Today’s guest article comes from Gnomish Spymaster Jonathan Sirico and covers technological gaming on youtube, twitch and other venues. – Quintuple Agent John
In twenty five plus years I have been on both sides of the screen numerous times for various systems. Like many of you, I struggle with the life/work/gaming balance and recently had to leave my weekly game. Searching online, I found Twitch, Steam, YouTubers, play by post games, and roll20 games. Some of what I found was interesting, like wotc_dnd, but nothing was really a good fit for my time or interest level. Eventually, I stumbled across Arthur Perkins @APGamingReal. Arthur had one of the first YouTube gaming videos I saw, and I really related to his DM style. I think he won me over when he skillfully and tactfully handled a meta-gaming PC. He sat calmly asking the player to explain how his character came by the information in question and kept asking for details when the player became nebulous with his answers. Meta gaming is a pet peeve of mine so I paid close attention to the exchange. (Haven’t we all had that problem at one time or another?)
Winter’s Edge Content Creation By Viewers
Just after I began to follow one of his games, AP announced that he was starting a new campaign, Winter’s Edge. This campaign would allow viewers to help create content for the world, participate with characters and shape events. He then sent out a link for content submission. Audience members have created everything from simple magic items to entire countries. What floored me, and what I find both so very fun and interesting, is Arthur created a unique set up for this new game using elements that can be replicated by anyone. By taking different websites and programs and integrating them into the campaign, Arthur created a 24/7 persistent and perpetual world. This world is powered by audience participation, shaped by the player characters and steered by the game master.
This unique setup was a ‘culmination of a half dozen ideas and audience interaction strategies.’ The breakdown is as follows: GM runs a party of four players on a weekly game. This game is broadcast live via TwitchTV and everyone involved uses skype/zoom to see each other in a group call. Roll20 Software is used for dice and play space tools. Open Broadcaster Software or an OBS program is a must to arrange everything on screen and you’ll need multiple monitors to track the action.
Twitch And Chat
The second piece is running a live chat room. Twitch handles these duties when the stream is broadcasting but you’ll need one for non-broadcast times. Arthur uses Discord, but any forum could work. Within Discord there are separate rooms for viewers to create characters, role play and interact with both the world and the broadcast players. Playing out in a post-by-post format, events for the world, adventure, and personal backstories keep the game alive. The GM from the stream now gets to play both loremaster and story shaper, the purpose is to keep the game on track.
In our game, viewer character players or audience members who create a character to interact with the play-by-post, aided the PC’s in defending the town we all virtually live in during the broadcast. We call these events ‘Call to Arms’. The first call to arms event we had was a large group of undead attacked our village. While the PC’s from the broadcast defended the town square, the play-by-post audience members formed groups and defended other locations in town. For many of us, this was the first time grouping together and we got a better idea of the class and skills of our fellow TavernRP players. Our success made the PC’s skill checks and fights easier, and any failures could have increased their difficulty of the task at hand. The viewership players also run ‘side quests’ in between broadcasts and can impact the events that can take place on screen.
The last piece is YouTube. This tried and true workhorse for uploading content is an excellent resource that allows players, old and new, to catch up with missed broadcasts, watch lore videos to learn more about the world or even watch the games creation and rules set, should the GM want to set that up. Once we had a broadcast player, by the name of SidAlpha who plays Rexx Matheson the town’s elected leader, create a video in character to step down from his responsibilities in game due to pending charges of war crimes. This story driven event unfolded in TavernRP (play-by-post) for nearly two weeks and came to fruition on screen during the broadcast. YouTube is a great way to maintain and grow your viewership. This might seem like a lot of moving parts, but it flows smoothly once started. From a tech perspective “just about any modern PC should cut it.” -APGamingREAL.
Running and Playing Online
How to run and play: The first step to running a perpetual and persistent game world with both broadcast potential and viewership interaction is to establish the world and the rules set. In Winter’s Edge, the first several broadcasts leading up to episode one was homebrew world creation. A submission for viewership content was posted and viewers responded with over 60 submissions within the first few weeks. Everything from 4 line magic items (we are playing 5E D&D combined with the Pathfinder Kingdom Building rules) to several pages for full countries were submitted, many of which were seen on the broadcast. While some had to be discarded as they didn’t fit the theme or world, I can tell you as a viewer and player that when content you created makes it in the world, it’s awesome to see the other players react to it.
Once you have established the rules set and world/theme, the next step is to find broadcast players. These should be your main movers and shakers. Chemistry and availability are probably the two most important things your broadcast players need, though simpler things matter as well. As Arthur Perkins says:
“The players need to be compatible with each other and share common goals as characters. I cannot overemphasize this point enough, because even subtle differences initially can lead to a massive fallout down the line. They need to have good audio control, because nothing kills a viewer’s evening like buzzing fans or listening to a player chew food. Patience is a virtue as well. Availability, because I broadcast at specific times. Camera’s are extremely important for a show. The audience likes to read body language, see props or costumes. Player availability is always going to be a huge issue for streaming. I’ve found, from watching other Tabletop RPG streams, that when you broadcast a player down, no one takes it seriously. It’s not a canon episode. No one is going to move forward a critical plot line without player four. I am not a fan of that kind of broadcasting. We do not move forward without everyone. So, if anyone needs time off, everyone gets time off. Several conventions and important engagements like weddings have put the show into a waiting period for the week.”
This is what we like to call a #BlameTux moment. As Tuxtradamus, who plays Saltho Tiresk, has delayed the game on several occasions and takes a lot of good-natured ribbing about it.
The third part is preparing for your stream ahead of time. “I’d say the most important part about preparing for a stream is to already have everything done long before you hit the Start Streaming button.”-APGamingREAL. Get your prep done but be ready for anything. Normally, it is only a handful of people shaping the story, but when the audience starts interacting anything can happen. Be flexible and move the story in a way that works for both you and your audience. Viewer reactions should drive content on your play-by-post forum and increase the content your viewership wants to see. By giving the viewers a place for their characters to interact (we use Orin and Athella’s Tavern, and the town of Cairnhold), you allow players to react in game to events on stream and they can even do quests.
Questing can be done with any method that works for you. We use a job board and a party of four people. They will group up and meet in a separate party forum. Arthur assembles his quests using a branching storyline system for failures and successes on rolls. Each player must make one roll per quest, and only one, and xp is given out at the end. Resolution is based on whether the GM deems the quest a success or failure. We use a homebrew play by post xp system for viewers where a failed quest grants 1 xp and a success 2 xp, every 10xp you gain a level. Simple, easy and fun. Once viewers start role playing and questing, they start driving content for the broadcast, which starts driving content for the play-by-post viewers. The GM still shapes events, brings certain story lines into focus, shapes the lore, and aligns all the creativity that will follow.
Advice and Tips:
I asked Arthur: “What If you could go back to the beginning, what would you change and why?”
His response was: “I would have made the introductions of the players less confusing. There were a lot of lore drops and backstory shoutouts to things audience members had made, and I am pretty dissatisfied with how scattered it turned out. Also, the players need more of an impetus to work together. They are essentially unbonded to each other. We are working on this now, episodes in, when it should have been done before the show started.”
I would have liked to see a clear list of books/content we were allowed to use. It was established that we are using 5e rules with a standard array of stats but coming in as a character, I wanted an even playing field for everyone and having an exact list of products to pull from would make character creation a bit clearer. This includes approved player created content for potential characters.
Another tip is to consider bringing in an assistant GM to run play by post content in between the broadcasts. Not only can this lessen your personal workload, but you can have that assistant focus on viewer backstory and content. Your focus can be on the main plot and major events or another storyline. You could even bring on an assistant GM for one time events and rotate through different people and ideas. Another option is to allow viewer players to run their own minor events based around their personal characters and backstory. While this idea has some merit, be aware of potential pitfalls. A good idea might be to approve the content beforehand and keep an eye on it so it runs smoothly. Once again, whatever works for you and players.
Finally, set a few easy to follow rules for your play by post characters. Arthur implemented a no fighting, no magic rule in Orin and Athella’s Tavern, this way the community avoids PvP situations and shenanigans that might become un-fun to others.
I would like to thank Arthur Perkins for taking the time to answers my questions and Gnome Stew for letting me share this awesome experience.
You can find Arthur on his channels;
Watch live at twitch.tv/apgamingreal
Or join the Discord server at https://discordapp.com/channels/120603763021971458/120603763021971458
Should you join us in TavernRP and you see the Gnomish Spymaster Stykks, give me a shout out. I’m always looking for new agents. (Mostly because the DM keeps killing them!)
Thank you and happy gaming,
What are your thoughts on twitch and online gaming channels? Do you watch or participate in any? Would you turn your gaming into a watched thing or want to keep it to just your friends at the table?