Looking Back: Three Years as a 501(c)(3)
We are excited to celebrate our three year anniversary as a 501(c)(3) organization, continuing our work to bring Accessibility in Tabletop Roleplaying Games to more disabled gamers! What started out as a dream between two friends grew into something none of us thought could happen. An organization that has connections to the community and is able to work on improving accessibility for people with disabilities at a grassroots indie level as well as with top name companies is well beyond what any of us imagined was possible. DOTS continues to bring about change in new and exciting ways just like in our first and second years.
Our largest focus remains the project to mass produce Braille RPG Dice, the dream that drove D and Jack to develop the DOTS RPG Project so long ago. By mid-2017 they had already been through a few iterations of a braille dice design and were working on what would become the foundation for our mass produced version. In the picture shared above, we have d20s of the four major variations that have occurred between 2017 and now.
The first d20 colored pink was their initial attempt at D’s idea for using letters K-T to represent numbers 11-20 and removing the number (#) indicator from each face. This method breaks tradition when it comes to braille numbering as it is usually written with the number indicator before a letter A-J to represent 1-0. The potential for clean, easy to read dice at a manageable size was huge and they continued to work with this concept. The original designs included both engraved (recessed) numbers and a raised orientation marker line within the face on each die alongside the braille. This made the faces too cramped and the braille hard to read. Since these were dice that were for braille readers first over sighted users, Jack and D decided to remove the engraved number and position the orientation marker in a way that did not distract from the braille.
The second d20 colored green was their version that was completed around the end of 2017, and the last design D got to use before his passing in early 2018. With the removal of the engraved number the faces now had much more space. The orientation line moved towards the edge of each face as well, providing even more space for the braille cell and working towards a more universal way to find the orientation marker. This jagged teeth-like design was positioned at the bottom of each face to designate which way the reader should position the die to read the braille in the right direction. Since the jagged teeth were pointed into each face, it still made the braille cramped in some spaces where the bottom row of dots were used.
The third d20 colored yellow was finalized in March 2018 and became the design DOTS was most well known for. The A-J and K-T numbering remained but the orientation edge became a dashed line on the entire edge as opposed to jagged teeth along the inside of each edge. The rotation of some faces were changed as well to position the orientation edge around a solid path on each die, with at least two faces sharing the same orientation edge every time. Sets of this design were 3D printed and donated to individuals, game stores, organizations, conventions, and more to begin the DOTS Family. This design along with a related Lightning Set and Tactile FATE/fudge d6 were released as free 3D files for anyone to download and print their own dice. They were also made available through Shapeways for the cost of printing so people could purchase ready-made 3D printed dice. Opening up different paths to make these braille dice easier to get made it so thousands of people worldwide now had a set of our dice in their hands. They were able to roll dice independently, many for the first time, changing the way blind and visually impaired gamers enjoyed tabletop roleplaying games.
The fourth and final d20 colored purple is the design we are working with now for mass production at a factory level. With the introduction of our Hidden Trials program in 2020, we worked with many blind and visually impaired gamers that were proficient in reading braille. Taking into consideration the need for our new design to be easy to read by anyone, we sought to improve on our third design to create something that could be understood within seconds of it being used for the first time. Keeping our now-familiar non-traditional numbering method of A-T with no number sign and a face’s edge having the orientation marker, the function of the design was largely unchanged. We modified the raised edge border slightly making it a bit thicker and filling in edges to provide more stability when reading, center-justified the braille cell as a whole to each face instead of centering the number of dots present, and switched the dashed orientation edge to a divot that the reader’s finger can dip into and find quicker. All dice in the set were scaled down slightly to be easier to hold and roll, making them the most compact and easy-to-read braille dice design available. With this being the only design that is optimized for production at a factory level, we had many different possibilities open up to us.
Once our braille dice design was updated, we were ready to tackle the possibilities of mass production. Our long standing partnership with Die Hard Dice leveled up and we began working through the process of testing with different materials and production methods. Over five years since Jack and D started working on Braille RPG Dice, it was time to make their dreams come true.
After this new design was proven to work in a factory setting we submitted a patent application for both the USA and China. With the Patent Pending designation we are able to keep our design secure, granting production access to only those we approve after confirming they can meet the quality we expect. With copycats and knock-offs being very common for new dice designs, we wanted to ensure only the best quality braille dice bear the DOTS name and get into the hands of blind and visually impaired gamers who need them.
Having Die Hard Dice as our production, retail, and wholesale partner, we are able to achieve things we never thought possible with just our small team of volunteers. DHD has years of experience designing and manufacturing unique complex dice through different methods and materials. They also bring an established worldwide network of direct to consumer sales channels as well as wholesale partnerships with online and in-person retailers. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this endeavor and are thrilled to be on this adventure together!
Although our plans for the DOTS RPG Project started out with a focus on braille dice as well as braille rulebooks, we came to realize we must be open to changing direction as the community needed. Throughout the last two years as more and more people stayed home or were unable to spend game nights at their friendly local gaming store sharing books, the shift to digital tabletop systems and content guided us into refocusing our priorities. Our mission is to increase Accessibility in Tabletop overall, not just with braille items. The need for individual sets of large, multi-volume braille books as part of a lending library diminished and we turned our attention to more relevant needs.
With the introduction of the Technomancer position, we opened up new channels for helping companies and independent creators make their work accessible. We provide review of PDFs or websites for screen reader compatibility, guidance on how to prepare digital files, partnerships with D&D Beyond to optimize site accessibility, DMs Guild to highlight accessible titles, and more.
Our Sage work continues in the background for those who do need braille volumes, but is currently a lower priority. This may change in the future as the industry shifts and we will continue to perform the work as needed. Image descriptions from Limners have ended up being doubly useful in both braille volumes as well as alt text for digital content. Detailed information about what a location or creature looks like will always be important for setting a scene, so we are prioritizing their work alongside that of the Technomancers. We are uncertain what the next year will bring, but we are committed to our mission and happy to provide assistance as needed!
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: $33,500
Braille Dice Donated (7 Piece Sets): 15
Tactile FATE/Fudge Dice Donated (4 piece sets): 10
3D File Downloads: 598
Shapeways purchases: 81
New 3D Files modeled / prototyped: 33
Individual Braille dice 3D printed: ~ 500
Individual Braille Dice 3D print Failures: ~ 120
3D printer run time with braille dice and prototypes: ~ 580 hours
To continue our efforts to be transparent regarding our funding and spending over the last 12 months, we have broken it down into the following details:
The ~$33,500 raised was from a combination of DMs Guild Charity Week (~$17,200), multiple charity livestreams ($8,250), Bundle of Holding (~$3,000), Patreon ($2,200), and DOTS Gear sales ($1,200). The remaining came from third-party programs like Amazon Smile, Facebook Donations, and PayPal Giving Fund, as well as individual donations.
With some of our recurring operating costs the same every year for state and federal filing fees, website and email hosting, program and app subscription fees, 3D printer maintenance, and more, we did have a few unique expenses this year in preparation of mass producing braille dice. The highest costs were related to mold production at about $5,000 and patent filing in the US and China at about $3,000. The remaining funds we have raised throughout the year after covering operating costs are being held in preparation of mass production runs.
Over the next year we anticipate keeping much of our focus on braille dice mass production, making them a reality and developing Accessibility in Tabletop awareness campaigns with our dice at the center. Once you can hold something in your hands as a visually impaired person or otherwise, a different kind of connection is made to the concept of what we’re working so hard to do. Though we don’t yet have plans for traveling to conventions as we are prioritizing keeping our team and community safe, we hope to host virtual events focused on accessibility in the near future. Getting Braille RPG Dice into the hands of people worldwide is just the beginning! We’re excited to continue our work within the TTRPG community on both a small and large scale, working with independent creators as well industry leading companies. With all of us working together towards a common goal, we can make amazing things happen.
To all who have supported our mission through donation of coin, time, and advocacy, we can’t thank you enough! With your support we’ve grown beyond what we thought was possible, allowing us to bring about change in the tabletop industry in ways we never imagined. As we continue to grow we are always in need of dedicated Guild Members who believe in the work we do and wish to volunteer to help make things happen.
Though we try, we can never truly express how thankful we are for all of the support we’ve received over the years. Here’s to another 501(c)(3) anniversary and many more to come!