Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Ba ba ba-ba ba, my Corona

This Corona thing is no kidding around.  The upshot is that I have much, much more time than I had anticipated having.  I think I can move up my launch by a month.  Sometime in April should be about right.  I have recorded Episode 0 plus chapters 1-4.  Working on 5 currently and should be done in a couple more days.  Unless the world goes back to normal in the very near future, I should reach my goal in a couple of weeks.  I need to start learning about podcast hosting...

Before launch I want to lay out some of the homebrew changes I'll be making to the basic rules.  Here they are in no particular order:

1) No hopeless characters - to me that means stats of 3,4, or 5, for PCs are rerolled.  If I need to roll a character of a certain class, the prerequisite stat needs to be a 13 or more.  Fair?

2) PCs get max hp per level.  These kids have it tough enough - let's throw em a bone. Believe me, they're gonna need every point.

3) NPCs 'min out' at half hp.  No freakishly weak monsters.  Just no.

4) No items to start at all.  At least for now. Too much bookkeeping.  Players start out with rags.  That's it.  Be grateful for your rags.  In my day we didn't even have rags.  Just a piece of Kleenex.

5) No XP - it's a bulky system that makes no sense.  Characters who survive and participate in 10 episodes of the podcast will gain a level.  3rd level will come after an additional 10.  4th after 15 more.  This goes for NPCs too.

6) Wandering monster checks will not be rolled every 2 turns (20 minutes??!!) as the basic rules dictates.  Every 2 hours will be fine, thanks.

In addition to the above, I am also strongly considering doing away with he spell: 'Read Magic'.  I mean... what a bummer of a spell that is.  Can we just let the magic users ... use magic?  That'd be great.  I think in 5th edition it might have been removed, but I've never actually read 5th ed.  I'm curious but... well, I haven't read it.

Furthermore I have seen systems where characters can roll for increased basic stats when they advance in level.  This appeals to me, in part because it makes sense.  A character would get stronger, smarter, more charismatic, etc etc. It makes sense that the prerequisite stat has a better chance of increasing, too.

Well, there's food for thought.

Stay tuned for Episode 0, and Eps 1-3, coming soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I love it when a plan comes together

With COVID 19 having shut down my corner of the world pretty significantly, I have a LOT of time to think about TOTM.  Despite having so much to say right now, I'm going to limit myself to one post a week on this blog.  Why limit myself? It's because of some advice I gleaned from Aram Vartian of the excellent Godsfall podcast.

Aram's creation is an inspiration to me. Until I heard his work, I thought the bar of production quality in podcasting was fairly low, but his use of voice acting, music and effects... well, WOW.  Even the quality of the audio itself: loud, clear... pretty much perfect.  Something to aspire to.

Aram gave these 2 bits of golden advice on his podcast and somewhere in the land of Youtube:  

One: use an SM57 mic.  I tried using a 'better' mic (a more expensive condenser for... oh right, nobody cares...) and the 57 was still superior.  

Two: If you're going to release a podcast, don't release them as you make them, but instead create a buffer of 5-10 episodes.  That way, you aren't racing a deadline constantly.  Also, if life throws you a curveball (you lose your files, your computer dies, you get Corona Virus, etc etc) you can still keep whatever schedule you have promised your audience.

From some other source, I got this third little nugget: When you launch, launch more than one episode.  Apparently some people will give negative reviews if you don't, just because you have left them wanting more, but not in the good way.

When I smash all this advice into a mushy ball of wisdom, I get a release date of late May.  The goal is to have 10 episodes completed and release 4 of them on launch.  Then I can commit to a 2-a-month release schedule.  So that's my plan.  Hoo-ah!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

And the Oscar goes to... Someone else.

I spent this week recording three episodes of TOTM and, not surprisingly, it took whole bunches of hours to get it done (OK, I'm not done). A surprise along the way: the hardest part wasn't what I expected it to be.  It wasn't the 'writing' , such as it is, nor was it the editing.  It was the voice-acting that stood out as the biggest challenge. The narration is pretty straight-forward but when I got to the various dialogue parts, I was suddenly faced with a decision I hadn't anticipated having to make: do I or don't I do 'voices'. Well, I settled for... sorta/kinda. I didn't do full voices, but I did try to make them stand apart from the narration. Oddly it was one of the male characters that was the hardest (I'm male, btw).  Overall, I don't feel like I nailed it, but I did get new respect for the Critical Role team.

Anyway, I am making progress and doing the episodes taught me a few shortcuts to use in the future. The most important thing I learned was how many pages of writing I need to prepare to fill 25-30 minutes airtime (my per-episode goal).  Yes, there's a script. It's not something that can be done off the cuff. Still, despite the existence of the script, all the dice rolls & subsequent interpretations of them are absolutely real. I won't waver on that. The whole point of the experiment is that the story evolves largely outside of my control.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Measure Twice, Cut Once - Or try it my dumb way

The goal for this week is to figure out how to get the best possible audio.  It has been something of a saga.  First I tried using my phone - and since I have an Android and Apple, I tried them both.  The Android surprisingly won and I recorded 30 minutes of material with that.  But then I tried using an SM57 into Audacity and it was quite a bit better so I rerecorded the same 30 minutes with that.  And then I tried to top that with my full studio rig (SM57 into a GoldenAge Pre73, into a Steinberg UR22 into Reaper and ... whoa ... it was much, much better.  So it looks like I'll be re-re-recording that same 30 minutes.  I could probably do it by memory by now.  What's that old adage...? Measure twice, cut once?  Yup. About that...

(Why didn't I start with my full rig since I have one?  A good question.  I was hoping to not be tied to my studio.  It would be way better if I could record anywhere, but, well, that's not gonna happen.)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ba-by Manticore doo doo doo doo doot

After thinking it over a bunch, I have decided to try my hand at podcasting.  And this is going to be a blog about making the podcast.

I've had this idea rolling around in my head for a kind of experimental storytelling.  The idea is to combine the richness and depth of traditional narration with the unpredictability of an RPG - specifically OSR D&D (Moldvay).

Let's face it, when we read fiction, or watch a movie, there's almost no question about whether or not the heroes will survive; we know they will.  Even George RR Martin seems unable to kill off a character in a permanent way. So fiction is all about the HOW a character will prevail and not IF.  RPGs are definitely in the IF category, but they have shortcomings of their own.  RPGs are more spontaneous and unpredictable, yes, but there's not much 'quality control' in them.  It's rare that you get a bunch of players who are all of one mind as to what they want out of a game.  And let's be honest: some people just stink at role playing - or worse - ruin the atmosphere by introducing 'zany' comedy into the serious world you are trying to inhabit.  That's the rub for me - I can't be imagining an excursion into a cursed temple populated with evil spirits only to have Barry the gnome barbarian ask me if I wouldn't mind holding his pet lobster Maurice so he can finally use his halberd. Don't get me wrong - I like comedy - I'd just rather my RPG game was more LOTR and less Holy Grail.

There aren't many podcasts out there that can really suspend the old disbelief - though to be sure, there are some. But to my knowledge, none of them really combine RPG and fiction in the way I've been thinking about...

I think it's worth a go.