Author Archives: Vanillabean

1
Apr

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month April 2022: A Rising Darkness

Legend tells of a time when the Three Worlds of Chornalth – Beregond, Liga, and Krynn, were one. A time when science, not magic, ruled supreme. Of the deity of Destruction, Skotos, and his eternal struggle with the Creator God, Phos. A struggle which ended with Phos sacrificing much of his power to destroy Skotos, shattering the one world into three, ending science’s rule, and allowing magic to reign supreme. Located on Beregond, one of the Three Worlds of Chornalth, this is the world of A Rising Darkness, our April 2022 campaign of the month. Keep scrolling to find out more about this epic campaign in our interview with GM Keryth987 and party!

Thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions for us. So, as is tradition, why don’t you start off by telling us a little about yourself and what you do apart from run an amazing looking campaign and site.

Well, most of my info can be found on my Obsidian Portal Profile. However, I will add this to what is there gaming wise. As for IRL, well, I’m a School Bus Driver by profession, which actually provides a lot of time to think about campaigns. I have a girlfriend I adore and love, though right now it’s a long distance relationship. I have a great group of friends, all of who I met around the gaming table. And then there is my family – parents who supported their son’s interest in this crazy hobby, a sister who let me contaminate her with it, and two amazing nephews who I am working on converting into gamers.

Anyone who spends more than half a second on your site will see that you have perhaps a slightly less than traditional assortment of character races as options in your world. What was the process like for filtering down all of fantasy and scifi to an end result that includes Hobbits, Klingons, and Twi’leks?

My campaign world is part of three shared with two other GMs in our group (Collectively called Chornlath), and A Rising Darkness is only one campaign in one of those three worlds. Beregond, my world, is largely based originally on Forgotten Realms, the other two being based on Krynn and Oerth. We’ve each added things ourselves. As for the races, well Twi’leks and Klingons are only two of the ones I’ve added. The cleric in the group (an NPC) is an Asari from Mass Effect. I’ve also added Night Elves and Draenei from World of Warcraft. Why you ask? Because I think these races are cool and fun. And after 30 years or so of gaming, you get tired of the standard races of fantasy. This can be seen in the makeup of the party in A Rising Darkness. Only one half elf PC, the rest being a Klingon, Asari, Dragonborn, Satyr, and Minotaur.

It looks like you are managing to maintain a weekly schedule. What arcane rituals did you have to perform to lock a group of players into such a regular game? In addition, do you play in person, virtual, or a mix?

Well, we all just make the effort, and always have. It’s no different than someone’s weekly poker game, just more imaginative. Our wives and Significant Others are quite understanding in regards to our Saturday Night activities, which helps as well. However, I think the most important thing is we all feel that the friendship, fun, stress-relief, camaraderie, and memories we get out of our weekly campaigns are well worth it.

I also went to my players for answers there, so, I’ll let them add their thoughts to my response. 

Maltheas:

“We originally went with your standard ritual of “sacrifice a squirrel or pigeon” but that didn’t give consistent results.  I was about to upgrade to “sacrifice a seagull” (not that I really thought it would work but any excuse to get rid of those flying rats, you know?) when the group collectively came to the realization that we all really just like to see each other suffer.  The addition of Vorpal Board (when the electronic gremlins behave) drastically increased the ability of everyone “to make the game” any time family, health, life and/or work prevented someone from being there physically.”

AaronSheffield

“I for one have simply avoided entanglements that would require me to be elsewhere on a Saturday night. Mostly, anyway. I’ve only had to sacrifice one manager to the Elder Gods, because she kept scheduling me on Saturdays.”

Elvathadrin:

“It is a good question, the answer is quite easy, practically everyone at the table is a GM, so we don’t have the issues that many groups do of GM burnout. It also does not hurt that we aren’t set to one specific system like many groups are, we have played many different systems, so we are willing to try other systems which keeps the games fresh. Third we also have a strict set of rules for GMs also to combat fatigue after you have run a campaign which can go from 6 months to a year or more on average you need to wait a total of 2 games before you have the chance to run again.”

Apollodorus:

“One of our secrets is that virtually every member of our group is a GM. It’s not the same GM or the same game system all the time. Over the years, we’ve done: 

– D&D (all editions except 1st and 4th)
– Pathfinder
– Shadowrun (multiple editions)
– IN NOMINE
– MechWarrior/BattleTech
– Deadlands
– Star Wars
– Rune Quest
– D20 Modern
– Weird Wars
– Mutants and Masterminds
– Dresden Files
– Fate Core
– Spycraft
– And I’m sure I’m missing some

When a campaign is nearing its completion, members pitch games that they’d like to run, and we vote on it. And the cycle continues.”

DaveInOCNJ_2k21:

“There are two things a little different about me from the rest of the gang, so my perspective may be limited compared to their’s. First is that I’m the most recent player to join, so I wasn’t there for the 25-30 years that most of them have been playing together. The second is that I have degenerative spinal issues, so although I needed to take around a two year break from the group to work on adjusting to my new physical limitations, the offer was always there for me to return.

That said, it’s always easier to commit to a hobby when it’s something you enjoy with people you like. Everyone in our group is good-natured, likeable, supportive, and we get along well outside the game as well. My first campaign with the group, I was able to make it in person without much issue. But my back got worse and I had to leave during my second campaign. Now I’m playing virtual from home, and while I’m in too much pain to play some weeks, the group is understanding enough to be fine with me missing sessions from time to time.”

For those that aren’t in the know, you’ve been on Obisidan Portal for a while, what is your favorite feature for helping to manage you campaign?

Honestly it’s a toss up between the Logs and the entire wiki. OP lets me organize my thoughts. Lets me actually put down in an organized and coherent manner what I have in my head. And the Logs let me keep track of what happens in a session and have it in an easily accessed location for later in the campaign

In thinking about the themes of A Rising Darkness, what made you choose 5e as the backbone of your ruleset as opposed to starting in Edge of the Empire or Star Trek Adventures and moving the more “traditional” fantasy elements intot hose settings?

First off, my last few campaigns had been FATE campaigns, and I really wanted to go back to my roots and run a D&D campaign. I started the group on a 2yr+ AD&D 2nd Edition campaign way back and it had been some time since I ran a “traditional” D&D campaign in my part of our shared campaign world. We had played 5e in a previous campaign (Shattered Empire, run by Marinex) and I really liked the system. I came into this hobby playing D&D and a lot of 5e hearkened back to AD&D for me, without a lot of the things I didn’t like. Also, I enjoy the streamlining from 3.5 and Pathfinder. Combat moves much quicker in 5e than in previous editions, and with less skills its simpler to figure what skill applies where – which f0r my group is great as we rarely default to dice rolls for anything that can be Role Played out.

What is your current favorite system outside of 5e?

My players might groan at this, but, being honest, probably FATE. I like Dresden Files usage of the FATE ruleset, as can be seen on my 4 campaigns of my Shadows Over New York campaign

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?

The most? The ability to actually put together a coherent campaign. My GM style is very much on the fly and reactionary to player actions, so, OP helps me keep all that making sense. I spend plenty of time running through my head during the week what I’d like to see happen in the next session or two, as well as what the overall BBEG and his cronies are doing, but everything at the table still essentially boils down to me reacting to the players actions.

I know you give credit to a few folks on your home page, but outside of influences and help via the commmunity, did you do all of the design and implementation work on your site yourself or have you collaborated with anyone directly?

Yes. Everything from the layout, to the content, to the videos and images was done by me. I got plenty of assistance from the OP Community, both on the forums and on the Discord, when I was stumped on how to do something I’d want, but the work and design was all me. I’d also like to thank one of my players, Elvathadrin, for always being there when I needed a second opinion on how something I tried looked aesthetically. 

What originally drew you to using Obsidian Portal as a platform for your madness?

How amazing many of the other sights looked initially caught my attention. I saw sights like Wolfhound’s Dresden Files Dallas and KillerGM’s A God Reborn, and I decided I REALLY wanted to do that myself. It didn’t hurt that at the time I had begun, on the FATE forums, to develop locations for the Dresden Files Campaign I was working on. I then found Wolfhound’s tutorial for OP (something I’d recommend anyone who wants to design an OP site look over, even though, since The Reforge, not all of it applies still)and I was off. Then it was just a matter of being able to easily work on my emerging Dresden Files Campaign (which surprised me by winning COTM and COTY)

Back to your game, what would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

Well, the game itself is still kinda young, the players only having reached 4th level as of this interview. However, for me, it has to be the first time the group met with Lady Sorsha, the commander of the garrison assigned to the Town of Goldshire (where the campaign is currently based). The characters interactions with the overburdened Knight was a delight to role play out and hearing the new characters come to life before my eyes was just wonderful.

For this question I’ve again gone to my players and will let them tell you in their own words.

Maltheas:

“For me personally, I think the best moment so far is a toss up between either my wild magic sorcerer becoming blinded for a whole day due to backlash from casting Detect Magic in the ‘primal creation room’ or the point blank fireball on the entire group when trying to heal somebody’s missing 4hp (granted, at level 2 missing 4hp is kind of a big deal but … lol).  WILD MAGIC, baby!!!!”

AaronSheffield (who decided to respond in reference to ALL our campaigns rather than just this one):

“This one is pretty hard to pinpoint, because there have been so many. But if I had to pick one, I’d probably say the time our youngest player finally graduated to be a DM, and completed his first game. Sure, it was a little rough, but it was his first outing, and he managed it from start to finish with a minimum of kibitzing from the table at large.”

Elvathadrin:

“For me it was when my character a Klingon Monk by the name of Torg, gained the second most important weapon to his people a Mek’leth by the name of Hurgh’lI’Iw (klingon, meaning Drinker of Blood), it was gained when Torg went and destroyed the altar/statue to an evil deity the group had stumbled upon, as he was slashing down to strike the statue his weapon was replaced by the weapon slicing the Statue is half destroying it. acquiring the weapon was completely unexpected, yet quite memorable.”

Apollodorus:

“Hard to say, as the campaign is so young yet. Probably the most dangerous moment came when our characters contacted the local (quite powerful) local mage. He was in a very foul mood but had a local girl accompanying him to his tower. She was obviously charmed, and one could easily see where this was going. This could have ended the campaign, but through a combination of tact and firmness we diffused the situation (and got the girl going to her home). This was definitely one of those encounters where combat wasn’t in the cards.

I’d say the best is yet to come, though.”

DaveInOCNJ_2k21:

“I love exploration and discovery in my games, and I am most definitely a fan of the combat for its strategy and it’s occasional “Wow, that made me feel really powerful” moments. But on the rare night when we’re able to pull off nothing but role-play, I sit back when it’s all over and just marvel at our collective ability to be dropped into this fantasy world and have an impact on it with our collaboration and decisions. Sometimes we all come to the same conclusion on how we should handle a particular situation, sometimes it takes serious discussion of our different ideas, and sometimes it even comes down to a vote because there are 2 or 3 viable paths we toss around as potential solutions to the conflict we’ve found ourselves in.

So yeah, I’d say my favorite moment in this particular campaign was the realization at the end of the no-combat session that we’re all vastly creative storytellers. Anyone can roll dice and kill monsters, but having a creative narrative is just priceless.”

Let’s round this out with one of our favorite questions for our featured GMs! If you haad a secret sauce for running a great game, what would be the most important ingredients?

To quote “Dorkness Rising” – Story trumps rules. Have an idea of what you want to do, and nudge your players in that direction, but also let everyone have fun and explore what they want as well. It’s a careful balance. And most importantly, remember, you are all there to have fun. Gaming is NEVER about GM vs Players.

That’s it 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!

Until next time!

1
Mar

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month March 2022- Deadlands: Damnation


If you’re hankering for terrific tales from the Weird West and a campaign with more shine than a silver six-shooter… well sir, tip your hat to March’s Campaign of the Month winner — “Deadlands: Damnation.” Designed by Basileus, GM’d by GamingMegaverse, and populated with a posse of award-winning players, it’s the real McCoy. And bully for you, we get to hear from all of ’em!

Gaming Megaverse: I just want to start by saying that the whole site was designed by Basileus! I loved “Outremer,” his previous CotM winning site, and when he offered to design the site as we were planning the game I jumped at the chance to let him go! So this award belongs to him more than myself!

Before we explore the weird and wild west of “Damnation,” we’d love to know a few bits about the folks driving the stagecoach, as it were. Some of your story is in your Obsidian Portal profile, but what else can you tell us about yourself, your award-winning gaming group, and how you got together?

Gaming Megaverse: My bio tells a lot of who I am, so I will address the group. I started playing with some people in this group in 2011 (CraigCoxson, Gaitkeeper, BlkUnicorn) 2012 (MachineGunHarry) and 2015 (Lurch6571). All of the above were regulars in our “A God…Rebuilt” game except Harry, who was an occasional guest. “Rebuilt” was usually friends of friends, but sometimes, such as the case with Lurch, found through ads that we were looking for players. Basileus I met through Obsidian Portal, but other than a guest spot I made in another game this is our first game together. We take pride in our cooperative world building and gaming- most of the enemies in our games come from the players, as well as most of the plots in general. I wouldn’t trade my group for any other- they are my friends as well! We have been online bi-weekly since 2011, and pre-Covid we would get together in person once/year for a marathon 12 hour session- hoping that will come back this year!

You and your players have wagon-loads of experience with different settings and game systems. For the tenderfoot who hasn’t had a chance to play Deadlands yet, what aspects or mechanics do you enjoy most about it?

MachineGunHarry: I like the primitiveness of the setting. You got a pistol in your hand and somehow you’re supposed to take on the impossible darkness. In some cases your character takes a piece of darkness in order to fight the rest. In a way, we all have a bit of anti-heroes in our characters. I have loved tackling the moral questions in our adventures. Will we be the badass banditos that protect the innocent whatever the cost, or will we be the bastions of civility that ushers in a new Era of modern peace. Fortunately, our group is full of both of these. This makes for good role-playing inside the group that keeps me coming back for more. While our drama isn’t on the level of a soap opera, it feels like a page from a Firefly script. And who doesn’t want a second season to Firefly…even if there ain’t a space ship? I love the exploding die mechanic that allows the little guy to have a remote chance of success. I also love the Bennie and Conviction economy. I play a huckster, a card dealing wizard, where a Bennie can be spent to play a metaphysical card game with a Dark higher power to access THEIR list of spells. So, Bennies make my character have more breadth without having to advance very high. But there is a big risk in doing so.

Basileus: Settings adjacent to the real-world like Deadlands or other historical fantasy provide a level of immersive grounding that even the best “pure genre” settings struggle with. It’s very easy to inhabit the perspective of your characters when you can say “oh yeah, we’re in Seattle, I know what that area looks like and I know what my character would want to do on a random Saturday afternoon”. So Deadlands hits the best of all worlds because you have immersive grounding, wild fantastical elements hiding beneath the surface, and a very compelling central aesthetic.

Gaitkeeper: Cowboy campfire ghost stories come to life, pun intended, is my favorite part of Deadlands.

Faeriemage: It is a completely different mentality to play a game, especially a Savage Worlds game, in which there are no races other than Human. It makes you think more about who your character is in an established world, and who they can become.

BlkUnicorn: The ability to help and enhance each other creates a group mentality I like.

What has been the most interesting or challenging moment of the campaign, so far?

MGH: The most interesting moment for me was when we sent Alphie, the 15 year old protégé, on a mission that really could have killed him. We were on a moving train, and decided that the illegal cargo in the last two cars had to be destroyed. We concocted a plan to have Dan, the huckster, do a “deal with the devil” to be able to cast Wall Walker on Alphie. We almost chose Rain, our Indian Scout, due to her better athletics. But we decided that only Alphie had the knowledge to derail the cars once he got there. With Wall Walker he ran along the side of the moving train so the guards up top wouldn’t see him. Once there he deactivated several traps, unhooked the cars, then picked the lock to reenter the unaccessible car. He pulled off some crazy rolls with several acing exploding dice. It was an epic scene. Though we are still having to deal with the repercussions of such a bold move.

Basileus: I think the most interesting parts so far have been seeing the players (try to) coalesce around what their shared priorities and ethics are, such as what to do about prisoners or sympathetic characters that don’t offer a clear mechanical advantage one way or another. This is doubly true since we have characters who come from different walks of life, and we are trying to give voice to different experiences (age, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc…) while being thrown together in a shared battle against supernatural evil.

Lurch6571: Trying to engage in the campaign with a character that is seemingly one minded in his purpose (GM Note- Lurch’s character is very single minded- or at least that is the appearance- his is the first character in one of my games with a secret bio).

Gaitkeeper: Most challenging moment of the campaign has been solving the riddle of the Mourning Fog. (GM Note- Mourning Mist or Fog is caused by an unsolved heinous murder.)

Faeriemage: I’m playing a teenager. Trying to straddle that gap between child and man makes for a lot of story moments where I can easily swap between a childish character and a more mature one, but dealing with how other people (players and NPCs) deal with my nominal child has made me re-evaluate how I can solve a lot of problems. It’s hard to be forceful when someone basically says, “my, aren’t you just so cute.”

What parts of the game do your players enjoy or engage with the most?

MGH: I love the fact that magic is sort of rare. It makes it more special. In fact, you don’t need super powers or magic in Deadlands to be an epic character. Even though in character we don’t always agree and play into those social dilemmas, we work well together when it counts. Our last battle with a coven of witches showed that.

Basileus: Seeing the long-term consequences/impacts of our actions on the wider world is what motivates me as a player, but I think the things that grab my attention most in the moment are the little details of how the presence of the viscerally supernatural changes the world from what we might expect in a historical setting, and then exploring how to deal with that as a player-character. It’s a good way to challenge your own experiences and explore a character’s perspective.

Lurch: It has the be the psychological aspects, mind games, intimidation and /or persuasion

Gaitkeeper: The players seem to engage with investigation the most – whether it’s mundane bank robbers or ghosts haunting Western towns.

Aside from the great aesthetics of your campaign pages, you also have a useful collection of house rules, which includes rewards for good attendance, log-writing, and an MVP award. What house rules have been most successful for you, either in this campaign or others?

Gaming Megaverse: We started with rewards with “A God…Rebuilt,” and have tweaked them through the years to fit the group and the system. The MVP, log, and attendance awards have been staples, and I recommend that everyone does it- it makes a difference in participation!

The campaign’s adventure logs are the heart and highlight of “Damnation,” and very well-written. Each author has a distinct, in-character voice that makes reading the story a real treat. What parts of the logs have you enjoyed the most?

MGH: Well, I love writing. I put on resumes and applications that I write fiction with a group of amateur writers. I love rubbing shoulders with all the other players. Some are brilliant writers, and all are passionate about creating art in the form of a good story.

Basileus: I really like seeing how other players imagine the fleshed out interactions of characters that are not their own – things like little embellishments on what a PC did that really flesh out the characters and provide a view of how other players perceive characters externally.

Gaitkeeper: The logs I enjoy most are the ones that give wildly different points of view of iconic in-game sequences.

Faeriemage: I personally love that they exist.

You’ve been involved with a lot of great projects on Obsidian Portal over the years, including this campaign. Without giving away the plot, what does the future hold for “Damnation?” Do you have any other projects going on right now or coming up soon that we should watch for?

Gaming Megaverse: The players drive my game, so outside of the big bad guy/girl (who I cannot name as they are not sure who it is yet) most of the future is unknown. The group has a delivery of a sealed letter to make that began the game in Silver City, Idaho, and are currently in Seattle- so that is the one future they know. As far as outside projects I just retired and bought a boat with my wife- we are fixing it up to sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii and then to Alaska- you can follow the progress on Instagram @TTRPGSailor.

Your gaming group is an enviable one and includes excellent writers, designers, creators, with the awards to prove it. We would be remiss if we didn’t ask your team for any gaming advice, tips, or tricks that you’d like to share.

MGH: As a player, get involved. Help as much as you can to make the GMs job as easy as possible. Do it as an appreciation for the other players. I find role playing as a way to fill my need to create. GMs, let your players create. It is so rewarding to build something together.

Basileus: Everybody has different strengths. The best you can do is find a strong central “thing” (theme, story element, aesthetic, etc…) that everyone strongly connects to, and then let each member engage with it in a way that they enjoy. Everyone may be doing slightly different things but they’re getting the most out of their own and each other’s efforts.

Lurch: Voice concerns about player style or attitude that seem to cause discord, before it becomes an issue. Be prepared to take a hiatus if the game or group seems to be dragging. Inject new players to keep the viewpoints fresh and the action changing. Change up the campaign or genre to keep players interested. Find a game system that has the right balance between ease and complexity.

Gaitkeeper: Encourage all of the players to create or design parts of every game. Get people invested, and you’ll be surprised how common good design or good writing can be – and they get better with practice!

Faeriemage: Never be afraid, as a GM or Player, to admit that something just isn’t working. Never be afraid of the RetCon. Sure, it might be weird to suddenly have one character change everything on their sheet but their name, but personality means a lot more than some would like to admit.

Well partners, the campfire’s a-gettin’ pretty low and it’s time for us to turn in. We hope you’ve gleaned some learnin’ from these old hands and we hope you get a chance to read some of their stories. If you’ve found a favorite campaign that’s right as rain in your book, well canter on down to the OP forums and nominate them (or yourself) for Campaign of the Month!

Until next time!

1
Feb

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month February 2022- “Emerald City: Requiem”

There is something green in the heart of Seattle….again! Using the FATE ACCELEARATED Game System, GM HumAnnoyd and his team of players/GMs return to their original 2012 location with an updated system, new members and a brand new OP website in Emerald City: Requiem. What legacy remains in the city after a war between Vampires and Wizards? Are the trolls staying under the bridges? Are vampires still respecting their limits? Will you be the one to give Harry Dresden a call? Read on to get a detailed analysis from the team behind this phoenix of a site.

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

I have been playing RPGs since the 70s when I first ran into a D&D group in a friend’s basement. It was love at first sight. Drawing character portraits for all our characters is one of the main reasons I got into art as a kid. I auditioned and was accepted into an amazing fine arts public high school as a result.

From there, I graduated with a BFA in Drawing & Painting from the University of Georgia, and I did the starving artist thing for quite some time, selling 18 more paintings than Van Gogh.

Of course, he only sold one painting. To his brother.

I tired of the art world (and the south to be honest) and took a huge gamble and moved to Seattle.

Here I managed to find a career doing art & animation for video games and educational programs for over a decade. I have since moved into graphic design doing a great deal of freelance work. Outside of gaming, I am an avid Karaoke singer (I have won a few contests & even got a gig with a local band) and I love art, football, reading, comics, and movies.

Tell us about “Emerald City: Requiem” in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how does it differ from your previous award-winning campaign of 2012, “The Emerald City”?

When the original Dresden Files Roleplaying Game came out in 2010, I knew I had to play it. I love the novels and I went online and discovered a local group who wanted to try it. Within 2 weeks of the book’s release just under a dozen strangers met at a friendly local gaming store and began work on creating a campaign. After some debate we decided to set the game in Seattle. We went through the game’s amazing city creation process with each of us picking a neighborhood and populating it with supernatural characters and politics creating a living, breathing city, The Emerald City.

Over the next 7 years we played that game with new players coming and going over time. Our group had as many as 8 and as few as 3 players actively involved at any one time. The game nearly died off as life intruded and many moved out of town. We were down to only two of us left in the group in 2017. That was the same year that the new, streamlined Dresden Files Accelerated came out. We managed to find a pair of new players and decided we should reboot the game for a fresh start.

At first, we were simply going to use a different city but, as a group, decided against that. Instead, we advanced the timeline for the Emerald City campaign several years into the future to just after the major events of Changes, the novel that concludes the War between the Red Court Vampires and White Council of Wizards. That novel fundamentally changed the supernatural world of Dresden and that informed our Requiem for the Emerald City.

We used DFA’s new Faction rules to recreate the Emerald City’s landscape allowing the new players to put their stamp on the game, made completely new PCs with my Warden character being the only hold-over from the previous game. He was a fundamentally different character though. His magic had been stolen by the Un-man, a mystical mana-thief, and he had become a family man.

So, Emerald City: Requiem is a campaign that has different players, player characters, game system and city politics but it is informed by the events from the original Emerald City.

Unfortunately, both those new players moved out town after just a year, leaving the fate of the Emerald City in doubt yet again.

Fortunately, I was able to recruit MalloryLover23 from another game I had been playing and because of Covid we started playing online. This allowed us to recently bring Lanodantheon, one of the founding members, back into the fold even though he no longer lives here in Seattle.


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

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We try to play every 2nd and 4th Sunday for the last 12 years. Originally, we used to meet in person (either at my old workplace or in my condo) but Covid changed all of that. We now play online through Roll20 and Discord although we are considering other online options.

Justins and I have been in the group from the beginning with MalloryLover23 joining us several years ago, breathing new life into the campaign. We are all excited that we were recently able to reconnect with Lanodantheon, a founding member, who now joins us online from California.


Both your original game of 2012 and the current game use the Dresden Files RPG system, the more recent campaign opting for “Dresden Files Accelerated”. What is it about DFRPG that keeps your group engaged? Tell us more about the “Accelerated” version.

I think the main reason the campaign has been so long lived is that we spent time creating the city’s background and politics as a group. This gave all the player’s agency in the game and a stake in the stories being told. We also revolve GMs with each of us taking a turn at the reigns creating their own “book”

The main difference between the two games is that DFA has infinitely more room for new and interesting stories because of its loose nature. The narrative is not as constrained by rules which has allowed us to create completely original new characters like Justins’ Golem Lawyer, MalloryLover23’s Guardian of the Seventh Gate and Lanodantheon’s magic stealing Kleptomancer. None of which have ever been seen in any of Jim Butcher’s books. Fate Accelerated can accommodate these unique character concepts even better than the incredibly flexible original DFRPG game.


Tell us a bit about Jim Butcher, the author and his body of work. How much do his novels inspire your games? Do you follow the narrative of the books or do you radically diverge from the original stories?

I will let Brad, who is running the current scenario answer that question

When I run, I always go back to the books to see if there is any existing world information so, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The current scenario that I am running (Book 8) only has one bit part character only there for a chapter or two in one book that is vaguely related to it.

Butcher’s writing style has definitely influenced the Adventure Logs when I personally write them. But we are not beholden to the books. We have long accepted that we are never going to line up with the books 100%.


Do you or any of your team actually live in Seattle? Is this important?

Up until the last year we all lived in Seattle. I think this really helps us in the campaign as we can describe a particular street or neighborhood and we all have a familiarity with it.

Looking at your adventure logs, it would seem that you have different GMs reporting on events. Do you actually take turns as GM in your game? If so, what do feel are the benefits/drawbacks of this?

We rotate GMs giving everyone who is interested a chance to craft a story in the campaign. We divide these scenarios into “Books” with each one being a self-contained story that is informed by what has gone before. This is a great setup for us as it allows everyone to have a chance to be a player instead of being forced to be an eternal GM like it is in most games. It also allows us to experience a diversity of scenarios that keeps the game fresh and staves off the dreaded GM burnout.

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

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I will let Brad, who is running the current scenario answer that question:

About an hour per session when I am running, but I can always use more. A typical session of prep for me is going over the previous logs, making lists of potential NPCs and encounters the players are likely to run into and locations they are likely to go. I write down my session goals and think about what happens if my players “jump ahead” somehow. I prep locations by looking at Google Maps of places they are likely to go and figure out where set piece moments could be.

But Players never do what you expect. If the players go somewhere I am not expecting, I just roll with it and follow my Improv Training of “Yes, and…”.

The current scenario (book 8) is a magical mystery, and I honestly don’t know how many sessions it is going to take for my players to figure out the main mystery. I would love for it to go for 3+ sessions before they figure it out, but the players could very well figure it out five minutes into Session 2 by making a Sherlock Holmes-worthy deduction or making a wild guess. I am prepared for both.


There are some amazing design aspects in your campaign (e.g. altered images, rain falling on the main page, great hover links, 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?

I have been creating and refining the look of the campaign for years now. As a graphic designer, animator and artist, I truly enjoy creating the art and animations for the site. I have done over 150 character portraits and 300+ illustrations for the Adventure Logs over the years. I am constantly changing and growing the site as we progress and have completely redesigned all the art for the site three times now.

When I first started customizing my sites, I had no working knowledge of CSS or HTML and, with the help of the OP community I have since added both to my skill set. This actually helped me to land jobs in the real world.

My advice to anyone getting started with OP is to use the community to help them create the best campaigns possible.


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

When our group first got together, I had been trying to keep a word document with all the Locations and NPCs we had created. However, it was unwieldy and disorganized not to mention hard for everyone to access and edit. Luckily one of the original members, Manu, suggested Obsidian Portal to compile all the information we had come up with during City Creation.

I fell in love with it immediately and started using it heavily. Obsidian Portal was so easy to use, and I began tinkering with the CSS to make the game look the way I wanted with help from the OP community. That ease of use, helpful community and versatility of OP is what keeps me coming back.


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

Obsidian Portal has been invaluable in organizing our city locations, adventure logs and numerous NPCs. Having access to the locations and NPCs is vital for the GM as they consider their own storylines When we have had to fill in vacancies as people moved on the Adventure Logs have been great for introducing new members to the game. It allows the players to participate more fully in the campaign than I have ever seen in over 30 years of constant gaming. The access that Obsidian Portal gives us is wonderful for empowering everyone who wants to get involved.


What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far (please also provide images and links if possible)?


Justins:

Because we are a rotating GM game, you really need to have a favorite moment as a player, and a favorite moment as a GM. As a GM, I had a building set up for a heist of some important magical documents. One of the players had his character bluff his way into the security room with some prep, disguises, and good RP. As I said goodbye to half my planned challenges, I was mentally applauding the RP and the character elements to get there.

As a player, my character found his hated foe and long-term nemesis, The Patient One, being held and actively drained for power by a monstrous foe. I made the call to free him instead of letting him be a casualty of the greater threat. FATE is such a great engine for tying the personal into the action, and the action into the personal.


Lanodantheon:

Fergus Mac Cormaic’s wedding was a longtime coming. I was able to come back to the campaign just in time to be a part of it and I am glad that I did. We were wondering for a long time, “What could possibly go wrong at that wedding? It is not a question of if but a question of what and how bad.”. We knew we had to play it out.

Going into the Nevernever on a rescue mission was fun as hell and that Hag was deliciously scary.

Reading through the logs from before I returned, my favorite part of the game was when David Clay faced off against The Patient One and almost got dusted. It was a hell of a setup going into the wedding.

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HumAnnoyd:

As a player on of my favorite moments was when Fergus Mac Cormaic finally decided to come clean about being a changeling to his fiancé’, Anna Maria Avila. Justins was GMing the game at the time, but I had previously roleplayed Anna quite a bit during my last turn at the helm and had really discovered her “voice”. Justins asked me to roleplay Anna as Fergus desperately tried to prove to her that he wasn’t losing his mind. That the supernatural did exist. It was an awkward, funny character moment in the game that I really enjoyed.

As GM my favorite moment was probably when I had a terrorist’s bomb take out a whole building with the PCs in it. Fergus had been separated from David in the blast. He managed to survive along with his rival, Doctor Wotensen, who he bravely rescued despite wanting to leave him behind so badly that he could taste it.

David was able to overcome the collapse of the building as well and managed to shelter Emmie Mercer and get her out alive. It was a fun session that required both players to think quickly to survive under deadly circumstances and it stands out to me because of the unique challenges it presented to them.


MalloryLover23:

Without a doubt, my favourite moment from Emerald City was the infamous hex curse chase. My character had been ambushed and seriously wounded by a ghoul assassin and while being rushed to the local supernatural clinic by my large golem teammate, my character was targeted with a hex curse. Imagine Final Destination meets an on-foot Fast and Furious. Bits of masonry, out-of-control vehicles, suicidal citizens. All these were hurled at us as my partner carried me through the chaos. It ended with me being doused in running water from a demolished fire hydrant (it had been ploughed over by a rogue ambulance that narrowly missed us) to temporarily dissipate the curse until I could be brought to safe and shielded territory. It was just such a wonderful list of compounding disasters that took all our combined ingenuity and luck to avoid. It still makes me chuckle, years later.


Okay, as a returning winner, and also, a previous winner of Campaign of The Year 2020, you must have some shiny “pearls of wisdom” to offer…. Give us your best shot….

I think almost all success I may have managed as a GM has come from keeping an open mind and to listening to what players want. I may not always be successful at doing so. But when I am I find that my players often become more interested in the game because they have agency in what will happen next instead of just being spectators to what the GM dictates. This consensual approach is more satisfying both as a GM and a player and can often surprise the GM of the story as much as he does his players. The Emerald City: Requiem is not just my campaign. It is the campaign of all who took part in its creation and transition from old to the new game and who continue to add to its rich tapestry today. I expect it will continue to grow and change for many years to come.

1
Jan

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month January 2022- “Lakes of Blood and Ash”

Utilizing the Exalted system, Lakes of Blood and Ash is a sprawling story nearly a decade in the making. Nehebkau and their party explore a rich, living world of political upheaval that threatens to fall apart- literally. Navigating this environment is a delicate balance that emphasizes the importance of discretion and soft skills as much, if not more, than martial merits. Read on for a peek behind the screen into the mind of the Storyteller who watches over it all.

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? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet?

A big hello to all the storytellers and writers out there. My name is Chris Rose. I’m a 35 year old science/history teacher, both of said disciplines I use extensively in my storytelling. Married, no kids, my wife is my co-ST and we met gaming online before I moved north to be with her. We are both very dedicated to our craft and talk about the story each night before bed. What odd lives we lead.

In terms of reaching out to me, that’s probably best done on swordofcreation.net where I’m The Gemling Prince or else Discord where I’m Vael, The Gemling Prince#4126.

You use Exalted as a game system- what do you like about it? What would you, or do you, change?

I’ve honestly always struggled with it. I like the world, but I’ve had to rewrite tons of content from mechanics to major canon npcs to work for me. The system has largely drifted towards a more anime power-fantasy style of play reminiscent of Gurren Lagan or DBZ. I prefer to tell my stories in a more Greek Epic or Conan style, gritty and dangerous. I love the setting though and it gives me a lot of material to build my own house with.

It is clear that this campaign has gone on for a while- please tell us about Lakes of Blood and Ash in a nutshell.

Lakes of Blood and Ash is actually a continuation of another story in another Obsidian Portal Campaign of mine, The Silver Princes Awash in Crimson. Across the seven or eight years we’ve told our stories in the same living world. Retired PC’s become npcs, the best npcs, you know their goals and personalities so deeply. The goal is to make a whole living and breathing world, not just a game where the pieces move when the players move the spotlight around, freezing into place as they drift off. It’s ambitious and I’m never satisfied with it, but I view it as my magnum opus that I’ll likely work my whole life on.

The story is told akin to Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time. It pays a lot of attention to sociopolitical issues and the players often find themselves engaged in drama and debate rather than sword and sorcery. The focus is on a group called The Walkers – a group of Luna imbued demigods that seek to offer an alternative to the debt and tattoo binding systems of the Silver Pact.

How often do you play, and where do you play?

We’ve always played weekly for 4-7 hours. We started out on Skype, but when Discord became more popular, we moved there for recruiting purposes and found ourselves way preferring it there. We have our own discord server where we hang out and talk daily, a rarity among such Exalted servers!

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

This actually is a more complex question than one might expect. I work on creating the world more akin to someone running a homebrew game. Creating NPCs and locations for scores of hours in bursts and then putting all of it on the back burner in my mind to enrich it. When it comes to game night, I may have a note card or I may not. Usually, I just wing it because I understand all the npcs well.

How do you know your players, how long have you been gaming with them?

Running the game so long, we have seen a lotta people come and go. There have probably been forty different people move through this game. I’ll just make note of the existing ones and the longest running ones. The only one who’s been through the whole story thus far, four full years in game taken day by day, eight years irl, is my wife. Then there is Bap, who’s been with us for a year and a half. Grad school ties him up a bit but he talks daily even when he can’t play. The third player is Will, who has only been with us for about six months. Everyone was met in an Exalted game first, but a great crew for sure.

I’d also like to credit two others. Heidi/Friti, who may well be back in the game in the future, still in the Discord and just waiting for the stars to align. Then there was Max, who played with us for a long time. He even helped write some locations and was a cool dude.


Keeping players involved is always a struggle, how do you keep them involved?

Well answering this question is going to make me seem a bit of a fiend. I don’t have much trouble keeping people involved. This is because I have an extensive interviewing process before players join the group, and even then, you have to make sure everyone gets along.

I tell people, the intent is to be with a player for 10,000+ hours. You can consider this a relationship or a job. The way we engage with this hobby is not as a distraction, but as artists and creators, with our whole passion. So, those in the game have risen to that call.

You actively use the map markers on your maps- what do you like about them?

I likely have over a hundred map markers. We are always looking at the map and calculating travel times, conducting geomantic surveys, and other such activities. The map and its markers are a great way to keep track of armies and groups on the move and which areas of the map are controlled by which factions and groups of interest via color. Love the map markers and looking forward to every set of new pins that rolls out.

You have a unique log system in your wiki- can you explain how it works?

I suppose I think of my log system as something of a nesting doll. I use images and hyperlink titles to direct readers to areas of interest. Within a category there are further subcategories and these continue to narrow until you are looking at specific people or a manse/fortress. It was a great revelation when I figured out how to put a back button at the end of each article. This allows one to just move to the previous page and navigate much more smoothly through the levels.

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

I believe I’ve been using Obsidian Portal since its inception. What brought me to the site is in previous RPs as a player, I was never satisfied with the dispensation of information. I liked to delve into the npcs and learn more about the locations. This became a more serious concern when graduating from D&D to the Storyteller systems. In terms of bringing back? I never left, I expect my OP to outlive me and just hope there is someone to inherit it a couple decades out.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from Lakes of Blood and Ash has been so far?

First, I have to say, it’s a sandbox game – so the players take a lot of credit for how things play out. That said, there was this time where the players had purchased their way into the college of Raksi. It cost their mentor, MaHa-Suchi a great deal but the whole of university life was very odd to the players. One of the players could best be thought of as Mowgli from Jungle Book all grown up. He brought several animals into the dorms and then started sleeping on the lawn. This saw him arrested by campus security for a 24-hour lock up. Despite how minor the offense and the sentence, the players hatched a huge plot to bust him out. In the end, they left their friend behind and fled to the hills. We are usually very somber and serious, so these occasional silly and light hearted sessions can be a memorable and a good break for the IC stress meter.

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

This game would have likely ended long ago if not for a firm hand. These days, it seems like most games I read about have the ST as nothing but a facilitator for the players with no agency of their own. It is important, even if it’s hard, for the ST to be firm. This won’t be for everyone, but to run a game similar to this one, it’s important to put the story first and be willing to argue your case in that regard.

A second piece of wisdom. It’s common to hear about session zero, but it is better when you can have a session -3,-2, and -1. If you plan to spend thousands of hours with someone, that’s a huge investment and you want to make sure you are a good fit for your benefit and to respect everyone’s time. Always keep in mind too, your players have made an investment and if you respect that, they’ll be much more likely to take ownership and shoulder the many burdens of a long running story.

1
Nov

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2021- Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory

The year is 2375. It is a scant few months since the cessation of hostilities in the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, known as The Dominion War. Many Starfleet personnel lucky enough to have survived and to have even a modicum of command experience have seen their careers and ranks accelerate at a faster rate than would have been possible in peace time. Such are the crew of the USS Odyssey. Check out Mallorylover23 and crew’s adventure into the unknown in our November 2021 COTM: Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory. Learn more about their tales of boldly going where no man has gone before below!

Tell us a little about the people behind the logs? What’s your group like, how did you all start playing together, and what drew you to ST adventures?

We’re a mix of guys who’ve been playing together for a while and newcomers. Humanoyd and Justins have been playing in “Emerald City:Requiem” for more than a decade and I joined them about 6 years ago. Every now and then we take a break from that setting to run a medium length palate cleanser campaign. “Laurels of Victory” was such a game. We’re all fans to one extent or another except for the newest member; SeanP619, who did some impressive binge-watching to get current with us, and now I believe he’s quite a fan of the franchise.

Humanoyd played as Te’Yanah Shran; the Andorian First Officer with serious war wounds (both physical and emotional), Justins played the young and eager joined Trill Ops Officer; Denba Mox. She became the solid and reliable backbone of the group. The one everyone could rely on to be there to provide advice or help. Hummanoyd’s roommate; Mattcarter1 joined us for the first time on this. He did an amazing job playing the ship’s rescued-borg Doctor; Jesse McClain, and always had a dry quip to get us laughing when the group got in a pinch.

An irl friend of mine, SeanP619, rounded out the group with Forrest Kelly: the fresh-out-of-academy helm officer, with a bigoted streak against Cardassians, who he blames for the loss of his family during the Dominion War. His issues surrounding that became a major emotional fulcrum for the entire campaign and led to one of our best episodes. I was drawn to ST Adventures because the system felt robust enough to tackle the scifi elements but was also loose enough (not unlike Fate, which most of us are used to) to allow seamless cooperative storytelling.

How often do you play and how do you generally do so?

I started the campaign in August 2020, knee deep in quarantine, and it had been months since our group had met in person. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get playing at something
and I was the one person with the most free time to learn how to run a campaign on a VTT, which we did. We used Roll20 and met practically every other Sunday except around the holidays. We concluded Season 1 in June of 2021, so this ended up being a much longer campaign than I had originally planned.

So the primary inspiration for the game might be a bit obvious, but do you have any inspirations that might be harder to see? Themes you and your players like to explore or situations you dream would come about in the world of ST?

Well the initial inspiration was actually pretty concrete. I built the campaign around the established setting and publicly available Living Campaign on Modiphius’ website. This is a collection of 20 modules set in the Shackleton Expanse. 10 of the modules are set in Original Series times and the other 10 are set just before the Dominion War. I chose to adapt the setting heavily, since I wanted to not be too constrained by canon, and adapted the modern time modules to be set just months after the Dominion War. This allowed my players to create more compelling backstories, I believe and also left me with more room to break stuff in the modules to suit my own ideas.

I would say the themes central to this first season were almost completely player driven and centered mostly around the process of healing from trauma. Shran lost her legs in the war and has retreated to procedure and rigorous performance of her duties as a shield from her trauma. Dr. McClain is struggling with a new non-binary identity and the suppressed trauma of being assimilated by the borg, all the while doing his best to administer to the needs of his crewmates, despite some of their open suspicion of him. Forrest is having to deal with letting his crew become his new chosen family and later in the season, crossing lines to reunite with the family he thought lost to war.

OK, now for a hardball. Which series is the best(ToS, TNG, DS9, etc.), and who is your favorite character?

It’s not at all a hard question for me. It’s DS9. I understand why some people disagree and I’ll always have a deep love and affection for TNG, since that’s when I first was exposed to Star Trek and I fondly remember sitting with my father after doing homework, to watch that week’s installment. The draw of a new world each week is strong, but the depth of character and nuance of emotions, motivations and more grounded themes of politics and social strife, set against the hopeful and optimistic Starfleet mission really makes DS9 seem far more relevant and accessible to me these days.

Favorite character is a lot harder for me. If I had to choose (and I hate doing that), I would have to say Quark, followed closely by Odo. It’s really their antagonistic relationship that drives so much of what I love in that show that I can’t really disentangle them.

Your LCARS style is phenomenal. How long did you spend building all of the various static and moving bits?

I absolutely cannot take credit for this. It completely lies with Hummanoyd. He does all the layouts and art for all the campaigns we put on OP. He said that this style was by far the most challenging he’s ever done and he wanted me to let you know that it wouldn’t have been remotely possible without the amazing help he got from the OP community.

I love your adventure logs, do you create them yourself, or do you share the load in recording your narrative?

Generally the GM doesn’t write the logs in our games, though that’s not always the case in the Dresden Files game or when I ran Pendragon. For “LoV” One player volunteers to take notes and then the log gets written based off those notes and is usually completed by one of the players, though there are a few logs in this one that are written by all of them, each taking on the log of their own character. I awarded momentum points the beginning of play to each player who contributed to the log, to encourage participation.

As you’ve been on Obsidian Portal for a while, what is your favorite feature for helping to manage your campaign?

For me, it’s definitely the character page. I cannot do without it. It keeps everyone clear on who everyone is and helps me keep my rogue’s gallery organized.

Back to your game, what would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

I actually polled my players as to what stuck out to them most during the season and it was split down the middle; between the two emotional arcs that I think embodied the heart of the season. The first was Dr. McClain agreeing to perform in an impromptu modern Klingon Opera celebrating the exploits of Worf (referencing the excellent DS9 two-part episode; “In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light”) and consequently meeting and starting a love interest with the quirky Klingon engineer; Lt. Olok. Their romance became a pretty hotly anticipated side drama of crossed signals and missed opportunities that everyone got pretty invested in.

Secondly, Ensign Forrest’s breaking of the Prime Directive in Episode 6 came back to bite him in Episode 13. The emotional fallout from his betrayal and then their investigation, and legal defense run by Shran, for this young man’s career helped gel them all together. It all came down to Shran’s closing arguments and it was so close that I had to ask the group if it was alright if I left it to chance and made a roll instead of just deciding his fate. Even though he was unfortunately stripped of his commission in the end, he did avoid being completely drummed out of Starfleet and I’m keeping him in my back pocket for when we come back to this setting. SeanP619 was in the navy irl, and he said it was an amazing experience to play out something he never would have come close to in his career. He was such a good sport in following my hooks and playing the secret betrayer; covering his tracks during the campaign. And he was even more good natured and helpful when rolling up his replacement.

Let’s round this out with one of our favorite questions for our featured GMs! If you haad a secret sauce for running a great game, what would be the most important ingredients?

It’s different for everyone. Some Gms run completely homebrewed settings and I admire them for that. I cannot do that. I become paralyzed with the possibilities and nothing is more frightening to me than a blank page. I pick established settings and in this case very firmly established modules and I take them apart. I use what works and discard what doesn’t and I thread the emotional stories that I insist my players provide me with during session 0 through at least the first several modules. Then I see what happens. I continually adapt and re-break and re-write. All within some boundaries provided by the established setting and the eventual end point the last module suggests.

It is gratifying to hear that the moments that stuck out to my players was what was created from whole cloth by our combined storytelling, rather than any encounter or challenge that I copy and pasted into the adventure. You need to look at that stuff as scaffolding and the emotions and motivations of your PCs and NPCs as the brick and mortar of your campaign, if you want it to be memorable.

Finally, that brick and mortar will not hold if you don’t give your players agency. You might be plugging away at putting up challenges and obstacles, suggesting hooks and strategies or delivering a carefully prepared description or monologue and then a player will come out of left field with something you would never think of. It might feel like a threat to your established tone or how you thought things would play out. Don’t let that feeling make you say the dreaded word “no”. You need to let them guide you. If they throw something silly your way; like “genetically modified space cbd” that’s them telling you that you need to lighten the mood and you should incorporate that silly thing. I know it’s said often, but “yes, and…” is the most important tool in a GMs bag. If there is something that you cannot bring yourself to say yes to, then at least consider saying “no, but…” Avoid saying no to anything but the most obviously disruptive or harmful choices. It kills the mood and shuts down players and makes them feel like they can’t experiment.

1
Oct

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month October 2021- Hogwarts and the Magic of the Founders

Five years have passed after the second wizarding war, and the dust is just beginning to settle. Hogwarts’ halls are again filled with shouts and laughter from a new generation of young witches and wizards. What new mysteries and dangers lie ahead? Fortunately, Marion_c and her party have decided to find out in our October 2021 COTM: Hogwarts and the Magic of the Founders. Using a system created by the GM and party themselves, the campaign follows a group of plucky new wizards as they navigate love, mysteries, power struggles and piles of homework. Learn more about this awesome system and the people behind it below!

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

I usually take about one hour to prepare for sessions, sometimes two hours if there are a lot of things to research and write (or if I want to create a nice map). I rely a lot on improvisation, and I try to prep situations, not plots. Plus we’re using a fairly permissive homemade system which means creating encounters is very easy and can often be done on the fly.

However between “seasons” (basically school years), I take a lot of time to prep the main story lines and I use it as a guide during the following season. I also have a list of mini adventures and plot hooks that I can use whenever I need, and this allows me to give a lot of freedom to the players. This year we’re doing an exchange in Castelobruxo (Brazilian wizarding school), so I had to take a break to create a whole new school, students, teachers and plot ideas, and to do a bunch of research on South American folklore and history.

How do you know your players, how long have you been gaming with them?

I’ve known them since high school, they were the ones who introduced me to tabletop RPGs and we’ve been close friends since then! We’ve had several short campaigns and one-shots together, but this campaign is by far the longest-running one, and we plan to continue it for a long time (We’re in year 3, and we plan to keep going until year 7, and why not beyond.). We’re all big harry potter fans, and this particular campaign (Hogwarts and the magic of the founders) has been running since august 2017, so a bit more than 4 years. It was my first time GMing so I still have a lot to learn !

Playing together has made us stay in contact and grow closer, and we even went on a Harry Potter trip to London together for the new year in 2019.

Keeping players involved is always a struggle, how do you keep them involved?

When we play IRL it is far easier, players are always more involved and attentive, it can be a bit more challenging for online sessions but we try to keep them fairly short.

I know my players are not fans of combat so we usually keep fights pretty short, and I know that they love riddles, puzzles, mystery, exploration and doing mischief, so I try to include those as much as possible. I also try to have story lines that are compelling for their characters and for them, so session zero was very important.

Outside of sessions, we have many creative outlets inspired from the game, which keep everyone involved in the campaign : drawings, songs, memes, short stories … One of my players is even writing a novel based on an alternative ending to one of our sessions, if things had gone differently. It keeps the fire going and it’s a lot of fun.

I sometimes launch “creative contests” where they can create something based on a prompt and it gives them in game rewards. It’s what started the songs actually.

Your wiki customization looks great, did you do it all yourself?

I did, although it’s basically frankenstein code. I didn’t know HTML or CSS at all, so I tried to learn it as I went along and took bits of code here and there, trying to make them all work together. The OP forums helped a lot, but it was a lot of trial and error (and tearing my hair out during debugging!)

It was also a lot of fun to create buttons and a theme for the campaign.

I love the fact that you put a translate button on your opening/front page- what brought you to do that?

Writing a French campaign on an English-speaking website, I thought it would be nice if we could share it with more people ! I actually got the idea from another French campaign that won the monthly a year before I joined, “Les compagnons d’Ailleurs”.

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

Since 2018 I think, I was looking for websites to help organize everything and I read about Obsidian Portal (maybe on reddit ? I’m not sure actually).

The website actually went far beyond what I needed, and I was super excited about everything it offered : the wiki, the adventure-logs, the characters, the secret sections, the customization…

It’s pretty easy to use even for a beginner, and I also love that my players can contribute to the content if they want. It helped a lot with organization and remembering things.

When I started it I really needed a personal project, and having fun creating my OP campaign and trying to learn CSS and HTML was really exciting and fulfilling. I don’t have as much time to spend on it now, but luckily my players help.

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

I asked my players, here is what they said :

Théo (who plays a young werewolf) : That chaotic full-moon night, when my friends moved heaven and earth to try to restrain me and stop me from being discovered, but I still managed to escape and go on the prowl towards the Hufflepuff dormitory. Luckily I was stopped in extremis.

Lohéna : When we flexed on the Ravenclaws by solving the riddle of their common room, which allowed us to enter while transformed into huge canaries. We had a bit of fun and left abruptly, leaving the students dumbfounded. That’s when we got the “Team Canary” nickname.

Dylan : The night we finally took revenge on Dennis, a huge bully, and managed to break into his common room and frame him for a fire, which got him suspended. And also that time I got cursed and changed sex whenever I went through a door, and decided to use it to start a romance and mess around with other people.

As for me, the highlights are all the ways my players make me laugh, they always manage to say or do something unexpected.I try to write down the funny and dumb things they say, here are a few :

“You must know your enemy to become one”
“The only states of a magical school are ‘in danger’ and ‘soon in danger’ “
“I don’t really blame them for locking me in a cupboard”
“It would be so cool if there were nazis in the school”
“It’s inappropriate to show her your gobstones on the first date”
“When a slytherin tells the truth, do they lose housepoints ?”
“Would it be cultural appropriation to write on a papyrus?”

You say that this system was created specifically for this game, based on a classic D6. Please tell us about it.

We wanted to play a harry potter game but we couldn’t find any official system, and the few online fanmade systems didn’t suit us, so we decided to create one. We thought it wouldn’t take us too long but oh boy were we wrong, even the first draft took us months and we continued to work on it little by little as we played. We made a big update to the system last year, and now we’re finally pretty happy with it, although we still have a few last things to add soon.

We were fairly inexperienced when we decided to create it, and one of the systems we knew pretty well was the D6 system, so that’s the main reason we used it as a base. Trying to create rules for the rest of the universe that were coherent with the books and were still balanced was sometimes quite challenging, but my players all helped. And if something doesn’t work well, we just learn from it and try something new.

When we’re finally happy with the final rulebook, hopefully soon, I’ll try to paint a killer cover and then we’ll print it !

Do you use any other games, movies, books, or other media outside of the Potter world to influence your game?

Yes, definitely books, series, games, scenarios from other RPGs (and the structure of those scenarios) , other RPG systems to try and make our system more interesting, and even harry potter fanfictions for mystery plot ideas (but don’t tell my players!). I also go looking for ideas on reddit, or ask people in my life. I try to get every bit of inspiration I can!

A fun example is that in third year, they found the Wand of Kcajabbaw which is a reference to the Wabbajack in Skyrim. It’s a wand that fires a random weird spell, which usually has hilarious results.

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

1) For me the main goal is that the players have fun, but don’t forget to have fun too !
Don’t stress, be kind to yourself and take breaks if you feel GM burnout coming.
At the beginning I prepped too much and I was often thinking “Am I good enough, are the players really enjoying themselves ?”. Because of that it was quite stressful and I often had a big dip in energy after each session. It’s much better now, and actually we have begun to end each session by thanking each other, it’s a small thing but it’s really nice.

2) Communication ! Session zero is super important, it allows you to know the expectations of your players, to set yours, and to get to know their characters and their motivations. A lot of issues can be avoided later if these things are discussed first. Also try asking your players for feedback and ideas regularly.

3) Don’t prep too much and be flexible. Try to see what your players enjoy the most and interact with spontaneously.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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