What’s going on with D20? We have to move by April First, so the brutal truth is we either evolve, or we shut down.
Here’s the deal. I love D20 and I love what we’ve built here and it would break my heart not to have it continue. On the other hand, Amazon et. al. has put a lot of pressure on things, and as much as you’re continued patronage has helped, there is only so much of a premium that people are willing to pay to keep shops like what we were doing alive. Prices for rent in Alameda have gone bonkers and it is clear that there is no way to make a store like what we are now work without a serious upgrade to what we do. We have to leave our current location by April 1st, and we have found a potential replacement on Park St. but it is almost 4 times what we are current paying in rent, and believe it or not, that’s a good deal right now (eep).
The big decision: So I’m facing a pretty big decision point about the future D20. We either need to go big (expand/evolve) or go home (shut D20 down in April). To continue the business, we need to expand to do what we’ve been planning for a while, to be a true mental/artistic playground (Legos, robotics, chess, mad science/art). This aligns well with our philosophy and what we do well, but to be utterly frank, will require me to take a huge personal financial risk. So I’m going to open up about what we’re thinking and put some of it back in your hands. I’m going to put together a Kickstarter, or some equivalent, and if what we want to do matches services people in the community want (and more importantly, are valuable enough to them to pay for).
So what are we good at? What D20 does best is provide a welcoming and safe place for people to connect face to face, not face to screen, and to get to engage their brains in a fun way. For the kids, we help them build both social and mental confidence, while modeling and molding a place where treating each other with respect can happen side by side with having fun with each other.
When we looked at it a while ago, we realized that the overlap between the kids that come here, and the ones who love legos, Minecraft, robotics, or other mad art, science, or performance it almost 100%, and they have very few places where they can stretch those other muscles. (This next part is as a dad…) I know that our schools are working as hard as they can to take care of the kids, but they’ve been squeezed and regulated to the point where Gate and other places where it’s ok for the kids to test their limits or where they can explore at their actual pace is a wish on the wind. We all know that creativity leads to better thinking, and that dumping a ton of extra work, does not create the challenges and sets of accomplishment that our kids need/crave. And for many of us, we want to play too, exploring stuff side by side with our kids when we can (or when they’ll let us.)
The Mad Scientists/Artist/Maker Club. So the vision for the expanded D20 is the Mad Scientist/artist/maker’s club. A place that has spaces to mess around with the tools and toys of creativity and challenge, and regular and special events where they can do so. We will make money by running workshops and providing access to some special spaces.
The philosophy behind all of it will be:
- Creative (Learn what’s been done before, but don’t assume that’s all that can be. It’s better to do lots of failed experiments and figure out something new, then just color in the lines.)
- Smart (learn why things do what they do and be smart enough to be creative safely.)
- Challenge (Push yourself to find your limits, and then go a little further. This is a place where you can go as far as you want.)
- Respect ( Messing around is ok, distracting is not. We’ve all been in classes where we were frustrated because the instructor had to spend so much time wrangling kids who were messing around that there wasn’t time to really explore what was going on. Also, as always, we’re a smack talk free zone. Have fun with people, not at their expense. The higher level classes are open only to those who demonstrate that they understand what they need to to be safe, and that have shown that they won’t ruin the chance for others to test their limits too.)
- Good Alignments only (Whatever we may play in role playing games, as people, we really work to be good. If we see a way to help, we do, if we don’t we try and find them. Our word is good, and we know that being honorable isn’t goofy, its a real thing and it’s worth fighting for.)
- Mad Science lab (a workshop of space to work on electronics and more)
- The Secret Study (the best space for playing tabletop games we can build)
- The “It’s OK to get messy” Room (A space for painting, Dyeing, gluing, Cutting, Molding, smooshing, making, creating.)
- The Studio (A soundproof space with equipment for Recording/podcasting)
The types of Workshops:
- Lego Engineering/robotics,
- Arduino robotics,
- Electronics exploration/construction,
- Chess classes/club,
- More unconventional twist-ups like using traditional paper marbling techniques on weird objects like sneakers.
The philosophy of the workshops:
- Understand the basics (really grock what we’re working with)
- Learn the techniques (know what it is and how to work with it safely)
- Take it seriously (Having fun–Big thumbs up. Slowing everybody else down by disrupting…not cool. This is the place where you can see what you really can do, and people messing around with the instructors and the other participants isn’t ok)
- Get a challenge–Go nuts (there will be basic ways to deal with any challenge, but figuring out other ways to get it done is always awesome)
- Show you know what your doing and be respectful of others gets access to the more advanced stuff.
- Working on something cool=having fun
- Show you know what you are doing AND be a good teammate/mentor to others and you may get tapped to join the Igors (the Mad Science/art jr. assistants/sidekicks.) Being and Igor is a great honor/responsibility. You will get to become class assistants, and get special hours access to the labs as well as special Igor only events.)
Examples of Workshops:
Tear apart old electronics in this treasure hunt challenge to find the parts you need to complete your secret goal. Each class will have a quick-solder challenge to complete a mini machine. Teams that complete their class challenge early will have access to the higher level challenges. Requires basic soldering qualification class or equivalent.
Things learned (in a much more fun/hidden way)in the class would include:
- How to solder well (de-soldering is much harder then soldering)
- Different types of common electronic parts, (including what is safe and what to be careful of)
- How to not be afraid/intimidated by the electronics around you
- Fix/re-purpose instead of throwing stuff away
In this three week class, participants will build a functional piece of furniture, a habitat where they will spend the night outside in a park, and a human portable entry into the Alameda 4th of July parade. Oh, yeah…and all of these things will be built out of donated used cardboard box material. The goals of the class will be to learn and understand the architectural and mechanical principals behind designing something that can be built and can take the forces applied. (Understanding the nature of the materials.) Along the way will be math challenges (can you predict when our test bridge will collapse under the weight), design challenges, artistic challenges and creative challenges. As with many of our classes, beat the first challenges early to get access to the advanced stuff.
- Alameda Mystery Theater: a student produced series of radio/podcast audio Theater… script writing, performance, sound effects, music, editing the final release.
- Seven Wonders of the Lego World: a workshop teaching the fundamental building blocks of (Lego) engineering from ramps to sophisticated pulley systems, we will re-create some of the mechanical wonders of the world in Legos
- “Doesn’t matter if your black or white” Chess Explorers Club. Chess builds the parts of the brain that do math and fudimental problem solving. It’s also a chance to learn to win with grace, lose with style, and play for the fun of it. Beginning players learn the fundamentals of both moves and stratagy, more advanced players play, learn advanced stratagy and puzzles, and how to become a great teacher of others (building knowledge and confidence without coming across as impatient or know it all, or an overwhelming firehose of knowledge).
- D&D Camps
- DM Boot Camp – how to build, manage and run a D&D campaign. Each day will be split up between learning, designing, and either running for participating in D&D adventures
- D&D adventures. A five day, mega campaign. Breaks each day to head out to the park, put on gear and whomp on each other with foam swords.
- MTG Judge Bootcamp– one week camp for advanced MTG players who want to learn the rules to the level that they could take the Judge test. The Boot Camp will include problems, puzzles, tests, challenges, Game shows, tournaments. (Parents, the camp will also good morning in and practice on how to be a judge: how to be confident, to control the situation, How to de-escalate when people get angry, and how authority i’m coming across as arrogant or bullying are very different things) ages 12 and up.
- Mystery Room Challenge: two teams will both design and build the props for their own mystery room (A room that contains a puzzle that must be solved with four players are allowed to leave.) today before the end of the camp, they will try the mystery room out on the other team, and then have the last day to improve it based on what they learn. They will then put on two performances for the public (including parents and others) that Friday, and Saturday.
How to be one of our Instructors: This is one of the areas where we are getting clever. Teachers would obviously need to be vetted and Live-scanned (I’m not having anyone here that I wouldn’t leave my 12 year old daughter or 15 year old sons with), but beyond that, they are people from lots of walks of life/expertise areas. The way we make sure they are good is that they first teach a no-charge class to our monthly subscribing members and the Igors. If they pass their muster, their reviews will be the base for the ongoing teacher reviews that are posted with their classes. Great teachers will fill their classes, and because they get a cut of the money for each class, the best ones are the ones that keep coming back. We want people who love what they do and who love sharing that with people. We will have a standard structure for the classes to keep things consistent, but any teacher can either prove to use that they have a better idea, or that it is just better for their class and we will go with it. We’ll start off with a few great staff teacher, but we want to be the best place around for artists and engineers and geeks (I’m proudly in that group) from all over to come and find a place here full of kids who are having fun getting a chance to stretch their brains. For example, I’ll be teaching Game Review classes, where the kids come and play new board/card games the first part of the day, and learn how to write different styles of reviews in the afternoon. (among other things, I’m an old journalist/editor–founding editor of one magazine, first Toys Editor for Wired, etc)
Will this be for adults? The game playing part of D20 will continue to be adult friendly. In addition, as we get more and more cool creative/electronic stuff to play with, we will both do daytime classes and offer non-classroom time access to the workshops. Plus, we will explicitly do parent/guardian and kids classes, as well as allowing vetted parents to participate with their kids and help as adult versions of the Igors. Most of us adults have kids inside to, and love to play with all this stuff.
So how are we making money from all this? We will be charging for the classes, as well as offering monthly and yearly club memberships. The memberships will include discounts for the classes as well as off hours access to the different club rooms. It is our intention to eventually become licenced for aftercare so some of the memberships can be used as a safe and good place for smart kids to come after school. We want to do this well, so we won’t be trying to be the cheapest folks around. Having said that, people who step up and share the load with us now will be given founders pricing and extra access. More on that as we put the kick-starter together.