Updates and News

The author, Brent, a large blonde beardy man with glasses, wearing a grey wizard's hat.

A cunning new hat appears!

Hello! I plan to get posts out every Wednesday minimum, so sorry for the silence. The time since my last post was rough, but things are back on track so look for me to come back to regular posts starting next week, with the second part of “Let’s Stat at the Beginning“.

This week I wanted to give some updates and news that might have got lost in the Twitter flotsam and jetsam. I’ve been quiet but still hard at work setting up for the things I want to create in 2023. So let’s talk about that.

  • I have a newsletter! I’m starting out monthly on the fifteenth; if folks are receptive it may go bi-weekly but for right now I’m starting where I know I can do the work. I’m talking about the games I think are cool, summing up the stuff I’m doing, sharing cool TTRPG news, and giving away monthly prizes. If that sounds like your flavour of whiskey, please drop your email at the link. Needless to say, I don’t share this info with 3rd parties.
  • Streaming resumes in March! I’m starting back on Wednesday nights at 6pm MST, 8pm EST. I’m staying on with solo TTRPGs for these streams, and I’ll update this post with a list of what I’m playing soon! I’m also looking at doing some early morning coffee hangouts, likely on Thursdays and Fridays, just to enjoy my morning coffee and chat with folks to help start your day and mine. Stay tuned for the detailed schedule, and if you can drop a follow on Twitch in the meantime, that would be swell.
  • YouTube videos are coming back! I’m working on some pre-recorded and edited stuff right now, and will expand that work once my shiny new camera gets here and expands my tech capabilities. I want to highlight the work of marginalized creators in the space, with deep dives into their work and maybe interviews if I can swing it. So these videos will be shorter and more heavily edited, which is a new direction for me and I’m excited to keep learning how. If you haven’t, please give me a follow on YouTube and keep your eyes pealed.

Those are the highlights for what’s coming. I hope you’ll stick around and come along for the ride, it’s going to be a good time! And I’ll see you next week with Part 2 of Let’s Stat at the Beginning!

Let’s Stat at the Beginning, Part One

20230118_113939Back in the Before Times (2022) I talked about taking on a little personal project, to approach D&D 5e as if I were doing a developmental edit on a manuscript. Basically, taking the “just house rule it!” advice we’re barraged with on social media whenever a problem with the game is brought up, and going full out. And given the latest business with the OGL I would be lying if I’m not now approaching this project with a certain amount of glee.

There are a number of places in the rules I could start my revamp. In fact, today I was originally going to revisit two previous articles I wrote about keeping the Stats versus ditching the Stats. But I think a better place to start is with the Stats or Ability Scores themselves, and ask some questions.

From the start Dungeons & Dragons as a game had two big influences: wargaming and bioessentialism. Unsurprising when one of the game’s creators, Gary Gygax, was both a wargamer and a bioessentialist. This isn’t a primer so I will leave it to you to go look up terms which might be unfamiliar. Suffice to say, both of these things contributed to the Ability Scores as we know them today, with all the inherit problems therein. Couple that with multi-edition design choices favoring nostalgia over an honest look at whether these abilities are still useful as they are (spoiler, they aren’t), and right from character creation we are saddled with problems.

Because ability scores are the first thing players generate for their characters in most games, those scores set the tone as far as what type of game can be expected. They signal to players what the game considers important; simply put, if it isn’t important a game doesn’t stat it. By asking you to generate a Strength score, for instance, the game signals that raw strength will be important or useful in the game. So let’s look at what 5e considers important:

  • Strength: raw physical prowess
  • Dexterity: agility as well as hand-eye coordination
  • Constitution: physical endurance, mechanically it also affects hit points (a topic for another article)
  • Intelligence: supposed to indicate memory and reasoning ability, but often defaults to a nebulous idea of how “smart” a character is
  • Wisdom: they don’t really talk about what Wisdom is in the game, jumping almost immediately to the skills and other things it affects
  • Charisma: meant to measure force of personality, but in practice often tied to physical beauty and “sexiness”

Before we look at anything else, we can see that based on solely what D&D does as a game, the first three Ability Scores fit. As the game focuses primarily on combat, for instance, it makes sense you would need to know how hard a character can hit (Strength), whether they can avoid a hit or hit at range (Dexterity), and if they are struck, how well they weather that hit (Constitution).

The remaining three Ability Scores are almost specific to particular character types, as opposed to being generally useful in the same way as the first three. Intelligence is of primary use to wizards and other skill-focused characters, but lies flat on the page for anyone else. Similarly, Wisdom is ill-defined except as the province of the religious folk in the game and otherwise doesn’t come into play except to punish physical-type characters. Charisma could be an Ability of use to everyone, and given how hard folks argue that D&D “does emphasize roleplaying, actually!” you might be forgiven for thinking its presence supports this. But I would argue that, when a particular ability is almost universally considered a “dump stat”, you might need to revisit whether it is working as intended.

So basically we have three Ability Scores which are of vital importance to every character, and three which are situationally important but depending on party build, may not be important to everyone, or even anyone. And yet, every character has to generate these scores, useful or not. Seems like a bit of a time waster, huh? Especially when you consider that, having rolled up these numbers, you never use them again. Oh, you use the bonuses they represent, but the Ability Scores themselves are never rolled against or have any effect on gameplay.

So why have them? And if we’re going to keep them, do we need to keep these ones, or are there better ways to start building a character for the game 5e says it is? What type of game does D&D 5e say it is, anyway?

You have probably heard of the Three Pillars of the D&D game: Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat. These three pillars are meant to be the focus of gameplay, and there is an expectation good designers and GMs will incorporate all three in a balanced fashion into their designs. In reality, 5e strongly supports the Combat pillar with the bulk of the ruleset dedicated to how that works, allocating only a fraction of its total page count to the other two pillars. When someone is telling you to “just houserule it!” or “make up something that works at your table!”, it’s almost a guarantee it relates to the Exploration or Social Interaction “pillars”.

But what if we took the game at its word, that these Three Pillars are actually equally important? What Ability Scores would we develop to drive home that importance and balance right from character creation?

Come back next week for Part Two, and we’ll look at some options.

Dungeon23 and Me

The Crossroads

The Crossroads

If you’re hanging around TTRPG twitter, chances are good you’ve seen the hashtag “dungeon23” about, along with its companions “city23”, “setting23”, and so on. Search those hashtags and you’ll find all sorts of settings, locations, monsters, magic items, created by the folks taking part, as well as discussion about the ideas behind the projects. But in short, the initial idea was to create a dungeon room a day for 2023 and by the end you would then have a Megadungeon of 365 rooms in which to play. There are variations on this initial idea, thus the extra hashtags, but the overarching goal is simply to create a little bit every day, whatever that looks like. Some folks are using dayplanners to track their progress, others are using journals at hand.

Even though I don’t normally take part in year long challenges like this, I’ve decided to do #dungeon23. It’s been a while since I have sat down and created dungeons, encounters, anything like that, and I like the idea of a quick, simple bit of daily creation. I have been at it since December 28 and so far none of this has taken me more than five minutes each day. But even now, just eight days in, I have an encounter area I could easily set before some players and give them a fun, challenging bit of mystery, horror, and combat.

I’m not creating a dungeon per se, though I’m sure a dungeon will come into it at some point. I actually started with a crossroads, and after populating that with various encounter sites I then detailed one of those sites, The Boggin’s Bottom. From there…we’ll see. But it’s been interesting to write this in snippets and discover connections between sites, and create potential avenues for expanding out of the crossroads as I go.

In order to keep things simple and to use up materials that have been living in storage, I am using only the following items:

  • four Pilot Fineliner pens in red, green, black, and blue
  • a leftover three-ring binder from college
  • various pages of scrap graph paper, punched and put in the binder
  • various mapping aids at hand (a ruler, bottlecaps, etc)

I could get fancy and put in all sorts of highlighted texts, use nicely formatted pages, all that. But I enjoy the concept of using aJan 4 dayplanner, even if I’m going another route. So I wanted something simple like that, but would help me use up some of my large stock of old stationary. Seriously, I have graph paper older than a lot of folks playing in TTRPGs right now, so it needs to get used.

As to how I’m doing this, I am sticking to some simple “rules” for myself:

  • One room, encounter area, or unique location each day, no more
  • Simple map drawing and two lines of description, at most.
  • Colour coded writing: Black for general descriptions, Green for items and treasure, Red for encounters/monsters, Blue for any in-game text (writing on walls, contents of letters, etc)
  • Colour coded mapping: Black for man-made structures, Blue and Green for natural items/formations, Red for traps or dangerous spots.
  • Once I’ve filled a page, that specific location is done, move on.
  • Roughly every week, I can include a page of additional items, encounters, etc. The daily encounters cover the obvious, surface things about a location. But I wanted some options in case the players decide to dig deeper into something, so I or any other GM wasn’s caught flat footed.
  • System neutral, but with an eye toward usefulness with systems like Trophy Gold, Mörk Borg, and so on.

But that’s just how I’m approaching this. If you search any of the hashtags you’ll see a variety of approaches and takes on the initial concept. Frankly, I’m as excited to see what comes out of this from other folks as from myself. I’ll admit to a certain curiosity about who will still be doing this by next December. But there shouldn’t be any judgement attached if someone starts and then stops it. These types of things aren’t for everyone; frankly I’m not sure it’s for me. But I am enjoying it so far and it is just enough forward momentum each day to keep me interested and thinking about the next bit, so far without anxiety. So I’m hopeful I can keep going and I look forward to seeing where things take me.

Looking Forward

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01This past year was a hell of a ride, and almost nothing about it I would have seen coming from where I was in January 2022. I had just cleared 2000 followers on Twitter, there were so many friends I hadn’t met yet, so many projects coming that weren’t even on my radar. And so many hills to climb that I couldn’t have foreseen; health issues for myself, a cancer scare in the family, going suddenly viral on Twitter. Safe to say, 2022 did not at all go how I figured it might at the start of the year. And as you would expect, that brought both the good and bad.

But rather than linger on all of that, I want to look forward to 2023. After the chaos and derailment of much of the past year, my overarching goal for 2023 is consistency. Achieving that is going to require two things from me: a) doing the thing when I say I’m doing the thing, and b) knowing when not to agree to or take on the thing, so that a) stays achievable. Or more simply put, I have to manage my time and effort so when I say I’m doing something, it gets done.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stay huddled in a corner not doing anything. Over at The Rat Hole I outlined some of my plans for my articles there. Some of that work is going to overlap with projects I already have in mind, because one of the ways I’m going to achieve a) and b) is by using any particular project in as many places as I can. As I said in yesterday’s post, expect a lot more crossover between The Rat Hole and here, but also on my YouTube and Twitch channels.

So what do I have planned? Right now, I have two projects and a more general goal set.

  • Continue producing the Wanderhome Actual Play we presented this past December, whatever that looks like.
  • Revisit an idea I had a few years back called “The Back Catalogue”.
  • Continue to edit for Indie TTRPGs but also get some experience working on projects for larger companies

The Wanderhome AP is going to be the trickiest one to pull off as far as supporting everyone involved so they can do their best work. Put plainly, we need to raise money in order to make this the amazing project everyone involved knows it can be. So that will be a huge challenge. I’ve never crowdfunded anything before; forget learning curve, I may very well be scaling a learning cliff. It might not work, but it definitely won’t if we don’t try.

The Back Catalogue is an idea I had over a year ago and then promptly got too busy to work on. But my thought went something like this: Indie creators are sort of forced into a loop of creating and promoting The Next Thing if they want to gain and keep attention in the TTRPG space. That doesn’t give them much time to promote things they created even six months or a year ago, never mind further back. So what if I did a video every couple of weeks where I picked a creator, and instead of talking about their newest shiny, I do a deeper dive into their previous works, their back catalogue? That could help get their neglected gems out in the world again, and the video would stand as a great intro to their body of work. And if one of the creators I feature also has a new project coming out, I can pair this with an interview over at The Rat Hole to give them as much of a boost as I can.

And finally, more editing! This is more of a goal than a plan, but I feel the need to stretch some more as an editor. While I love working with Indie creators and plan to keep doing that, I plan to go after some freelance work from some larger companies. I want more experience working on larger projects, get a better sense of that entire process. The only way that’s going to happen is to go after it, so go after it I shall.

 There are some other projects I’m still planning out. I had talked about a project called TTRPGeneology which I was going to produce with a friend. Their schedule unfortunately doesn’t allow for working on it now, so I am taking some time to do more digging around and planning. During a hiatus we had taken I had already decided I wanted to fall back into a production role instead of on-screen talent, so that gives me the option to make this project much more inclusive than previously envisioned, which is all for the good. And I don’t mind the extra time; I think this is one of those things that needs to stick the landing from the first show so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

But planning is downtime work. I’m going to focus on the three things above. I thing those, combined with my plans over at The Rat Hole, are going to yield some excellent things this year. Moreover, I’m excited! Like, “I can feel the excitement through my SAD” excited, which is a hell of a thing and does not manifest often.

In any case, that’s what 2023 is looking like around here. And of course, I want to play games with folks, run games for my friends, all that. So as I am so fond of saying on Twitter: Allons-y!

Wandering Grateful

01.Wanderhome_AdvertLast night we aired the second part of Ways and Wanderings: The Beginning, the Wanderhome RPG actual play that started planning back in June. I had mixed feeling as I watched it; proud to see the thing we had accomplished on screen and shared with people, but also sad as the project came to a close. Those feelings aren’t new, I’ve had them in different measure on every theatre production I’ve stage managed.

The next stage, where I take a good, hard, objective look at everything and see what could have worked better, is familiar as well.

But before I get there, I want to take the time to be grateful for this project and what it brought back into my life. So a bit of backstory.

As I mention above I used to be a professional stage manager, something I have also mentioned in the occasional tweet. I loved theatre and I loved the work. Moreover I was good at it, like just obscenely stinking good at it, which gave me the confidence to keep being good. What I don’t talk about a lot is why I was a stage manager and not am a stage manager. I’m not going to go into details, but the last production I worked on was a snarling ball of jealousy, spite, gaslighting, and anger, which I probably could have weathered if it hadn’t come at a time of great betrayal and turmoil in my personal life. Simply put I was professionally cut off at the knees while at the same time any personal supports I could expect crumbled. That production was the last I ever worked on professionally.

So as I say thank you to the folks who worked with me below, I’m not just thanking them for this production. I’m also thanking them for restoring something I thought was dead and gone from my life. Through actual play production I’ve re-discovered a set of skills and a love of bringing together disparate pieces to form a greater whole. As I need words they fail me, and I can never express how this whole process has restored me. All I can do is say thank you.

So let me do that thing! Immeasurable thanks to Anne, Abadonne, Jes, Krissy, and Wowzerz for saying yes and coming on this journey. I loved every moment, I hope it isn’t the last we all take together. You’ve all given me a gift I will work to deserve.

Thanks to the visual artists who gave so much, Allie and Lukas! Both of you made us look professional and pretty, you’ll be my first calls if (when) we do this again.

A huge thank you to Danielle, without their technical expertise recording these sessions we literally wouldn’t be here. And for stepping up when it was time to air, making sure we looked good on the day. An absolute joy to work with.

And thank you to our show sponsors, their support was instrumental in bringing this production together:

Please go show them some love on socials if you can.

Thank you to the two third-party creators who helped bring to life two of our characters. Please go check out Matthew Gravelyn and Philippa Mort and shower them with support!

Lastly, thank you to anyone who came out and watched our shows, or shared our Tweets, or plan to watch the VODs by and by. We hope you loved what we put out in the world; moreover, I hope you’ll join us for what we are planning for 2023. Plenty of Wanderhome journeys left to take and we would love you along for all of them.

I’ll post later about things I would have done differently or changed. For now I want to sit in gratitude and pride for a while. Both have been in short supply for a time and I find them pleasant.

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.


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…


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!

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!

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!