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The official blog of the Obsidian Portal.
28
Nov

OBSIDIAN PORTAL CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR 2022

Get ready to cast your votes! We have 11 amazing campaigns that have been highlighted over the past year as winners of our Campaign of the Month, and we need YOUR help in deciding which one will reign supreme as the 2022 Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Year!

Competition opens on Monday December 5th and is comprised of our eleven 2022 “CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH” winners. Voting is open to anyone who wishes to contribute. Look out on the OP Community Forums, the OP BLOG, Facebook and Twitter for more.


Competition closes Monday December 12th. One vote per person. The WINNER will be announced on December 15th! Best of luck to our contenders!

Prizes include:

– Memorable Monsters and Extraordinary Expeditions from Crit Academy

– Tome of Adventuring Design by Mythmere Games

-Remarkable Inns and Remarkable Shops from Loresmyth

– Wally DM’S Journal of Puzzle Encounters from Wally DM

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from Obsidian Portal

1
Nov

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2022: The Curse of the Crimson Throne

“Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten.” Thus, will you read as you enter the kingdom of this Pathfinder campaign set in the frontier land of Varisia. The inns are plentiful, the adventurers bold. GM Mogo‘s frontier city of Korvosa is both resplendent and magnificent, but a dark secret hovers over its royal bloodline, with many of the citizens whispering in hushed tones of what they have come to call The Curse of the Crimson Throne.

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming?

Mogo: Well I’m Mogo and I’m from Indianapolis, IN I’ve been GMing for 16 years now, outside of gaming I do IT work for clinical research. I’ve been playing tabletop rpgs since I was 12 and in college I slowly became the forever GM for my friends. I don’t mind the title or role, I love weaving stories together and ensuring everyone is having fun.


Tell us about your version of “Curse of the Crimson Throne”. The Campaign is a well-known Pathfinder Adventure Path, but how much does your campaign stick to the structure of the book and how much is your own home brew? Also, what made you choose a Pathfinder campaign in the first place?

Mogo: That’s the great thing about Pathfinder 1e’s campaigns, there’s a lot of space to expand and fill in with your own content. For the overall plot/story I’m probably around 70/30 on keeping to the books and my own material with where we are now (Book 2). That’s going to be subject to change depending on the decisions and actions of my players. I figure that by the end it’ll be around 50/50 – a lot of being additions to the story but I do have a few BIG changes planned for the plot.

I’ve been running Pathfinder 1e since its beta days and my friends I are all still in love with the system. I’ve run and am running several other campaigns but Crimson Throne has always been on my list to run. It’s definitely one of the best ever published by Paizo, it gives you such a rich setting that can be made to feel so alive.


How regularly do you play, and where do you play? Tell us about your current group of players.


Mogo: We play once a month in person at my place. I’ve basically turned it into a nerd’s dream space for gaming within my size and budget limits. Our sessions are usually around 7 to 8 hours with a break for dinner – often times we pitch in and/or get some sort of meal that fits the theme setting of the current session. Recently they were at a cattle ranch and one my amazing players fixed a giant barbecue feast!

Speaking of my players I have four regular members and two who drop in when they can:

Sarcy plays Dagi and Taice – they’re our group’s resident artist. All of the original art on our site is their work; they’ve also helped me with making props, maps, and painted miniatures. This is their first ttrpg and they’ve really gone all out using it as a creative outlet, even as far as making amazing themed meals for several sessions.

Konquerer plays Estha and Jaier – he’s probably our most experienced player and has been my best friend since grade school, he’s been one of most prodigious writers and has been creating an amazing amount of short story content to fill in the background of our world.

Rob plays Aventus “Pip” Thorne, and Darby Goodbrew – Rob is the king of puns and bad jokes. His writings and roleplay are often a trap for me as at times they’re powerful and compelling then suddenly blindside with a joke that can leave the whole table laughing.

Jake plays Volturio Sura and Floriano Bellucci – I sometimes suspect he thinks he’s the hero of the story. (I’m kidding! …mostly) He’s also contributed write ups for the story and his penchant for accents (good and bad) crack us up and keep us immersed in the story.

There is a lot of great artwork in your campaign. Although some of it seems to be drawn from lore on the internet, much of it seems to be original. Who is responsible for this and how integral is this original artwork to your campaign?

Mogo: There is a lot of internet inspired lore but all of the original art is from our resident artist Sarcy. Their art draws us all deeper into the game and gives it a feeling of being alive/real that’s hard to fully put into words. Any art you see in the adventure logs from them and are considered part of the official canon for how our world looks. Their comics are drawn straight from the shenanigans of our group (often using the actual facial expressions of the players as guides for how to draw their characters.) In addition to the “canon art” they also make a lot of funny/meme humor art for us – I think at this point there’s over a hundred pieces. We’re lucky to have them in our group. (They’re open for commission as well if people are interested: [email protected])


Your campaign seems very much focused on the trading city of Korvosa and the wiki shows great detail of this. There is a particularly wide range of Inns, Taverns and Shops described. How important are these in your roleplaying? Do you have any great “tavern tales” or “role play moments” to share with us?

Mogo: Oh lord, where to start? The Inns and Taverns and Shopping in Korvosa come up quite a bit. I’ve tried to make Korvosa as “alive” as possible instead of just a flat background. The players are all currently residents of Tenna’s though one of the best tavern tales happened at a place called Bard’s End. There is an adventure log of it on our portal but to tell it in short I had let them all know at the start of the game that they should probably think up a name for there group as word is going to get around the city about their exploits.

If they didn’t want a name to be given to them by one of the newpapers they best think of it themselves. They had been debating for over a year with no clear decision when one of them took it into his own hands. Rob/Pip took advantage of an award ceremony following a jousting contest he had won to announce to the world that that they are the Wyldcats. We’re three or four games down the road from it and I don’t think anyone has forgiven him for it though the laughs and jokes about it are flying back and forth – no hard feelings in the real world but in game I think he’s lucky they didn’t lock him in a trunk for it.

Sarcy: Probably Dagi’s best tavern tale was winning a city wide drinking contest against a duergar black smith at Bard’s End during the end of our infamous “festival episode”.

Jake: One that really stands out to me is at the start of book 2 when the party escorted Trinia out of town to safety – something about a group of friends on a long roadtrip together in the form of a wagon ride, lots of idle time spent chatting, playing cards games in the back, trading off between driving the cart, hanging out in back and bonding really paints a vivid picture. The fact that to some (Volturio in particular!) it’s a super fun roadtrip vacation and to others (Pip especially!) it’s a cloak-and-dagger smuggling of Korvosa’s Most Wanted in direct defiance of the law of the city really adds depth and dimension to the experience. Sarcy’s comic really sums it up well!


Who is responsible for your campaign WIKI design? Can you share any useful “design tips” with other OP members?

Mogo: I build and maintain the wiki; I spent about two months before our game started building the obsidian portal website. The forums and various guides were a huge help, the community overall was fantastic in providing support and advice on building everything – I’m still learning new tricks all the time. Tags and hyperlinks are super useful. The biggest help for a GM has been the ability to have a GM secret for each entry as well as whispers for when I want to secretly share something out to a specific player or if they want to give me a little bit of secret intel.

Some of the other great tricks for me have been the ability to embed images, pdf’s, and expanding drop downs of information. Check out my front page and house rules sections for some of my favorite organizations:

Main Page
House Rules

Something else we really like even if the edges are rough is the items tab, it’s been super useful!

The Adventure Logs in your campaign are very rich and very varied, and all seem to have good involvement from your players. How important are the Adventure Logs to your campaign?

Mogo: The Adventure Logs were actually the entire reason we started using Obsidian Portal. We wanted a shared space where I could prep everything and to which everyone could add their own notes/content. They’re absolutely vital, I use the GM sections to write out my notes pre and post-game, we go back to check on previous events and I love that I can set them to GM only and use them to plan ahead. They’re a life saver for a GM with a knack for frying hard drives and/or losing his notes.


There is also some great Art and Cartoon work in the Adventure Logs? Who does this? How much time is spent on it? Both the art and the writing seem like great fun, do you discuss it in during your gaming sessions?

Mogo: Like I said all the original art is from Sarcy – have I mentioned lately how amazing they are? The art comes up all the time in games as reference, commentary or sometimes all of us just fanboying over it. We’ve been known to group text each other when Sarcy posts something new.

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

Mogo: I’ve been using Obsidian Portal for about 5 years now. I first learned of the site through a couple friends after a fiasco with One Drive and a dead laptop lead to a massive loss in content I’d been writing for multiple campaigns. This site is such a fantastic mashup of a blog and wiki data base for games which can be used as heavily or lightly as you like. It’s been a life saver for me in helping me keep track of logs for games and keeping all my notes together and linked to each other with tags and hyperlinks. As the world’s unluckiest gm when it comes to hard drives you’ve no idea how grateful I am for it. I have four campaigns on here as well as a space I’ve made just for one-shot modules.


If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?

Mogo: For me, the biggest thing is keeping my notes in organized and in one place. As a forever gm who’s always running at least three campaigns at once it’s been a life saver.

Sarcy: As a player my favorite part about having OP is having a place to put my Character information, we can do Adventure logs, secrets, planning of our own, and having reference to SO MANY things in the campaign for whenever the creative mood strikes is amazing, all in one well organized place.

Jake: My favorite feature of the OP site is with the adventure logs – there each of the players and DM can add the vignettes, background stories, details of things we don’t necessarily see during the sessions and so on. When the game only takes place once per month, having someone in the group post something every week or so really helps keep the game fresh and interesting to where everybody’s super excited once it’s time to get back to the table.


What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far?

Mogo: Do I have to pick just one? I think the thing I’m proudest of is my in world newsletters that I write up, post, and print out for my players. They always insist on starting the game by having Jake read them aloud in character. But the biggest highlight for me has got to be Sarcy’s poster they made to commemorate our 1 year of gaming together. It’s not often the GM gets to be in the artwork and depicted how he sees himself.

Newsletter Link!


Sarcy: There has been so many! I absolutely have a couple favorite sessions but what I really enjoy are moments when I get sucked into the story and forget I’m just rolling dice at the table. There was a session where Dagi’s love interest was threatened and the panic and blind rage I felt was really a testament to Mogo’s story telling. The second time was the panic and fear when the big bad from Dagi’s past came back as a ghoul and nearly did her in. I visibly paled when I saw the pawn go out on the table.

Jake: The daily ritual where the group settles around the breakfast table and Volturio reads out the two newspapers while they all hold their breath with dread or excitement to see what kind of shenanigans ended up with good exposure, bad exposure or if they managed to skirt beneath the radar. One thing particularly strong about this campaign taking place mostly in the same city is that we get to see direct consequences of the things the party does – relationships with NPCs build and grow out into depth and nuance you don’t normally get with adventures that just go from set point to set point and just return to a home base briefly between books.

Okay, as a last question, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What GM insights can you offer the community this month?

Mogo: I’ll pass on the best lesson I ever learned from the GM’s who taught me:

“Make the players feel like they’re the heroes of the story.”


It’s such a simple thing but it can often be overlooked.

Remember as the GM your biggest responsibility is to ensure everyone at your table (including you) is having fun. We’re playing that’s the whole point. Sure you can write up gut wrenching emotional scenes, create horrible, enraging villains but at the end of all of it the point of this whole hobby is to have fun. Check in with your players and with yourself now and then to make sure it is, you’ll thank yourselves later.

That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

20
Oct

Update Post – October 20, 2022

Hail, Portal People!

The season clock has chimed again, so it’s time for another reckoning. See below for all of the new features and bug fixes that were added to OP since the previous Update Post.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to post them in the Community Forums, or email support directly at [email protected].

1
Oct

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month October 2022: Wildside

It’s time to clean up that chrome and run the Seattle shadows with “Wildside” — October’s Campaign of the Month, by two-time winner, Dropbeartots. If you’re looking for some paydata on slick site design and some advanced advice on running Shadowrun 6th World, this is the plex for you. No SIN required…

Hail, Dropbeartots! Congratulations on winning Campaign of the Month for a second time — a rare achievement! “Wildside” is a Shadowrun campaign exploring the dark future of Seattle’s urban sprawl. Can you give a quick recap of the campaign story and what it’s about?

Thanks! Can’t tell you how proud this makes me 🙂 Of the campaign, our group, and all that we’ve been building with Wildside!

The campaign started with the idea of remaking some old SR3 characters a few members of the group had a looong time ago back before OP was even a thing – Gex the Snake street shaman, Malvain the elf street samurai, and Abraham the elf adept. The act of rebuilding these characters from SR3 to SR6W was interesting to say the least. Then they were joined by Dot the troll decker and Bobcat the techno-rigger to form a group.

The campaign has largely followed the PCs’ (mis)adventures starting with the job that cemented them as a group that I called Sweet Tooth, in which they liberated ten tons of rare real cacao from an agricorp and delivered it to an unknown Johnson. They later learned that Seattle-Carnation developed a particularly delicious new chocolate milk after this job.

They have also dealt with having a hand in Seattle gaining its independence from the UCAS (and all of the good and bad that entailed), stealing a dragon’s egg (Urubia), rescuing an ingénue from her abductors in Chicago to deliver her to a dragon (Urubia), meeting up with an independent underground trog rock band (Hez Nation), dealing with bug spirits in Detroit, messing with Humanis Policlub, exploring Toronto during a power outage while it was infested with dark spirits, rescuing one of the two lead singers of Hez Nation from a corporate kidnapping, stealing an ancient treasure from the Fourth World for Harlequin from right under the nose of Arleesh, and stealing a dragon’s egg again (recovering the egg they had stolen from Urubia back from the Sea Dragon)!

We started Wildside up in early 2020, took a short break for Hazard Pay to try something different in 2021, and then started up again at the beginning of this year. So it has been ongoing for close to two years now. Along the way, the PCs have gained and lost contacts, friends, enemies, lovers, Heat, and street rep.

The Shadowrun setting is rich enough that almost any modern-day issues can be explored, with some tech-fantasy twists. With “Wildside”, what kinds of themes or plot ideas have you enjoyed creating the most?

Mainly the dragon stuff 😀 The players and their characters had been walking on eggshells, guarding their thoughts, and trying not to let Urubia realize that one of their first few jobs was stealing her egg while at the same time later working for her. I think it got pretty tense more than a few times. But I really enjoy setting up the group to expand their horizons by personally meeting and interacting with creatures that are above and beyond the normal human power struggles of corp and government that you find in a lot of campaigns – dragons, immortal elves, free spirits, and the like.

I also enjoy exploring the interactions between different variations of metahumanity. In particular, I am fond of Orks and their struggles. Hez Nation was one of the most amusing creations to come out of this game for me.

If I ever get to sit down and play in a game, I have a Cascade Ork I’m ready to jump into some vehicles with to run a wheelman!

If you could bring one element from Shadowrun into the real world — either magical or technological — what would you choose?

It’s my favorite game world of all time, and I’ve been heavily invested in SR since 1E. I can’t name any one specific thing above all others tbh, I love all of the aspects of the game world and love bringing them all to life. While in reality I’d be a wage slave in the SR world I’m sure, I’d like to think I would immerse myself in VR hacking and cyberdecks or rigging if they were real activities.

We already know a little about you from your previous interview. Any news to share since the win for “Hazard Pay” in 2020 or has time just kind of flown by (like it has for many of us)?

Not much is new besides my employment status changing rapidly numerous times. Bobcat’s player, my fiancé, has taken up travel nursing so we’ve recently traveled to New Mexico. This has put our in-person gaming on hiatus, but we expect to get back to it soon.

Shadowrun sometimes requires a little bit of extra record-keeping, and we’ve noticed that you built special sections just for Karma, Reputation, and Heat — an excellent idea for GM’s and Players to keep a running tally for just about anything. Can you talk us through briefly how you made those customizations?

I had to do a lot of experimenting with inspecting and figuring out how to best use the Custom Navigation options. I created a separate wiki page for each of those sections you mention and more, and then added them to the front page navigation so that the players and viewers could see and interact with them. I used the OP page detailing available icons to grab those icons for use. I’d like to experiment with some custom icons as well.

Many of your Obsidian Portal campaigns including “Wildside” have a lot of style. Everything from the font choices to the artwork to the layout seems to “fit” the campaign in question. Do you have any tips you can share about how you make it all work together? Or are there any go-to online resources that you rely on for cool imagery?

I am pretty finicky about finding fonts to use that are thematic to the game, setting, and campaign that I run – Google Fonts is an invaluable tool for that. There are some that get repeated, but I generally try to use something at least a little different for each site. As far as the artwork goes, I just do a LOT of Google Image searches until I find something that feels right – sometimes the stuff that pops up happens to actually be for the setting or game I’m building the site for! I do like deviantArt a bit, and Artstation as well. I try to be very deliberate with the art choices based upon the mood and feel of the site I am building that I want to convey.

What highlights of the campaign have you and your players enjoyed, so far?

I have enjoyed the interactions, the double- and triple-deals, the intrigues, and the combats. SR6W provides, to me, a very interesting addition to character capabilities with the new Edge actions. It’s quite a task to remember them all, but boy it’s fun to see them in use!

Dot reports: “The chocolate heist was a funny shadowrun, just so unreal to think of such a thing in real life that it feels like a highlight to me.

Gex reports: “For me it was running around a powerless Toronto. It was a change from the norm, no power no vehicles possible zombie like outbreak with a mystery of why everything was offline. We didn’t do it for the money either.”

Malvain reports: “My personal favorite moment? When that one dragon (Arleesh) came after us after the river man sold us out and I just nonchalantly walked right up to her and said, “Look if you are gonna kill us and take it hurry up, I don’t have all day.” And walking away unharmed. It was kinda just a full circle moment for me, we were out matched and still felt like just going out like a badass and somehow it went the other way.”

Bobcat reports: “Stealing a dragon’s egg.Twice.”

Abraham reports: “I like that we basically ignored all of Robert Charette’s original truism. Especially dealing with dragons.”

Anyone who looks at your profile page on OP can tell you’re one of us — a hyper-creative individual with a lot of work already on display. Are there any ideas floating around in your head for future games that you just haven’t gotten to yet? Or are there any old campaigns that you’d like to revisit and re-work at some point in the future?

As one can see from all the games I’m working up on my profile (and those in Support know from the number of games I have requested to be added 😉 ), I have a ton of stuff running around in my head that I will probably never really get around to running or playing. But I have loads of fun building the portals themselves, and every one of them is a learning experience.

I have something brewing for an old game nobody I play with currently has even heard of… oh, they have heard of D&D 3.5, but not Iron Heroes. I feel the need to run a swords & sorcery low magic fantasy game after all of the high magic 5E, SR6W, and SB&CS that I’ve run lately. So building The Ashlands will be my next big project (expect to see a request to add Iron Heroes soon 😉 ).

My next Shadowrun game is already up and in planning – California Dreaming, a different sort of SR game and a revisitation of one that started at some point in the past but never really floated anywhere. Instead of ‘runners shooting people in the face for money, the characters will be vault divers in Los Angeles, fighting with critters, corpus, and fellow vault divers to uncover the treasures of deluged LA in the aftermath of The Twins, a pair of big earthquakes that buried half of LA underwater. I’m looking forward to getting that one off the ground!

If you like Shadowrun, feel free to check out the game I’m running for my Shadowrun newbies called More Things in Heaven and Earth! As I noted previously, our in-person gaming is at a standstill for at least three months, but we will be back to it soon.

And I’ll probably be reworking a lot of the portals I already have set up over time, trying to improve on them before I start approaching running the games. The Cyberpunk RED and Fading Suns sites especially!

Lastly, Obsidian Portal is always looking for tips and tricks from the best game-makers and site-designers. Do you have any pieces of advice you’d like to share that you’ve learned in the last couple of years?

Steal everything you can that looks cool!

Inspect, inspect, inspect!

Get on the forums and ask questions. Get on the Discord and ask questions. There are so many helpful creators on OP, they are super helpful and willing to answer questions, and portal building can be really fun!

Keep learning and practicing CSS and textile for your portals. The more I practice and learn, the better I feel about the things I am creating with them. I feel like I’m still a beginner compared to some of the folks here, with a lot more to learn. I have honestly been really surprised and humbled both times that I’ve unexpectedly learned that my portal was selected to be Campaign of the Month. But it does make me proud of what I’ve managed to grasp and accomplish.

And my utmost respect and love goes out to my friends, my players, for helping create these amazing adventure with me.

We’ve pulled too much heat on this run, chummer — it’s time to bail. Many thanks to Dropbeartots and his players for giving us a T-bird tour of the Seattle shadows and SR6W. We’re looking forward to seeing more of your games in the gritty future. If you have a campaign that the 6th World needs to see (including your own), be sure to nominate it on the OP forums and keep a cybereye out for updates on our Campaign of the Year vote. Until the next run — stay meshed!

1
Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2022: Merovia

It’s that time again, another month and another opportunity to celebrate some of our amazing community! This month we take you to the world of Merovia, where GM rappt0r and his party explore a complex world of magic and adventure. Created and refined over several years- and several campaigns, our interview barely scratches the surface of the mysteries to be uncovered. Read on to find out more about how rappt0r and crew have built an incredible, evolving world and the stories that lie within.

I have to start by asking who does the coding for this campaign- it is really unique!

So, all of the coding is done by me. I spent a lot of time with the tags because I feel like it helps me keep track of events and smaller threads. I created a google sheet that actually auto-builds the code once I have all the parameters in place. I would like to add even more, but I think I’ll need to go back and thin out the code where necessary. I also recommend w3.school and textile-lang.com/doc/definition-lists.

Tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? Where can we stalk you on the internet? What do you do aside from gaming?

I am originally from the US, but I moved to Sweden 6 years ago. I’m a Swedish Citizen now and it’s been a very rewarding experience. On Instagram, I am @Rappt0r.


Apart from gaming, in nearly all forms, I would say attending metal shows. With all the different kinds of gaming and designing I do, it can be difficult to get outside. I sunburn easily 😉

You run D&D 5E- What do you like about it? Are there any things you dislike about it?

I started DMing during 3rd edition. I loved the crunch of that edition, but for many, it was daunting. I found that new players struggled to find the class combinations that were actually worthwhile as well as the magical items necessary to lift some into a decent tier of play.

5th edition offers a streamlined system that is much more accessible. Yes, each class peaks at different points, but generally under level 15, I have found it’s more balanced than the previous editions. I also find that Homebrewing for it feels very comfortable. I use 3rd edition as a backbone for some of my rulings that fall outside the RAW.

My largest complaint would be how long it’s taken for the Psion (Mystic) to get its final version.

How regularly do you play?

My last campaign lasted 57 sessions and we met generally once a week. That took about a year and a half given people going on vacations or illness etc.

How did your group meet, and how long have you been together? You have a group of 11- how do you manage such a large group?

Many of my players were in my previous campaign (In the same realm), but the new players are coworkers of mine who heard that I was DMing and wanted to give TRPGs a shot. So, my group is technically 6, but I have had sessions with 11 people. Those were all-day sessions back in college and the best way was to group them for different encounters.

The balance is taking that group to an event, explaining the issue, and then bouncing to the other while the first group makes a plan together. This makes it difficult to counter any silliness, but it also keeps you on your toes and can be quite exciting. If one group gets into combat, without the others, group enemies with the optional rules and switch back to the other group every 2 rounds.

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?

Obsidian Portal has been an amazing host for the content that I am making. It feels like my own little corner of the internet alongside many other brilliant DMs. Some have contacted me and we have had excellent conversations about planning and world-building.

My players don’t normally write anything on the Merovia site. They have access to their character’s page, but everything else is strictly me. This has been daunting and a lot still remains up in my head, but I try to create relevant pages as soon as possible. I will often make pages in advance, make them DM only, and then open them up after an interaction with an NPC that explains the details.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

Oh geez, alright this will be a big list. However in order to clarify, remember that when designing, remember that most fiction can be translated by changing aspects of the setting. My inspirations are generally every piece of fiction that I enjoy.
Anime & Film: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Seven Samurai, Curse of the Golden Flower, Pulp Fiction, Steins’ Gate
Games: Dark Souls 1-3, Bloodborne, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Metal Gear Solid 1-5, Mass Effect 2.
Novels: The Dark Tower series, Dune, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, The Well World Series.
Music Lyrics: Kamelot, Amorphis, Machinae Supremacy, The Sword, and Rush

How much time do you usually take to prepare for a session?

So, for my weekly 3.5 hour session, I prep for about 5-7 hours. This includes brainstorming, fact-checking, and dungeon building. Streamline your process by using real-world maps and reading about the history behind them.

Aside from DnD I’m sure you have played other systems too, what are some others you enjoy?

I have played GURPS, d20 Modern, Mutants & Masterminds, Pathfinder, Starfinder, The Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Shadowrun, Vampire V5, and Wrath & Glory (before the rewrite). I have enjoyed each

one of these systems in its own right, but my heart is with 5E.

What would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

I would say that the final session of my last campaign was the best moment. Essentially, the party had gotten to the Shard of Creation(the MacGuffin crystal) within a flying city, “The Last Bastion of the Giants”. The cursed Druid accidentally pulled aggro from the Giant King which dropped his HP down to single digits. He ran and took the crystal which prompted the King’s legendary action. By “light spearing” the druid, he was overtaken by the cursed wolf pelt which brought forth a fallen angelic being.

Now the room held a furious fallen angel, a giant mage king, and the other members of the party. On top of all that, the flying city was now falling into the valley below given that the crystal was no longer in place.

In desperation, the Rogue Phantom was able to communicate with the Druid’s spirit and looted a single coin from the body. That coin was a gift given to the Druid for a good deed in session 2. The coin was received in session 16.

With a flip of the coin, time rolled back 24 hours allowing them to correct their final encounter. It brought everything full circle, it was an amazing moment that sat with them for months now.
The full Adventure Log is available for viewing on the Merovia site.

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

Plant seeds. So, for me, the most important thing for making the world feel dynamic is by mentioning ideas, npcs, scenarios, and items that MAY become relevant later. Mention them early.

As any seasoned DM knows, there is always the chance that the players will go off script and pursue a lead that, to you, was irrelevant. You make those moments pivotal for these odd times by bringing something back that you mentioned previously. Maybe they met a throw-away NPC near the beginning of the game, bring them back if they would be great for that scenario. In a way, it follows Chekhov’s gun. Hopefully, this will make it easier to plan for follow-up sessions.

That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

1
Aug

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month August 2022: In Over Their Heads

“To admit defeat is to blaspheme against the Emperor.” ~Imperial Army Doctrine

Welcome to the 28th Chalkydrian Drop Regiment! Often outnumbered and outgunned but never outmaneuvered. Troopers of the Imperial Guard fight and die facing the many horrors of the Spinward Front. They are often In Over Their Heads so they rely on comradery, black humor and as much firepower as they can muster to see them through the bleak universe of Warhammer 40k.

Charge up your Tri-plex Pattern Lasgun, check your grav-chute and get ready to give your life for your Emperor! Continue reading for our interview with GM JayDoubleA to learn more about the exploits of these brave soldiers of the Imperium!

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Life partners? Family? Where can we interact with you on the internet?
Answer

First off, thanks for this award. I know there are a lot of amazing campaigns on Obsidian Portal, so to be selected from all of them is quite the honour!

I’m a veteran RPGer, in my late 40s now, and been enjoying this great hobby of ours for some 35 years or so. I was born in Liverpool, but grew up in the Netherlands, moving back to the UK in my 30s. And back here I met an amazing woman who happened to feel the same way about me – we’ve been married for over 12 years now, with four kids (one of whom is a player in In Over Their Heads).

Outside of this, I’m a web developer in my day job (which will be relevant later on in this interview), I play guitar and bass (currently between bands), and I try to run and hit the gym a couple of times a week.

I don’t post on Twitter, and my Facebook is pretty locked down (unless they’ve reset the privacy settings again), so your best bet is to message me here on Obsidian Portal.

Tell us about “In Over Their Heads” in a nutshell. How did it come to be? What drew you to Warhammer 40K? How have you hurdled the issues of rank that often plague a military campaign?

In a nutshell? It’s a squad of Imperial Guard, and their adventures – or rather the mission they are sent on and the moments of R&R in between. There are “on base scenes”, where they try to navigate base politics, rivalries with other platoons, and getting shouted at a lot by their drill sergeant. And then there are the “on mission scenes”, where frightening amounts of firepower get deployed on either side.

I played the original Wahammer 40K back when I was a teenager, and kept semi-in-touch with the Games Workshop hobby since then. When I came across a link to the totally amazing All Guardsmen Party (http://www.theallguardsmenparty.com/), I was inspired to try my hand at running one of the 40K RPGs. My regular player group was up for giving it a go, so I started prepping.

Handling the chain of command has proven to be fairly easy so far. Their platoon commander is woefully inexeprienced, but is smart enough to actively seek the input of his NCOs, which includes two of the PCs. And these PCs’ players are then able to take input from the rest of the group, to steer their Lieutenant in the “right” direction. The more senior officers assign the mission and objectives, but are otherwise smartly avoided by enlisted troops not wanting to get into any unnecessary trouble!

How regularly do you play, and where do you play? Tell us about your current group of players.

Since I also run RuneQuest at the moment for my main group, and one of the players in IotH has his own campaign he runs, we aim to play Only War every third session. In an ideal world, that would be every third Friday. Obviously things come up every now and then, but we are doing every third game, rather than every third week.

Some of the group are people I originally met through playing AD&D back in Holland, around 25 years ago. Others are friends I have made since. The old crew from the games back in the day got a Mage game (not run by me) and a 3rd Ed game (which was run by me) up and running about 12 years ago, after reconnecting through Facebook. We used Skype, as that is what there was back then. Force of habit has kept Skype as the main platform, though I have recently been introduced to just how much better Discord is. I sense a change might be imminent for us..

We’re a pretty mixed group, spread out across the UK, the Netherlands and Israel – we’ve got computer programmers, a maths teacher, a Games Workshop store manager – but we all share a love for both the storytelling and the social side of things. I’ve found pre-game banter needs about an hour to be factored in when planning the sessions, as we’ve got a whole week to catch up on with each other before we kick off.

Alongside Skype, IotH uses Owlbear Rodeo for the maps, Google Jamboard for quick diagrams, and a custom charactersheet/diceroller that one of the players and I built in .net/javascript/sql.

Your campaign is notable for its many design innovations, with lots of CSS usage! Lots of boxes and custom buttons, which adds to its look. Where did your design knowledge come from and what advice can you give to new GMs wishing to improve their sites in similar ways.

This is where I have to give a LOT of credit to Frak_Lou_Elmo, who’s one of the players in this campaign. He jumped on the Obsidian Portal site as soon as I created it, and much of the original look and feel comes from him. He’s also added a lot of content – I told the players they should all feel free to add any stuff they liked regarding people, places, etc., as long as it didn’t contradict canon. Several of the major NPCs and the entirety of their regiment’s home planet, are player created, and I love them giving this input to the game.

As I mentioned before, I am a web developer by trade. Although my qualifications are all in server side programming, I have been doing the job for well over a decade, and have worked around some very talented and helpful people. I’ve picked up a lot of css and other bits and pieces over the years, and it’s been great having this opportunity to show some of it off just for fun. Doing the IotH pages all in css, without being able to just launch piles of custom javascript at every problem made it a very interesting challenge.

For anyone looking to tune up their sites, I’d say to ask – I’m happy to answer questions – and look at how other people have done things, e.g. grab the css from my site (https://inovertheirheads.obsidianportal.com/custom_css) if you want to see what I did – and find some online tutorials on the basics of css and the DOM if you are a total beginner. But most of all, don’t be afraid to ask someone how they did something.

How valuable do you find being Ascendant? What do you find to be the best features?

You know, I wasn’t sure what the specific benefits are. I “ascended” ages ago, because I wanted more image storage space for a previous campaign I was running. When I started on IotH, I already had the benefits, so took them for granted… Knowing how unhelpful this answer must be, I went and looked them up.

Undoubtedly the custom css, alongside the increased storage. Without the facility to let my creative side run wild, the IotH site would be functional, but nothing that really stood out.

How much time is usually spent preparing your game sessions? Describe a typical session.

There are ideas being considered, scenes pre-emptively being played through, all kinds of things going on in my head well in advance of play. Usually I will sit down for a couple of hours the evening before the game and put down notes, maps, find ambience and sound effects, stuff like that. A lot of my prep gets revealed in adventure log posts after the mission is completed. I have learned not to overprepare, though. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan in any RPG session, so having ideas for scenes and moments that can be put into the story however it might unfold is more useful than mapping out an entire session that will never end up going the way you thought it would, in my opinion.

We’re only a few missions in, so I don’t yet know exactly what would be typical, though I suspect the format of the current mission may be repeated a few times. Starting on the base, I have a number of scenes prepared for the PCs to interact with others on the base, either solo or in pairs. These are often continuations of previous interactions, e.g. a lieutenant from another platoon trying to get cooperation for some illicit trading of materiel started in the first session, whilst still on board the transport ship to their deployment. All these scenes are time-boxed to a few minutes, to prevent this part of the session from taking over the whole evening (with several bored players being reduced to spectators for hours at a time).

After that, there would typically be an on base scene or two involving everyone (e.g. a training montage, a night at the bar), then the mission briefing… and then we get to the shoot-y, kill-y, die-y, explode-y part, where tactics and dice rolls take over and the bodycount increases at an alarming rate.

In a way, it’s probably not too dissimilar to a session in many games, whatever the genre. You do stuff around your current base of operations, you find out what the mission/quest/job is, you hit the action. The most significant difference, given that this is a military game, is that a lot of the planning is taken out of the PCs’ hands. They get given the plan by their commanders, but still need to figure out an effective way of implementing it and coming out of it alive.

There are some amazing design aspects in your campaign (e.g. altered images, music videos for the different characters etc.) Who is responsible for this, and what words of advice can you give to aspiring creators on Obsidian Portal, who may not have a design background, but are wanting to improve the look of their sites?

Frak_Lou_Elmo has to take a lot of the credit for that. He had a lot of these initial ideas, which I was then able to use my technical knowledge to build upon. The theme songs section was entirely him, as well as much of the layout, the military font, and a load of other input. His hard work inspired me to put in more work of my own, and we have built off each other since we got going with this. To be fair, can we accept this award jointly? He deserves at least as much recognition as I do for this!

The advice, once again, is to ask. I am more than happy to help people, and if I don’t see your forum post, message me directly!

https://www.w3schools.com/ has some great tutorials for the basics of html and css – and a lot of what makes the IotH site work is that I wrote custom html, rather than using the text editor and its own markup. Once you’re comfortable with the basic html tags and assigning them classes, you can start messing with css. Trial, error and have fun! Oh, and learn how to use your browser’s developer tools so you can experiment with changes in real time.

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

I’ve used it and dropped it (laziness, there is no excuse) for past campaigns I have run, and used it as a player in friends’ campaigns. It was initially a friend’s game that introduced me to it, but I keep coming back now because we’re making something special with IotH, I feel. And I’m having fun doing it, adding to it, and see how far we can push the boundaries of what can be done with the Obsidian Portal platform. Getting player input (such as rotating the adventure log write ups) goes a long way to counteracting the laziness factor, too!

If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?

One thing? It helps me get the ideas out of my head and somewhere where they are more accessible to my players, and where they can be looked up without having to personally remember every detail. It’s like the most glorious notebook a GM could ever wish for.

What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far ?

As I mentioned, we’re only a few sessions in, but we’ve had a couple of memorable moments. I am going to invoke GM’s ego prerogative here, and say that for me, the highlight has been playing the NPC Sgt-at-Arms Williams. He is entirely and unashamedly a genre transplanted version of Battery Sgt-Major Williams from the old BBC sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum”, complete with shouting, abrasiveness and deep baritone Welsh accent (which I do extremely poorly, but very enthusiastically). It’s great fun (and somewhat liberating) having an NPC like this that you can be really over the top with, totally hamming it up, and the PCs just have to take it, because he outranks them.

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

Accents – develop a few. It doesn’t matter if they are any good (most of mine are truly terrible), as long as they are consistent. It adds so much to a recurring NPC if they have some kind of distinct voice. Even more so in games running online.

Listen to your players – often they will plan for something, or mention something. And sometimes this something is actually a far better idea than what you had planned. Which leads us to…

Be flexible – no plan survives contact with the enemy! And even though the players aren’t your enemies, they will scupper your plans in a multitude of creative ways. Roll with it, ride it out, have fun, just never fully take your hands off the wheel. You are still the final arbiter of what happens; just remember that the story is fluid, not set in stone.

Timeboxing – one on one (or two) scenes can add a lot to the story. But remember that means the rest of the players aren’t involved. I try to limit scenes not involving the whole party to a few minutes each, with an onscreen stopwatch to keep track of time spent. Obviously developments can take you past that limit, but try to stay within it wherever possible, to keep the game moving for everyone.

That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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