GenCon 2012: OnlineDM’s plans

I am fortunate to be able to say that I will be attending GenCon this year for the second year in a row! Last year was my first GenCon, and I had a blast (those posts are available here and here and here and here). This year, I was not planning on going until my wonderful wife convinced me that the card game I’ve been developing, Chaos & Alchemy, was good enough to deserve a GenCon debut.

What do I look like?

If you want to find me at GenCon, it will probably help to know what I look like! I’ve had some Chaos & Alchemy T-shirts printed, and I’ll probably be wearing them most of the time, so I’ll look something like this:

Michael Iachini, the OnlineDM himself, wearing an awesome Chaos & Alchemy T-shirt

If you see me and want to talk to me, please do! I’ve never been recognized by a stranger before. That would be cool!

Chaos & Alchemy

Obviously, I’m going to be demoing the heck out of Chaos & Alchemy, the game that inspired me to come to GenCon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a booth or anything like that. This means that I’ll be camping out at vacant tables wherever I can find them. I plan to hang out in the board game area somewhat, but since I’ve discovered that Magic: The Gathering players seem to love my game, I plan to hang out there, too.

Chaos & Alchemy cover art by Chris Rallis – Logo by Bree Heiss

My general plan is to put myself at a table and invite passers-by to sit down and play. It’s not a well-thought-out plan, I’ll admit, but I’m going for it! If you see me and you want to try out my game, please do! Really, I would love that.

As I write this, I have pre-sold about 40 games, and I have about another 10-15 that I don’t plan to make available for sale (complimentary copies for certain folks, or copies that I plan to keep as extras for myself, just in case I need them later). Since my print run is 125, that means that I plan to have about 70 copies available for sale at GenCon. If you know you want a copy of Chaos & Alchemy and you would like to pick it up at GenCon (and get the special GenCon promo card for sure), you can order in advance and just let me know that you’ll pick it up at GenCon. Several people have chosen this option already.

Edit: Since I put up my original post, I’ve learned that I won’t be allowed to run anything that resembles a formal event, which means that my banner is a no-no. I’ll do my best to be easy to find, but I’m new at this!


As I mentioned in my Making the Game post about marketing, I’ve signed up to sponsor two GenCon events.

On Thursday at 5:00 PM, I’ll be in the CSO-4 room of the convention center (wherever that is) to be part of a recording of This Just In From GenCon in which I’ll get to talk a little about Chaos & Alchemy (and GenCon so far). I believe this recording is open to the public, so if you like the show you can come to the recording and have the bonus of seeing me there, too!

Later that evening, at 7:00 PM, I’ll be over at Rock Bottom Brewery for the GenCon Social. For those astute GenCon schedule trackers out there, yes, this conflicts directly with the D&D keynote address. Sigh. Still, I definitely want to be at the social since this is where folks will get their dice bags containing goodies, including the GenCon exclusive Chaos & Alchemy promo card! I’ll reveal that here for the very first time:

Social Convocation – the GenCon 2012 promo card for Chaos & Alchemy

Those of who who have been following my game know that the card illustrations are black-and-white, but since Social Convocation is a special one, I hired an artist to do it in color. She did a fantastic job, too! Everyone who buys a copy of Chaos & Alchemy from me at  GenCon will get one of these cards (while supplies last – I’ll have about 65 of them).


I do have tickets to a few seminars that I may or may not attend depending on how things are going with the Chaos & Alchemy demos. If I have a line of people who want to try the game, I’ll probably keep playing rather than stopping to attend a seminar.

  • Thursday 10:00 AM: D&D Digital Future, ICC room 139
  • Thursday 6:00 PM: Kickstarting board games, ICC room 210
  • Friday 1:00 PM: D&D “The Sundering”, ICC room 139 (most likely to be skipped, I’d say)
  • Friday 3:00 PM: Law of the Geek recording, ICC room 201
  • Friday 6:00 PM: The Tome Show advice episode with Robin Laws, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D
  • Saturday 10:00 AM: Board game design with Rodney Thompson (Lords of Waterdeep), ICC room 211
  • Saturday 6:00 PM: The Tome Show Gamer to Gamer with Chris Perkins, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D
  • Saturday 7:00 PM: The Tome Show Behind the DM Screen, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D

I’ll be interested to see how many of these I make it to. I think that the board game Kickstarter seminar might be useful, since I might be doing one for Chaos & Alchemy soon, but it’s right between This Just In From GenCon and the GenCon Social. I really want to attend Law of the Geek since Geoff Gerber was kind enough to talk to me on the phone about general legal stuff with my game, and I’d love to attend the Tome Show recordings to meet Jeff Greiner and Tracy Hurley in person (since I’ve been on their show a bunch of times now).

The board game design seminar with Rodney Thompson mainly interests me because Rodney was one of the main people behind Lords of Waterdeep, which I think is an excellent game. I’d love to pick his brain about the design process.


Naturally, I plan to spend some time in the vendor hall when I’m not otherwise engaged, and I’d like to at least play a few board games or indie RPGs while I’m at the convention, too. The vendor hall might be especially interesting, since one company has already asked me for a copy of my game. Who knows – maybe a publisher will decide to pick up Chaos & Alchemy and run with it!

In any case, I know I’m going to have a blast. If you’re looking for me, watch my Twitter feed – I plan to post updates on my GenCon whereabouts regularly.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

MapTool macro: Star Wars d6 / OpenD6 dice

I’m beginning to like Twitter.

Wednesday evening, I happened to check Twitter just before heading to bed. I was just in time to see an exchange between @NewbieDM (aka Enrique of and @MarkMeredith (aka Dice Monkey). They had just finished trying to play some Star Wars d6 via Google+ hangouts, and it hadn’t worked all that well. Enrique was about to show Mark some MapTool stuff. I chimed in, and they invited me to join them on Skype.

Even though he hasn’t been using MapTool very long, Enrique has already built some extensive stuff for his Neverwinter campaign (using my MapTool framework as a base, I’m humbly proud to say). He started showing Mark the ropes, and it soon became clear that Star Wars d6 was a little bit different in terms of the way die rolling works. I knew nothing about the game, so Mark explained it.

The basic dice mechanic is this (as I understand it, this is the mechanic for all OpenD6 games):

  • You roll a certain number of six-sided dice, depending on your skill at the task at hand. For this example, we’ll say you have a skill of 3, so you’re rolling 3d6.
  • One of the dice is the wild die; the other dice are rolled normally.
  • If you roll a 6 on the wild die, it “explodes”. That is, you roll it again and add both rolls together. If you roll another 6, you keep on going.
  • However, if you roll a 1 on the wild die, it counts as a zero, and it also cancels out the highest non-wild die that you rolled. So, if you roll a 2 and a 3 on your normal dice and a 1 on the wild die, your total is just 2 (because the 1 on the wild die cancels out the 3 from your best normal die).

I knew that MapTool had a built-in roll option to handling exploding dice, but I don’t know of any roll options to have a certain die cancel another die roll. So, I wrote a macro:

[h: x=input("NumDice|0|How many dice are you rolling?")]
[h: abort(x)]

This brings up a prompt for the user to tell the program how many dice to roll. If they hit Cancel, the macro stops.

[h: RegTotal=0]
[h: RegMax=0]

I establish starting values of zero for the total of the regular (non-wild) dice and the maximum of any regular die.

Regular dice:
[for(i, 0, NumDice-1), CODE:

I display the words “Regular dice: ” in the chat window, then start a loop. Note that loops begin with 0 rather than 1 in MapTool by default, so I go with that. I want to loop through all of the dice except the wild die, so I stop at NumDice-1. I then open a CODE block with a curly bracket; everything in this block will be executed a number of times equal to the number of dice minus one.


First, I roll a d6 and store the value as NewRoll. Note that I didn’t use the h: roll option here as I do in most lines of code. This is because I don’t want the value of NewRoll to be hidden (the h:). Since this is a FOR loop, MapTool will put a comma between the iterations. So, if this was the only thing in the CODE block, MapTool would display “Regular dice: 2, 4” if it rolled a 2 and then a 4 on the two iterations.

  [h: RegTotal=RegTotal+NewRoll]
  [h: RegMax=if(NewRoll>RegMax,NewRoll,RegMax)]

I add this new die roll to the running total of the regular dice (which started at zero). I then check to see if this new roll is higher than any of the previous regular die rolls. If it is, I set the value of RegMax to equal the new die roll; otherwise, I leave RegMax where it was. I then close the FOR loop.

[h: WildResult=d6e]
<br>Wild die=[WildResult]

Now I roll the wild die and store the result as WildResult. I use an “e” on the end of the die roll expression to represent “exploding” which MapTool already has built in. Nice! I then put in a line break (the <br>) in the chat window and then display the words “Wild die=” followed by the result of the exploding die roll.

[h: FinalTally=if(WildResult==1, RegTotal-RegMax, RegTotal+WildResult)]

I now figure out and display the final result of the whole roll. If the wild die was a 1, the total for the roll is whatever I rolled on the regular dice, minus the highest regular die (the 1 from the wild die is not added). Otherwise, the total for the roll is the total of the regular dice plus the result of the wild die (including any explosions). I pop in another line break and display the final result in bold (the <b> and </b> surrounding the value of FinalTally).

The result will look something like this:

Regular dice: 2 , 3
Wild die=2

There you have it – the basic Star Wars d6 dice macro! Now I just need to learn to play the game.

-Michael, the OnlineDM (@OnlineDM1 on Twitter)


Complete macro:

[h: x=input("NumDice|0|How many dice are you rolling?")]
[h: abort(x)]

[h: RegTotal=0]
[h: RegMax=0]

Regular dice: 
[for(i, 0, NumDice-1), CODE:
  [h: RegTotal=RegTotal+NewRoll]
  [h: RegMax=if(NewRoll>RegMax,NewRoll,RegMax)]

[h: WildResult=d6e]

<br>Wild die=[WildResult]
[h: FinalTally=if(WildResult==1, RegTotal-RegMax, RegTotal+WildResult)]

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle of the online D&D community

Well, I’ve gone and ruined things now, haven’t I?

On Wednesday, I put up a post musing about the online D&D community and the fact that I didn’t exactly feel like I was a part of it. This was partly because I got to meet several well-known D&D bloggers and podcasters at GenCon, and they had no idea who I was.

I concluded that I needed to do a better job of reaching out to the community.

Apparently this topic touched a nerve with other people like me – bloggers and online community members on the fringes of the group. Adam Page (@blindgeekuk on Twitter) asked if he could put up a guest post here on Online Dungeon Master on the same topic (my first ever guest post), which went up on Friday. More commentary followed, including on Twitter (where Adam is much more active than I am, and he did a great job of drawing attention to the post).

Now here’s where the uncertainty principle comes in. One way Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is sometimes phrased is that you can’t observe something without changing it. In this case, I observed that I felt that I was a bit on the outside of the online D&D community looking in. In the process of discussing this phenomenon, I inadvertently changed it.

By the end of the day Friday, I had a guest post on my blog, lots of blog comments, and some new Twitter followers. This started with @NewbieDM, whom I’d exchanged messages with before on Twitter but who hadn’t actually followed me back. Then Adam’s tweets ended up getting @ThadeousC to both follow me on Twitter and comment here on the blog. Finally, I got a message telling me that @SarahDarkmagic herself was now following me on Twitter.

What is the world coming to? 🙂

Honestly, I didn’t put up my original post as a way to fish for attention or to convince people to follow me; I was just trying to share my thoughts. Apparently I’m not alone in feeling like an outsider, and after all of the discussion in the last few days I actually feel like less of an outsider.

In any case, if there any podcasters out there who want to talk about this as a future topic, I’m happy to join the conversation – and clearly lots of others are as well.

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @OnlineDM1 or on Skype as OnlineDM. And I’m certainly open to the idea of more guest posts here on Online Dungeon Master in the future.

Thank you for reading!

Guest post from @blindgeekuk: Becoming One of the Community

Editor’s note: My post on my feelings about my place (or lack thereof) in the online RPG community from Wednesday sparked a fair amount of discussion, most of which made me feel better! As part of that discussion, Adam Page (@blindgeekuk on Twitter and a contributor to Daily Encounter) asked if he could put up a guest post here on Online Dungeon Master talking about his feelings regarding the online RPG community. I was pleased that he asked. His post follows.

Becoming One of The Community

I wanted to write this post to tie it into OnlineDM’s comments from Wednesday, touch on my experiences, and emphasise why an existing member of the D&D community, like @ThadeousC getting the job at WotC is not only important, but is crucial.

I’ve been a gamer for 20 years. I was writing my own 2e and SLA Industries stuff before I knew that mailing lists and BBS hosted fan books existed for these games. It was only when I got a data connection for my cheap nokia phone, that let me dial up to the internet at a staggering 9.6 kbps that I was enlightened.

I only recently got involved in the D&D 4e community, but for most of the 00’s was a major figure in the SLA industries fan scene, publishing, at my last count, about 600 pieces of material for that game, and helping to form Team8, a group of UK rpg’ers that support the hobby. At the time, that community was effectively lead by a couple of well known names, and the goal of Team8 was to publish material without the stigma of a name attached to it… everything would be anonymous… The theory lasted 1 issue of our fanzine, before the names stepped in again to promote it and take control of the group. I left/was forced out, and to be honest, it was one of the best moves I made, because it showed me that I wasn’t after the glory or recognition, I just wanted to support my favourite game.

Having missed most of 3e, and the rumours of 4e, I checked it out when it hit the torrent site’s and I loved it, and have picked up pretty much everything since, spending several thousand dollars on minis and books in the 3 years i’ve been DM’ing. I reformed my old 2e group, I started up a roleplaying group at my FLGS because there was nothing for gamers there, and I heavily promoted that. In order to do so, I built a website…

And suddenly, unbeknownst to me, I was part of the community, people would google stuff and end up at my site, which I had intended just to be for my local players. When the rumours about Dark Sun started to hit, I collected them, and people like @Alphastream linked to them. I posted some rough ideas for content on there as well.

But it was the Encounters program, with it’s Twitter buffs that was the final transition. I’d checked out @wilw’s timeline a few times, and watched #gencon tweets flood in each year, but Encounters convinced me to create an account, and follow a few well known uk tweeters like @symatt and @greywulf. From there, the #ff system gained me followers, AND people to follow, and Twitter is all about the interaction with these people. I was starting to tweet to people whose blogs I read, and they were tweeting back… I was becoming one of their community.

After a year of this, I suffered a serious case of depression, and I decided to stop tweeting as me, and tried an experiment: was quantity, or quality a factor in getting recognised in the community, and how quickly could someone get accepted as being a contributing member of the community. I created a fake persona, twitter account, email, wordpress blog, and started filling it with content, from themes, to mundane descriptions to encounter summaries. I was surprised by the response. While it wasn’t the amazing ‘welcome to the community’ I was hoping for, some content did get discussed by people that most of us consider to be important tweeters (e.g @ChrisSSims).

I ended the blog early, scared of the implications if people found out, and because @SarahDarkmagic gave me a perfect opportunity. She had finally gotten the recognition she deserves with Lost City, and articles in Dragon, and she was discussing how she had become accepted into the community by basically introducing herself to people. My fake persona, and the real me grilled her on this, and we came to the summary that to be acknowledged in the community you need to:

“you have to write a regular schedule of good quality material, which shows attention to detail and a clear understanding of the game world/rules, it needs to show your passion for the game, you have to promote yourself in various places including twitter, the forums (enworld and wotc) and be heard on podcasts, and you need to build relationships with other bloggers by guest posting for them”

I closed down the persona, and started up my own blog, again, posting content until another bout of depression saw me slim down my online presence. However, prior to that, I was spotted doing stuff with Hirst Arts bricks by @mikemearls, opening up the chance to make the 3d version of Lair Assault.

Since closing down my own blog, I’ve taken that summary to heart. I’m posting here, there, and everywhere. While I don’t want the massive recognition, or to be named as one of the top ten D&D twitter people, I’d like to know that what I write is read and appreciated, and if anything, that’s something we fail in as a community, thanking each other and praising each other on a good blog post.

So yeah, thats my summary of how I became a member of the D&D community.

OnlineDM’s comments about not feeling part of the community mirror my own feelings until very recently. To me, there seems to be 3 levels in the community. You have your big names: @NewbieDM, @SlyFlourish, @SarahDarkmagic, people whose opinions are listened to and who are respected. Then there’s a middle tier, full of people who post regularly, but who don’t get the recognition they deserve: @ObsidianCrane, @PaulBaalham, @WastexGames. Finally, there is an outer tier, which is where many like OnlineDM feel they are. In this tier, you post but people never seem to respond, you tweet replies at people and never get re-tweeted etc. To me, it is important that people in here are supported, because there are a lot more of them than there are big names, and often, it’s these people who have the best content, but it’s just never seen…

At the start, I mentioned that I think a member of our community, like @thadeousc being WotC’s new social/community manager is important… There are lots of reasons why someone who understands twitter should get the job, but Thad is a known member of the community, and trusted by us all. If it came down to a situation that the community had reacted to, such as the announcement of Essentials, him saying ‘Trust me about this’ in a tweet would probably calm most of the raving fans down.

WotC have acknowledged that they lost touch with the fan base, that they have failed to communicate with us properly, and I think that reaching out to the community and hiring someone from there, who knows how we perceive things, and has the contacts amongst the twitterverse and blogosphere is the right thing to do.

GenCon 2011: Restless in Indy

I’m attending my first GenCon this year, and since my company has some offices in Indianapolis (I live near Denver), I managed to convince them to buy me a plane ticket to come out here to work for a few days before the convention.

I arrived Monday afternoon and spent today (Tuesday) working. I’ll be working Wednesday through lunch time, and then I’ll be in full-on Con Mode!

For now, I’m antsy. I have this evening totally free, and I just can’t wait for the Con! I’ll be spending some time working on my next MyRealms adventure here on the computer in the hotel room, and I’m going to try to do some grocery shopping in advance of my wife’s arrival on Thursday (yay for wives who game!).

But I really wish I were surrounded by fellow gamers right now. I’m not even near the convention center – work is on the north side of town. Argh, the waiting!

At least I’m staying abreast of GenCon prep around the internet; I finally joined Twitter, largely so I could follow all of the cool GenCon info as it comes out. Sadly, the OnlineDM handle was already taken by a German tweeter who put up two posts a couple of years ago and seems to have not touched Twitter since. But if you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @OnlineDM1.