Hello again and welcome to another beautifully crafted and upkept campaign worthy of being deemed Campaign of the Month! Proceed onward to read my interview with DM Sommerset about his game: Lodestar!
Precursor to questions: If you wish you can give us a brief introduction of who you are – Real name, job, wife/kids, hobbies outside gaming, etc then feel free to do so.
My players and I all reside in and around Athens, GA — so if you’re familiar at all with that locale, you would not be surprised at the mix of actors, musicians, artists, retired folk heroes, roller girls, real-estate agents and all-around weird folk that make up our campaign. All of my real life information is deeply fascinating and borderline scandalous — but its not really germane, or interesting to anyone on the OP. We’re all more interested in the worlds we’re building than the checks we’re cashing, so I’ll stick with Sommerset as my nom de plume.
How long have you been gaming, and how long have you been running the Lodestar campaign?
Eeek, about seventeen years — ever since the days of poring through the AD&D manuals, and calling my friends on the phone to make up stories about werewolves, ninjas, and ninja werewolves. Lodestar started in late September of 2010. I had dabbled with OP a year or so before in another friend’s campaign — and I had just started my new campaign, and me and my players were filling the time between tabletop sessions by playing over email. I casually decided to move it over the OP Campaign forums, and it just exploded. I had unwittingly assembled a group of fiendishly talented writers [with plenty of free time during the day], so it just took off and we never looked back. We’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 2600 posts on the forums — we should easily crack 3000 by the end of May.
How well do you know your players, how many players do you have?
I have six active players, and one who sadly had to focus more on real life. Jerk.
I know my players extremely well. One I’ve been gaming with for over a decade, the rest of the party are all friends that this is more or less their first serious pen and paper experience. We hang out, do shows together, meet up at bars and whisper about the game so the citizens won’t catch wind. We’re all active in the local theatre scene, so it’s become common knowledge that the topic of Lodestar is going to come up regularly at social occasions, especially after a few drinks. I really can’t praise them enough [don't tell them I said this.] – this game wouldn’t be what it is without their boundless enthusiasm, excellent writing, and tons of time dumped into the campaign. Sheeponstiltz and GloucesterR3 have also been doing a ton of original artwork, and coding on the site — because I’m functionally useless in that arena.
Lodestar seems like a very rich setting, can you tell us all about it in a nutshell?
Um. Wow. Okay.
A group of adventurers on a stolen airship explore the world, piecing together the lost knowledge of a fallen civilization. Also, they fight dragons and get loot. And bad stuff is happening to the world. And there’s this little girl that’s probably important. And the Third Eye cult, seeking the lost names of the moons. And an evil corporation, and kobolds that dance! And..and..and..it’s all desperately silly and important.
Let me try to explain.
A decade ago, I was a player in a campaign following the adventures of a group of sky pirates trying to stop the end of the world. It was silly, and derivative, and clearly a hodgepodge of the DM’s favorite campaign worlds from other sources, video games, and anime. But we loved it – we loved it fiercely. To this day, when the players encounter each other we swap stories of shared adventures that never happened. The crew of the Filthy Whore, the dark wizard Korthan Zul — even a Sphere of Annihilation.
My goal with Lodestar was to capture that feeling again, and share it with brand new players — so my campaign is set in the same world, about 140 years after that campaign. It gave me the advantage of a world that felt “lived-on”, but also one where the details were extremely sketchy and vague — plenty of room to play for me and my party. This campaign has been a tremendously successful experiment of group-storytelling – each player building a part of the world, and me fabricating new bits as needed for the adventure du jour. The world has grown very organically, piece by piece and story by story.
It’s about adventure, I guess. Freedom and consequences, and all that nerdy Joseph Campbelly claptrap.
So in a nutshell, the overall setting and story are nothing out of the ordinary — but out of the nutshell it grows and grows into a mighty oak.
What are your PC’s main motivators and what kind of party are they generally?
Ha! Pissing me off, generally. Loot, opportunities to cause mass carnage and mayhem — oh, and ANY chance to soliloquize about their character’s journey and chew the scenery a bit. If they could each be in their own little room with a mirror and talk about how awesome they are, they’d be happy.
As a party they are generally good intentioned, but extremely fractious. Each character has their own motivations, and they often come into conflict with the other members of the ship. It can make decision making a bit dicey, and a lot of times as a DM I have to set something on fire before they’ll all work together — but it makes for excellent story-telling. I enjoy the morally gray quandary, so I’m completely guilty of setting the players at odds when they have to make a significant decision.
Running a game with a air-ships and aerial combat (perhaps even seige type warfare) seems like it might take a lot of extra work mechanically, is that so?
Honestly, we’re still early in the campaign – maybe 35-40%. To date, one of the main parts of the story has been repairing the ship — from operating on sails only, to finally getting the propulsion systems active. There are no weapons on board and the PC’s are a little too cash poor to have those sorts of modifications done at the moment. Generally, things have been easily adjudicated using the Fly skill, and the story-telling conceit that the ship is the fastest on the planet. They haven’t had any true dogfights just yet — take a peak at the After the Red Rabbit thread for the closest they’ve come — dueling with a fully armed Sky Pirate ship, and an unfriendly Sky Wyrm.
It also helps to run these things on the forums, we can follow story-logic instead of dice-logic. As the campaign continues, its something we’ll continue to explore.
What special modifications/houserules have you created to accomodate the needs of your campaign world?
We’re using Pathfinder RPG as our rules system, and I’ve made almost no modifications. We don’t confirm critical threats, and out-of-combat healing is considered to be the maximum possible, are my two major house rules.
Pathfinder is an excellent system – and I’ve had a good time homebrewing up a few special abilities, and races — but all in all, still 95% vanilla Pathfinder.
Do you play any other RPG’s?
Many in my time, but Lodestar is taking up the bulk of my time currently. I’ll sneak in some time for some console-RPG’s, but when you have six players posting 15-30 times per day, it keeps you busy.
What happens if someone falls overboard on an air-ship? Has that ever happened?
Shockingly, no one’s fallen off yet – though my dwarven monk came close when they were trying to dislodge a malicious Air Anchor that was holding them in place. One of my PC’s is a summoner, and his eidolon can fly — so if she’s in a good mood, maybe a little bit of air rescue would be forthcoming. Probably not, the eidolon enjoys carnage a bit too much.
The ship itself has fallen out of the sky a couple of times though. Once when they unplugged the main drive [ ship went crazy and started flying on its own] – and just now recently when the deteriorating aerolith [floatstone] that powers the ship finally went poof.
Any DM’ing and/or RPG pearls of wisdom for the folks at home?
Never let a gnome in a library.
Promises made to your PC’s after four drinks are null and void.
Never trust your players — but always have faith. They’ll kill every cool villain you can devise, and trample over your precious plot — but ultimately they should always feel like they’re the main characters of the world, they are the Heroes of Legend this time — even when they’re burning down libraries, incorrectly accusing powerful Janni of murder, or constantly asking you how much XP they can get for slaughtering their shipmates.
Wow, what an awesome game! Thanks for answering all our silly questions, looks like you and your players are definitely having a blast! Well folks, that’s it for our Campaign of the Month for may, keep your eyes peeled for great campaigns and be sure to nominate them in the forums! Until next time!