Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2019 – Aether and Ashes

There was a time when superstition and folk belief protected mankind; safeguarding them through the horrors of antiquity. But no longer. Technological innovation has stripped them of these defenses, and given them a false sense of security. In these hazy, gaslit streets Creatures of the Unknown prowl, free to lurk and stalk. If something does not change, humanity may soon find the lantern of hope reduced to Aether and Ashes – May’s Campaign of the Month! So come with me as we meet Nicesociety, GM of this fantastic campaign!


To get the ball rolling, tell us more about you. Where are you from? What’s the family situation? Are there other places where we can find you or your work online?

NicesocietyI grew up a Military brat, so have had the joy of living all over the country. I currently reside in Tulsa, OK with my wonderful wife “NiftyGirl” and my three Children – Things 1, 2 & 3. I have been married for 25 years. I am on Facebook, where I participate in a number of discussion groups ranging from writing to disaster preparedness.

What do you do aside from gaming? Any alter egos or other noteworthy details to share?

I am active with community projects whenever possible. As a Veteran of the Armed forces I am happy to serve where needed. My children think I will single-handedly overcome the Apocalypse, (regardless of type) and try not to dissuade them of this belief.

So bring us up to speed on Aether and Ashes. What’s the basic premise of the story, and how long has the campaign been running at this point?

Aether and Ashes is the latest in a series of games, all set in the same universe. We have another on Obsidian Portal that we played prior named “Save Rome.”, but we’ve been playing in this same universe for nearly a decade. So far we’ve played, in San Francisco 1913, San Francisco 1956, Rome 1936 and currently Paris and Greece in 1880-81 (which is our current Aether & Ashes). It’s the latest incarnation in a series and like all the others we’re working on our second year playing Aether & Ashes.

Where do you play, and how regularly?

We have a dedicated group of players who gather every single Saturday with few exceptions. My players have been gaming with me for around 15 years now, in some cases even driving two hours each way to make sessions. We play in person, using the Obsidian Portal wiki to provide information to the characters as it is uncovered. Before this we actually had a Facebook group, but it was not well-suited for gaming.

How did you get into tabletop gaming? Which game systems do you play often? the most?

I was introduced to it in middle school at age 13. I’ve been GMing a regular game, with very few exceptions since 1985. As I’m currently 47, I’d say it’s a lifestyle choice. Lately we’ve been playing a lot of Chill, but we are also hardcore Cyberpunk fans, and of course D&D.

In what game system are you playing Aether and Ashes, and why did you choose this particular game system?

We are actually using a heavily modified version of Mayfair Games Chill Campaign setting. This systems offers enough simplicity of mechanics, flexibility in storytelling and flexibility for character customization that we all absolutely adore it. Besides, who doesn’t like a horror setting that offers the best pulp horror stories without the inevitable madness associated with Call of Cthulhu?

If you were to give advice to people out there interested in starting up a campaign of this style, where would you suggest they go for inspiration?

I try to utilize all the basic themes taken from the classic horror films. Depending on the era I choose, I then research the major events and find the oddities to build my stories around. For example, running in the late 1800s, I draw heavily on the Spiritualist movement, the edginess of the industrial revolution and the Victorian society of the time. For inspiration, think Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, HG Wells, and Jules Verne. Add to that some elements from mythology and you have a winning combination. I also love pinterest and have found that sometimes an image, costume or setting is inspiration in its own right.

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

I started using Obsidian Portal in November 2015. It took me less than a month to decide it was the right gaming tool for me. I’ve been ascendant since. I like the ease of entry creation as well as the cross-referencing it allows my players to explore. I also like the fact it’s supported and that new features are occasionally rolled out to enhance the experience and provide additional tolls for me to use.

Your implementation of the newer wiki tools is really slick. Do you do all that work yourself? How much customization is there? Do your players get involved too?

Thank you. I wanted to use some of the newer features to make the site more mobile friendly. The accordion, for example, really makes the index page easier to read on a mobile device as does the outline features. I used Photoshop to create the backgrounds, and banner and have been experimenting with textile to add additional features. So far I haven’t been able to really grasp CSS yet, but give me time, It will happen, especially since I know the site will support it so well. I’d say that the majority of the work is all built using the tools that Obsidian Portal provides. I was able to expand them somewhat to meet my needs, and added a few personal touches in the form of art.


My players read the wiki and updates religiously. In fact, they find more typos and corrections and let me know about them too. They don’t write entries, preferring to leave that to me, but they consume everything voraciously.

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

Creating a legacy. The wiki entries and adventure logs really help our group to build a lasting legacy in the form of a well-defined universe in which to set our games. Having all this information available after the session keeps it fresh between sessions and builds up a large body of work to build upon. Universe creating is definitely the best advantage that the Site provides.

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

I build my stories in the episodic style. so I basically treat them as if they were an episode of a series. My first step is to create a title and synopsis. They are usually very simple at that stage. Then I decide on a villain and their motivations, their resources and abilities. Once I have that, I figure out the hook to get the characters involved, and then work out a basic timeline. I tend to work for about three episodes ahead, and spend between 10-15 hours on each episode. I create the generic Wiki entries for the major characters, places and item ahead of time and write a very basic summary. I do not plan out every encounter, but just focus on the ones that I know I need. In this way I get the ability to remain flexible whenever my players throw me a curve ball. For more complicated episodes, like the season finale, I work on them regularly and fine tune them as the season progresses.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far (please also provide a link if possible)?

Our season 1 finale recently ended and the characters strongest ally turned out instead to be one of their most hated enemies, placing them into a situation wedged between two opposing forces, each capable of destroying them.

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

Don’t get too hung up on keeping your story intact. Be flexible, adapt. Don’t be afraid to improvise if your players do something unexpected. For that matter, don’t be afraid to scrap key points in your story to adapt if needed. Most of all, think big and have as much fun as possible.

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And that’s going to about wrap it up for this month gentle readers. We’ll be back soon with another great campaign, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please keep those nominations coming so that our user-led initiatives can continue to always thrive. We thank everyone for their support, and hope that you enjoyed this interview – and a peak inside the creative mind of a fellow user.

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