
David: It was definitely foundational and formative for me. My grandfather was actually the one who found the books initially, and he bought us the first couple. By the time the fourth one came out, we were all getting in the car and going to the bookstore on the day of the release.
Sunny: It must have been very exciting to 11 year old you.
David: It was! Because there was always the possibility that your letter got delayed a year or two.
Sunny: [laughs] Yes. Yes, indeed. I think my owl just got lost.
David: Doing the math back, I have been a Harry Potter fan for 22 odd years.
Sunny: It's amazing to me that it's been around that long.
David: I know.
Sunny: So tell me then, how did you get into role-playing, and how old were you when you first started with that?
David: That was way, way later. I think they're vaguely related in that things like Harry Potter became this foundational thing for me in terms of fantasy literature as a genre. Role-playing was a way, way later thing for me. I dabbled a little bit with Dungeons & Dragons in college and then didn't play that for close to ten years, and then got back into it. A friend of mine [and I] had been going over to his place and playing increasingly complicated board games. You start out with your - this is not something we actually played - Settlers of Catan sort of thing. And then, a couple of years on, we were playing unnecessarily complicated but very fun board games like Star Wars Battle. And then he was like, "Man, you know what I want to try, guys? I want to try D&D, and I'm like, "Yeah, totally. I'd be on board for that." Because I'd actually been listening to some D&D and RPG "Actual Play" podcasts, I just started to get into those podcasts. I have a bit of background [with that] in college. We did radio theater productions.
Sunny: Oh, that's exciting!
David: I've had a long-standing interest in radio theater and specifically podcast audio fiction. There were a bunch of these D&D "Actual Play" podcasts coming out. They were people doing improvised audio drama, basically. And I got really into those. I [was] like, "Yes! I've been listening to these shows. I totally want to try playing these games." I was the only one who had ever played before because, as I said, I played a little bit in college. So I had to be in charge.
David: We did that for a bit, and then I started learning about some of the games beyond Dungeons & Dragons. There's this whole universe of indie tabletop role-playing games out there that are built to tell all kinds of stories. Once I started looking at those and getting a really good intuitive sense of how they worked, I started saying, "Hm, okay. Here's a thing I can tweak to make this work a little better for what I want to play. I bet I could use this over here. If I wanted to change the genre of this game, I could probably replace these things." And then it just very quickly got to the point where I was hacking games and then just wholesale making new ones. Basically, all the games that I make are... There is something in the world that I want to exist as a storytelling engine that people can use, and I haven't found it, so I make it.
Sunny: So that, then, is the story behind how you came to make this game. There was something that you were looking for, and you weren't finding.
David: Yeah, exactly. I was going to start working on a completely different game. I was talking to a group of friends - we had a group chat going about our intermittent but theoretically ongoing Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars role-playing games - and my friend Ashley, at one point, said, "Oh man, it would be so cool if there [were] a Harry Potter role-playing game out there." We've been playing Star Wars and other big universes, beloved by many fans. And I'm like, "Okay, there's no way this hasn't been done. Absolutely there's something out there." I looked around, and there was - surprising to me - nothing official, which I feel is a major oversight. There are so many people who, you throw that license at them [and] they can do an amazing job. But [there's] never been an official Harry Potter RPG. I started looking around at the fan ones, and I'm not somebody who's going to go out here and start bashing other people's work [but] they weren't right for me. They didn't do what I wanted them to do. They didn't get to what I felt was the core of what Harry Potter - and specifically Hogwarts - stories are. I was talking about how I started in tabletop role-playing with D&D, and I think that's common for a lot of people. If you don't know that there's anything else out there, it puts blinders on you. It gets you into this very specific mindset. And D&D comes from a super-specific place, which is old-school wargaming. It's a game about fighting, and you know it's a game about fighting because when you look at your character sheet, all of your stats and skills - all of the most important things - are how to fight.
Sunny: That's the dungeons and the dragons.
David: Exactly. You go into the dungeon, and you fight the dragon. Harry Potter stories aren't about that. They are about mysteries. They're about the wonder and terror of discovery. They're about the interplay of relationships between characters and how people work together or don't work together, or have to learn to work together and have to have to deal with each other while they're growing up. You can't model that by having all [of] your character stats be how hard you can hit somebody with a sword. It doesn't make any sense. I just found the existing games that I came across in my research were too focused on things that weren't fanatically right for Harry Potter stories and quite frankly, minutiae. I don't care what grade you get in class. The only important time is when you have a character like Hermione for whom that is an important part of their personality and identity.
Sunny: You're more [like] Fred and George, O.W.L.s are not necessary...
David: [sighs in confliction] No. It's not so much that I want to reject that as important, but I want to reject it as important for everybody equally.
Sunny: I see that.
David: It's more of getting to what the stories are about and who the characters are that exist in those stories, back in books, back in the films, and less about the details of day-to-day life. I was just finding too many systems that got bogged down in that. So I said, "Well, I guess I just have to make my own." It turned into a bit of a bigger project than I expected. [laughs]
Sunny: How long did it take you to make the game?
David: I started working on it in the summer of 2018 and started doing playtests for it around the fall of that year. By late fall [or] winter, I was doing my first public playtests of the game. Then I published the first version the following winter in February of 2019. Continuing on for quite a few months, I would continue to tweak things after more feedback from people, as people played the game, as I ran it more for people and saw how people were actually playing it. All and all, it ended up being half a year, which was a big jump over my previous project, which was just a little one-page Cyberpunk RPG that just took... The timescale is more in order of weeks rather than months.
Sunny: I think that I could probably work for decades and not be able to write an RPG of my own.
David: The key is you just steal.
David: This is one of the things that I discovered while getting into the indie RPG scene. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's a lot of great technology out there that already exists. As a designer, if you can leverage that, if you can get an intuitive understanding of what's going on by playing it a bunch, or reading it a whole lot, then you can use those tools to do your own thing. You can say, "Okay, there's a thing in this game that would work perfectly. I'll bring that in. I'll tinker with it a little. I'll rearrange it. There's something over in this game that's cool..." You can get a game together like that instead of sitting down in front of a blank page and saying, "I must invent the idea of an RPG from scratch."
Sunny: [laughs] I'm not even going to call it an RPG! I'm going to call it an [hesitant] SPG - Story Playing Game.
David: Yeah! Right? A priori. Throw everything out the window [and] start from the beginning.
Sunny: With your game specifically, how accessible is Hogwarts for somebody who has never played an RPG of any sort?
David: I've tried to make it super accessible. Accessibility, or rather, approachability... I will readily admit that accessibility and RPGs is an ongoing issue, and this is something that, at the time I originally designed the Harry Potter game, I was not necessarily aware of. So accessibility is definitely an ongoing goal in terms of things like font sizes and making sure that everybody can read the game and actually use the sheets. Approachability, on the other hand... I tried to make the game as approachable as possible. It was really, really important to me that kids who are the age that the characters are when the book started out - 10, 11, or so - can pick up this game and play it. It's also important to me that people who are Potterheads, who [have loved] the world for years and years, and have this desire to tell stories in the world but don't necessarily have a toolkit, can pick this up and use it pretty quickly without really having to spend a lot of time figuring out, "What are all the nitty-gritty details?"
Sunny: Could somebody even DM [Dungeon Master] the game, or GM [Gamemaster], or narrate, if they've never played?
David: I hope so. I have only a small amount of concrete data on this. I have given it to people and just said, "Okay, here's the game. Please try to run it." And those experiments have gone great, actually. Whether or not somebody who does not have any RPG experience could pick it up and GM, I'd like to think they could. I'd like to think that I've covered all of the most basic tasks and skills. I'm not sure what the word is, but all the basics that you would need to just pick it up and go. It's tricky.
Sunny: I have played very little. I have known about it for a long time. I was in third grade when I first met D&D. My best friend's brother was a fifth-grader who played, so it's been a long time. I did listen to the podcast interview that you did with 3w6, and you were talking about how the players House is not as big a factor as to how they allot their traits for bravery, cutting, intellect, loyalty, and magical ability. So this is a fun anti-Sorting, don't you think? What I mean is, while the students can possess any combination of the traits that the founders valued, once they're Sorted, they're in the brave House or the ambitious House. What are your thoughts about that?
David: I have a lot of thoughts. It was philosophically important to me that the game does that. Your character is described, as you say, by these five traits: bravery, cunning, intellect, loyalty, and magic. [If you're a] Harry Potter fan, those should prick up your ears as the key traits of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. But magic is separate. And this is because no House has a monopoly on magic; you're not more magical because you're in one House versus another House. That's not true to the source material. And also, what I think is not true to the source material, are one-note characters. Especially the main cast. The way that I always look at it is, you can actually look at your core Gryffindor trio as a microcosm representation of every other House. Harry is actually very cunning. [He] arguably has Slytherin traits. If you go back to the first book, there's the moment where he actually has to decide if he's going to get Sorted into Gryffindor or Slytherin. He's given a choice. It's not preordained; it's not automatic hard-coded personality. He could have very easily slithered into Slytherin, as it were. [If] you look at Hermione [she's] highly intellectual, always has her head in the book. That's very Ravenclaw. If you look at Ron, he's a loyal friend. He's always willing to back up his cohorts and put it on the line for his friends. That's a Hufflepuff trait. So you have these three characters who are in Gryffindor because they are brave, but they also have a depth to them. They have other characteristics that define them, and they form this little reflection of the other three Houses at large. I wanted to get that in the game because that, to me, gets to something that is more core to the Harry Potter books than even the House system, that people have multiple aspects to their personalities and that it's really how they act and what they do that defines them more so than where they have been Sorted. I am convinced that the Sorting Hat would agree with me on this.
Sunny: The Sorting Hat would be the first to tell you it's never wrong. With the exception of Ravenclaw, the feeling that we have for the Houses are pretty much dictated by Hagrid at the very beginning. "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin," "Hufflepuff are a lot o' duffers" (SS 80). With the availability of quizzes for Sorting or Rowling's Pottermore - that was the first place that I was ever Sorted when it first came out - have you ever been Sorted?
David: Oh, yeah. I've done at least three or four quizzes. I'm trying to remember when I first came across one. It was a while ago—the early 2000s, [or] something like that. I am always Ravenclaw. I can go on and on about how people are more complex than their House [but] I'm Ravenclaw through and through. No ambiguity. [laughs]
Sunny: With the proliferation of different quizzes or places that you can get Sorted, I think that there are more and more people who take exception to those narrow definitions. Slytherins, they're generally known as bad guys. How do you feel about the stereotyping that goes with that?
David: On the one hand, it's canon. As you said, we get that first introduction from Hagrid, and that frames the whole thing. The books hew to it pretty closely, but I still think there's a lot of depth there, especially as you get later on, and as you get to the point where the House as the core of the main characters' identity becomes less and less important. You get more complexity there. For me, what's more, interesting is taking that stereotype structure and building off of it, playing with it, and seeing what you can do with it. People like to organize things; it makes us happy, It's useful for ways that we see the world, but there are limitations to that. I think the constant tension of, "Yeah, it's true. All the Slytherins are really Slytherin in the most stereotypical way. But it is also true that they are complicated individuals who have other things going on!" You look at the most Slytherin character in the books, Snape, who has all kinds of aspects of his personality that are not revealed until we're deep, deep into the series. I think that tension is what's interesting and honestly, more core to the books than even the initial establishment of those stereotypes. Listen, I know a bunch of self-identified Slytherins, and they will be the first to tell you that they are maligned and misunderstood. There's something powerful in taking an identity that is canonically maligned and saying, "No. You know what? This is what I'm about. This is who I am. This isn't a bad thing." It speaks to me for these reasons. You might genuinely feel that in the game's parlance, cunning is a good thing. You should be cunning, and you can use your ability to be cunning to help people just as easily as you could use it to hurt them. Taking that back and owning it? There's a lot of power in that.
Sunny: There definitely is. You referred a while back [to] how the game is a tool for people to build a story. I think it was in the 3w6 Podcast; you described it as an engine to create fanfiction through gameplay. Have you ever written any fan fiction?
David: I haven't, actually. I am much more interested in tools for other people to do that, which is how I ended up doing this project in the first place. The closest that I approach to fan fiction - and it actually came out of this game - is a weekly game stream that I'm on, on a channel called ManaPot Studios on Twitch. We started a show called Flights of Fandom, where we create improvised fan fiction using role-playing games in a variety of different fictional universes. So I like my fan fiction improvised and performed, rather than written down. I like the collaborative aspect of it, and I like getting surprised by what other people do.
Sunny: Have you ever heard of anybody using your game and turning it into written fan fiction?
David: Yes, but I couldn't give you a specific example. I know I've had inquiries from people who have used the game in a solo-play mode, which is not at all how it was designed, but I love that they're doing it. And I believe that some of those folks that have ended up writing [what they've come up with as their stories] down as part of gameplay. I have unfortunately not seen any of them.
Sunny: That's something that might be worth your while, or worth my while, to hunt down.
David: Yeah, it would be cool. A lot of the time, I only get these little glimpses and windows into what people are doing with the game. You'll get an email from somebody who will say, like, "Hey, I'm going to run the game for my daughter's birthday party. Do you have any advice for this, that, and the other thing?" You just get that one snapshot, and then they're off in the aether, hopefully having a good time.
Sunny: I'm just going to run through my notes [to] make sure I haven't missed anything because it's coming up on 40 minutes. I don't know how you're doing on time, but I don't want to take up too much of your evening.
David: Oh, that's fine. I blocked about an hour or so.
Sunny: Okay! I'll ask a couple of more questions, then, because I have quite the list.
David: Whatever you'd like!
Sunny: All GMs - anybody who has moderated [or] facilitated a game - can attest that they make a plan. They have a plan in mind, and it will probably be completely derailed by the players, the dice...
Sunny: What is your favorite example of this happening with your game?
David: Oh my goodness. I would have to look at some game notes because it's my absolute favorite thing. One of the core design ideals of Hogwarts is, you should be doing minimal planning. If you're running the game, you should plan the absolute basics, and then the dice and the players will just tell you what to do and what should happen. It seems scary if you are used to doing a lot of very detailed planning, but I promise it works amazingly well. Going with the flow is a skill that you can build. And once you get over the first couple of times, the panic of, "Oh, no. What are they doing? I didn't plan for this at all," ... Once you get over that, I find it doesn't take too long. You will get stories that are so much more amazing than if you had planned everything out. The example that's coming to mind is [that] there was a playtest of this that I ran that was set at Hogwarts during the Great War. Basically, this was all that I had actually planned: the students were outside, and a Muggle RAF [Royal Air Force] plane crashed into the lake, and they had to rescue the Muggle pilot and guide him back to the Muggle world, hopefully not blowing up the secrecy of the wizarding world along the way. The plot - through various convolutions - ended up with them in the school dungeons, facing down a terrifying magical beast. This thing was mean, it was nasty, and it was in the service of a dark wizard who was infiltrating the school and whose magic had brought down this plane. They go in, and I'm describing how threatening this beast is, and one of my players is like, "Okay, cool. I'm a Hufflepuff. I want to roll to approach the magical creature and see if I can calm this thing down, free it from its chains, and get it on our side."
Sunny: [laughs] That's very Hufflepuff
David: And I'm like, [panicked] "Okay! I didn't plan for that one, but sure; you can absolutely do it!" As you said, it was completely in character for that kind of character, for a Hufflepuff whose favorite class, specifically, was Care of Magical Creatures.
Sunny: "I'd like to hug the monster."
David: Yeah, "I'd like to hug the monster." So I'm like, "Alright, give it a roll. Let's see what happens." They were successful. Then for the rest of the adventure, they had a terrifying magical creature ally that was their buddy. I would have never planned that; I couldn't have. It was just an amazing moment.
Sunny: When I was looking through all the different things that you have on the game page, you have a link that goes to "Hogwarts Beyond School." What can you briefly tell us about that?
David: That's an in-progress project. The number one question that I have gotten over the years that this game has been out is, "Okay, cool. Love this. Really excited to play it. How can I play in the broader wizarding world? How can I play outside of Hogwarts?" And I have to be like, "Well, this is 'Hogwarts: an RPG.'" I very specifically kept the focus super narrow. From a design perspective, in my mind, you need very tight parameters about what you're doing so you don't get lost in the project. And from a gameplay perspective, I think it's really useful for the players and the GM to have a very solid, specific idea of what it is they're doing and what they're playing. This is a game that is very, very specifically about students at Hogwarts having adventures, investigating things, [and] solving mysteries in the style of the original books. Things beyond that are outside the design scope and very deliberately so. But people kept asking, so I'm like, "Alright. [sighs] What's a good way to do this? Because my game will not do it well." You [have] got to be honest with yourself about that sort of thing. You can't just say, "Oh, yeah. My game is perfect for everything." You [have] got to say, "I did a specific thing, and it's good for that. You have the toolset to do this thing [and] you need a different toolset to do something else." I was thinking about it, and there is a game called Monster of the Week, which is built on the same basic design system called "Powered by the Apocalypse," which has become the darling of the indie tabletop RPG scene. There are so many amazing, amazing Powered by the Apocalypse games out there because it is really, really great at simply emulating genres. You can very quickly build up a set of rules and a game structure - well, not quickly, easily - in a straightforward manner that will get people playing a game where the action feels like a specific genre of thing. Some of my favorites that very directly influenced the Hogwarts RPG are things like Masks, where you are playing a group of teenage superheroes who are having a coming of age story, Epyllion, where you play a clutch of dragons, or Worldwide Wrestling, which is a game where you do [professional] wrestling matches. It gets very diverse. There's a lot you can do with it, but the core framework is extremely hackable. And that's what I used as the basis for the Hogwarts RPG. As I said, there's this other game out there, Monster of the Week, which is a very, very well designed Powered by the Apocalypse game, which is all about paranormal investigators taking on monsters. It's very Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, that sort of thing. It occurred to me, "Oh, wait a second. That's the 'people are out in the broader wizarding world' game. You're out there; you're dealing with terrifying magical creatures, or dark wizards, or what have you; this game has basically all the rules and tech for that. So what I need to do, is I need to take my game, and I need to take that game, and I need to merge them. And I can do this because they work on the same dice system [and] the core ethos of both games is the same." So I adapted the stats a little bit from the Hogwarts game because those are still thematically important. I tweaked the basic moves from Monster the Week because those revolve around things like fighting off monsters or investigating mysteries as adults in the broader world. And then I've been starting to tweak some of the Monster the Week playbooks, which is a surprisingly straightforward task. The game has a number of playbooks which represent different archetypes in this Monster the Week genre fiction. Wouldn't you know it, nearly every single one of them, in some form, shows up in the actual Harry Potter films or books. Honestly, the stumbling block is my own stubbornness in that I cannot release something that is not fully laid out and fully graphic designed; that's my graphic designer brain at work. Right now, I have about four of the playbooks laid out, and I have to go through and tweak the rest of them just to get them in proper Potter formatting. But you can play the game right now. I put out a little document that basically [says], "Hey, here's how to take Hogwarts: an RPG, and mash it together with Monster the Week." It works. I've playtested it, and it absolutely works. It's just a little ways off because I've got to do a little more work on it.
Sunny: I really appreciate the amount of work that went into not only having something as beautiful to look at on your Hogwarts page and then also on...
David: Thank you!
Sunny: It's lovely. Also, the aesthetic. The experience, like you were saying, of being a student at Hogwarts that, I will say, the vast majority of us have never had. We didn't get our letters. It's an act of service to the entire fandom that they have this available free to play. How has designing this game and having it out there benefited you as a graphic designer? Whether that's learning something new about it or meeting people that you would never have met before, that can help in other ways?
David: The whole thing is a labor of love. Like I said before, there was something that I did not see in the world, so I made it exist. If I can do that, and there are other people who wanted to see it in the world, and I can bring some fun and entertainment into their lives in doing so, that's the goal. That is absolutely the goal. In terms of graphic design, every time you do a project, you get better. Gosh, I made so many mistakes on this. I designed this in the wrong software entirely. I don't want to get too into the weeds, but I use Adobe Illustrator day-in and day-out for work, for my day job, so I'm extremely conversant in that program. I started, and I built all of the Hogwarts game sheets in there, and it was only after I had completely done that and released the project that I realized I should have been doing it in InDesign the entire time because that is way, way better text layout software. All of the struggles that I had with the Hogwarts game could have been solved by just building in that software in the first place. Every game since then, I've been laying out in InDesign. From a graphic design perspective, it's just a matter of "you do the thing and you learn from your mistakes." From a broader perspective of what I've gotten from the community, [they have] blown me away. The game, at this point, has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, and Chinese. There [are] German and French translations that are in progress that two different teams of folks are working on, and they've been in touch with me from time to time. Sometimes somebody will email me and say, "Hey, I did a translation of the game. Here it is; here's the entire thing!" They've gone in, and they translated the entire thing into another language. It's wild. Other times, somebody will get in touch with me and say, "Alright, we're going to do this translation project. We need your blessing." And I'm like, "You don't need my blessing; this is free to the community. This thing is out there. It is for you and the world to use, to do with what you wish, to play, to enjoy, to modify." It's nice to be consulted. I'm just blown away by that sort of thing and by just how excited people are to find this thing and to be able to sit down and play it. Hearing stories of games that people played, or hearing, "My partner loves Harry Potter, and I want to surprise them with a game, and they've never played an RPG before. This is going to be the one that I'm going to use to introduce them to tabletop RPGs [with], and I'm going to do it with this one because I know how much they love the world." I love that. I love it. And people just being able to take this beloved world, that people have grown up with, that has been such an important part of their lives, and that people occasionally have - especially in recent years - a difficult time with, sometimes, because of certain things that certain people have said. I don't want to get into it too much. But having people be able to have a resource where they can sit down with their friends, and they can do their own version, and they can take it in their own direction and tell their own stories and plant their little flag in the world of Harry Potter and really make it their own... Seeing that people are actually out there and doing that is just the most rewarding thing in the world.
Sunny: It's phenomenal. I think one of the things that I really like best about the entire Potter series is that it reintroduced reading as normalized for [people not in] the smart crowd. Anybody could feel comfortable reading [it]. And I think that RPGs, in a similar way, open up the world of imagination, of creating their own stories. They can take a world that's built, or they can - with other games - take a world that there's maybe not a book about but something that they're interested in, and then they can grow it.
David: Absolutely. It's my favorite thing about this genre of game.
Sunny: I know that you have a number of games that you have designed. If people want to find Hogwarts, other games that you've done, or if they want to look into any of your graphic design work, where should they go for that?
David: The main places that people can find what I do online are dbb-8.itch.io which is where all of my tabletop role-playing games are collected. Most of those are either totally free, like the Hogwarts game, or pay what you want. You can also look up most of my games, except for the Hogwarts game, on DriveThruRPG. You can do a search for David Brunell-Brutman over there. Everything that I do in the broader world [like] games, graphic design, some audio stuff, is available on my website davidbrunellbrutman.com. And I'm on Instagram and Twitter @dbrunellbrutman.
Sunny: Just very, very quickly - I don't want to get too deeply into this - I did notice today that you design t-shirts. Understanding that there are licensing issues [and that] you can't just broadly go out and make anything you want, there are certain things that are allowed as fan-work. Say my son was getting married, wanted a Harry Potter theme, and wanted shirts for his wedding party. Could they contact you to design that?
David: Is this a hypothetical? As a hypothetical, I'm going to say no. Just because I don't want to even graze the idea of making a profit off of the Harry Potter fan-work that I do, I'm in it for the love of the game; I am not in it to make any sort of money. Unfortunately, with t-shirts, you do have to get them printed, and if you want to do a short run, you've got to do print-on-demand, and I'm currently unaware of any print-on-demand t-shirt service that, essentially, doesn't kick a cutback to the designer. So I would want to stay away from that, in general. I do t-shirts full-time for my day job, but I work for a company that does that.
Sunny: Work is work. Play is play.
David: In this instance, yes.
Sunny: I very much appreciate your time and willingness to do this interview. I hope that between you and MuggleNet, we can maybe branch out some of our fellow Potterheads into the world of role-playing games.
David: Yeah, me too!