Actual plays have done a lot to increase the popularity of tabletop role-playing games. Learning to play is no longer possible Dungeons and Dragons require you to find someone who has already played or find someone willing to teach at a local game store. Demystifying the game makes it a lot easier to get people to try the hobby.
Unfortunately, these shows still require resources. Many of them have Patreons, sponsorship deals and other income to keep the lights on. Rivals of Waterdeep turned to Wizards of the Coast for support. But now that support has ended and they’re turning to fan donations through IndieGoGo to help them finish their story.
“I was there from the beginning,” says Tanya DePass, co-creator. “Greg Tito got in touch to see if I was interested in joining the show and knew someone who might be interested in doing a real play to show that anyone can learn to play. Dungeons and dragons with the release of 5E.”
“Tanya told me Wizards of the Coast was interested in setting up an area in Chicago D&D group,” said Shareef Jackson, cast member. “I had barely played, but I trust Tanya and know she wouldn’t recommend me if she didn’t like me. The rest is history.”
Rivals of Waterdeep came out of The Stream of Many Eyes in 2018. The event launched many D&D streams as the actual gaming phenomenon grew. utilities Rivals is one of the last remaining shows and the team wants to finish their story with the help of their fans.
“When we saw people’s reactions after Stream of Many Eyes, we knew we were making an impact,” said DePass, “after visiting GenCon and PAX Unplugged the first time as a cast. The ways other people of color saw themselves in our crew and show; and told us they felt at home in the TTRPG space after seeing Rivals.
“The show was a huge success long before I joined the cast,” says Brian Gray, cast member. “But it has meant a lot to me to hear that other BIPOC people are inspired Rivals of Waterdeep to get into the game D&D and other TTRPGs and create their own Actual Play shows.
What makes Rivals of Waterdeep standing out is what makes it different from other shows. The cast consists of BIPOC performers who switch Dungeon Master duties every 10 episodes. Even in its short time as a form of media, actual play has accumulated many tropes and unwritten rules that define the Rivals cast enjoys falling apart.
“Rivals have shown that you can succeed with a group of mixed experiences outside of the big media centers of NY and LA,” said Jackson. “It also helps combat the falsehood that people of color have no interest in games like D&D. Lastly, switching DMs every 10-episode season is something I always get a lot of positive comments about.
“The rotating DM model really showed that you can tell coherent stories with consistent character through lines and keep the tone and style fresh by rotating your narrator,” says cast member Eugenio Vargas. “A table of all BIPOC players who have been telling stories for as long as the Rivals having is also a huge feat, belying any claim like “there are no BIPOC role players for my show”! And if we can close the Rivals story the way we want, we’ll also be one of the few TBEN shows to make it to level 20 and show what adventure at that level can look like.
The show is seeking $60,000 USD in additional funding to advance it to a level 20 storyline. Supporters have until November 28, 2022 to donate money to the IndieGoGo. High-level support includes rewards such as an associate producer credit on iMDB, opportunities to name NPCs in the final seasons, and the ability to play games with the Rivals crew.
“I haven’t seen many campaigns go from start to finish in terms of level,” Jackson said. “Doing this allows us to plan the endings for our characters as they become the best forms of themselves. We want to say goodbye to them in a good way.”
“To tell our story the way we want to,” DePass said. “In a way that gives our characters a satisfying goodbye, and also opens the door for more stories or going back and seeing them all before they were rivals. Or checking in years later when they are no longer on an adventure.