Happy Free RPG Day!

Yep, it’s Free RPG Day (though at 1:17am my time, I doubt there is much happening just yet).

Tomorrow I hope to get into my FLGS to see what’s happening there… maybe pick up some more dice or something. Anyway, enjoy!

Twitter, D&D and TweetDeck

A little over a year ago, I created a Twitter account just to check it out.

After a few days, I gave it up. I didn’t see the point. I was staring at a page of mine that had no followers, and I knew of almost no one I wanted to follow (just a few friends was it). I also didn’t get what was happening when I replied or re-tweeted. It just didn’t make sense, and it was frustrating.

What did I have to say anyway, and who is going to care to hear it.

Eventually (months later), I came back to it and decided to make another account. This one called “theweem” (weem was taken) and meant to be only about D&D. I would ‘follow’ D&D industry folks, and see what they had to say. As the messages starting coming in, I decided… I’m going to reply to some of these messages… participate a little. This was not as simple as I had hoped, so I sought out a 3rd party program realizing from screenshots that they were making this task much easier.

That’s when the real fun began. Twitter went from being a pointless status message distributor to a tool I could use to have actual conversations with many people who enjoyed something that I really enjoyed as well… D&D!

I’m making this post in the hopes of showing you that there is more to it than simply reading about what someone just ate, or posting what you are doing this very second. You can have conversations here – share details about your games, even pictures – offer advice, ask for help with your game.

If this sounds like forums, there are similarities, but one will not replace the other. They are both great for different reasons and I think they work very well together in fact.

Who is this post for?

This is for people who…

…don’t use Twitter, but are curious about it

…have a Twitter account, but don’t use it much if at all

If you have made up your mind that Twitter is just not for you, you are more than welcome to skip the rest.

In this article, I use TweetDeck to demonstrate some aspects of Twitter use, but there are many other programs to choose from as well. TweetDeck just happens to be a popular and free program that I prefer to use.

Also, I am not going to get philosophical about “what Twitter is” or is not, or how it is changing media, or anything along those lines. This is simply me showing you how I use it, why I think it’s fun, and that there might be more to it than you knew – PLUS, how that ties into D&D.

The (initially) confusing Twitter page

If you go to someone’s twitter page (mine for example is here), you will see messages – all of them items I have posted to Twitter. Sometimes these are posts of mine that are going out to anyone who will listen (people following me), and sometimes these are replies to other peoples posts (who may or may not be following me).

What sucks about this page is, it makes almost no sense when you are not familiar with Twitter. You don’t see the peoples posts I am replying to, only my response. It’s hard to get the context of what is going on here.

TweetDeck

That’s where a 3rd party program comes in handy, such as TweetDeck. Below is a screenshot of my current TweetDeck setup…

TweetDeck
TweetDeck

I rarely look at my actual Twitter page anymore. In fact, many people don’t – instead, they use programs such as these. Here’s how it works…

With TweetDeck (and many other programs) you have a lot of control over how your twitter information is displayed to you. The first thing you will notice is columns of posts (tweets). These columns can be configured by you. In my example above they are as follows…

Column 1

This shows me the tweets (twitter posts) of everyone I follow, as well as those I make myself. This is the most active (most frequently updating) column for me. When a new tweet (you can call it a message or post if ‘tweet’ is embarrassing) comes in, it enters at the top, pushing everything else down. You will see a few tweets from Morrus in this column, as well as some other familiar names such as wilw (Will Wheaton) and obsidianportal.

Column 2

When you post a tweet, you can tag it so that it can be searched. For example, if I post something about D&D, I might add the tag (via the # symbol) “#dnd”. You can work this into the post, or tack it on to the beginning or end of your message (or anywhere really). For example, here are a few ways to tag a post…

a) Had an awesome time playing #dnd tonight!

b) Had an awesome time playing D&D tonight! #dnd

c) #dnd Had an awesome time playing Dungeons and Dragons tonight!

Why tag a message? Column 2 demonstrates why. With a program like TweetDeck, you can add a column that displays any messages with any tag of your choosing. At the top of the column, you will see it says “Search: #dnd” (See #3 in the image). That means that for anyone who adds “#dnd” to their post, their post will show up in this column for me. They don’t have to “follow” me and I don’t have to “follow” them.

This is one of my favorite features. Via this column, I can see all conversations going on about D&D (by those who tag their posts as such) and can reply to them. Maybe I have a question, or maybe I am answering a question they have about D&D, etc. This essentially connects you with many many gamers who are actively talking about their games/experiences with D&D, etc. You can see how tagging can be used for other topics as well (#pathfinder for example, etc).

Column 3

For this column, I chose to have it display “mentions”. Mentions are any twitter posts (from anyone – following you or not) who mention your twitter name. Often times, this is where I will see replies to something I said, or someone may mention me to draw my attention to something…

Hey @theweem, did you see this new book? www.amazon.com/book

Column 4

For this column, I chose to display all status updates from my Facebook friends (blurred because some would not appreciate me sharing their info).

Column 5

This column displays all messages from twitter accounts that my business’s twitter account follows (I manage our corporate Twitter account).

At the bottom of these columns are various controls, including arrows that let you move them around, left and right, etc. You can also have more columns than I use. 5 happens to fit the width of my screen nicely – by adding more, you can get to them via a scrollbar at the bottom.

Accounts

In the image, you will see #1 points to small images with one lit up in blue. This is the current “active” account, meaning anything I post will come from this account. You can post from multiple accounts by selecting them etc. I have a personal Twitter account, a “dnd” account (theweem), our business account, and my facebook account. You only need one account, but can have many more if you want.

Posting Messages

#2 in the image shows you the field where you can post a message. This program includes a URL shortener which is nice for those long URL’s. After all, you only get 140 characters per post (see the 140 to the far right). You can also drag into this field an image to share. The program automatically loads it to an image manager, creates a link and shortens it for you! This is a very quick and easy way to share images. You can even take the URL it gives you and post it elsewhere, like here on the forums.

Messages you post are only seen by those who ‘follow’ you, unless you tag a post in which case not only will those following you see it, but anyone watching that tag will see it as well.

Replying, and Re-tweeting

#4 in the image points to a set of icons you will see when mousing over someone’s avatar. Options here including replying (which will automatically bring their @ name up into the field at #2), or re-tweeting. Re-tweeting is essentially forwarding someone’s messages to your friends – often a way of demonstrating you agree with something they are saying, or that you are helping them share something… a link, or product etc.

When you reply, anyone following you sees the reply as well. People don’t generally mind a little back and forth, but if you are going to be replying back and forth for more than a few messages each, it might be nice to send direct messages instead (accessable via those icons as well). Direct messages (DM’s) are only seen by the person you send them to.

If you add a tag to a reply, anyone watching said tag will see the reply as well.

When you re-tweet (“RT”) the message will be added to the field at the top, and an RT will be placed in front of it. Often times, people will type in a brief message before the “RT”. For example, today Morrus posted the following message…

I have far too few Twitter followers!

Which I re-tweeted as follows…

Follow @Morrus to get EN World info and updates! RT @Morrus: I have far too few Twitter followers!

When you re-tweet, it automatically adds the persons username (@theweem for example) to the message, so they will see it as will anyone following you. If you re-tweet a message with a tag in it (or add a tag yourself), anyone watching that tag will see it as well.

Notification

TweetDeck (like some of the other programs) also has (optional) window popup messages letting you know when there are new posts. These are very non-intrusive – they don’t take the focus of the mouse or anything – they appear for a few seconds and then disappear. With TwetDeck, you can choose which corner of the screen these popup in etc (bottom-right side of my first monitor for me)…

TweetDeck Notification
TweetDeck Notification

The Fun

I really enjoy this new aspect of exploring D&D online. It connects me with new people every day who are all into D&D as much as I am (or more) – be it others from EN World, WoTC employees, 3rd party companies, or just tons and tons of other people out there talking up D&D and rpg’s in general.

It’s an amazing way to get as well as share information.
It is a way to have conversations with others in a very interesting format – it forces you (in a good way) to boil down your thoughts into brief bits that can be quickly accessed.

I love forums, and they are perfect for getting more detailed information and Twitter helps with that too – you can link others to your blog or forum posts who are interested in the same subjects you are.

If that sounds interesting to you, give it a try.

Anyway, that’s it! I hope you learned something, or got some ideas – be sure to follow me if you join Twitter (you can hit the Twitter icon under my avatar on the left) – and follow Russ as well!

Azeroth, the 2011 D&D Campaign Setting?

Azeroth Campaign Guide
Azeroth Campaign Guide

This was a little something I threw together a while back when discussion was centered around what might be the campaign setting used in 2011. Like many other things I do, I posted this over at EN World so you can check out that discussion there if you would like.

A lot of people seem to be very interested the idea of having this setting appear for D&D, something I did not anticipate.

Q&A with the Man They Call Weem!

I was interviewed by Emerald Press for their latest issue of “Combat Advantage”. Here is that interview…

To start things off, we spoke to Mike (AKA Weem) from LastLands.com on his site and various contributions throughout the D&D inter-world.

Combat Advantage: How did you first encounter the worlds of D&D?

Mike (“Weem”): I was introduced to D&D when I was about 12 years old by my best friend. He told me he was playing this cool new game that his brother was running for him. D&D was not new then, of course (this was around 1988), but it was new to him. So I played my first game that day using the Basic Rules set (Red Box) and I was instantly hooked. I have always had a very vivid imagination, and I still remember visualizing my character and all the cool things he could do even while making him – we hadn’t even played yet!

I left his house that weekend enthralled with the game. I was so hooked in fact that my friend’s brother gave me those books and I still have them today.

CA: Where does your nickname come from?

Weem: Weem is a nickname given to me by friends of mine based on the mispronouncing of my last name. My (very German) last name (Wiem holt) is pronounced “Why”mholt, but is often mispronounced as “Weem”holt. So, they would call me Weemholt, and eventually it was shortened to Weem.

CA: What are the various projects/websites you’re working on at the moment and how did they come about?

Weem: Right now LastLands.com is my biggest project, as far as time consumption is concerned.

It was originally the home of my campaign setting and nothing more. It had the map, game summaries, etc. However, I have recently changed the layout/design of the site to allow for the merging in of content from two other projects.

The first of those two is DnDCraft.com. Here, I basically post various types of media that inspire me and my games (usually images). I filtered these posts into tags such as “Airships” and “NPC Portraits” so you could click on one and see inspirational images for that specific subject. It’s a great way to get inspiration for a Monster, or a Villain, etc. In many of those posts, I give a quick idea or two of ways to incorporate them into a game. As I mentioned, this site is now merged into LastLands.com but will remain up as is for a little while. Visitors can access all of the posts and the RSS feed from DnD Craft over at LastLands.com now, and all new posts will be made at Last Lands from now on.

The second project is DnDFile.com which actually went up recently (in the last month or so). It was basically meant to house the various cards, sheets and maps I make for D&D and share with others. This site is now merged with LastLands.com as well.

All three sites were about me sharing various D&D topics and creations with whoever was interested – only now it can all be found at one location!

As a full-time web designer and developer with a love for D&D/RPG’s, I tend to get involved in other peoples game-related websites as well.

For example, I created a ton (hundreds) of avatar icons for IGN.com (VN Boards) a long while back, and as such ended up being a moderator there for a while (forum moderation being something I have done a lot of over many years in the RPG world as well). I also created the current EN World logo (10th Anniversary), as well as other graphics there related to the subscription service. And as a fan of Mystara you can see some of my (very old now) work at the Official Mystara site, Vaults of Pandius – particularly the logo and the ship navigation menu (I really should offer something new to them now).

That’s some of what I am or have been involved with. Much of my free time is spent in this world but it helps to have a very understanding wife who is very busy herself working on her Masters degree, hehe.

CA: What is the Last Lands?

Weem: The Last Lands is my home-brew campaign setting. I am currently running my second 4th Edition campaign called “Dark Water” which takes place in the Last Lands – the first to do so.

The basic premise is that a being called The One God approached mankind (humans), at a time when their world was crumbling around them, and offered them a new life and a new home. They accepted and were taken to the “Last Lands” – a place, as it turned out, already inhabited by 2 native races who had never seen humans before. However, instead of the entire race of man being brought, only 347 arrived. The setting takes place over 1,000 years since their arrival and explores clashing religions and cultures among other things. I’ll leave it at that, otherwise we will be here all day.

The idea for the Last Lands is something that has been in my mind for years (over 10 now). It has changed a lot over the years, but last year I decided, ‘This will never get done unless I start playing there, at which point I will be forced to make it happen”.

As such, I have been using a bottom-up approach to building it “as we go” which has been amazing, and something I did not expect to enjoy as much as I have been. While there is information about it on the Last Lands site (in fact that was the initial and only purpose of the site), it’s not something I am pushing or promoting necessarily. I don’t think most people look through other people’s home-brews and decide to play in one as is – but I do understand and embrace the idea of mining home-brew settings for ideas and inspiration, so it’s there primarily for my players to look over (especially for the game summaries) but of course anyone else is welcome to browse it as well.

In the future, as it grows, there will be more blog posts and other things that relate specifically to the setting and what is happening there. For now, my campaign information is hiding at the bottom right-hand section of the site for those interested!

CA: What inspirations do you draw from for the Last Lands?

Weem: Everything inspires me when it comes to gaming. Whether it’s books or movies, video games, or a trailing voice in my head as I wake up in the morning, almost anything can spur an idea. The two things that really got me going (initially) with the Last Lands were actually questions I asked myself and thought would be interesting to answer inside of a campaign setting. These questions were basically…

1) What would happen if the most prominent religion in a world were proven, beyond doubt, to be false. How do followers of that religion react? How do those who doubted all along react?

2) What would happen in a city if it was located at the end of all gateways, and from these unseen/undetectable portals emerged various beings, entities and creatures at random intervals, in random quantities, from many other worlds, and without any memories of how they came to be there. How would so many beings, from so many different cultures and religious beliefs interact with each other.

You could develop answers for these in so many different ways, with many different outcomes… The Last Lands is essentially my version of what might transpire.

CA: You’ve been posting quite a few quotes from other gamers on their inspirations for creating monsters/villains for D&D. Any overall theme you’ve noticed so far as to what inspires us?

Weem: Books and Movies are at the top, as I’m sure most would guess. What I do find interesting is how infrequently those movies would be considered Fantasy, despite that being the prominent genre (as far as where I am asking these things) and the focus of the D&D Craft site (D&D obviously) etc. Our games are often inspired by things that have nothing to do with D&D or even Fantasy at all, which I think is pretty cool.

CA: Are the condition cards/maps provided on LastLands.com specifically designed for use in your campaign? Will you be working on designing special cards or other goodies tailored for Last Lands now that you have the sites merged together?

Weem: So far, none of my creations are specific to any setting. I do have FATE point cards, which is not standard to 4th Edition (or any D&D Edition), but I use them in my campaign and others were interested in them, so I put them up.

I will, in time, add cards and sheets that are specific to unique aspects of the Last Lands, but they will represent only a small percentage of the total number of files available in all likelihood (if they exist at all). The Last Lands is not a drastic departure from standard 4e assumptions, so there is not a lot of potential for setting-specific card/sheet material there.

As far as files go, what you see me create and provide is usually only done so after seeing evidence that many others would find use in them as well (or if I assume that to be the case).

CA: As someone who designs a fair number of player tools/handouts, how far do you see this trend for these tools going?

Weem: I don’t really know as far as tools go provided from the industry (Mapping tools, Character builders, etc). I’m not in the industry, and for as long as I have been playing and creating within its walls, I haven’t ever really paid attention to the business side, trends or consumer behaviors, etc. With that said, I would guess it continues to grow, particularly as there are more and more of us online and especially as more and more games take place there, spurred by new technologies and ideas.

As a web designer/developer, I have a set of skills that get me paid during the day. The cool thing is, they come in very handy for creating these lower-end tools – sheets and cards (and websites) that other people can enjoy (at no cost), and to me that is the coolest thing ever. Many times, I create things I want for my game that I also assume others would enjoy – so the trend, or demand for these, is frequently my own and generally occurs when I recognize something I want that I would otherwise not pay for. I don’t see this changing any time soon, and I think the same goes for others – whether they are creating things themselves, or looking for something they can grab at no cost to them (beyond downloading and printing a file).

CA: Are there any other projects/goodies you’re working on at the moment?

Weem: Not particularly – I’m always thinking of things to get off the ground, but the problem is choosing one and following through. For now I am keeping it (kind of) simple and sticking with the Last Lands Campaign Setting work, putting out D&D Files for people to use and pushing bursts of content out through the site that I think others might enjoy.