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This last month, I wrapped up a year and a half long Pathfinder campaign on our Twitch channel. Throughout the experience, which is comprised of over 120 hours of footage, I have learned a lot about streaming a roleplaying game on Twitch. My hope today is to pass on a chunk of these discoveries to you. Streaming tabletop games on Twitch is incredibly popular, especially for the basics like Dungeons and Dragons, but there is current noticeable growth for all roleplaying games on the platform. It can be daunting, so here are 5 tips for streaming roleplaying games on Twitch, just to make it a little bit easier as you’re starting out.
1) Camera Placement Is Important
If you stream your games with your friends over Skype, the camera placement is already decided for you. Having an entire group together in one room offers a more engaging experience, but provides a challenge for the camera setup. We went through multiple setups until we decided on our final camera placement for our roleplaying sessions. When a potential viewer enters your channel they’ll want to be engaged immediately and your cameras will be responsible for that.
First and foremost, you never want to place your camera somewhere else in the room and point it towards the table. Seeing a group of people sitting around a table with half of their back towards you is easily the least welcoming image someone can find when they enter your channel. The downside of streaming roleplaying games is that usually the groups for these games are pretty big; so if you’re playing in the same room, you’ll need multiple cameras.
The best placement for a camera is directly pointing at one or two of your players. The audience will want to see your reactions, and a camera pointed face on is the best way to achieve that. We have all of our cameras in the centre of the table and facing directly towards our faces. This setup will come with a bit of upkeep, as you’ll need some sort of rig to hold your cameras in the centre table. We use extendable tripod arms that can be attached to the edge of the table, which can be found on Amazon for cheap.
2) Good Audio Is Vital
The next step after setting up cameras is obtaining the audio equipment. Once again: if your streaming session is over Skype this issue is mostly solved for you, but the consistent quality will suffer as everyone’s microphone is different. If you’re streaming with everyone in the same room you’ll have more control over the microphones, but good audio equipment isn’t cheap.
In a perfect world, each player will have their own microphone, but if this isn’t realistic for the budget you have set before you, there are other options. A single Snowball microphone set in the centre of the table will do a surprisingly good job in ensuring that everyone is heard at reasonable volumes.
Another recommendation I have for audio equipment is to only upgrade if you feel that streaming these games will be consistent and worth it for you. If you’re only going to be streaming once or twice a month, it may not be the best use of money to upgrade everything immediately. Streaming on Twitch can be a slow burn and an audience won’t just appear overnight. Have your budget reflect that.
3) Decide On Your Level Of Audience Interaction
The largest part of streaming on Twitch is the audience that visits your channel. The best way to hook them is interact with them. While roleplaying, it’s a challenge to constantly break away from the game to talk with people as they enter, so deciding on your interaction method before your stream is crucial. If you have a player or trusted colleague in chat as a moderator, they can respond to people as they enter, potentially engaging the audience member enough so they stick around. Furthermore you could take planned breaks in your game to specifically talk with people who may have entered and remained in chat.
Another form of interaction is allowing chat members to directly impact the game. Obviously, this is something you’ll want to run by the GM to determine what level of chaos the chatters can put on a session. A simple solution is to allow viewers to choose a character to get a critical pass or fail. If the game you’re playing has items you can allow chat members to make their own magic item. Finally, a simple solution that works for the majority of games is allow a chat member to name or create an NPC.
If you want to control the amount of impact a viewer can actually have on your game you can put these interaction levels behind a paywall. When you first start on Twitch you’ll only have access to direct PayPal donations, but if you stream consistently, you can become an Affiliate to Twitch and you’ll gain the Bits feature which is perfect for these kinds of interactions.
4) Build An Interesting Level Of Atmosphere
A further way to keep your audience engaged is by adding music or sounds for atmosphere. If you’re not planning on uploading your content to YouTube, you can play any kind of music you want in the background. Copyrighted music will be muted in all Twitch VODs, so be aware of that if you wanted to use Twitch as a place to store your streams after they’re finished.
There are plenty of royalty free music options out there on the internet. Tabletop Audio is a perfect place to go for atmospheric music that won’t be too demanding on your sound levels. If you want to get really creative you can find websites that let you build your own soundboards to add specific sound effects when needed. People in the audience may react well if you explain what the characters hear and suddenly they hear it too. Of course, all of this leads back to tip #2: balance your levels accordingly and have your players be the priority.
Having your players dress up and bring props to the table could also lead to some interest from viewers. Someone who just popped into your channel may be more inclined to stay if they see one of the players dressed as a cranky old wizard.
5) There Is A Long Road Ahead Of You
This one is quick and simple: something will go wrong. Streaming on Twitch is technologically overwhelming. There are various aspects you’ll need to be watching: bitrate, audio levels, camera, chat, donations, and not to mention the game you’re playing with your friends. It will be overwhelming and exhausting, but it will get easier the more you do it.
As also mentioned earlier, it takes a lot of time to grow on Twitch. Don’t be discouraged if the audience doesn’t appear on your first stream. Our first month of streaming we didn’t hit more than 3 viewers at a time. Consistency in schedule and a commitment to growing quality will cause more viewers to become regulars. The entire struggle is worth it. I’ve built relationships with our long term viewers and the support they offer is indescribable.
Starting is the hardest part of streaming. I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet say that if they were going to stream, they would want everything perfect before they started. That’s impossible. When we started we tied a GoPro to a ceiling fan to hang it over the table. We quickly learned that this wasn’t the best method, but just because our first stream wasn’t “perfect” doesn’t mean we were immediately shunned from the streaming community. In the end, you’re doing all of this because you love playing these games and you want to show the world the fun you’re having so they can take part. Don’t let the daunting, and often thankless, start turn you away from the world of streaming roleplaying games.
Hopefully this helps you get started on Twitch. There’s so much more to talk about in each area, of which we’ve only skimmed the surface. I’d love to talk more and offer assistance to anyone looking to start playing tabletop games on the internet. You can find me on Twitter here. There’s also the High Level Games’ Facebook page where a whole plethora of awesome people will be able to help you with any sort of roleplaying problem you may have. Do you have any pieces of advice for streamers? Share it in the comments below!
Justin Cauti is a writer and Twitch streamer. He plays board/roleplaying games on the internet at http://www.playingboardgames.tv. Follow him on Twitter for updates on his boring life and writing projects @LeftSideJustin.
Picture Reference: https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/16/16666344/dungeons-and-dragons-twitch-roleplay-rpgs-critical-role-streaming-gaming
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.