9
Feb

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month February 2020 – Terror at Thrushmoor

Any campaign that begins with a Lovecraft quote should strike dread into all – and that is exactly what happens with February’s Campaign of the Month! Occult books, strange creatures, lost memories and strange mists; all starting with the Briarstone Asylum – and that’s just the opening act! All of this (and more!) is brought to you by Terror at Thrushmoor’s innovative DM, Gastoff! This Pathfinder campaign will terrify any who look upon it. Do you dare?

First off, feel free to tell us more about the person behind the GM screen. What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Ego’s?

gastoffBy day, I am a Construction Accountant in central Arkansas, by night I am a hobbyist woodworker. I have a beautiful wife and two boys (6 yo. and 6 mo.) During the warm weather, I enjoy gardening and tending my worm farm (best soil makers on the planet!) and spending time with my family outdoors.

 

I started gaming as a freshman in High School with the 3.0 D&D system, and my first character to make it past 3rd level was Gastoff, my sorcerer. From that point on, all my online screen names use this as the default. I played two characters side by side from level 1 up through level 24 when they finally retired to that great gaming table in the sky.

Tell us about Terror at Thrushmoor in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

Terror at Thrushmoor is my first foray into DMing. Yes, I say DM instead of GM…I cut my teeth on D&D. Many of my close gaming friends from High School have continued to game over the years, but since we all live in different states these days, we had been gaming together via Table Top Simulator for the last few years. In the spring of 2019, our regular DM had a bout of computer problems and was unable to host the campaign for an unforeseen amount of time, so I volunteered myself as a temporary DM to run a small side campaign until things were back up and running.

 

Little did I know back in March 2019, but my campaign soon usurped the one that was on hiatus.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/159268/assets/740706/Thrushmoor.png?1495781630

How regularly do you play, and do you use anything besides Obsidian Portal and Table Top Simulator?

Since all of us have full time jobs, most have families and children, and we are playing across three separate time zones (Alaska, Colorado, and Arkansas), scheduling has always been the most difficult part of the campaign to nail down. Initially, I aimed for every 2 weeks, but would adjust it by a week here or there as timing conflicts arose. After the birth of my youngest son, Roman, in August of 2019, it slowed to around once a month. Since the holidays, we have been on a temporary break until our schedules get more dependable. As an accountant, January is one of my craziest, busiest months for work because of all the end of year reporting. I am hoping to get a fresh session going within a month though.

 

We game online through Table Top Simulator on Saturday nights and use Discord for group voice chat. Like OP, I love this system for its versatility and immersion capabilities. Having a 3D virtual tabletop helps to recreate that “sitting around the gaming table” feel, even if it is only a poor substitute for the real thing.

Your campaign is notable for its many design innovations, with lots of CSS usage! Where did your design knowledge come from and what advice can you give to new GMs wishing to improve their sites in similar ways.

While it feels like a lifetime ago, I only upgraded to Ascendant at the end of October 2019, and that was the beginning of my journey into using CSS. I have spent many hours scouring through other Obsidian Portal campaigns and digging through the Custom CSS coding of other players when I find something I like. My campaign is a piecemeal CSS chimera held together by flashy effects to distract you from the stitching and scars.

 

There are only a handful of CSS effects that haven’t been shamelessly stolen from others, such as the fade in/out when transitioning between pages. Everything else was borrowed and modified to fit. My advice to new DMs who want to spruce things up is to start small, know what you want the end result to look like, and then start digging through other campaigns until you find something similar enough as a starting point.

 

From the beginning, I wanted my campaign site to feel like an extension of the Adventure Path book that the campaign is being run off of, so I chose many elements to be a reflection of the AP design. The yellow side banner, yellow and green color scheme, tentacle background border and many other aspects are lifted directly from the Adventure Path books and altered with photo editing software to fit my campaign.

How valuable do you find being Ascendant? What do you find to be the best features?

By virtue of my profession, I am a major miser…especially when it comes to monthly subscriptions. From March 2019 to October 2019, all the customization on my site was being done through inline HTML or inline CSS within the posts themselves. This was extremely limiting, time consuming, and difficult to tweak. I had an issue I could not figure out and took my frustration to the forums. Conan_Lybarian convinced me to bite the bullet and get an Ascendant subscription…boy was it a world changer!

 

My favorite feature of Ascendant is the custom CSS screen. The other features are an awesome addition, but the custom CSS feature is the reason I upgraded and the feature I use the most.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/159268/assets/749631/ThrushmoorWithLabels.png?1498096421

What does the future have in store for the characters in Thrushmoor? Without giving the game away, is there anything you can surmise……?

No real surprises since I am running the campaign straight out of the Adventure Path books. The campaign is about 90% canned with 10% of my own tweaking thrown in. The campaign starts with the PCs waking up in an asylum with all their memories and past wiped away. They have uncovered who is responsible for this, and are tracking him across Golarion.

 

The campaign has a heavy Lovecraftian bent to it, so the Players can expect some givens in the future: progressively stranger encounters with abominations, travel to exotic and unknown otherworldly locations, and an every growing sense of futility, desperation, and confusion. They may even be so unfortunate to come in contact with an Elder God or two!

Pathfinder is a great system, is there any reason in particular you use it as opposed to other systems?

I grew up playing 3.x D&D and am still in love with the Greyhawk world, but the Pathfinder system really stepped up and delivered on what I felt was the most enjoyable part of gaming: character customization. Some people are frustrated with how overwhelming the Pathfinder content can be, but for me, that is what I love about it. I can take a fledgling character concept and create it fairly easily using the rules provided. In 3.5e, it took a lot more jumping through hoops, homebrewing, or DM hand-waving to achieve the same thing.

 

I love numbers and enjoy totaling up rolls with all the countless modifiers and was disappointed that 5e seemed to do away with that.

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

I’ve known all my players for almost 20 years. We started gaming together in High School (2001 for any of you wondering…) and have run through numerous campaigns since then.

https://lukems.github.io/vardaellen/_static/art/inner.jpg

You have a lot of adventure logs, do your players participate in writing them, or is that solely your responsibility? Do you use them only for recap purposes, or do you find that they have other uses?

I love writing and storytelling and have always been the one to do first person journals for whatever character I play. I use them as a method of fine-tuning my character’s personality while also documenting what happened during a session. With this campaign starting out with all the PCs being amnesiacs, I knew that character development needed to be strong right from the beginning. I wanted each of the players to write their own journal entries, from the point of view of their character, as often as possible. So I did what any respectable DM would do to get his players to do what he wants…I offered them an XP bonus each time they made an entry. In my campaign, if a player does a recap, they get a 10% XP bonus during the following session.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best DMing pearls of wisdom…

Think of your campaign like a rubber band around a peg and your players as a second movable peg…as long as they stay close enough to the “campaign peg”, they have infinite freedom. As they begin straying off course, SLOWLY increase the tension to guide them back on course to keep things moving forward. Ultimately, if they stray too far, the band will break and it will be impossible to get back on the same path.

 

Players do not want to feel like they do not have a choice, so always allow them at least the illusion of choice. However, they also want some form of guardrails to help keep the plot progressing. So…Rubber Band DMing.

– – –

Tragically, our time with Gastoff and his Terror at Thrushmoor campaign has come to an end. We do hope you enjoyed the ride – and survived to tell the tale! Next month, we’ll be back with a whole new world for you to explore, but in the meantime, keep those nominations coming!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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