Here we are, New Years' Day ... and I am finishing up my tenth year of writing for the blog. There have been so many house rules since the start, so many ideas and things I've implemented into my game. I've written more than 2,500 posts telling people how to play, making up rules and getting into a great many arguments. I've made bad mistakes as a writer and, occasionally, as a human being.
So, why not make a few resolutions, since today is the day for it. By now, the Gentle Reader is surely aware that I consider designing D&D to be a journey, not a destination. So while I will continue to work on many ongoing projects, some of which will never be finished, I also have some new ideas in mind.
I have tested the screen capture software I have on the new computer and it works. So does the camera and mic I have, so I have made some dry runs in the audio-visual department as well. I'd like a better mic, and have had some suggestions on that front, but that's something that can easily wait. Here's some things I am thinking about for 2018.
I tend to agree with readers regarding giving D&D advice via talking head. I have disliked my own efforts in the past, even to the point of deleting them from youtube. However, it is also true that we get better with things we practice. I haven't had a lot of practice. I should get more. The right path would be to record myself every day, until it gets to where I don't hate what I'm seeing. I'm going to try that. Until I have some insight in this regard, I'll say no more.
The Online Campaign
I haven't talked about this with the players, but I'd like to get the Juvenis campaign going again. Part of the reason it was a headache had to do with the speed of my old computer, which did not happily process images very well, despite the demand with multiple images for combat sequences. Just now I am struggling with a new version of Publisher, which isn't anywhere near as friendly as the version I've used since 2007... but I'm getting the hang of it.
|I should still be able to make images like this ~ even better.
Something I'd like to suggest would be trying an online game, IF the players are confident enough with their images appearing on the internet. I considered doing it with voices only, but I think that could be confusing. I certainly don't want to pressure anyone. I don't think I'd give up the blog ~ but if it proved possible, the videos of the live sessions could be embedded in the Juvenis blog.
A few things about recording. I have watched the video strategies that others have employed and I must say, I am not a fan. Problems I have include the dullness of empty, listening player faces, as the DM prattles; nervous grinning and giggling, because a camera is running, adding nothing; competing for verbal space, as people talk over one another; an unchanging view-shot that goes on for hours, without relief; and not enough editing.
I believe that filmmakers are trying to "capture the table vibe" with this sort of depiction ... but it is awful and misses the point of playing in a game altogether. D&D is not about staring continuously at players. Most of your eye-movement will be centered on: a) your character sheet; b) whatever the DM is drawing; c) rulebooks or source material; and d) the face of your dice. Yes, of course you do look at the other players, but not from a vantage point seven feet away, like depicted here:
The very proximity of the players here takes me right out of the game. It is nothing like real game-play, where the next player's face is two shoulder-widths away. Where most of the time, you can only look at one fellow player at a time, as you turn your head from side to side.
I've felt for a long time that properly filming a D&D game is a feat in itself. Each player should be personally cam'd and mic'd. The game table needs close-up shots as well; the whole thing should be heavily edited, like a film, with camera angles changing to better catch the moment-to-moment interpersonal relationships. The example above, the most popular online game in the world, is like a cheesy set-piece in a high school play, with less authentic costumes, voice-acting and amateurish character-casting. Stuff like the above only played on stage when the performers were super-popular jocks, who could memorize two lines before roaring, "San Dimas High School Football Rules!"
It might be interested to get players to film themselves on their cells, up close, then cut that together into the general film, but probably not practical. I have found that my screen capture will simultaneously capture both my main screen and my secondary monitor at the same time. I'm planning on making some tests to see if I can split the video after recording (I'm pretty sure I can, as the editing program I have will let me change a video's size quite a bit). This would let me duplicate a second video that would show the screen with the combat maps and images, separate from the video that would show only the players. The two videos could then be cut together, with the players' voices retaining their continuity, regardless of the editing. I could line up another personal video of a player filming their dice or their own face, so long as the sound through their computer was consistent with the recorded sound on my own (which should be easy, and the sound mix troubles basically ignored, as I am not yet able to play with sound).
One big problem is this: how do the players see the maps and images I'll be putting on the video, while the game is going on. I don't have an answer for that one.
On the editing front, I can edit visuals way easy, I've had hundreds of hours of practice. It would be a lot of work to present one video of game play, but if it worked out as I liked, it would be WAY different from the shit I'm seeing on youtube.
I'll wait to hear back from Pandred, Embla, Englehart and Lothar on this one, but I am definitely going to try this with someone this year.
This is a different thing altogether. Part of my podcasting experience has shown that one-person podcasts just don't work. At the same time, I don't seem to be able to rely on any one person to put in the time and the commitment to get into a regular cage match with me on D&D (or most any other subject), for various stated reasons that I completely appreciate.
However, I think that some of you wouldn't mind having a go at me once, so here is what I have in mind.
I'd like to interview Dungeon Masters who are in the process of running a game that is, in some part, of their own design. It doesn't have to be D&D, but I may need a primer if the game is very obscure. My agenda would be this:
The first half of the video would be a fact-finding process. Keeping my own opinion out of it, I would be asking how the DM got started in the game, what they liked about it, why they keep playing, what sorts of things have they learned, how are they applying those things to the game they are playing now and so on. I'd like to provide the DM ahead of time with all the questions I'm going to ask, to ensure that there are no surprise questions and that the DM had time to prepare. I would then run through the questions, letting the DM rule the interview, presenting their opinions and position freely and with full knowledge of what was coming.
Then, I believe I would pause the recording, and explain (based on what I had just heard) where I intended to push back. I would want the interviewed DM to have a few moments to prepare (again, not wanting to blindside anyone), before starting the recording again. The second part would be, then, somewhat confrontational, but hopefully in the spirit of constructive disagreement, supported by my giving warning before cutting into anyone.
Once I got a few of these recorded and edited, viewers should start to grasp the principle and intent of the interview, enjoying the conflict while recognizing that the participants did not seem to be taking it personally. It would still be a cage match, but the agenda would be to inform and deconstruct, not to shame and humiliate.
Obviously, I can't count on any famous people to come forward and be interviewed, but I don't think that matters. I believe that the best DMs on the internet are familiar with or reading this blog ... and I further believe that the everyday DM has more to say about the creation of a good game than celebrities would.
I haven't got questions yet, but I am researching into it and it is really just a matter of applying myself for a few hours. Obviously, a few guests will mean a change is needed, so there's no need to feel a strong need to be exact in this regard.
I would like to start interviewing people in January; I've lined up a few people on facebook about this, but I have made no definite appointments.
So, this is what my superior computer will let me do. I'm probably biting off more than I can chew, like I did with the comic last year; but that comic was a fun ride while it lasted and I may find myself going back to something like it one day (maybe a serial; people liked that idea). For now, here is where my thoughts are. It is just day-to-day from here.