Week 24 – Este Es El Final, Mi Amigo

 

To the social media project that is. Not you, dear reader. Honest.

Here it is then; my summary of everything we’ve been through as the D&Demons over the last 10 weeks! Enjoy.

Please excuse the phone drifting in to shot, I had to read notes from something because i’m bad at talking and life in general.

Week 23 – Of Dice & Direwolves

That’s a wrap, folks! D&Demon’s livestreams are officially over. To be more accurate, they ended about halfway through the last game because student accommodation wifi is… bad.

The overexposure on this makes it look like God is about to punish us for nerd crimes.

Our new home was Rob’s flat’s kitchen. Originally we were going to sit in the plush sofas in the kitchen, until he remembered the lights don’t work over there. We even took the cover off the lights, only to find some hellish LED contraption underneath it, so we left it at that. We got around the tiny breakfast bar instead, and good times were had by all!

Except Fyfian (Jake). Fyfian got one-shotted by Klarg, the big boss monster I prepared for this session. He got better (mostly).

The session picked up immediately after the last one, with the group questioning Sildar the bodyguard, to find out where their boss Gundren Rockseeker is. Nowhere to be found, said Sildar, so the group went to the only place they hadn’t explored yet; a large chamber belonging to the boss of this goblin raiding party, Klarg the Bugbear.

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And a very naughty boy!

As planned, the party had to cross a large room under fire from Klarg’s poisoned javelins, goblin arrows, and harassment from Klarg’s pet direwolves, Ripper and Biter. The boys quickly learned that this encounter was not going to be like the last one when Klarg clocked Fyfian with his enormous morningstar, knocking the unprepared dragonborn out instantly. The party rushed to save him from impeding doom, standing off against the powerful but inaccurate Klarg, while whittling away at his minions. The druid Smeesh (Alex) convinced one of the more poorly-treated dogs in a nearby cage to pin down Klarg, using his beast speech abilities. After a full round of focusing their abilities on the boss, Orok (Robert) dealt an enormous amount of damage with a lucky critical hit, bringing Klarg to a less-than-survivable -19 hitpoints. Cleanup of the remaining minions was easy after that.

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You have to feel sorry for the cleanup crew that have to deal with the mess these inconsiderate adventurers leave behind.

And with that, at about 10:30pm, we ended the recording of the session, and put away the cameras and mics for the last time.

It’s been pretty great hosting these sessions for the last couple of months, despite the planning and the hauling of equipment and having to sit in a room with 6 sweaty boys for hours on end. Special thanks to Alex, without whom we would never have figured out how to stream properly, and to Jake and Rob for allowing us to invade their privacy and be extremely loud in their homes. Having spoken to everyone, they’d like to continue the adventure offscreen, so i’ll start planning for that when the major deadlines are over!

Next blog is a reflexive video, so get ready for my ugly mug to be undeservedly and proudly on display.

 

 

Week 22 – The Final Countdown

I’m back in the UK now. BOOOOOOOOOO

You tell ’em, talent show judge!

It’s been nearly a month since our last game, so I guess I better get on with some planning huh. Wanna see how my planning goes? You do? Awesome!

The setting of much misadventure during the last session.

That’s the booklet for The Lost Mines Of Phandelver, a pre-made adventure which i’m delivering to the guys. Of course, me just reading from the book doesn’t make for a good experience for either the guys or the online audience, so I’ve got to know what actions have what consequences, where each path leads, and how to deal with unexpected actions that might break the planned sequence of events and lead to me frantically scanning pages ahead to find out what’s in a certain room.

Next week’s boss monster!

Following feedback from the guys, rounds of combat need to go faster in order to be exciting, and the enemies have to be tougher. The encounters in the book are balanced around having 4 players. We have 6 players, so everything needs to be re-balanced to be a challenge (which I can test with this handy website!). I don’t want to just deal more damage, as I know that the party doesn’t have access to much healing magic or potions. Instead, everything has almost double the health, and I’ve given the humanoid enemies the option to apply poisons to their weapons if things start to go badly for them.

Lots of fun little status effects to play with!

The environment is a lot more interesting this time too; the party made tons of noise moving around and fighting in the cave, so the remaining enemies are ready for them. Doors are barred and padlocked, with bear traps behind them. Additionally, the enemies have moved all the available cover to their end of the room, so they can snipe the players for a round or two before closing into melee ranges. Finally, there is a fire pit in the middle of the room, giving options to throw the room into total darkness, or push enemies into the fire.

Fantasy names are always fun to fail to pronounce.

I’ve whipped up a proper list of names too, so we can keep the immersion by calling everyone their in-universe names, and encourage them to interact with each other.

All of this SHOULD combine to make a more interesting session. Fingers crossed for next week!

Week 21 – Eurovision

Dobrý den, Leicester! (That’s good morning in Czech. I’m so culturally enriched.)

Look at this gothic Disneyland castle!

It’s Saturday, and everyone’s favourite and only DM (depending on whether you listen to the rival DMU DND podcast or not) is a bit hungover on delicious Kozel dark beer. So I guess i’ll do a little blogging to jumpstart my unwilling brain.

It’s been a great trip so far! The highlight of the trip so far is this beautiful chapel in the former silver mining town of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic.

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Beautiful.

The Ossuary at Sedlec is one of the most bizarre things i’ve ever seen. After walking through some long, sad looking streets, you come into this walled off courtyard, and this tiny church in the middle. Only when you get inside do you see the macabre madness of the place. As i’d learn as I walked around inside, the entire chapel is decorated with the bones of around 40,000 human skeletons.

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I’ve got a bone to pick with you!

It all started with an abbot who brought back some blessed holy soil from Jerusalem. Soon, people from all over wanted to be buried at Sedlec, and the cemetery was expanded and expanded, with a little help from the Black Death.

A half blind monk was later given the task of “curating” an ossuary, which is a chamber where the bones of the long-dead are kept to save space in the over-ground cemetery. They were arranged artistically in these enormous shapes and mounds below ground.

Finally, a woodcarver named Frantisek Rindt was hired to decorate the actual chapel above the ossuary with these bones. It was he who made the enormous chandelier pictured above, and hauled the bones up to the surface and rearranged them into what it is today.

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Gruesome graffiti.

I guess all this goes to show that our own European history can be so much stranger than our fiction… even the fiction that we use in our tabletop fantasy games.

That was my obligatory, shoehorned-in mention of DND for this week. See you in the next one!

Week 20 – I Am Trash

Behold, I am trash, destroyer of worlds.

Fear me.

Today will be the first skipped game of the project, because i’m a terrible human being and I hate fun. (We actually had to leave our previous home, Jake’s house, because we got in the way of all the other kind people who live there. So I GUESS that’s fair.) I’ve also been bumped up to full time Afternoons producer on DemonFM just in time for the Leicester Comedy Festival, which means being at the LCB Depot every day and running the fancy OB desk.

SO MANY BUTTONS. SO MANY THINGS THAT CAN (AND DID) GO WRONG.

 

So there’s been no time to prepare a session, which mostly involves thinking of interesting ways to challenge the players/thinking of a silly voice for the NPCs.

So there’s my excuses out of the way.

We will instead be doing a quick and dirty podcast, which will be good practise for the reflexive video at the end of this component. We’ll be going over the story so far, what we think of the characters and other players, the tech and campaign setup, and brainstorm some improvements to the social media side of the game. You can listen to it by clicking on this link!

I’m in Prague next week, so the blog post will probably be about gothic architecture and how I can bring that aesthetic into my game, or something else pretentious like that. Ciao!

-6 in the daytime? I might have to burn my manuals to stay alive, to be honest.

 

 

 

Week 19 – Flushed Away

The surf was indeed up for the D&Demons in our 2nd session.

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Much like their attitude, the boys’ characters belonged in a toilet.

The boys were in hot pursuit of their kidnapped employer and his bodyguard, who they deduced were taken to a goblin hideout called Cragmaw Cave. Tyna (aka Sherlock Gnomes, played by Darius Whitmore) was the first to go in, sneaking around and trying multiple times to climb up a shortcut using a rocky cliff, failing miserably and taking worrying amounts of damage.

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The phrase “like a stone” comes to mind.

They then stormed inside, with the ranger Aelar (Dan Wildman) climbing the aforementioned cliff, getting a vantage point on a room containing a metric fuckton of goblins, and their employer’s bodyguard, Sildar. The others continued down the long path, making lots of noise and scaring off some baddies that had a trap waiting for them. The trap in question was a pair of doors with switches next to them. The bonus trap, which the boys made for themselves, was not fully listening to my description of this room, from which there were multiple exits. So OF COURSE they pulled one of the switches, releasing a wave of water, and almost washing them out of the cave.

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Almost. I ALMOST had them.

After a bit more exploring, and committing war crimes by killing a prisoner they picked up (the less said about THAT fiasco, the better), they finally reached the “fuckton of goblins” room from earlier. Having heard them coming, the big boss goblin was holding Sildar the bodyguard as a human shield and demanded a parley. I had a whole lovely roleplaying scene planned out… but Aelar shot him from his vantage point, and the whole thing went to shit. The fight was long, but they rescued Sildar, and that’s where we left it.

I’ve set some required reading for the next session.

We racked up 173 views with this session. Down from the 300+ total of the first session, but this was one continuous stream so that makes sense. We achieved this with a “we’re taking a break” frame that we could flash up in the middle when someone needed a wee, or when one of the many hosts wanted to do extraordinary things in their own house, like cooking dinner. We cut down on the cross-talking that made the first session almost unlistenable. More in-character chats were done, and the players started to settle into their roles. The tech setup, in particular the audio, was greatly simplified, and Alex Norman was even able to get up and stretch his legs from time to time!

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Look how happy he is!

Something to think about next time is balancing of the game; if there are more players, you add more enemies, right?

Wrong.

The “fuckton of goblins” room took up nearly 45 minutes on it’s own, and taught me a valuable lesson about DM’ing for so many people. The players did not find it difficult to cleave through the army that was waiting for them, but it took time to resolve all of these turns, which probably made it quite boring to watch! Next time, i’ll beef the boys up instead of adding more of them, and see how that goes. I can use this handy calculator to get a rough idea of how hard things will be too.

All in all, it’s starting to look much more like a game and product to be consumed, rather than 7 guys shouting things at each other and not achieving much. Next session is 23rd February!

Stream link here!

Week 18 – Behind the Numbers

So we got 300+ views on the first stream, big woop. What does it all mean? Let’s dive into the murky world of online advertising.

Look at all that raw, unfiltered data!

There’s plenty of different metrics for measuring how successful a video can be  based on it’s potential reach. The most obvious one, and the one that all online video producers like Youtubers aim for, is total view counts. This shows the willingness of people to give your video a chance based on what information you give to them; thumbnails, titles, descriptions, etc. Many on Youtube have gotten “clickbait” down to an science (though this science went too far in the case of Logan Paul…)

Clickbait x clickbait = clickbait squared.

The next big metric is followers and subscribers. We currently have a grand total of 38, all of which are existing friends of ours. So it’s safe to say we didn’t convert any new fans with our view count. It’s difficult to say why without a much deeper understanding of how Facebook works (or without paying Facebook to tell us what the numbers really mean), but we could push more people to share our streams when they start. There have to be more fans out there…

How is that piece of paper still legible under the water? Satirists don’t know what they’re doing.

The third method of measuring engagement (and the one where we start getting deep into marketing theory) is time spent engaged on a video. It’s all very well having a million views, but what if 90% of them are automated bots who only viewed for a second each? We had a total viewing time of 376 minutes as of today, which averages at 1:07 minutes per viewer. Not comforting on the surface, huh?

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Disgusting.

Facebook counts a video as “viewed” when it’s been onscreen and playing for at least 3 seconds. It also counts autoplayed videos towards total views, ie. when you are scrolling down your feed and a video starts playing on it’s own. Realistically, most of our views will have been autoplayed, so something isn’t holding their attention.

There’s a couple of other metrics more suited to the business world, like click-throughs for the product that the video is advertising, and play rates depending on where the video is displayed. I mean I WISH I could get paid for playing tabletop games all day…

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The Critical Role gang. AKA the richest nerds in the west.

 

 

Week 17 – Sherlock Gnomes and the Case of the Pitfall Trap

After much ado, the game finally got going!

“So what do you want to do?” “Shoot him, obviously!”
Techie Alex juggling his fantasy world obligations of keeping people alive, and his real world obligations to keep the stream alive.

Play started about 7:15pm on Friday 26th on our Facebook page, and we wasted no time getting straight into it. The party was hired to guard a wagon going to the town of Phandalin, by a dwarf named Gundren and his human bodyguard, Sildar. They came across two dead horses which belonged to Gundren, and were immediately ambushed by goblins (which I ended up voicing as shrill, white working class kids). They were handily dispatched, of course.

They set off down a trail in pursuit of the suspected horse-killers, with Darius’ gnome druid, Sherlock Gnomes, in the lead. Traps happened, twice, with Gnomes failing to spot any of them, and only narrowly missing the first one. Hilarity ensued.

They arrived at the mouth of Cragmaw Cave, melted the faces off some more goblins with Jake’s horrible acid breath, and levelled up! Good times for everyone.

That little armoured man represents a scaly hamster called Spaghet. Don’t ask.

We racked up 338 views across the three parts of the livestream (one of which was a technical hiccup) which was much more than I expected! There’s no way to tell how many of those were unique viewers or how long they watched us, but it sure seems like a great start. There were a few comments and shares from our friends too which was nice!

Statistics are the best part of any game, obviously.

We came away with a couple of things to think about for next time (9th February) too; mainly that playing a game with friends is far different from playing a game for streaming. There was lots of shouting and talking over each other, which is something I need to exert more control over as we go forward to make it watchable and listenable for any extended amount of time. The tech setup was rather complicated too, with 7 lapel radio mics hooked up to two different audio recorders, hooked into a camera and a laptop, with a phone camera providing another shot…

Alex was not allowed to get up and go for a wee during the break, or everything would have exploded and died.

Now that we have seen the space we are playing in, there is room for a couple of shotgun mics on stands, and a single lapel mic for me, so that’s far less headaches for everyone (and less chances for something to go wrong!)

Tune in on Friday 9th February, 7pm as the adventure continues!

He needed that drinking horn afterwards. MVP.

Livestream links below (warning – occasional bad noise from a bad mic):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

 

 

 

Week 16 – Asocials Assemble

It’s full steam ahead on D&Demon!

Last night we all met up together for the first time, to make characters for all our additional players. We used the Kimberlin library syndicate rooms for this. I quickly realised that they were not as soundproof as I had hoped, as one of the player’s girlfriend’s recognised our voices from around the corner…

Oops.

Meet Jake (laughing just out of frame), Dan, Darius, Alex, Dafydd and Rob!

Luckily, we have a house that we can use! No more annoying the sleepy but dedicated students that haunt the library after dark.

Current party composition is 2 fighters, a ranger, a barbarian, a druid and a nature cleric. 4 angry men and 2 hippy tree friends, essentially. The star of the show is Jake’s Babaar Yeetu, a dragonborn (lizardman) barbarian, coming from a noble family but being much too stupid for the fancy life. He has a small hamster-lizard thing called Spaghet, and his character’s whole motivation is to earn money to open a zoo full of fantastical creatures.

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Fantastic Creatures And How To Get All Of Them, ft. Babaar Yeetu

Alex is running with firbolg druid. A firbolg is a kind of miniaturised forest giant I think? He found it in one of the crazy expansion books that I haven’t read. It’s very cool however, with an innate magical ability to teleport a short distance once per day, and occasionally detect traces of magic. Basically a supernatural Shrek.

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DONKEHHHHHHHH

The first stream is on Friday, 26th January, at 7pm. The Facebook page is go, with our first post showing some pictures from last night’s session. Invites have been sent out to friends, and the stream has been advertised on DMU Talk to see if we can draw in more viewers from outside our immediate friendship groups.

Self-deprecation sells.
Character creation is far more hilarious than expected.

Catch you next week with notes from the stream!

 

Week 15 – A New (Not Quite) Start

This week marks the beginning of the project! Fun times.

No game this week, as the players have other, life-changing matters to attend to (coursework they didn’t do over the holidays), but we have started on making some player characters! Daf and Rob rolled themselves some stats, and chose a race and class to play. I chose the 4d6 stat rolling rule, rather than using a standard array, as it’s more exciting and gives everyone a lot more agency over their own character.

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EXCITING GRAPHS. This one shows the likelihood of rolling certain numbers with different methods.

Both chose fighters, with high health, a regeneration ability, and a passive ability that strengthens their combat right out of the gate. I’m looking forward to seeing how quickly the first encounter goes…

Nerds.

Rob is playing a half orc, with a bunch of fun abilities like making his critical hits even stronger, being just plain better at intimidating non-player characters, and a +2 to his strength stats. Making his total strength an ENORMOUS 20 at level 1. Fun side note – it’s impossible to go above 20 without the use of special skills or items, so he’s going to be incredibly overpowered for a long time. And he only had a 9.34% chance of rolling that high a number, even once. Lucky him.

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Possible character design for Rob. Anything with UNNATURAL MUSCLES will do.

Dafydd is a half-elf fighter, using bows and sick flips to do his duty. Night vision is a fun ability that he has; maybe we can make a Tom Cruise-esque spy out of him. He’s a lot more balanced than Rob (thank the Gods).

A half-elf assassin, maybe?

An official online resource came out for DND last year, giving people a way to store all their character info online and use a massive database of spells and abilities. It’s nice to see how my players haven’t chosen the most popular options; half-elves usually run with rogues and bards, while half-orcs usually go with the brutish barbarians to beef up their core strengths (read: hitting things with other, harder things).

 

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Anyone can be a barbarian, no matter who you are or what you look like. They’re such a… loving community.

Other players have put forward ideas for their dudes; monks, which are fighters with more versatility; druids, able to turn into bears (eventually); mad wizards, which will fall over to a stiff breeze but can do basically anything given the chance; and clerics, who use the power of the gods to smite fools and maybe help their friends. Their choice.

Another fun side note – one of the players, Alex, actually helps to run professional E-Sports livestreams, and recently did so in Turin, Italy. I have surrounded myself with great people.

Next week is polishing off everyone’s characters!