TK’s TTRPG Streaming 101January 25, 2019 Off By TK
Welcome back, adventurer! Last week we interviewed Joshua and Jacob Beal of Swords & Boards, two brothers who have chased their dreams through the doors of their very own friendly local game store just outside of Louisville Metro. This week, I’ll share some tips for one of the scariest and more intimidating endeavors in the TTRPG community: streaming your sessions (AKA 4 Things I Wish I Knew One Year Ago). I stream with multiple channels on Twitch several times a week, including Wizards of the Coast’s official one.
Let’s do a mic check, load up our character sheets, and get started:
Rather than telling you what or how to play, I think it would be easier to start with figuring out the sort of viewers that you would like to attract. The easiest way to do that is to determine what manner of story you would like to tell. Will this be a character driven drama or a raucous romp through a sprawling mega-dungeon?
Pick a game that you and your cast are incredibly excited to play, even if it means that you won’t be very good at it in the beginning. Decide what it is that you prefer to play, because following the crowd and playing only games that fit a current trend is the fast lane to frustration and burnout.
People don’t really tell you this about streaming: whether or not you’re being paid, it’s WORK. Often, you have to be “on” for two, three, or more hours and perform for an audience of 5 with the same energy as an audience of 5,000. Thus, your players effectively become your co-workers (in cases of sponsored streams, your manager, producer, director, or showrunner) and that means that you need to feel comfortable keeping up constant and consistent communication with them. For some people, this can be incredibly stressful and they find that it puts their friendships in jeopardy if they are unable to separate their work lives from their social lives.
Try rotating Game Masters or taking a break with regular oneshots (maybe even from a different system) or GMless fireside sessions to keep the cast fresh. Shaking up the cast can also alleviate the perception of a GM/player power dynamic, and help loosen up any unresolved tension as the cameras roll.
This is a BIG one: no one really talked to me about what I might need to look and sound like a professional. Your biggest worries are going to be camera, lighting, sound, and producing equipment. Since you’re likely not reading this article for tips if you have access to a studio or mixer, I’ll let you know what I, an amateur streamer, have been using right now, with great success at little cost. Full Disclosure: I am not sponsored by any of these companies (but if Amazon is offering…).
Camera: I picked this up from Walmart two years ago. It’s done pretty decently, but I’m definitely going to be upgrading to this one soon. It’s definitely worth the price paid for it and if you need a cheap camera to tide you over, this will do the trick!
Headset: I use a Corsair headset that I purchased from Best Buy last summer for about 50 bucks. I like the volume control, padded earcups, and flexible, detachable mic (which I recently replaced it with a lavalier condenser).
Microphone: At the beginning of Tales From the Mists, I ordered a set of omnidirectional lavalier mics (2 mics for 20 bucks). This set works great, pointed down away from the face. Remember to mute yourself in your streaming software if you need to type, though: it picks up EVERYTHING.
Lighting: A friend tipped me off to this ring light, and I am never going back to my life before. There are three light settings and 10 levels of brightness apiece. I tilt it up away from my face to keep the glare off.
Streaming/Recording: Like many streamers, I am a huge fan of OBS Studio. The scene set up is simple and intuitive, and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube for anything that you can’t figure out yourself. Record it locally right in the window for a high quality upload later, if you want!
You’re going to feel nervous, anxious, maybe even scared the first time you and your cast play live. You’re going to feel it several times, again and again. It’s completely normal and no one is going to fault you. Streaming is hard and scary, and that nervousness is a sign that you care about the outcome, that you’re vulnerable.
Things will go wrong. Sound will cut out. You’ll forget character names. Players will flub their intros. The mics will be hot before you’re ready to go on.
It’s never going to be perfect, adventurers. It doesn’t have to be! This is a game with your friends and as long as you concentrate on having fun, your audience will have fun with you!
About The Author
TK is a speculative fiction writer and part-time eldritch horror. They can be found as a cast member of The Demonplague, Unearthly Twilights, The Land Between Two Rivers, and Hell’s Belles on the Don’t Split the Podcast, WebDM, and Dungeons & Dragons networks, respectively. Their gothic and cosmic horror stories can be found at tkjwrites.com and very soon in print in a collaborative set of short stories and comics with artist Kayla Cline. TK themself can be found on Twitter @tkjoinsthefray.