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1
Jun

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2024: The Planewalker’s Guild

After escaping the shattering sky, why not travel the multiverse with a group of Planewalkers as they move from Sigil to the Plane of Air in search of a notorious serial killer. Join up with previous “Campaign of the Year” winner, Dungeon_Master_Loki, and let him guide you through transitive planes, observing the “Rule of Three” and the “Unity of Rings, as part of The Planewalker’s Guild, in a pay-to-play campaign that has been in existence for a year and still has spaces for intrepid adventurers, as they travel to discover the Riven City of Bleurophil.


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?

Well, I’m an 8th generation French Creole from New Orleans and I’ve been gaming since the late 1970s. When Hurricane Ida hit I was an idiot and rode it out (NEVER try to ride out a Cat 4. Period). I relocated to Cincinnati, a city I had lived in for a few years about a decade ago when my ex wife was in school.

Professionally I work as a freelance game designer and copywriter, I run paid games online and at conventions, and I teach Introduction to Game Design at the University of Cincinnati. I also spent many years prior to that working in music and in online PR. I even worked through the pipe bombing at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta.

When not gaming I am a huge media buff – music, books, film, etc – with a long standing love of science fiction, satire, and what my friends refer to as “the weird shit”. I have a huge love of alternate histories and time travel stories (I have every surviving episode of Doctor Who for instance). This obviously shines through in my game design work as well, much of it being planar strangeness. I also love to cook, although I must admit I rarely do so when it is just me.

Alter egos? Well, I got the nickname Loki about 25 years ago while working at the House of Blues and have used it as my byline since if that counts. I do have a long suffering girlfriend, who plays Lenata the cleric in The Spelljoined campaign. The vast majority of my family is in the New Orleans area back home, except for Puck and Gremlin, my atrocious felines and editorial assistants.

Find me online? While often in need of updates, Planejammer.com is my main home on the web. My most used channel is Discord (DungeonMasterLoki). If you want me to run a game for you or join one of my paid games / campaigns you can find me through my profile on Start Playing Games and on GRIPNR. I’m on Facebook, but don’t often friend people I have not met in person or had extensive interactions with. (This is especially true with the combination of election season and use of AI rising as the year progresses.) 36 of my titles, books I’ve authored or contributed to, are here on DriveThruRPG and I am deeply thankful for every sale and review!

Please explain the basic concept of your game plan for The Planewalker’s Guild. The game seems to have been running for a year. Give us a few hints about the Planescape scenario.

Most of the games I run take place in a shared multiverse, usually centered around Spelljammer and Planescape. The Guild game is one of those. Massive changes are afoot across the planes, extremely destructive (one might even say apocalyptic) changes.

The past year of play started our heroes out as new initiates of the Guild in the wake of Planescape’s Faction War. One of their early missions had them become eyewitnesses to an interplanar incursions that “shattered the sky”. They are currently in the city of Bluerophil on the Plane of Air tracking down a serial killer during the equivalent of Maridi Gras. They have to stop him from completing a cycle of ritualistic murders that will call down the Planebreaker. Future adventures will vary thematically as the [lot of this game and the overall metaplot evolve. I predict between two and four more years for the campaign if we maintain a twice a month schedule bringing any PCs that make it to a solid 20th level.

While there are missions for the Guild I essentially run sandbox style player driven games. RPGs are collaborative storytelling when at their best, so the contributions of my players not only determine the overall direction but also create lasting effects on the in-game universe.

The opening page of your campaign says “Contact Dungeon Master Loki to book your game today,” with the link leading to a professional Game Master page under the “StartPlaying” banner. Please share with us how all of this works.

Well, like many freelancers, income is sparse and times are more often tight than not. Running paid games for companies at Cons and online games through Start Playing Games and GRIPNR helps keep the list on in the design mines. Since the game takes place in my ongoing shared multiverse that means I have hundreds of pages of background info, NPCs, etc available instantly on Obsidian Portal when I need them. All my players share the trait of zigging when I expect them to zag, so being able to pull up everything when they do is invaluable.

As to how it works, I post games online as I create them and those people looking for DMs contact me directly through the site. Cost per session is up front as are reviews of the DM by former players and a capsule review of what the game or campaign is. I run a safe table – LGBTQIA friendly and accepting of all and I require my players to abide by that. Both of the online platforms mentioned above also take care of billing and payment, allowing me to focus on creating something worthy of said payment.

When a new player joins the game I start with the player’s concept, and I encourage people to go big with ideas, which I then help them translate into an effective build. I then get them to write of a background which I then tweak in order to root them more firmly in my setting and provide hooks for personalized subplots down the line. Using Obsidian Portal we have a central place for character sheets and a wiki for the “in use” house rules.

I know there are some that find the idea of paying for a DM to be anathema, but there are a LOT of folks out there who cannot find one, have no one nearby, or other valid reasons. Besides when paying they can demand a certain level of expertise on the DM side of the screen.

Presumably, your games are all run ONLINE. You mention that you primarily use a “Theatre of the Mind” approach, but that you also use battle maps and tokens. You have listed platforms like Discord, Skype and Zoom. You also have “Owlbear Rodeo” listed. How much do you use a platform like Owlbear Rodeo, and how useful is it to your team?

I started playing in the late 70s and Theater of the Mind is the old school way. If you do it right it makes for fantastic immersion. I usually only pull out battle maps on Owlbear Radio when it is an extremely complex combat or a massive narrative moment. I personally find it to be my favorite of the online table top options due to its simplicity. While it has none of the bells and whistles of things like Roll20 it also does not require extensive learning to use. Players can log into your map from a link that you generate and immediately have control of their token. I find that with online games it is especially important to minimize dead time, even more so when being paid for the session. What you lose in bells and whistles you get back in the speed of play that you gain.

Your current player list comprises 6 players. Did they all start at the same time? I note on your StartPlaying page, you still have space for 2 players. Would 2 new players just slot in to the current game, or how would you go about that sort of integration?

Most started at the same time, two started later, and one left due to health issues and has just returned to the table. At the time I’m writing this I do still have two slots open.

When a prospective player contacts me I help them to develop their character concept and bring them in at an equivalent level. (That is why the guild membership is the baseline, it makes it more logical as faces come and go.) I use a good bit of third party material so I can usually find acceptable rules for implementing most ideas.

Your campaign “Planejammer: The Spelljoined” won Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Year in 2011, and it is still running. How busy are you with your various campaigns? Do you have any player crossover between the campaigns? In what ways does the new campaign differ from the old one?

The Spelljoined is my main personal game and the baseline of the shared multiverse all my games inhabit.. It’s on its 8th generation of players and has been running almost non stop since 1979 (there was a gap of about three years in the early 90s). That is the umbrella setting I mentioned before. While the Planewalker’s Guild are facing one aspect of the great multiversal disasters, the Spelljoined are currently in an alternate universe (Gamma World) trying to stop a massive mind flayer plot. Characters cross over between games fairly frequently, and events in one game do influence the others. I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of having a number of guests from the industry sit in on sessions. For instance in one game I not only had X-Crawl creator Brendan LaSalle join us for a session set in X-Crawl, but also M. Nystul joined us playing his Nystul the wizard character (which he played at Gary Gygax’s table) for an epic evening on Greyhawk.

The Spelljoined are 16th level characters with Mythic Ranks doing the crazy, gonzo, multiverse hopping stuff. Bouncing through the alternate realities when not in Sigil or the Rock of Bral. The Planewalker’s Guild is 6th level and operating in the Planescape/Spelljammer setting where evidence of the big battles of the Spelljoined are starting to manifest. The Dept 7 game is set in a variant of Dark Matter where the effects of these conflicts are bleeding through the multiversal barrier, etc. Each group is seeing and fighting different aspects of the Really Big Picture(™).

One of your Player Reviews in “StartPlaying” says that you often reward players for work “outside of the game”. Is this reward given in Experience Points, or do you have other rewards? How much “outside of the game” stuff does the current group engage in?

Work outside of the game includes things like journals and art, in character stuff that contributes to the world. These rewards are usually in the form of bonus Mythic Points or story driven rewards. It is NOT required. If I used XP that would also be on the table as reward, but I use milestone levelling. I find that removing combat xp from the equation encourages non-combat solutions. I don’t get much in the way of submissions from the paid gamers, but in my home game there are a number of players who keep journals and contribute art. We even have a full tarot deck that uses PCs and NPCs from throughout the years that one player made over Covid lockdown.

You have been with Obsidian Portal for some time now, so how would you say it has changed over the years, and why is it still a useful site for someone like yourself?

Over the past decade plus I have seen it evolve a good bit. The Reforge was an exciting time that ended with dashed hopes as things deteriorated for quite some time. When the current team took over and things became more responsive to the community and its needs I was thrilled. I had stopped using it and when I checked back looking at an old wiki I discovered my favorite organizational tool had been resurrected. The current team has my thanks for making my favorite organizational tool viable once more!

Most mission critical parts of Op? The wiki, the ability to keep secrets between players and DM, and the Adventure Logs are all endlessly useful to me as a DM. Especially juggling notes and details, not to mention conversions, that have accumulated over the decades of play.

After all these years of being a member, If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal currently helps you with the most?

The Wiki and privacy controls, hands down.

I note from your Adventure Logs, that your group has currently entered “The Riven City of Bleurophil”. Tell us something about that. How did they get there, and what do you think lies in store for them.

This adventure is a follow up to one I ran for a prior group. It came from Tales from the Infinite Staircase and presented the Riven City and the original serial killer. The Guild players are operating 25 years later when a new killer is trying to complete the ritual slayings, and the history of the prior crimes was established by the prior group’s actions. It is my own follow up and recontextualizing of the original adventure.

The players were sent there by the Master of the Docks in the City of 7 Seraphs (one of my creations in that book) and their Planewalker’s Guild superiors to do recon. As some of the only eyewitnesses to the Planebreaker’s transition through Elysium they are considered the closest thing to experts available. Now they’re discovering some of the bigger picture. As for what awaits them? That depends on their actions. Will they stop the Gasping Strangler’s successor from completing the dark ritual? Will they see the Planebreaker shatter the sky again? Will Geeta ever stop complaining? A lot can happen, and the stakes are rising rapidly. Let’s just say that there is potential to gain Mythic Ranks in their not too distant future.

The whole “Planescape” scenario was created in Dungeons and Dragons, and yet you are using Pathfinder for your campaign. What were your motivations for this, and did that mean you had to do a whole lot of stat converting?

I’m used to it. I’ve written professionally doing work in Pathfinder 1e, Starfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Cypher System. I also grew up hacking my RPGs in order to do crossovers back in the 80s. The meta campaign began in the late 70s and has evolved with the times. It started in White Box D&D, quickly shifted to AD&D as the hardcovers were published. The 3.x era was the sweet spot for us in many ways. When 4e hit it did not fit our playstyle so we bounced over to Pathfinder 1e which is what I run them under currently. I’m seriously considering using Rob Schwalb’s fantastic Shadow of the Demon Lord rules for the next generation.

I have an entire wiki of conversions I keep private since it is a lot of IP from various source materials that I do not own (i.e. Greyhawk, Spelljammer, etc.)

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?

Don’t be afraid to improvise, just take notes as you do because you’ll probably need them later. Yes, even the throwaway NPCs. Don’t say no, say “you may try”. Give everybody spotlight time. Be kind to your players and an evil bastard to their PCs. Most importantly: KEEP IT FUN!

May your 20s be both frequent and natural. Loki out.

Thank you to the community for making this campaign of the month possible! That’s all for now, join us on our next adventure July 1st, and don’t forget to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

1
May

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2024: The World of Elurah

Flickering candlelight illuminated the sage’s page as he worked his quill furiously over the parchment’s surface. He squinted with the effort of finding the right words to put to page and illustrate his thoughts.

“Hope here is not yet extinguished. While civilization is taking its first tentative steps towards recovery, danger lurks around every corner. The monsters of the Dark Tide have not disappeared and even in the reclaimed land nature’s wrath and magical anomalies pose formidable challenges.”

His hand paused as the dinner bell rang, and sighed.

More of his thoughts would have to come later. He signed the page, “LucasValenti”.

And more writings would soon come… join us as we talk to LucasValenti about The World of Elurah and read on further into his scrolls of knowledge!

Q. Congratulations on The World of Elurah’s selection as the Campaign of the Month for May!

We’d like to get to know more about the icon behind the GM Section! Tell us a bit about LucasValenti… 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?

A. Thank you! I wish I had some sort of fascinating story to tell but at the end of the day‒surprise, surprise‒I’m just a huge nerd. I live in the Seattle-area of the US with my girlfriend. She and I have been together for the past 8 years. We spend our days playing TTRPGs, making geeky stuff and annoying our cat, Ashamane. My day job is in construction, where I model out plumbing systems for commercial buildings and hospitals. Exciting, I know. I partake in the SCA (Historical re-enactment, check them out!) and do a bit of cosplay. Outside of that, I just love making anything and everything. We’ve got an array of laser engravers, 3d printers and other funs toys. Drawing, painting, sewing, sculpting, resin casting, leatherworking; we do a bit of everything. She has recently relaunched her business and we’re starting to set up booths at conventions and are working on setting up an online store where she sells dice bags, gaming accessories, hand-made dice and art. Check out Celestial Peryton on various social media to see her stuff!

Here’s a small portion of her dice collection that has gradually taken over our hallway over the years. Many of the sets here are various experiments we’d made over the past few years learning how to mold and cast resin. Not featured are few large cookie jar-sized containers filled the brim with more dice and a few bags scattered around. She’s recently been upgraded from Dice Goblin to Dice Dragon on account of her horde.

We just spent 4 days at a local convention called Norwescon. I don’t tend to meet a lot of players outside of my game group and social media, so it was a great experience. It was a ton of fun to spend a few days chatting with a bunch of other gamers and talking about character creation and world building with everyone that stopped by our table. Everyone was super friendly and really excited to just spend some time geeking out about shared interests. It was also really promising to see so many newer players that are just getting into gaming! I got to feel like some kind of wise old sage dispensing out advice, haha. The event went really well and we’re looking forward to doing more soon!

Q. The World of Elurah is a Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign. For those in the community who have not yet seen your site, and reveled in its glories, tell us a little bit about the setting you have created for the game, and what sets it apart. How did you create that awesome map? Where did you use Inspiration most during your campaign’s creation? Was it gained through Bardic Inspiration, or did you earn it through your pursuit of an Ideal?

A. Right, so on to the real reason I’m here. Elurah, as a setting, is something of a life’s work. I’ve been playing TTRPGs for the past 20 years or so and started GMing shortly after starting. Even before that, I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy literature and D&D, in particular. I remember reading Brian Jacque’s incredible Redwall novels in elementary school and later moving on to the Shannara books, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. So, when I started actually playing D&D in my early 20s I had plenty of inspiration to draw upon. The first game I ever ran was in a small kingdom I created called Hairen. As I went on to run other campaigns I started sprinkling in NPCs and small nods to the games I had run before, which eventually led to everything naturally interconnecting. Finally I just sat down and officially tied all these disparate stories and locations together and Elurah officially was created. It all happened rather organically. But I can only take proper credit for the structure. So much of the world and its background owes to all of my players over the years that have added to and “lived” in it.

And then there’s the stealing. We’ll call it inspiration. There are entire swathes of the world that reflect what my current interests were back when I was making those parts of the setting for a campaign. Names and locations based on a game or a book series I was into. Character that were tweaked slightly and dropped into the world, etc. I used to try really hard to make everything new and unique and different. Eventually I realized that I didn’t need to try so hard. Tropes aren’t strictly a bad thing. When my players catch on to references to Monster Hunter or Warhammer 40k or other things, they aren’t upset or call me lazy. They see them as fun easter eggs. Heck, a lot of the original lore was just directly ripped from the Forgotten Realms. Kailea is just Netheril with a new coat of paint slapped on it, amongst many others. But all of those things are what me and my friends enjoy, so I want to bring those things in and have fun with them.

The gist of the setting, in the current timeline, is that it’s set after the Dark Tide, a massive magical apocalypse that unleashed hordes of monsters across the world. For the past few centuries, civilization has been relegated to living in massive walled cities (there’s that “borrowing”, again). However, the current period sees the world beginning to reclaim what was lost. Trade routes, while dangerous, have been re-established. New towns are being built and old ones reclaimed. There’s something of a tension to the setting, a precipice where they’re on the edge of either reclaiming what was lost or losing it all again. The through-line of this setting is this delicate thread of hope the world managed to weave, and whether the players are able to preserve and strengthen it. I didn’t want a setting that is full of grim chaos and despair. That period happened in the skip of the old version of the world to the current time and the effects of it can still be seen, but I wanted to provide my players with a setting that can grow alongside their actions.

The current main party is trying to piece together sparse information from the lost period of time and figure out the origin of the Dark Tide. This was the first game I started in the current timeline after the setting jumped ahead a few hundred years. I was stagnating on stories to tell, so I wanted to shake things up and create an opportunity for a bunch of new mysteries and plotlines. The appearance of the monsters that swept over the continent and how the world got to the point it’s found itself in are two of the biggest mysteries.

Meanwhile Hairen, due it its isolation, was spared the brunt of the Dark Tide and is even somewhat prosperous. Currently the party there is working to unravel an ominous prophecy with grave implications. This was my original setting I made years ago. Back then the campaign was called the Sundered Kingdoms. But due to the players in those original campaigns unifying the fractioned nations and re-founding the kingdom, well….it wasn’t very sundered any more, haha. This part of the setting is a little more advanced after the skip, with a strong budding aetherpunk vibe that I’m really into.

Lastly, the disparate shipwrecked crew on Haven have uncovered a secret that could change the course of the world. The mysterious vanishing island is, in fact, one of the lost floating cities of Kailea. With the help of an Archmage they woke from a magical stasis, they’re working to restore the arcane engines that power it. However, the Archmage guiding them may not be quite what he seems. This game has been fantastic. It’s the newest one I’ve started and we’ve only been player for 5 or 6 months. My players are all my GF’s family, from be brother and sister-in-law to a cousin and her nephew. Aside from myself running and Skylar playing, everyone else is basically a brand new player. So it was a lot of fun to create a game and really focus on building an experience tailored for teaching and slowly introducing them to mechanics and concepts of the game. Everyone really seems to be having a great time so far, and the setting itself is a lot of fun. The island is designed to be something of a…limited sandbox. I wanted to give them the ability to explore and hunt around without overwhelming them with too much content. But, as with the other two games, everything here ties into the overarching plot of the setting. In fact, this game will probably have the most immediate impact on the world depending on how it resolves.

As for the map, you can thank Inkarnate. Huge shoutout to them and their tools. I was able to take years of hand-drawn maps and notes and combine them all into the current version on the site! I’m really good with character illustrations and creature design. I have come to realize over the years that I am…not a cartographer, haha. I was able to find a map on Inkarnate that was pretty close in overall design to the world and was then able to import and modify it to reach the version you see now. Though, the way things are going in-game, it may be due for yet another redraw soon. Here’s one of my older maps from when I was first trying to transition over to digital and attempted to update the map of the Sundered Kingdoms. It’s not…the worst, but the new version of Hairen is clearly much, much better, haha.

Q. How did your group meet up? How often do you play? What are your sessions like? I would be very interested in seeing some Adventure Log posts in the future about your group’s trials and triumphs – does anyone in your group plan to take on a role as Chronicler?

A. Currently, I have 3 groups all playing in different parts of Elurah, with a total of around 13 players spread across the different games. Some of my players are friends I’ve known since I was in school, used to be co-workers at previous jobs, or were just friends of friends. We play in-person, weekly, which means I’m currently running 3 nights a week. It’s a ton of work, but I genuinely love DMing so I don’t have any plans on slowing down. Our average session is about 3-4 hours. We’re all quite tight-knit, so our sessions tend to be quite relaxed and most of us have been playing together long enough that we just sort of have a groove we fall into. Lots of jokes, teasing, goofing off and we play some D&D in-between. We skew more towards roleplaying, so there are many nights where we don’t even throw all that many dice and just enjoy interacting with the characters and world.

As for and Adventure Log…I have plans! Before anything else, I have to give the biggest shoutout to one of my players, Seoc. She’s been playing with us for well over a decade now, and she takes the most meticulous notes. We’re talking stacks of binders over the years, hundreds of pages for each game. Check one of these things out!

There have been times where I’ve been struggling to remember the name of some random NPC from a single session 5 or 6 years ago. She snags a binder from the shelf, spends a couple of minutes flipping through some pages and BAM, there it is! I seriously cannot throw enough praise her way for all the work she puts into it. The only downside is, well, they are all handwritten. I’m planning on writing up some synopses for each game in order to have a starting point for visitors to the site to see how the setting is actually being used and the current adventures that are taking place. Look forward to it!

Q. Your site has quite a lot of interesting features that I have noticed you update very frequently. From the navigation banners’ design, to the linked banners on each page, to the way you have set your backgrounds to match the color of the corresponding navigation banner. There are so many interesting tidbits that it is difficult to list them all! Do you have a background in design? How did you piece together all of these ideas to use these features and put them together to create your site?

A. I don’t have any real experience with web design, per se, however I do have a background in art and print design. I also have a fascination with color. That said, if there was one overarching design philosophy it would probably be “readability.” At the end of the day, the Elurah wiki is intended to be a repository of information, and that information being presented is always the focus. Everything is aimed towards helping the reader, I don’t want the site itself to be a distraction. So I use color to break things up and divide information in an unobtrusive way. I’m a simple man, but simple doesn’t have to be boring. The color-coded backgrounds, for example. The wiki currently has sections for Elurah – the primary continent, Hairen – a smaller isolated kingdom, and Haven – a mysterious lost island in the Thirhe Strait. When viewing a page related to information on one of those three, the background changes color to match, as well as the color of the various badges and buttons. Since there’s quite a lot of information available it helps keep the reader from getting too lost, you always have a sense of where you are. It’s all tied into the site Tag system with a bit of CSS I cobbled together from the forums. Using a [class*=”arilon”] or whichever campaign before my line of code, as long as I tag the page with the name of the campaign it belongs to, the backgrounds and set dressing are automatically applied. That said, it’s a bit of a shotgun approach because it’s not *just* looking for the tag, but really anything to do with the page information, haha. So if the page name happens to have the word in it, it’ll apply the effects regardless. Thankfully for me, I don’t really have any pages with the campaign names that aren’t for those campaigns.

The Nav bar is another good example. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that the 3 bars for those sections are primary colors, and are of a higher saturation than the others. It’s just a subtle way to naturally draw the eyes towards them, since those pages are the primary focus. Aside from that, the page layouts have a consistent formatting intended to present information and guide readers towards related pages. I like to break up larger blocks of text with buttons and images to add some visual interest and make them feel a bit less daunting. Walls of text can be scary! The consistent and somewhat understated design is something I’m most proud of. I recently decided to add some fun little deocartive corners to the page…and subsequently had to reformat basically every wiki page, haha. They were cutting off the text in the upper left of every wiki page, so I had to go through and add page titles to every wiki page. I’m actually really happy with the end result. I forgot how helpful something as simple as a page title can be, haha.

All of the various assets around the site like the buttons, icons and mouse cursor are either designs I created or ones that I found and edited to suit my needs. I do all of my editing in ClipStudio, since that’s the program I use for my Illustration work. I like everything to match and co-ordinate, so I reuse and modify a lot of my assets in different ways. For example, the NavBar icon is actually the same as the main decorative title buttons. I just lopped off one side, added a decorative caret and compressed the height into more of a banner shape. Like a nice rug, it really helps “tie the room together”, haha. As for actually coming up with ideas for what to add, really I just shamelessly steal from all over the web. Sometimes I’ll be on a random website and see something neat that catches my attention. Then off to google and down the rabbit hole I go. Not everything works, but it’s fun to just test out new things and see what I like and come up with interesting ways to implement them.

At its core, the site is mostly just the original layout with a handful of tweaks and a shiny coat of paint on it. I added in a few additional Nav bars for each of the current campaigns so they could live on the side. I hid a few elements for a more streamlined look and used my illustration and art experience to build a unified aesthetic. Most of the CSS invested isn’t for any flash or spectacle but, rather, to make using the site easier and more natural. I try to make sure that everything works equally well on both Desktop and Mobile, since often my players are looking up information on their phones or a tablet.

If anyone is interested in the code for any part of the site, I’m more than happy to share! I can’t promise it’s the most efficient, though, haha. I’m available on the OP Discord server or just via a PM.

Q. Your Timeline for The World of Elurah is a fantastic feature! I feel certain that a lot of GMs would be interested in knowing your process for building that page. Tell us a bit more about your thoughts behind its design, and how you went about putting it all together!

A. The Timeline! So this was literally the first major CSS tasks I undertook, because apparently I hate myself. I do not have any background in coding or web design, so naturally I decided to tackle the hardest thing right away. The base code for the timeline was provided by Keryth987 on the forums from his Phoenix Rising campaign, and from there I spent probably a week smashing my head against it to get it to work properly on my site. His version has some really slick animation to it and is really just incredible. It didn’t quite fit what I wanted, however, so I spent a lot of time teaching myself the basics of CSS and HTML in order to understand how it worked. So much trial and error and I constantly kept breaking it. But I finally figured it out enough to make it work, and I’m really very happy with the end result. One thing I do need to figure out is a way to indicate that the timeline entries are actually links! A lot of people viewing it don’t realize you can click on each entry for a full writeup. In the end, I gave up on the animation because I just had too much information I wanted to fit in, so I kept the timeline entries to short descriptions and linked them to full wiki pages, instead. It was honestly such a great learning experience. It’s really uses quite a few different aspects of CSS and so I was able to learn the difference between the different elements.

The anchors to set the dates, in particular, were a major pain. Every time I would try and tweak something they’d just randomly move around, misalign or just disappear entirely. Thankfully with the original code as a reference and a couple online guides, I was able to figure things out and get them working. I think the best thing I came away with was an understanding that it’s fine to just try thing out and test stuff. Sure, I might end up breaking things, but the code can always be removed or edited without any permanent damage. Once I realized that, it’s really helped me moving forward with just testing out random stuff and seeing what works! Also big shout out to Keryth987, Abersade, Nuadaria and the rest on the Discord server, they’ve been awesome and have helped me out with various random bits of code and other ideas since I started working on this.

It was sort of a trial by fire that I unintentionally set for myself. I’ll usually just sit there with a ew different pages open so I can just tweak the CSS, adjust the HTML on the page and then refresh to live page. Just…changing things and seeing what happens. “What happens if I add a span element here?” “Oh, a line break would be good here…annnnd everything exploded all over the page. Let’s take that out.” It’s definitely a bit tedious, but I’m feeling much more confidant now and have been trying a bunch of new things recently. I actually just added a second timeline for Hairen that I’m working on, and it’s a night and day difference in how I understand everything now. I duplicated the code so I could have a color variation on it and just…the speed at which I can parse what originally felt like some kind of alien language is so much better. Changes that would have taken me 10 or more minutes just to figure out how to swap out a color…now only take a moment. It was daunting, initially, but I was able to find so much information and help from the Forums to the Discord server. Honestly, if I can figure this stuff out anyone can. Just maybe start with easier things, first, haha.

Q. As we follow along with The World of Elurah and watch it grow, do you have any particular additions planned that you’d like to tease us with?

A. I think I’ve already teased a few, haha. There’s still a lot left to add in. I have pages and pages of notes and descriptions to still be added. Hairen and Haven were added recently, so their wiki pages are going to need quite a bit of fleshing out. I also want to go through and do a better job of hyperlinking between pages so that if something is mentioned, you can just go straight there instead of having to dig around for it. I feel like the overall design could also use some more touching up. I recently added some nice decorative borders to the content pages. Extra flourishes. Lots and lots of little things. I would say the next big thing to tackle is the Adventure Log. I’ve already got some CSS in place the spruce it up, and I’m figuring out my plans on how to best make use of it so I everyone can keep abreast of our adventures!

Oh, right! The main page. With the current design, the Main Page was quite unused. I’m starting in on repurposing it into shining a spotlight on our current Adventurers and showcasing them…hopefully it’s finished by the time you’re reading this. I’ve got some really fun code using a mixture of scaling, opacity and hover effects to give it a sort of fighting game Character Selection look. I’m so happy with how it’s coming out so far. Also, there are a few more sections of the world to add in addition to the current 3. But I want to finish fleshing the current ones out, first, since they’re being actively played in at the moment. I’ve also found out some really neat examples for CSS to add a bit of visual interest and fun, so I’m still deciding exactly how I want to implement those. You’ll just have to check in periodically to see!

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

A. I first joined back in 2014. I really wanted a way to provide my players with access to all of my notes and information. You had various sites around, including tons of fan wikis for all kinds of various properties, so I figured I’d find some sort of free wiki site and just make something like that but for my D&D setting. A bit of poking around later and I what did I stumble across, but a site designed for the exact thing I needed! Seriously, I was really excited. I think for the first year or so I mostly just used it to keep track of NPCs and a handful of pages with basic information. Not exactly what I had planned. It wasn’t until I created the wiki for my Nexus campaign after a few years or using OP sporadically that I really started making full use of the site. Since it was for an entirely new setting and I was getting into it from ground-level, I really invested into building it out. I learned a ton from that and finally committed myself to doing it properly. It only took me nearly a decade.

Where was I? Oh, right. I really love that you can get as much or as little as you want out of the site. Whether that’s just keeping track of some NPCs or an entire world. Everything is easy to use and I got used to the basics in a day or two. I’ve also been really happy to see all the new features and updates that have been added recently. The Character and Item page update that was put out a bit ago was huge for me. There is such a massive roster for Elurah (seriously, there’s currently around 150) that the ability to break things up and organize them was a lifesaver. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

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

A. My players. It really helps so much at the table. A lot of the smaller questions that we’d have to take small pauses for “Who was the wizard we met in that one town?” or “Where was that place, again?” have slowly began to lessen. They can just pop onto the wiki and look it up without having to stop game. It also means they have access to all of the information away from the game table. It’s been a huge help. Also, personally, just the act of building the site and creating everything is very…therapeutic, is the word, I suppose. I just get to sort of zone out for a while and create.

Q. What you say has been the biggest highlight of your game so far (and please provide images and links if possible)?

A. While it’s not a single specific event, exactly, it would have to be bringing my players back to Hairen. It was the first game I ran. And, as established, I clearly am a glutton for punishment so I made this entire setting and storyline for it. We played games in Hairen for 3 or 4 years before moving on. A couple of years ago, after about a decade, I found my old Sundered Kingdoms campaign notebook and decided I’d start a new game there, with a significant time skip for the world, revamping the entire setting of that kingdom.

3 of the 5 players were in those original games. It’s truly been so much fun being able to let them explore that world again and see all the changes they brought about and how it shaped everything. Towns named after NPCs they fondly remember, bards singing tales of their previous characters and adventures. Some old foes reappearing…It’s really been a delight.

Q. As a grand finale, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What insights on how your GM style impacts play within your group to best facilitate a great time at the table with your gaming group that you’d like to share with the community?

A. Be flexible. An issue I dealt with when I was a newer DM and that I’ve seen others struggle with is learning to adapt and change their ideas. It can be very easy to pour tons of time and effort into creating a world and a story only to inadvertently lock yourself into how something ‘should be’. Nothing is sacred. I’ve been talking a lot about my world and how I built it, but that’s really rather disingenuous. So much of my world was made together with other people. Players, friends, internet strangers. Whenever one of my players makes a character in my games, it’s a co-operative affair. There are tons of locations, organizations and peoples in my world that came about as a direct result of my players want to play something I hadn’t prepared for, or potentially even directly contradicted established lore. Instead of forcing them to fit, I let the world adapt around them. Orc samurai? Sure, why not. Hell, why not an entire NATION of orc samurais? That sounds awesome. Tiefling Viking barbarian? Love it. There’s some icy tundra up north, why don’t we drop some reclusive tribes up there?

“Let your players build you world.” Noble houses to add in, new races to include and flesh out, entire cities and cultures to incorporate. Brainstorm, discuss and weave them into the history and lore. Let them see the effects those things have on the world. Take them there. Show them. I genuinely believe it’s the reason I have players 20 years later that are still excited to come back to a setting that they have been to a dozen times already. We’re all invested in it and have each left our mark. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun. Share what you’ve made and be proud of it, while staying open to new suggestions and ideas.

Thank you to the community for making this campaign of the month possible! That’s all for now, join us on our next adventure June 1st, and don’t forget to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

20
Apr

Update Post – April 20, 2024

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].

14
Apr

Creator Spotlight | An Interview with Hankerin Ferinale of Runehammer about Crown and Skull

Fantasy RPGs are a dime a dozen, but Crown and Skull promises a refreshing experience. In this interview with Hankerin Ferinale, creator of the system from Runehammer, we delve into the unique mechanics, world-building, and design philosophy that sets Crown and Skull apart.

Ferinale sheds light on the inspiration behind the game, how it challenges player interaction with the world, and the exciting future planned for this evolving system. So, grab your dice, and prepare to be enthralled by the evocative world of The North Holds!

Crown and Skull feels like a fresh take on fantasy RPGs. What inspired you to create this unique system?

I played Fantasy Hero (1st Edition) for years in high school. The system didn’t age terribly well, but its foundational thinking was great. After 8 years of RPG publishing, I wanted to both look back to my origins and forward to a few current inspirations like Cairn and Into the Odd. That’s just the mechanics. The WORLD and TONE are where I’m the most excited. I’ve been working as a writer and artist for over three decades now, and I started to feel real, emotional, moody, evocative stirrings in this setting. I hope all the readers feel as deeply connected to THE NORTH HOLDS as I do. That humanist connection is teh core inspiration of the book(s).

The “skill as tool” approach sounds intriguing. Can you elaborate on how this changes player character interaction with the world?

For ages now, we’ve been taught that our stats/attributes can solve any problem with a die roll in role playing. Removing stats from the mechanics and being strict above the use of skills only, forbidding attempts by the unskilled altogether, is the biggest step toward substantive character differentiation I have seen. So different, in fact, I find many players and GMs a bit dazed at first, then very excited. As for interaction with the world, there’s far more think-before-act. The player can’t simply roll a stat to get out of a bind or overcome a challenge.

The phase-based combat seems like a strategic twist. How did you develop this system and what are its advantages for players and GMs?

I didn’t! I reduced Fantasy Hero’s 12-phase system into a 5 phase setup. The advantage is almost entirely offered to the GM. These 5 phases allow room to build truly challenging foes against even large parties of heroes. A single foe might take action(s) on up to 3 phases, while heroes are always limited to one. This lets the monsters expand into vastly larger realms of challenge and variety, compared to traditional initiative systems.

Crown and Skull is known for its emphasis on player skill over character stats. Can you talk about the design philosophy behind this approach?

As mentioned above, stats blend all characters together. By removing them entirely, and forbidding attempts by the unskilled, the differences between heroes becomes extreme. MUSCLE is a skill, not a stat. No muscle skill? You can;t even ATTEMPT to move the boulder. This differentiation enhances one of the key visions of the hobby’s framers: that characters need each other to thrive.

We’ve seen some discussions about the lack of traditional “gold” mechanics. How does Crown and Skull handle character progression and rewards?

In CROWN, you earn hero points. Gold is seen as banal and uninteresting, though present if your table wishes. Hero points replace gold, and adjudicate the finding of usable loot. They come in all kinds of reard packages, from deeds of renown, to the dire and unavoidable choice of THE CROWN, OR THE SKULL?

Crown and Skull is still evolving. What are some exciting things you have planned for the future of the system?

There are 4 more volumes of CROWN and SKULL coming. These volumes introduce new mechanics, world material, and tables. The coolest part of the forthcoming volumes, though, is portraying ongoing epochs of the world, influenced and shaped by the actions of all of CROWN’s players and GMs. It is a 6 year experiment in a truly living world… another core dream of our hobby’s mighty originators. Achieving a truly living world is not easy! It requires a DAILY interaction habit with the player community.

Do you have any advice for GMs and players who are new to Crown and Skull?

Join the Runehammer Discord! This isn’t a sales pitch at all, but a call to engage with a living, breathing community that is building a world brick by brick. It’s also a great resource for those odd questions or sticking points as many 5E players seek new horizons.

Thanks for the interview, Obsidian! FOR THE CROWN!

-Hankerin Ferinale

Crown and Skull is produced and published by Runehammer. Visit them on social media:
Patreon, Youtube, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook

3
Mar

Creator Spotlight | An Interview with the Creators of Divination RPG

Divination RPG offers a transformative approach to tabletop roleplaying, merging the ancient tradition of tarot with the dynamic mechanics of RPGs. This game invites players to embark on a journey of self-discovery and adventure, navigating a world where the flip of a card determines fate.

In this exciting interview, we delve into the minds of the creators behind this innovative game, Matthew Muñiz and Nyx Tesseract, to uncover the inspiration, mechanics, and future for Divination RPG. Join us as we explore the fascinating world where destiny is woven with each card drawn, and where players become active participants in an unfolding narrative guided by the very tools of divination.

Don’t just consult the cards, adventurers! Support the Divination RPG Kickstarter!

What initially drew you to incorporating tarot into an RPG experience?

I’ve always used tarot as a part of my TTRPG ventures, I think. It’s been an idea generator, a generator for NPC motivations—a set of huge, abstract symbols from which to draw. So as I ran D&D games growing up, and later, World of Darkness games, I liked to use tarot to get ideas about plots, motivations, antagonists, worlds of magic, all kinds of stuff. I got my first Pixie (RWS) deck in my teenage years, and started running games for my friends right around the same time.

Matthew Muñiz

Were there influences other than tarot that served as inspiration for the game’s mechanics?

I loved the World of Darkness games from the 90s, and grew up on Basic and Advanced D&D—a childhood inheritance from my erstwhile-nerd parents. I liked how WoD games let you develop your character without levels (I recall that as revolutionary once upon a time, way back when). Those worlds also aspired to delve into the psychology involved in role-playing and character development. I think of those games as blazing a trail that now lots of other narrative-first games follow.

Some of those, like Bluebeard’s Bride and Kids on Bikes, use shared hero and shared character dynamics that really influenced Divination as well. As roleplaying games explore GM-lessness, elements of shared storytelling are becoming increasingly common, and I think those mechanics work beautifully in Divination because it’s based on tarot. Tarot is so much about introspection and personal growth, and so a game where the parts of the mind negotiate that (and sometimes fight over it) suits our world really well.

Matthew Muñiz

Can you walk us through the core mechanics of Divination RPG?

There are two main mechanics that make up the heart and soul of playing Divination. One is the shared Hero that Matthew mentioned, and the second is the performance of Tests.

You play Divination as one Aspect of a Hero, and your fellow players are also Aspects of that same Hero. Each Aspect embodies one set of drives and desires inside that person, which adds an additional element to roleplay. Sometimes one Aspect is in Control of the Hero and is navigating the world and dealing with NPCs just like any other roleplaying game, but at other times we zoom in to the internal and see the conversations happening between the Aspects—the Hero’s internal thoughts and conflicts and questions playing out live. Each player has an Aspect sheet which tracks the stats and abilities unique to them as an individual, and collectively the players share a Hero sheet which tracks the stats available equally to all of them.

Where all those different stats and abilities come in brings us to the other core mechanic of Divination: the Test. This is essentially your skill check, but it’s resolved by drawing a tarot card instead of rolling a d20. We use one portion of the tarot deck that contains numbered cards only, and draw a card to get a numerical result (after applying modifiers to reflect difficulty, stats, and Powers, of course). The number gives a clear success or failure, but the scene depicted on the card and the meaning of the card is rolled into the how of that success or failure as well.

Tests can be Active when the Hero is proactively acting on the world, or Passive when they need to respond to the forces of the world acting upon them.

Nyx Tesseract

How do you envision the concepts in Divination RPG fitting into the broader world of tabletop RPGs?

One of the things I’m personally most excited about is the way Divination handles the Hero’s experience of being hurt both physically and emotionally. We’ve separated this experience into Injury, which happens to the body, and Harm, which happens to the mind or the psyche. I don’t want to spoil too much of what you can discover playing the game, but I think we offer the opportunity for players to explore a lot of nuance in what it means to be hurt. This is something we’re really excited about offering to the gaming community at large, because I don’t think either of us has seen it handled or delved in quite this way before.

And I mean, it’s so tarot. It’s so tarot to explore every element of our human experience, the good and the bad, through a lens of non-judgmental curiosity.

Nyx Tesseract

How does interpreting the cards impact the gameplay and decision-making process for players?

The beautiful thing about Divination is that it’s both numeric, which means it can do the things that dice can do, and it’s pictorial, which means it speaks in the fuzzy, flexible language of pictures. When a Test is read, it does more than just tell the players whether or not they were successful at whatever they were trying to do—it can also suggest why. This almost always amounts to thoughts and feelings that influence the moment, but a Diviner is invited to weave the meanings they read in the cards into the story in any way that inspires them. This makes for emotional, profound moments where everyone is surprised by what they discover in the cards. I know we keep saying this, but it’s so tarot.

Matthew Muñiz

What challenges did you encounter while designing a system that incorporates both numerical crunch and interpretation of tarot cards?

It’s challenging to offer people permission to interpret tarot cards. People think they have to memorize long lists of meanings, but in my opinion, all you have to do is look at a picture and allow it to make you feel something. In Divination, we divide the tarot deck into smaller decks to make it easy to do this. The mechanical crunch is fairly easy, with +1s and -1s like other games. 

You really just have to trust that you’ll look at a picture and seize the opportunity to be creative with what you see—or give yourself permission to skip that part when you want! You don’t have to interpret any moment that doesn’t make sense to you. A joy of Divination is allowing a symbol to persist and coming to understand what it means later.

Matthew Muñiz

Besides tarot’s role in the mechanics, how does tarot exist in the world and society of the game?

Tarot is baked into every part of our setting, which imagines two worlds: the Apparent and the Esoteric. The Apparent is the mundane world we all inhabit, and the Esoteric is the one populated by Artists—modern wizards who use the tarot and their unique connections to the Art to pursue their agendas.

These Artists each walk a Road that dictates what their connection to the Art is like. There are seven Roads in total, and each is wildly different. In Divination, you’ll make a single Hero on a single Road, so you get incredible replayability from our game as you explore all seven Roads. Each Hero on an Esoteric journey will be a part of a rich world full of competing agendas and surprises, all drawn from tarot.

Matthew Muñiz

What has been the community’s response to Divination RPG so far?

We’ve been just blown away by the way Divination seems to really touch every single person that touches it. I think the shared Hero is a huge part of that, and particularly the way the game builds that Hero. Our character creation process isn’t something you do at home before you show up to play; it’s almost a game in and of itself as the players are led through a series of story prompts (guided by tarot cards, of course) to tell formative stories about their Hero’s life. It acts as kind of an icebreaker, but in practice it becomes so much more than that. We run a lot of games at conventions and events where you regularly have four strangers come together for a game, and we’re always blown away by how naturally the game fosters investment and trust as the players build their Hero together. It’s pretty magical.

Nyx Tesseract

Are there any plans for future expansions or other content related to the game?

The core book—the Divination RPG Guidebook as we’re calling it—is going to be really complete in terms of running and playing the game. But as Matthew mentioned earlier, there are these seven different Esoteric Roads to explore, and I think that’s the most likely place for some expansion. The core book will include setting information for each Road, but eventually we’d like to create a full campaign module for each one as well, complete with NPCs, antagonists and threats, and even an outline of story beats and options. Currently we’ve got a full module like that for one of the seven Roads, but that’s a place we’d love to continue exploring and even bringing in outside writers to create more of those modules.

Nyx Tesseract

What is one of the most creative things you’ve seen players or Diviners do with Divination RPG?

I think you could pose this question to our Discord community and get dozens of stories, so I’ll just share one very recent one that brings me so much joy. One of our Discord members ran across an event called “Capybara Week” where a gaming group was looking for GMs to run any system with a capybara theme. Our community member signed up to run a Divination game with the following pitch: “Four aspects of the mind of someone find themselves awakened one day inside the body of a capybara, by a twist of fate. Together, they will navigate this new life on the shores of the lagoon, deciding whether to adapt or seek a way back to who they once were.”

Nyx Tesseract

Divination RPG is produced and published by Night Goddess Games.

Visit them on social media:
@divinationrpg on Instagram, X/Twitter, Facebook, BlueSky, and Spoutible

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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