Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Much of this update will be related to things that happened during our first ever trip to Seattle, so we're going to start there with a breakdown of those major updates.
Monina Creations created this amazing 35mm d20 for us with one of the DOTS Dragon Companions. He traveled with us through Seattle and PAX West and will be going on all of our trips in the future. You can check out the #DOTSdragonadventures tag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to follow along! Many of the pictures posted in this update will include him as well, so you'll be able to get a dragon's eye view of all our fun times.
Our first stop right off the plane was the PA office itself! We had received an invitation to be a surprise guest on a podcast with Jerry Holkins (TychoBrahe). This has not yet been announced, but should be up on their feed in the near future. We'll be sure to post a link when it is! It being the day before PAX there weren't many people there, but we were able to have a nice long chat with Jerry. We covered so much with things we're working on (and received some recommendations for improvement from him) to future projects we hope to launch soon. We also discussed the forming of a partnership with DOTS and PA which will bring great things for the future. No firm update on that yet, but more info once we have it! Also during our talks, we discovered Jerry was slightly jealous of Chris Perkins "getting all the cool stuff" referring to the prognosticubes we made him for DCA. Naturally we had to fix that, so our Master Artificer Joey created C Team dice that night! We're not going to be posting clear pictures yet so they will be able to share the full epicness when they get them, instead we've posted a video of one as a preview.
We were invited to a private D&D Community Event for WotC staff and friends the night before we were to visit the offices. It was a really great way to help break the ice and ease us into some important talks. We're always pleasantly surprised by how tight knit the TTRPG community is, and found ourselves recognizing or already friends with many people who were there. From writers to streamers and all kinds of industry professionals in between, the overwhelming response to anything DOTS related is always extreme excitement and wanting to know how they can help. It truly is a wonderful experience, and one we're happy to have every chance we get!
Our first visit (of many) to WotC HQ was incredible. Getting to chat with the people behind the scenes who make the magic happen is something not everyone gets an opportunity to do. One of the greatest parts was being able to discuss our image descriptions with the art department and get their feedback on how we describe creatures so it better fits with their image and branding. Until we had these conversations, many people in the office didn't understand the complexity of what we do. With our Limners who describe any and all printed graphics and our Sages who transcribe the books into braille, the DOTS team is hard at work to make some incredible material available to those who need it. It was wonderful being able to communicate that to the people who are able to drive change and progress in the community.
While at WotC, we were on Dragon Talk with Greg Tito! We had a great time sharing all the great stuff we're working on with such a broad audience. Tito's excitement over everything, especially the image descriptions, was really fun to experience. You can watch that video at the link above or find the podcast version on your feed of choice.
Alongside working on image descriptions for WotC, we are now finalizing the descriptions for Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press. Wolfgang mentioned us working on transcribing this book during his last Dragon Talk appearance, and we're finally in the home stretch! To get an idea of why our descriptions can be so involved, here's an example for this covert art shown above. Image descriptions (or alt text) is usually 100 characters or less. That doesn't give a lot of room to be able to describe things, but it can get the point across. We made our standard 150 characters, and have written the following:
Void dragon kicking up sand and dirt coming after two adventurers. Text overlay with title and authors
It gets the bare minimum communicated to the reader, but enough to get a general idea. For TTRPG though, you often want as much detail as possible to be able to paint a picture in your imagination. That's where our long descriptions come in. With a max of 700 characters, you can get much more involved. Our long description for the cover art reads:
A battle rages between a void dragon and two masculine adventurers - fighter and wizard. The void dragon is at ground level, rushing to the adventurers in an explosion of sand and dirt. Its mouth is open wide as it attacks the fighter in its line of view. The wizard stands off to the side casting a spell. The void dragon has a short face, no long snout as present in other dragons. Its scales are a mix of blue, black, green, and a pale tan, darker colors on the body and fading to light at the top of the head. Lightest tan is found at the tip of the nose and mouth. In between its horns on its head, the void dragon has a black orb that glows with red rings.
We're taking the time to do these because we know how valuable they can be! The long description makes a world of a difference, especially to someone who is a visually impaired DM. All of these long descriptions will be worked into our braille books through an appendix per volume, and may be distributed by the publishers at a later date.
We hosted a meetup one night during PAX West at the Raygun Lounge. It was our first time trying anything like this, and especially trying to set it up from the other side of the country we ran into some difficulties. We wanted to make sure the space was accessible to anyone who might come by, which covered a lot of different topics beyond just wheelchair access. The space should be social but not too loud for those who may be hard of hearing or get overstimulated with too much noise, it must have clear pathways for wheelchair users as well as the visually impaired who navigate with a cane, and it should be an area where people can come and go freely instead of booking a specific time to meet. Many locations near the convention center in Seattle were immediately crossed off the list due to no wheelchair access even to get in the building. Raygun did not have accessible bathrooms (that were in the lobby of the building they rent space from) but were good on many other points, so it was a place we were comfortable with.
We had a pretty decent turnout of close to 15 people throughout the night, not as much as we had expected but that ended up making it even better so we could have one on one conversations with the people that were there. Todd and Jessie from Die Hard Dice were there with us all night as well, and we ran a rolling contest where people could win the items in the picture below: a set of our braille dice, a DHD Spellbinder Jokester set, or DHD Spellbinder Jokester Dire d20 (don't forget, Die Hard is making a donation to DOTS for every Jokester piece purchased, so go grab some at those links if you'd like). We're already looking into places for a meetup around PAX Unplugged, and hope to make this a regular thing! We're already looking into places for a meetup around PAX Unplugged, and hope to make this a regular thing!
If you know Shadowrun, you know these dice! We're currently finalizing a design for tactile d6s to be used specifically in Shadowrun games. We had some talks with the fine folks there during PAX West, and are determining how to best move forward and work together. It's going to be super exciting having another big game franchise on board with our accessibility in gaming efforts! If you're not familiar with Shadowrun, here's a really nice breakdown of their latest edition written by Erik Stanfill at Geek Dad: https://geekdad.com/2019/06/back-in-the-shadows-again-shadowrun-sixth-world-beginner-box-and-book-previews/
During some of her Gilding Light streams, Satine has been displaying a set of our braille dice on camera. We can't thank her enough for her never ending support! On one of their most recent episodes, a viewer was so excited to get them for a relative. We were tagged by the Gilding Light crew and jumped into chat to answer any questions. It was great being able to engage with people in real time who were excited to learn more about us and support their fellow Light in chat.
In August we were named the recipient of a donation coming from the Bundle of Holding site. In a great partnership with various publishers, they sell a limited time bundle of various titles for digital download.10% of sales from all bundles are donated to charity, which quite often brings in thousands! We're incredibly grateful to join the ranks of the great charities they have donated to.
We are always searching for new volunteers to help us with the extensive work there is to be done to improve accessibility in gaming. Now, we're looking for more Guild Leaders as well! A blog post was written recently outlining the types of things we work on behind the scenes that we could use some help with. If you're interested in working with us or know someone who might be, please pass these links along! As always, we wouldn't be able to do what we do without the support of the community. Thank you for being so wonderful <3