15
Dec

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month December 2018 – Aorthe: A Sign of Things to Come

“The truth, hard as it may be to accept, is that mortals are a by-product of a war as old as time. They exist, and were placed on this Prime Plane, to live and die as a means of keeping score.” these are the words passed down through the Sermons of Oghma. Through these words may you gain strength, for yours is an existence whose fate is certain, no matter what you encounter on the face of Aorthe: A Sign of Things to Come – December’s Campaign of the Month! The divine battle rages on, and your place is beside GM Chad_Johnson_0, on the front lines.To begin, tell us more about you. What do you do for a living? When did you get your start in tabletop gaming? Is Obsidian Portal the only place where we can find your work online?

I have a lot of jobs. Primarily, I’m the Chief Information Security Officer for a the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. I’m also a professor there, where I teach in both the Computing and New Media Technologies and Sociology departments. I’m also a lecturer at Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point, where I help develop curriculum for their Information Security courses. Finally, I’m also an author. I have two books due out next year from Elsevier – Persona ex Machina – The Investigative Process and Behavioral Profiling of Computer Crimes and Digital Investigations – The Forensic Process and Examination of Digital Evidence.

 

I got my start in tabletop gaming when I was a kid in the 90’s. Stevens Point, WI isn’t all that far form the birthplace of D&D, but by that time the game had a bad reputation due to the moral panic around satanic worship and such. I’ve always been fascinated by the darker side of humanity, which not only led me to my professional and academic interests, but my personal interests as well. The stories of mind control and witchcraft only fueled my curiosity. One day in the early 90’s my mother and I were at a garage sale somewhere in town. There was a milk crate of old books there marked 50 cents each. There was a copy of the 1979 AD&D DMG, 1978 AD&D PHB, and Fiend Folio in the bin, and I took the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity. The DMG and PHB didn’t do much for me right away. Lots of rules that were confusing. The Fiend Folio, though, that hit me right in the imagination. I was already a creative kid, so reading the lore behind these monsters was right up my alley. After a while I wanted to understand what the figures in the stat blocks meant, so I read the DMG and PHB and finally understood what the game was about. It wasn’t about black magic or summoning demons – it was a collaborative story game that took place in the collective imagination of the players. New ground for me at the time. I really wanted to play, so I started putting together the things I thought I needed to run the game and explained how the game worked to my friends and my brother. We didn’t have any dice or minis or maps or anything, so for a while the game was just me describing the scenario, they describing their actions, and I would just kind-of decide what happened. I’ve always been the DM, and now several decades later it’s still the part of the game that I enjoy the most.

 

I still have the notes form my first session, and I’ve added to them considerably throughout the years. I decided a long time ago that I needed to organize these notes and put them together. I tried several products to do that, both offline and online. I found Obsidian Portal after trying another wiki, and I haven’t looked back. So at this point, other than twenty years of notes and whatever remains of those aborted efforts, all of my work is consolidated on OP for my players.

How about the players? Can you give us a rundown of the group and what characters they are playing?

The most recent group of players I have is the twenty-sixth adventuring party I’ve had. Over the years I’ve run games in person and online. In the early days of online gaming it was all done through IRC. I never really made the leap to Roll20 since my games have all been in-person since around 2008. I’ve played with it some, and if I had to move a game online I would use that and OP and I think I’d pretty much have all the bases covered. I’m currently running two games per week in my campaign setting. One of those is a group of kids, and the other a group of adults . Each group has a good mix of the eight player archetypes. Various combinations of actors, explorers, instigators, power gamers, thinkers, slayers, storytellers, and watchers. Oddly enough, for the first time I’m currently playing in my own campaign setting as someone else has asked to use my setting. I’ve never played very much to begin with, and I’ve never really had to ask myself what kind of player I am. Turns out it’s a primary mix of instigator, thinker, and storyteller. This might be the worst possible combination, because I am absolutely still trying to drive the narrative from the other side of the table.

So, give us some information about Aorthe. How long has the campaign been going on? What’s the basic premise of the storyline?

It’s been running around twenty years, give or take. The basic premise of the world is just a sandbox to contain a potentially limitless number of story arcs. I have eclectic tastes and I always tailor my campaigns to suit the party. If they want high intrigue and high social stakes, I can do that. If they want setting-based monster horror, I can do that. If they want dungeon delves and massive loot, exploring uncharted lands, high-seas adventure, mystery, whatever – I already have the setting, I just need to work up a story.

 

The premise of the backstory… Well, I take bits and pieces of of other people’s stories and mash them together, just like any other DM. I’ll try to keep it brief. In my setting, the universe was created long before the gods were born. The current gods are, essentially, abandoned children of these cosmic entities that accidentally birthed them. The Blood War is the result of the conflict between these original diametrically opposed forces of nature. In order to cease the fighting, a truce was declared. I took Carceri and Death as the only truly neutral things in the multi-verse, and figured they’d logically be the ones to hold that truce. However, a winner of the Blood War would still need to be declared eventually. We’re talking about cosmic forces that cannot abide the other’s existence, after all. So the gods looked for a world to act as a DMZ, of sorts. They came across Aorthe – a place inhabited by the Fae that looked very much like the Feywild does today. This was Arothe in the First Age, before the coming of the gods. Well, the gods straight-up took it over and moved in. There was a brief war with the inhabitants, but eventually they won out. Those that would not bend to the gods’ wills were marginalized into the Feywild. The elves who capitulated with the gods were given Arborea in exchange for a promise – to guard the Tree of Life. The Tree is essentially how the gods teraformed the world. It’s the symbol of their power and connection (literally) to their planes – the source of their power. This was the beginning of the Second Age. To decide the winner of the Blood War, the Truce essentially would leave it up to mortals. Each of the gods gave a portion of their divinity to Death, who in turn imbued each living creature (except elves) with a small spark of that divinity. When the mortal perishes, Death evaluates their life and awards the spark to the plane most in accordance with their deeds in life. The more divine power, the more powerful the god(s). In the end, a winner would be declared. In the meantime, the gods are essentially in a perpetual state of electioneering mortals. Devils offer temptation to collect souls, gods perform miracles to gain favor, etc. A soul being resurrected is essentially a god giving back that spark – something they might be reluctant to do. So in the First Age the world was the Feywild. In the Second Age the world is as it is now. The Third Age begins when the gods abandon the world and it is known as The Shadowfell.

 

So to get away with all of this I fudge a few things. The world is covered in the remains of civilizations from the First Age that the gods or their creations destroyed – plenty of ruins and loot to discover. The gods, logically, made deals with each other to form alliances. So some gods are only allowed to operate in certain parts of the world – nearly all of the campaigns begin in a small area of the globe – “the known world.” Plenty of new lands to discover. Elves once ruled the world, and had to watch it be taken over, corrupted, and handed to the mortal races. The gods fight in a cold war – bending the rules of the Truce as far as they possibly can to advance their agenda. Lots of tension and potential intrigue. Much of the world is still recovering from the gods’ war – plenty of unsettled lands to fight over and LOTS of room for the players to make their mark on the world. The Feywild and Shadowfell exist alongside the current world – no short way to explain it other than to say that time is not experiences by the gods as it is for mortals. This means I can have massive world-ending events. If the party fails, that thread of time ends, and we move to a version of the world where the world didn’t end for the next campaign.

 

The setting is as much my creation as the players I’ve had at this point. I set the story in motion – they drive it. Currently, nearly every national leader owes a former party their crown.. Nearly every border, bad guy, invention, etc. is the result of a former party’s actions. I’m a firm advocate that one of the things that makes a great game is that they player’s actions MATTER. I always make a point of never dropping a thread a player starts. They donate a bunch of gold to a street gang? Well, maybe not this party, but the next party to come through there will have a much better equipped gang in the area to deal with (See: The Savage Watch). Receive a knighthood from the King, then get caught marauding across the countryside robbing people? That will reflect badly on the King and there will be consequences (See: King Augustine III.) Character retiring and taking their loot to start a casino? Now there’s a huge casino drawing in travelers far and wide (See: The Golden Doublet in Senhudet.)

 

I apologize. I’m aiming for brevity, I swear.

How far through the campaign is the group at this point? Have things gone predominantly according to your plans or have there been any massive changes? Is there any major event coming up soon?

No campaign ever goes 100% according to plan. Planning for failure is always part of the plan. That said, I’ve gotten pretty darn good at predicting behavior over the years. I can usually narrow it down about 90% of the time to 3-4 most likely scenarios and prep those. If they throw me a real curve ball then I have no problem improvising because of the amount of world building I’ve done. If they go off script, it’s not a problem because I know who they’re dealing with and what their actions will impact. I also usually have a dozen or so rough story arcs at any given time. By “rough story arc” all I mean is that I have an outline organized along Snyder’s Beat Sheet – https://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/ so the major events are these stages. Each of these arcs is related by a theme – a general idea to ties it together – like, “moral ambiguity”, “relativity of truth”, “death of innocence” or whatever. Just something vague to keep me focused on a cohesive narrative.

 

The current adult campaign is a good example. They were following a rough planned story arc just fine until one session when they decided to stick their nose in something involved with a completely different story arc. They were on an arc with a theme of “escape and freedom” where the campaign planned to start with a jailbreak, then fleeing to new lands, the freeing allies/people from some form of bondage, then freeing a nation from tyrants. Along the way they would discover the reason they were targeted and sent to prison, and the campaign would end with a jailbreak of a different type (a big, nasty, world-ending type) to bookend the campaign story arc. In the beginning they would do everything they can to break our of jail, and in the end they would work like hell to keep something from breaking out of jail, and along the way they, wanted convicts on the lamb form the law, having established themselves as the paragons of order. Well, somewhere around the beginning of the second act they stuck their nose in a separate story arc – one involving creatures from the First Age working to reclaim their lands form the gods with a totally different theme – “regret and loss.” They focused on trying to do two things at once from levels 8 until 13. They also briefly kicked up some dust with a THIRD arc dealing with a powerful creature who is a dread lord of one of my custom domains in the Shadowfell with yet another theme – “inequity and greed.”

 

It took a while for them to settle on a course of action, but I kept all the plate in the air until they were able to satisfactorily end their side track. Now they’re back on track with the original arc, but they’re way behind. The BBEG has had lots of time to advance their plans. Next session they’ll finally be reuniting with a lost party member and learning a big secret about the BBEG’s plans. If they succeed, this arc will eventually take them to an outer plane to prevent a cosmic power from violating the Truce.

Looking at the campaign site, I can see that yours is what some might consider a little “plain Jane”, but is simply packed with information. Any comments on this somewhat minimalist approach?

I use OP to supplement information at the table. If I was more heavily involved in Roll 20 or running games online, I’d absolutely do more with it. Right now, I use it as a way to save my notes in a way that is searchable (hard to do with 20 year old notebooks) and share information with players. Plus it givens them something to look at between sessions. It’s entirely optional, I never expect them to know anything about the setting, but having something to look at helps fill the time between sessions. Since the upgrade, accordion and carousel widgets are available, which I’ve found very nice for better organizing information. I guess I don’t do more with it because I don’t need to do more with it. It lets me organize information in a logical way for myself and the players. All I need is text, images, and links.

 

Why so much information… Well, in addition to making sure player actions matter, I think one of the most important things to a good campaign is verisimilitude. Things should make sense. The world should live and breathe. Too much detail at the table bogs things down, but just having the information available can really make a scene. Being stopped at the city gates and showing the OP entry that shows the city has laws against the open carry of weapons means that city stands out from all the other generic fantasy cities. Having an NPC mention an archaeological dig site, and then a player asks what they know about it, and you can pull up the OP entry and say “Here, read if you’re interested, but it’s not relevant right now” is great and adds a new layer to the setting. Culture is really important – culture defines society. “Dwarves are Scottish, all elves have English accents and live in trees, and all halflings are trickster thieves” is good shorthand, but it’s not a culture and it doesn’t set your dwarves and elves apart from any other. Culture IS history, the arts, laws, holidays, and all the minutia that 99% of the time will never be spoken at the table. Just knowing it is there is enough, and you can see it reflected in every interaction your players have with your world.

In terms of the site more generally, do you have a “can’t live without it” feature here on Obsidian Portal? How about a feature you could use that isn’t there? If you could add an item to the developer To-Do list, what would it be?

I couldn’t live without the GM-only features. Having a section on each page AND the ability to mark a whole page off limits is essential. I run a LOT of secrets, and like any DM I am constantly adjusting things behind the scenes to keep things moving and keeping thing coherent. Plus there are time when I find I’ve accidentally contradicted myself. Having a DM only section lets me do that without the players coming to realization that behind the cool facade I am actually a completely disorganized mess.

 

Suggestions for improvements… Yeah, I have a couple.

 

First – So I have a TON of images on my site. There is a section I can go to organize them into folders, but the UI is awful. It’s not responsive, I can’t filter images in any way, I can only see a handful of images at a time, and worst of all if I move an image after it’s been uploaded and embedded it’ll break the site. I would LOVE a better way to organize my images. At this point I have several duplicates juyst because finding and removing older versions of maps and such is such a hassle.

 

Second – I really, really like having a separate section for characters. I also use it for NPCs, but it would be nice to have more available there. A description and bio is a good start, but a place to keep stats or inventories or something would be great and it would give my players a reason to use the site more.

 

Third – The Maps section – I never use it, but I’d like to. I don’t find it’s useful due to the limitations (both number of maps and file size limit.) As it is, I just put the maps in a wiki entry and call it a day.

 

Fourth – TEMPLATES. There are a couple things that I bet every entry on OP has – nations, races, magic items, etc… We have a pseudo-template for characters and npcs – it’d be great to have some for those things, too. A nation template with an entry for rulers, places of interest, a place for a flag image, etc. I admit, I’m cribbing this directly form an older product I used to use that had these features, and I liked them.

 

Fifth – There’s a widget to select another wiki page and link it. That’s great, but how about just a section for “related pages” where we can just check boxes for search for pages that are related to the topic of the current page? If I could have a page for a city and just have a “related” section to link the entry for the ruler and nation and any NPCs that live there, it would same be a lot of redundant work.

 

Sixth – I wouldn’t mind being able to do overlays for images. If I uploaded a map to OP, and could move a pin to indicate where each party ended up by the end of the session, that’d be useful. Heck, it’d also be really cool to have a history, so a party could see the routes they’ve traveled throughout a campaign.

 

Ok, that’s probably more than you were looking for so I’ll leave it at that. That said – I love the site and the new features are terrific and keep up the good work.

Do you have any particular sources of inspiration when writing for the game? Any you might recommend to others looking to craft a campaign of this sort?

I base my NPCs on real people. People I know, historical figures, whatever. For stories I get ideas all over the place. Ripping off ideas to use at the table is a tried and true hallmark of any DM and any DM that insist on using 100% original content and ideas is setting themselves up for failure. Great ideas stand upon the shoulders of giants, and there is no such thing as a truly original idea. The key is to make it your own. I’ve used story lines right out of literary classics, old westerns, existing modules, action movies. Doesn’t matter – a good idea is a good idea. If had any advice, it would be be that along with – keep it simple. If your story is too detailed it’s worthless because the odds it’ll go according to plan are slim. As the DM you don’t write the story. The players write it. You just frame it, so you only need to know enough about the story to tell them players what happens next.

Out of everything that has transpired in the campaign so far, what’s your favorite moment? What does it stand apart for you?

I don’t really couch favorites, but there have been a few important turning-points in the game. If we’re talking abiut favorite moment of any campaign, that would be really impossible. For the current campaigns…

 

There was one time when the players were paid a surprise visit by a former angel that has been cast into the 9 Hells. A soldier in the Blood War that had tired of the endless conflict and tension of the Truce turned against his patron master and cast out of Mount Celestia. Now he was working for a devil y the name of Gaozul, an antagonist of the party. Gaozul used the angel to deliver a truce of his own – a contract ending hostilities between them. They signed it, and were shocked to find the devil had delivered a copy of the contract to every ally they had – many of which weren’t too keen on dealing with people that would strike a bargain with a devil.

 

There was one time when a party member snuck into another party member’s tent at night and cut his finger off in order to steal an important artifact from him. It wasn’t done out of greed – the character had become unstable, abusing substances to stay awake because he was being hunted by an evil hag. The player wanted to ensure it stayed safe, so she stole it and ran off.

 

There was the time when the party attended the circus, only to have it crashed by an antagonist who floated a balloon shaped like a beholder filled with poison gas into it. Also the time they were invited to a masquerade ball and obvious trap and avoided it, only to find out the BBEG sent someone impersonating them to crash the party anyway, because the BBEG made it seem like such an obvious trap he knew they’d avoid it.

 

Eh, the number of moments is too hard to pin down. Every session has something worth remembering. Even the sessions where they spend the entire time working on a strategy to deal with an enemy has its moments.

Is there a plan yet for the next campaign? If so, any details or concepts you can share?

Depends on the party. I keep so many stories in the air I just go with whatever make sense for them.

 

Right now I have a story arc that involves and invasion from an unknown land across the sea – the first contact with anyone now in the known world and it’s a hobgoblin army looking to invade. Known as the White Flail Legion, the current vanguard force of lowly goblins and bugbear are only meant to “soften up” the enemy. When the time is right, the main force will land with terrifying war machines and a host of monstrous soldiers. This will eventually take the party out of the known world for the first time to Auslund to confront the commander of the Legions – the high priest of Bargrivyek who has commanded the goblin races to come together to conquer the world. This would be for a party seeking high action and adventure.

 

I have a story arc about a dread lord in the Shadowfell who is vampire beholder who is seeking a way to escape. A previous party released him into the Shadowfell because he has designs to take over some lands and be worshiped as a god-king, so that’s what he did. Now he’s trapped there, and pretty upset by it. This would take them through the Shadowfell but first they’d have to figure out that the beholder is behind it by following a series of clues, then survive the deadly Mists. This would be for a party that’s into mysteries and horror.

 

A coming civil war after the death of a Marchioness, the result of one of the current campaigns. The King is in a weak spot politically and there’s no doubt the remaining Maquis will attempt to wrest control and end the Augustine line once and for all. With few resources and allies, the party is invested in protecting the regent and ensuring the war ends in the King’s favor. This would be for a party that like politics and courtly intrigue.

 

The Tree of Life is in crisis after a curse plant was grafted onto it (also the result of a previous campaign.) The elves are in disorder, and they aren’t sure what to do. Many have abandoned their mission of protecting the tree. The lack of resistance and perpetual shade beneath the boughs of the tree have made it far too easy for drow and other creatures form the Underdark to spill out onto the surface. The drow, still harboring the ancient enmity against the gods at the end of the First Age, intend to hold the tree hostage. The gods cannot act directly without disrupting the Truce, but they can act through the party, who must now race against the clock and face insurmountable odds to restore the elves to the Abari Valley and save the Tree before the world is plunged into the Third Age. This would be for a high fantasy adventure party – huge story like a superhero chronicle.

 

Some smaller ideas – An incursion of Yuan-Ti to the south. A rift to the Far Realm causing chaos to leak into reality. The resurrection of a dead god who never agreed to the Truce and it’s too happy about it. The plots of a particularly astute mindflayer named Alorxlan coming to fruition. Too many to name, but I like keeping a lot of ideas around. Writing stories and designing dungeons have always been my favorite parts about D&D. Each party is so different, it doesn’t pay to really flesh something out until you know what you’ve got on your hands. Even the same players with different characters will behave differently, and never forget that sometime players like to mix it up. Nobody wants to play pretend pirate EVERY campaign.

Finally, as is customary in our interviews – give us your best GM lesson(s) for others. What tips can you provide for new GMs?

First – Do a session zero. Get together to talk about character ideas and fill the players in on anything they might not know. Don’t allow them to make a wizard unless they know you use a low-magic world. Don’t let the players choose races where they’ll be considered a pariah and attacked on site unless they know what they’re signing up for.

 

Second – At the beginning of a session, do a recap of last events. Once in a while, start the session off by asking each player to tell everyone something about their character that the others don’t know. If they’re travelling together, they will learn things about each other, and things like this can be a good transition from “just got off work” to “I’m using magic to kill a dragon.” It’s also good for you because it gives you information to tailor the narrative. Just be careful not to use the information against them or they won’t share anything next time.

 

Third – Run the campaign you all want. Don’t force the players to run through your super gritty survival campaign if they want high adventure and costume balls. Don’t force yourself to run a game you don’t like, either.

 

Fourth – Remember that the players are the heroes of the story. I have had a lot of players come to my table scarred by previous DMs that played the game in an adversarial fashion. If you want to play to win then don’t DM because there is no way to win as DM. Either the bad guys lose or the bag guys wins but either way you lose. DMing works best if you are an impartial arbiter of the world. You are not a god or character. You are more akin to a force of nature – passionless and acting according to the laws of the universe. That’s why I don’t care if players min-max. For some players, getting better numbers and stomping mobs IS the fun part. If they want to be a superhero – I let them. There are plenty of ways to DM around that. Not every encounter should be solvable with an attack roll or +18 to a persuasion check. Every session should have something for the players to do. Nothing worse than showing up to play and sitting around while a single character has their own side trek. Only thing worse is sitting there playing second banana to a DM PC / Mary Sue. Things not involving the party should be happening, and it should be apparent they’re happening, but the sessions are where they get together to help you tell a story that is ABOUT THEM.

 

Fifth – At the table, I keep three things I need to DM – a laptop to access my notes on OP, a pad of paper to make quick notes, and a binder with some charts and tables in it. My style is simple. I prepare very little in advance of a session because I have a rough idea of what’s happening and enough random tables to cover anything else. A lot of DMs forget about PACE! Pacing is so important – it creates a sense of urgency in action scenes, allowed the feeling of relief during downtime. Pace keeps the players focused and present. If you have a choice between halting the game for 5 minutes to look up a rule or figure out what the name of a random NPC is and just making a call and going with it – that should be a clear choice. “You want to try to ride the octopus? Ok, I don’t know the RAW on that but we can look it up later. For now, let’s do an Int check to see if you can improvise a saddle.” Done and dusted – keep the game moving. Unless the current pace is slow, don’t hold things up.

 

Sixth – I use the time I save prepping for sessions making props.They don’t have to be great, but a quick letter written in a script font and handed to the player is way cooler than just telling the player that they got a letter and then telling them what it says. I’ve seen DMs go pretty far for props, and more power to them, but anything other than just doing it is gravy.

 

Seventh – “Yes, and…” and “No, but…” are critical foundations to good improvisation. If a player has a premise and a logical basis for it, then “No” should never be the response. If something is truly impossible, then you should always offer some new piece of information. “Can I ride the octopus?” “No, but the octopus might be able to carry you in its tentacles.” In improve, merely stating “Yes” or “No” is a scene killer. It put all the work for keeping momentum on one person.

 

Eighth – I’ve seen a lot of DMs make this mistake… Remember: YOU ARE how the players experience the world. If you don’t tell them it’s there, it doesn’t exist. If you don’t mention a reaction, it didn’t happen. If you don’t describe it, it’s a blank void in their minds. DESCRIBE THINGS. Remember – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. A description should include at least some information derived from the character’s senses. Way too often I hear DMs at the table saying things like, “You open the door, and you a see a goblin with a sword and he attacks you.” Now, you don’t have to dramatize everything, but you need to provide more information. That scenario provides the players with only one option: attack roll to kill the goblin. Conversely, there is this description: “You press the door gently until it breaks free of the jamb, carefully pushing to avoid the betrayal of a squeaking hinge. Damp air from the room beyond swells around you, carrying the scent of sweat that assaults your senses. A noise from within rings out – a shout in the Goblin tongue. You don’t understand what was said, but the intention is clear as the sound of a sword being drawn from its sheath is heard. You open the door to see your efforts of silence were in vain as a stout goblin wearing both a sneer and a fashionable golden earring strides across the uneven cobblestone floor. In broken Common, the goblin calls out a warning that intruders will become prisoners of the White Flail.” Maybe the party will roll to attack. Maybe even most likely they will, but describing what the characters experience brings it to life and potentially gives them something to go on for another course of action.

 

Ninth – Make encounters dynamic. Having X mobs fight Y players on a flat plain, advancing to striking distance and standing there whacking at each other is not exciting. Think of some really good stories – like the The Shining for example. The setting is just as much a character as the characters themselves. Where things happen matters. D&D is not a video game – there are no invisible walls and no unscripted actions. If a fight takes place in a warehouse full of barrels of ale, why wouldn’t the enemy use that to their advantage somehow? Style, intelligence, and strategy is part of what makes creatures unique. Environmental hazards, terrain, cover, improvised defenses, traps – all are tools to make an encounter dynamic.

 

Tenth – START STRONG! Every campaign I run, I do an intro that ends with “roll initiative.” The start of a story is the most critical part. A weak beginning makes it much harder to have players invest in the story. Don’t drop them into a “Your at the local tavern drinking ale, what do you want to do?” or “You’re currently having an audience with the King, here is a twenty-minute expository speach form the King before he sends you to kill rats in the basement.” Drop them right INTO THE ACTION. People come to D&D to PLAY. Put them right into the thick of it and roll some frigging dice! “You stand at the bow of the flagship of the King’s navy. As new recruits, you haven’t been aboard long enough to truly understand what you’re in for, but as you gaze out at the fleet of Evil Emperor Bad Guy sailing fast to meet you over the icy water, you can think only of those reasons you volunteered. You’re lost in thought too long, and are nearly caught off guard when the bosun shouts a warning to brace for impact as an enemy ship strikes a glancing blow along the bow and stops fast as the two ships oars become entangled. Shadows fly across the deck – ropes. You are about to be boarded. Roll for initiative.” Way better.

 

There you have my top ten rules for DMing.

– – –

And with that I’m afraid your time on Aorthe has come to an end mortal. But fear not, for you may content yourself with the knowledge that the contribution of your soul will help to bring The Blood War to an eventual end. The next age will come in due time, and a new campaign with it. As you pass on into the hereafter, do be good enough to post your favorites to the nominations thread on the community forums. Keep our Featured Campaign program going on into eternity.

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