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!

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!

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.