Interview with the Folks of Dungeon Master's Vault

....having a project and online community I can point to and say "I help with that!". It's a really good feeling, especially with the tiny team that popped up, and our regulars are a great little crew. - tinkan

In an unusual interview I talk to some of the folks running operations over at Dungeon Master's Vault (DMV) on their Discord server.

We have...

  • thDM/Zotz is the volunteer web admin for DMV and by far the most prolific patcher
  • DivertedCircle has fallen into the role of main community moderator by sheer virtue of being amazingly attentive and responsive, not a code monkey
  • marloso is our resident ADHD padawan coder
  • CF8 while not a mainline DMV coder has built the community bot The Innkeeper for the discord community and stared at our clojure repo for an indeterminate amount of time
  • Seukari is the original discord community admin and the first to help the community crowd source orcbrewing solutions.
  • tinkan - I am technically the community admin here on discord and most of the social platforms. I push fixes to the repo on occasion, too.

There are several tech wizards who helped get the community fork up and running who have gone silent mostly due to real life events.

What is Dungeon Master's Vault?

--thDM/Zotz--: I'll start with some history "back to the beginning" - Jan of 2019, orcpub2.com was offline and it was a character generator that I have used for a year or so. I was frustrated that the site was offline and really started to look for some alternative. My searching lead me to Facebook where I found the author (Larry Christensen) had released the code to github as an open source project!

I was giddy with delight. I could run my own version of it! I've been involved with other open source projects and it was a positive experience. It can't be that hard to run a server right? My background is in IT, Enterprise Architect and I have ran all sorts of software harder than this...I downloaded the source and started doing research on how to bring the server up. Road block after road block and mass searching for how to setup a clojure project, I stumbled across this the discord server. This was all done over xmas break 2018

I started asking a couple of the guys here how does this work, how do I do this. After working with deamonshere, meandingcode, tinkan and others we were able to get a docker image up and running. Task accomplished! I had my own server I could run! And run it did!

The next part just happened. I had the domain name dungeonmastersvault.com. I figured ok we can use this for development. Since Larry had open sourced it, we were a community, lets use that domain as the dev environment and push changes to that, then roll them into production on orcpub2.com

I published DMV around Jan 16th to the world. The community started to use it. Slowly at first but it started to build. Larry had mentioned on facebook/twitter that he was shutting down the project. So, Meanderingcode and I reached out to Larry several times, got a couple responses, but never came to an agreement on taking over orcpub2.com and using dmv as a test bed.

Then Larry went silent. This was May of 2019.

This left the community in a stall, we didn't know if we should proceed with our own site/brand or should we keep after Larry. So we launched (not lots of fan fare) a facebook page, twitter account and of course a sub reddit. 22,000 users later that brings us to today.

We are making small improvements to the software (minor fixes mostly) and as community projects go with a very obscure coding language (clojure) we are making small baby steps slowly learning a new development language. We done some promotion on reddit and other sources but really the site has grown by word of mouth.

How are you involved with DM's Vault?

--marloso2-- Well, to follow in Zotz's lead - I joined the server a while back, before the DMV was a thing, just looking for a community to chat with. I ended up getting more and more involved and active, sometimes helping to moderate when the others weren't on. After a while Tin' and some of the Editors decided to get me on board as an editor which gave me a bit of an elevated platform to help with the DMV from.

As Zotz alluded to, Orcpub2 had some issues with staying online after Larry, it seems, gave up on the project. Every time it went down, we'd have an influx of people joining the server and asking when it'd be back up but we couldn't do anything to help or provide any advice, which got at least me a little frustrated. Then, as Zotz said, things just happened on their own and led to the DMV

Larry had made the code for Orcpub2 open source, and with the amount of people in this community, it wasn't hard to find people like Zotz, or MeanderingCode, who were happy to help in getting a community site hosted

--Diverted Circle-- Like many of the others, I was involved with this server early on when it was still primarily for Orcpub2.com. As Tinkan said, I started to get more into the community management side of it. I'm interested in the coding side but it's not a skill I've ever developed. Most of my time on the Discord server is spent troubleshooting problems people are having with DMV or creating their own homebrew content on it. I also do most of the moderation on the orcpub and DMV subreddits. Lastly, I probably submit the most bug reports and feature requests on the DMV github page.

--CF8-- - I am the newest member of the team i think. Unlike the others i only really became involved a couple months ago when i started building and developing the discord bot now known as The Innkeeper. That project led me onto exploring the idea of coding some Clojure but as a Python Dev at heart i have no clue what I'm doing most of the time.

The bot itself mostly arose from wanting to beat marloso2 to the punch of building a bot because why not and also the idea of creating something that was better than Avrae that allowed people on DMV and other sites to integrate their stuff into the bot without being limited by DnDBeyond and WotC rules.

--thDM/Zotz-- I code for it, I host it - really a nobody that just stood up a domain, attached a server to it so I could use it. I stepped into the project with no knowledge of how it worked, how to host it, or even manage a community. It all started rather selfishly to find a replacement and get my own server running. The best part is, the unexpected growth as a person, the friends I've made, the community gets to use it, and make it better for everyone! Much more satisfyingly that just running your own server in your basement.

Also brings up that 'some day' I would really like to hire someone that knows clojure and produce a mobile app, and help us with the backlog of issues we have. I've launched a patreon site, to help collect some money to host it (because my home internet connection just can't handle it) and it's really a savings account to one day engage a development firm to help shore up the major issues with the site. Lofty goal I know.

Being a patron of the project (no matter how long you were a patron) will give you access to help prioritize the features that comes when we do that engagement with a development firm. what that looks like ? Some sort of voting system to toss their ideas into and ultimately boil to the top the changes that are most important to the community.

What is the most painful lesson from DMV?

--CF8-- clojure. The Code for the site is a little bit here there and everywhere, you think something is in one place and its actually using stuff from 20 other files in random locations

Never open the code expecting it to be a 5 min job because that 5 min job turns out to have 17 million different dependencies that turn it into a several hour job.

--tinkan-- Aside from the language the project is built with? Even niche little internet projects need a PR plan and crisis response idea ready to go. Especially with social media like Reddit.

--thDM/Zotz-- hahaha that's easy. Dealing the right way with the user community. I think that is harder some times than coding for it. Anyone up for a April fools joke in March? (inside joke) The community SHOULD have tossed me out on my ear for the April fools joke, but they didn't. Just goes to show you how passionate these folks are about the project.

I have never really been a spokesperson for a project or been involved with a project of this magnitude. 22 THOUSAND users is the biggest user base I've even had to interact with. So with that, there is a learning curve. Some times putting your foot in your mouth really sets perspective of how people see things. So yeah April fools jokes are a no no. Lol (Is it March yet?)

--marloso2-- Community projects are hard to organize. Especially ones started by a rag-tag group of people on the internet from all over the world. We have people from England, Canada, Belgium and America (which in itself is a time zone catastrophe). It helps with moderating the server, that there's usually someone online at all times, but trying to discuss anything as a group is easier said than done.

On top of that, development of the site is taking quite some time. Clojure is a bit of a challenging language to get into and most of us haven't had much experience with it before this project. Not to mention that we're all quite busy with IRL stuff, so finding the time to develop anything for the site is a challenge in and of itself

--DivertedCircle-- Don't let coders also do public relations :stuckouttongue:. Also, some people just want to be mad and no amount of explaining the situation will make it better.

Also, no one ever reads the FAQ.

What's the most fun thing around being involved with DMV?

--marloso2-- Me and my group use the site extensively ourselves and being part of the group behind it is very useful because I can keep them all up-to-date on updates to the DMV. The community on Discord is great too, both for discovering new things DnD or finding some people to chat with

--DivertedCircle-- I like being in the know when it comes to future developments. I actually get a little frustrated when changes are pushed live without first discussing with the other Editors but with one person in charge of running the actual site that's bound to happen. I believe we'll have to change that going forward.

I also simultaneously enjoy and hate constantly directing people to what I believe are obvious answers but that's all part of the community manager role I've taken on for myself. For the actual site itself, I enjoy tinkering with different ways to implement orcbrews so they'll work with the limitations we have.

--thDM/Zotz-- Wow there are so many it is hard to choose. If I have to pick one, the guiding hand guess... being a steward of what Larry built.

--tinkan-- Having a project and online community I can point to and say "I help with that!". It's a really good feeling, especially with the tiny team that popped up, and our regulars are a great little crew.

How Do You Use DM's Vault yourself?

--DivertedCircle-- When I was a player I primarily used it for character building. Now that I'm DMing I mostly use it for tweaking and updating the megafile I provide my characters. I'm also still an avid brewer when it comes to putting together the new UA articles.

--marloso2-- Well, of course, it sees a lot of use from me and the groups I play with as a character building tool, but it's also quite useful for homebrewing. You can easily go level by level and multiclass all you want to see how different abilities would fit in with a character in a bigger picture and it makes it easy to share those homebrews with friends for them to do the same thing

--thDM/Zotz- I store all my characters there, it has to be over 100+. I've used it for several campaigns for my players. It's my quick reference. Love tinkering with the homebrew stuff, and dreaming up worlds to play in. It is one of the tools I use in D&D regularly.

--CF8-- of course! By far the most useful I use for DnD related stuff and always great for finding homebrew stuff to dive into

--tinkan-- Honestly I currently don't use it much outside of the development environment. I keep the one character I'm playing up to date.

But my entire crew uses it extensively to keep their characters updated and to make new ones. They use it for spell references, monster stats, etc.

When I get the itch I will occasionally use it to build proof of concept characters

What is your next big project (DMV or otherwise) that you can talk about?

--marloso2-- Completely unrelated to DMV but I'm working on a solo guitar album, I suppose

--DivertedCircle-- I'm working on my next batch of revisions for the Eberron campaign guide I made for my players. Also making some tweaks of my own to the homebrew Witch class I allow my players to use.

--thDM/Zotz-- DMV is the current biggest project I am involved with. It is my hope that one day we will have enough funds to hire a professional dev firm to take a look at our back log of issues. and... lots more exciting stuff coming on that front.

--CF8-- Fixing and releasing a Crunchyroll dedicated bot and fixing the API to go with it, maybe try rewrite DMV in python

--tinkan-- I'm in the same boat as zotz, just plugging away with experimental branches for DMV.

Nothing crazy exciting. We have talked about how to easily involve patrons with beta testing, though. So I'd like to hammer that out. Zotz already took a pretty big step with that the other day. :thinking:

Personally I want to overhaul the character sheet and look into cloud storing characters eventually so people don't need to worry about "losing" their characters.

Where are you on Social Media?

Dungeon Master's Vault - Patreon - Reddit - Twitter - Facebook

--DivertedCircle-- Reddit and Twitter

--thDM/Zotz-- For me, DMV settings above, and email at thDM@dungeonmastersvault.com

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

--tinkan-- Anyone who's willing to try and learn the clojurescript/ reagent/ re-frame stack, please reach out, make a PR, add some documentation! :rofl:

Beyond that I'd just like to plug a couple awesome indie designers/writers/GMs.

Chamomile, the author of the Petals and Thorns module series (2 of 3 chapters funded and released via Kickstarter) is a talented guy, I definitely recommend checking both modules out. (Tin'Kan is an NPC in both! :grinning:). His blog is Chamomile has a blog

Also Space Madness! is a full-on indie rpg written as a "thank you" for Virgil who published it to drivethrurpg. The theme is classified as Atompunk Mythos with Wands... In space! if I remember correctly. :rofl:

Virgil also has a little blog

Both guys are definitely talented, creative GMs. It's a lot of fun for me to watch them spitball ideas or ask for feedback on their crazy campaigns or side projects!

--DivertedCircle-- I'll follow Tin's example and plug a few creators I follow.

Hambone is creating The Deathworlders - The Deathworlders is a free online 'Humanity, Fuck Yeah!' (HFY) science fiction serial published on a monthly schedule in chapters of at least thirty thousand words, and often twice that many or even more. It currently runs to nearly one and a half million words and can be read in its entirety for free at https://deathworlders.com/books/deathworlders.

HFY is a sub-genre of speculative fiction. The acronym stands for "Humanity, Fuck Yeah!" and its specific focus is on subverting the usual role that the human race plays in speculative fiction. Whether we're the cowering masses in comic books who have to run for cover while supervillains are punched through our office blocks, or the galactic everyman against whom the aliens are more logical, stronger, more empathic or whatever, in most scifi and fantasy settings humanity generally comes off at best as the plucky underdog.

HFY inverts that relationship. It envisions a world in which the human race is gifted in some way, and aims to leave the reader feeling positive or empowered about humanity as a whole...or to serve as a cautionary tale about power and responsibility.

Foundry Gaming is creating Foundry Virtual Tabletop - Foundry Virtual Tabletop is a new application for organizing and running tabletop roleplaying games in a beautiful and intuitive web-based application. Foundry VTT is designed to modernize and simplify the virtual tabletop creation process while providing great user experience for both players and game-masters.

Foundry VTT is now in limited Beta testing since February, 2019. Patreon supporters unlock access to the beta version of the software with routine updates posted every 2 weeks. Please consider watching the video for an overview and demo of the product and be sure to check out the links below for more details. Discord and project Tracker:

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