Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month July 2020 – The Verge

In the 25th Century, humankind has spread into the vast darkness of space, colonizing the custom-made worlds of The Verge – July’s Campaign of the Month! This homebrew setting, run by RigilKent and co-created by one of his Players employs a modified version of Mongoose’s Traveller 2nd Edition to explore the cosmic dangers of space, the convoluted politics of clashing factions within the Moros system, the inevitability of war, and the cold mathematics of a galaxy not meant for human (or alien) survival. If you’re ready, Downsider, it’s time to fold out and explore The Black, but beware… she is a harsh mistress.


First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet. Let us know if you feel so inclined!

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/images/1923619/Kal.JPGHi! I’m Phil, aka Rigil Kent when I’m online, an old-school gamer who has been tossing dice for a lot more years than I’m comfortable admitting. I’m originally from Florida, but work gradually led me to matriculating out here to Oklahoma where I’ve lived for the last twenty-something years. In my real life, I’m a quality assurance tester for an ecommerce software company so I get to find all of the bugs in our stuff and be the focus of the developer’s ire when I fail it back to them. No wife or kids at the moment, and I’ve significantly dialed back my internet presence of late, what with the craziness that has infected the planet in 2020 so no social media to really advertise.

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

The Verge came about because most of the games our group were playing were fantasy-based in some way and several of the players (myself included) were wanting to play something sci-fi based. A lot of the ideas originally was intended to be set in Traveller’s default 3rd Imperium for a much older campaign that never materialized, so I was able to recycle some of those ideas. We’d previously played some GURPS games set in one of the player’s homebrew setting, and all of us really liked it, so I decided to use that instead. I think we officially began play in January of this year, but I’d been working on the background before that a bit. The players decided they wanted to be neutral and (inexplicably to my mind) wanted to be employees of an existing organization instead of standard tramp freighter crews, so several of them started joking that this could be called “FedEx … in Space!”


What made you choose Mongoose Second Edition Traveller as your gaming platform?  I note you have also been involved in a Pathfinder Kingmaker game.  Apart from the obvious, what do you feel you get out of the sci-fi game that you don’t get from a traditional fantasy scenario? Are there any differences in the way you play?

I’m actually not sure how we ended up deciding on Traveller, to be honest. My default gaming system is probably Steve Jackson’s GURPS as I’m in an online group that plays various games using it almost exclusively, but several of the players wanted to try something else, and I’d had a really positive experience at GenCon the year before with a Traveller game, so we decided to go with that. At the table, we gripe about Mongoose a lot, mostly due to typos, but it comes from a place of love and all of have enjoyed it thus far. And it’s amusing that you mention the Kingmaker game, as that’s next on our docket – I think we’re going to be resuming that campaign in early August. Ultimately, at least for me, though, sci-fi is my first love in terms of genres as I was exposed to the greats – Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein (especially Heinlein), Herbert, etc. – back in middle school (which dates me, I think, as they generally call it junior high now, right?) It also helps that most of my players are technically minded in some capacity; one is a web developer, one is a microbiologist, one is a trained weatherman with a background in computer networking, another is an actual network and server guy, etc. So in that way, it is a lot easier for us to wrap our brains around everything in a sci-fi setting as opposed to traditional fantasy.

Speaking of playing, where do you play and how often?  Has the general worldwide Covid-19 situation enforced any changes on you and your team?

Our group shoots for a weekly session on Friday nights, but with all of us being adults, there are inevitably days when we have to cancel because half the group is away for family reasons or unexpected work issues. As to location, my thoroughly awesome boss is a former gamer himself – he played Traveller himself back in the day and was a massive fan of Car Wars – so he lets us use the fairly large front room of our office, which has generally worked out nicely; we relocate the couch, plop down a couple of tables and use the office internet as well as the widescreen television/monitor.


The Covid stuff did force us to make some changes for a while; I’m already very familiar with Fantasy Grounds, so I went ahead and purchased the 2nd Edition Traveller ruleset and we temporarily migrated to playing completely online with TeamSpeak for the voice. This actually turned out to be really good practice because we just picked up a new player – the son of one of my regular players – who lives two states away. To include him, I spin up a Fantasy Grounds session so he can login, and we have a microphone/speaker thing for him; this has actually worked out rather nicely, to the point that everyone is logged into my Fantasy Grounds session, even at the table because the character sheets happen to be much, much better than our hard-copies.

Your Moros Star system, where the action takes place, is pretty detailed in the wiki, with many pages and sub-pages.  Tell us a bit about this system and where you got your inspiration from.

The Moros system originally started as my personal take on the Porozlo star system from Traveller’s 3rd Imperium setting, as when I originally began developing this in the previously mentioned campaign that fell through, I referred to it as “Miami Vice Meets The Expanse” and I needed a lot more locations inside the system apart from the mainworld, which led me to borrowing a massive amount from The Expanse. As in the Expanse setting (or at least the earlier parts of it), the system is highly balkanized, with multiple factions all vying for control. Since I was stealing from a player’s established setting, this particular system is very English and Russian in terms of society, with the upper class very much the worst kind of “snobby Brit” stereotype, while the lower classes are the “Russian Guy Suffers Most” trope. It’s evolved a bit beyond that during play, but that’s the initial take.

Is there any travel outside of the Moros Star system?  Do you spend much gaming time on actual space travel, or is it mainly spent at destinations?  Do you have different modes of play for these things?

There is definitely travel outside Moros; the PCs just haven’t had access to that capability. Yet. Thus far, we’ve spent more time ‘at destinations’ as opposed to actual space travel, but I’ve tried to use that time to expand on the setting. For example, in the most recent session, while the PCs were en route to their next destination, they had an excellent view of the entire system blowing up and racing toward open war. In a previous session, we spent the entire evening aboard the ship as the characters dealt with some passengers and general hijinks that ensued. Ultimately, I try to adjust the game to how it appears that the players are responding; if they’re really having fun arguing with an interesting NPC, I’ll try to go with it. That’s definitely one of the disadvantages of using Fantasy Grounds and playing entirely online; you can’t see the other player unless webcams are involved and even then, can rarely read their body language.


Your wider universe is very expansive, and I note you have several maps in the Maps section.  How important are these to your campaign?

To be fair, the wider universe was mostly created by one of my players, Dan (online, he’s Gigermann). He’s since run a bunch of games in this setting, albeit nowhere near Moros, and covered a bunch of his thoughts over on his site. When I decided to run in his setting, I opted to use an otherwise ignored system that had been (originally) shamelessly ripped off from the Last Legionary series of books by Douglas Hill which I read back in … grade school? High School? Let’s leave it at “way back”; I’ve since drastically altered it to the current version. Thus far, the wider universe hasn’t really affected the game much since we’ve intentionally opted to keep all of the plot in the same star system. Depending on how things go, that may change down the road.

How much time do you usually spend preparing your game session?  Describe a typical session.

Oof. That’s a tough one. A lot depends on whether I’m completely ripping off an existing adventure and filing the serial numbers off or if I’m spinning up something entirely new. Ultimately, I think I spend about three to four hours (totaled up) over the week before the session working on adventure notes … until Friday when I panic and, at the last minute, try to rewrite entire chunks of what I’d written previously. Most of the time I spend working is probably on Sundays, with tiny little moments over the rest of the week checking and tweaking my notes. As to the typical session, I expect it probably plays out like most other gamers: officially, we start at 7pm on Friday, but honestly, we generally don’t actually get started until around 7:30 or 7:45 because we spend the other time chatting and catching up or generally being late due to traffic or some other unexpected emergency. I try to end before midnight because everyone still has to drive home, but we have had sessions that crept much closer to 1:00am than we’d like.


Who is responsible for the design and content of the site?  Do your players get involved in the creative side of the campaign?  If not in the design, how would you say they get involved in progressing the storyline?

That’d be me, though I do seek out the expertise of one of the players who is a web developer in real life. I also use him for the photo-manips that I can’t do, which is anything significant. The Taareh manips on the Portals right now are images I sent to him and had him tweak. And although the players aren’t involved much in the design, their decisions shift the direction of the game as you’d sort of expect with PCs. When I originally plotted out my “plan” for this run – I’m using television terms and referring to it as a season – I’d planned for us to be in a far different position than we are now, because the players have changed the direction due to comments or discussions about what they’d like to see.

What does the future have in store for the brave characters of The Verge?  Without giving the game away, is there anything you can reveal?

Oh, tough one. We’re actually closing in on the “season finale” at the moment and, if my plans come to fruition (which is always an iffy prospect when you have PCs involved!), I think it’s safe to say that the characters are going to have a direct hand in seriously shaking up the status quo of the Moros system. Now as to whether this shake-up is a good thing or not? Well, in the immortal words of one Jayne Cobb, “That’ll be an interesting day.”


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

I’m actually not sure when I first joined the Portals, but I know I’ve been here for at least ten years as one of my oldest saved emails dates to 2011 and is from a campaign I’ve since removed. Originally, I was brought to it for the Adventure Log because it was so easy to put up my recap for everyone. As my gaming group rotates the GM duties, sometimes it can be a while before I get back to running the game, and by then everyone – sadly including me – may have forgotten what we’d done, so having the recaps there were awesome. Now, it’s much more than that, with the ability to have wiki entries and character entries has turned out to be just as useful, especially with the option to have GM only notes which I use quite a lot.

If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?

That’s a tough one. I think it’s a close tie between the wiki features that are easily accessible (not to mention more attractive than a default wiki) so all of the players (who, to me, are the most important people that I’m doing this for) can check-out, and the ability to add GM Only notes for characters or wiki entries or adventure logs. Can I say both? If I absolutely have to choose just one, I’m leaning toward the GM Only notes since that makes them easier to find for me…


What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far?

Oh … tough one. I kind of want to say the end of our fifth session. One of the players was out and her character was in the cargo hold when a hidden explosive detonated. The character was thrown into a wall and bounced off it, then fell through the hole. Into space. Without a suit. And that’s how I ended that session. The other players looked at me like I was crazy then immediately began joking that I was serious about not pulling punches in this game. Miss a session and I kill your character! That wasn’t true, of course, but it was funny nonetheless.

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

Expect to fail. Seriously, that may sound like not so much wisdom, but bear with me: as a GM, you will screw up and an adventure that you expect to be awesome turns out to be a flop. The best advice I have for that is simple: shrug it off and move on. I’ve been gaming for over 30 years, GMing for just as long, and I still have sessions that land with a resounding thud instead of the ‘whoa, that was awesome’ that I’d hoped for. So expect to fail, but don’t focus on the negatives and instead, learn something from it. And above all else: have fun while you’re doing it. Sometimes, it may turn out that failing is the best thing that could happen…

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The Telepath’s Guild has informed us that we have to go (although they never say why). We hope you enjoyed this brief jump into The Verge. Be sure to check out our many other Campaigns of the Month on Obsidian Portal. And don’t forget to stop by the forums to add your favorites to the nominations thread. The CotM Selection Committee needs your help in finding all of the great campaigns that are out there just waiting to be featured. Stay shiny, Tashu!


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