Like a buffet patron with a vendetta, the air grew thick and aggressive as the noon day sun came to rule over the Red City. I had finally tracked down Arsheeh, the DM of this month’s Featured Campaign. When I found him, he was playing Texas hold’em in an old storehouse behind a bustling marketplace in Marrakech with Martha Stewart, John Stewart, and Candy. Candy was a stewardess for American Airlines. I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped the sweat from my brow.
Their dealer was a dark haired, suave looking gentleman wearing a three piece suit made of crocodile skin. The heat didn’t seem to mind him and -truth be told- he looked a bit cold. He dealt me in without saying a word. I took my place at the table and began to question Arsheeh on his campaign, Age of Legends.
Obsidian Portal: How much of the campaign/system is original content developed by you and your players?
Arsheeh: Our campaign utilizes Pathfinder’s core rule system. As for the content of the campaign though, for better or worse that was pretty much all developed by my players and I. I’ve been writing, and rewriting the history of our campaign world, Eriond, for about five years now (whenever I can carve out time from my academic schedule to do so) so certain parts of the world have been pretty well developed.
However I try to encourage my players to participate in building the world as well, and I’m certainly not averse to incorporating their own ideas into the landscape of the campaign. For instance my wife wanted to play a unique highbred class, one part Shadow Dancer the other part Assassin. So I told her to write an interesting back-story for her character (Phadran) that explained what she had in mind. Based on her character’s background, I developed a shadowy organization tied to Phadran that will show up later in our campaign.
Obsidian Portal: Your campaign looks great, can you tell me more about it?
Arsheeh: As far as the storyline goes, basically Age of Legends is a Tolkienish “points of light” style campaign that takes place in the far bitter northern edges of Eriond’s civilization. The events of the campaign thus far have taken place in and around the prosperous town of Hidroth Lea, though that is about to change.
Currently the players are exploring the millennium old Minotaur infested ruins of a former Dwarven kingdom in search of a key to an ancient magic gateway. Ultimately they hope to locate an elven city of Ice that has been lost since the first age, and the magic gateway is the most promising lead to locating this city thus far discovered.
Obsidian Portal: Where do you get your inspiration the story and the world?
Arsheeh: Well, like most of us, I was completely captivated with Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. As a result, I eagerly reread Tolkien’s classic trilogy as well as his Silmarillion several years back. I was intrigued by Tolkien’s theologically rich creation myth, among other things, and thought it might be interesting to play in a campaign world ordered by a uniquely divine God-figure rather than the pantheon of gods typical of D&D. Thus began The Age of Legends.
Aside from Tolkien, I have been influenced by a host of other writers and have undoubtedly borrowed from their works in building the world of Eriond. Most notably, I have been inspired by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (which was my first introduction into the world of fantasy), Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy and most recently, Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Since becoming a member of the Obsidian Portal I have also been influenced by a number of other campaigns as well. I cannot name them all here but I know that I have looked to Redstar’s The City of Fogdown, Onsilius’ Minrothad, and Idabrius’ Abridged History of the 10th Age campaigns for inspiration more than once.
Obsidian Portal: How well do you know your players?
Arsheeh: Heh, heh, there’s somewhat of an amusing story here. So my wife and I moved down to SoCal several years back so that I could attend seminary to study philosophy. Now when I think of likely places to recruit players for D&D, “seminary” isn’t exactly at the top of the list. Yet my first semester in the program my wife was involved in a sort of support group for seminary wives. Well, she was at one of these group events and as part of the introductions, the women were each sharing with each other interesting facts about their husbands and such. When it came time for my wife to speak, she sort of looked sheepishly at the other women and said something along the lines of “well my husband plays D&D.”
I doubt that many of the women there even knew what D&D stood for. Still, after the meeting one women came up to my wife and incredulously asked if she was serious about me and D&D, to which my wife, bracing herself against a polemical sermon about the evils of gaming, replied that she was. Well, turned out that the other woman’s husband was an avid gamer as well looking to join a campaign. So our wives set us up on a man-date to see if we were compatible. We got along famously and in the two and a half years that followed my wife and I have been meeting with this couple on average of once or twice a month to game. Generally, we’ll drive over to their place and Spetrevich will spoil us all with her amazing culinary skills. As a result, they have become some of our dearest friends. We try to get together with them to hang out as much as possible, even when gaming is not involved. In fact, we have grown close enough to share both the triumphs and the struggles of our personal lives. Friendships like these are a rare and precious thing.
Obsidian Portal: What kinds challenges are you faced with in your campaign?
Arsheeh: One of the biggest challenges has been just finding time to game. Our game sessions have been somewhat sporadic. At best, we play once every two weeks. At worst, two or three months might pass between sessions. We are all really busy with work and school, so that puts limitations upon when we can meet. In addition, the couple that we game with has a five year old son and we generally don’t begin gaming until after he has gone to bed. This means that our game sessions can run pretty late into the night, and even after a few cups of coffee, we are all pretty zonked by the end of the game (in fact my wife has fallen asleep in the middle of combat on more than one occasion).
Obsidian Portal: What aspects of your campaign are you really proud of?
Arsheeh: I’ve spent allot of time fleshing out the town of Hidroth Lea and its denizens, and although the town is still far from finished (in fact I still haven’t gotten around to creating a map for it), I’ve got to admit that I’m fond of this little town. There are a few other campaign elements yet to be introduced to the campaign that I’m rather fond of as well, but I don’t want to give away andy spoilers here. More to the point, I’m proud to be the DM of such a fine group of gamers.
Obsidian Portal: According to your players, what have been the highlights of the campaign?
Arsheeh: Well, in their own words, this is what some of my players had to say:
Dangerkitty (Phadran): “Without being biased, I can honestly say this campaign has really impressed me. I am one of those players that only needs to satisfy my blood lust every few games or so. I favor creative plots and the vivid, colorful world of Age of Legends has given me just that. The plots are some of the most creative that I have ever played within, yet they still allow for enough challenging battle sequences to satisfy everyone at the table. May our DM live long, prosper, and provide more games…”
Eriondscribe (Romen): “his attention to story, above all else. In one of our very first game sessions, our party temporarily roomed at a local farmer’s home. The next morning, the party awoke to the smell of freshly cooked “silver-wheat pancakes” (silver-wheat being a grain that’s unique to Eriond). When that happened, I knew immediately that our campaign would be story-driven, not a loosely strung series of battles. The silver-wheat pancakes had the same world-immersing effect as Romulan ale in the Star Trek series. Or, for me (an avid fan of Gary Gygax’s original Dungeons and Dragons campaign world), it had the same effect as the list of trees and other flora in the opening chapter of the “World of Greyhawk” campaign setting.
I also impressed with the ease with which Arsheesh dreams up and spews out campaign details for regions, cities, personalities, etc. It sure makes it easy to browse the site and find ideas for characters and their backgrounds. I recently landed on his description of the gnomish city of “Glindell,” and, even though I really didn’t have time to sit and read through it, I couldn’t ‘put it down.’ By the time I finished reading, I was convinced that my next character would be a gnome from the city of Glindell
I also appreciate the way Arsheesh cares about the ideas you have for your characters, their backgrounds, and their goals. He seems to go out of his way to weave your own ideas into his existing campaign world—not to mention tying those characters and their lives into the larger events that are taking place (or going to take place) in the world.”
Obsidian Portal: What future plans do you have for your own homebrew campaign world, Eriond?
Arsheeh: Well, currently the most developed part of the World is the northern region in which Age of Legends is set. Eventually I would like to branch out and have the party explore other parts of the world. I’m curious to discover what cultures, legends and quests will emerge from such an exploration. As of now much of the campaign remains to be written, and I’m excited to see how it is all going to turn out in the end.