019: Hydra Head, Supporters, Knees & Toes

Our heroes discuss players going off the rails, what tools people use to run games, community support for games, and an app to deal with the stress of working in UX and technology.

Games talked about in this episode:

  • 1:35 Dungeons & Dragons
  • 11:09 Roll 20
  • 13:08 Owl Bear
  • 15:27 Tabletop Audio
  • 20:12 Jocks Machina
  • 20:48 Dungeons & Daddies
  • 20:53 Queens of Adventure
  • 21:46 Thingiverse
  • 23:04 We Croak

Introductory Guy  

Welcome to design thinking games, a gaming and User Experience podcast card-carrying UX. Tim Broadwater and Michael Schofield examined the player experience of board games, pen and paper role-playing games, live-action games, and video games. Play through the backlog on your podcatcher of choice and on the web at design thinking games.com.

Michael Schofield  

So I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Disney World or Disneyland and gone on the Pirates of the Caribbean, but all of those skeletons whose like jaws are literally like hanging down on the hinge of like a bone. That’s probably what I look like when I’m like sleeping. Or, or if you’ve ever seen like the mummy when like Imotep’s chin just like distends from his face so he can like exhale Locusts. That’s what I do when I sleep, so I tape —

Tim Broadwater  

You exhale locusts like the mummy.

Michael Schofield  

Oh my god. Yes. So I taped my mouth shut. There’s a product that is designed for this. It’s like the breathe right strip for taping your mouth shut, but it’s just tape. Yeah, yeah, you should join me in this.

Tim Broadwater  

I’m good. But that does make me that the Pirates of the Caribbean, specifically the skeletons that are in it on the ride makes me think of my favorite Dungeons and Dragons spell, which is Skeleton Crew.

Michael Schofield  

Oh my god. Yes.

Tim Broadwater  

Are you familiar with the spell?

Michael Schofield  

I am but for our listeners for whom we just cold opened here.

Tim Broadwater  

I’m gonna just butcher it if you want to. Let’s do it. I think yeah, I think you summon like so many D6 of skeletons. They can’t fight but they have their seamanship or navigating sailing, whatever that skill check is, yeah. It is like your intel; if you’re a wizard and your casting is based on intelligence, it’s here like intelligence modifier is their plus that they get so if you’re a really intelligent wizard and you need in the use of the spell, it is like crap. I don’t know how to sail but i can summon an undead crew to sail for me. And that’s literally all they can do is sail.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, oh, yeah, you’re right. The skeleton cannot speak, attack or even defend themselves. But they are proficient in navigators’ tools. I love it. 

Tim Broadwater  

I literally was at a gaming convention once. I’m sorry, this is just too good of a story. Like, I was at a gaming convention once, and we were playing a high-level Pathfinder society first edition scenario, right? And the scenario was, we busted a dude at the jail because we needed to get them to lead us to where our treasure was at sea, and you find a Kraken or sea monster. But there was a chance there was a point to where everyone on this game happened to just be a sorcerer, or wizard or like, or like a witch or an Oracle, but no muscle, right? Yeah. And so we got to this point where they were all these dead people at this prison at sea, and we had to pilot a ship. And we had dead people on the boat. So we just started sailing, and then immediately a storm came, and we were fucked. And I was like, Oh, wait, this is exactly why you have to spell. I never get the chance to use it. And I literally had it memorized on my wizard to cast all those perfect skeletal crews. It’s someone a bunch of skeletons. I thought that was cool. Yeah, didn’t really have any more thought to it. Hey, I want to summon like 20 skeletons, you know. But yeah, I had it memorized. And the gamemaster was so pissed off because it broke the whole storm, like a whole part of battling and skill checks and who’s manning the boat while you’re battling, and it just made it we didn’t even have to do half the work.

Michael Schofield  

Oh my god, that’s amazing. My weekly table at the moment, which is going on like three years now, is because the Quarriors ended up sailing around – and I like Homebrews and rule extensions. So I had this naval, like 48 pages, like a supplement that I got, and the entire intention was that look, these guys are going to be like trapped out or not trapped. They’re going to be at sea for an extended period of time, and they have to deal with like a mutinous crew. And there’s like every so often like I might, there might be some like weird, like, like, I don’t know, maybe we’ll roll a dragon turtle, but I also had just picked up.

Tim Broadwater  

My God, it’s been so long since I’ve heard the word dragon turtle.

Michael Schofield  

I picked up this like d&d supplement from I’m not looking at my books right now. So the actual name escapes me, but it’s all of the Greek gods and Greek myths that have given d&d stats or whatever, and there’s an official work, but I just picked that up and it has some like cool ass Hydra and stuff like that. And so there’s

Tim Broadwater  

There’s a bone Hydra. It’s actually in the Hades game I’m playing right now.

Michael Schofield  

Oh, that’s crazy. Yeah, so like, anyway, they were fighting like a Hydra. And I was like, these guys are, these guys are screwed, right? Because they have like a wizard. And whatever. And my intention isn’t really to kill the party. But my intention is that every encounter is deadly. And exhausts resources. And it’s my secret pride to like, really, like harass my players with a delightfully weird encounter, that isn’t just like, you know, grind and chop, grind and chop, but you know, it’s whatever. So anyway, I had this, you know, like nine-headed Hydra, which I guess is the stock definition of a hydra emerging out from the depths of the ocean, they are on a sloop that is in eyesight of shore, but it’s just a smear at the horizon. There was a couple of rounds in which folks are, you know, trying to shoot at it or whatever, and they realize that this isn’t doing super well. And then —

Tim Broadwater  

Do hydras have nine heads, or is it eight heads?

Michael Schofield  

Um, it’s great, it’s a great question. It should be nine heads. And the idea is that every time you chop one-off, and I say this with the caveat that I’m literally not looking at anything, this is just from memory. When you chop it off, there is a percentage chance that two new Heads regrow. I think it’s a dice roll. It may be immediate. But I don’t like that. I like the idea that sometimes you hit it just right. And it’s, it’s not gonna happen. Unless you like cauterize that wound. Anyway, yeah, so this is a major monster. The campaign is, you know, it’s about the return of like, an eldritch Cthonic, you know, Deep Mind. And it’s weird, right? It’s like, it’s my, it’s my thing. And my intention is to like harass my players, and again, in this sort of, like, delightful encounter, then, they were like, hey, this sloop has like a really like long and narrow bow with I do not remember the proper term for basically like a really long, like a spear-like tip to it, right? Kind of like, like a narrow, like wind cutting a decorative thing to which like this the, like, one of the sales attaches. And they just were like, alright, we’ll figure out how to survive this next part, but we’re gonna ram the Hydra. (Nice). And, yeah, it was great (As one does). Yeah. So. So that’s, uh, you know, that’s our tale of fucking up or players fucking up in a dungeon master’s sailing. Like adventure.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, it’s funny, cuz I think we were talking about, you know, we’re both very versed, I think, in many different types of role-playing games, right? Like tabletop and probably video games and kind of your pen and paper, Dungeons and Dragons, White Wolf, that kind of stuff. And that’s cool that you are running it that way.

Michael Schofield  

So I run a few games. That’s my weekly table, my virtual table, I guess.

Tim Broadwater  

What do you use for a virtual table? Like what do you do? So as it were,

Michael Schofield  

I, I do just a zoom call. And we use a tool called Owlbear, a really neat web app for free. And, and increasingly it’s, you know, it’s a virtual tabletop and stuff like that. I’ve tried Roll20. And I think Foundry is the other one. Is that right?

Tim Broadwater  

I like Roll20. I’ve used it for years,

Michael Schofield  

I think the work required to set it up is, in a funny way, more like game design or development than I want my Dungeons and Dragons to be.

Tim Broadwater  

That’s interesting because I don’t see it that way at all.

Michael Schofield  

Don’t you have to, like, set things up? Like, I’m like, Oh, here’s like the wall …

Tim Broadwater  

So can I tell you my experience? So I do, like a lot online play society organized play with Starfinder and Pathfinder. And I use Roll20. And I actually eventually ended up paying for the pro version. And the reason why is because they actually have some really cool advanced tools where you can import and export games, mechanics, and stuff. So if you set up stuff like documents, maps, or creatures or whatever, you can just take them from one game to another, and you don’t have to keep re-entering them, which is nice. But then, I’ve always found it to be like, in this is great that we’re talking about it’s an instructional design problem is what Roll 20 faces. The thing is, is Roll20 has, if you just want to start drawing on a map with a pencil and have people chat and roll, that’s all you need. You can do that so easily. And it’s just the click of like, it’s a toolbar. But if you want to go to the point of, you know, starting making macros or creatures, and then saving them and graphics and special, you know, you can take it to that next level, which isn’t bad for character sheet tracking or whatever. But then you can go even further and do like light dynamics and physics and like crazy stuff.

Michael Schofield  

So you can go deep, but you don’t have to, right?

Tim Broadwater  

I think they do a bad job. And I don’t mean this in I pay for their product. So I like it. But I’m like what my perspective would be, from a user experience, like an onboarding person, like learning a new game or learning a new system or piece of software. I mean, if they just presented it that way, that is that’s a trainer friendly, kind of user-friendly way to where it’s like, hey, low tech, this is how you start using it today. Yeah, and you can just draw and do stuff. But when you want to start getting more advanced, you can import creatures, save stuff, and move it around. But then you can get to a whole level of like 3d modeling and light dynamics and physics, you know?

I have to check out Owlbear, though, because I mean, I’ve not heard of it. 

Michael Schofield  

I’ll plug it. I think it’s pretty impressive. It’s Owlbear.rodeo. Like, that’s the TLD domain, like, so like, you know, like, as kind of like a, an engineer I, I appreciate this for what it is. And what it is, is that it looks like a couple of folks basically designed a web app that works totally in the browser with your browser, local storage, and WebSockets to produce what I think is like a relatively easy to use, like a virtual tabletop. The reason that I went to it originally…

Tim Broadwater  

Oh my gosh, do they have YouTube tutorials on how to use it.

Michael Schofield  

So so the other thing that’s kind of like, fascinating, yeah, is that it’s totally free. And it’s 100% funded through Patreon. And so like as a model of like, just a couple of people and their software product or their, you know, their web app. It’s pretty neat. And I was drawn to it because I like the soundscapes of a tabletop RPG, right because I have like, I like ambiance I like kind of like the background music as a way to really set the tone. And owlbear lets you basically stream audio from another tab in your browser. So I’ve used it for a couple things. So you know, I use it for d&d.

Tim Broadwater  

Do you have a Pandora playlist or a Spotify playlist?

Michael Schofield  

Yes, I did. I did before. What I consider like leveling up, and here’s what I mean. But there’s something called there’s a there’s an app, another web app, just like individual created called tabletop audio like tabletop audio.com. And there are very familiar with Yeah, and so like in there. So most people, I think, like find a scene and play it, and there will be some background music with a few like sound effects. For instance, there’s one that I really like called Waterkeep instead of Waterdeep, so Waterkeep Night, and you hear like a little bit of music. But you can also hear carriages like rolling a car across the cobble. But what’s really cool is he’s made an entire soundboard part of that app, where you can construct custom audio. And that’s what I do now. And I support you know, I support the tabletop audio person, I gotta tell you, I don’t really know who’s the name of the Creator or anything. It’s patreon.com/tabletop audio, but you know, I pay for that. I think it’s excellent. It’s just wonderful. So so that’s what I do, rather than Spotify? Yeah.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah. It’s kind of interesting. I know that one of the things that we’ve been interacting with, or experiencing with the podcast and social media, is there’s this whole big, like an online community of like gamers and gamer developers, viewers and pixel artists and cosplayers. And just like, people who support each other.

Michael Schofield  

Small creators, right? They’re not just game designers.

Tim Broadwater  

They put money into the community, and they help back each other’s stuff because they’re kind of interested in it. Still, they also want to help someone else because they’re in a situation. I love that, about kind of this, you know, the people that we’re interacting with, you know, through social media online.

Michael Schofield  

So, you know, one of the things that this, now this TTRPG community, helps people do is like, create some distance between themselves and say, their full-time job, maybe they can’t quit. But some of these people can and what they’re doing are making supplements for an official game, like, you know, Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons and Dragons. So there’s, like, an ecosystem or a marketplace from a product point of view. It’s pretty fascinating because, well, for instance, like the most famous of them all has to be Critical Role and the amount of income and IP and then, of course, eventually merging, not merging properly, but having some of their lore introduced officially into Wizards of the Coast. 

Tim Broadwater  

Critical Role is definitely like, the first right, and it opened up a lot of different doors. I can’t remember the name of the guy from Magic Mike. Who did Jock Machina.

Michael Schofield  

You know how I know him? Yeah. Oh, what’s his name? I know him as the werewolf. Joe Magnela  He was the werewolf and True Blood and the love interest and

Tim Broadwater  

He has jocks that love to play, you know, games and it’s kind of a thing that came out of you know, tabletop and I think it’s a community now everyone’s just saying like, Oh my God, it’s possible and tabletop I just think like was just the opening of the door because I we’ve talked about it before, but I love like the Dungeons and Daddies Podcast. Which is a hilarious podcast, and Queens of Adventure, which was like Dungeons & Drag Queens, the live show, kind of, and I just feel like everyone is supporting everyone. Everyone’s kind of portraying patronizing everyone. Is it patronizing? That sounds?

Michael Schofield  

I mean, I think tactically patronizing in that they are patronizing, like being their patrons, right. Supporting.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, supporting. I love that a gamer will support Hey, I like this game. Maybe it’s Dungeons & Dragons or tabletop role-playing game, and it’s like, but here’s a product that normal people are just making themselves that helps us play online. Yeah. Or here’s like some dice, or here are some 3d models that you can buy. There’s a lot of 3d modeling in this community, too. You can go to Thingiverse or other places where people were like, Hey, you can totally have my models for free and download them. I’m just asking, like, share it with people, and there is a Patreon or donate kind of button, and it’s like 70 cents for a 3d model. You know, So and that, but I can print that and make my castles at home, or I can print things too like a game developer new pieces that I need to test out a game or where it’s a tee for a cosplayer, or whatever.

Michael Schofield  

I literally paid $2.50 for an iPhone app called WeCroak, which reminds me that I’m going to die once a day. And, and you know, like, it’s stupid.

Tim Broadwater  

It’s very morbid. Why do you do that?

Michael Schofield  

Well, well, because, you know, the world is incredibly neurotic. We who work in tech, especially in startups, are an incredibly anxious peer group, for whom, you know, every day is a struggle, you never know, if you’re going to be employed the next month or whatever. These are very, like, first world tip of the first world problems. But because there’s so much, I don’t know, there’s so much going on in this space. And it requires a sort of self-obsession and obsession with the space. It benefits me to benchmark My, my, my emotions I like so that I can navigate this incredibly kind of like neurotic. (Like, what do you mean by benchmark?) Oh, yeah. Like, like, like, I tried to ground myself and realize that you can wake up and say, like, Oh, my God, I have so many problems like this, this piece of code is so difficult to this client is super needy. Everybody is on fire all the time. And they’re running around with their fire hands, and you’re at risk of catching fire yourself. Yeah, but you know, like the idea of like, this little, this little app this WeCroak is the same idea of like, you know, like stoicism behind it. 

Tim Broadwater  

it’s to remind you to live in the present and that you only have so many days left. 

Michael Schofield  

It’s not so many days. This could be your last. So if you meditate or accept that, hey, this might be the last time Tim and I talk. Let’s make sure that whatever we chat about, like this kind of conversation, is one that we can like, look back on in the next three hours on our deathbeds. And be like, Man, that was a good use of my time. Could I have used it better? I don’t know. But it’s not a question of regret, regret, right. So if you’re going to walk outside and get hit by a bus, at least make sure that you prioritize the things that really mattered, and I gotta be real work in that context doesn’t matter. Like the problems with the client, they don’t matter. And that’s kind of, you know, so it’s kind of morbid, but it’s liberating, and it means that oh my God, there’s so much shit going on, But I am going to spend an hour talking about like, games and the community and, and whatever. And I don’t know how people like fucking survive, like in like, like, constantly contemplating the future I’ve, I’ve trained myself to like turn that part of me off. It’s an effort to keep sanity. I’m just like playing games like you’re like, you can play games to process emotions like That Dragon Cancer or play games to escape. That’s like, you know, that’s what I do with like Thegns and like this little single-player RPG is that I don’t have anyone to play with, but I’m just putting my brain, and to my, I’m stepping foot into like, the shoes of the 1000-year-old vampire. And, and you know, but it’s, it’s about you know, enjoying what she can especially you know, especially now it’s better just to like you know, live in the present right. So, you know WeCroak, if we can get in touch with the people who make WeCroak, I would love to like add like I will put together an amazing advertisement. I just wanted to remind you Tim and like as we sign off and all of our, all of our listeners to you know support Design Thinking games on patreon.com/designThinkinggames if you are a small creator, and you want to help us a small creator Grow, you want to grow together? We have super affordable like super affordable, we’re talking like 10s of dollars advertising that we would love to collaborate with you on. We’re kind of active on social media, you know. If that’s your thing, jam those hearts if you can like star heart and favorite in your podcatcher of choice like this episode or the show that teaches the algorithm to shine a beacon on to design thinking games. And you know if there’s anything you take away from this conversation, perhaps it was a little diverting, but don’t forget, you are going to die, and it might be right now.

Introductory Guy  

thank you for listening to the Design Thinking games podcast. You only have so much time, and it means a lot you shared it with us to connect with your hosts, Michael or Tim. Visit Design Thinking games on tick tock, Twitch, and Twitter DMs are open. You can also check out design thinking games.com where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on

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