Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2024: The Planewalker’s Guild

After escaping the shattering sky, why not travel the multiverse with a group of Planewalkers as they move from Sigil to the Plane of Air in search of a notorious serial killer. Join up with previous “Campaign of the Year” winner, Dungeon_Master_Loki, and let him guide you through transitive planes, observing the “Rule of Three” and the “Unity of Rings, as part of The Planewalker’s Guild, in a pay-to-play campaign that has been in existence for a year and still has spaces for intrepid adventurers, as they travel to discover the Riven City of Bleurophil.

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? Life partners? Family? Where can we interact with you on the internet?

Well, I’m an 8th generation French Creole from New Orleans and I’ve been gaming since the late 1970s. When Hurricane Ida hit I was an idiot and rode it out (NEVER try to ride out a Cat 4. Period). I relocated to Cincinnati, a city I had lived in for a few years about a decade ago when my ex wife was in school.

Professionally I work as a freelance game designer and copywriter, I run paid games online and at conventions, and I teach Introduction to Game Design at the University of Cincinnati. I also spent many years prior to that working in music and in online PR. I even worked through the pipe bombing at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta.

When not gaming I am a huge media buff – music, books, film, etc – with a long standing love of science fiction, satire, and what my friends refer to as “the weird shit”. I have a huge love of alternate histories and time travel stories (I have every surviving episode of Doctor Who for instance). This obviously shines through in my game design work as well, much of it being planar strangeness. I also love to cook, although I must admit I rarely do so when it is just me.

Alter egos? Well, I got the nickname Loki about 25 years ago while working at the House of Blues and have used it as my byline since if that counts. I do have a long suffering girlfriend, who plays Lenata the cleric in The Spelljoined campaign. The vast majority of my family is in the New Orleans area back home, except for Puck and Gremlin, my atrocious felines and editorial assistants.

Find me online? While often in need of updates, Planejammer.com is my main home on the web. My most used channel is Discord (DungeonMasterLoki). If you want me to run a game for you or join one of my paid games / campaigns you can find me through my profile on Start Playing Games and on GRIPNR. I’m on Facebook, but don’t often friend people I have not met in person or had extensive interactions with. (This is especially true with the combination of election season and use of AI rising as the year progresses.) 36 of my titles, books I’ve authored or contributed to, are here on DriveThruRPG and I am deeply thankful for every sale and review!

Please explain the basic concept of your game plan for The Planewalker’s Guild. The game seems to have been running for a year. Give us a few hints about the Planescape scenario.

Most of the games I run take place in a shared multiverse, usually centered around Spelljammer and Planescape. The Guild game is one of those. Massive changes are afoot across the planes, extremely destructive (one might even say apocalyptic) changes.

The past year of play started our heroes out as new initiates of the Guild in the wake of Planescape’s Faction War. One of their early missions had them become eyewitnesses to an interplanar incursions that “shattered the sky”. They are currently in the city of Bluerophil on the Plane of Air tracking down a serial killer during the equivalent of Maridi Gras. They have to stop him from completing a cycle of ritualistic murders that will call down the Planebreaker. Future adventures will vary thematically as the [lot of this game and the overall metaplot evolve. I predict between two and four more years for the campaign if we maintain a twice a month schedule bringing any PCs that make it to a solid 20th level.

While there are missions for the Guild I essentially run sandbox style player driven games. RPGs are collaborative storytelling when at their best, so the contributions of my players not only determine the overall direction but also create lasting effects on the in-game universe.

The opening page of your campaign says “Contact Dungeon Master Loki to book your game today,” with the link leading to a professional Game Master page under the “StartPlaying” banner. Please share with us how all of this works.

Well, like many freelancers, income is sparse and times are more often tight than not. Running paid games for companies at Cons and online games through Start Playing Games and GRIPNR helps keep the list on in the design mines. Since the game takes place in my ongoing shared multiverse that means I have hundreds of pages of background info, NPCs, etc available instantly on Obsidian Portal when I need them. All my players share the trait of zigging when I expect them to zag, so being able to pull up everything when they do is invaluable.

As to how it works, I post games online as I create them and those people looking for DMs contact me directly through the site. Cost per session is up front as are reviews of the DM by former players and a capsule review of what the game or campaign is. I run a safe table – LGBTQIA friendly and accepting of all and I require my players to abide by that. Both of the online platforms mentioned above also take care of billing and payment, allowing me to focus on creating something worthy of said payment.

When a new player joins the game I start with the player’s concept, and I encourage people to go big with ideas, which I then help them translate into an effective build. I then get them to write of a background which I then tweak in order to root them more firmly in my setting and provide hooks for personalized subplots down the line. Using Obsidian Portal we have a central place for character sheets and a wiki for the “in use” house rules.

I know there are some that find the idea of paying for a DM to be anathema, but there are a LOT of folks out there who cannot find one, have no one nearby, or other valid reasons. Besides when paying they can demand a certain level of expertise on the DM side of the screen.

Presumably, your games are all run ONLINE. You mention that you primarily use a “Theatre of the Mind” approach, but that you also use battle maps and tokens. You have listed platforms like Discord, Skype and Zoom. You also have “Owlbear Rodeo” listed. How much do you use a platform like Owlbear Rodeo, and how useful is it to your team?

I started playing in the late 70s and Theater of the Mind is the old school way. If you do it right it makes for fantastic immersion. I usually only pull out battle maps on Owlbear Radio when it is an extremely complex combat or a massive narrative moment. I personally find it to be my favorite of the online table top options due to its simplicity. While it has none of the bells and whistles of things like Roll20 it also does not require extensive learning to use. Players can log into your map from a link that you generate and immediately have control of their token. I find that with online games it is especially important to minimize dead time, even more so when being paid for the session. What you lose in bells and whistles you get back in the speed of play that you gain.

Your current player list comprises 6 players. Did they all start at the same time? I note on your StartPlaying page, you still have space for 2 players. Would 2 new players just slot in to the current game, or how would you go about that sort of integration?

Most started at the same time, two started later, and one left due to health issues and has just returned to the table. At the time I’m writing this I do still have two slots open.

When a prospective player contacts me I help them to develop their character concept and bring them in at an equivalent level. (That is why the guild membership is the baseline, it makes it more logical as faces come and go.) I use a good bit of third party material so I can usually find acceptable rules for implementing most ideas.

Your campaign “Planejammer: The Spelljoined” won Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Year in 2011, and it is still running. How busy are you with your various campaigns? Do you have any player crossover between the campaigns? In what ways does the new campaign differ from the old one?

The Spelljoined is my main personal game and the baseline of the shared multiverse all my games inhabit.. It’s on its 8th generation of players and has been running almost non stop since 1979 (there was a gap of about three years in the early 90s). That is the umbrella setting I mentioned before. While the Planewalker’s Guild are facing one aspect of the great multiversal disasters, the Spelljoined are currently in an alternate universe (Gamma World) trying to stop a massive mind flayer plot. Characters cross over between games fairly frequently, and events in one game do influence the others. I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of having a number of guests from the industry sit in on sessions. For instance in one game I not only had X-Crawl creator Brendan LaSalle join us for a session set in X-Crawl, but also M. Nystul joined us playing his Nystul the wizard character (which he played at Gary Gygax’s table) for an epic evening on Greyhawk.

The Spelljoined are 16th level characters with Mythic Ranks doing the crazy, gonzo, multiverse hopping stuff. Bouncing through the alternate realities when not in Sigil or the Rock of Bral. The Planewalker’s Guild is 6th level and operating in the Planescape/Spelljammer setting where evidence of the big battles of the Spelljoined are starting to manifest. The Dept 7 game is set in a variant of Dark Matter where the effects of these conflicts are bleeding through the multiversal barrier, etc. Each group is seeing and fighting different aspects of the Really Big Picture(™).

One of your Player Reviews in “StartPlaying” says that you often reward players for work “outside of the game”. Is this reward given in Experience Points, or do you have other rewards? How much “outside of the game” stuff does the current group engage in?

Work outside of the game includes things like journals and art, in character stuff that contributes to the world. These rewards are usually in the form of bonus Mythic Points or story driven rewards. It is NOT required. If I used XP that would also be on the table as reward, but I use milestone levelling. I find that removing combat xp from the equation encourages non-combat solutions. I don’t get much in the way of submissions from the paid gamers, but in my home game there are a number of players who keep journals and contribute art. We even have a full tarot deck that uses PCs and NPCs from throughout the years that one player made over Covid lockdown.

You have been with Obsidian Portal for some time now, so how would you say it has changed over the years, and why is it still a useful site for someone like yourself?

Over the past decade plus I have seen it evolve a good bit. The Reforge was an exciting time that ended with dashed hopes as things deteriorated for quite some time. When the current team took over and things became more responsive to the community and its needs I was thrilled. I had stopped using it and when I checked back looking at an old wiki I discovered my favorite organizational tool had been resurrected. The current team has my thanks for making my favorite organizational tool viable once more!

Most mission critical parts of Op? The wiki, the ability to keep secrets between players and DM, and the Adventure Logs are all endlessly useful to me as a DM. Especially juggling notes and details, not to mention conversions, that have accumulated over the decades of play.

After all these years of being a member, If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal currently helps you with the most?

The Wiki and privacy controls, hands down.

I note from your Adventure Logs, that your group has currently entered “The Riven City of Bleurophil”. Tell us something about that. How did they get there, and what do you think lies in store for them.

This adventure is a follow up to one I ran for a prior group. It came from Tales from the Infinite Staircase and presented the Riven City and the original serial killer. The Guild players are operating 25 years later when a new killer is trying to complete the ritual slayings, and the history of the prior crimes was established by the prior group’s actions. It is my own follow up and recontextualizing of the original adventure.

The players were sent there by the Master of the Docks in the City of 7 Seraphs (one of my creations in that book) and their Planewalker’s Guild superiors to do recon. As some of the only eyewitnesses to the Planebreaker’s transition through Elysium they are considered the closest thing to experts available. Now they’re discovering some of the bigger picture. As for what awaits them? That depends on their actions. Will they stop the Gasping Strangler’s successor from completing the dark ritual? Will they see the Planebreaker shatter the sky again? Will Geeta ever stop complaining? A lot can happen, and the stakes are rising rapidly. Let’s just say that there is potential to gain Mythic Ranks in their not too distant future.

The whole “Planescape” scenario was created in Dungeons and Dragons, and yet you are using Pathfinder for your campaign. What were your motivations for this, and did that mean you had to do a whole lot of stat converting?

I’m used to it. I’ve written professionally doing work in Pathfinder 1e, Starfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Cypher System. I also grew up hacking my RPGs in order to do crossovers back in the 80s. The meta campaign began in the late 70s and has evolved with the times. It started in White Box D&D, quickly shifted to AD&D as the hardcovers were published. The 3.x era was the sweet spot for us in many ways. When 4e hit it did not fit our playstyle so we bounced over to Pathfinder 1e which is what I run them under currently. I’m seriously considering using Rob Schwalb’s fantastic Shadow of the Demon Lord rules for the next generation.

I have an entire wiki of conversions I keep private since it is a lot of IP from various source materials that I do not own (i.e. Greyhawk, Spelljammer, etc.)

Okay, as a last question, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What GM insights can you offer the community this month?

Don’t be afraid to improvise, just take notes as you do because you’ll probably need them later. Yes, even the throwaway NPCs. Don’t say no, say “you may try”. Give everybody spotlight time. Be kind to your players and an evil bastard to their PCs. Most importantly: KEEP IT FUN!

May your 20s be both frequent and natural. Loki out.

Thank you to the community for making this campaign of the month possible! That’s all for now, join us on our next adventure July 1st, and don’t forget to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

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