Please join us this month as we sit down and talk to GM Keryth987 about his awesome DFRPG game “Shadows Over New York”. He’s got everything you should expect and more for a Dresden game, dedicated players, and a rich, rich wiki to explore! Check out our interview below!
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 Ego’s? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet? Let us know if you feel so inclined!
I’m from Manchester, New Jersey. It’s a small town at the Jersey Shore, near Seaside Heights (famous for ‘Jersey Shore’, two summers hosting the MTV Beach House, and for the Roller Coaster in the Atlantic Ocean after Hurricane Sandy). Aside from gaming, I make my living as a Technical Writer and Government Contract Manager for a small IT Company. I’m not married, but I do have a nephew who I adore and a 2nd niece/nephew on the way into this world. Online you can find me on Facebook, as well as in many of the popular MMOs – WOW, SWTOR, and STO, among others.
Tell us about Shadows Over New York in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?
Well, the campaign itself was being worked on by me, for more than 2 years. Running time, well, we’re nearing our 6th month of game play – And that’s with a game every week, since we started. The Campaign itself grew out of a love of The Dresden Files (novels and TV Show) as well as other, similar shows/movies, and a discussion or two with my friends regarding what other things might fit into the Dresdenverse. It also came from my tendency to like to mix in different elements from things I enjoy, throw them in a blender, and see what comes up. We tried a version of Shadows previously, a d20 Modern campaign, but it was a bit different, as it also included aliens and sci-fi (the main villains were Rasputin and Diana (from V)). Elements of this previous campaign did make it into the current incarnation however. So, technically, you could say Shadows has gone on about a year and a half if you count the previous incarnation and it’s influence/presence in the current incarnation.
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’re a lucky group of gamers. The group itself has met, every Saturday (with cancels for holidays or a sick GM) since 1991. We range in age from early 20s to late 50s, some players single, others married with kids. A fairly mixed bunch. We’ve had some players come and new ones join, but the core has remained fairly consistent since 1991. And all of us are GMs, so, campaigns rotate every 8-12 months or so, with a different GM and a different system. Our gaming area currently resides in the home of one of our players in Pt. Pleasant, NJ. Only recently have iPads started to show up at the gaming table, which made discovering Obsidian Portal a godsend. Though, other than PDF versions of the rule books, it’s really the only electronic aid we use.
Dresden seems to be a popular choice for modern fantasy and I’ve heard it’s a great system, how do you like it and what do you find to be its strong and weak points?
DFRPG and FATE are an awesome system for running very character and story driven campaigns. It does take a bit getting used to for gamers coming from more rules heavy system. Our group has played 2nd ed AD&D, 3rd Ed, numerous D20 systems, and others, so it took a bit of adjustment. After a session or two, however, things move smoothly, and everyone has a ball. The character creation system is a blast, and is definitely the most fun we’ve had making characters for a game. I will admit though, we skipped over the City Creation part of the system. I handled all of that myself, and then awarded each player who created a location unique to their character, just prior to the campaign’s beginning.
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 for modern style campaigns as well as fantasy, but where do you draw yours from?
Well, first and foremost, the inspiration for Shadows comes from Jim Butcher’s magnificent Dresden Files series of books (and the TV show as well), Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and Highlander (the 1st movie and the TV Series ONLY). Other influences come from many different sources, ranging from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Warehouse 13, to the James Bond Films and 24.
Aside from DFRPG, I’m sure you play other systems too, which ones do you play most?
The original campaign of my Saturday Group was a three year long 2nd Ed AD&D Campaign based in mostly Forgotten Realms Setting. From there we moved on to Shadowrun, then a highly customized Runequest, Classic Deadlands, In Nomine, Battletech/Mechwarrior, 3rd Ed D&D, D20 Modern, Mutants and Mastermind, Traveller D20, Pathfinder, and Weird War Two.
How did you get into tabletop gaming?
I’ve been gaming/Role Playing now since I was in the 4th Grade, and it is all my SCHOOL’S fault. Yes, you heard me correctly, my PUBLIC SCHOOL got me into gaming, specifically, into D&D. When I was in 4th Grade, I was in my schools’ Gifted and Talented program. At the same time, the school was on split sessions (for those of you who don’t know what this means, the school was overcrowded. 3rd and 4th grade had classes in the morning while 5th and 6th had the school for the afternoon). This meant that when the project display in the library happened (mine was a huge dinosaur thing) we were showing projects off with the 5th and 6th graders. Now the ‘older’ kids, were sitting around a table, playing some game I never saw, with funny dice and pencils and paper. I listened in and they were talking about orcs and elves and such. Being a 4th grader, I kept nagging to play. Finally, they caved and let me be this one guys elven follower. We were exploring this cave system and got attacked by goblins (It was the classic Keep on the Borderlands module). I got told to attack the goblin, died, and was hooked. Hit Toys R Us and got my mom to buy me the Basic Set (with the Erol Otus artwork) that night.
Since then, I gamed fairly regularly. Ran a game in high school, played a few in college, organized several Gaming Conventions (with the generous and much needed assistance of my friends) in my home state of NJ (MonCon and ShoreCon if anyone’s heard of then), was VP of my college’s Gaming Club and President of the company running the Gaming Cons.
How long have you been using Obsidian Portal? What brought you to the site and what keeps bringing you back?
I discovered Obsidian Portal a few years ago. Though, at the time, I wasn’t running or developing a campaign, so, my membership was stagnant (and free). Then about two years ago, I began working on a new Shadows concept for DFRPG. I stumbled on Obsidian Portal again, and after looking over several other Dresden sites (specifically Wolfhound’s Dallas site and HumAnnoyd’s Emerald City) was inspired to use OP as the place to organize my campaign. Now, it’s not only going to be used by me in the future for my campaigns, but my fellow players are planning on using it for their campaigns as well.
Your wiki customization is really slick, do you do all that work yourself?
Well, a lot of the graphics work (specifically all the buttons on the site) were done by one of my players who is also a graphics artist. The rest though, is all me – the coding, the layout, the image selection, etc. However, without the wonderful community on OP, as well as the more than generous assistance of Wolfhound, KillerVP, and PhoenixMark, I never would have gotten the look of the site to be what it is. I should also thank HumAnnoyd for his generous use of his parchment graphic, which gets used throughout my Shadows Site.
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?
Session synopsis. While we play weekly, people forget from Saturday to Saturday all the details of the previous week. This used to necessitate a 20-40 min synopsis of what has happened be given each week prior to the game starting. Not anymore. Thanks to OP, I can take my notes right onto the GM only section, then clean them up and post them as an Adventure Log, and its there for everyone to review. As for the rest of the group using it, well, they send me their Journals after each Episode, and I post them to the site. They also notify me of any changes to their characters, but I do the modifications.
How much time do you usually spend prepping your sessions, and how do you go about it?
I have to admit, other than going in with an idea of what the Big Bad Evil Guy is planning, and where it might go, most of my game is done on the fly, in reaction to the characters actions and questions. I have an idea going into each episode of what happened, and what issue is present to be solved, but except for some stats for possible enemies, I do most of it as it comes. Makes for a fluid campaign, where the PC’s are the guides for the action and story. My group really hates campaigns on rails.
So far? The budding romance between our demon summoner, V.S. Ramamachandran, and the reprogrammed (by the PCs) Terminator, Cameron Tam. This is a two fold moment. Cameron was never supposed to be part of the group, until she was rendered inoperable, and then the resident computer hacker (and Victoria’s Secret Model/Daughter of Aphrodite) wanted to reprogram her. And with the assistance of the A.I. SARA (from Eureka, formerly the WarGames computer WOPR), succeeded. So, the next morning, when the menfolk rejoined Da Gurls at Terri Foster’s apartment, they entered to see the ‘killer assassin droid’ cooking breakfast for everyone and singing Broadway tunes. The reactions were priceless – Charles Fisher remained reserved, but surprised; David Lyton had a pure WTF moment; and V.S. Ramachandran barely kept himself from fleeing in sheer terror. Then, as a one-off joke, she mentioned how she had been studying ‘human mating rituals’ on the internet the previous night and was hoping to try them with V.S. Again, V.S. was shocked, but the player of V.S. ran with it (though he did avoid the whole ‘sex with the android who learned everything from Internet Porn) and what was meant to be a one time joke, became something far better. Cameron was the compel (FATE Mechanic that uses an aspect of the PC to cause something to happen) that brought V.S. into Episode 2, she has become an integral part of the party (the PC’s have declared to her they consider he a friend now on several occasions), and is now going to be the cause of some personality changes in V.S.’s character. She’s even become partner to the groups Secret Agent, Jane Blue (another fantastic character, the grown up (and Immortal) baby from the movie ‘Undercover Blues’). I love it when things like this happen in a game.
Are you excited about the upcoming changes to Obsidian Portal?
I gleefully supported the Kickstarter for the reforging and I look forward to the changes coming. I just hope there’s not too much work needed to be done by me afterwards to fix my Shadows Site.
The intro video for your game is a really nice touch, I love when people do this. Would you say it captures the essence of your game well?
I think so. It’s the second video I did for the game. The first one was more of a montage of inspirations. Shots of NYC interspersed with scenes from Buffy, Dresden, Highlander, etc (It’s still on YouTube and usually can be accessed at the end of the Credits Video). Then I got the inspiration to do the Opening Credits, and it just went from there. One of my players, the Graphics Artist, made the pictures for each PC, and I interspersed them in the video following scenes related to each character. I’m really rather proud of how they came out.
Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GM’ing pearls of wisdom.
Always listen to your players and emphasize what they enjoy and try to avoid what makes the game less enjoyable for the group. Be fair to each of your players, allowing each of them time in the spotlight. And always remember, we do this for fun.