Mirrorscape’s ARcana Is Launching Us Back to the Future
ARcana by Mirrorscape is a revolutionary new platform that allows you to merge the real world with the imaginary world of Table Top Roleplaying Games. With ARcana and Mirrorscape at your side, you’ll create 3D maps and buildings, download the hand-crafted maps of friends and talented creators, interact with the virtual world using beautiful miniatures, and experience TTRPGs in a way you never thought possible.
ARcana and Mirrorscape will change the way we roll dice forever and I’m here to show you how.
In this article we cover:
- The origins of ARcana and Mirrorscape
- What is ARcana and how do you use it?
- What features can you expect from this augmented reality (AR) app?
- How much will terrain and minis cost in the Mirrorscape / ARcana marketplace?
- How will ARcana and Mirrorscape change TTRPGs forever?
Origins of ARcana and Mirrorscape
Grant Anderson, CEO of Mirrorscape and the lead developer of ARcana, grew up in central Illinois back in the 70s when D&D was just getting started. At the age of seven, one of his childhood friends introduced him to Dungeons & Dragons. He helped Grant create a character based on a mini painted impressively by the friend’s dad. After creating a character and going on his first adventure, Grant was hooked and never looked back.
But as he got older, he realized how much harder it is for friends to get together regularly to play. People get busy with work, start families, and sometimes move away. Luckily, we now have solutions to that problem in the form of sites like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds.
Unfortunately, those solutions don’t replicate the experience of sitting around a table with friends and real 3D minis.
Time to Get to Work
Grant started working in visual effects on movies like Spider-Man, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings. And then about eight years ago he started working in augmented and virtual reality on location-based experiences for Marvel and Dreamworks.
While working in that space, he had a thought that wouldn’t leave him alone.
Augmented reality is the perfect technology for Table Top Gaming.
Then three years ago Grant looked around and didn’t see anyone working on bringing AR technology to the world of TTRPGs.
With a background in engineering, Grant got started on what he thought would be a fun hobby project. And after making some progress he started showing it to his friends in the Los Angeles TTRPG community.
People were blown away.
Then Grant sat down with his friend and now Co-Founder Don Bland. They talked about some potential investments Don was considering, including a news app, to which Grant responded, “Who wants another news app, look at this!”
And after seeing what Grant had built, Don was floored and told Grant they needed to start a company.
ARcana and Mirrorscape were born.
What is ARcana and how do you use it?
ARcana is an app for iOS and Android devices. It relies on your device’s augmented reality camera (and your creativity) to make 3D landscapes you interact with via the display on your device.
So let’s define augmented reality as it pertains to ARcana:
Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated information.
In this case, the object in the real-world environment is your tabletop. And the computer-generated information is the terrain, minis, and visual effects you see on your device’s display.
This enables you to create gorgeous detailed 3D maps for your TTRPG without spending all your money on physical terrain pieces that you would also have to store somewhere.
And with everyone at the table using ARcana, you all see the same map and you all see each other’s minis as you and your friends move them around.
But it’s not just for in-person gaming!
Let’s say you’re part of a weekly D&D group and you have to leave on a business trip one week so you’ll miss that session. Rather than streaming in through Zoom and being stuck with one angle of the table, you’ll be able to pull up ARcana in your hotel room and interact with the same 3D map as your friends!
Need a different angle? Just move your phone or tablet around to get a better view of the action.
Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle
It is a miracle of human development that we can take an abstract concept in our minds and transform the imaginary into reality. However, some concepts require more resources than others to make that transformation happen.
Grant was able to develop the foundation of ARcana on his own, but he needed help to bring ARcana to the finish line and turn it into a polished product we all want to use.
The ARcana Kickstarter page went live on March 29 of this year and was funded for $50,000 in less than 8 hours. When we talked to Grant in April they had received over $200,000 in pledges. And by the time the Kickstarter ended on May 2, a total of 3,719 backers had pledged $418,091.
Grant half-jokingly admitted he never wants to run a Kickstarter again because, as he learned, it is challenging and time-consuming to run a successful campaign. But he did make it a point to emphasize how rewarding it was.
What features can you expect with ARcana?
ARcana provides a virtual environment where you can download and use virtual terrain pieces and minis to create epic adventures for any TTRPG you want to play.
With something as tricky to explain as augmented reality, simplicity and ease of use are crucial. Thankfully, Mirrorscape put out a great video demonstrating how simple it is to play a D&D session around a table.
What rulesets is ARcana compatible with?
ARcana is rules agnostic. You can use ARcana to play any TTRPG your heart desires. The only limitation is your imagination. You bring the game and ruleset you want to play with. Or homebrew your own epic adventure! Either way, ARcana provides a virtual environment for you and your friends to watch your story unfold.
Download virtual terrain tiles to construct gorgeous, intricate landscapes and structures. Anything from a multi-layered dungeon all the way up to an awe-inspiring wizard tower.
The terrain at the moment is fantasy-themed, but Grant told NNN, “absolutely we’ll be adding in sci-fi, we’ll be adding in urban for superhero stuff and urban combat… horror for Call of Cthulhu.”
As of the writing of this article, sci-fi terrain has arrived! Fat Dragon Games made a sci-fi terrain pack available as an add-on! The BackerKit is live so it’s not too late to grab one if you missed the Kickstarter!
What can you buy in the Mirrorscape / ARcana marketplace?
At launch you’ll buy/download minis from companies like Reaper Miniatures and Hero Forge, and terrain from companies like Dwarven Forge and Fat Dragon Games.
But what I find the most exciting is the future map marketplace.
Imagine your players are heading to the king’s castle and you don’t have a map ready for them next session. You’ll be able to hop on the ARcana marketplace, search through the list of castle maps others have created, and download the map! ARcana will check to see which terrain pieces you have already and then purchase the remaining terrain pieces so you have a beautifully designed castle ready to go for your adventurers.
How much do pieces cost in the Mirrorscape / ARcana marketplace?
Individual pieces (minis, terrain, etc) are in the $2 to $3 price range, but those numbers aren’t final yet. Anything more complex than the standard terrain and minis will be priced a dollar or two extra. Grant told NNN he wants ARcana to be affordable.
Considering I paid $30 for a mini on Hero Forge (thank you, Hero Forge, it’s beautiful), $2 to $3 is a bargain to get that same mini in a virtual environment.
What is the Offline vs Online functionality?
Online is where games are played, but offline you can do anything creative like building maps.
Speaking of, since ARcana relies on internet connectivity and data storage, that means Mirrorscape has to pay for servers. As a result, ARcana will use a subscription-based business model to ensure the lights stay on for as long as people want to use the app.
If you were fortunate to get in on the Kickstarter, Mirrorscape offered UNLIMITED HOSTING to anyone who pledged $50 or more.
Includes everything in the Path of the Acolyte pledge plus a total of 2x digital terrain pack of your choice and an additional 2x Reaper digital monster mini packs. Host unlimited games with your terrain and minis. The first 1,000 backers at this level or above also gain early Beta access to the application and private Discord channel to provide feedback directly to the developers.
- ARcana App
- Starter Terrain & Mini Set
- 5× Hero Forge Starter Minis
- 2× Digital Terrain Packs
- 10× Reaper Digital Zombie & Skeleton Minis
- 10× Reaper Digital Goblin & Kobold Minis
- Unlimited Hosting
- Early Beta Access (1st 1,000 backers)
- All Unlocked Stretch Goals
But if you missed the Kickstarter or you didn’t grab that $50 pledge the first time, you’re in luck! The BackerKit for ARcana is now live so if you want to dodge that subscription fee and get all those sweet terrain pieces and minis, this is your last chance!
How will ARcana and Mirrorscape change the future of TTRPGs?
Think about your favorite TTRPG streamers. How cool it would be to not just watch them roleplay on camera but to also pull up the map they’re on and watch their final boss fight from any angle?
Beyond that, Grant has specified that ARcana is intended for augmented reality glasses. And with AR glasses approaching mass adoption, it’s easy to see how the tablet/phone interface is just a stepping stone.
One day you and your friends will show up for game night with nothing but dice and your AR glasses (and probably some clothes). You grab an ale, pull up the ARcana app on your glasses, and sit around the table as the DM sets the scene. With your AR glasses on, the lights dim and you see a massive castle rise up out of the table. The full moon rests in the sky illuminating the fields around the castle. Torches are burning and you hear the sounds of villagers at the marketplace. Your party of miniatures drops onto the dirt road to pick up where you left off last week. Suddenly, the commotion in the marketplace turns to screaming and you hear a thunderous roar bellow from the skies above!
What would you like to do, adventurers?