Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2020 – Hazard Pay

Long ago, there was an age of enlightenment and civility. Today, the universe lies in ruins, split into broken sectors and ruled with iron fists by the conquering Overlords. They have established control over every aspect of life in their sectors. Only the farthest reaches of the galaxy have escaped their domination. Those who dare to face the lost and unknown do so in the hopes of vast rewards, known to some as Hazard Pay – November’s Campaign of the Month! Strap in for danger and exploration as we sift through the remnants of the lost past with Dropbeartots, GM of this far out campaign!


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!

DropbeartotsHi everybody, I’m Ed. I guess I’m from all over the place, having grown up as a military brat. I was born on Andrews Air Force Base in DC, and have lived in California, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Greece, and Texas.


I’ve done a lot of different things aside from gaming including sales, IT, food service, call center supervisor, writer, and chicken farmer. I think gaming and story-telling with my friends has to be my greatest love out of them all. Besides the love of my life Terri, that is.


My moniker came from the Shadowrun critters drop bears and my love of tater tots. They mix together pretty well, and I got the idea in my head to put up a WordPress – When Dropbears Attack!, and review games (very sporadically). I’ve also got a Twitter that I watch gaming news from, @Dropbeartots.

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

Hazard Pay is a gonzo science fantasy game set in the universe of Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells. It came out of my head completely unbidden after reading way too much Heavy Metal, watching the movie of the same and the Thundarr the Barbarian and Herculoids series, and listening to a lot of music but especially a combination of Pink Floyd and Mastodon.


My leading idea for the buildup to the game was to just scour the internet for weird alien pics, and then post them to my group’s Google Drive and have each of them pick out one of the pics to describe the character they wanted to play.


We’ve been playing for two weeks now as of this writing, and this upcoming Friday (10/23/20) will be our third session. It took me a bit to get everything ready for it and build the portal up the way I wanted it.


Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells is a rules lite RPG based on the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells RPG. What made you choose this game for your setting and how “lite” are those rules?

I wanted to create a campaign based out of the SB&CS game after absorbing all of the stuff I mentioned above and searching for a game engine that would match the weirdness that is ensuing. The system is incredible, and I love how it syncs up with all of the ideas I had for a game. The rules are very light, having few stats and no lists of skills detailing every exact thing a character can do. Basically, I wanted a game which was more conversational, and my players could say “I want to do THIS cool thing!” instead of saying “I hit it with my sword using the Attack Action after Moving 15 feet into range.” It’s a rut we all can get into with games that have specified lists of actions and skills and modifiers to determine a character’s success. Lots of experience with that – looking at almost every single edition of Shadowrun here, all of which I’ve played and run and love, so no judgement but I wanted to step away from that style for a while.

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?

Our group meets weekly on Fridays. The setup is pretty casual, we’ve got a couple of couches, chairs, and we all gather in the living room. The group shows up, and sometimes Terri and me cook up some burgers or hot dogs, or GrubHub comes to the door. We settle in, eat, and chat about how things have been going for the past week, then get into whichever game we are playing. Right now we are alternating GMs every other week, our other current game is a 5e Grim Hollow campaign. The GM blacklighthalo is pretty new to what all OP can do, but he’s ready on game night and is telling a great story so give his campaign some love. We did play on Discord and Roll20 for a couple of months at the beginning of the year due to Pandemic concerns, but have returned to in-person gaming.


The Galaxy in your site is very well detailed, with a comprehensive wiki covering several sections, and aided by colorful maps. How much of this did you design by yourself, and how did you go about it?

The sector names and the history of the Galactic Overlords was designed by Diogo Nogueira of Old Skull Publishing. The beauty of this game is that Diogo throws out the barest of bones, but the GM and players build up everything else around that.


The maps were designed by me using the Spaceland expansion for Hex Kit, a great little program that I have used for hex maps frequently. I just randomly picked out names for worlds and planets that sounded good off of the top of my head except for the worlds that were points of origin for the player characters. Each of the players chose the name of their species and home world if their characters were not human.

On your landing page you refer to the “brave (and perhaps foolhardy) folk who face the hazards of the lost and unknown in the hopes of vast rewards”. Tell us a bit about your current group of adventurers and their mission.

Well, the backstory for the characters so far is pretty brief and to the point. After choosing their species, rolling up their stats, and choosing their concept and archetypes, I set the scene for them as recent escapees from an oppressive prison world called Skull Ward in a starship whose registration, point of origin, and owner were wiped upon capture. They now believe that their records are completely wiped out with the prison world’s destruction, but they all have to make a living somehow and they have this ship, so freedom! They’ve decided to do whatever odd jobs come their way to keep flying. This wanted poster details the (real or imagined) crimes they were imprisoned for. The  players gave their input, but I think Terri was the most pleased with Trigger’s list. I didn’t make a back for this poster yet, by the way.

The group is currently employed as a transportation/bodyguard/labor force for The Clockwork Baron as he searches for evidence of an alien civilization that was destroyed when the Galactic Overlords took power over the galaxy some thousands of years ago. These aliens, called faorighi, were thought to be products of the Baron’s own mind by most until he got word that there was something out in The Belt, a zone of deadly wild spinning rocks that no one in their right minds really wants to spend any amount of time inside. Trigger the Quizzit announced just how freakin’ mad that idea really was during the Baron’s employment pitch, since his home world is right by the belt, and then just shrugged and nodded his agreement to join in.


The group also has a patron in the form of The Duff, boss of The Chalice casino on Chance. He has a positive relationship with a couple members of the crew, and more recently I made him a Twitter account @theduff_chance.

The design aspects on your site are outstanding – great pictures, cursor hovers, good navigation links, etc.  Who is responsible for this and what were the inspirations behind the design?

I wish I could remember where everything I used came from when I built this portal! I put it all together from a wide variety of sources – a lot of it came from inspecting the portals I have in my favorites list to see how people more well-versed than I at coding CSS did it for their portals, and matching all that up with what I’d like to see in mine.


I’d like to thank them all for their (inadvertent or not) help in putting this thing together. Especially Basileus, alex_redeye, ChainsawXIV, Thorvaldr, HumAnnoyd, Keryth987, RigilKent, and all of the people who added bits to the Post-Reforge repository. And thanks to Gastoff, who threw out some great advice on things, and Conan_Lybarian for his feedback.

How much time do you usually spend preparing your game session?  Describe a typical session.

Oh, man. I probably spend almost every waking moment thinking about “next sessions”. Don’t you?


But I don’t really prep too much, just because I can never tell what my group’s going to do. Will they take the bait I’m dropping? Or will they chase a wild hare off to the other side of the galaxy/megaplex/continent? So hard to say sometimes, even though I’ve been gaming with most of this group for the better part of 20 years. Especially with Kwaba!


Besides writing and posting little vignettes and adventure seeds to the portal (which I do whenever an idea randomly strikes and I have the moments to write and post them), I’d say actual real prep time takes about thirty minutes to an hour. Other than that, it’s improvising.


So far, it appears that a typical session in this game is going to be full of a lot of action, smart remarks, and flying by the seat of their pants. Usually with this group a lot more interplay develops after we’ve run a few sessions, and everyone gets a feel for their characters. We do have a new player that’s injecting a lot of enthusiasm as well; he’s never played any RPGs and I was quite happy that I got to teach someone the basics. SB&CS was easy to teach him, for our alternating game of D&D 5e it’s been a little bit more work.


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

I have been using OP since 2009. Hard to believe it’s been eleven years! But I’ve tried a number of other sites, and I always keep coming back to OP. The ability to customize my portals the way I like them to look that comes with having an Ascendant membership beats everything else I’ve seen.

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

Organization. I absolutely love the way OP has helped me organize my campaigns with the use of the portals I’ve built in the years I have been on here.

What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far?

That’s a tough one since this game’s only seen two sessions, and I’m sure these guys are just warming up to it.


I’d have to say that my favorite thing so far is hearing how much some of the players dislike their current employer, The Clockwork Baron, from his journal posts even as they play their characters as unknowing since they haven’t seen the side of him that he writes about yet. The latest one was a doozy.


The back and forth between Bach the Krogger and Trigger the Quizzit is fun too, they are both uhm, wiseacres I guess is the best term for it. I’ll have to get them to post adventure logs at some point about that for posterity’s sake.


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

My best advice to anyone who wants to know how I do things is to cultivate your spontaneity, be ready for your group to spring the most unexpected things at you without bothering to think that you can plan for every eventuality.


After your session’s done, spend a little time on “damage control” for whatever you’re plotting and how the characters impacted that plot you thought would be so cool. Make it living and responsive to what the players and their characters do, want to do, and show you how they will react to certain things that come up in game.


Never get upset when player characters throw a wrench in things because, remember, it’s not just your story as the GM that’s being built… it’s the story that you as a group are telling.




It would be cooler if you did (and you get bonus points if you get the reference).

We should go now… the Overlords’ agents are everywhere. In the meantime, the struggle continues, and we hope that you can keep your head down until next month, when our next excursion comes. Don’t forget to add your favorite campaigns to the nomination thread, so that they can be considered for a feature of their own. Journey well, my friends.

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