Self-portrait painting of Dennis Detwiller: soft focus of face with dark hair, dark eyes, and slight smirk.
Self-Portrait by Dennis Detwiller
Dennis Detwiller is a 12x ENnnie award & 4x Origins award-winning writer, designer, illustrator, creator, and producer of video and tabletop games, including the critically acclaimed role-playing game, Delta Green. His credits include [PROTOTYPE], Necropolis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rooftop Run, Magic: The Gathering, and Unspeakable Oath. Dennis attended classes in the BFA Illustration program from 1990-1993 and reflects on his time at SVA and his subsequent career in game design in a brief interview: 

1. You took illustration class at SVA and recently tweeted that you studied under Will Eisner. Can you share what that experience was like for you as an artist?

It was wonderful. He was a master — at sequential art as well as teaching. Just an all-around affable guy who took the work seriously, but at the same time was eager to get people ready to fail. Failure was the path to new things. That’s what I learned there.

2. You've won multiple awards across the video & tabletop game industries as a writer, illustrator, and game designer. Did your time at SVA help prepare you for such a varied career?

Well, I don’t know. Illustration-wise, certainly. Such great teachers as Leigh Benkhe and Andrew Gerndt really drilled down on the reality of art for a living. But RPGs had been with me before SVA. We PLAYED them certainly (Chris Prynoski, another alumni and I played D&D in the Jersey City dorms, for example). But I was already working professionally in RPGs when I entered SVA.

3. As you've moved from medium to medium, industry to industry, what keeps you coming back to role-playing games as creative form?

Well, when you’re good at something they say you should stick with it. Delta Green punches well above its weight. We’re a tiny company, yet we routinely score top-honors in RPGs against huge companies like Wizards of the Coast or Monte Cook Games. This year, we won the gold ENnie for best setting, last year we won EIGHT. I love it, and I love helping people have fun by making games, I guess.

4. Delta Green is a unique RPG with a bleak tone and high body count. What informed the decision to pivot away from it as a Call Of Cthulhu setting and make it a unique game?

Call of Cthulhu just wasn’t mechanically where we needed it to be for us. Combat was slow and deliberate, Sanity was very simple. We built the Delta Green Bonds system to track the dissolution of your Agent’s relationships, and the combat system (informed by research with people that had been in combat) was built to mimic fast-paced, crazed combat. Delta Green is a very different game than the strangely human-centric-feel of Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition.

5. As a creator active on both Kickstarter & Patreon, what role can crowd-funding play for creators looking to move past traditional freelance offerings?

They are fantastic tools that I really wish had been around in the 1990s. Kickstarter makes these books possible. Often, in the past, we’d have to speculatively cough up 30k in printing costs with no idea whether or not it would be recouped. Now, we either get the money upfront and KNOW people want the book or it doesn’t fund and we don’t waste our time and money on it. 

Patreon is a great interface for my fans to talk to me, and ask questions (and often, to offer really useful suggestions). PLUS it is an awesome amount of supplemental income. Highly recommended.

For more information about Dennis Detwiller's work, follow him on Twitter (@drgonzo123). 
A painting of a blurry face distorted by a vortex of wind approaching it
Summoning by Dennis Detwiller

Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game is available to borrow as part of SVA Library West's Tabletop Game collectionDelta Green centers on a highly secretive government organization tasked with protecting the U.S. from paranormal and alien threats. SVA Library West will be hosting a Delta Green one-shot event on Mon, 09/23 from 6-9pm. Seats are limited. Sign-up here. No previous RPG experience necessary.