Jack Kellum was a combat medic for marines and self-taught on myths, legends and religion, which he studied since he was only six.
Jack also runs Of Gods and Gamemasters, which Geek Native’s patrons have voted into the RPG Publisher Spotlight for March. Thankfully, Jack agreed to make time for me to ask him questions and discuss the horrors of marketing and the strengths of different RPG systems.
As we’ll see in this interview, Jack’s an upfront guy and on his About page on the website he solicits interaction, saying;
I’m here to help you build worlds and run games, and make that as easy and fulfilling as possible. Please leave comments, reviews, etc. so I can improve the process.
There’s also a strong streak of individualism, and there’s also this;
I’m mixed ethnicity (indigenous American and Gaelic), polyamorous, and progressive. At the same time, I’m a bit of a libertarian (by philosophy, not party: regulate corporations strictly to allow human liberty) so don’t expect me to fit your party pigeon holes.
An Of Gods and Gamemasters interview
Regular readers will know that these interviews tend to start at the start. Jack’s agreed so let’s find out his company.
Who are Of Gods and Gamemasters?
Just me, right now. I’m a one man show. Sometimes I can do work trades for art, but I do my own writing, layout, editing. I also modify free use art that I get from Pixabay and the like.
How did you get started?
I’ve been GMing since I first encountered Dungeons and Dragons 41 years ago. I told my dad at the time, ‘we could use this to play Tolkien together!” I’ve played or run so many things I have to list them on the front page of my website and that’s not even all of them. Recently I became partially disabled, and took it as a sign I should leverage my creativity and skills to try to make a living instead of destroying my body working in warehouses and driving forklifts.
What have you learned on the way?
I can’t really distil 41 years of experience into a soundbite, but I’ve learned that deep worlds are more compelling to players than shallow ones, and allow eay improv on the spot because you know more of how things work.
What would you like to be best known for?
Worldbuilding and compelling mythology. I’m fantasticat making monsters, and villains, but I’m even better at gods, their myths, and the worlds they make.
What’s the hardest thing about being a publisher of your size?
Marketing. Getting my stuff seen and hoping folks like it enough to buy.
I’m a professional marketer and get told by publishers that marketing is the hardest part. I believe it! Indie publishers have to wear so many hats, and marketing is an extra task needed when energy is at its lowest, but I’ve never asked this question before: what do you find so hard about marketing?
It takes up tons of my time, and I still don’t get seen enough for people to come and buy, really.
I love your branding and get the connection between worldbuilding, gods and Gamemasters but has it ever caused any problems for you?
Not yet. I don’t think it will, it says what I do pretty clearly.
There’s a pantheon of RPG outs there…
You can find Of Gods and Gamemasters books in the DMsGuild and at DriveThruRPG, and perhaps that’s a clue that Jack’s not a one-system wonder.
What makes a good RPG product?
Depth and ease of use, I think.
You’ve published for both 5e and Cypher System. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the two?
5e is easy to get into, but maybe overcomplicated in some ways, too simple in others. It also has a very constrained idea of what your characters are and can do, like any system with defined classes. Cypher is open and malleable, but in some cases that can be intimidating to players and GMs alike. I’ve also designed for Mutants and Masterminds, Pathfinder , Pathfinder 2e, Scion 1e, FATE, GURPS, Chronicles of Darkness, and more. I can’t publish GURPS but there’s free stuff on my website. The other systems are on my website too. I plan to actually publish for M&M, but comics based games need specific art more than most.
Okay, that sounds like you’ve published for so many systems! Do you have a particular favourite?
I’ve only *published* for two so far, but I’m getting there. I’d say I’m fond of each of them for different reasons. If I don’t like a system, I don’t build for it.:)
What’s your reflection on the direction of 5e and the OGL? Has it changed your plans?
It reminded me to expand into other games and not depend on one. I pivoted away from 5e, then back again after they backed off, but I’ll be making sure to publish for other systems, and I may pivot to whatever Black Flag is when Kobold Press gets it out.
We’re seeing a boom in RPG systems offering licenses for third-party publishers to adopt and use. Is there anything they can do to make your life easier or their system more attractive to write for?
Make the license cover all the rules, and not just a picked-out SRD with a single background…as a for instance…
Do you hope One D&D achieves anything?
I wish it was looking less like something they want to make easier for virtual play and easier for GMs, honestly. They look like they are losing flavor in favor of simplicity. I don’t know if I’ll be making things for that system at all, so far it doesn’t appeal to me.
Black Flag has had a great start. Is there anything that Kobold’s done that might help explain that?
Timing. The ORC has a lot of support for the same reason, as does what MCDM is working on. They saw WoTC drop the ball and picked it up.
Looking into the divination pool of the gods
As these features tend to start in the start, I like to try and peer into the future to finish. Often, this is a forlorn quest as publishers keep their cards close to their chest and their plans for the future but Of Gods and Gamemasters are happy for us to look into their divination pool.
What can we expect from Of Gods and Gamemasters in the future?
I’m currently working on combining the settings of Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening for a charity actual play game I plan to run later this year using the Chronicles of Darkness system. I’m also in the middle of building my M&M supplements, and will be running a charity game with that soon.
As for 5e, I have a big monster book on the way for my Successor States of Rega setting, called Lusus Naturae, that has 101 monsters in it. I am also working on a Book of Better Beasts, which takes the animal statblocks WoTC has made and makes them match real world animals better; another monster book called the Fomor Folio which reimagines many monsters from Celtic Myth for 5e; I run an actual play set in the Successor States every other Thursday at 8 pm EST on Tales from the Table Studios.
I need to build Pathfinder 2e versions of all my stuff as we’ve taken the AP to that system. There’s really too much other stuff for me to go into all of it, like more entries in my Alternate Ecology series on DM’s Guild, and more entries in my Pentagrammaton: Aberrant Apocrypha series on Drive Thru.
You’re working on a lot! I’ll pick just a few – like the Book fo Better Beasts to dig a little deeper into. I love the concept, how and why did you decide to do that? Is there a market for it, just a thing you feel should be done better or something else?
I just got tired of all the beasts being not capable of things the real world animals are, and just being inaccurate. It started with cats not being able to jump and not having darkvision, and then having apes punch people when they can’t even make fists, and kinda went from there.
What about Lusus Naturae? How to work out which creatures or monsters a setting would benefit from?
I basically just figure out what myths and legends suit the culture I’m working with, and fill in the blanks with things that fit the overall feel , and with critters *I’d* want to use in a game.
Of Gods and Gamemasters
- Of Gods and Gamemasters on DriveThruRPG and the DMsGuild.
- Of Gods and Gamemasters’ website.
- Of Gods and Gamemasters on Twitter.
- Of Gods and Gamemasters on YouTube
- Of Gods and Gamemasters on Facebook.
- Of Gods and Gamemasters on Patreon
Latest Of Gods and Gamemasters products
You would think this would happen more often but for the first time I’m merging DriveThruRPG and DMsGuild into a single list, since oGoG are on both!
- 7th of March 2023, Beast-kin Vampires, Cypher Edition.
- 1st of February 2023, Canon of the Void
- 8th of December 2022, Successor States of Rega bundle.
- 8th of December 2022, Aberrant Apocrypha bundle.
- 7th of July 2022, The Illicit Illithiad.
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