Blog Archives

1
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I asked my players, here is what they said :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1
Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2021- D&D 3.0: Tales from Mystara

Congratulations to Galero and party for winning Campaign of the Month, September 2021! D&D 3.0: Tales of Mystara tells the story of generations of adventures in a world 30 years in the making. Take a look below for a chance to peek into the mind of a talented and experienced GM!

First, 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? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet. Let us know if you feel so inclined!

I am from the city of Cabo Rojo, in Puerto Rico. I am a project manager for a local company who implements electronic medical records on Hospitals, among other things. I am married with two kids, one is 25yo and the other 5yo. My wife used to play with us at the game table. The older one is a GM and has his own group. He learned to play as soon as he learned not to put the dice inside his mouth and rolled them for the first time. I love cinema, literature and crafting my own game scenarios and the scenery.

I have been Game Mastering since 1986 when I discovered AD&D and OD&D. I, currently, can be found on Facebook:

My Page: Mario A. Agrait Rodríguez

Group Page: Stray Dogs Role Playing Games

Tell us about Tales from Mystara in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

In a nutshell: “Tales from Mystara is a series of chronicles about the people who move forward to confront their fears and rise over the rest as heroes or villains (depending on the campaign group). They become the stuff of legends and their names are retold around the campfire of the next adventure group.”

We have been playing on the world of Mystara using the Known World referenced in the OD&D old Boxed Sets since 1986. Back then, before it was named Mystara, I named it Étira and my group and I designed the complete map of the world. Later, the Mystara setting was develop and we continue playing there. I have all the Gazetteers and many modules, and I merged my Étira with Mystara. In the current campaign we have 16 different adventure groups that played or are playing in the same game world with the same DM (me) across 30+ years.

I love storytelling and the interaction with the players to develop a campaign. Our campaigns are design to develop the stories and the characters. As we have been playing on the same world for 30+ years the retired characters of previous campaigns become NPC’s of the world and are part of the background that can interact with characters of newer campaigns.

We use miniatures and crafted scenery to play large battles. I love painting and crafting my own scenery. My players also love miniatures and help my craft.

You’re playing D&D 3.0. What drew you to that version of D&D, and what do you find appealing about it? Do you play any other games?

My group and I used to play OD&D for more than 20 years and then around the year 2002 changed to 3.0. We have adapted some rules from 3.5 and Pathfinder and added our own house rules into the mix. We found the 3.0 system good to customized characters, especially good tools for experience players (some of the members of my group have been playing with me for 30+ years).

We also play, SPACE 1889, d20 Modern, d20 Future, DC Heroes 3rd Edition, Gamma World 4th Edition. I’m the GM on these campaigns. Some of our players are GMs on their own campaigns, playing d20 Modern, D&D 3.0, 3.5 and 5E. I also used to play Star Trek by FASA and Shadowrun 2nd, still have the manuals.

Speaking of playing, where do you play and how often? How did the general worldwide Covid-19 situation force you and your players to adapt?

Normally we play at my house’s basement. We play each Friday from 7pm to 11pm. We also used to play what I call a Marioton (Marathon) for 12 consecutive hours one Saturday every three or four months.

The Covid-19 situation forced us to play on Discord online, using d20 for complicated battles, Dropbox to share files, the OP forum to do Play by Post during the week and finally our Facebook page to keep in touch. Using these tools, we managed to continue playing each Friday regularly from 7pm to 11pm.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

This is possibly one of the weirdest RPG stories I know:

1. A boy named Eric was into Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy and wanted to play D&D. His mother gave him the Red Box OD&D set as a gift. He didn’t have anyone to play with though.
2. The boy named Eric decided to give the Red Box OD&D set to his neighbor Luis as a gift.
3. Luis took the boxed set to his friends, and they learned to play. Luis didn’t want to be the DM so he gave the Red Box OD&D set as a gift to Ismael.
4. Ismael became the DM and continued playing when he moved to another city to study at the university.
5. Ismael and I meet at the University. We were from different cities. He showed me the game and gave me the Red Box OD&D set as a gift. I then became a DM.
6. I moved to another city and met with a boy named Eric who wanted to play D&D all his life and didn’t have someone to play and he became my friend and one of my players.
7. My friend Eric was the first owner of the Red Box OD&D set I used for playing. See event #1.

You currently have 30 players listed in your campaign. How many players do you typically have each session? Is this a shared world? If so, what advice can you give to other GMs about managing a shared world campaign?

I cannot count how many regular players have been in my gamming group across the years, I say something between 60 and 100. The 30 players on the OP are the ones who joined OP since I started using it back in 2014. I have 10 regular players at this moment.

I sit at my physical (or virtual) table 9 players at a time. My world is share with other GM’s or groups that want to continue playing in the worlds we create. Is also share with the different campaigns I play. I could have one to three campaigns with different players running at the same time in the same world. They could cross paths and we can have special 12-hour gamming sessions for specially complicated adventures and battles merging all the groups. A “Mariothon” has up to 20 players on my basement. We coordinate the event with committees in charge of foodstuffs, cooking, cleaning and even organizing the parking space. Some of the players bring their own sleeping bags and sleep in my house.

Your character log is just massive. Who comes up with all those NPCs?

I have a love of characters and I created many of them, but the Character’s bios also include the players past and present characters. Players are encouraged to create character’s bios for NPCs like their family members and even for companions and familiars, even paladin’s mounts. This is a tool I use that expands the world, and I give them XPS for creating these entries.
I take the time to create each new NPC with at least a link to a place, organization or another character already created, and I also plant some interesting or strange fact on the bio as an adventure seed. With that in mind, no character should be created without being part of the world and with space to automatically expand itself within the campaign.

How much time do you usually spend preparing your game session? Describe a typical session.

The way I prepare my campaigns, each session is built in top of the previous one and oriented to move the campaign forward. I take 5-9 hours each week to prepare a session using that, but I also invest like 4-8 extra hours of creative time per week, adding to the OP material that helps the world grow, entries for future adventures and adventure hooks.

Our typical weekly session starts where the Play by Post ended or after the last weekly session ended. We divide the adventure in scenes and normally I try to have four main events that the players must confront and try to solve. I enjoy keeping a balance between Role Playing, Problem Solving and Combat events, but we also have sessions that are completely of one type. The players have freedom to choose the path they want, and the adventures are based on their decisions, so from time to time there are chunks of the adventure that needs heavy improvisation because of this. When the players take a path that I have not prepared for, that makes me more interested because it helps the world grow and the adventure to have and unexpected turn for me. They don’t know that I didn’t have that info, maybe I have a good bluff face (or so I think). Once the events are solved, and the adventure finished, I try to record the adventure log within the next 48 hours. I also ask them the high points and low points of the adventure and get some feedback.

Who is responsible for the design and content of the site? Do your players get involved in the creative side of the campaign? If not in the design, how would you say they get involved in progressing the storyline?

Mostly is my work as a GM to design the content of the site but I have a massive help from my players. We decide the objectives of a campaign before creating characters and establish the ground rules to achieve those objectives. Based on those accords, we build characters, entries, and adventures.

I give them special XP awards for adding material, but many do extra work for the fun of it and the creative liberty. I have one player that lives on another city far from us and loves to create content to maintain himself into the game as he cannot come to play on weekly basis. Now that we are playing online his contributions are more and he plays weekly.

The players have the option to comment on the adventure log, explore the world using Play by Posts during their downtime, keep logs of their characters, and to comment on the entries in character. All these options modify the content of the OP and their characters can find information during downtime about subplots allowing them to develop their character’s backgrounds and personal story.

For this campaign we worked together to build the Alphatian Empire and each character took one or more kingdoms to focus and work on the information and even to create descriptions of places. It was an expansive task that counted on the collaboration of all of them. Because of this it was a fulfilling result that everyone enjoyed. Once we started playing on that empire, they could find the places and NPCs they helped create and get a feeling of ownership and pride.

What does the future have in store for the brave characters of your crew? Without giving the game away, is there anything you can reveal?

The current campaign started 2016 with level 1 characters and they so far have reached level 20 and above. Now in epic levels, they have travel to a demiplane were a parallel apocalyptic version of Mystara named Taramis is the home of the main enemy of the campaign. They are there to finish him off for better and for worst with no way – yet – to come back to Mystara.

One of my players read this question you asked and answered: “They assume we are brave and not plain stupid.” Referring to the deep trouble they are right now and how the events that happened before took them there.

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

I read about Obsidian Portal in the EndWorld Forums. I believe I started using OP to its full potential around 2014, but I joined and used it to store information a few years earlier. I was first interested in the wiki style of the entries and the character bios. Then as I was using it more and more the tool became a must have and the center of the campaign’s information. Before that, I used mail lists, file sharing, a weekly bulletin, and a page with a forum to keep the information in post format but OP is a LOT better.

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

Only one thing? Is too difficult. OP has helped me so much I cannot begin to count all the things I see as optimal on the page. I think I have to say that the GM Only entries and GM Only boxes inside the entries are the feature I use more, and I that enjoy the most. I can write a complete adventure in one page and link to the characters bios and wiki entries and the adventure is there, hiding like a Mimic, waiting like a landmine for the characters to step on it.

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

My players are the biggest highlight of my campaigns, I am very honored to play with them. I think the biggest highlight of my games will be the capacity of surprising the players after all these years. Something that makes them come back for more. Is either that or they have some secret desire to get new psychological scars each week.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing advice!

Concentrate on the story over the rules, and on the players over the rest. Once you commit to a gamming date, don’t change it, be consistent. Take the time to hear your players ideas and to incorporate them into the world. And take time to rest your mind, by playing other games or by taking vacation time from gaming.

And finally: Keep rolling those dice until the day you die!

26
Feb

RPG Bachelor Party

A few days ago, I was invited to attend a unique bachelor party idea – an all-day roleplaying game! It was fantastically fun and if you’re looking for a quirky conclave or a gaming get-together for your own nearly-nuptialled nerd, I encourage you to add it to your I-Do To-Do list.

12
Feb

3D Pen Mini’s

As the world of tabletop roleplaying games evolves into what feels like the future, I discern a desperate, mid-life-crisis-ish urge to stay abreast of the cool new tech that came out several years ago (I’m slow to adapt).  3D printing is one such cutting-edge contrivance… but I’m not willing to risk a large investment (read: I’m cheap) in a desktop 3D printer to make miniatures.  Not yet, anyway.  Instead, I bought a 3D Pen to see if I could wield divine power upon the (small-scale) realm of plastic!

1
Jan

Players, New and Young: Creating a Great First Game

The world of roleplaying games has expanded over the last decade – more and more players are finding their way to the table and the screen, and many of those are young adventurers with different needs and perspectives than what some of us… shall we say “veteran campaigners”… are used to. This is new territory for many GM’s, and so we present a handful of start-up tips for capturing the imaginations of players, both new and young.

18
Dec

Charities for Gamers

Inspired by the spirit of the season, we’ve compiled a list of non-profit organizations that have ties to games, gamers, and the issues that directly impact our community. As with all charity groups, we encourage you to do your research before you choose to give your time or your resources. Tell us about your favorite charities in the comments below.

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Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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