Dylan Grinder is a fantasy cartographer and Twitch streamer on his channel, Anarisis. Having played Dungeons and Dragons since he was 5 years old (Dylan has a fondness for 2e but was finally won over by another edition when 5e was introduced), Dylan describes himself as a “homebrew heavy” Dungeon Master, who enjoys creating his own settings and classes.
It was an odd, windy path, then, that led Dylan to creating the League, a weekly AL show that streams on Tuesdays. Dylan says he wanted to try a show format that required less prep, pulled in new players, and reflected the quintessential “classic” D&D experience. He chose the Tomb of Annihilation hardcover and decided to use AL rules to standardize play and says he has learned quite a bit from this new and different experience.
In fact, Dylan has helped start a community called We, the Roleplayers to help small RPG content creators network and share tips and advice.
In today’s Community Spotlight, Dylan, shares with us what he’s learned as a streamer new to the AL.
Embrace the Rules. RPG streaming is very narrative based, which Dylan says in a way is at odds with the AL which follows strict rules. “But actually it works out well,” he says. “Streaming audiences really like to tell you what the rules are before you get them wrong, and the Adventurers League is great for that. I give the chat express permission to rules lawyer the heck out of us.” Dylan says this keeps the audience engaged, helps them feel involved, and gives them a level of personal ownership of the game.
Inspire the Audience to be Engaged. Dylan says many RPG streams involve the audience by allowing donations to impact a game with re-rolls or other effects, which don’t work in an AL game. One tip Dylan has is to put the stream’s chat in charge of reminding him to reward Inspiration. For example, if the audience feels a scene had a great character moment, they can call out a player’s roleplaying to get them Inspiration.
Incorporate Narrative to Explain Crunch. Because the League is meant to entertain an audience, Dylan takes advantage of narrative moments whenever he can. For example, in Tomb of Annihilation, Dylan says he uses the plethora of NPC chains to reveal information about Chult and incorporate some worldbuilding. But he also turns rolls like skill checks into a narrative moment. “Every time there is a skill test required, I talk about what they’re doing,” Dylan says. “If they do a survival check to get through the jungle for the day, I ask, ‘What does that look like? How does a critical success make today look different versus yesterday?'” Dylan also makes an effort to describe combat. “If one of the NPCs just took 8 damage, I describe how they got grievously wounded, leaning on techniques from theater of the mind.”
“Failing Forward” Keeps the Story Moving. Even if players fail a skill check, Dylan seeks ways for the attempt to push the story forward and keep the players and audience engaged. If a character fails to pick a lock, perhaps an enemy hears them and comes to investigate. If a character fails a social check with an NPC, perhaps that NPC starts to push back. Rather than stopping the action, Dylan creates an ebb and flow.
The Audience Doesn’t Exist. Ok. The audience DOES exist, but Dylan says it’s OK to treat the game like any other. “Forget the audience,” he says. “The audience doesn’t exist. Just play to your players and encourage their engagement.” To Dylan, the players and audience aren’t separate entities. The players have more agency than a viewer of a stream, but in those moments when the DM is narrating, running a creature in combat, or ruling outcomes, the players are briefly an audience who also want to have fun and be entertained.
Test Your Tech Before Streaming. On the tech side of streaming games, Dylan recommends running a test stream first, running all of your software (e.g. Zoom, Skype, etc.) all at once to ensure you computer can handle the load. Aside from seeking tips and advice from We, the Roleplayers, Twitch Inspector teaches you how to run a test stream, he says, and the Twitch Reddit is a good resource for learning how to optimize.
The Adventurers League Community Spotlight features members of our community accomplishing cool things and sharing their tips to make your AL experience equally cool. If you know someone who makes your AL community better, e-mail [email protected] to tell us why they should be featured in the next Community Spotlight.