14
Jul

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month July 2018 – Morwindl Rising Tide

‘Tis a strange and awful thing to try and forget. To go about your life and hope that memories fade. The quiet, emptiness of night is the worst. When the chores of the day have gone, and you lie in bed with nothing but your thoughts. It’s difficult not to have Vecna come to mind, and what nearly was. Such is our hardship here, in the kingdom of Morwindl | Rising Tide – July’s Campaign of the Month! Though the darkness has fallen, other dangers loom. Gather your courage now friends, for we travel forth in search of Bortas, the GameMaster of this epic campaign!

But first a quick announcement!

Obsidian Portal is proud to announce that our Campaign of the Month program is now sponsored by Modiphius Entertainment, publisher of such fine products as Star Trek Adventures, Robert E. Howard’s Conan – Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of, Achtung! Cthulhu, Corvus Belli’s Infinity – and much more! Their generous monthly contribution adds a whole new level of excitement to the featured campaign process, and we couldn’t be more pleased with this partnership!

And now, on with the feature!

First and foremost, tell us a bit about you. Where do you hail from? What do you do for a living? Are there other places we can see your work on the internet? Tell us about the man behind the campaign. Inquiring minds wanna know!

I grew up in small town Idaho, but I currently live in the ‘burbs of Seattle in a town called Bremerton. I’ve made a career out of healthcare security; interesting times we live in. I got into amateur website design when I was a teenager, and I got into the habit of developing my own website for whatever activity I’m engaged in: sailing, video games, LARP, D&D. All of those websites can be found at Bortas.Net. I really enjoy all sorts of crafting, so our D&D table is often ripe with all kinds props; terrain, minis, wanted posters, treasure chests, et cetera.

Can you describe your journey into the wide world of tabletop roleplaying? When did you get your start? And what has kept you gaming since then?

I attempted to play for the first time in the early ‘80s (a handful of recesses), but that was nipped in the bud early by my folks, they didn’t feel it aligned with our values. I played again with some friends in college (late 90s): we had a great time building characters, but we had a TPK in our very first encounter, and that was the end of it for our group.

 

Around 2010, some friends of mine where talking about playing, and I decided 3rd time’s a charm, and I jumped right in. Within a couple of months, I started collecting ideas for my own adventure, but more on that in a minute. I stay in gaming because of the collective moments of surprise, which almost perfect ‘aha!’ moment you’ve been seeding for a long time. The collective storytelling we are all trying to do is a never ending source of inspiration and delight – each person’s point of view and ideas makes the stories even richer and increases fun.

Rurik2006

Player of: Kirkwell

 

I got started in Junior high. I always enjoyed RPGs and when I recognized that the groundwork for all of them was D&D, it was an obvious move. I’ve stuck with it because its 100% your own creation. You get to use your imagination to the extreme. There are no rules or limitations due to programming, and that’s just wonderful!

juliehamner1

Player of: Mishaan

 

I started playing D&D about 4 years ago after observing a couple of sessions at the table. I was introduced to the game by my boyfriend. The idea of role playing a character that they had created seemed super fun and also quite imaginative and well….nerdy. That isn’t meant in a bad way…just not something I had ever imagined. I was instantly intrigued! I still feel excited every time I play but anxious too. There is still a lot I need to learn about game mechanics. I continue to play with the intent of letting myself become more my character each time I sit at the table. I ask myself…”What would Misha say or do?…and the first thing I think of I do it! I dress up as dragonborn with horns and face paint. I say things as my character that I wouldn’t say as my introverted socially anxious self, and I have fun! I continue to play because I like the surprises and story twists carefully planned out and outlined by Bortas.

Niobe

Player of: Sparklegem

 

I always had an interest but when I was 12 I thought it involved a ton of math (which it does, but basic) and it scared me away until my husband suggested we play with some friends. There were some hard times (really hard), with his and our friends’ encouragement to grow and learn more about how the game is played, and I stuck with it.

Savant

Player of: Aurora

 

I got into gaming because my parents played D&D together in the military, so they could answer my questions about how Eye of the Beholder works. When I was nine, my mother suggested that we play actual D&D instead of video games. I got stuck on it. I like making interesting characters and experimenting with the mechanics to see how they work. I try never to play the same character twice, and coming up with new characters never loses its appeal.

KanonDC

Player of: Rorik

 

I got into tabletop gaming in high school when on of my teachers hosted a 2 week long study on ancient Rome using roleplaying as the method of teaching. Not only did I have to research my character (a roman priest of Jupiter), I had to research the setting (ancient Rome), politics, and the society as a whole. I learned more about Rome in those 2 weeks than any history class I have taken since. We ended the two weeks with a Baccanal (tamed down for our age), but amazingly fun as we prepared food and costumes to act as our characters. Since then I have loved roleplaying and developing a character, seeing how they grow with the challenges they have to face, and interacting with the world from a mindset and viewpoint outside of my own.

So, turning to the campaign now, I understand Morwindl | Rising Tide was started in 2011, and that it has gone far beyond your original intentions. What did those original intentions look like compared to what the game has become?

I had this idea for an adventure around an encounter from Heroes of Horror (the grandmother), and it sort of morphed into a full blown, long-spanning campaign. I was essentially brand new to RPGs, and new to the role of GM – I’m sure we’ve all looked back at our first attempts and can see all the flaws. We put the original characters aside, and began a season two of the same campaign, in the same world. With the renewed focus and vigor of 7 years of experience under our belts, we’re having a ton of fun discovering the links between old and new.

How has running such a long-spanning campaign been as a GM? Has your GMing style changed much over the years? How many hours of work might you estimate have been invested in the game since the beginning?

Hooo boy. I wish I could offer some sage advice here. This was (is?) my first campaign, based off of a single adventure. Its filled with as many (or more) of the issues as you can imagine. If I had it all to do all over again, I would have had prepared more of the world, but more importantly, how it all fit in together. Random chatter from the NPCs about this or that in the world adds a lot to verisimilitude. That said; when things don’t work, in a long or a short campaign, you have to change them. We did, and now I’m not looking back, and we all seem to be having a great time.

 

My style has drastically changed, most notably in the last calendar year. There is just so much good content on what to do to improve your game, you just have to find what inspires you, and run with it. Just remember to pay attention to your player’s responses, so you can gauge if the changes you are making are actually helping.

 

I couldn’t even begin to guess at how much time is invested in this campaign, I don’t think I really have a concept. Even just reading the question and thinking about it is hard for me to wrap my brain around. I’ve got my prep pretty well locked down now: we play for about 3 hours at a time, bi-weekly. I know, I wish we could play more too. For each game, I do approximately an equivalent amount of prep, and prep work looks like; reading (I mean, lots of reading), math (encounter balancing is easily my worst ability), drawing maps, laying out terrain tiles and making props. But before this season, in season one, I would spend hours upon hours, mostly trying to build good encounters.

Do you have any particular muses or sources of inspiration when working on the campaign? Any you might recommend to others considering or working on a campaign of this sort?

Your players are, and have to be, your main source of inspiration for a long-running campaign. If I’m ever looking for story direction, even if its just a little tidbit, I look to my players. Sometimes I talk to them, sometimes I just read their character’s profile again. I’ve found good luck just sending them a message, asking them a random, innocuous game world question. Their responses can very easily feed all kinds of ideas to put in, and help rope them in to your story with.

 

Outside of your game story, engage content with other GMs, most have a tidbit of something useful amongst their own schtick. I really enjoyed Matt Colville’s “Running the Game” series on YouTube – a ton of history about RPGs, with nuggets of highly useful ideas. Angry GMs articles have also done a lot to help me improve the pace and structure of the story – in amongst some in-your-face practical advice.

Concerning the players, what was their introduction to the campaign? How much of the gang that started the game is there today?

I had prepared this one page write up of the history of the starting town (remember, first time GM). I had worked on that while they rolled up characters. Then I gave them my letter, and they introduced their characters, and off we went. Today, only two of the original group are playing Morwindl, the other four players have been with us for the last four years.

 

But you know, as I think about it, I posted my original letter to the players as our original “session 0” log. The last paragraph I added when we moved to Obsidian Portal, but the rest of it, and a map (in our maps section) was their introductory handout.

Morwindl has an impressive custom CSS setup going on. Did you do all of this yourself? How long of a process has it been to get the page to the state we see today?

Thank you, and not exactly – before I started using Obsidian Portal I had no experience with CSS at all, but a fair amount of DIY website experience. I had come across a few other campaigns that had been customized, and within a few weeks of my membership, I ‘ascended.’ Like other pet coding projects, I went to the locals and learned from all the kind souls on the forums. And I stole (steal? Past and present tense!) constantly from other campaigns. I finally had been using CSS enough that I can search google and figure it out, rather than just have to ask someone for each question. But the design is mine, and I learned how to make some graphics for it (the parchment pieces, mostly), and the rest from Google’s image search. The code portion took me about two months of working on it in my spare time. Each time I add content to the page, I add a couple more graphics. My goal was to have a very consistent style, that felt as immersive (try using F11!) as a RPG world can be, but as useful as the core Obsidian Portal system. I am especially fond of the Quests & Items section.

What would you say is the biggest benefit of having your campaign on Obsidian Portal? Is there a feature that you’d like to see that doesn’t exist currently?

Searching and being able to find a particular piece of information about my own campaign is nearly as useful as a handbook when casting a spell. Entering the data into the site helps cement things in my head, and gives all of us a place to find out more.

 

I would love to be able add custom CSS to the class “description,” or have any classes with that name renamed 🙂 I also wish for the ability, maybe GM only, to mark an edit as ‘minor,’ so that it doesn’t appear in the stream, for when I notice and correct a typo, or formatting problem, or whatever (he said while anxiously fixing formatting errors on his site before people see it).

Rurik2006

Player of: Kirkwell

 

Having a central hub for all of our gaming experiences. We can easily track what’s happened if there’s ever any confusion. And the way that our Game Master has made the campaign page is so user friendly and captivating.

juliehamner1

Player of: Mishaan

 

I enjoy the site on Obsidian Portal because it offers a realm where I can read about npcs and other characters and access adventure notes. Admittedly, I’m not very good at making notes that are memorable in game because I’m focused and a little anxious 😬. The site has maps and pictures and party members can post and comment, which makes it a dynamic resource for our campaign!

Niobe

Player of: Sparklegem

 

It allows all of us to keep track of what’s going on in the game, special notes from the DM and also get more information about characters.

Savant

Player of: Aurora

 

The biggest advantage to having the campaign on the internet is the memory. Being able to look up a character or event that happened years ago really helped solidify the world, and let us build dense characters that had a place in the world instead of being layered on top.

KanonDC

Player of: Rorik

 

The biggest benefit to having the OP is that it is so easy to look back on what happened, or a character that we haven’t seen in a while. The ability to have a reference that spans the length of the game is awesome. Also the secrets you can impart to each character, the maps and pictures you can just have linked and tied to each note is awesome.

Out of everything that has happened so far in the campaign, what’s your favorite moment? Why does it stand apart from the rest of the game for you?

I love it when people figure things out. Aha! moments are very sweet. The bigger the discovery, the bigger the Aha! the more fun! There was a time the whole party went into this spiral corridor, sneaking past sprung trap after sprung trap. They made it to the middle and found a small treasure chest, and of course the rogue grabs it, there was a fire blast they all survived and counted themselves lucky. But then the bard hears the grinding of gears and senses another trap coming, so they start running. They jump over one of the pits they had found earlier, and saw the trap doors swinging back in to place. And in that moment, they realized every single trap they had passed was resetting and they were going to have to get through them. That was a good moment, the Aha! was more like Ah crap! There was another one were a long standing player was revealed as the villain all along, after a few years, and most of the group had it figured out, but one was just in utter shock at the realization.

Rurik2006

Player of: Kirkwell

 

Well, my favorite part was the tie-in of “Rising Tide” to the original season. Many times, you just meet at an inn, but the DM made our character creation/introductions incredibly interactive. We instantly had a vested interest in each other’s characters and played roles in the character’s lives before the new season even began.

juliehamner1

Player of: Mishaan

 

My favorite moment of playing that stands out so far was the first time I role played as Amalia in my very first session, and I presented a quest to my new found party members and they were excited to follow and adventure. It stands out because it was a creative side of me I had never tried or explored and it was a success I think.

Niobe

Player of: Sparklegem

 

Oh geez? Only one? I’m going to name two, the session when I found out that my longest known party member was a traitor and finding out that our previous characters had become delusional and self-righteous. It really speaks to the ability of the DM to keep a poker face when it came to playing and really allowing for mystery. Also, a ton of forethought went into the sessions and I really appreciate that.

Savant

Player of: Aurora

 

I really liked that we were freely allowed to bend the pacing by doing obscure character stuff. If I want to spend a day casting a Detect Evil spell big enough to look at the whole town, I can. No one thing stands out, but the best moments were things like that.

KanonDC

Player of: Rorik

 

Out of everything that has happened. My favorite part has to be, … umm.. no distinct thing stands out as my favorite thing. I have enjoyed watch Amalia grow as a player and get into her new role, I have enjoyed the character interactions, I have enjoyed the game in general, but no one event stands out as a thing. Maybe when we all worked as a team to talk to the red brands instead of just a bandit fight? idk.

To wrap things up, can you lay some GM wisdom on us? What lessons have you learned in your time running campaigns?

Practice the story parts, let the math go, it will all work out! If you struggle (like I do!) with balancing encounters, instead try to make them interesting. Remember that the player’s handbook is filled with spells and abilities for players to make roughly balanced characters – your villains are not players, and don’t follow those rules. Different and interesting abilities and spells should be featured when your players encounter non-humanoids. The tactical mini-game is fun and engaging, but only a small part of what RPGs really are.

 

But heed these words: any advice I can offer you is less valuable than reading your players, and running a game that they (and you!) want to play. Talk to them about the game (while not at the game!) and see what they are passionate about.

Tragically, I must inform you dear reader, that our time in Morwindl has drawn to its end. As ever, the Tide cycles, and our journey leads us onward. Although we are saddened to leave such a fantastic campaign behind us, we can take comfort in knowing that August isn’t too far away. Where the next featured campaign takes us, none can yet say, but it’s an exciting prospect, and regardless of our destination, our friends at Modiphius Entertainment will be there by our side, helping to inspire future campaigns.

If you have, or know of a campaign that you feel should be featured here, tell us about it in the nominations thread. Until next time!

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