Another year in the books means another year of work on Accessibility in Tabletop! This fourth year has been a quiet one on the outside but we've been busy working on various things behind the scenes. With our focus and priorities constantly shifting in a world where community events are still unknown, we are doing what we can to ensure we are able to weather the ongoing storm. For us that looked like more online community building, grassroots organization, collaborating with independent studios and creators, and more. We still have our high hopes and dreams of changing the face of the gaming industry for the better! In order to make that happen, though, we're taking things slow so we don't grow beyond our means. That happened a little bit in our previous year and it turned out to be a wonderful learning experience. For now, we're going to enjoy the ride and focus on projects and partnerships that have solid progress to show for the attention we provide. This will help us become a more specialized organization that can get work done much more effectively!
The bulk of our attention has been taken up by our Braille RPG Dice mass production project, going over every tiny detail to be as precise as possible. Since this is an item that has never been made in this way before there's a lot both we and our production partners have to learn along the way. Numbered dice aren't given this much care and attention because if there's little imperfections it's not really that much of a problem. For us, it can make or break being able to read the die across one or all faces. The way the molds are made and the material is formed there's lots of room for variations. It's been a long year going over a handful of samples with a few months in between each one. Whatever we receive we have to review and test for a little time, then work with our partners at Die Hard Dice to modify designs, 3D print them for review, then send back to the factories to try production.
We're excited to say though, we have finally given final approval on the braille d20 to be made from acrylic! Some very slight changes had to be made from what we originally wanted to work with last year, but it's the difference of a fraction of a millimeter here and another fraction of a millimeter there. Overall the design is largely the same as we detailed in our previous blog post. The rest of the set is currently getting those same modifications before being sent off to have samples made. It's still a little too early to say for sure, but depending on how fundraising goes we could be looking at an early 2024 launch!
In addition to the low-cost acrylic sets we're loosely looking into a more high-end braille dice set made from metal. It would be hollow and lightweight but the finish and feel of them is incredible compared to the acrylic. Though the acrylic sets will be perfectly readable, the metal is just a bit more luxurious. It's still a work in progress and we have to see if the cost makes sense but it would be wonderful for us to be able to offer a wide variety of colors and materials. We want people who need braille dice to have the same experience as those who purchase numbered dice; different options that can match the style of the player, character, campaign, or otherwise.
Once we know the costs associated with producing our braille dice in acrylic, metal, or both, we'll be going full steam ahead with our fundraising efforts! This is going to take different forms over the next few months because we now have some incredible people who have joined our team that bring with them experience in multiple areas. In the meantime, we're going to continue working alongside Die Hard Dice to make the Dragon's Orb Dire d20 available for those who can use numbered dice but want to help support our work and enjoy a bit of braille with a nat 20!
We're so excited to share our Board of Directors has grown this year. Though we love our small team of people who have been here since the start, we know how valuable it is to introduce new voices that can bring new lived experiences and a fresh take on existing goals. All of our new board members have extensive experience within the TTRPG space which can help us focus our efforts with the community and publishers, and they have various visible or invisible disabilities that will be wonderful for our team to become more familiar with. Read on to learn more about them!
Leona Neelam Maple (she/her) is a South Asian woman based in Metro Vancouver, Canada. She currently works freelance in the game industry as a diversity and inclusion consultant and desires to make games fun and inclusive for all. Leona is also a TTRPG player and performer and loves portraying powerful magical women of colour. She takes great pride in her South Asian heritage and culture and identifies as demi, pan, and queer, as well as an ADHD spoonie. She adores cats and currently lives with two. Find out more about Leona here: theleonamaple.carrd.co
Anna Goldberg (they/she) is a tabletop game designer from Seattle, WA. She has worked on projects with Mage Hand Press, Zweihander RPG, and her own company Six String Games as a designer, writer and editor. She is passionate about queer and disability representation in games, and her own experience as a disabled person is what led her to DOTS. Anna also works as a member of the Easterseals Game 4 Access stream team, and as a science educator in her community. She loves reading and cohosts the Disability Readathon, a semiannual event dedicated to promoting works by disabled authors, with her friend Erin. She lives with her husband and their two dogs in what can only be described as a board game lovers' hobbit hole. Find out more about Anna's work here: 6stringgames.com
Lysa Penrose (fae/faer) is a lover of writing, tabletop, and magical vibes. By day, fae works in tabletop marketing and design at Ravensburger, previously having served as social media manager for Dungeons & Dragons; community manager for Dungeon Masters Guild and the D&D Adventurers League; marketing manager for DriveThruRPG; and host of Behold Her, a podcast about femmes working in tabletop RPGs. When not gathering and engaging communities of gamers, fae also writes for publishers such as Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, Magpie Games, and others; and produces spooky actual play shows such as Tales from the Mists and The Haunting of Good Society. Fae has even toured the world as a game master at events like D&D in a Castle, Gamehole Con, and Origins! In faer free time, you’ll find Lysa gardening, crafting, building mechanical keyboards, or playing cozy video games. Find out more about Lysa here: lysapenrose.com
Ashley Warren (she/her) has a creative, entrepreneurial spirit that has led to a varied career in startups and publishing. As the founder and director of the Storytelling Collective (Previously known as RPG Writer Workshop), she works to support TTRPG writers new and old as they create incredible stories. DOTS is proud to be a partner on some of these courses! Ashley lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Andrew, and their sweet kitty, Sofie. Her life is filled with books, travel, ham radio, knitting, gardening/homesteading, home automation, and Dungeons & Dragons. Ashley is Russian-Jewish and Italian and loves celebrating the folklore and customs of her heritage. Find out more about Ashely's work here: scribemind.com
With the few board meetings we've already had with our new members we're seeing some incredible opportunities to tackle new projects and refocus our efforts to be more productive. We can't wait to see how things progress!
As we did with our previous year recap blogs, we’d like to share some stats from the last 12 months. Some of these are estimates or rounded numbers.
Funds raised: ~ $4,200
Braille Dice Donated (7 Piece Sets): 5
Tactile FATE/Fudge Dice Donated (4 piece sets): 2
3D File Downloads: 194
Shapeways Purchases: 55
New 3D Files Modeled/Prototyped: 13
Individual Braille Dice 3D Printed: ~ 425
Individual Braille Dice 3D Print Failures: ~ 95
3D Printer Run Time with Braille Dice and Prototypes: ~ 400 hours
Additionally, items related specifically to the Braille RPG Dice mass production project:
Design Reworks: 5
Factory Samples Tested: 8 d20s across three factories and multiple mold variations
Mass Production Materials Tested: 3 - resin, acrylic, and metal
Continuing our commitment to transparency regarding our funding and spending over the last 12 months, we have broken it down into the following details:
Our raised funds of ~ $4,200 this past year came to us through a combination of our Patreon ($2,100), and DOTS Gear sales ($750). The remaining $1,350 was received through multiple platforms - individual donations through PayPal or other means, PayPal Giving Fund, Facebook/Meta donations, and the now-discontinued Amazon Smile program.
We averaged about $4,000 in operating costs which covers things like tax filing fees, website and email hosting, program and app subscription fees, 3D printer maintenance, and similar expenses. In addition to those expected and recurring costs we paid out $975 for a follow-up to our patent filing, this time to cover Hong Kong specifically in addition to the already-filed mainland China. Mold creation and sample fees from the dice factories came out to $2,610 for all work completed on the d20 over the last 12 months.
This does mean we spent over $3,000 more than we raised, but we still have much saved from our large donations in 2021. As we don't yet have an exact number needed for mass producing the braille dice sets, we did not prioritize fundraising.
We've had much to learn since our formation in 2019 and even more so over the last year. Our recaps for years one, two, and three help illustrate how far we've come already and how dedicated we are to doing things right. It's not easy being the first to do things because trying to find out what works and what doesn't when there's not many examples to reference isn't great, but it's well worth the effort! We are constantly humbled by the trust people put in us to bring about change however we can and we want to always do our best to make a difference. Our team new and old is eager to get to work with a renewed focus and love for our projects. As always, we can't thank everyone enough for the continued support. We couldn't do anything we do without having an amazing community behind us and we're excited to make dreams come true for year five!