Winter Is Coming, July’s Campaign of the Month

We’re here with TheShadows to talk to them about their rather unique ASOIAF campaign entitled “Winter Is Coming”. Read on to discover that Obsidian Portal can be home to many different kinds of roleplaying.

Winter Is Coming...

First off, feel free to tell us about the person(s) behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do both aside from gaming? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet, that sort of thing!

There are two people operating under the name TheShadows – a bit of an inside joke of ours, the name – each with their own individual account. Though we realize now that it’s been a while since we’ve last used those…

I’m Maru15, though I commonly just go by Maru. It’s a username shared between most of my online accounts and though you’ll likely be able to find it in a few places around the interwebs – some of which I’ve probably forgotten about, even – I usually just hang around the places where we roleplay, lately. I’m a Pharmacy student from Portugal, and when not gaming, I enjoy reading, a lot of it, videogaming and to balance those, camping and hiking on occasion.

I’m loevelynn, commonly known as Lo. I’m from Canada, I studied English Literature, and I’m the other half of TheShadows. You can find me where we roleplay, and on Deviantart (http://loandbehold19.deviantart.com/) where I post some of my character drawings. When I’m not roleplaying online or depicting various roleplay characters, I’m most often reading, writing, or just hanging out with my pet rabbit, Ash.

So…tell us about Winter Is Coming.

The whole thing actually started by complete accident when some of our players met each other by chance on a chatroom for a Game of Thrones browser game. It began with some silly, nonsensical roleplay and eventually developed into something much more serious, which none of us expected at the time but we’re all thankful for.

We try to balance the court intrigue that the ASOIAF series is known for, having characters compete with and conspire against each other for positions of power for themselves and their Houses, with an overarching plot with a common foe who our players must unite against if they don’t want the whole Seven Kingdoms to come crumbling down. Said common foe is at the moment en route to the Wall separating the realm from the Lands of Always Winter with a clever plot to destroy it – and possibly bring about an invasion of the nasty creatures lurking beyond. As fans of the series will no doubt be able to tell, we’ve branched away from canon, creating our own custom story in Westeros. We’ve recently had our one-year anniversary, something that none of us had seen coming in the very beginning, and we’re excited for what the future may bring and all the possibilities we still have to play around with.

What do you enjoy most about BRP?

(It’s actually text based roleplay. We only noticed the discrepancy after reading this question, and were actually quite surprised that neither one of us noticed that particular option in the settings. It’s been corrected.) Though it may not be for everyone, we think that this particular style of RP, lacking complex systems of stats, die rolls and such mechanics – we use some simplified versions on occasion – makes it easier for newcomers to join in, especially those new to roleplaying in general, of which we’ve had quite a few of.

We try to give politics and intrigue a bigger spotlight than actual combat, and when you have two players pitted against each other in a battle of whispers, die can do very little to help. It’s up to each person’s secrecy, plotting skills and ability to make allies. Additionally, the fact that we use live chat to roleplay makes it considerably faster-paced than the kind done on forums, for example, which we find exciting. It’s harder to think under pressure, such as when you’re put on the spot for something treacherous your character has done or said and menacing guards are starting to unsheathe their weapons all around.

What do you enjoy most about Game of Thrones?

Oh, wow… We could go on for quite some time about this one. We could talk about how George R. R. Martin’s willingness to kill fan-favourite main characters adds much appreciated suspense to the story, as we never truly know if the “hero” – though the accuracy of the term is arguable, since most characters can’t be oversimplified as “good” or “evil” – will make it out of a difficult situation. We could talk about how the focus on politics and intrigue instead of flashy magic and gruesome creatures makes for a refreshing, subtler take on the fantasy genre. We could talk about how awesome dragons are. Really, there’s a lot to talk about. It’s a great show and some amazing books, and we certainly recommend both!

How regularly do you play, and where do you play? (If you play online, do you use any certain tools to accomplish your gaming such as Google hangouts, roll20, etc.)

We have daily sessions online, in a Chatzy room we linked to in our campaign page. It offers some basic roll die commands that are more than enough to satisfy our occasional need for some randomness and keeps a record of everything we write. Though we sometimes use a variety of other services for voice and even video chat, they’re not used for the roleplay.

Who puts all of your wiki together?

Well, we expect players to create and maintain their character pages and anything related to those, like items or songs. As for the rest of the wiki, it’s a team effort. One of us writes most of the entries and manages the general organization of the page while the other focuses more on image editing and regular maintenance.

We’re both perfectionists. We like making sure everything’s as great as it can be, and that includes occasionally going over our pages to correct grammar and spelling mistakes or formatting accidents that other players sometimes don’t notice. These things have a way of piling up, and it’s lengthy and not particularly exciting work, but we help each other out a lot, and things just wouldn’t work as smoothly if we didn’t.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game? How much time do you usually take to prepare for a session?

We draw inspiration from George R. R. Martin’s books, of course, a number of other works of fiction, History – research is a fundamental part of our campaign, we like to make sure that everything is at the very least plausible – and each other.

Our usual daily sessions don’t really require any time to prepare other than a few minutes to chat out of character, get in the mood and wait for more players to show up. Often, players will just take the initiative, interact with each other and make things happen on their own. However, it does usually take us some time to plan events related to the main plotline, and depending on their complexity, it can take as little as a couple of hours and as much as a few days.

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

It’s funny, because actually, we haven’t. Considering the circumstances of its creation, most of the participants, and that includes both of us, lacked any RP experience at all.

We’ve since acquired it, though, and newcomers to our community vary from complete newbies like we were to seasoned roleplayers – we get a good mix of both and try to be welcoming to everyone regardless of how familiar they are with the activity. This campaign did a great job of getting us into RP though, and we’ve both discussed other styles we’d like to try out eventually, like D&D.

Do you and your players all watch the show? How many of you have read the books?

The vast majority of our players watch the show, and most of those who don’t have at least read the books. As for the two of us, one only watches the show and the other has only read the books. We’ve had some people who had done neither, and therefore had no knowledge of the ASOIAF series whatsoever, but, understandably, a lot didn’t stick around. Some showed remarkable perseverance, though! (And memorized the ASOIAF wiki.)

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

With a few rare exceptions who are friends or even relatives in real life, we’ve all met each other online. People have come and gone during the course of the roleplay, but a few of the initial ones, we’ve known for a little over a year now, ever since the beginning. Most have been around for months. We’ve grown close, and we’re proud to say that there are people in the community that we can safely call friends.

I really like the Rule section of your Wiki, have you ever had players get particularly upset about any of them?

Not exactly, no. Every rule in that section has been created in response to situations we’ve experienced in the course of our campaign. Most of them will undoubtedly look ridiculously basic to veteran roleplayers, but they were essential at the time they were created and they continue to be so, given that we regularly take in inexperienced newcomers. It’s a constant process, and we still have updates to that page as more rules are added or existing ones are tweaked.

Not every current player was around for the creation of each rule, but they were all written with the agreement of the group and we believe that in general, everyone understands the purposes behind them – which can be summed up to avoiding unfair situations, increasing everyone’s enjoyment and helping us grow as roleplayers and even writers. While we do sometimes have a few conflicts over transgressions of those rules, those are more due to the players not thinking that they are in violation of them rather than disagreeing with their existence.

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

As our roleplay grew, accumulating history and characters, we started struggling to keep up with it all, and every time someone new wished to join, one of our players would have to interrupt his session for a long exposition.

Obsidian Portal was suggested by one of our members when he noticed these problems. It provided a reliable, appealing method of keeping a record of our endeavors in Westeros and allowed new players to explore our story freely, at their own pace and without disrupting the roleplay going on. Our community took to it quite quickly. It has since become an important part of our campaign and everyone has the link to it ready to be dispensed whenever someone expresses interest in joining us. It’s really made things much easier for us, and well, I suppose that’s why we keep coming back!

Now that the Reforging has been live for a little while now, what are your favorite parts?

It’s a bit hard to remember Obsidian Portal prior to the Reforging at this point, to be honest, though we do recall that the addition of tags was a big improvement. We also got a lot of feedback from our players about how much easier linking to characters and other pages was, and it helped us quite a lot in our endeavor to have our wiki properly interconnected, ensuring that others could do it themselves without much trouble.

Overall, while there are still some bugs to flesh out, we’re really happy with the update and how Obsidian Portal works, as well as excited to find out what the future will bring!

What would you say the single biggest highlight from Winter Is Coming has been so far?

In our roleplay, it’s not unusual for characters to be off in their little groups, each with their own problems and concerns, as life in King’s Landing goes on (somewhat) uneventfully between events of the overarching plot.

Our biggest highlight would have to be a moment that brought all characters together, friends and foes alike, against a common enemy bent on everyone’s destruction: the invasion of the city by several mercenary companies from across the Narrow Sea and even some Westerosi traitors, all united under the flag of the main villain. Not only was that probably our most successful event, consisting of extremely long, uninterrupted sessions over two days and counting with the participation of a very large number of players, it also provided us with something to look forward to for a few weeks, eliciting extensive preparations for the incoming attack by the people of King’s Landing and giving birth to some very interesting pre-battle situations and great character development.

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

At the end of the day, this is simply a game, we’re all playing it to have fun and that should be what matters most. If you’re not having fun, there’s something wrong, and if there’s something wrong, don’t just expect it to get better by itself, do something about it! Players need to communicate with their GMs, and vice-versa. No problem can be solved by simply bottling up your feelings and waiting to blow up.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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