First Time Reflections: D&D LIVE!
It is sometimes difficult to fathom how weeks of preparation for one event can be over in just three hours.
When LIVE ended, I think my brain just stopped. In martial arts terms, I dumped my cup out to allow time to fill it again, slowly, with reflection on every new drop.
Last night was AMAZING. I need to gush on a few points.
1) Goal #1 was to raise money and have fun doing it; I can safely say we achieved that!
2) The Questers' Way community, in all of my years of teaching, concerts, and events, is THE MOST understanding, patient, and supportive community I have ever had the pleasure to perform for. Every roll, every new player, every donation - the response is overwhelmingly inspiring. Just...wow.
So now comes the time of reflection. Extremely valuable, but sometimes dangerous for those of us with hyper-critical minds. So, in reference to the above, D&D Live was an overwhelming success. We raised a great sum of money for a good cause, raised awareness on that cause, and rode the chaos for fun and glory during the game. This event's success opens the door for many more games, game systems, and new Game Masters to try out (and tweak) this format. It was my honor to be the guinea pig.
Now, we look forward, and think critically on the things that we can improve upon, and how possibly to achieve that.
...I made a short list.
The Need for Immersion
The Cafe can get loud (the dreaded smoothie incident was a big indicator), and nothing pulls you out of the immersion faster than the other ambient noises of a mall. So here are my thoughts:
1) Start investing in a mic system with less large equipment and our own speakers, so audience members can always hear the music AND the cast, and no one has to yell over that ambience.
2) Think critically about the table placements of the cast (and crew) and the audience. *I think we did pretty well, and microphones will help big-time.*
3) I've got some backdrops lying around; we can make some of our own to set behind the cast, and tag charity stuff on (it might also help some of the sound reflection by aiming it back toward the audience).
4) Some sort of visual representation/display of the battle map, characters, visual aids, even just a "what just happened" aid. This might be a ways out and require a fundraiser of its own to get off the ground. ;)
Character Identity and Play
Now this one's a little tough to think on. I try very hard to keep lore, story, and player opportunities as my absolute priority. My players tend to put quite a bit of thought into their characters, their play-style, backstories, and all the cool mechanics they can use and exploit in and out of combat. This makes for really creative and epic group storytelling in all of our regular Knight Owls, One-Shots, and weekly sessions.
A live event for charity is different. The goals are different. And I admit, the most exciting, yet terrifying, thing about running a live tabletop RPG for an audience who can manipulate the game at their whim...is letting go and riding the tide of chaos.
I had a narrative planned. It involved arcane gang members vying for control of the city through magical pranks (which justifies all the weirdness generated by the audience), all while a bounty hunter hunts one of the players. That WAS the story...for about five minutes. I was not prepared for the overwhelming involvement and creativity of the audience (which was AWESOME), but in a way, I feel it might have stunted the players. We all had mixed expectations, and each was shattered as the evening went on (but again, for a good cause!). I'm not mad about it, just reflecting.
So, moving forward:
1) I want to make sure that the players get more opportunities to actually PLAY and the GM can tell some semblance of a story (while still rolling with the audience). Even if the goal is to embrace the chaos for charity, I don't want either party to feel that they've lost their personal agency, especially if they've planned quite a bit around their characters (they all showed up IN COSTUME and in character!). Chatting with the players afterward, no one felt robbed, but looking back on it, it felt like they did very little personal play.
2) To help with #1, I want to have more opportunities for the audience to MEET the cast BEFORE the event. We can help generate excitement and momentum through each cast member. For example, maybe have each cast member talk up, advertise, and otherwise try to build a fanbase of their character; they could generate donation funds specific to them, granting their character special boons before play (but all the money goes to the charity anyway), like pledging for someone in a marathon with fantasy items. I could make character Boon Tiers, like fundraising goals, for each cast member and audience members can choose to donate to a certain player when they get their ticket. These are just ideas off the top of my head, but we want to support the cast as their characters by connecting them better with audience members prior to the night of the show. This way, we're more invested in what the characters are doing and not *just* causing rampant chaos. :)
Streamlining and Tightening Up
I love how fast our community rallies around us and offers up ideas. At 10:15 last night, some awesome peeps paired up with our shopkeeper and our DM in line for Pathfinder Live to help streamline the pledges. Nothing's final yet, but I'm definitely in favor of what they were discussing. Speaking of the "little things" (which I think far too much on), here a few more:
1) Slight adjustment on gold and ticket packages so you get more bang for your buck + clear communication/education up front and in the weeks prior on how that works.
2) Prior to the show, give a brief but effective description of how the game functions; key mechanics in play, the various roles represented by the players and game master, etc. so newcomers aren't lost in the beginning. *(planned in the beginning, but got lost this time in execution)
3) We got A LOT of play-test feedback on the various pledge options, what to add, what to take out, and what needs some tweaking. We're on it! (Something Happens was extremely powerful, and super creative, so it stays with a gold adjustment)
4) Displayed Character names - *we were planning on this, but it fell through the cracks in the prep, so we'll hit it next time.
5) Character Portraits** - we might be a ways out on this one, as it pulls on artist resources, but it could be a great way to link up with our other awesome neighborhoods or bring in commissions from guest artists!
6) Auction Items - less is more; less offerings overall for better bidding - maybe make bidding blind (like on eBay), so we're not worried about outbidding each other by name. We also want to showcase a local artist in the community every time we offer this!
7) WILD MAGIC BURSTS - ...were not as awesome as I intended in practice; I'd like to keep them with 1 major change. I ROLL ONCE, that effect hits the whole party. Makes it faster and cleaner; less waiting on lists, rolls, and calculations (I might even be able to roll them in advance, then I/the GM can work them into the narrative better if/when we reach those fundraising goals). Also, the custom surge table needs some tweaking; less individual consequences, more group based. Again, faster, cleaner, but still straight up silly.
Still A Great Time...
The end of any good reflection acknowledges what was done RIGHT. Speaking with audience members - people had a good time. We raised money and awareness for a good cause, and played some crazy D&D. We dressed up and did our best to embody our characters while battling the Swedish Chef, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and the dark sorcerer Mary Poppins. We had guest players rock the table and have a blast destroying hounds, shrinking werewolves, and causing an entire tavern to turn to water and wash away. Voices were changed, unicorns were summoned, strange love triangles manifested, people turned to stone, broke out in song... It was downright jaw-dropping.
I can't wait for the next one. Thank you for making this one such a momentous success.
I'll see you at the table.
This is a moment when I wish I could plug a usb into my brain as I sleep,
When words are clear and thoughts, well, they keep.
I believe that maintaining a balance of our physical and mental states is one of the great struggles of our time.
It is far too easy to fall into dangerous spirals of inactivity, distraction, and anxiety in this modern world. Pulls of stimulus in unlimited directions spun in ways that ignite our hindbrains, and, like a moth to flame...there goes another day down the Netflix hole.
Why are we talking about this on a gaming blog? Well, I find that our love of social gaming can stem from a need to actually escape this flood of stimulus. After binging shows and skipping breakfast, at the end of the day what we really crave...is others. Spending time with one another.
My family and I thrive on board games. We love to play with one another, win, lose, or draw. We love to experience new systems, new takes, expansions; we love to compete, cooperate, and invent. ...And we usually default to a game when we run out of things to say or if the subject at hand makes folks uncomfortable. It is used to break the silence and imbue new opportunities for discussion and conversation, with an activity to fall back on if we don't know what to say.
But you can game too much. The hole of creativity, no matter how awesome, can pull us away from what is important, and maintaining a personal balance of work, life, and play is key to a beautiful life. You should never work so much that you deny play, and never play so much that you deny work, and never, ever, work or play so much that you deny others (and responsibilities). These three "pillars" of life are not unlike the three pillars of adventuring: exploration, social interaction, and combat.
If life is a game and gaming is life (winky face), let's ride this metaphor for a minute.
Exploration = play, creating, imagination, relaxation
In the game, it establishes the world small and large, its structures, discoveries, and sick, sick loot. In life, Exploration dives a bit deeper. It represents the exploration of one's self through play, imagination, creation, and taking the time to work on you. As I sometimes have to tell myself, "let Adam be Adam." Don't stress about HOW to play, just play. Don't get hung up on what you're creating, just create. Exercise to improve oneself, not to compete with others. That exploration is paramount to a mind and body of quality.
Social Interaction = Social Interaction :), family, quality-time
THIS. In game terms, social interaction represents how your character interfaces with the world at small. Relationships. Which means for us in the real world, RELATIONSHIPS. Carving out valuable time to spend with family, friends, and even strangers helps build a balanced human by reinforcing good habits, civil interaction, hugs, and love. It reminds us of the reason we all exist...which is each other.
Combat = Work, business, earning
Inside the game systems of old and new, combat is often the main way that player characters progress through their levels (unless you adopt a different leveling system, that is). They gain experience through combat, and therefore earn toward leveling up. So we, as beautiful humans, must work in order to earn cash money to eat and live...and maybe, through investment, risk, and reward, level up! It represents the daily "battles" that we wage each day to build a better life for us and ours.
2017 was a year of these three pillars for me. Day by day, week to week, I was running the tightrope between these three points. I fell many times, spiraling around each pillar for what felt like weeks at a time, but came close to sacrificing my relationships or my own exploration for work, or my own work for exploration. Here at Questers' Way, we acknowledge that we are all human, and we are all on the quest to achieve our best self. My best self has been adjusted over time, but the vision has been very much the same, and my proximity to this self has never felt THIS close before. And, I've read and I think I understand now, the closer we become to knowing our path, the more difficult it is to move forward. So in the words of Morpheus, "There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path."
Here is my Path, my full reboot, attempted in the past with little consistency. The following schedule I will be following for 1 month, then I will reflect upon it, and add, subtract, or adjust where necessary. Notes are below on things I've learned during other attempts at this schedule and clarification of a few of its entries. Enjoy!
Note: "M" = Mental, "P" = Physical.
DAILY ROUTINE - SO on Night Schedule
Asleep By/Wake Up By = 11:00/7:00 (full 8 hours of rest) (M+P)
Meditate + Stretch (M+P) - 15 Minutes
Cardio or HIIT (P) - 20-30 Minutes
Weight Training (P) - 30 Minutes
BF or Intermittent Fast + Read (M+P)
Shower and Dress + Check Time (M)
 Goal 1 = Accomplish all of this BEFORE 9:00 AM.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays = Go to Work.
Tuesdays, Thursdays continue below before work (QW):
Practice Brass (M)
Web Development - QW
Marketing - QW
 Goal 2 = Accomplish before heading to QW.
Saturdays and Sundays continue below:
Blog - GM's Corner (M)
Edit and Post Videos**** (M, + huge dopamine spike)
Plan Campaigns for the week + make small adjustments during the week (M)
Knight Owls/One-Shot Prep (M)
Paint Miniatures - 45 minutes (M+P)
Prep Bands, Performances, and Extra Practice (Piano, Guitar, Violin, Melodica)
Archive Adventures for the Week (using audio archives).
Evenings = QT with SO (M), Bodyweight Circuit (P), Meditate before bed (M)
Sleep Schedule - I've actually been achieving 8+ hours lately, but getting to bed too late, so the timing obliterates my morning work.
** = get your chores done early, otherwise they may not happen!
Fitness is an absolute requirement in order for me to function (based on health and other factors), so get it done first to make sure it happens.
*** = One of my responsibilities for school and QW involves arranging music for a variety of instrumental ensembles, but also arranging music for my own cover band, and I need to carve out valuable time where I can focus on this in a more efficient way.
**** = as some of you are aware, I run a YouTube channel and Patreon account (The Dungeon Master's Den and The DM's Den), and, after an upload hiatus to allow some QT time and MOVING TO A NEW HOUSE, I will start uploading again later in late January. But in order to upload, I need to take a hard look at when and how to script and film and edit and upload consistently and efficiently without taking time away from my other responsibilities.
Here's to new beginnings and hitting that reset button on the proverbial NES!
See you at the table,
PS: I will be starting a mental health and physical health guide for gamers in a few weeks, dubbed the Buff DM Project. Stay tuned!
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
1st Saturday: Etsy updates*
2nd Saturday: Monster
3rd Saturday: Worldbuilding
4th Saturday: REST DAY