The unsung intrepid hero of Dimension 20

If you love Dimension 20, it’s probably because of Orion D Black.

The unsung intrepid hero of Dimension 20
Credit: Dimension 20 Youtube

While Dimension 20 is particularly conscious about acknowledging the work of the people on their crew, many new fans of the show might not be aware of the influence of Orion D Black. Black’s work was so far ahead of its time, actual play is only just now catching up to their vision of what was possible. The mainstream conversations creators and fans are currently having about the medium—about the merits of edited shows versus livestreams, about protecting the soul of the medium from the ravages of capitalism—Black was having them 4 years ago.

While they have pulled back from tabletop, Black started their career as a game designer, publishing Mutants in the Night, a Forged in the Dark game about surviving and fighting oppressive systems in a near-future, and Plot Armor, a solo game about “the invincibility of your mecha anime PROTAGONIST, until fate claims them.” 

Credit: Black's Itch Page

Black quickly became a fixture behind the scenes at Dropout in 2020, during their work as a creative consultant for the show’s sixth season Pirates of Leviathan. During their tenure as Creative Director of Dimension 20, Black helmed some of the show’s most experimental and iconic seasons including Misfits and Magic, A Court of Fae & Flowers, and Starstruck Odyssey. They also spearheaded creative initiatives (in tandem with the show’s creator Brennan Lee Mulligan) that pushed actual play’s production capabilities. Black’s work ensured that the progressive and inclusive values of Dropout were present in the people sitting at the table, alongside developing the show’s anti-capitalist storylines.

While Black had a public fallout with Wizards of the Coast, their time at D20 was a more positive experience. When they ended their tenure at Dropout, their departure was met with fanfare. Fans of the series took to Reddit to celebrate their years of work on the show, and to wish them the best of luck on their future ventures.

Now, a year later, Rascal sat down with Black (via email) to reflect on their time at Dimension 20, how they elevated it from just another D&D show to it’s industry-changing status, and whether or not they’d ever want to return to this industry they’ve given so much of themselves to.

Rowan Zeoli: Given your relationship to the industry it’s fair if this answer is nothing, but what do you love about TTRPGs that isn’t possible through other artistic mediums?

Orion D Black: Nothing, really. But I don’t mean that in a negative way, like TTRPGs are lacking something. They’re just the vehicle that some people vibe with more than other artistic mediums. TTRPGs are an interactive artform where people open up and share themselves, which I’ve always felt is similar to jamming out with a makeshift band. You put down what you know, see what others contribute, lean into a groove or out of a pocket. To me, it’s all about people finding an artform that allows them to communicate with others in a way that feels right. For some people, that’s only possible through TTRPGs. That’s what I love about them. They’re good vehicles for my friends.