Shhh Shh Sh! Can you hear it? It’s very feint when you’re first listening for it – but it is ever present, lingering in the air – or perhaps the heart. Yes… that; now you hear it. Indeed, the music is stirring – as well it should be – for that is the sound of knowledge and adventure. They call it the Song of Midgard, but I like to think of it as the song of Mysteria – May’s Campaign of the Month! So settle in as we spend a little quality time with twiggyleaf, the GameMaster of this gem.
First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do both aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet? Let us know if you feel so inclined!
Firstly, many thanks to those that nominated MYSTERIA. It has been an absolute honor to build such a wonderful story with my team and I thank those of you who appreciate it. Let the great gaming never end!
I live in and was born in Glasgow, Scotland, although I spent many years in both London, England and Johannesburg and Grahamstown, South Africa, which is where I first started playing RPGs as a student in 1982. I share a house with my brother and sister. Glasgow is really cool in that I look onto the hills from my window and yet the train ride to the city centre takes just ten minutes. Main online hangouts are YouTube, Facebook and Obsidian Portal.
Tell us about Mysteria in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?
Mysteria started about thee years ago. I had been running a high level epic campaign before that (Shimring) and wanted to do something simpler and less epic. At around the same time I was in the process of shifting from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder and had just stumbled upon Kobold Press’s “Midgard Campaign Setting” which I now most highly recommend. I used this world to design my campaign.
We had a bit of a group change a couple of years ago, so only one other player and myself were there at the start but we have a fantastic group at the moment. Last year we took the characters up to Level Four in a sort of Northern European campaign but this year, thanks to Kobold Press’s new “Southland Campaign Setting”, we have shifted to an Ancient Egyptian/Arabian flavour. I am loving the change.
How regularly do you play, and where do you play? (If you play online, do you use any certain tools to accomplish your gaming such as Google hangouts, roll20, etc.)
We play every Tuesday in a hall hired out by Glasgow Gaming Group once a week. It’s a great environment because there are about 50 other gamers and we have good big tables and flatboards to lay on the tables for a perfect playing surface. We are totally Old school in that we play on actual tables and so don’t use Skype, Google hangouts or Roll20; however we do all use tablets at the game, usually set up with Obsidian Portal, the d20 PFSRD and most of us use Hero Lab for our characters. We usually have a couple of real books at the table as well and I usually have a few printed documents prepared in either Word, Excel or Publisher.
Pathfinder is your system of choice this time around. Why Pathfinder and not 4th or 5th ed D&D? Or a previous version of D&D? What does Pathfinder uniquely bring to Mysteria that no other system could?
Most of us came from a background of D&D 3.5 but didn’t like 4e and so switched to Pathfinder. I have to admit that I have played D&D 5 and it is pretty good, but we really love the improvements that PAIZO made with Pathfinder and the quality of the new products is outstanding, both from Paizo AND Kobold Press. We all like the continuity of campaign gaming and this works best when you have a single gaming system that everyone is used to.
For those of us out there about to start a campaign of this style, we know there are a lot of places to draw inspiration from, but where do you draw yours from?
My first and most important inspiration is JRR Tolkien. Particularly The Silmarillion. No other body of work can better show the possibilities of epic scope in my opinion. However, personally, I am also inspired by ancient history and cultures, particularly Rome, Egypt, China, Japan, Northern Europe and the great adventurers like Richard Burton and David Livingstone. I admire the sense of discovery evinced by the Vikings and the Polynesians and even the journals of James Tiberius Kirk.
I am also inspired by a good human story and so, for good or evil, I will mention such names as Ghandi , Alexander the Great, Julies Caesar, Macbeth, Slaine, Ghengis Khan, Hitler, Caligula, King Arthur, Darth Vader, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Plato, Frodo Baggins, Sherlock Holmes, Robert the Bruce, Shaka, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. It would also be remiss of me not to mention H P Lovecraft and Chris Ashton Smith.
How did you get into tabletop gaming?
At school and university my favorite literature was fantasy literature so when, in 1982, I read a newspaper article about a fantasy role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons, my interest was piqued and pretty soon I had bought the red box Basic Game. I struggled with the rules at first until I heard that there were other students already playing Advanced D&D. I introduced myself and never looked back.
How long have you been using Obsidian Portal? What brought you to the site and what keeps bringing you back?
I have been with OP now for about six and a half years. I stumbled upon it by accident really but once I found out how I could store all my writing and ideas in wiki pages and not have to use massive tomes of hard cover journals, I was hooked. Quite frankly, it is by far the best campaign tool ever. There are many aids and programs that one can use these days but Obsidian Portal is my very own Sanctuary – no matter what other tools I use. It keeps my worlds and creations living and breathing and it is a perfect platform for sharing information with my fellow gamers.
Your wiki customization is really slick, do you do all that work yourself?
I am quite proud of my wiki customisation and it has come about by three major factors:
- Experience – after running Shimring for three years, I learned how to do things better.
- Fellow GMs – I have gained so many great ideas from looking at other OP campaigns.
- Wolfhound’ CSS template – this was the basis for my basic design and his initial help after the reforge has been immeasurable.
If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most? Do your players get involved on the wiki too?
Being able to store and organize my campaign with all the necessary pictures and maps in wiki sections is by far the best for me, closely followed by the Campaign Forums that allow my players and I to communicate outside of our weekly game in a way that conversations about rules, character development and aspirations can be easily found. This feature is only available to Ascendant users and I highly recommend it to all.
How much time do you usually spend prepping your sessions, and how do you go about it?
I spend quite a bit of time preparing g, usually at the weekends. I tend to do some forward planning and note taking a couple of months prior to playing, adding in general campaign details to the site as I go along. Then I also have a skeleton plan of the next few adventures ready a couple of weeks in advance and do last minute stuff specific to the Tuesday session on the weekend before we play.
What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far (please also provide a link if possible)?
I have asked my players to contribute to this question:
Dragathorian (Iwandornless Walderin):
“I loved the most recent adventure with the double shadow dragon … and the Sand Pirates adventure generated tons of cool scenarios.”
(GM: one was a product of Shadow Conjuration)
Morrison (Bartiman Greenbough):
“I enjoyed all of The Margreve (Midgard’s Enchanted Forest) and the fact that we actually managed to get up on the roof of Sharkey’s Alley instead of having to run the gauntlet of traps and deadly dangers – LOLS! That alley was brutal!. I also enjoyed wandering into the Kithi Demon’s camp as a bear and dispatching his dire hyena a hiding in the trees.”
“I have to confess, one of the standout sessions was the last one – getting to be the bad guy for a bit. (My character was possessed by a shadow demon) Obviously, it would have been better if it hadn’t resulted in the death of a PC, but although the cost was high and we lost Iron Wall, it allowed a lot of good character development for my PC. Will the guilt start pushing him towards leading a better life or will the act cause him to slip into corruption?”
“What I like is that we are a neutral party that could go evil, stay neutral or might even turn out good. I suspect we will end up as a party with a mix of alignments. All the characters are distinct and have their own narrative arc and Mark (twiggyleaf) allows us a good deal of leeway to contribute to the overall campaign. The adventures are challenging and the world ‘feels real’ so suspension of belief is easy.”
Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GM’ing pearls of wisdom.
Focus on your players, involve them, choose story over game mechanics, but what I really want to say is for new GMs starting out their campaigns on Obsidian Portal: Use the tools, use the Forums – there are loads of experienced guys there who are more than willing to help – and don’t try to do too much at once! Allow yourself the scope to change as you develop your skills!
Obviously this month’s entry came more than a tad late, and for that we truly apologize. May was a pretty insane month all things considered, and with any luck we’ll see its good aspects more as time goes on, and leave its bad qualities far far behind us. Until next time.