Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2021 – Baghdad on the Bayou

Welcome to New Orleans! Known across the globe by many names – The Crescent City, NOLA, and The Big Easy to name a few – New Orleans is a colorful city that never truly settles down. It has good food, and good music – with a large helping of the strange and supernatural as well. Of course, the city isn’t without its dangers, which is why it has yet another name: Baghdad on the Bayou – May’s Campaign of the Month! Utilizing the Dresden Files game system, this gem from GM guyredshirt is just the thing to perk up the month of May. So let’s go!

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!

Our group has a rotating GM: we share the load of preparing and running various adventures. It gives people a break from time to time and helps everyone appreciate what the GM does. We do have a few in the group who GM more often or for longer stretches than others, and all of us have families, jobs, and other interests (food, movies, board games, video games, travel, and more). It is a true community effort.

We have 2 groups running adventures using the same location, and several players overlapping with characters in both campaigns. One with just a group of friends who have been gaming for years, and another that includes extended family who wanted to join. Many of our spouses and kids play in the second one.

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

There is a group of friends who have played RPGs for years and we wanted to do a campaign in the DFRPG again. We wanted a memorable and flavorful city as the backdrop and decided on New Orleans. We love the mystery and uniqueness of the city, and set the adventure in that area, tasking all players to develop some locations and non-player characters (NPCs) that we could build stories and adventures around.

We started play this campaign in June of 2020 and have been going consistently since then. As we started the process of building the world as a group, our family members also wanted to play and the two groups in one location was born.

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

We typically play monthly basis in each of two adventuring groups: the exclusive guys’ group that plays late into the night and then the larger family group, often on a weekend. We play at someone’s home usually or sometimes the conference room at a local law office one of our player has access too. We try to play in person but have occasionally had a remote participant. Even when we are together in person, tools like Roll20 have been a useful addition and fun to use, however we keep coming back to Obsidian Portal because of how easy it is for everyone to contribute.

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

We wanted to play Dresden Files and Jim Butcher and Evil Hat Games made it possible to do that with a modified FATE system. We have used many systems, and like Dresden Files and Fate in general for the elegant way it incorporates story-telling elements with aspects that define characters and Fate Points which let the players change and tell the story. It really unlocks an adventure’s potential.

For those of us out interested in a Dresden Files campaign, we know there are a lot of places to draw inspiration from (besides Jim Butcher himself, of course), but where do you draw yours from?

We do use inspiration from Jim Butcher and the novels, but at the same time we understand – and even Jim has said – that Harry Dresden is not a reliable narrator and source of information. The novels are from his point of view and limited to his knowledge of the world. Harry is not all-seeing and all-knowing so if things need to change, we change them. We never worry about departing from strict canon to make a story our own or add to the emotional appeal of the adventure.

Another source of inspiration was the city itself. If you look at the locations and several characters they are based on actual locations and the lore and stories of the city. We just looked for Dresden-esque locations and themes in the city then used the great city building section in the DFRPG to flesh them out. Part of the great thing about city creation in DFRPG is that it encourages players to make locations and NPC ‘Faces’ for them that players would like to see in the game. When we were ‘Dresden-fying’ New Orleans we encouraged all the players to contribute to our page on Obsidian Portal with at least one location and a face. The result was a very in depth and rich world view of Dresden Files New Orleans for our game.

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

We as a group have played many RPG systems. I believe we have played every edition of D&D since 2nd AD&D. In addition, some of the other systems we have used are Savage Worlds, FATE, Star Wars RPG (from the old West End Games through the latest by Fantasy Flight), Star Trek (the original FASA) and probably several others I can’t remember.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

We each have different stories, but I think the guys all played since childhood, and the spouses started playing when they married men who enjoyed the hobby so much. We then introduced the kids to it as they grew up with it around them.

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

We have been using Obsidian Portal since 2009, and the longer we have played the more we have relied on the tools it offers: we love the ability to add adventure logs, characters, secrets, track information, upload images, develop maps, and link everything through the wiki tools.

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

Thanks! Just as we rotate GMs, we share the load of updating information and recounting adventures for the benefit of the group. We like Obsidian Portal because everyone can be involved.

Not a whole lot of customization – just a lot of information.

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 think the easy-to-use aspect of the site has been the most help. Obsidian Portal has been invaluable with tracking information and letting us reminisce about the adventures. All our players get involved to one degree or another, if nothing else inputting character information and retelling the adventures they ran.

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

Time investment probably varies by GM, but it is not uncommon to spend many hours assembling maps, pictures, plot hooks, new characters, surprises, music, thematic snacks, and other details for any given adventure.

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

We as a core group of friends have played together for years and have many tales to tell, but the highlight of this current game so far has to be…the Christmas adventure when the Crescent City Cavaliers (our Guys Group) had to open a way to the Downbelow section of the Nevernever and rescue a PC’s girlfriend from the Knights of Hell, it was pretty epic. Then the GM of the other campaign managed to weave the Bourbon Street Irregulars (the family group) into their own adventure in the Nevernever at the same time. We were able to see the Cavaliers battling demons in the distance while we were on our own adventure.

We have occasionally had characters from one group guest star in the other’s adventure. We were a little hesitant to have 2 groups in one location – and it does take some juggling and finessing – but I think it has made for a richer and deeper game experience for both parties.

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

Focus on the fun. The whole object of playing is to have fun.

The guys and by extension the families have been playing for years, so there is a certain level of comfort that we have as a group. We are pretty laid back and casual and often spend hours just talking about life and catching up before, during, and after our gaming sessions. As old friends, we appreciate a lot of inside jokes and general flexibility of the game to mock one another, laugh about bad decisions in past adventures, and really role play our characters or step out of the game universe at times to discuss current news and everything else.

We also tend to recognize the time commitment and so we appreciate whatever an adventure entails and the small additions, whether it be a bag of cookies that integrates into the story, a song selection that captures the exact feeling of an epic moment in the climactic battle, or perfect picture to express the drama of an important encounter. Little details can really enhance the immersion.

As always, thanks for taking the time to be with us – we certainly appreciate it! We’ll be back soon with another featured campaign. In the meantime, keep our Campaign of the Month program going strong by putting all your favorite campaigns in our nominations thread on the community forums. Until next time, take care and keep the campaign building alive!

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