Forbeck has written 30 novels based on games and movies.
Next week, Matt Forbeck’s 30th novel, a junior novelization of Star Wars: Rogue One, comes out — a project that, among other things, gave him the geektacular opportunity to read the film’s script nine months before the rest of us got to see it.
“Then I just had to not talk about it for the next nine months,”says Forbeck, 48. “Luckily, I’m used to that.”
Over the past two decades, Forbeck has carved out a successful career as a games writer. He was part of the writing team for Ubisoft’s recently released console game Ghost Recon: Wildlands. He’s written novels based in popular games universes like Halo (and, obviously, Star Wars) and rulebooks for role-playing games. His credits include the last two editions of the Marvel Comics Encyclopedia (one of which spent multiple months on The New York Times bestseller list) and last fall’s Dungeonology, a behind-the-scenes looks at the Forgotten Realms of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing universe.
Forbeck will be one of the featured guests at the UW-Madison’s annual Writer’s Institute, which begins March 24.
“I’m an outlier,” says Forbeck. who does most of his writing out of his Beloit home — no easy task, given that he and his wife have five children, including 14-year-old quadruplets. “I have 30 novels in print and I’ve never had an agent. I broke every rule.”
Forbeck got his start as a teenager in Beloit in the 1980s, the halcyon days when tabletop games ruled the world and Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were creating Dungeons & Dragons up the road in Lake Geneva. Forbeck used to dash out of high school soccer practice to play-test new role-playing games in nearby Delavan. As he got older and added a writing degree to his resume, those connections eventually led to what’s become a never-ending stream of opportunities.
“A lot of it is networking,” says Forbeck of his path to success. “When I started, you didn’t have college classes on game design. When they needed writers, they contacted tabletop guys — and that was me.”
Forbeck has remained prolific. In addition to the Rogue One novelization, he’s launched a Kickstarter to fund a rebirth/second edition of Brave New World, a superhero-based role-playing game he initially created for Pinnacle Games back in the ’90s. That game anticipated not just some of the themes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie trilogy, but also the ripped-from-the-headlines issues of personal liberty, privacy and morality we’re facing today.
“For me, it’s never been about book signings. It’s do you enjoy the work?” Forbeck says. “The money and fame are secondary.”