Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month March 2021 – The Haunted

London hasn’t been the same since the death of Queen Victoria. It’s only been a decade, and yet the city is on the brink of revolution. The arrival of steam powered technology, and the increasing power of other nations has changed things in ways no one could have expected. And then of course, there are the monsters. Welcome to The Haunted – March’s Campaign of the Month! With the assistance of GM LordMisha, we should be able to manage a tour of the city, as depicted in this wonderful horror classic. Hurry now, there’s not a moment to lose!

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

A Hoosier by birth (Indiana) but a military brat growing up. So grade school in Japan, middle school in Greece, and High School in England. As a working adult, about 20 different states and some time in Vancouver. Career was mostly in animation and live-action visual effects (Disney Animation and Digital Domain to name a few). No kids, briefly married once, and no real internet presence aside from the Portal. I have a Facebook account but never use it.

Tell us briefly about The Haunted campaign. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

I inherited the Savage Worlds gamemaster mantle so wanted to try something different then my normal sci-fi or pulp inspired games. Thought about straight up Rippers or maybe Gaslight and just ended up mashing them together. The original proposal was a bit more Steampunk vibe but it ended up more traditional and a bit Cthulhu influenced.

How regularly do you play, and where do you play?

We used to play twice a month. This particular group played on and off for over 20 years through a range of systems. But it grew smaller over time, we just get older and drift away. I moved away and only recently returned back close enough to the group to start running and playing again. I asked for some options and The Haunted got the big vote. I liked running it so great for me!

Why did you choose Savage Worlds over other systems? What are your favorite things about this RPG?

Another player/GM brought home an early beta release of original Savage Worlds back in the day, just after I had run/played some original Deadlands. We liked it enough but went back to D&D, Pathfinder, RuneQuest, etc. I tend to favour less crunchy games when I run: original 3-book Traveller, 3-book D&D (the little brown books) etc. So the simplicity and fast play of Savage Worlds was right up my alley. I am also a huge mystery/pulp reader: Doc Savage, The Shadow, Flash Gordon, John Carter, and so on. And my games are always described as more cinematic, action, and adventure. So it was a good fit.

For those of us out interested in a campaign of this style, we know there are a lot of places to draw inspiration from, but where do you draw yours from?

I am a voracious reader, have been since I was a wee little lad. Whole family reads, so my head is full of information from lots of sources. Love old noir films, John Wayne films, and cinema in general. Heck, I ended up working in it for a bit. I am never sure half the time if some of my ideas are original or a bit of something I read/saw bleeding through. And when I do use old film plots or similar, I challenge players to figure out what I am ripping off, if they guess correctly, I hand out Bennies, experience points, or whatever works for that system. I can go quite deep and obscure so sometimes they have to work hard for it.

I’m sure you play other systems too, which ones do you play most?

I haven’t played everything but have tried quite a bit over the years. I am old and a grognard to some so lots of games under my belt. But my go to systems over the years: Chaosium Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Stormbringer, Warhammer 2nd/3rd editions, D&D, Pathfinder, Talislanta, Tunnels & Trolls, and I am sure many I am forgetting. Mind you, the group is just three now so the different systems have quieted down to just SW for now.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

A kid brought the Holmes edition to my 8th grade art class. That was all it took. That lead to Gamma World and Top Secret then it just exploded from there.

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

Man, it has been a long time. I think I have over 30+ campaigns designed. I have so many ideas I will never get to run probably. Plus, I am also a web designer so I just like playing around and theming to whatever the game might be. Heck, I would probably volunteer to work on other people’s pages if they let me 🙂 I backed the Kickstarter way back but started before that. Actually, I discovered Obsidian Portal while reading a blog from Scott Kurtz (PVP comic). He was talking it up for a game he was running. It seemed interesting, checked it out, and became a member.

Your customization is very impressive. Do you do all that work yourself? How much customization is there?

Yep, I do all the custom work. When I first started, there were many helpful volunteers who shared information, tips, and code tricks on the forums. They still do but I tend to practice my web design skills now on the portal sites. If I see something cool on another campaign, I will dig into how they did for future reference. Some of the campaigns are more complex then others. I tend to let the style and setting dictate how complex I will get. Although I tend to rebuild some a lot. I see something new I want to try.

If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most? Do your players get involved on the wiki too?

I like that others can read about the games and campaigns. I love reading other campaign sites so giving back is great. And I am a designer and world builder at heart so this allows me to put down what I want about whatever the latest game is. My players haven’t always been aggressive about checking out the pages but this time around, I think one player is stepping up and surprising even me. His in-character diaries are great to read. I am looking forward to much more (no pressure mate).

I also used to play a great play-by-post Traveller game. I know OP has the forums but that doesn’t really work for what I want out of play-by-post. I wish the Adventure logs had a bit more futures to them to support that kind of game. I want people to be able to read about the exploits of the game I am playing/running.

How much time do you usually spend prepping your sessions, and how do you go about it?

Well, I was unemployed for several months, COVID’d out of a job so had lots of time to plan and design multiple game ideas. Hence the 30+ campaigns on the site. I tend to write up original stuff, modify existing adventures, and grab old films that I can twist into a game session or two. I tend to plan in broad, general strokes, some big picture ideas, an outline of adventures to use (in no certain order) and go from there. My actual game session prep is very light. Usually a bare outline and NPC/Villain stats and that is about it. I tend to go with the flow and see what the players throw back to me.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far?

Oh gosh, so many things but since we just restarted this game last week (one session down) nothing new to report. But a few games that are memorable are what I called shared world. At one point our group had 4 GMs. We ran different systems but a couple of us ran the same system and flipped between story arcs as Player/Gamemaster. I would run for a bit then hand off the game to another GM. We never had a plan we just winged it. Sometimes we round-robin-ed during one night’s session. Those were pretty memorable.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing sage advice.

Plan all you want, then be prepared to throw it all out. I am sure advice heard from many but very true. Players will always surprise you so don’t get to locked into your ideas and plans. If they throw a curve-ball at you, absorb it and run with it. They will always be generating ideas you can swipe and drop in later. A no-name NPC might suddenly become a major villain or hero just because the players THINK this person is important. So go ahead, let it happen. It is liking watching a TV show and seeing a minor character suddenly develop into a major player on the show. Same thing. I also tend to think of certain games in relation to entertainment. Long form TV shows, mini-series, movies, and a mix of all. I might have an idea where I want to see the game head, a possible end game in mind, but I am certainly not married and locked into those ideas.

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And with that, we’ve come to the end of the interview. We thank you for taking the time to explore this amazing campaign with us, and we hope that you (like us) can’t wait for the next great feature. We’ll have that for you soon enough, but in the meantime, please add all of your favorite campaigns to our nominations thread so that they can be considered for a feature of their own. Until next time!

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