Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2021 – Curiosities and Acquisitions

There are many strange things in this world my friend. One could spend a lifetime seeking them out, and still only see but the smallest fraction of what is out there. Adventures don’t always return from their travels, but when they do, they often possess items of particular interest. Lately, I’ve had my eye on a group known as The Legion of Hope. They have recently accepted a contract from Curiosities and Acquisitions – June’s Campaign of the Month!

What’s this now? You have not heard of Curiosities and Acquisitions? I can take you to just the person. He is known as Whataguy2000, and he will answer all of your questions.

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!

My name is Guy. I’m a Southern California native currently living in Westminster, Ca. I’m an engineer. I work for a company that makes machines that inspect bottles on bottling lines. I design a lot of the electronics in the machines. Right now, I’m working a board that detects residual liquid (which is caustic and bad for humans) in refillable bottles before they get filled up with the product. I’m not married but, I’ve been with the same girl for over 20 years. Love you sweetheart. Alas, no real internet presence to speak of.

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

Most of us in the group have been playing DND since the 80’s. The group in its present form has been playing together for about 15 years or so. The first session of this campaign was April 2017. Our other DM in the group had just finished his second campaign in a row so I wanted to step up and take a turn. My goodness, I guess this means we are into the 5th year of the campaign.

Although I rely on quite a bit of published material, I really wanted to run a campaign with a lot more focus on each character. I wanted to run Return to the Tomb of Horrors which is a 2E boxed set that I happen to have. The problem is that is a high level, 13th-16th level adventure. So, I needed material up front to give the players a chance to level up. This led to the sequence of Undermountain, Rod of Seven Parts, and now Return to the Tomb of Horrors. I had no idea that it would take this long to get to the part of the adventure I wanted to run initially…lol.

Right about when I was coming up with these ideas I started watching Acquisitions Incorporated and shortly after Critical Role. You can really learn a lot from Chris Perkins and Matthew Mercer just by watching them.

How often does your group meet and play? Describe your typical game session setup? Have you had to make any changes due to the current Pandemic?

Due to the Pandemic we switched to virtual play over Zoom. We already had one of our players who lives in Boston with us via skype. Just before the pandemic, two players moved to North Carolina. So, we were already partially virtual.

I use Arkenforge DM tools maps functionality and tokens and such. I get a lot of maps from DriveThruRPG. I will have Obsidian Portal running for adventure logs and some reference information such as crit tables. By the way, I don’t use Arkenforge for campaign management. Obsidian Portal is much better for that.

We try to play every other Sunday. However, there are times where we may miss a month depending on how vacations or holidays fall.

A typical game session starts with me reviewing the adventure log from the last session. When I have time to make a video, I would start by playing the video to set the scene. Of course, that doesn’t happen until after we socialize for a few minutes. We are good friends and enjoy catching up. We usually play for about 4 hours.

What guided your choice of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition as the platform for your campaign?

The main reason for the choice of 2E is the material I wanted to use for the campaign. Most of the original players preferred 1E and were reluctant to change. It took some convincing to move to 2E. However, that sentiment has evolved. After we started it turned out that some of the players were much more open to current 5E than I realized. So, I think next campaign will be 5E. I ran a short 5E module, Blue Alley, for this group that I wrapped into the story and everyone enjoyed it.

Curiosities and Acquisitions started with an initial session which is the Challenge of Champions, a short module published in Dungeon magazine years ago. This provided the reason for these characters to meet and form an adventuring company.

The campaign started with the newly formed adventuring company being tasked to find the Ark of Souls by Vangerdahast, the royal wizard of Cormyr. They followed clues in pursuit of the artifact which led them to the top level of Undermountain. While in Undermountain they came into possession of the first section of the Rod of Seven Parts. This launched into the Ro7P campaign. During Rof7P the party came into possession of a spell jamming ship which they repaired and used to sail to Oerth, once again following clues to the location of the Ark of Souls. This has begun the final part of this epic campaign which is the Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set.

I use a lot of original material that I fold into the published adventures. I came up with the Ark of Souls as the thread to tie the whole story together. It’s basically the McGuffin.

You seem to have spent quite considerable time on various introductory videos. How do you go about creating and embedding these in Obsidian Portal? Any tips for Obsidian Portal GMs? Also, how do you feel such a magnitude of work benefits your campaign as a whole?

I really enjoyed doing the videos but, I had to stop doing them for the most part after the first year just because they do take some time to put together. It’s really not that difficult. But, to make one can take 6 to 8 hours.

When I first tried making these sorts of videos I used Movie Maker from Microsoft (which is free). However, I quickly grew out of that and now I use CyberLink Power Director. To make the videos I first find and import a number of pictures that I simply grab from google image searches (usually). Then, I find some music that I think fits with the mood I’m going for. I often use movie soundtracks for this. I have also used music from artists such as Midnight Syndicate.

Showing a short 3-4 minute video is a great way to begin an adventuring session. It lets the players know that it’s time to finish their conversations and to start to focus on the game. I particularly like it when I can end the video with an immediate encounter that the has been set up in the video. Like the video from our sixth session. In this video, Haldir was teleported to a room in Undermountain when he tried to identify a ring they found. There is a skull on the table that begins to animate when it notices him. And right there is where the game session began. Haldir was separated from his companions and possibly about to be attacked.

For anyone who wants to stream, be careful what music you may play in the background. Most of the videos on twitch that get hit with DCMA takedowns are VOD’s that happen to have copyrighted music playing in the background. In my case, I’m not streaming, and the videos are just for my players. Also, Vimeo allows a creative commons license which grants limited permissions as long as you follow certain rules.

Your WIKI page is pretty comprehensive and extremely well organised. Who is responsible for this? Do you share the burden among your players or do you have to do all the work?

It’s all me.

Tell us a bit about The League of Hope, the collective name for your group of adventurers. What inspires them? What drives them? Who are their main antagonists?

The Legion of Hope is a very interesting collection of characters. They are an action-oriented crew. Their motto is, “If you do something, something will happen”.

Two of the players are Aasimar, Safwin the Bold and Brie. So, I decided that they were half brother and sister that were unaware of their relationship. Eventually, there was a big reveal and they discovered they had the same father. Now they have a background quest to find their common father, the celestial who apparently abandoned them. In addition, Brie’s god is trying to get Brie to influence her brother to a better person.

One player is a drow, Fria, who is escaping the clutches of her family back in the underdark. We did a mini adventure for her to return to the underdark city she was from and confront her mother. Our rogue is a Tiefling who may or may not be related to Asmodeus and has a device that with the use of a key can summon Shemeska the Marauder from Sigil to answer three questions. I stole this idea from Dice Camera Action DND stream and Chris Perkins.

Haldir is a mage/cleric of Mystra and potentially is on his way to becoming a chosen of Mystra. Marg is a cleric of Ilmater and has a collection of companions such as a brownie she rescued patterned after Kreecher from Harry Potter and a Hound of Law that was a reward from the Wind Dukes of Aqaa for defeating Miska the wolf spider. We also have a new player, Winter, who joined us recently. She has plot ties to the Tomb of Horrors. She was so traumatized by a previous adventure to the Tomb that she lost her memory and lost her faith. We did a mini adventure so that she could atone with her god, Pelor, and is slowly regaining her memories.

Stick is a 2E monk which is a class I heavily customized for 2E. In original 2E there wasn’t a monk class. Later it was added in with the monk as a type of priest. I didn’t like that much and made my own version with elements of a 3.5/5E skills that I massaged for 2E.

The main goal for the entire campaign has been to recover the Ark of Souls (an artifact I created) and return it to Jergal (an obscure deity in the Realms pantheon). It has been stolen by forces working on behalf of the Demi Lich, Acererak. Searching for clues to its location lead them into the Undermountain dungeon accessed through the Yawning Portal. There they came into possession of the first part of the rod of seven parts. During the rod of seven parts adventure they came into possession of a damaged spell jamming ship. Over time, they paid to have it repaired and now the party has used it to travel to Oerth, the world of Greyhawk where the Tomb of Horrors is located.

You have a very intricate interactive mapping system, yet it seems to be hidden away in your Comments section, and not highlighted in the maps section. Is there a reason for this?

Good question. A lot of the map pictures are real time screen shots of where the party is in a particular dungeon or encounter. So, what you see is in the adventure logs are not the complete maps. They are just snapshots, relevant only to the situation the party is in.

Some of the maps, like the map of Suzail probably should go in the maps section.

Your Adventure Logs seem particularly potent, incorporating different font styles, pictures, maps and diagrams, links, and even short videos describing some of the adventures, for example, in Come Sail Away (19 May 2021), you include a video detailing the capture of the party by Beholder Pirates. Did you make this video yourself? How important are your Adventure Logs to the campaign in general, and how involved do your players get in these?

Yes, most of the videos I have made myself including the one you mention. That one was a special case. I had it all set up for a space combat session. However, I changed plans at the last minute because there are a lot of unique rules for Spelljammer space combat. I was worried that it was too much to learn for just one 4-hour session. So, I made the video as a cut scene to plug the hole in the narrative and moved on. I think it worked pretty well for a short video created in a panic. Lol.

The adventure logs are very important to the campaign. It is the story of the party on an episode by episode basis. Using pictures and videos in the adventure log really bring it to life and make it a lot more engaging and impactful for the players.

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

I have been using Obsidian Portal since 2011. I like the fact that making the new content in terms of wiki pages is so easy. The adventure logs are a valuable asset for the story. The ability to post pictures, maps, a list of characters are all helpful. Having the media library as a repository of pictures and other material in PDF form is useful as well.

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

The best thing is that it keeps me organized with low overhead. It’s easy to learn, easy to make new wiki pages and add new content, and it’s easy embed pictures from the media library. The Wiki functionality of linking pages is pretty clean. In these busy times, that is of great value.

What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far (please also provide images and links if possible)?

There have been a number of highlights and exciting moments. One that comes to mind is when a red dragon ambushed the party as the traveled through a forest. Haldir succumbed to the dragon’s fire breath and lead to a touching role play moment as Marg resurrected him.

I tossed this question to the party. Brie’s response is simply, “Undermountain”. The funny thing about that is that the party went into the first level of Undermountain early in the campaign. Now, every time they are in Waterdeep, the lure of a largely unexplored mega-dungeon is hard to resist. During one session they went to the Yawning Portal and I had to put a lid on the well, the entrance to Undermountain, so they couldn’t go in.

Safwin the Bold said, “The highlight of the last year has been everyone online together so that we’re all engaged in the same way. Guy has graciously posted 22 adventure logs since June 2, 2020 (TY). Looking back through the titles, I remember fondly a bunch of ways I almost died for being bold. There are about 5-7 main themes in there. The one that stands out in my mind the most is the red dragon where everyone contributed (except apologies to Winter who just kept trying to catch up). It was a nice balance of puzzles and battle.”

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

I have a couple of thoughts. First, if you want to be a good DM, try to improve. Watch other DM’s on live streams. Not everyone can be Mathew Mercer but, there is great advice from Matt Coleville, the Dungeon Dudes, Ginny D., and many others.

Second, focus on your players. Make sure each player has a chance to shine. After all, these are the heroes of the story. Let them be heroic.

And that’s going to do it for this month! Thank you so much for taking the time to explore Curiosities and Acquisitions with us. We’ll be back soon with another great featured campaign! Please help keep our Campaign of the Month program going strong by nominating your favorites in the OP community forums. Congratulations to Whataguy2000 and all of the campaign’s players, we’ll see you next time!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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