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Why did Quinns step back from Shut Up and Sit Down for tabletop RPGs?

The times, they are a-changing – we asked Quinns about his step back from board games and his quest to start a tabletop RPG YouTube channel.

Quinns presenting his YouTube show, Quinns Quest

Shut up & Sit Down founder Quinns has spent over a decade making sketch comedy reviews about board games, but his eyes have slowly begun to wander elsewhere. Content about RPGs began to creep onto the YouTube channel and website. Then, in a blog post from February 1, Quinns (Quintin Smith to his enemies) announced he was jumping from the good ship SUSD to sail different tabletop seas.

Quinns Quest, a new channel dedicated entirely to RPG coverage, was born. It’s one part tabletop RPG reviews and another part Jonathan Frakes fanfic. There’s a kooky analogue vibe, and Quinns has fully committed to pretending he doesn’t know what the internet is. You probably have a lot of questions – we certainly did – so we spoke to Quinns himself to find out the facts (and fiction) surrounding Quinns Quest.

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The most obvious reason Quinns Quest exists is because its creator bloody loves an RPG. “There’s no one here in Brighton who is losing their minds over roleplaying in the way that I’m doing right now”, Quinns tells Wargamer. “I have fully gone head over heels – the amount of PDFs I have been squinting at on my tablet in the last couple of years is just beyond belief.”

This passion is as much about the history of RPGs as it is about the systems themselves. “One of the many things I love about TTRPGs is that their history is really rich and, more importantly, really weird”, Quinns says. “The [game] designs people were experimenting with in the ‘70s and ‘80s is completely bizarre, and the ‘80s was also a time of Satanic Panic around RPGs.”

Here lies the origins of Quinns Quest’s dial-up aesthetic. “I thought that if I set something in the ‘80s, it would give me access to a whole world of historical jokes – jokes about technology, about the history of RPGs, and jokes to do with the fact that being a nerd in the ‘80s was a lot less accepted”, he adds. “Setting [Quinns Quest] in 1989 is weird, it’s different, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.”

‘Different’ seems to be the real thing Quinns is questing for in his new venture. After all, Quinns says the channel was also partially inspired by a gap in tabletop games media that he would like to close.

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Apparently, Quinns Quest’s beginnings are “very similar to how I co-founded Shut Up & Sit Down in 2011”. “It was because the kind of reviews we wanted to see didn’t exist”, Quinns explains. “The best designers of TTRPGs are as good as the best designers of games anywhere, but they get fractionally as much press.”. “I thought that was a bit of an injustice”, he adds, “and hopefully I’ll be able to do something about it.”

As well as making a difference in the industry, Quinns’ motivations are also much more personal. He also has a decade of experience covering videogames for People Make Games and Rock Paper Shotgun, so the man understands the power of diversity – especially when it comes to his career.

“Journalists have lifespans”, he tells Wargamer. “We’re like batteries. You only have so many things to say so often, and I’ve avoided that lifespan by changing the area of games I cover every ten years.”

Opening this new door, of course, means closing another. Tom Brewster is editor-in-chief of Shut Up & Sit Down now, and Matt Lees is the only thing stopping the channel from going full ‘Ship of Theseus’ on itself and losing its original cast entirely.

Quinns presenting his YouTube show, Quinns Quest

“That’s always the challenging part of a media brand – transitioning to a new generation”, Quinns says. “But Tom is just brilliant. He’s newer, he’s got that drive.”

“I still care about board games a lot, but that’s different from waking up in the morning and your first thought being ‘How can I make board games better? What impact do I want to have on the space?’. Ask anyone who’s been doing a job for ten years if they feel the same way about it.”

“Tom is just more passionate”, Quinns continues, “and then you add Emily who is also phenomenally talented”. “And Matt is still there, god bless him. I couldn’t be happier with the hands that the site is in – it’s a great privilege to have founded something and then to be able to hand it off to capable hands.”

Quinns Quest wants to change the world of tabletop RPGs, but it’s also born from its author’s need to change as a person. “I started doing videogames”, Quinns says, “and then I decided that I wanted something more human, more about people, so I changed my hobby to something where people sat around a table together”.

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“Now I’ve changed by hobby to sitting around a table with people, but looking up at people in their eyes rather than down at a board game.” “Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m just more interested in what it is to be human, as opposed to the impressive technical design of videogames – and, to some extent, board games.”

Quinns describes his new channel as a “fascinating philosophical challenge”, but sketch comedy and quality reviews remain at its heart. “It’s still me talking at my table, making funny analogies, getting comedically frustrated, or being doe-eyed about certain mechanics”, he says.

A lot has changed– and Quinns wants to change a whole lot more as Quinns Quest grows. But whatever ship he’s on, whatever games he plays, the whole project is still quintessentially Quinns. “It’s still me”, he promises us.

For more on Quinns Quest, here’s how the channel plans to distract people from D&D. For now, you can check out some of our other interviews with RPG fans – here’s how to be a better DM according to Penny Arcade, and Matthew Lillard talking about his D&D show, Faster Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!.