11
Feb

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month February 2017 – God-Touched

Oh, thank the gods! You made it. Hurry, this way, we haven’t a moment to lose. I know your Visitation wasn’t that long ago, but the Order of Divine Glory is making its move. It’s time to truly become one of us, to become God-Touched, February’s Campaign of the Month! So carry your divine spark and let’s go. I’ll introduce you to Nut_Meg, the GameMaster behind this godly campaign.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/70632/banners/679731/gt_logo_3.png?1482856750

 

Tell us about the mortal behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Where can we stalk you on the internet? Let us know if you feel so inclined!

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but have since moved from there to somewhere much less crowded. Primarily I am a professional martial artist but I also spend a lot of time reading, writing, memorizing and reciting folk tales, playing video games, making video games, coding, and riding a motorcycle.

 

Unfortunately I’m a bit of a cyber-recluse. Happy to chat via private message, though!

sanuraChovexani (Sanura):

I’m from Delaware USA and aside from gaming I art! I’ve got a beautiful pet cockatiel named Sterling. I also hang out with the chat on Geek & Sundry a lot. I am stalkable if you’re inclined on Twitter @ChovexaniArt (https://twitter.com/ChovexaniArt) and on Twitch @Chovexani (https://www.twitch.tv/chovexani).

Elmenora (Ken):

I’m one of those people who spends most of my time in the 9-5 rat race, but with the added excitement of my racecourse being strewn with toxic chemicals and the occasional explosive—all fun and games in the world of recycling! Outside of that I like to game (no surprise there), garden—aka “vegetable murder,” and make art. Stalking me online is tricky since I seldom update anything, but you can find me at elmenora.deviantart.com or follow my webcomic, acryfromthenorth.com

Your campaign uses the Scion system, heavily house ruled. Can you tell those of us who aren’t familiar with Scion what that game is all about, and why you diverged so much from its rules? What house-rules are you proudest of and which ones have worked well with your players?

Scion is a game wherein the player characters are all children of gods—the selection of godly patrons ranges all manner of polytheistic religions from ancient and obscure to still-active. These Scions are imbued with incredible power and given pretty much free reign on the modern world.

 

My players and I found the original ruleset to be very confused. The abilities a character could have vacillated between vague and fluff-oriented and so oddly specific that the power in question would only be relevant by luck or seriously contrived artifice. We found many of the design decisions to be obscure or baffling or unnecessarily complicated. On top of that there are some missing stats for the mooks in the sourcebooks, said mooks are hideously underpowered, and in general the book’s stat blocks are very poorly designed and difficult to navigate. Overall it felt to us like a very half-baked system that tried to be FATE and Dungeons & Dragons all at once.

 

Actually, I did a complete overhaul of the system which tightened up a lot and was built to allow for “modular” design—because, to be honest, the most fun thing about the Scion system was being able to change and modify the rules to suit the game and the players. However, this was close to the end of God-Touched so I decided not to implement it. I will be using it for our next Scion game and I’m really excited to stress test it and change it around.

 

So far what’s worked best for us is adding the option to create a dice pool with Purviews instead of relying solely on Boons which are too specific to be useful most of the time. It’s allowed for a lot more creativity and character exploration, and it’s gotten me thinking more about what these Purviews, or elemental forces of the cosmos, mean to the characters, the gods especially.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/70632/backgrounds/676233/bg.png?1481995870

Tell us about God-Touched. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

Actually, one of the former players of GT had caught wind that mythology was my favorite thing ever so he invited me to join his Scion game which he’d been running for about a year at that point. It was the most fun I’d ever had with an RPG at the time—which was saying a great deal! A year later him and the other players in that group started strongly hinting that I should start a campaign for them. So I did.

 

God-Touched has been going on for almost four years now. We’re very close to wrapping up.

How regularly do you play, and where do you play? Tell us about your set-up!

We play at least every Friday online. Sometimes I’ll make appointments throughout the week with certain players or groups of players for “vignettes” or short side scenes that focus on character development and role-play. Up until recently we played over Skype and used a room on rolz.org for our dice roller, but a great deal of bugs, lag, and frustrations drove us to Discord. I’ve programmed a dicebot for our Discord server and I gotta say, as awesome as rolz.org is, the consolidation is incredibly convenient. Plus I also got sprinkle some snark in the code.

 

Currently, though, since we’re in epilogue-mode, we’re mostly using voice chat because we found that more effective in covering long summarized periods of time. Occasionally we’ll pick a vignette to play through either for edification or gratification.

Your current campaign is lush in themes and background information. Where did you draw your inspiration from and how did you go about implementing your ideas into the setup of your campaign?

There’s so much rich material to draw from in the myths themselves. So long as I did research on the cultures and rituals involved in particular religions or read myths or folktales I was never lacking in ideas. Implementation always seems to end up effortless—my players and I have marveled more than once at how the way just kinda magically opens up for themes, motifs, or symbols.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/70632/assets/466088/Loral_Draws_Derrick.jpg?1433226234

Your OP campaign site has a ton of nifty design innovations. Where did your design knowledge come from and what advice can you give to new GMs wishing to improve their sites in similar ways?

Well, believe it or not, it started with Neopets. When I was a wee one, I had an account (like everyone my age did at that time) and I really got into the idea of the webpages you could build for your pets. I trawled the wealth of CSS and HTML tutorials that users provided, and begged my mom to send me to summer camps that taught me tech skills like how to make websites. Then I got into IRC roleplaying and made webpages for my characters, and throughout high school got into writing and built a website for me to put my stories and poems. (Which has since been taken down, thank goodness.) And then I took web design and programming courses in college.

 

For Obsidian Portal, I browsed other campaigns to see how they designed their sites, and lucked upon some (like A God… Rebuilt) that posted their custom CSS. My advice is to make heavy use of your brower’s built in developer’s tools (like Chrome’s Inspect and View Source features) on your campaign page and others’, and start a collection of web design inspiration (one of my favorites is http://inspirationti.me/).

This campaign, and I imagine Scion itself, is pretty high-concept. Can you talk about how you sold the campaign to your players?

No selling required! My players more or less pushed me into running the campaign. As for the players who ended up joining later, when the game was in full swing… well, I’m pretty sure I mostly just brain-controlled them with Epic Charisma or Epic Manipulation. They’re normally too discerning to get so wrapped up in life-consuming obsessions.

sanuraChovexani (Sanura):

As one of the first in the campaign, for me, it was the group of friends playing again, but also Scion is just… fun. You have some pretty deep concepts to consider later on but in the beginning it’s like a kid with a laser gun, it’s dangerous but a huge high too. Then as we continued playing Meg brought so many NPCs to life for us that I personally fell in love. They’re not perfect they’ve got highs and lows and flaws and shining moments and it’s such a delight to play with them as well as the PCs whose players lately are bringing more and more imagery and description. It’s like getting to sit in with professional writers some nights, and then we get to giggle and squee about how adorable the NPCs are. The overall concept of Scion though is just… who hasn’t wanted to be ‘God-Touched’ at some point to be ‘special’ and to use that to greater ends?

Elmenora (Ken):

This is my first serious campaign! I’ve been a very casual gamer in the past, mostly doing single-session games in systems like Fate. So… the exact opposite of God Touched. Basically Meg told me ALL THE THINGS she had planned for the future and just seemed so excited about it. I’d been hearing about the epic sweeping adventures, symbolism, and character development for over a year before joining the game. Eventually I just got hooked on the plot and amazing cast of characters she’d made! We started talking idly about what kind of scion I might play, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in.

dovileSalmerisa (Dovilė):

For me, I joined because the GM was out a player and I’d been hearing about it from her for about a year and I really needed a campaign. But I bit, like, I really started feeling it when we started making Dovilė. I built the character in pieces, and I was unsure how I was going to get my ex-soviet Lithuanian nationalist sniper/healer/daughter of the Slavic Mother Goddess character to feel like a person. And then I turned around and looked and it all fit together. I was like, ‘Holy sh*t this works.” The whole stupid game is like that. You’re going along and all of a sudden a decision you made three months ago turns out to be foreshadowing for something, or symbolic dualism or whatever. The characters and story end up feeling like a myth (which is appropriate for the system), and I’ve never had that happen in a game before.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in running a game of deific superpeople? How are these challenges different from other things you’ve run?

Well, perhaps the most obvious obstacle would be the insane power disparity between the superpowered people and everyone else, or even the power disparity between two people with entirely different power sets. I don’t think I’ve encountered any other game with as big a gap. Plus later they ended up being able to ask favors of the gods themselves with the fairly reasonable expectation that the gods would deliver. I’ve had to get pretty creative with not only keeping my players on the edge of their seats but also finding good reasons to avoid deus ex machina.

 

However I’d say the biggest challenge actually ended up being justifying how the game setting was supposed to look the same as our world given the nature and visibility of Scions’ powers and personalities. To me the whole “mundane people seeing what they want to see” didn’t work given how bombastic gods, monsters, and heroes are and how incredible the scope of mythic deeds are. Unfortunately I’m not clever enough to work around any of that so I upended the world instead and filled it with monsters and Titans and environmental hazards that are (I hope!) worthy of myth.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/70632/assets/442928/Dovile_Sketch_Grrrr.png?1427769126

How long have you been using Obsidian Portal? What brought you to the site and what keeps bringing you back?

I’ve been using the site since 2010. I don’t remember how I came across it given that it’s been seven years, but I thought the idea of a website specialized for organizing campaign information and storing character sheets was basically the best thing since sliced bread. Since then I’ve become very familiar and comfortable with how it works. It’s quite convenient and easy to use in a lot of ways, and provides enough structure for me to focus on content more than organization.

What does the future have in store for the characters in God-Touched? Without giving the game away, is there anything you can surmise……?

Oh yes. Sweeping Day comes. Ragnarök is at hand. Shiva’s doing his destroying-the-world warm-ups. There will be civil and not-so-civil wars, political struggles, intense internal conflicts, and probably plenty more trippy metaphysics.

 

Beyond that, though… my players and I are already getting pretty hyped up for the next campaign which we’re currently calling Future GT. It’ll take place several hundred years in the future somewhere in and/or around Bakersfield—after the events of the current campaign, that is—and the players will play Scions of the new pantheon that the children of the lost gods had formed. We’re excited to see how different the world will look and eager to look at the NPCs we’ve grown to love from a new perspective.

Elmenora (Ken):

I’m looking forward to seeing how all these new gods will carve out a place for themselves (and their new pantheon) in the world. There’s a lot to explore! For Ken in particular, I’m also interested in the growing gulf between him and the Aesir—his “birth pantheon.” They’ve got some serious ideological differences, and if things continue the way prophecies predict they’re going to have some serious conflict eventually.

dovileSalmerisa (Dovilė):

Yeah, Dovilė’s pretty much gonna sit around and smoke and tell people things for the rest of her existence. And probably nap a lot. She’s pretty stoked about it. Also, lots more shadow wolves and a hedge maze of death around the Tree House.

What would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?

Organization. Obsidian Portal is just structured enough to allow for more of a focus on content and provides a solid framework for more specific/granular organization. Also the interface is straightforward enough for me not to be distracted (well, relatively) by formatting and tags and so on.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far?

Man alive, I’m not sure I could pick just one. There are a lot of moments that still strike me out of the blue here and there and tug at my heartstrings or make me think.

 

If I focused on the current arc, the epilogue… I’d have to say it’s watching how the PCs are struggling to balance their new cosmic roles with their connections to the mortal world. Most of the children that they’ve grown attached to were 10 or 11 for most of the campaign, and over the course of a couple sessions suddenly they’re 17. I was really hoping to get across that sense of widened scope—after all, we’re talking about the cosmos here, and time doesn’t mean much to the cosmos—and it looks like it’s working.

 

If we’re talking a specific scene, though… out of all that’s happened the first one that comes to mind is “Who Is Like God?”.  Looking back, there are a lot of flaws with it, but I can still remember the incredible feeling of inevitability, and intensity of everyone working together to talk down the guy who had to be the most dangerous berserker in the mortal world at the time. And I was caught completely off-guard by how saddened I was by a particular character’s death in that scene. I’m still kinda bummed about it. And it’s really impressive to consider the journey that this berserker took afterwards; he’s now super close and strongly tied to the people he’d hurt—hell, he’s currently married to Sanura!

Elmenora (Ken):

We have to pick just one?! There have been so many hilarious and amazing bits. If I was to pick a single scene though I think that’s probably Steam Cleaning.

 

It was just so appropriate for both the characters: Carmen is on the cusp of godhood, her cosmic role being the goddess of cleansing festering secrets, and Ken (whose calling is to guide and protect the lost) is able to show her the way by giving up his own secrets.

dovileSalmerisa (Dovilė):

… Mokosits snarking. Okay, my favorite moment. UUuuuuhhhhh…

 

That’s tough, but I’d have to say either the Nightmare Posts when we entered TimLand (and all the Sins’ nightmares too actually) because 1. Characters are cool and 2. Derrick is beautiful or…. The Bogovi Picnic when Ken started playing the spoons. That was amazing… Or Jan’s arrival and death. Those were both awesome.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing pearls of wisdom!

Well, I’m not sure I can really give anything that could definitively qualify as “wisdom.” Different things are important to different GMs and players which will in turn make different approaches more effective. But I can tell you what worked for me and my players.

 

I talk to my players about the game, like the way anyone would discuss TV shows or movies or books. (In fact, they often tell me that the most fun they have with GT is talking about it!) When I do this I get a strong sense of what they’re excited or scared about and can focus on that in future sessions. I also ask them why their characters made the decisions they did. It allows me to tailor the game to focus on what’s important to their characters and create unique challenges; and on top of them it allows them to understand their characters’ priorities and motivations and methods better. Finally, I’m always open to answering their questions about NPCs and plot details. This is risky because of course they’re going to want to know what surprises and curveballs I’m throwing their way, but more often I’ve found that their experience becomes richer because they have a greater depth of knowledge of what’s going on around them and it allows them to work out more clearly how their character would react given how much he or she knew or didn’t know. This in turn allows me to prepare more effectively, which ends up bringing more surprises to the table.

 

Nowadays, though, I have do this with great care. After my players and I accidentally sparked too many 12 hour long discussions we had to set some hard boundaries. We get a little obsessed.

Well… unfortunately gentle readers, all things must inevitably come to an end – and this interview is no exception. Be sure to check back next month, when we’ll have another great campaign to showcase for you. In the meantime, keep those nominations coming, and keep up the work on your own awesome campaigns. All the best,

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