23
Oct

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month October 2018 – A Matter of France

Few are the legends that approach the greatness of Charlemagne and his Paladins. Bold warriors in fierce battles; Mythic deeds told in song. Such events are more than just a matter of fable or folklore. They are a matter of foundation; of history. They are A Matter of France – October’s Campaign of the Month! So steel your courage, for destiny awaits – destiny and GM sirlarkins!

So, getting underway here, what can you tell us about yourself? 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!

My name is David Larkins and I’ve been playing RPGs for about 25 years now. I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and returned to live there in 2010 after a couple decades in California. That’s where I met my wife, Desiree, who is also one of the founding members of our gaming group, The Esoteric Order of Roleplayers.

 

I’m known in some parts of the internet as sirlarkins, and I maintain a website at sirlarkins.com. You can also find me on Twitter at @sirlarkins, or on Facebook.

 

Over the past five years or so, gaming has grown from a hobby for me into a profession, and I am currently the Creative Director for the King Arthur Pendragon RPG, published by Nocturnal Media, as well as a freelance author and editor in the RPG industry with several titles due to come out in the months ahead.

Can you fill us in on some of the outside-of-game details? Do you and the group play online or in person? How frequently do you all play? How long has the group been together?

We play in person, and have maintained more or less our current roster of members since 2013. The core of our group began assembling via Meetup contacts over the course of 2011-12.

 

Our main Sunday game meets three weeks out of every four, and there’s often a side game (“duet” campaigns with me and Des, or online games with members of the Esoteric Order Patreon) going on at any given time.

Tell us about A Matter of France in a nutshell. How long has the campaign been running up to this point? How far through the campaign would you say the group is? Can you give us an overview of the story?

First of all, to clear up any potential confusion, I want to mention that the game I’m running is a spin-off of the King Arthur Pendragon RPG entitled Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne. Paladin has been digitally released to Kickstarter backers, and I have been using the PDF provided through that campaign, but the game will be available to the general public later this year, starting with the PDF and later the hard copy.

 

The campaign has been running since April of this year (shortly after the first backer PDF was released), and has covered about eight years of game-time. The game is written to cover up to the entire arc of Charlemagne’s story—nearly 50 years—but from the start I envisioned this particular run as only consisting of the first “phase” of the timeline: that is, the rise of Charlemagne from prince to co-ruler of Frankland to his becoming sole king, and his battles against the Saxons, Lombards, and Moors culminating in the epic events depicted in The Song of Roland. We’re about three game years out from that finale, and should be wrapping things up by Thanksgiving, if all goes according to plan.

 

We may come back to revisit the campaign and cover later events, but that’s yet to be decided.

I note you also have another Pendragon campaign – A Matter of Britain – that has been completed. Are these two campaigns related? If so, to what extent?

In my mind, the two campaigns do exist in the same shared universe, but as they take place over 200 years apart, there’s little direct connection. One interesting feature of the tales of Charlemagne, however, is the inclusion of Morgan le Fay as an antagonist in those stories as well. My group, of course, encountered Morgan several times in our run of the Great Pendragon Campaign (“A Matter of Britain”), and have encountered her twice now in A Matter of France, which has made for some fun callbacks.

How about inspirational material? Do you have any particular sources that you’re willing to share with those who might be working on a campaign of this sort?

Like Pendragon, Paladin draws upon a rich, deep well of literary sources regarding the legends of Charlemagne and his paladins. The most well-known of these is The Song of Roland, but I’m also a big fan of Orlando Furioso. Honestly, though, Paladin’s author, Ruben in’t Groen, did an absolutely amazing job of collating dozens of medieval and Renaissance sources, many of which have never been translated into English, and weaving them together into an overarching narrative, so I’ve mostly been consulting my copy of the Paladin rulebook!

Are there any spoiler-free hints you can drop about what is coming up in the campaign?

The thing about playing an RPG campaign based on famous works of literature is that you’re going to get “spoilers,” as it were. The question becomes one of: how do the PCs fare when thrown into a famous event, such as the Battle of Roncevaux Pass

I see from your site that you use audio recordings for your adventure log. Can you lay out some of the pros and cons of using this method versus a traditional written narrative?

I’ve done both written session summaries and game recordings in the past, and although I love formal write-ups, they really do take a huge amount of time to do properly. Audio recordings have the advantage of being much faster if one doesn’t do a lot of post-production (which I generally don’t). The downside, of course, is that in order to get decent audio quality, you do need to lay out some money on equipment, although it isn’t as expensive to get started as one might think.

 

Incidentally, I’ve also been informed by a few of our listeners that our game session recordings, with their mix of immersive storytelling and fun camaraderie, have helped them through some tough times in their lives, which is incredibly humbling to hear, and not something that is likely to happen as often with written reports, I think.

What about features here on the site? Do you have a favorite feature on Obsidian Portal? How about a feature you’d like to see that isn’t available now?

I’ve been using Obsidian Portal since 2010, and it remains my favorite site because it really does everything: collating notes, creating character databases, scheduling sessions, adventure logs and player-only forums—it’s hard to pick a favorite feature, honestly.

 

In the future, I’d love to see more multimedia features implemented, such as a broadened ability to embed iframes and YouTube clips. And perhaps eventually even some sort of virtual tabletop functionality. Although I primarily run in person, I do run enough online games that having an all-in-one VTT/campaign wiki would be greatly appreciated.

What would you say has been the single greatest highlight from the campaign for you? And why does it top the list in your mind?

Full confession: our games can get a bit weird and transgressive, so relating my favorite moment is actually not really suitable for a family website. Those of you who have listened to “Avissa’s Secret” probably know what I’m talking about…

 

That being said, I think the biggest highlight for me has been watching these larger-than-life characters from the lore of Charlemagne—Roland, Oliver, Ogier, Maugis, Morgan, Angelica, Charlemagne himself—interact with the player-characters, and seeing how the players react to and form bonds with the characters.

 

Ogier the Dane is their great favorite (and has long been mine as well), and they trust him in all things despite his tendency to engage in insurrection and rebellion. Maugis, meanwhile, is an antihero who has been both ally and enemy, and the players all have a real love-hate relationship with him, which is something I always strive for.

Finally, give us your best GM pearls of wisdom. What great lessons should the GMs of tomorrow be learning?

Going off my previous answer, I would say: make your NPCs come alive as best you can. If the players seem to latch onto someone, either as a friend or foe, give them plenty more of that NPC—they’ll love you for it.

 

For the GMs of tomorrow: allow the story to evolve organically, with the dice acting as oracles to guide you in your storytelling. Connect to gaming as a way to explore shared mythological spaces; everything else is just details.

As always, the time we get to spend with any campaign is limited – and we must now depart the realm of Charlemagne. We hope you enjoyed a closer look at this awesome campaign, and that you’re as excited as we are about the campaigns to come. Thanks is due to Modiphius Entertainment for their continued support of Obsidian Portal, and the Campaign of the Month program – and please keep our list of potential featured campaigns growing by posting your favorites in the nominations thread on the community forums.

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