An Interview with The Rook and The Raven
  • Jul 21st 2021
  • Posted by Nelly Steiner

An Interview with The Rook and The Raven

Are you ready to roll up to your next Dungeons & Dragons game in style? Well, with The Rook and The Raven journals you will. These journals are handmade in Chicago by Amber and Déja with lots of love and care. Within its pages, you'll find a wealth of information to help you organize and track your campaign. We're excited to sit down with Déja Augustine (The Rook and The Raven CEO) and learn more about their beautiful products and their company.

(Mox Boarding House) What prompted the idea of creating an RPG Journal company?

(Déja Augustine) Neither Amber (the Rook half) nor I (the Raven half) actually set out to start a business or build a brand. Amber is our D&D group’s notetaker and Lorekeeper, and one night, she was lamenting that her notebooks weren’t cutting it. Her gaze landed on one of her discbound datebooks and she grabbed it off the desk, exclaiming that -this- is what she wanted for gaming. We took to the internet, but we couldn’t find anything like what she wanted. So, I sat down at the computer, fired up InDesign, and asked her, “Okay. If your notebook could be whatever you want, what would it look like?”

We shared some pictures among our few hundred followers on Twitter, and we got an overwhelming number of people asking where they could get one or whether we’d make them one, too. Once we realized we weren’t alone in wanting a better gaming notebook, we took the leap, opened up pre-orders, and started making notebooks at our dining room table. A few short years and one pandemic later, our handcrafted books are being used by tens of thousands of gamers around the world. It’s absolutely surreal.

(Mox) What has been the most difficult game to design a journal for?

(Déja) Of the systems that we’ve designed (or begun to design), it’s currently a tie between Genesys and Savage Worlds. They are both amazing systems that are a lot of fun to play, but because they are both so flexible, it makes them much more challenging to design pages for.

For example, 5th edition D&D has a static list of 18 skills that every character has in every game, but in Genesys, the skill list for a Steampunk game will be very different from the skill list for a Space Opera. As a result, we’re doing a lot of additional playtesting to make sure that our page designs the best possible experience, whether you’re playing in published settings or adventuring through a homebrewed world.

(Mox) What are some dream projects you would love to do but haven’t explored yet?

(Déja) Aside from world domination, we have three big dream projects right now - two that we’re actually already working on, and a third that we hope to begin soon. The first one that is actually well on its way (and which *may* even be announced by the time this gets posted) is designing and publishing our own game -- the first storyline for Unbound Legacy, our ‘living book’ game, will actually be coming out later this year.

The second project already in the works is to offer more non-gaming notebooks, personal organization, and day planner page designs.

The third one is still very much a dream, and that is to begin offering invitations and event products and services. We would love to be the designers and stationers for full-throated, nerdy-ass weddings and parties.

(Mox) What RPGs do you love to play?

(Déja) We love so many different systems for so many different reasons. D&D 5e is great because it’s so well known that it’s a lot easier to get a group together for a one-shot or quick adventure. Starfinder and Pathfinder scratch a similar itch, but they give a bit more depth and crunch to the game mechanics. We also particularly enjoy systems like Genesys, Call of Cthulhu, Blades in the Dark, and Mouse Guard, because the mechanics more readily take a backseat to storytelling, roleplay, and discovery.

(Mox) Being such a young company, what has been your 'we’ve made it' moment?

(Déja) Ha! When we reach it, I’ll let you know! The fact of the matter is, we are still a really young company, and we haven’t even come close to finding the limits of our potential yet, which means the goalposts are constantly moving. Every time we reach a point where I think 'If we do that, then I’ll feel like we’ve made it', I am reminded of just how big the world truly is and how much our own fears and insecurities had kept our goals small until that point. So, we find a new distant point on the horizon and say 'Now THAT is what making it would look like', only to have the same thing happen once we get there.

We started joking about our goal being world domination - not because we’d actually want to run the world, but because it’s both ridiculous (which helps keep creeping insecurity and imposter syndrome at bay) and vast (which keeps us reaching for that next distant point).

(Mox) Speaking of the pandemic have you seen any strange trends or surprises?

(Déja) The pandemic has been a rollercoaster. I can’t actually say that any of it has been a surprise, though. Honestly, the most surprising thing for us over the past year was how much Brexit affected us. We’re a Chicago-based company, but we ship our books all around the world, and pretty much from the beginning, we’ve had a surprising number of fans in the U.K. Since Brexit went into effect in January, we’ve been discovering new and unexpected ways that the new borders over there affect us all the way over here.

(Mox) Tell us about your decision to stock your products with Brick and Mortar stores and to create essential editions of your planners for them?

(Déja) Supporting local businesses has always been something that’s important to us. When I was growing up and was first introduced to D&D by my brother, I remember taking a bus over to Pegasus Games on State Street (in Madison, WI) to look at all of the clear plastic tubes of dice and flip through the new modules and books. Even now, with the convenience of places like Amazon, we still go out of our way to try to buy from small shops that are run by people who are passionate about what they sell.

On the other side of it, it’s also completely surreal to see something that we made on a store shelf next to those dice and modules and books, where another 8-year-old kid could pick it up and dream about the adventures to come. When you asked about dream projects, this was the first thing that came to my mind, because having our nerdy little notebooks sitting on that shelf over there is literally a dream come true.

(Mox) Lastly, what is your favorite food to eat while gaming?

(Déja) Pretzels. They’re not fancy or elaborate, but they’re tasty and they leave my hands (and thus, our game and books) clean.

Mox is offering 10% off all The Rook and The Raven products throughout the month of July. Stop by and pick up some new RPG journals now that game nights are back, and don’t forget our knowledgeable staff is always there to answer any questions you may have. Limited in-store dining is now available in a few of our Mox locations, so enjoy a bite and/or cocktail while you play.

-See you at Mox!