Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2018 – Shadows of the Rift

It’s hard to think of what Zaldara must have been like, before. Before The Rivening cut the land in two. I’ve heard stories that the source of that cataclysmic event lies on the eastern half, in the wastelands that few dare to tread, and none do so lightly. There’s a darkness there, something that dwells in the deepest of shadows; the Shadows of the Rift – September’s Campaign of the Month! A journey to the wastes is not for the feint of heart, so we’ll have to make preparations. I’ll take you to pencilneckgeek, the GameMaster of this sundered place.

https://db4sgowjqfwig.cloudfront.net/campaigns/57225/banners/253229/pathfinder_banner3.jpg?1396943812To kick things off, tell us more about you. Where do you hail from? What do you do aside from gaming? Is there anywhere else can we find your work online? Inquiring minds wanna know!

I am a native Texan, living in Denton, TX (“The Home of Happiness”) for the past 20 years. In my day job, I’m an Associate Dean of Libraries for a community college. I’ve worked in libraries for nearly 25 years. I homebrew beer as well as campaign worlds. I write fiction and have had a couple of short stories published. I’m happily married and help raise two demon-spawned cats.

I understand from your profile page that you started roleplaying back with the original D&D red box. Can you describe some of the differences and similarities of the hobby today versus then?

I see a big renaissance in gaming right now. There was a real low point in the popularity of the hobby in the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s. But now RPGs are more popular than ever. I also think the rise of both D&D 5th and Pathfinder represent a small schism in the community–Pathfinder representing the wargame roots of the hobby whereas D&D 5th is embracing the roleplaying aspects. I don’t see either as being inherently good or bad, just different—though I tend to favor the roleplaying side myself. I think that this moment in time within RPG history is a very exciting one to live in.


So, tell us about Shadows of the Rift in a nutshell? How long has the campaign been going on? What’s the basic premise of the story?

The campaign has been going on for about five-and-half years now. It’s my very first Pathfinder campaign and I’ve been learning a lot—not only about the game but the art of gamemastering. Essentially, about 5000 years ago, a huge calamity (The Rivening) happened that split the continent of Zaldara in two, leaving a gaping maw surrounded my jagged peaks—The Rift—separating the two sides. Civilizations have been rebuilding in the west while the east remains a wasteland—though it is rumored that the source of the Rivening lies there. The campaign follows the story of the Crimson Cord, a band of adventurers, as they try to gain fame and fortune in this land that is now renewing itself.


The campaign is starting to enter some of the final threads as the party approaches 20th level (they are 15th right now). They are now on a holy quest to create a weapon to defeat some coming great evil that even makes the gods nervous—an evil not seen since the Rivening.

Can you give us a quick overview of the player characters?

Sure. There is Mõrvar Ulrich—a tormented human Eldritch Knight whose inner demons seem to constantly get the best of him. There’s Rilka Lazarsdottir, a half-orc adoptee of a Northron village who has become a fighter-cleric of Bruni, the god of Courage. Then there is Savaric, a half-orc ranger whose prowess with a bow is soon to become legendary. Finally there is Surm Ulrich, a sorcerer-bard and now-estranged twin brother of Mõrvar, who seeks to make his mark on the world with fame and glory.


The group dynamic is interesting because all of the members of the Crimson Cord are outcasts in some way and have become a tight-knit group because—or perhaps in spite—of that. However, the ties that bind are now unraveling as Mõrvar has left—and perhaps seeks revenge against his former companions.


I note your campaign is using the Pathfinder rule system. Do you have any thoughts or opinions to share concerning the upcoming second edition? Have you looked at the playtest material?

I am in the process of going through the playtest material now. I’ve been sharing my findings with the rest of my group. While I’ve only just started, I am amused by how much the new system seems to crib from D&D 5th. I do like the ideas they have, however, on streamlining a lot of the “modifier glut” I’ve experienced. The current edition is very modifier heavy and complicated. I think only good can be gained from streamlining.

Turning to the campaign site now, how much (if any) do your players contribute to building and maintaining the page?

One of my players (Michael, who plays Surm), contributes a lot to the site. He is always building pages and characters to help keep track of things in the story for the group. The others mainly maintain their own characters and participate in the frequent forum discussions we have.


What about features? Do you have a favorite feature on Obsidian Portal? Is there a feature that you’d like to see that isn’t available now?

Probably my favorite feature is the Forum feature. We use it to take care of nitty-gritty business between sessions so when game day comes we can hit the ground running. It’s also a great way to communicate with everyone. As far as features that aren’t available now, I’ve always wished there could be tabs within a page to help organize information. There may be a way with CSS, but I’m not much of a coder, so I wish there was baked-in way to do that.

How about sources of inspiration? Is there anything you use creatively that you would recommend to others who might be developing a campaign of this type?

I draw a lot of inspiration from history—most of the countries have a historical analog to our world. Also, the works of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Solomon Cane, etc.) and H. P. Lovecraft (The Cthulhu Mythos). I steal (“aggressively borrow”) maps from Google and other fun stuff to make props for my characters. Also, the donjon site (https://donjon.bin.sh/) has been instrumental to me.


If you had to pick one moment from the campaign that stands out above the rest for you – a highlight, what would it be?

I have to say it was the first toe-to-toe battle the Crimson Cord had with the Lich Ulrich—the Ulrich family namesake and one of the most hated adversaries the group has probably faced. That was a lot of fun, mostly because the Lich character really knew how to get under the party’s skin. Of course, that was probably more fun for me than for them, but I think of that period as a high point.

To wrap things up, give us your best GM pearls of wisdom. What advice can you pass on to the GMs of the future?

One, don’t over-prepare. No plan of yours will survive the PCs anyway, so just know your setting, know your NPCs, and then see what happens. Most of my adventures are simply presenting a situation and seeing how it gets resolved. Two, listen to your players. They often come up with great plot points on their own that work out better than what you came up with. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to let them shine—which is the point of the game. Third, have fun. This is a game. If you’re not having fun, then you’re either doing it wrong or need to step away for a bit.

Unfortunately, like all things, our time in Zaldara must come to an end. It was a hell of a journey though, yes? So, let us take one last look around and then set off, for more great campaigns await us in the months to come. We give our thanks and appreciation to Modiphius Entertaiment, for their continued support of OP and the CotM program. And we hope that you’ll do your part to keep CotM strong by adding your voice to the nominations thread. We need you, so don’t leave us hanging!

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