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Jun

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2022: Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate is the greatest commercial metropolitan port on the Sword Coast in the continent of Faerun. Popular video games have cemented its name to the adventure loving community since last century, making it one of the best known campaign settings to have evolved from the Dungeons and Dragons legendarium. Join Nimrod, Eran, Gal, Gilad, Guy and Tom as they explore this great city, breathing life into its many parts, and describing just how they do this in this month’s highlighted campaign, Baldur’s Gate. Let the revelations begin…

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?

Nimrod: My name is Nimrod Yanai, I live in a kibutz in Israel (a kibutz is a small, agricultural community). I have been playing roleplaying games for almost 30 years now, most of it as a DM. I also enjoy computer games and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. I can easily be found on Facebook under my own name.

My players are Eran, Gal, Gilad, Guy and Tom.

Tell us about “Baldur’s Gate” in a nutshell. How did it come to be, and what made you choose this trade city on the Sword Coast of Faerûn to base your campaign?

Nimrod: I have always been a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate computer games. I still see Baldur’s Gate II as the best game that was ever created (though its predecessor’s plot is superior). My party and I just finished running through the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms published campaign, and I decided my next game will be something I haven’t done in a while – an urban campaign. I had an idea for a plot that I wanted to try out, and since Baldur’s Gate is my favorite city in the Forgotten Realms, it was easy to place my plot there. In many ways, Baldur’s Gate is the greatest city in Faerûn, because it doesn’t reply on magic yet manages to compete successfully with its more magical sisters such as Waterdeep. It also makes things more interesting for the players, because it is difficult to raise to power against such people as Elminster, the Blackstaff or Larael Silverhand.

To give a familiar feeling to the campaign design, I used images, elements, backgrounds and concept art from the computer games and various adventures published. I even tried to use the fonts from the computer games, but unfortunately those were not available in the supported packages. For example, the adventure log design has Baldur’s Gate I’s stone background, with the leather and title design of Baldur’s Gate II’s character page.

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

Nimrod: We play once every second Friday (in Israel, Friday is like Saturday in the Christian world) at my house.
My party consists of five friends who knew each other before we met. They are exceptional players, who enjoy deep roleplay and character development (and the occasional battle).
One of the reasons I enjoy the game with them so much is that we developed very good trust relations. I think they trust me to make the game fun for them, which makes them generally flow with things that happen in the campaign and try to advance the plot, not just roll with it.

Your whole WIKI section is very detailed and quite comprehensive. Who is responsible for adding the information and organizing it? How much time do you spend updating it as the campaign progresses?

Nimrod: An urban campaign is different than a journey campaign. Most characters and locations are permanent, and the players and DM need to remember a lot of details. Before the campaign began, besides for all the locations and characters I added as a DM, each player was tasked with creating 10 NPCs (either ones their characters know from their background, or just people in the city) and 5 locations (these could be inns, temples, establishments, stores, houses, towers, etc.). This meant the campaign was full of information relevant to the characters before we ever started playing.

Each session, one of the players is responsible to record the session events, and create a corresponding adventure log, including creating new characters, quests, wiki pages, etc. for anything new that happened in the session. This keeps the players engaged and takes some responsibility away from me as a DM. The players spend more time updating the campaign, while I create the pages for more important NPCs, locations, etc.

Gilad: Before the start of the campaign, it was a parallel collaborative effort where every player and the DM each added content to the wiki – be it NPC’s we’ve each created for our backstories, general NPCs to populate the setting’s city, and any other wiki page that might be relevant such as places of business or notable locations.

Once the game has started, each session a different player is in charge of summarizing the session and uploading it to the Adventure Log, then creating new wiki pages for places and NPCs encountered during said session if they do not have a wiki page yet.


Your campaign has many maps and makes great use of Obsidian Portal’s interactive mapping system. How do you feel the extra work it takes to implement this benefits you and/or your players?

Nimrod: Maps play an important part of the campaign. As I said, an urban campaign is different. I usually place the relevant maps on my TV screen for the players to see during the game. There are many locations, it would be impossible to remember them all.

Nimrod: I treat each neighborhood as an NPC, each one as its own description, music, and map. My DM screen has a section for the map of the city with each location’s description for quick reference. This helps keeping the city alive and important as more than just the location of the campaign, but making it feel like a real city.

Gilad: Our campaign is centred within the city of Baldur’s Gate and so a detailed map is crucial. Not only do we need the various borough maps for navigating the city, a detailed map with points of interest aids in making the city feel like an actual, vibrant, lived-in city. And even as it is currently densely populated with such POIs, there’s always room for more.

You have added a new section to the left navigation bar entitled “Quest Logs”. Please tell us a bit more about this. Why did you add it? How important is it to your campaign? How does it differ from the “Adventure Logs” section?

Nimrod: The campaign is currently still in its prologue phase, which is relatively linear (we are following the Murder in Baldur’s Gate storyline, with some modifications for my future plot). However, once the campaign starts, the city will have a plethora of quests of many different types. Many quests might run simultaneously or contain many details. Having a quest log helps keep all the relevant information for each quest for future reference.

A relatively unique thing in my campaigns (which I learned from playing Baldur’s Gate II) are what I call “personal quests”. Personal quests are quests that follow one character’s plot. It can be something based on the history the player wrote, but can also be based on the character’s background, class, race, etc. For example, an elven character could have a quest related to the Eldreth Veluuthra, while a Druid character could become conflicted with the Shadow Druids, and a Soldier might have a quest related to events from a campaign he participated while in the army. This allows me to give more focus for each player and helps me give their character a unique story that is only their own and helps them develop their character.

The Adventure Log is more of a summary of each game session, including everything that happened in that session – conversations between PCs that are not related to quests, for example. The Quest Log has a quick summary of what the quest is and serves more as a reminder of what the characters need to do, like a “to do” list (complete with check boxes).

Gilad: Our “Quest Logs” section, as the title suggests, is where we keep track of active and past quests we’ve received during the campaign, both as a party and as individuals. Whereas the “Adventure Logs” section is used to keep detailed summaries of our game sessions and help us keep track of the story and events so far, and so we can come prepared for each new session.
As I’ve mentioned before, each week a different player is in charge of the summary, but once they’re uploaded the rest of the group go over it and add any missing details.


What made you choose D&D 5e as your gaming system? Have you played other gaming systems, or earlier editions? How do you feel it compares?

Nimrod: I have been playing D&D since the old red boxes, through 2nd and 3rd editions, and now 5th edition, which is by far the most elegant in my opinion. I think 5th edition does a good job with focusing on roleplaying, which I like very much. It keeps combat simple but has enough variety so that players who dislike too much strategy can still find it interesting. It’s not just how the rules are built – the text of the books encourages imagination and creativity and gives ideas and inspiration. I played many systems in the past (Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Pathfinder, Star Wars, Dragon Age, Exalted and others), but I always come back to D&D eventually.

Gilad: We’ve known each other for about 13 years to be precise, and we’ve played together as a group for 10 of those. Before we’ve had the fortune of joining him, we’ve played D&D 3.5e for quite a while. Edition and system preferences are subjective, but personally I prefer 5e for the streamlining it introduced to game, which in my opinion only aids roleplay and a lower barrier of entry for new players who might be interested in a game previously rather complicated.

Gal: As the other answer states, the players of the group have played 3.5e together before for quite some time. As someone who also enjoys the aspect of mechanical character building, I did like 3.5e for its customization options, as there were many classes, skills feats etc. to choose from and combine. 5e has its pluses as well. The simplicity of it is nice sometimes, and the tools that exist for it like D&D Beyond make the character management very easy. As most of our group prefers to play 5e over 3.5e and I’m ok with both we chose to go with 5e.

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

Nimrod: That depends on the session. Sessions that involve a lot of combat are much easier to prepare for, as battles require much less preparation than plot-related role playing. Other sessions could take 5-15 hours to prepare, if not more, depending on the amount of plot they are meant to advance.

The portal is only one aspect of preparation, though. Aside from the design and content, I also prepared an extensive soundtrack for the campaign (I use Syrinscape for all background music and sound effects). Most locations have their own unique soundtracks, including each neighborhood in the city (as detailed in the maps). Many important NPCs have their own theme music. Specific, planned events in the game will also have their own unique soundtrack. In the images you can see my setup for the Lower City soundtrack and the city locations soundtrack.

Nimrod: Preparing said soundtracks, especially for specific events, finding the proper tracks, etc. takes a long time.
Just to give you an example, you can see this video which contains a unique music clip (taken from Mass Effect 3), that I used in a previous campaign. This was just before a battle between a Zhentarim army, and the forces gathered by the characters to fight it: https://youtu.be/RJQQ4mSrIIo


Another video, from the end of that campaign, depicting the final demise of the god Auppenser, with a soundtrack from Disney’s Tangled: https://youtu.be/CD-P9-fOH1o

A typical session always begins with one of the players recapping the events from the last session (plus any relevant information from previous sessions). I use Baldur’s Gate I’s main theme for background for this. After the previous sessions are recapped, we continue with where we left off, or time-skip ahead, depending on where we stopped and where I want to take the plot.

I usually give a detailed description of what is happening, or ask the players what each of their characters do before I describe what’s next. There is a lot of back-and-forth between the players and me, as they describe their actions or ask questions and I detail everything their characters know of the situation, before they decide. Often, they will role-play between their own characters, sometimes in length, as they become more familiar with one another. This also helps them develop their characters and strengthen the party bond.


I was unable to view any of the details of the Deities in your campaign. Is there a reason why you keep these secrets? Of what importance are the Deities to your player characters? How does their influence compare with the influence of the many groups and organizations detailed in your Wiki?

Nimrod: The wiki for gods is not hidden. Because I often DM in the Forgotten Realms, I found that I keep duplicating certain wiki pages. Instead, I created a generic campaign where all wiki pages I use often are stored, and I put links from that campaign where needed.

The place of gods in the campaign changes significantly based on player and plot. Some characters follow their god’s doctrine fanatically, while others don’t care that much one way or the other. I try to tailor the experience to the character. Sometimes, religion plays an important plot role, too. For example, in another campaign of mine, a paladin was struggling with his faith. As his personal quest, he had two NPCs, one for his own god Helm and another for the god Hoar, a paladin who tried to convert him to join Hoar instead. He was set by moral and personal dilemmas and eventually made his choice.

In this specific campaign, the various organizations usually have a much greater influence. Baldur’s Gate has a large following for Gond but is a relatively secular city. Gond himself encourages invention and creation over reliance on magic and gods, which the city encourages as well. This gives non-religious or non-magical organization, and especially mercantile ones, a lot of power.

Gal: Deity importance varies between characters as it is not forced upon those who don’t want it, but for those who do it is a very good tool for character progression and mostly personal story development. Personally, I like my characters to have a relationship with and be influenced by the gods of the setting. As this campaign is quite new my example would be my last character who has a very present love hate relationship with Gruumsh throughout the entire campaign, and eventually tried to achieve godhood himself. He now exists in the campaign as a dead demi-god, and there’s an npc who’s a follower of his. Unlike the other deities in the campaign, he was kept secret (or at least we attempted to keep him secret) as a surprise for the rest of the players, to discover later in the campaign (which most of them discovered anyway by seeing the latest changes in the main page).

Gilad: deity relevance honestly just dependent on the players themselves. I, myself like to integrate them deeply into my characters, seeing as they are very much present in the setting and influence it deeply, while others are not as interested in the subject. In contrast, the different organizations in our campaign tend to be more influential, as they usually impact the story of the group rather than just the story of the individual.


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

Nimrod: I have been using Obsidian Portal to varying degrees for at least 6 years now, but only in the last two campaigns have I really started to take full advantage of it (with this group).
My other groups were less cooperative in adding things, and as a DM I really don’t have time to both run the entire campaign by myself AND update the portal regularly.

Gilad: I believe we’re nearing our 3rd or 4th year of consecutive use, perhaps?

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

Nimrod: It’s difficult to choose one functionality, but I would have to say the characters are the most important thing for me. I often create many characters, and it is difficult keeping track of them all, which is important to keep the world coherent and continuous. I also often create hidden characters that are only reveled later, and each one has a DM only section that I use to map out future adventures or encounters related to that character.

Gal: I’d say that the adventure log is the feature I personally find the most useful as that’s the feature I use the most to refresh my memory before a game session.

Gilad: I’d have to say the formattable, linkable Adventure Log we keep. Helps keep track of the plot and NPCs we encounter.


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


Nimrod: This campaign is rather new, but for me the highlight so far was how I structured the start of the campaign. I built it a little like Marvel’s The Defenders – when the players built their characters, each one had to choose a neighbourhood where his character lives/operates. I then had a solo adventure with each player, where they all learned some common information, but also each had his own local, neighbourhood issue to deal with, and they became sort of a local hero for the people of that neighbourhood. For example, the character from Little Calimshan stopped a mercenary that was hired to kidnap people who were slaves and escaped Calimshan and bring them back to their families’ original “owners”, the character from the Temples investigated the involvement of a cult with some of the local patriar’s children (which are Baldur’s Gate’s version of nobles), etc.


With their reputation in their own neighbourhoods, they were then called upon collectively to help with other matters, and quickly found the common information they all received, etc.


Of course, we are about to reach a new high for the campaign, but it will take a few sessions 😉

Gal: As this campaign is pretty new I don’t have any specific highlight, but this is the stage of the game the characters learn about each other the most (we do not share the backstory or any information other than sometimes class with anyone other than the DM), and I enjoy that stage very much as it’s fun to learn about the characters your friends developed and slowly expose information about your own and build a relationship and trust between the characters.

Gilad: While our current campaign is rather fresh and so we did not have many notable events per se, our previous one had plenty.
For me the biggest highlight was the time we knew we’re going to have to confront a clan of Illithids deep beneath the ground, and we knew we’ll probably lose in a direct confrontation.

So we came up with a plan – a summoned Umber hulk enhanced with the Longstrider spell dug a tunnel directly down to the previously-scouted inner sanctum of the clan’s Elder Brain, followed up by my Ethereal bard.

Then when the tunnel has been dug, my bard was contacted psychically by the Elder Brain demanding surrender, surrounded by most all members of the clan. Instead, he sent a Sending spell to signal for the insane part of the plan.

Giant boulders began rolling down the tunnel. The Illithids began scrambling towards the exit. My bard placed a Wall of Force over it. The boulders arrived and decimated a good portion of the clan and damaging the elder brain greatly. It contacted my bard again pleading for surrender.

Then the logs began rolling into the chamber.

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?

Nimrod:
1. My biggest advice to DMs is this – you are not there just to make it fun for your players. If you are DMing the game, it is because you have a story you want to tell. The characters interact and influence that story, making it revolve around them, but it is still your story, not just theirs.
If I design a city campaign in Baldur’s Gate and the players decide to go to Waterdeep for no reason, my response will be “You reach waterdeep after a few weeks of journey, and about a year later you hear that X happened in Baldur’s Gate. The End.”

While the game belongs to all the players, only one will for sure cause the game to stop if he leaves, and that is you. You must keep the game fun for yourself, or you will lose interest and end the game, or worse – start to drag the campaign, your players WILL notice, and everyone will end up not having any fun.

2. Always tell your players the following: “That’s what my character would do” is not an acceptable answer. D&D is a game of group cooperation. As a DM, my expectation is that you make your characters get along. I have enough to do without keeping your party together.

3. Have a session 0. That is a way for you to ask your players questions about what they would like to see, what they won’t like to see, what aspects of the game they want to see more of, etc.

4. Use music to get your players in the mood. You don’t have to use a paid software (I used a regular iphone playlist for many years). Music can be used to set the mood, but also to make your players better understand situations. Nothing like an ominous music to make your players realize the conversation they are having could have dangerous repercussions, or to throw them off with some whimsical music for the BBEG they meet without knowing who it is yet.

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

1
May

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2022: Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane

A ship has been seized under mutiny, the captain murdered, and the ship has disappeared. The captain’s lover seeks revenge and wishes to recover the ship. Was it mentioned that this lover is Lord Ardragon of the Moonsea, one of the best Zhentarim agents? Thus begins Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane, a very different pirate adventure using 5E! After all, how many pirate ships have a ball gag in the skull’s mouth? Read on to learn more about GM AggieBear90 and party’s adventures on the high seas!

I have to start by asking where did the concept of this game come from? I love the double entendres, the wordplay is excellent, and I just think this would be a blast to play in!

So, the story actually stems from the backstory from my very first D&D 5e character – Barkus Esteme. I am story builder so he has a very rich backstory. As I played him through to lvl 20 I just started feeling like there was more story to be told. And that is where Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane comes from. I’ll make sure to add Barkus’ backstory (which is currently in a word doc) to the portal if you are interested in finding out more. Long story short, the ship (The Kraken’s Bane) he served on was stolen during a mutiny and Barkus is motivated to get it back. Mysteries are uncovered and he needs to get a crew of pirates to help him get it back. I also wanted this to be something a little different, so I invited my best gay friends and made it an all gay pirate adventure. A little cliché but hey…it is all for fun.


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

I’m 53 yo and live in Irving, Tx just outside Dallas. I am gay and married to my partner (Patrick) for 22 years. He also plays but not in this campaign. When I am not gaming I will either be working on one of my two businesses (Blue Consulting & Resourcing – Instructional Design Consulting; Monkey Mind Tabletop – We organize and run D&D events at game shops and local conventions). Beyond that, I also have a degree in Geology so you might find me out doing rock hounding and fossil hunting. I also love college football (specifically Texas A&M Univ Aggies) so in the fall I am normally watching games all day.

Me on the internet:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/curtisg1
Twitter: @AggieBear90
Instagram: aggiebear90

I also have 2 D&D Adventurers League modules on DMs Guild:
CCC-MMT 01-01: Secrets of Imaginary Friends
CCC-MMT 01-05: Secrets of the Cure

Monkey Mind Tabletop on the internet:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/monkeymindtabletop
Instagram: monkeymindtabletop


You mention you found your calling with D&D 5E- What do you like about it? Are there any things you dislike about it?

I actually started playing with 1st ed when I was a teenager. I played through 2, 3 and 3.5 but totally skipped 4. I went on a long hiatus as many adults do but started playing 3.5 again just before 5th came out. I really liked how streamlined 5th was. It was so much easier to teach to new players. As an educator I really liked that. I also like how flexible it is. The rules are there as guidelines but a lot of the rest is just for the DM to kind of flex with. I think for some people that flexibility is a bit challenging though. There isn’t really anything that I dislike but there are a few additions that I would like to see. More development around larger scale combat, guidance on crafting, more social interactions and downtime. Some of these things are very specific to particular ways to play, but they are things that I have struggled with in game development. I often incorporate 3rd party content when I am looking for solutions…which may be the reason that WotC doesn’t officially come out with guidance on it.


You use Foundry, Discord, Obsidian Portal, and Syrinscape- tell us how those tools interact for you and your group.

We use Foundry as our VTT. Since we have been playing virtually during the pandemic. We decided to continue to play virtually be because we are all spread out around the DFW metroplex and it was just easier. I transitioned from Roll20 because I found the tools in Foundry to be much more useful and I could utilize the content in D&D Beyond easily. With a few useful plugins you can import content and rolls pretty easily on the fly. Because we were telling a story I wanted a place to capture everything so we could all see it. Obsidian Portal is a great tool for that. I make sure that my players all know that this story is a group collaboration. They totally bought in. You may notice that each week one of the players gives the recap from their point of view. We also use the Wiki extensively and I use it to keep notes on the game that only I can see. Discord has been a life saver. Since we aren’t playing in person we miss some of the face to face interaction so we use the Discord audio during game but we also have a channel specifically for chatting. We check in to see how eveyrone’s days are going, we share news and just general BS. It is a good way to keep in contact with everyone. We use Syrinscape to provide a little ambiance. Usually it is just thematic background sounds. I use Syrinscape much more prominently in my Curse of Strahd game. I’ll also point out that I use Microsoft OneNote to organize ideas. It is a great tool to help me get thoughts down on “paper” and flesh out things ahead of time.


How regularly do you play? You say that you are playing remotely due to Covid- are there plans to go back to in person?

I am currently running two campaigns on alternating Tuesdays. So we play every other week. On the other weeks I have a Curse of Strahd game that I am running (also has a page on Obsidian Portal). We started this campaign during Covid and we did discuss starting to meet in person but decided that it was easier to continue online since we are so spread out.


How did your group meet, and how long have you been together?

Most of the players I actually met playing D&D Adventurers League at a local game shop that I DM at (Common Ground Games – Dallas). Most of the players were people who had just signed up to play in one of my games. I am really drawn to players who really lean into the roleplay aspect. All of these players are exceptional at roleplay. They are also all LGBTQ. Some I have known for about 4 years but a few of them I didn’t meet in person until after Covid was dying down and we had a little summer pool party. This particular campaign has been running for about 19 months (so we are over a year and half).


If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most? Do your players get involved on the wiki too?

Obsidian Portal helps us to recall what has happened over the adventure and keep organized. This story is planned to eventually get the characters to lvl 20…so there is a lot going on. Players can always go back in and remember NPCs, who they are and what they know about them. That is helpful. And yes, my players are active contributors to the log and the wiki. As mentioned above, each week I have them roll to see who will be responsible for the recap in the Adventure Log and they provide me the story through the character’s eyes. It has been really amusing.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

Mostly from Barkus’ backstory, but I have also looped in interactions with Barkus’ campaign party (Fedhiin Taloth) who make cameos. I also did a lot of research on the Forgotten Realms Moonsea/Sea of Fallen Stars region (our setting) for backstory and hooks. I also did lots of research on pirate culture to kind of get an idea of what life on the sea might be like and looped some aspects of that research into story development.


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

I tend to binge prepare. I may spend hours on a weekend prepping for games week in advance and then will just spend an hour or so the day of. I would say that if you averaged it all out I probably spend 2-3 hours a week prepping for each game.


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

So, the funny thing is that I haven’t really. I have played a little Monster of the Week and Powered by the Apocalypse. I do want to learn to play other systems but I am a “show me how” kind of person and I just haven’t found people to teach me the other systems as of yet. I have done a lot of reading in the Vampire: The Masquerade core rules and am fascinated by that system. I actually have used the relationship building scheme in it to map relationships in my D&D games. I have also looked into Thirsty Sword Lesbians and Star Wars, but once again I haven’t had any one to teach me how to play.


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

Gosh, this is such a hard question. There have been lots of great moments. We have had moments when we have laughed until we can’t talk, we have had players cry, we have had epic battles and entire sessions where not a single dice has been rolled. But I think the best moment was when the adventurers were given a ship by their patron. They were so excited that they immediately started thinking of a name (The Vicious Seaward), designing the figure head, designing the flag, even designing the crew uniforms. They wanted to identify who got which room on the ship and who would play what role. It was a pretty exciting moment. Many of the players even started creating NPC crew members (many are on the portal)


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

– Go with the flow. Telling a good story is a collaboration between the DM and the players. You provide the scaffolding but the characters really drive the progression.
– Don’t get hung up on the rules as written. If you don’t know the rule just wing it. Most players will understand.
– DMs are players too…you are allowed to have fun.

Time to let our daring adventures return to the open sea. 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!

20
Apr

Update Post – April 20, 2022

Hail, Portal People!

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]al.com.

4
Apr

OBSIDIAN PORTAL CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR 2021

Congratulations to our COTY 2021 winner:
HEROES AS A SERVICE
GM: Nuadaria (FEB 2021)

and to our runner up:
GAXIM PLAGUE
GM: Frak_Lou_Elmo (JAN 2021)

 


 

FIRST PRIZE includes:

– Digital copies of both Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding and Kobold Guide to Plots and Campaigns from *Kobold Press*,

– Digital copies of both Starfinder and Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Boxes and/or Core Rulebooks from *Paizo*,

– Physical Copies of Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022, and Paranoia Starter Set from *Mongoose Publishing*,

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from *Obsidian Portal*




RUNNER UP PRIZE includes:

– Physical Copy of Seas of Thieves Starter Set from *Mongoose Publishing*,

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from *Obsidian Portal*.




ENTRY PRIZES

Congratulations to all other campaigns entered into the draw. Each GM will receive free Ascendancy time from Obsidian Portal and will be contacted separately.

A special thanks to our Prize Sponsors!


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!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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