Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2020 – Mass Effect Accelerated

In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time. They called it the greatest discovery in human history. The civilizations of the galaxy call it Mass Effect Accerlated – June’s Campaign of the Month! Are you ready for what’s out there? Good, then GM HumAnnoyd is ready for you.

This is your 3rd Campaign of the Month win (the others having been in 2012 and 2016)! What is the key to consistently making high quality sites?

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/images/5142452/SelfPortraitB2.pngMuch of the success I have had in creating these sites is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I have been using OP for over a decade now and I have learned so much from the community about how to code and create interesting pages. Everything I know about CSS has been learned from contributors like Wolfhound, Bortas and GamingMegaverse just to name a few.

For those that may have not read about you before, feel free to tell us more about the person behind the GM screen. What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Ego’s?

I have been playing RPGs ever since I saw the first Star Wars movie as a kid in 1977 and fell in love with all things nerdy. I began trying to draw all my characters for the various games I was in which led to me discovering I had a passion for art. From there I went to a fine arts high school and even got a degree in painting. After doing the starving artist routine for many years I rolled the dice and moved to Seattle. Here I found employment as a graphic artist and designer in the video game and education software industries for over 15 years. I really love it here in Seattle and not just because of the cooler weather. The gaming community here is larger and more diverse than in any other place I have lived and I have been lucky enough to discover groups that played a variety of great games over the years.


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

Mass Effect Accelerated is my third attempt to get a campaign set in that wonderfully rich universe off the ground. My first attempt was Mass Effect: Operation Resurgence. I managed to finally convince my players to give it a try, but we only got to play one session. My understanding of Fate was rudimentary at that time and my rules for the game turned out to be very clunky. While the players seemed to get into their characters, the rules difficulties caused enough frustration that we never played it again.


My second attempt came after the wonderful Bulldogs! RPG came out. Inspired by that game, especially its alien creation rules, I created Mass Effect: From the Ashes. At that point our group was fully immersed in our long running Dresden Files: Emerald City campaign and I was never able to convince the players to try that iteration of the rules. I feared we would never revisit the Mass Effect universe again.


However, the group slowly made the transition from Fate Core to Fate Accelerated influenced greatly by the Jadepunk Asset Creation system. We converted our decades long Dresden Files RPG campaign to Emerald City: Requiem using Dresden Files Accelerated and I created and ran a Fate Accelerated Star Wars campaign that was quite popular with the group.


The latter was a revelation to me, and I used the lessons I discovered creating everything from The Force to Armor & Weapons and Lightsaber styles with Jadepunks Assets Creation to inform me on how to approach Mass Effect’s Tech Powers and Biotics. By simplifying the rules, it gave the player characters a chance to shine and the campaign thrived. It even inspired 3 different players to take the reigns and GM the game with their own stories. That, in my mind, makes the game a great success. We now alternate our Mass Effect game with Emerald City: Requiem and have been playing them for the last couple of years.

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

I had never used CSS before I read the tutorials found on Wolfhound’s Dresden Files Dallas campaign. My campaigns started out simply enough. But the more I learned and the more our campaigns grew, the more I wanted to push the envelope and see where I could take it.


The community here at OP was an amazing asset for me and I learned so much from them. The best way to try and learn how to create that kind of customization for your own site is to ask others. To visit other sites and see how different people approach the same questions you are facing. Because of my time on OP I now have a working knowledge of CSS and that even helped me land a job not too long ago.


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

At this point I am not sure what I would do without it. Many of our games are heavily story and setting driven with dozens of involved NPCs and I cannot imagine a better tool to keep it all organized than Obsidian Portal. The fact that it is easy to tailor the look and feel of the site to match the campaign is invaluable for setting the tone of a game.

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

It is hard to speculate on without revealing some big mysteries, but I will try. The Reaper War did a great deal of damage to almost every species in and out of Citadel Space and much of the galaxy is still in ruins after 5 years. The Salarians, who opted out of the war, are the exception. They survived the war virtually unscathed and stood poised to gain massive influence over the galaxy.


A Specter, the former team leader for the PCs, was inquiring discreetly into research being done with forbidden Reaper and Prothean tech when he was murdered in a Cerberus ambush. It was while investigating his murder that the PCs became aware and thwarted an elaborate Coup attempt against the Salarians. It would have fundamentally impacted Salarian culture leaving them open to being puppets for some mysterious entity. Who or what was behind the Coup remains a mystery. But they almost took over the most powerful government standing in the galaxy. That mysterious force is now quite aware of the crew of The Athame and their lives are about to get a lot more interesting I suspect.

Why do you use Fate Accelerated? How much does it differ from the original Fate? What do you feel is its greatest feature?

I love how easy Fate Accelerated is to run and create in. Its simplicity tempered with its incredible flexibility have made it my go to system for the last few years. It did not start that way though. I had long been skeptical that it was just too hand-wavy and my first Star Wars game used Fate Core. In that game we ran into issues with the players not being as broadly competent as the main protagonists in the movies. Especially when it came to space combat.


After some thought and the success of our Dresden Files Accelerated game I decided to give ME one more try with the FAE rules. I was astonished at how well the tactics I used in the video games translated over to the remarkably simple, easy to use Fate Accelerated rules. That simplicity really allowed the PCs to shine and to get creative when facing challenges. I was constantly delighted at the innovative use the players would devise for Biotics or Tech powers in the game.


How long have you known your players and how long has your group been together? How long has your game been going on and how often do you play?

The group has been together since the original DFRPG came out in the summer of 2010. Over the last decade many of the players have come and gone (and even returned in a couple of cases) and we have had as many as 8 players and as few as 3 in the group at a time.


The Dresden Files game has been the one constant for that whole period with regular forays into other universes and games. The Mass Effect game has been going on for 2 years now and we have gone back and forth between it and Dresden.


We try to play every 2nd and 4th Sunday but life often intrudes. The Coronavirus has been a huge issue for us and we are still trying to work out our best option to get back to our regular schedule.

You have one or two adventure logs per month, 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 write them myself with the other players chipping in to help on occasion. When I am working up a new scenario, they help me remember a player’s reactions to all that has gone before which informs my choices on what may happen next.

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

I think the best advice I can offer is to remember that RPGs are collaborative. Your players become more invested in a campaign when you listen to their ideas and do your best to accommodate them. The more invested your players are, the more epic your game will be. Let them go off on that crazy tangent or pursue that totally unexpected story thread. They will thank you for it. Also, it is far less frustrating to just go with the flow and let go of your ego and let the story develop organically rather than trying to beat it into shape.

Alright, that’s going to do it I’m afraid. Thanks for reading and making it to the end. We’ll be back next month with another awesome campaign, but in the meantime, don’t forget to stop by the forums and 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. Until next time!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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