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!

What’s on the Shelf?

MP900422452-1024x688About four years ago I made a list of random book titles and shared it on The Rat Hole as an aide to busy GMs. In most cases, even if you’re running a pre-written adventure, if it features a library the only books that will be named are those that are plot relevant. But we GMs know the players are going to look at other books, right? Right. Incidentally, this list was a companion piece to an article I wrote about marginalia; the two lists together should make the bibliophile in your group very happy.

In any case, I recently started playing in a short Paranormal Inc campaign and my character uses the Bookworm playbook. One of my character’s special abilities is predicated on me naming whatever strange tome or volume I pulled my information from. So it seemed like a good time to rescue my original list from the backlist and share it again.

I present the original twenty five book list, with five new books I added just today. I considered updating some of the titles to better fit the more modern Paranormal Inc setting. But honestly? The stranger the book titles the better, and if these are a little anachronistic in a modern setting, all the better to confuse my fellow investigators.

I encourage you to take this list and use it at your table. And add to it! I would love to hear what strange and wonderful volumes you come up with.

  1. Non-Euclidean Geometry and Its Application to Architectural Design, Vol. II (Vol. I is not present)
  2. Oozes, Molds, and Semi-Intelligent Plants: A Cook’s Guide
  3. My Time Amongst the Vegepygmies
  4. Her Hooves They Shone Like the Diamonds: Collected Love Poems and Songs of the Centaur Peoples
  5. What Colour is Your Gelatinous Cube?: Tips for Using Dyes and Stains 
  6. Elves are from the Feywild, Orcs are from Gruumsh
  7. A Fifty Year Retrospective of the Cheesemaker’s Guild
  8. Inter-City Relations in Post-Scarcity Faerun
  9. The Care and Feeding of Your Buopoth
  10. A Gentleman’s Guide to Bullywug Etiquette
  11. The Collected Minutes of the Ptolus Benevolent Society, Volume XVII
  12. Gold, Beer, and Steel: A Dwarven Songbook
  13. Oh Brother Where Art Thou?: How to Lead Your Own Cult
  14. Half-Orc, All Rage: Tips and Tricks for Anger Management
  15. Calling the Great Old Ones, a Posthumous Publication
  16. Monster Scatology: a Jeweler’s Guide
  17. Whose Bones are Those?: Dice Games of the Planes
  18. Kobold Guide to Trap Design
  19. Predator and Prey: Dating a Lycanthrope
  20. Weather Readings on Mount Thrandor, Common Year 4637
  21. If it Fits, It’s Grits: A Field Guide to Goblin Cuisine
  22. A Barbarian’s Guide to Unleashing What’s Inside (Your Enemy)
  23. Fur-braiding Styles of the Lowland Bugbear Tribes
  24. A Crafter’s Guide to Humanoid Physiology
  25. The Mysterious Case of the Left-handed Flumph
  26. Keep Dragon Your Ass: A guide to Dragonborn Fitness
  27. You Drank That?!, Fermentations of the Lower Planes
  28. Easy Owlbear Tricks to Amaze! (by Franz “One Arm” Higgly, posthumous)
  29. A Fae Guide to Chicago and Environs
  30. Tales of Voracious, by Kate Bullock

That last one is an actual set of stories by my friend Kate. Definitely not monster erotica for the faint of heart, but extremely passionate, well-crafted stories for those that love monsters. Not only can it appear as a book on your in-game shelf, but you can then direct your players to the website to read actual stories. Warning: Make sure your players’ safety and well-being will not be violated by doing so. Safety and consent before sending unsuspecting players to a monster fucking site, please.

Change of Plans

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingIf you’ve been following my Extra Life plans you might have wondered why there were no ads going out for games this weekend. There’s good reason for that.

Sadly, I had to cancel my planned games this weekend. The loss of my best friend last month, coupled with the death of my cousin Randy a few weeks ago, hasn’t left me in a good space. Certainly not a space from which I could organize a TTRPG marathon, however much I might have wanted it. I’ve barely managed to stay on top of other projects, and then only because I hate letting folks down. Something had to give, though, and in this case letting the Extra Life event go disappoints only me, which I can handle.

The rest of my plans for the year are still in place. So look for me to advertise my solo streams for September soon. I have three of my four games chosen, I’m just taking a look for a good fourth solo TTRPG.

And obviously everything else, the incentives and the “$10 to Infinity” project, are still very much a going concern. I hope that you’ll take a moment to donate and take advantage of those, especially the second, as it is near and dear to my heart.

Making a Big Production: Communication

In my last post I talked about producing my very first actual play series, and drawing on my experience as Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01a professional stage manager to explore where those skills might overlap. Let’s continue exploring that as I talk about communication and transparency.

As a stage manager, easily half my job was around communications. During the rehearsal period especially the stage manager is the information hub, connecting the director to the cast and the production team, serving as a conduit to the various departments (props, costumes, carpentry, etc), and generally keeping everyone informed. When I was learning my trade I was taught it is better to tell everyone too much than risk someone not knowing a thing they needed to know. Luckily, I also learned methods that wouldn’t overwhelm folks with information overload.

Having read Twitter threads from folks in the TTRPG space, as well as watching several panels on AP production, communication is a huge part of successful APs as well. The key to successful communication, I’ve found, is not only making sure everyone has access to the same information, but ensuring they have the space to ask questions and feel supported in doing so. I feel like that’s where communication can break down the most often, when folks feel they’re going to encounter anger or defensiveness when they ask questions, whether that’s true or not.

That brings me to our second Theatre Tip, which I teased in the last post:

Theatre Tip #2There is no such thing as overcommunication. Everyone should be able to know everything they want about the production at any time.

Pretty straightforward, right? So does this mean I’m constantly sending emails and Twitter DMs for every little update or change? No, of course not. That’s part of avoiding the information overload I talked about previously. Constant messaging might fly for about a day; by day two the rest of the production would want to strangle me. So how do I keep everyone on the same page? Remember the production document I talked about in my first post? Everyone we’ve invited to the cast has a link to that Google Doc, and knows they can go there for information about the production, as well as any updates. And so they are reminded of that, anytime I do send everyone a message regarding a major development, I also remind them to check that doc for more details.

Remember, the tip reads, “Everyone should be able to know…” not that I have to ensure they know, every second of every day. If I make the information available, some of the responsibility for staying informed has to lie with the other folks on the production. In short, I’ll never hide anything but they still have to get up and go look at it.

And good communication has to start with your first contact with a prospective cast member. So let’s look at a redacted draft of my email out to folks we wanted to invite onto this production. I have redacted any specific details because we aren’t ready to reveal that yet (yes, I know, redacting things in a post about communications, I feel the irony as well). But I’ll show you the letter, then we can break it down by the numbers.

***

Hello! My name is Brent Jans (@DorklordCanada) and I am contacting you to ask if you might be interested in playing in a recorded actual play of the [TTRPG].(1)

Our plan is to record two, three hour sessions of the game, as an introduction for new players.(2) Recordings are currently set for Tuesday, October 18 and Tuesday, October 25, starting at 5pm EST.(3) I will act as the Facilitator (GM) and there will be five players.(4) Currently [Player One] and [Player Two] are confirmed to play. Besides yourself we are also asking [Player Three] and [Player Four] if they are available and interested in coming to play.(5)

The recordings will be edited and then aired on the [Channel Name] Twitch channel, then live on the [Channel Name] YouTube channel.(6) We will use safety tools as part of play, primarily Lines & Veils, X-card, and Open Table.(7) If you do not currently own a copy of the [TTRPG], please let me know and a PDF will be provided.(8)

The project has one sponsor currently, [Sponsor Name], which will pay an honorarium of [Amount] to each player per recording session.(9) This a non-profit I helped create; part of its mandate is to further the playing of TTRPGs through education and demonstration.

In addition, I will look for other sponsors with the purpose of covering production costs and providing more money to you, the players. As well, any money raised from the airing of the two recordings (in the form of tips, subs, or Ko-fi donations) goes only to the players and will be split equally.(10)

This project is meant as a starting point. This is a new game for most of us, this is the first actual play project I have ever produced, and it will air on a relatively new channel. We’re trying something out to see if we can make it work. If it does, there are plans to record more two to three episode blocks of [TTRPG], covering all of the in-game Seasons. If we go ahead with those you will have first refusal on being a cast member.(11)

But first, we need to know if you would like to join us for these two sessions.(12) Please let me know by Wednesday, August 10 if you are available and interested.(13) If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, by reply here or by DM on Twitter.(14)

Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.

***

Okay, let’s break it down.

  1. Even if you are contacting someone you know, start with a proper introduction. This is me and this is why I’m contacting you. Keep it just that simple, don’t bury the lead.
  2. Pretty straightforward, this gives them an idea of the time commitment involved. In this case, I’m asking for 6-8 hours of their time. For most folks in AP, their time is in short supply, they need to know this so they can decide if they want to spend it on my production or not.
  3. I’ve given them a time commitment, now here’s the specifics. These dates and times worked for the two cast members already on board, so we chose to cast for availability. Even without those two cast members, however, I likely would have set at least some approximate dates and times. It can be tempting to leave this open ended so hopefully you can make a schedule work for everyone. But again, these folks are often busy and need to know what your time frame looks like up front. Better to have someone say no thank you at the start, than having to bid goodbye to someone after casting because you couldn’t make the scheduling work. So set your dates. If they can’t, they can’t, move on.
  4. It’s good to let them know how many folks are involved. Not only does this provide scope for the game, but if you are doing any sort of donation/sub/tip split, it gives them an idea up front what that might look like, at least in broad terms.
  5. This one is so important, I’m shocked when I get messaging from an AP that doesn’t include it. No way around it, there are problem people in the TTRPG space and by virtue of most communication happening through Twitter, you can’t know who all of them are at any given moment. So when you approach a new cast member, tell them who else is involved. Let them decide if they want to work with the folks you already have on board. And let them know who you’re thinking of approaching. It didn’t happen with my casting for this, thankfully. But doing this let’s a prospective cast mate warn you if you might have employed or are thinking of employing someone harmful. As well, and this did happen, one of the folks I approached who sadly couldn’t make the scheduling work, offered to give me names of other folks I could approach in their stead. So now I have a resource for future casting I didn’t have before. In short, there is no downside to doing this, as long as you are open to being corrected and keeping your collaborators safe.
  6. Again, pretty straightforward. This is where we’re going air and this is where the recordings will end up afterwards. Of course I’m going to provide everyone with the links to all of this later, but if for some reason they lose those, they can still track down their work.
  7. I use safety tools at any table I run and it is especially important for actual plays. Streaming or recording, your players need to feel safe enough to fully engage with play. Frankly, if you don’t want to use safety tools for your APs, you aren’t ready to produce APs. I hear macramé is nice.
  8. Like a theatre production provides the scripts, an AP should provide the game. This could be something you work out with the publisher as part of your sponsorship. In our case I hadn’t reached out to the publisher yet, so I provided the game to the players who needed it out of pocket. This is important, because not every player you reach out to has read, or even has the means to read, every game. It’s only right you provide the tools they need to work on your AP.
  9. Here we come to the money part, a subject which I know give plenty of folks Rapid Onset Sphincter Clench. Again, transparency is your friend. If you don’t have any money, say that. If you have a little money (as we did), say that. If you have enough to pay your cast appropriately, please give me the name of your genie (kidding, but maybe…?). Avoid any phrases which sound apologetic or passive aggressive, like, “I know it isn’t much, but…” or “You probably wouldn’t want to work for so little…” No one appreciates those and they lay the groundwork for both poor future communication and hard feelings down the road. Be clear, upfront, and honest about what you can do to compensate the cast member for their time, then let them decide. You’re an adult, they’re an adult. So be adults.
  10. If you have little or no money up front, also be clear about any plans to get more compensation for the cast. Don’t promise the moon and avoid specific numbers unless you are rock solid you can deliver. Saying something like, “I promise everyone will get at least $100 in tips from Twitch!” may sound good. But now your production needs to raise $100 x cast members + whatever Twitch’s cut is, in order to deliver on that promise. And as a producer (or stage manager, for that matter), you are your reputation. Keep your promises? You’re golden. Fail on your promises? You’re dross. The lesson: make less promises and bust your ass to keep both the promises you make out loud and the ones you don’t .
  11. This section isn’t necessary for every project, but we do have tentative plans for a longer series of recording if this project works out (what does “working out” look like? Excellent question, sounds like a future blog post!) and I wanted to let prospective cast mates there could be future work if they wanted it. First refusal gives them an out in case they didn’t enjoy the game or the experience in general, or if their schedule suddenly gets busy.
  12. Just bringing the focus back to this project, which needs to happen to make any of the other stuff possible. I made this a point to demonstrate that it’s okay to dream a bit and invite your prospective cast members to dream with you. But always keep most of your focus on the work at hand, not what dreams may come.
  13. Cast member invites should not be open ended. You want to give them time to look at their schedule, talk to other groups they might be involved with, and look into the folks involved. In this case I gave them three days, which, on the advice of one of my collaborators should have been more like five, given how far off the working dates are. So go with five unless you’re in a hurry. But then, why are you in a hurry?
  14. I’m pretty confident I covered everything, but I could be wrong. So always open the door for questions and let them know where those doors are located.

So, pretty good, right? Sure, but I missed some things. No pronouns for one thing, I should have included everyone’s next to their name. So that’s pretty big. And as mentioned, I should have given them five days or even a week to respond, given we wouldn’t even be recording for another two plus months. In theatre I am used to much tighter timelines, so my instinct is to grant as short a time as possible for responses, so I can move on swiftly if there is no response or if the answer is no.

And I am sure as I post this, veteran AP producers may have other notes for me. I welcome them! Please drop them in the comments below or comment when this pops up on Twitter, I’m excited to hear your thoughts.

As for next time…I’m not sure. But I’ll try to come up with a clever Theatre Tip to go along with it. Until then, adieu!

Making a Big Production

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01I’ve made no secret of my love for TTRPG actual plays. Recorded or live, video or audio, they are my new favourite media to consume. I love watching and listening to them and I am thrilled at the rare moments I get to play and GM for them. For years, though, I’ve had the thought in the back of my head: what if I produced an actual play? Could I do that? Do I have anything unique to bring to the table, pun definitely intended? While the third is a larger question requiring more time to ponder, I think I have a handle on the first two.

What if, indeed. And yes.

I’ve mentioned before, here and on Twitter, that I worked for close to twenty years as a freelance stage and production manager. Both jobs related to the organizing of a theatre production, and so I have almost two decades of practical experience in organization and communications around production work. But could those skills port over to actual play production? My gut says yes, and every panel or workshop I’ve taken on AP production over the last few years seems to confirm that. Despite the fact that actual plays are consumed as video media and so are superficially like television, I’ve always thought of them as more in line with theatre anyway (that’s a post for another time).

A conversation with a few friends online led to us wanting to play and record a show together. This collaboration seemed like the ideal time for me to take a leap and see if if my skills would serve me. And I thought it might be helpful, to anyone else thinking of producing their own AP show, for me to talk about what I’m doing and the steps I’m taking. After all, when do you get a chance to watch somebody try things, screw up, learn, try new things, and hopefully get better? Hopefully my posts will help take some of the anxiety out of starting your own production.

Let’s call these…Theatre Tips! Sure that sound corny, but it will grow on you. So…

Theatre Tip #1: Collaborate. Don’t try to do it alone. Even one-person stage shows need someone running lights and sound.

For my first shot at producing I definitely was not going to solo. The idea came about from a conversation with two friends, as I said, and thankfully those friends wanted to work with me (I promise, as soon as we make details of the show public I will stop with the “my friends” and name names, give credit where it’s due. For now, be patient.). And based on what we decided to do we knew we needed at least three more folks on board, which meant convincing three people who weren’t in the initial conversation that we had a good idea they should consider joining.

First thing I did? Thankfully this initial conversation was via Twitter DMs, so compiling notes was easy. I copy/pasted the entire conversation into a Google Doc. Then I removed everything that wasn’t a detail related to the project. Then I made five main categories, which you may be most familiar with in relation to journalism and news writing: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? These questions are just as important when planning a production; I would suggest that how well you can answer them will determine how successfully you can produce your show. I could have created a category titled “How?” but decided to be specific, entitling it “Sponsorships and Support”. I also put a “To Do” list in the document, to keep track of tasks at the start. Later on this list will become a checklist in Google Sheets, but for now a simple list works fine.

Why do all this? Now I have a document containing all the details of our proposed production. I don’t have to hunt through a Twitter DM thread to find important information, I go to the Doc instead. Later, when I want to create a media release, or put together an ad, or even just answer someone’s questions about the production, I have a source from which to pull that information. And most importantly, because it’s a Google Doc I can share it with the other folks on the production so they also have this information at their disposal. As well, they can leave comments and questions in the Doc itself for me or anyone else to discuss.

Which leads me into the topic for our next post:

Theatre Tip #2: There is no such thing as overcommunication. Everyone should be able to know everything they want about the production at any time.

And we’re going to use the somewhat redacted text of the cast invite letter I sent out recently to illustrate this point. But that’s going to be Thursday’s post, so I hope you’ll come back.

If you have any questions about today’s post, or about AP production in general, send them my way. I’ll answer questions about the post right away; I’ll save my answers to other questions until we hit that point in the production. Again, I’m not an expert and I don’t pretend to be one. I have some skills I think will help so I am diving into my first AP as a producer. Hopefully watching me work through it can help other folks do the same. I guess time will tell!

 

New Year, New Look

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01Today is my birthday, which seems like a great time to introduce the new site and new look for Dorklord Canada. If you follow me on Twitter you might have known I worked with Allie at ATG Studios to get a unified look and feel to the DLC brand (I almost put brand in quotations, but I didn’t. My online presence is a brand, nothing wrong with that). Allie delivered beyond anything I envisioned and I love the new look.

I’ve spent the last few weeks updating all my online locations, editing some, deleting others, even creating new ones. It feels so good to look at all the spaces I exist online and really see myself there, see the person I want to be looking back at me.

Moving forward, my online presence will focus on the TTRPG hobby and community, focused but not limited to:

  • How TTRPGs can be used to help us improve, individually and collectively
  • How the games of the past connect with the games made today, and what we can learn from both
  • Using my presence in the TTRPG space, whatever that is, to encourage the community to grow and foster marginalized creators
  • Have fun. They are games, after all.

That’s just some thoughts I had today, I’m sure I’ll think more thoughts, I usually do.

So what’s new on the site? I got rid of a few outdated pages and replaced them with more relevant ones. The whirlwind tour:

  • About DLC – I had created a carrd page to hold links to all my stuff, but why use that when I have a website all my ownsome? So About DLC will be the living (regularly updated) repository for everywhere you can find me online. It’s the first place you should look if you need to know something about me; if you can’t find it there, shoot me a DM on Twitter.
  • Need an Editor? – I have no plans to stop freelancing as a TTRPG editor and this is where folks can find out more, or contact me with questions or work.
  • Support – This page outlines some ways in which I can immediately offer support if you’re running a TTRPG charity or fundraising event. And if you like the work I do and can offer a bit of support, this page offers some places to do that. Not going to lie, I’m sort of excited by the TeePublic store. Yes it would be cool if folks got stuff with the DLC “Dragoonie” logo on it, but mostly I’m excited to order my very own Dragoonie mug!
  • Extra Life – My fundraising for Extra Life is ongoing so I decided it need its own page. This is also a living page, I’ll update it with new information and events for whatever year we’re in. If you want to find out what I’m doing for Extra Life, this is where to go.

Basically, my website has become the hub for everything Dorklord Canada, as it should have been. Not that social media, especially Twitter, won’t continue to be my main point of contact much of the time. But if I want something to last beyond Twitter’s cicada-like lifespan, this is where it will live.

And with a solid base under me, I have plans for the future. Keep an eye on my Twitch and YouTube, as well as some other place to be named later. But I am making plans with some amazing folks to make some amazing things. I hope you’ll stick around to see them.

Extra Magic for Extra Life

Logo for Extra Life fundraisingDonate $10 through my Extra Life page and I’ll make that $10 work forever.

Let me explain. (If you want to skip my meandering and hear the plan, scroll down to The Plan, below)

I was mulling over copy for my Extra Life tweets and emails and I remembered those tweets that usually go something like, “…if everyone who followed me donated just $1 I could hit my target of [X] today!” And I totally get where that messaging is coming from, even if I don’t think it’s effective. Partially because I don’t think guilting the folks you ask for help works all that well. But mainly because it isn’t an actionable request.

Look at my case with Extra Life. Sure, if there were some way to get each of my Twitter followers to part with $1, I would blow away my (in comparison) paltry goal of $3500 with ease. But there is no way for my followers to donate just a dollar. The lowest donation my EL page will accept is $5 because they need a useful minimum in order to keep costs down. And even if I could accept it, it doesn’t make sense for folks to donate that dollar since it will cost them more than a dollar on their end, either credit card or PayPal fees, to make the donation. The whole process would feel like a waste of time and money.

And let’s be real about my follower count for a second. I’m certain there are about twenty five hundred of my followers, plus or minus a hundred, who follow me for me. They have an idea of who I am, they’re into TTRPGs or something else I post about, and they are there for me as me, as much as they can be without having met me (I’m not counting irl friends in this, of course they know me for the whirling bastard I am and I love them for it). When my tweet blew up and went viral, initially there were then a bunch of folks who followed because they liked what I had to say in that tweet and followed me hoping for more (hopefully I haven’t disappointed them too much). But then the tweet reached critical mass and I started getting followers because other people were following and they didn’t want to miss out so they followed even though they didn’t really know what was going on at that point. I’m already shedding a lot of those followers and I expect that to continue.

So while it might appear that I have twenty thousand plus followers ready to serve my every dark whim, in effect I have probably a quarter of that number who pay any appreciable attention to me, and half of that number invested in some way in what I’m doing.

Muddled in with that thought, I started considering numbers. My goal this year is $3500. I feel good about that, and as of right now I am at $235, or roughly 6.7% of my goal. On my list of incentives I priced my lowest level incentive at $10, which gets the donor a special/magical item, created by me, for whatever game system they wish. I get a few details about what they have in mind, then I create something to fit their game/character. Extra Life gets $10, they get a cool item for their games, everyone is happy.

But only once.

The Plan

Okay, hear me out. What if, in addition to giving the magic item to the donor, I saved all the items I made for a particular year, collected them together in a single volume, and sold that volume with all proceeds going to Extra Life in perpetuity? My reasoning is two-fold. One, donating $10 once gets you a magic item, which is cool, but then also gets you the option to donate again and get access to the (potentially) 350 other items created that year, which I think is cooler. Two, doing this year after year would yield multiple volumes of excellent items, creating what would essentially be a passive donation stream for my Extra Life fundraising. Every quarter I would calculate the amount generated, post it here for transparency, and donate it to Extra Life.

So every December 31 I would gather up all the special/magical items I created, dump them in a PDF and ePub (for accessibility) and make them all pretty, then sell that collection through Itch. Maybe it’s pay what you can, maybe I set it at fair market value with community copies. But folks can then donate and take home a collection of rarities and oddities for their gaming table. I’m putting a hard cap of 350 on this because 350 times 10 is 3500, but also it seems a high but reasonable number of items to create.

So as I said at the top: Donate $10 through my Extra Life page and I’ll make that $10 work forever. Well, a reasonable portion of forever, anyway. Make sure to select the $10 incentive when you do, and follow the contact instructions so we can discuss the item you want. I am reasonably confident there are enough of you out there, maybe even 350, who would be willing to donate $10 if you knew that donation was going to keep on giving and you got something special in the bargain.

This in addition to all the Extra Life shenanigans already planned for this year, of course. As an update to those plans, there will be no public event on July 22, though I will encourage folks to donate that day as a birthday gift to me. Everything else is still in place. I’ve just added this extra little twist to help encourage donations.

Thoughts?