January’s CotM: Crucible of the Blacksoul

Today we’re joined by GM Kallak to talk to him about his game “Crucible of the Blacksoul“! Check out all the details on this great D&D campaign that is set within a Hackmaster setting, tune in now!

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do both aside from gaming? Alter Ego’s? Wife and kids? Where can we find you on the internet? Let us know if you feel so inclined!

Greetings to everyone on Obsidian Portal, I’m Kallak obviously – but I also go by the moniker Dangerous Dan or “DANgerous”. I reside a little south of Cincinnati, OH – in northern Kentucky and I work in quality control. I’m still single and (to all knowledge at least) have no children as of yet.

Tell us about Crucible of the Blacksoul in a nutshell. How did it come to be?

Crucible of the Blacksoul is my fourth campaign set in the Kingdoms of Kalamar (hence the #4). I had just read through Kenzer’s “Divine Masters” source-book and it really got me fired up to work on a game that was heavy into the setting’s religious material (which had been taking something of a back seat in my previous Kalamar games). The idea of having the players go up against a dark god and his minions to stop the destruction of the sun and save the world from being plunged into perpetual darkness seemed sufficiently epic in scale, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep my eye on the ball and stay motivated.

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

Our group (“Group Beta”) plays weekly, on Friday nights at Jynx001’s place in Erlanger, KY.

How long have you known your players? How long has your group been together?

I joined “Group Beta” back in November 2002, so I just recently celebrated ten years with the guys – and I’m one of the newbies. Most of the gang has been together far longer.

Even though your game is D&D, you’re using Hackmaster resources so I have to ask: which system do you enjoy more? Pros/cons?

Myself I’m more of an old school gamer, so i think d&d will always have that sort of “first love” feeling for me. However, in looking at the newest version of Hackmaster, I’m pretty interested in giving it a try as soon as
I’m able to. Kenzer makes a great product and the new Hackmaster seems to be made of the same great stuff.

Do you run any other games?

I’ve played or run everything from d&d to star wars, cyberpunk, Shadowrun and everything in between. It’s been an awesome ten years!

Speaking of D&D and WotC, they are doing reprints of older game materials & planning digital ones as well. Your thoughts?

I think this is a good thing to do. It caters to both old school gamers who may want to pick up that one book they missed our who need a replacement for an old worn copy of the books as well as the newer crowd of tablet users and pdf junkies.

How long has the campaign been going on?

Our first session was on April 06 of last year (2012), so about nine months of actual sessions now. Some portions of character development on the part of the players had started as early as January. I really wanted the characters to be fleshed out, so I was beating the back-story drum earlier than in past games.

Are you new to Obsidian Portal? If so, what brought you to the site?

I’m newer, but not completely new. I joined a little over a year ago when Jynx001 put his 2nd edition D&D campaign onto OP. I didn’t end up using the site much during that game, but it seemed like a great way to store notes for the GM, so once I started working on my campaign, I converted my notes over to wiki format. After that, I felt pretty bad that I hadn’t put the site to more use previously.

How does Obsidian Portal help you the most? Do your players get involved on the wiki or is it tough to pull them in and participate?

Probably the biggest benefit to using OP is the organization that it provides, which saves time during the actual game. No need to flip pages or thumb through notes when everything is a click or two away. It’s also really great to have all the information online for the players to reference as needed. Sadly they aren’t as involved in updating/maintaining the wiki as I’d like, but they pitch in when it counts.

Your wiki is mind bogglingly customized, which is awesome. Do you do all the work yourself? How did you do it? Lastly: what filter are you using on character portraits to give them that look? I mainly ask because I want to steal it.

Thanks. I’ve invested a considerable amount of time working on the site. Despite my best efforts, I keep ending up going back and reworking things to try and make them better or more pleasing on the eye. It’s sort of constantly under construction as it were. That said, I have to give the shout out to wolfhound. He really helped me get off the ground with turning what I saw in my head into what I saw on the page. It takes a while to do things by myself (the players aren’t involved in site development so much), but it’s a labor of love.


As for the character portrait filter, I use befunky.com’s Underpaint2 (under the “Artsy” heading) with the brush detail slider all the way to the left. GTB and I did a lot of trial and error early on to get the look I was hoping for. It also has the added benefit of covering up minor alterations on some of the characters. I’ve had to remove sunglasses, add hair, re-color clothing and who knows what else to some of them.

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

There have been a great many small moments or good one-liners, and I’m sure the players have their various opinions, but for me I believe my absolute favorite was back in session 3. The party had just left the capital city after being assembled as the investigative unit, and were on their way to spread the crown’s authority and solve the mystery – and the group ended up one short in terms of sleeping space in the tents and wagon. GTB’s character Meliantan was forced to sleep on the bare ground in the rain. The facial expressions and out of character comments during that segment were amazing. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at anything else this campaign.

The maps area of your campaign is a really neat idea, do you not even utilize our regular map features?

Well, currently I am not using the default OP map area. My Cosdol map is 2400×2400 and the standard map size seems to max out at 1200×1200. I didn’t want to take the sacrifice in resolution, so I was forced to sort of go my own way. That slowly evolved (and is still evolving) into the Area Knowledge portion of the site.

The calendar tab is also customized to be an in-game calendar which is a really nice touch. Does time in your game flow in real-time?

At times yes, at others not so much. It really depends on what is going on in the session at hand. Sometimes we’ll spend the entire session on part of one combat scenario, while at others we’ll gloss over a month’s travel in fifteen minutes.

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

I think the best advice I can offer is never assume that you’ve got it all figured out. Read what other GMs have done and keep an open mind as to what you can make work for you, or how you might be able to do something better. Whether it’s improving your system for GM notes, fine tuning your adventure design, or doing in-character voices. The gaming community is a big place, and there are endless sources for inspiration out there.


If I can give you an example from my own stash, I highly recommend Chris Perkins’ weekly column, The Dungeon Master Experience. While it is written around his 4th edition D&D games, the vast majority of the material focuses on things that go beyond what system you’re running or even what game you’re playing. I have found no lack of ideas and useful tidbits in his work.

Great stuff! That’s it for this month everybody, check back her next month for more campaign greatness!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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