Solo Saturday Part Two!

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01This past Saturday was Solo Saturday the First! By every metric I care about it was a rousing success: folks came by and engaged, I had returning viewers, some of the creators dropped by at various points, money was donated to Extra Life, I got new followers, and I played four excellent games. It was a great day!

It was also my first stream as a newly minted Twitch Affiliate, which was fun. I still have to poke around my channel and figure out all the bells and whistles. But that’s something for me to pull together over the next several weeks.

But it definitely went well enough that I’m going ahead with Part Two this coming Saturday, November 26, at 10am MST/Noon EST.

Games!

Finishing out my Extra Life Game Day line-up, I have four games on the schedule (all times MST):

In between games I’ll also talk about Extra Life, chat about TTRPGs in general, and talk with chat. But while I am talking with chat there will also be…

Prizes!

This is the one thing I forgot to do last Saturday! Every two-hour block I’ll run a giveaway for a $10 gift card for DriveThruRPG. You must be in chat to win, and if there is no winner in a block, I’ll add $10 to the next block’s gift card. No purchase or donation necessary, just be in chat and be willing to share your email address with me so I can send your gift card.

That’s it! Swing by and enjoy some great games next Saturday, follow the links and pick up the games and play along!

Solo Saturday!

Tomorrow, starting at 10am MST/Noon EST, I am playing eight hours of Solo TTRPGs in support of Extra Life! There will also be chatting, and prize giveaways, and stuff.

“Oo, stuff! Tell us more about the Stuff, Brent!” I will, I promise, but let’s take things in order.

Games!

Picking up from where I left off in my Extra Life Game Day line-up, I have four games on the schedule for tomorrow (all times MST):

In between games I’ll also be talking about Extra Life, chatting about TTRPGs in general, and talking with chat. But while I am talking with chat there will also be…

Prizes!

Every two-hour block I’ll run a giveaway for a $10 gift card for DriveThruRPG. You must be in chat to win, and if there is no winner in a block, I’ll add $10 to the next block’s gift card. No purchase or donation necessary, just be in chat and be willing to share your email address with me so I can send your gift card.

“But Brent, what about the Stuff? We want the STUFF!”

Stuff!

20221029_142353As promised, let’s talk about The Stuff. A few weeks ago I cleaned up all of my loose dice and put them back in a large candy jar I use to store them, pictured here. There are a lot of dice in there, in fact there are…actually, why don’t you tell me? Check out this post on Twitter for entry details and the Prize pack. Some pretty sweet indie TTRPGs up for grabs, so don’t miss out!

That’s it! I hope to see you tomorrow on stream and as always, feel free to drop an Extra Life donation if you are so inclined.

Retooling the Draconic Ampersand

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01I have been playing roleplaying games for most of my life. It’s been my passion and my inspiration since I was ten years old, dreaming of dragons and the deeps of space. Unsurprisingly, I have played a LOT of Dungeons & Dragons in that time. It was my first TTRPG, for a while my only TTRPG. It has sat in the tabletop space, its gravitational force at times waning but never absent. I have at times loved the game and hated the game, and sometimes those times were the same session of D&D. I’ve played it, I’ve DMed it, I’ve organized game days and cons around it. I’ve used it to draw folks into the hobby and I’ve seen it become the vehicle which drove some people out.

“It’s Complicated” doesn’t begin to touch how I feel about Dungeons & Dragons.

One thing that has come up in discussions around D&D’s unsquared corners and oddly built steps, though, is the common refrain from many of the game’s stalwarts whenever someone brings up an issue with the game rules.

“Well, if you don’t like it you can house rule it!”

Now, I’m not opposed to house ruling in principle. In fact it’s been part of the hobby since there was a hobby. I don’t even think I was six months into playing Basic D&D before I was suggesting ways we could do what I considered cool new things in the game. Of course, back then we house ruled not so much to change rules as add to them; the environment was not as supplement rich as it is these days, so we often had to build out aspects of the games we were playing ahead of any “official” expansions, if they ever came. So we love a good house rule around these parts.

I do think there is a discussion worth having about whether I should have to house rule a game for which I paid fifty dollars a book, but that lies outside the scope of this post. Consider a pin firmly stuck in it, we will return in a future article.

So no, I don’t oppose the idea of house ruling per se. But I was giving this a good think the other day and it niggled at me that so much of the house ruling going on is piecemeal in nature. And I mean, of course it would be. It’s happening at individual tables, as differing mixes of player and DM come up with their personal blend called “D&D”. I’ve even done it myself, both at the table and in one-off articles on bits and pieces I would change in the rules.

So all of this is to say, I got to thinking what if. What if someone (spoilers, dear reader, that someone will be me) treated D&D 5e like a broken down classic car. You haul it into your garage and look it over. All the parts are there and more or less functional, and in its current state it is certainly fun to drive. But what if someone…okay, fine, I…took it and instead of fixing a tire here or and a door there, I overhauled it from top to bottom? Just dove in, pulled it all apart, and rebuilt it from the ground up. What would that look like?

“But Brent,” I hear you say, “Why wouldn’t you just write your own fantasy TTRPG? Then you could make it however you want.” And you’re not wrong. But in my heart I know this about myself. I am maybe a second tier writer, and on really good days I have flashes of first tier writing. But I am a first rate editor. There is nothing I love more than digging into a big old pile of words and figuring out how to make them better than they were before. Basically I want to take the D&D books, starting with the PHB, and treat them as something I have been asked to developmentally edit.

Because lets face it, there are so many parts of D&D 5e that exist solely as artifacts to keep older players happy with the game. Let’s take an example I talked about in an article on The Rat Hole years ago: Ability Scores. As I opined then, they serve no purpose in and of themselves. You generate them when making your character, the ability score tells you the bonus you get in that ability, and then you never use the ability score you generated ever again. Sure, the game tells you to raise your ability scores at certain levels, magic items can raise them, etc. So then you blow the dust off this unused bit of crockery, quickly calculate your new bonus (ie, the thing you actually use during play), and toss the ability score back in the cupboard until you need it again.

So why have them in the game? Because so many old gamers would get grumpy if you took them away, it “wouldn’t be D&D anymore!”

I’m proposing to go ahead with this little project under the belief that: a) keeping old gamers from getting grumpy should never be part of a healthy design philosophy, and b) it not being D&D anymore might not be the worst thing.

Keeping the classic car analogy going, this is something I’m going to tinker with in my spare time. Of course I’m going to talk about it here and likely over at The Rat Hole as well. And when I have something in a readable form, I’ll post up a design doc so folks can watch as I add, remove, and flat out redesign all the parts to this classic.

I know other folks have looked at D&D and made their version of a “fantasy heartbreaker” inspired or in spite of it. Maybe this will come to nothing in the end. But from where I’m sitting now it looks and sounds like fun, so I’m going to give it a go. Stick around to see how it all works out.

New Plan!

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingOkay, so last Saturday was Extra Life Game Day and my plan to stream Solo TTRPGs went amazing!

For the first six hours. Then a migraine showed up and ruined the party for everyone.

Obviously this bummed me out for a bit. But I am not one to roll over and give up. So I have come up with a new plan! I’m going to break up the remaining 18 hours of streaming I promised to do over this Thursday, and the last two Saturdays of November, with the usual Thursday night shenanigans thrown in. It’s going to look something like this:

Thursday, November 10

Thursday, November 17

Saturday, November 19 (all times MST)

Thursday, November 24

  • 6pm MST/8pm EST: TBD

Saturday, November 26 (all times MST)

That’s the new plan! Hopefully spreading it out will make it less likely another migraine intrusion will occur. And I think it gives more folks the chance to stop by and catch games they want to check out. And of course, hopefully donate to Extra Life, which is the reason I’m doing all this in the first place.

I’ll tweet out the games and times much like I did last time. I hope you’ll stop by if you can!

Extra Life Game Day Game Plan

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingThe 24 hour Game Day for Extra Life is less than a week away, and I can’t wait! After some hurdles I am finally able to live-stream, so this has opened up my plans for the day. Sadly, my new tech came too late for me to reach out and schedule games with other folks, so I’m going to put that plan in my pocket for 2023.

But here in 2022, Game Day is all about Solo TTRPGs. I have split my day into two hour blocks and I’m essentially treating each block as its own live-stream. Within each block I plan to talk a bit about Extra Life, talk with folks in chat, play a solo game, and take a couple of breaks. Not only does this help me focus up a bit on what I’m doing (especially important when I get to the wee hours), but if something happens and I have to stop streaming for a bit, I can drop out a segment or two, then carry on when I get back. And since I plan to keep doing my Solo TTRPG Thursdays until the end of the year and beyond, I can just add any dropped segments to my Thursday lineup.

Assuming everything goes to plan, though, here is my lineup for next Saturday. The order might change, even as late as on the day, but these are the twelve games I picked:

All times MST.

I feel like this is a good mix of genre, style, mood, and tone. They might not appeal to everyone, but I’m hoping everyone will find at least one or two blocks they want to check out with me. And of course, if you can’t sleep and want some help with that, swing by the early morning blocks and say hi; I’ll put on my soothing “midnight to 4am radio DJ” voice and knock you right out.

Anyway, that’s my cunning plan. I also have a bunch of stuff to give away: an Extra Life puzzle, copies of games, download codes, gift cards to DriveThruRPG. I’m going to play those giveaways by ear, so stop on by and get lucky! And of course, all the incentives and special offers and items on my Extra Life donation page will stay in play, on Game Day and for the rest of the year.

It’s going to be a good time, I hope you’ll stop by at least for a bit and make a donation if you can. And if you are a creator of Solo TTRPGs, with priority to marginalized creators, please reach out so I can add you to my Thursday night play list for the rest of the year. I would love to feature your game!

My Extra Life got an Extra Life!

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingI had glorious plans for Extra Life back in the summer. Laid them all out, started organizing, planning, it was great! And then when I tried to execute on those plans at the beginning of September, I discovered that my hardware was not up to the task, even in the simplest ways. So I shelved those plans.

But things change, and things put on shelves can be taken back off and put back in use. Thanks to a generous friend who wishes to stay anonymous, I have the temporary use of some hardware that will let me stream! Friends, I am so grateful, and super excited to put at least some fragments of my plan into action for this year. Extra Life is dear to me and it was breaking my heart to not be able to support it how I wanted.

I can’t do everything I had planned to do back in the summer, there just isn’t time for me to pull together the players for me to GM a bunch of games. So this year is going to be a Solo TTRPG Fest, from now-ish straight through to the end of the year.

My updated schedule of events looks like this:

  • Remainder of OCTOBER: Thursdays at 6pm MST/8pm EST, streaming Solo RPGs!
  • NOVEMBERGame Day Solo-athon! Lineup TBA, but it’s going to be a whole raft of solo TTRPGs for 24 hours. Watch some great games and my fatigue-induced mental decline!
  • (The Rest of) NOVEMBER: Thursdays at 6pm MST/8pm EST, streaming Solo RPGs! Games TBA.
  • DECEMBER: Thursdays at 6pm MST/8pm EST, streaming Solo RPGs! Games TBA.

I will add more details as events come closer, but this is the framework. If you are a Solo TTRPG creator, or you have a favourite you think I should consider, please reach out and let me know about it! And of course all the rest of my Extra Life shenanigans are in full swing, so please click the link for that information.

  

Just a Coffee

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01This is a hard post to write. I try as much as possible to focus on TTRPG stuff and show off a good mix of the myriad projects and events going on in the space, along with projects I’m working on. But there is no getting around it, I need to ask for some help.

Without going into details I can’t share yet, my family got some terrible news this past week. Coming out of COVID and with both my parents retired, this is going to stretch them thin. Obviously I’m stepping up to help my family as much as I can, but that is going to mean my resources will soon get stretched as well. But I can’t not help them, they’re family.

So I’m doing something I don’t do very often. I’m asking for help. If you like what I do around here and want to lend a hand, probably the best way to offer direct support is to buy me a coffee. Honestly, just one coffee from everyone who subscribes to the blog, who follows me on Twitter, who showed up to read my post on the whole Satine and Jameson situation, that would be enough to give me a buffer and help my folks out. At this point I want to say thank you to everyone who has already bought me coffees, your generosity and support mean the world to me.

If Ko-fi isn’t your bag, check out my Support page for other ways to help out and often get some cool stuff. I’m still editing as well; I was about to wind down for the end of the year but I’ll get back in the harness to help my family. So if you need editing work done please reach out. Until the end of the year I’m doing everything at my Zine rates, so now is a pretty good time to hit me up.

That’s it. I promise I’ll share details when and if I can, within the bounds of protecting privacy and not trauma dumping. And like I said, times are tough for us all right now. If you aren’t able to help out monetarily, I totally understand. Maybe help with a share or a retweet if you can? Spreading the word may get this in front of someone who can spare a coffee, and that’s help enough.

Thank you.

There’s No “We” in AI

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01AI generated art has been the hot button topic in the TTRPG space for the last little while. There are, as so often happens, respected voices in the industry coming out on all sides of the, well, let’s call it a “conversation” to be polite, which it mostly hasn’t been. And that’s understandable, especially as more details about AI sites and how they operate become available.

For those who aren’t on top of this newest development in AI: these sites use keyword/keyphrase searches to amalgamate images from across the internet to create “new” art matching the prompts you gave. As you refine your prompts the AI refines its “creations” and you get closer to the image you want. That’s a very simple breakdown of how it works, you can certainly find a more in depth explanation with clever use of your internet search engine of choice.

People who support this new development in the TTRPG space talk about how it opens up opportunities for them, giving them access to art assets they wouldn’t otherwise have. And at first it can be hard to argue with that, especially when quite a few of these creators come from the marginalized areas of our hobby. When they just want to get their game to market, what harm does it do if they use AI to give themselves a snazzy cover they otherwise couldn’t afford?

Opponents to AI art generation will point out the harm is two-fold. First, if TTRPG creators can write some clever prompts and click a few icons and out comes an art, why would they ever go through the bother and expense of hiring an artist to do the work instead? So the income of artists in the TTRPG space is impacted. Secondly, and at the same time, the AI is “creating” its “art” by doing what computers have always done best: performing millions of calculations and grafting together bits and bobs from various existing art on the internet. Not only is the AI blocking future income for artists, but simultaneously it goes back and steals previous art, often from the same artists.

One could argue that, initially at least, there won’t be a noticeable financial dip for freelance artists. The creators most likely to use this technology first are the ones who couldn’t have afforded to buy art in the first place. But that drop will come when, around the time a small or Indie TTRPG publisher would normally “level up” their products by reaching out for their first pieces of art, they instead keep using the AI. One doesn’t have to get hit by a falling rock to know this avalanche is coming.

I’m not an artist so I can’t speak to whether what an AI generates could be considered art. And frankly I don’t think that argument is important, at least in relation to the TTRPG sphere. What I am is someone who helps publish TTRPGs and has plans to publish my own work in the future. And looking this new tech over and weighing up all my options, I can say without doubt that I will never use AI generated art in anything I publish. Likewise, I wouldn’t knowingly buy any TTRPG that relied on AI images for its graphic design.

Why? I could certainly make the points that have already been made by other artists and creators. There are any number of ways for TTRPG makers to get free and inexpensive art for their projects. Searching DriveThruRPG and Itch will get you access to any number of art bundles, most artists I know with a Patreon have a patronage level which gets you stock art you can use, there are stock art sites…the list goes on, right down to just not using any art in your game.

I know, I know, but if I can be honest for a second? Great art has never saved a bad game for me. If I had a bad time playing your game, no amount of pretty imagery and clever layout will make me pick up that game again. Contrariwise, I come back to games with little to no art constantly because I love the game. One of my favourite games is the ashcan of Crossroads Carnival by Kate Bullock. Beautiful, haunting,  game, the art is sparse. Which fits the game very well, but if the game wasn’t as excellent as it is I would never give the visual aspects of the game a second thought.

Back to why I won’t use AI art. Like I said, I’m not interested in whether it’s art or not, and I think the argument that it will open up opportunities for small creators is shaky as well. Some have tried to say that this is just the march of progress and artists will have to adapt, likening this moment to the invention of steam-powered looms in the 18th century and the effect that had on cottage artisans. I tweeted my reaction to that analogy already, but in short for those who don’t want to click through: the only way that analogy holds up is if the machines created roved the countryside, stealing and stitching together the textiles of cottage weavers. It is not the same and saying it is shows an ignorance of history, economics, and people.

The reason I won’t use AI art is actually pretty simple. I’m most interested in how this affects people in our space, or dare I use that supposedly dirty word, community. And a large portion of our community, the artists themselves, have told us this will directly and indirectly harm them. That’s it. And if we actually want a community and not just a mob with similar interests, we need to listen to them. We can’t call ourselves any kind of a community if we don’t listen to the folks being harmed and take steps to mitigate or eliminate that harm. Marginalized or not, small creator or not, and especially because there are options available, if you have to hurt someone in order to publish your game, is it worth it?

And when the AI comes for the one aspect of your game you currently control, the words, will you still feel the pain is worth it? Think that day isn’t coming? There’s that ignorance of history again.

One thing I want to note because I’ve seen the use of AI-generated art excused because the creators in question are “hobbyist” or part-time creators. I think that’s part of a larger discussion for another time, because discourse about who is a “One True TTRPG Creator” keeps popping up. But I would make two points really quick. One, if someone steals from me, I don’t care if they only steal in their spare time. And two, likewise, once they’ve stolen from me it hardly matters to me whether they fence the stolen goods or not. They’re still stolen.

So that’s where I am with all this. I’m not sure how this is going to play out in the TTRPG space, but I get the feeling it’s going to be messy and noisy. I think we weather the storm by thinking of people first, especially if you have a hard time thinking of artists/creators as people and not just a Twitter handle.

Solo Plans for Extra Life

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingWhile my summer plans for Extra Life faltered, my fall plans are going strong! As I laid out in my plan, September and October I am streaming evenings of solo TTRPGs. Some games I have played before, some are new to me, but it’s just going to be me, the game, and chat. I plan to keep things pretty relaxed so I’ll have time to talk and answer questions.

What games am I playing? Well, September’s lineup looks something like this:

Right now I’m shooting for every Thursday at 6pm MST. That may change depending on, well, life. Streams shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours; a little chatting to catch up, welcome folks in, then jump into the game for a bit, say my goodbyes and get. Not only will these be my first streamed solo TTRPGs, but this will be my first solo livestreams ever. To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement, but I had a good teacher so I’m confident I can pull these off with no more chance of calamity than any other new streamer.

And of course these are all to support Extra Life, so I hope folks will swing by to say hello and drop a few dollars for a good cause. And October will be more of the same, except all of October’s games are horror or supernatural themed, as befits the Halloween month. Who knows, I might even get in costume for the stream nearest All Hallow’s Eve if the spirit moves me. Donations would, of course, get my spirit to move me a great deal.

That’s my plan! I hope you’ll come by and cheer me on, maybe hang out and/or make a small donation. I plan to have fun so I hope you come watch!