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March 30, 2022

Alumni Spotlight

Griffin Macaulay '12

Griffin Macaulay working at a standing desk with two computer monitors and a red desk lamp.

In 2015, one late-night livestream changed Griffin Macaulay’s ’12 life.

Macaulay launched Twitch (a live-streaming service) on his phone and wondered why more than 1,000 other people were watching Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) so late at night. The “Critical Role” series broadcasts a real-time D&D campaign that is stage-taped in California.

It was profound. After that night, Macaulay reached out to several friends to see if they’d be interested in trying out the game with him. Fast forward three years to 2018, and Macaulay is still playing D&D with four of his close friends. By then, it had grown to become more than simply playing a game: Macaulay began creating his own third-party D&D content, called “homebrew” by role-playing gamers, as an outlet for the creativity absent from his conventional employment. Today, it has evolved from a hobby into a full-time job.

“What I’m doing now is by far the most challenging and most gratifying thing I’ve ever done,” he revealed. “I was in a creatively dead job and found fulfillment making homebrew. Being your own boss is amazing. If you’re reliable, people want to spend money on you because they know you show up. Make sure everything is consistent, cohesive, and exactly what your following expects it to be. It’s helpful as a creator, and it also generates faith in the brand.”

Successfully homebrewing his own materials for other players involves reflecting the aesthetic and experience of proprietary D&D elements, and expanding on them. Macaulay has invented more magical items and spells than can be acquired in the official D&D game, and subscribers gravitate to his content.

“My whole ‘shtick’ is that I work really hard to make sure that the illustrations and content I create looks, sounds and feels the same way as official D&D products do,” Macaulay explained. “There are plenty of other creators out there, but they don’t always match the style quite the same, and that really translates to the success of the brand. I learned at KU how to match branding for companies and products. (KU communication design professors) Karen Kresge and Denise Bosler ’95, M’01, Ed.D. ’21 are both incredibly influential, helpful and caring professors who made a huge impact on me. After graduating, I’ve still reached out to them for guidance when I need it.”

Imagination, reliability and consistency transformed something Macaulay spent time on during the evening into a thriving business with a loyal following, but it wasn’t easy. In the beginning, 80-hour work weeks were common, and other responsibilities fell to the wayside. Many sleepless nights preceded the launch of “The Griffon’s Saddlebag” into a permanent career.

“If you’re really passionate, you won’t even notice it,” he laughed. “The only person responsible for your success is you, so make it work.”

This article appeared in the 2021 Tower Magazine

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