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Story Boards: WLP Alumnus Uses MFA to Take Gaming to New Levels

Headshot of JD Cromwell
JD Cromwell, MFA ’18, writes narratives for a new board game bar opening in Boston next month. Courtesy photo

By Zenebou Sylla ’22

JP Cromwell, not surprisingly for a Creative Writing MFA, tells stories for a living. You might hear one of them as you hunt for hidden treasure.

Cromwell, MFA ’18 writes narration for board games, for a new game café/bar opening in Boston November 15.

Tavern of Tales, 1478 Tremont Street, will allow gamers to immerse themselves in analog games that will include music, sound effects, and Cromwell’s narration.

“We’re really taking advantage of the point that with board games, you just interact with the board itself, but we add another layer by adding sound effects and narration to the gaming experience so that you really feel immersed in it instead of just moving pieces and the board just being it,” Cromwell said of himself and the team.

In Above and Below, one of seven games Tavern of Tales will offer, players displaced from their village by barbarian hordes must build a new settlement, both above and below ground. That story is provided by the game’s creator, Red Raven Games.

What Tavern of Tales and Cromwell provide players is narration of the new village’s founding, told as a legend several years in the future by one of their “descendants.”

With Forbidden Island, a cooperative fantasy game, players are helped along on their missions by one of three narrators – The Patriot, The Mad Scientist, and the Simulation AI Machine Management Interface (S.A.M.M.I.) — who dispatch them to Forbidden Island for their own distinct motives.

“If you can entertain your players that’s all that matters,” said Cromwell.

The Emerson alum was able to apply some of the skills he picked up from working on his MFA, first to writing short stories, and now to creating narratives for Tavern of Tales.

“With that, it taught me time management and how to get projects done,” said Cromwell

Cromwell said he found his passion for writing during his undergraduate studies. Initially, he drew comics before moving to short stories, and then to the world of media and gaming. 

“Right here is a great stepping stone and learning how to make narratives out of already existing properties,” Cromwell said.

Cromwell believes that the new space will allow its community of gamers an innovative way to explore and immerse themselves into tabletop board games. Through his writing, he wants players to be able to connect to more than just the game. 

“We really go the extra mile so players will enjoy themselves and have a great time. I feel as though if a patron comes into the bar, they will see that effort was made,” Cromwell said.

Cromwell said that he hopes Tavern of Tales is able to open more shops in the future. He also plans to continue with the team, as well as branch out into cartoons and video games. 

Having taken this opportunity, Cromwell said, he encourages others to be open to where their path takes them.

“Believe in it, just keep going at it and just take every failure as a lesson. Know that it is something that will help you in the future,” Cromwell said.

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