December’s Cotm: La Décade des Héros

This month we’re joined by GM Pils to talk to him about his awesome Dark Sun campaign La Decade des Heros! English isn’t Pils’s native language so I tried my best to clarify some things for him so this interview is mildly edited. I hope you guys enjoy reading as much as I did meeting this awesome community member!

First off, feel free to tell us about the man 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!

Hi, I’m Mathieu Casanova, a 35 year old school teacher and fiancé getting ready to get married June. I live in a small village close to the city of Ajaccio on a little but proud island named Corsica (some of you might know Napoleon, and perhaps Pasquale Paoli?) at the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Even if we are part of France, our relations are of little conflict (but hey!… We are not here to speak of politics!). Outside of the game, I live for music: I love to listen it, and to play it too! With my band (amateur), we’re trying to realize a mix between the ancestral oral tradition of Corsican polyphony and the South-American rhythms and instruments (my house is full of guitars, charangos, quenas, zampoñas, bombo…). You can even hear me singing on Itunes! You can add the lecture of novels, books, manga, french comics, some sports, a lot of fiesta…as you can easily imagine, I’m rarely bored!

Tell us about your Dark Sun game in a nutshell. How did it come to be?

Even if we played many Dark Sun adventures time ago, I never let the players discover the many and dark secrets of this setting (they had no time for that, they were too busy trying to survive). And now, with “La Décade des Héros”, it’s time to correct this. The campaign starts before the event mentioned in the first boxed set: because of defiling magic abuse, the world is a dying desert where city-states ares scattered on. People are brutal, metal is scarce, slavery common, everyone has psionic potential, monstrosities roam the desert… In this world, it’s an honor to succeed in dying because of natural aging! The players are the actors, the shakers of the world, the first heroes who could challenge the century-reign of the sorcerers-kings, to finally bring a time of renewal on the harsh world of Athas.

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

Hum, the time I spend on Obsidian is linked on that fact: “real life” si very time consuming and it’s very difficult to play often, and just to play one game per month is a mighty challenge for us… But we meet on a almost daily basis in select committee to drink coffee (or pastis), speaking and dreaming on what we could do. Until recently we we’re playing in the garage converted into a very good looking office of one of the player.

I see this is 4e Dark Sun? Are you familiar with the older 2e stuff? If so, which do you like best? I only ask because from what I can translate it reminds me of the older stuff more than the 4e material.

Long ago we had a french version of Dragon Magazine, who released an article with the release of the Dark Sun Boxed set in 1992. I was immediately impressed by the mood of this setting (highlighted by the formidable work of the genius artist Brom): a terrible desert with immortals and unfair sorcerers-kings, where elves are liars and halflings cannibals, where magic defiles the lands and psionics are common, with only one dragon! Woohoooo!


Since then I have always been a Dark Sun fan, buying books and manuals, and reading and downloading on the net when there was no more books (thanks to The Burn World of Athas!). With the release of the setting for the D&D 4E, it seemed logical for me to play anew, but I wanted to find the old feeling under a dying sun, not the actual sanitized version of the game with the “everybody is cool, everybody is pretty, everybody sucks!”. The 4E books are just for the rules, and even I changed some of them when they weren’t adapted to my idealistic setting.

Aside from Dark Sun D&D, do you play/run any other systems or settings often?

Over the years we mostly played D&D, with the Red box, 2nd ed, 3-3.5, 4E, and in various settings: Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Scarred Lands and Mond’Ol (a homemade world). I also played a little in the World of Darkness, Legend of the 5 Rings, and now one of my players has just began running a campaign with the rules of “Qin, Les Royaumes Combattants” (a french game set in China 200 years B.C.).

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

Ah! It’s the good part! We’re all old and precious friends: Olivier and Mickaël Donadio are my cousins, I’ve known them since their birth, I knew Franck Naillat and Jean de Peretti when I was teenager. It’s been about twenty years that we’ve been playing together, we have our own ways of playing and having fun.

How long has the campaign been going on?

The campaign begin in february 2011, it’s nearly two years.

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

I discovered Obsidian Portal in 2010, when I was searching for an alternative to Gmail for storing docs for my campaign. I immediately adopted it with the campaign I was playing in the Forgotten Realm: “La Cité Enchaînée” (based on The Shackled City adventure path), which ended up going on hiatus with the release of 4E. Thanks guys, because of you I’m painfully learning textile, html, and CSS… It’s a spiral: the more you learn, the more you want to do!

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?

For me, Obsidian Portal is mainly a formidable tool to keep a memento of our adventures, and to share them with others. I’m the one who did virtually all the work and edits, but my players read and consult them regularly. One of them have learned recently how to use it too and has made is own page, we can now speak of technical matter and visual choices for our pages. Other two each had a son a few months ago (Welcome to Marc and Jean-Mickaël in this world!), they really have no time! The last one is learning with difficulty how to switch on and off his computer, and I don’t want him to be my “wiki butcher”!

Are your players comfortable with the sort of grim, “hardcore” nature of Dark Sun or do you get complaints?

As I said before, we know each other very well, we have our own code and unspoken rules, and humor is omnipresent when we play: for instance when Igor Nichon, a PC’s wizard companion, had his hands crushed by the maul of a half-giant torturer before being thrown into the arena, it was an horrible thing! But when I mimic his ridiculous expression and cries of pain, I tell you everyone laughs!

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

It was for me when the players’s characters were in the Ravenloft dark reflection of the ruined city-state of Kalidnay, there they began to discover the connection between the Dragon, others sorcerers-kings, and the world itself, and realize as this campaign should be truly epic!

The artwork on the items & characters and stuff seems to be customized, who does all that?

I’m the amateur artist who draws the characters, items, and some other images. Although not perfect, my drawings represent my vision of the Dark Sun world and maintain a coherence of mood, color and style in my campaign. I draw them with pencil or with a graphic tablet, and colorize and round off them with Photoshop. In the latest adventure logs, I colorize too the maps we’re using when we play.

How do you feel about D&DNext? Are you participating in the Playtest or has it made you feel differently about running a 4e game?

I’m honestly waiting for D&D Next! I think it’s close to gathering the spontaneity of 2n ed, choice of 3-3.5, plus some balance and ideas of 4E. We’re testing a little Next when we have time, and we often discuss the new rules they made.

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

Open your mind to create extraordinary adventures! Unleash your imagination! Read, search, dare! Don’t say “no”! With the internet you can find many blogs, tools, and friends to help you. I want to thanks in particular Duskreign, Black Vulmea, Killervp, Twiggyleaf, and Damien Master, but they are many many other who deserves my gratitude me in the community of Obsidian Portal. Finally, I will thanks too my fellow players, gaming is worthless without friendship!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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