Today we’re here with GM TolsimirWolfblood talking to him about his kick-ass campaign set in the universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender. His game, Avatar: Conquest of the Imperial Order is sure to claim the attention of all those who appreciate a great, all encompassing campaign, regardless of whether they know a thing about Avatar. His wiki is pretty spiffy too, we might add. Read on!
First off, feel free to tell us about yourself if you want. Family, kids, pets, dayjob, superhero-alter ego, etc. We’ll kick it off with that and get started with the questioning!
Hey all! My name is Dan; I’m a college kid from Nevada City, California. I am paying the bills by bussing dishes at a local restaurant (I know glamorous right!). I currently still live with my family (parents + little brother) however I am planning to move to Oregon with my girlfriend of two years and a couple of my best friends (who happen to be in this campaign!) next year. My major is in Administration of Justice and I aspire to be a K-9 Police Officer one day. And speaking canines my family has three! Two German Shepherds and a Wolf-Dog. (If you can’t tell yet I’m a dog guy)
So, Avatar: Conquest of the Imperial Order is a pretty encompassing game it seems. Where does your inspiration come from for the game: the cartoons, the film, or a mix of both alongside your own awesome ideas?
Well the campaign started a little over a year ago and was inspired purely by the television series. All of us are huge fans of the show and last summer one of them found a D20 system that was made for Avatar. I hadn’t been a DM yet, but I was a major rule buff in our other campaign (D&D 3.5) and so they asked me to DM an Avatar campaign. I was about to leave on a cruise to Alaska, and I took the rule system and read it over. I loved it so much I spent all my off time (which wasn’t a lot) planning the campaign. While set in the Avatar World, the campaign has all kinds of influences from the various fantasy settings that have inspired me; as well as a lot of original content. The movie was not really an influence. (To be honest we all found it to be a supreme disappointment compared to the show, which is by all standards phenomenal.)
I see that your wiki is extremely organized and customized, how did you manage all that? Did you do all the work (art/CSS/etc.) yourself?
As my content grew, I started going to extreme lengths to make my wiki very organized so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming or hard to browse for my players. The vast majority of my artwork is derived from random Google Image searches over the years LOL. However, I did get a few graphics from Arsheesh who was a major help when I first started the campaign. The buttons on my Wiki page are an example of this. A lot of my other art come from the Legend of the Five Rings setting. (an Oriental themed setting where the primary magic is elemental in nature… how lucky is that for Avatar concept art!)
You’ve got adventure log markers on your worldmap, that is what I’m seeing right? That is awesome! Do you think that using OP has improved your game?
Actually each of the numbers on my map represents a place, and I have the numbered list on my “Places” page. It functions similar however, as I have gotten quite a few comments about how the numbers make it really easy to follow the adventures through the adventure log! Obsidian Portal has absolutely improved our gaming experience. I came across it just as I was starting my campaign and it was a really lucky thing too! Having all my lore, locations, characters, items, and events all organized in one place with visual representations of everything not only makes my job as a DM infinitely easier, but it really brings the setting to life.
Do your players use OP as often as you do? Have any pearls of wisdom for other GM’s out there trying to get their players more involved?
A few players are on regularly, and the others go on when they are interested in something in particular (like a location they just arrived at) which is also cool because then they are experiencing it at the same time as their character. They do all participate in Character Journals though which are nothing short of awesome. It really adds depth to the characters! I would say if you want your players to get more involved, give them incentive. That’s what I do with the character journals. When they do a journal, they get a prestige point which they can use for various in game benefits. The addition of the prestige point system led to a huge increase of player involvement in the site!
I see your campaign has a progress bar, what’s that all about?
The progress bar shows their progress to the next level. As we can all remember from playing Pokemon on the Gameboy in our early years, nothing is quite as satisfying as watching the green bar leap forward and show you are that much closer to the next level!
You have political, geographical and climate maps for your game. How do all of these thingsfactor into play when building adventures?
Well I originally just had the political map, and as terrain became increasingly important for the characters planning their next move, I added the geographical map. The political map was a bit too cluttered to see all the subtle terrain features. The climate map was mostly for myself, so I can accurately describe weather and plan creatures for the area and whatnot. The more dynamic I describe the world the more real it becomes for the players, and the more fun! And these tools are hugely helpful in doing that.
The d20 system seems to be working great for you guys, what is your favorite system and why?
The Avatar D20 system has been working great! If anyone has a chance to check it out they should (I have a link to it on the front page). The rules for Bending are extremely solid, and have led to some really dynamic game-play. It was surprising how balanced all the Benders turned out, and how unique all of their flavors are. Earthbenders in particular are a lot of fun. The ability to rapidly change the environment to suit your needs leads to the map at the end of an encounter being completely different from the map at the start. Throw in an enemy Earthbender as well, and it is crazy! Those have led to some of the most fun encounters of the campaign, and the player never gets tired of saying “I throw a boulder at him!” Although I would have to say 3.5 is still my favorite, simply because I know it so well, and it was the first tabletop game I ever played so I have fond memories of it.
Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GM’ing pearls of wisdom.
My only pearl of wisdom would be to not try and guide the players too much. Let them shape the direction of the campaign, because it might be your world but it is THEIR story. And above all have fun! Thank you for the honor of CotM, and thank you Obsidian Portal for being such an amazing resource for Role-players everywhere!
Thanks for your time! Enjoy your time in the spotlight, you’ve definitely earned it!
Think your campaign has what it takes, or know one that does? Nominate it , and we’ll see you all next month!