I got to do something really fun today. I was a guest on Encounter Roleplay, a streaming D&D show that has partnered up with Wizards of the Coast. They appear on the D&D channel and the guy who runs it, Will, does a million shows. His literal job is to play D&D.
To prepare, I watched some of their show (Tomb of Annihilation). I watched half of the 4th episode, where the group actually met Volo, which was very cool. It looked like they were going to do the whole Executioner's Run thing, where they are tossed into a pit with dinosaurs in it.
They seemed really fun and I liked that the game was a bit laid back. All of them do really good voices. I do bad-good voices, in that they are so bad, they're good (to me, anyway).
I whipped up a cleric named Sid Grundle. Generally, it seems like nobody wants to make a cleric, but I love it. I like being the "glue" that keeps it together and dishes out support when needed.
Sid is an ex-con who has tried to become a good guy in the past few years, but he's not very good at it. The DM had some ideas and we put it all together.
Here is what I was really interested in: What happens before the show starts and after the show ends? What programs do they use to do this? Are there any tricks of the trade?
They use Zoom.us and Roll20 together. Zoom is quite like Skype, and Roll20 is a very popular site that you can use to play D&D online.
|This is Will|
I have had a few people show me Roll20, and it was cool but seemed very complicated on the DM side of things.
I wanted things to run smoothly. The DM came online with me prior to the game and helped me iron out the one issue - you have to turn the video and audio off in Roll20 in order for Zoom to work right.
Then I added in my character sheet into Roll20, which didn't take long. To roll dice in Roll20, you click on the skill, stat, attack or whatever right on your sheet and the dice roller pop up and does its thing. There's a bit of lag in Roll20 between when you click and when it shows up, and on a live show it is a bit unnerving.
You can also type in a little chat box to roll dice. You just type /roll d100 or whatever. Again, there's a bit of lag that really tears at your soul when you're wobbly at this to begin with.
This was live on Twitch, so there were many people in the chat watching the show live. I couldn't see the chat, as I just used the roll20 and zoom screens. I think I could have seen it, but I'm not sure how that works and it probably would have been one too many things for me to do.
Here's the thing that really popped out at me. Viewers can pay to throw things in the game - curses, boons, all sorts of stuff. You have to roll on a chart, one of which requires a d10,000!
I love this idea, because you can interact with the viewers and you can ham it up with them, trying to get them to give you things, or shaking your fist at them when they saddle you with some awful condition. It was hilarious and it completely changed the game in a good way.
We got a ton of these things in the show, and I got hit with a lot. I loved it and tried to use whatever they gave me in a fun way so they felt like it was worth it.
In this session, we fought some zombies, traveled through the jungle, fought a winter wolf in an icy section of forest and made camp. During the camp we were attacked by 2 bodaks, of all things!
It's so weird to play in an adventure you've read. The DM changed it up quite a bit so that it wasn't predictable. The heroes have Azaka Stormfang as their guide. It seems like a heck of a lot of groups choose Azaka for some reason.
A wild magic viewer thing set it up so that I arrived in a ghost ship and got to make a dramatic entrance. I was hoping to launch myself from a catapult, but alas, it was not to be. I swung in on a rope.
Another viewer thing turned Grob (Will's character) into a swarm of bees. Grob actually has a copy of Volo's Guide to Monsters in the game that was signed by Volo when they met in a previous episode. Grob dropped it when he bee-came bees (boom). I tried to yoink it, but it went poorly.
It's a bit dicey to do any sort of player-vs-player stuff when the other people don't know you, but I had some fun ideas for it and I knew that through the course of the session I would dish out piles of support spells and the players would see that I'm not some turd coming in and intentionally ruining things.
When I tried to snatch that book, I got hammered with curses from the viewers. I got a real kick out of all the stuff that happened to me. Here's some:
- Every time I spoke the letter "s", I got hit by a fire bolt. My name is Sid! How do I introduce myself?!
- The ghost boat.
- I got two natural 20's I could use on roll whenever I liked.
- I got one natural 1 that needed to be used at some point.
Throughout the show, clues were dropped that there was more to my character than what was presented. I was wrapped up like a mummy so that my entire body was obscured. One hero noticed that I didn't actually sleep, I just pretended to.
At the very, very end, there was a little cut scene that showed that Sid was into some bad stuff.
I had to sort of guess how to fit in to the group dynamic. I didn't want to chime in too much, but a lot of times I get excited and start spitting out ideas and it's hard to stop.
I had been given a boon that said the next time I crafted an item, it would explode and do something like 25 points of damage. During the final battle with the bodaks, I made a puzzle out of bark and kept the last piece separate. I figured I could use it to blow up some bad guys if stuff hit the fan. I have 33 hit points, so I'd survive the explosion.
I didn't quite get to pull that off in the bodak battle, as we had to wrap up.
At the end of the show, you do that thing where each player tells the viewer about the projects they have going on and "check out my twitter", etc. Every one of these guys does this with such a smooth delivery. Very professional, no "ums" or "ahs". It seems like they all have their own projects going on.
When it was over, they were nice enough to stay in for a few minutes so I could ask them some questions. Things I learned:
- On 16 occasions, Will played in sessions that went 24 hours, straight through.
- Asking viewers in the chat for boons generally doesn't work well. You usually can't request something and get it.
- These twitch shows with donations make significant money! It really made me think I should probably look into it. I love the curse/boon thing and would love to do something like that. It seems like, with enough of them, the viewers could somewhat dictate what happened in the session, which makes it a surprise for everyone. I love random charts, so this is very appealing to me.
The DM, Greg, is very good. He does fantastic voices and sounds and he has a good sense of which things to downplay in order to keep things moving.
Encounter Roleplay is admirably ambitious. Will's not doing one show, he's doing multiple shows every day! He's building a D&D channel. What I really like is that he has rolled up his sleeves and he is doing it himself. His hard work is clearly paying off for him, and it is nice to see.
I think what he's doing is really smart and, seeing how this online D&D thing seems like it's not going away any time soon (and is, in fact, getting bigger) he's going to end up being a very big deal. From what I understand, he's only 21. He's got it made!
Good show, definitely check it out!