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Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2020 – Star Wars – Das Erbe der Jedi-Ritter

Star Wars – Das Erbe der Jedi-Ritter: Eine Chronik aus der New Jedi Order” (which is German for “The Legacy of the Jedi Knights: A Chronicle from the New Jedi Order”) is a long-running, beautifully-made campaign by Grand_Master_Steve, using the d20 Revised Star Wars rules set. Spanning a generation of time in the game world and a decade and a half in ours, it is the very definition of an epic tale. Draw your lightsabers, fellow Jedi – it’s time to face your destiny, an alien foe from beyond our galaxy, and a story of a long-lasting friendship that began long, long ago.

First, 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!

Hi there! We’re a roleplaying group from Germany. There’s actually five of us, three of whom are very active on our adventure log.

Steve: My name is Steve and I’m the GM of our group. Currently, I’m writing my PhD thesis in Near Eastern Archaeology on ancient cylinder seals. Besides tabletop gaming I love to play Magic the Gathering and all kinds of video games. Also, I like watching movies, listening to music or doing other nerdy stuff. I’ve been running and playing tabletop sessions for almost 30 years now. 99% of the time I was the GM. I like this creative “god-like” aspect much more than just playing one single role. For many years I mainly played the most renowned German tabletop game “Das Schwarze Auge/The Dark Eye”, but later I also tried my hand at many other systems like Space Gothic (a German sci.-fi.-horror game), Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Vampire the Masquerade, Mage the Ascension and more.

 

Marc Dane: My name is Marc (aka Iunu). I study English and write novels in my spare time, some of which draw heavy inspiration from our tabletop campaigns. Aside from that I also like most of the nerdy stuff Steve already mentioned above. I have a great passion for storytelling and love deep and meaningful stories, yet prefer to focus on the perspective of one character at a time – which is why I feel more at home as a player than a GM.

 

WulfgarNordfalk: Hi, I am Ulf (aka WulfgarNordfalk). For nearly 22 years I’ve traveled the plains of Aventurien, fought the daily struggles in the Redmond Barrens and witnessed old, unspeakable Evil rise to the surface. A role player with heart and soul I’m kind of the workhorse, who tried their best to record most of our galaxywide adventures into this one big (digital) pile of notes so that it would one day be possible to relive this kind memories. I had actually no idea what I was getting into, but who would have known that this mission would go on for almost fifteen years (and still counting). However I’m grateful now that all of that has found a home here to share our common passion with you and still be able to come back and wallow in these stories of old.

Tell us about Star Wars – Das Erbe der Jedi-Ritter in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

The STAR WARS campaign was basically born out of the desire to play more meaningful stories, more complex characters and plots than in the occasional one-shot adventures I had typically run and played before. The only expansive campaign I’d run as a GM was the so-called “Borbarad-Kampagne” in the tabletop setting “The Dark Eye”. My goal was to create something like that by myself, but in the extended STAR WARS universe, which I of course like very much. The basic idea was to create something like a modern TV series with recurring and intriguing characters, storylines with a slow build-up, plot developments and twists leading up to crazy events and drastic changes to the world – and STAR WARS is a great setting for telling such an epic story! The basic idea was that all players should play as Jedi. Yet it felt wrong to have them start out as already experienced Jedi Knights. Becoming a Jedi is an important and formative story in itself, especially in the New Jedi Order era. So the players began their journey as young Jedi students on their first day at the Jedi Praxeum on Yavin 4.

 

The core plot for the campaign is based on the numerous STAR WARS books of the Expanded Universe, mainly the NJO book series, which describes the gruesome war against the very alien and brutal Yuuzhan Vong species – a war that spans over many years and turns everything in the STAR WARS universe on its head.

What RPG system is your Star Wars game using? Do you play any other games?

We use the old STAR WARS D20 Revised Rules from WotC, with many additions and specific house rules. The system was new at the time we launched our campaign and was very easy to get into. Also, there were many additional online-resources to use back in the early 2000s. Nowadays I would prefer another system, maybe the fan-revised version of the D6 system, as the STAR WARS D20 system has many problems in the high-level range. Especially that there’s no real opportunity for character development at such high levels anymore.

 

Besides that, I run two other campaigns (which are on hold at the moment). One is Vampire the Masquerade (V20) in the late 90s and the other a classical campaign in the “Dark Eye” system. A nostalgic trip back to my early GM days.

Speaking of playing, where do you play and how often? Has the general worldwide Covid-19 situation enforced any changes on you and your team?

At the beginning of our campaign we used to play every other week. Yet after some house moves, job changes and beginning my course of studies, our playing frequency declined. Nowadays some of my players have to drive about an hour to meet up for our game sessions, which usually take place at my home. Over the course of a few years we could play only sparsely, about a few times a year and in one dark year we did not have one session at all!

 

Remarkably, because of the corona crisis we started playing a lot more than before. Instead of meeting in person we use video chat, which surprisingly works really great (besides some minor hiccups and technical problems) and that somehow re-ignited our motivation. Some weeks we play even more than once.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

It was unintentional. When I was 12, I already was a big fan of fantasy board games (especially Talisman and Hero’s Quest). In my local gaming store, they had these intriguing boxes and books with fascinating pictures and descriptions of great adventures. Despite not really knowing what to expect (it seemed very different from all the other board games, as there were no game pieces or even a gaming board), I asked my mom to buy one of these boxes for me. That was the start of my humble career as a GM.

 

For those of us out interested in a Star Wars campaign, we know there are a lot of places to draw inspiration from, but where do you draw yours from?

I draw inspiration from nearly everything! Every movie I watch, every video game I play or even real-life events might give me ideas than can be used as inspiration for new characters, plotlines or just small scenes in the campaign. STAR WARS is such a vast universe that there is room for almost every plot, idea and character type. In addition to light-hearted space adventures, we have had the opportunity to play war dramas, epic space battles, dark side encounters, sci-fi horror, medieval adventures on feudal planets and even romantic comedies.

 

Also, of course, there are countless STAR WARS books, comics and other media, which can be sources of inspiration for stories. Another very important tool for inspiration is our gaming log itself. By reading trough old entries, mostly not written my myself (see below), I can re-experience these events like one of my players. That in itself can give me new inspiration. Also, it provides the opportunity to rediscover and re-use old characters and plotlines, which otherwise might be forgotten over time.

Your adventure log is very expansive. Who writes all that content?

The log is mostly written by WulfgarNordfalk and Marc Dane. My job is mostly editing. So, it’s best to let the two most hardworking authors speak for themselves:

 

WulfgarNordfalk: It strongly depends regarding the years and plot lines. While I started writing down the first few years mostly by myself, it grew into a combined effort, in which everyone covered parts of the plot or expanded our gaming universe with their own ideas and backstories. At first it was quite a challenge to stay motivated, but looking back now I’m incredibly happy about the result and this document of our journey, which would not have been possible without my partners-in-crime (PC) and our GM, who put all those stories in our heads and brought them and every character we interacted with to life.

 

Marc Dane: It’s no secret that it’s mostly thanks to Ulf the log exists at all. Over the years I have contributed background stories and quite a few adventure log entries here and there, but since I am a) a slow writer and b) an old perfectionist trying to incorporate every last important or simply amusing detail, it can be quite a struggle to keep up the pace (while writing a novel, while also writing a short story choosing to turn into a novel as well… you get the picture.) So I am very thankful to my PCs for their continued effort, meanwhile happily providing content wherever I can.

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

For one long session (about 10 hours), I need a few evenings of preparation, mainly reading through all the extensive background information which will be relevant for the session. Yet good preparation can be the foundation for more than one single session.

 

Our typical session begins with a recap of the events of the last session(s), sometimes also a discussion about the characters, what they’ve done, their decisions or what their options may be in the near future. This reflective way of discussing and thinking about the characters and the story is very important to tie every plotline together and also get into the mood and mindset needed for the session. In some way this is also a part of the “preparation”, as some good ideas just emerge spontaneously while talking to the others.

Who is responsible for the design and content of the site? Do your players get involved in the creative side of the campaign? If not in the design, how would you say they get involved in progressing the storyline?

One important aspect for me as a gamemaster is player agenda. The story is made for and by the players. The plot does not just happen to them. Their decisions and plans shape the progress of the storyline in many ways. If they decide to visit a planet because one of their most feared enemies is there, then the next session will be set on that planet. For that to work, I have to talk to my players a lot about their goals and plans. Of course, there are plot points and main story events which are not driven by my players, but are connected to the metaplot of the galaxy. Yet even in these cases, the players have to react and sometimes make very difficult decisions about their fate or the fate of others, which then will open up new storylines the players might wish to follow.

WulfgarNordfalk: The foundation of the site design was laid out by me, but we still view it as a Work-in-Progress as we are planning to add a real wiki giving players and those interested alike kind of a shortcut to our adventures (visited planets, events that were shaped through our decisions, notable groups etc.). We made only minor design changes to the interface as it works quite well with the system we had established beforehand. Possible Changes to the layout are discussed either before our sessions or in the forum-section, so everyone stays involved. Extensive and in-depth feedback guarantees that no character and their wishes or goals for the future are overlooked.

 

Marc Dane: I have designed a new alien species and their background for our campaign, as well as retconned and fleshed out the Nagai species my main character belongs to. I spend a lot of time outside our sessions discussing possible future events or interesting aspects our group might encounter with our GM, and we give each other new ideas or build upon preexisting ones. Aside from that, I write stories handling with character’s backgrounds or events I wish to depict in more depth.

What does the future have in store for the brave characters of your crew? Without giving the game away, is there anything you can reveal?

We’re approaching the last chapter of our war story arc. An epic battle looms on the horizon. The players must be willing to give their all to succeed. Yet, we already have many plans for the time after that showdown. There are still innumerable stories and plotlines that wait to be explored. Also, a subplot with secondary scoundrel characters is planned. We’ve got stuff to play for years to come.

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

WulfgarNordfalk: I had been a member since June 2016, but I started using it for my campaigns extensively only one or maybe two years ago. Before that, we used a blog to record our adventures, but while our adventure journal kept growing, the old database felt more and more outdated, so we started looking for alternatives until we found Obsidian Portal. A clearer layout, the PC/NPC-section, the tags and storage capacities for images and videos were spot on, so I started transferring our content (from 2005 on) to this new platform, which was quite a big undertaking, but ultimately we are very happy with the result.

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

Just one thing? I think it’s perfect to bring everything together in one place, keep track of our very expansive log and on top of that it’s a tool keeping all of us motivated to go on with our story.

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

In a campaign that went on for nearly fifteen years it would be difficult to pick these highlights for the players from a GM-perspective, so we thought it would be best and fitting if everyone involved chose their own highlights:

 

WulfgarNordfalk: It is really hard to pick a special moment as a highlight as there were numerous occasions that brought our characters and the players to the edge of their seats, but I guess I would go for Ithor – who has read the books will know – but there were incredibly intense encounters in this one, lots and lots of character-driven moments, triumph, drama and loss. All at the same time. A special mention goes out to our first contact with the new kind of threat surrounding the events around the Battle of Helska.

 

Marc Dane: Since we have been playing for so long, it’s almost impossible to pick one single highlight. The moment I realized that this campaign really was ‘something else’ came early on, when my character’s back story actually became part of our main plotline instead of just being filed away and forgotten. It has been an emotional rollercoaster ride ever since with lots of memorable moments along the way. If I have to choose, I tend towards very recent events surrounding a rescue mission on Arrochar, though. That adventure combined hilarious situations with challenging and even soul-crushing character moments. Amazing combination.

 

Isa: Dealing with the criminal Black Sun Syndicate on Denon in order to prevent a war was very exciting, especially since the moral differences between the characters were quite severe. I enjoyed the challenging character interaction. Well, and then of course, there is the recent horror at the space station The Wheel, that really gives me goosebumps. Can’t wait to see how this one plays out!

 

Steve: For me as GM, the biggest highlight of our game is not just one great moment or a memorable session. There are plenty of these. It’s the players! Without their yearlong effort, perseverance, enthusiasm, creativity and openness for new things, this campaign would have been dead years ago. Everyone is invested in bringing the story to an end and giving their characters a well-earned conclusion. This is something really special and helped us “survive” as a group over long periods of downtime.

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

As said above, player agenda is very important. Make the game for them, not just for you. The best storylines are those in which the characters play an important part. Connect these stories to the backgrounds of your player characters. See the backgrounds not as “dead” stories, but “living” ones, which should be connected to the ongoing game. Use your player’s ideas. Listen to their creative input and give them the opportunity to design parts of the world as a group effort. Talk to your players. Get feedback. Ask questions about their goals as characters and as players. You have to know them if you want to tell them a good story in which they feel included. Do not shy away from evoking emotions and feelings in their characters. Love, Loss, Hate, Fear. All of these write the best stories. Fun is fine, but it’s not the only emotion which should drive your story.

 

Don’t plan too far ahead or in too much detail. In my experience every plan will fail. And that’s ok. Roleplaying should be an organic process. There should be surprises, twists and new developments in every session. Let things happen, don’t constrain players too much if they seemingly deviate from the plot. The plot writes itself in the moment of action. After the session you can go back and think about possible consequences. Nobody will know if you change things in the background so you may still follow your initial idea, yet the players believe and feel that it was their decision which brought them there.

 

Play your NPCs as if they were player characters, give them an agenda as well. Sometimes these NPCs can be allies. Sometimes they will be enemies. For some time leave your GM role. Be the character. Talk and act from their point of view, as if they don’t know anything about the future plot and story.

As our epic space-opera draws to a close with an orchestral fanfare (and a giant list of blue credits), we transmit our thanks across hyperspace to Das Erbe der Jedi-Ritter, Grand_Master_Steve, and his loyal crew of scruffy nerfherders. And a special thanks for doing the interview in English. For those of you who don’t read German and would like to investigate the campaign further, please follow these steps:

  1. Open a browser tab for Das Erbe der Jedi-Ritter
  2. Open a second browser tab for https://translate.google.com/
  3. Copy the Obsidian Portal URL and paste it into the first box on Google Translate
  4. Choose the language you would like to translate to
  5. Click the link on the right to see the translated page (you may need to allow scripts if you have a script-blocker)

Also, don’t forget to nominate your favorite campaigns on our site forums. If this Star Wars game inspired you, be sure to check out our other Campaigns of the Month. And as we approach the end of 2020 (finally!), be sure to keep an eye out for announcements about Campaign of the Year. May the Force be with you!

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