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Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2021- D&D 3.0: Tales from Mystara

Congratulations to Galero and party for winning Campaign of the Month, September 2021! D&D 3.0: Tales of Mystara tells the story of generations of adventures in a world 30 years in the making. Take a look below for a chance to peek into the mind of a talented and experienced GM!

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!

I am from the city of Cabo Rojo, in Puerto Rico. I am a project manager for a local company who implements electronic medical records on Hospitals, among other things. I am married with two kids, one is 25yo and the other 5yo. My wife used to play with us at the game table. The older one is a GM and has his own group. He learned to play as soon as he learned not to put the dice inside his mouth and rolled them for the first time. I love cinema, literature and crafting my own game scenarios and the scenery.

I have been Game Mastering since 1986 when I discovered AD&D and OD&D. I, currently, can be found on Facebook:

My Page: Mario A. Agrait Rodríguez

Group Page: Stray Dogs Role Playing Games

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

In a nutshell: “Tales from Mystara is a series of chronicles about the people who move forward to confront their fears and rise over the rest as heroes or villains (depending on the campaign group). They become the stuff of legends and their names are retold around the campfire of the next adventure group.”

We have been playing on the world of Mystara using the Known World referenced in the OD&D old Boxed Sets since 1986. Back then, before it was named Mystara, I named it Étira and my group and I designed the complete map of the world. Later, the Mystara setting was develop and we continue playing there. I have all the Gazetteers and many modules, and I merged my Étira with Mystara. In the current campaign we have 16 different adventure groups that played or are playing in the same game world with the same DM (me) across 30+ years.

I love storytelling and the interaction with the players to develop a campaign. Our campaigns are design to develop the stories and the characters. As we have been playing on the same world for 30+ years the retired characters of previous campaigns become NPC’s of the world and are part of the background that can interact with characters of newer campaigns.

We use miniatures and crafted scenery to play large battles. I love painting and crafting my own scenery. My players also love miniatures and help my craft.

You’re playing D&D 3.0. What drew you to that version of D&D, and what do you find appealing about it? Do you play any other games?

My group and I used to play OD&D for more than 20 years and then around the year 2002 changed to 3.0. We have adapted some rules from 3.5 and Pathfinder and added our own house rules into the mix. We found the 3.0 system good to customized characters, especially good tools for experience players (some of the members of my group have been playing with me for 30+ years).

We also play, SPACE 1889, d20 Modern, d20 Future, DC Heroes 3rd Edition, Gamma World 4th Edition. I’m the GM on these campaigns. Some of our players are GMs on their own campaigns, playing d20 Modern, D&D 3.0, 3.5 and 5E. I also used to play Star Trek by FASA and Shadowrun 2nd, still have the manuals.

Speaking of playing, where do you play and how often? How did the general worldwide Covid-19 situation force you and your players to adapt?

Normally we play at my house’s basement. We play each Friday from 7pm to 11pm. We also used to play what I call a Marioton (Marathon) for 12 consecutive hours one Saturday every three or four months.

The Covid-19 situation forced us to play on Discord online, using d20 for complicated battles, Dropbox to share files, the OP forum to do Play by Post during the week and finally our Facebook page to keep in touch. Using these tools, we managed to continue playing each Friday regularly from 7pm to 11pm.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

This is possibly one of the weirdest RPG stories I know:

1. A boy named Eric was into Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy and wanted to play D&D. His mother gave him the Red Box OD&D set as a gift. He didn’t have anyone to play with though.
2. The boy named Eric decided to give the Red Box OD&D set to his neighbor Luis as a gift.
3. Luis took the boxed set to his friends, and they learned to play. Luis didn’t want to be the DM so he gave the Red Box OD&D set as a gift to Ismael.
4. Ismael became the DM and continued playing when he moved to another city to study at the university.
5. Ismael and I meet at the University. We were from different cities. He showed me the game and gave me the Red Box OD&D set as a gift. I then became a DM.
6. I moved to another city and met with a boy named Eric who wanted to play D&D all his life and didn’t have someone to play and he became my friend and one of my players.
7. My friend Eric was the first owner of the Red Box OD&D set I used for playing. See event #1.

You currently have 30 players listed in your campaign. How many players do you typically have each session? Is this a shared world? If so, what advice can you give to other GMs about managing a shared world campaign?

I cannot count how many regular players have been in my gamming group across the years, I say something between 60 and 100. The 30 players on the OP are the ones who joined OP since I started using it back in 2014. I have 10 regular players at this moment.

I sit at my physical (or virtual) table 9 players at a time. My world is share with other GM’s or groups that want to continue playing in the worlds we create. Is also share with the different campaigns I play. I could have one to three campaigns with different players running at the same time in the same world. They could cross paths and we can have special 12-hour gamming sessions for specially complicated adventures and battles merging all the groups. A “Mariothon” has up to 20 players on my basement. We coordinate the event with committees in charge of foodstuffs, cooking, cleaning and even organizing the parking space. Some of the players bring their own sleeping bags and sleep in my house.

Your character log is just massive. Who comes up with all those NPCs?

I have a love of characters and I created many of them, but the Character’s bios also include the players past and present characters. Players are encouraged to create character’s bios for NPCs like their family members and even for companions and familiars, even paladin’s mounts. This is a tool I use that expands the world, and I give them XPS for creating these entries.
I take the time to create each new NPC with at least a link to a place, organization or another character already created, and I also plant some interesting or strange fact on the bio as an adventure seed. With that in mind, no character should be created without being part of the world and with space to automatically expand itself within the campaign.

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

The way I prepare my campaigns, each session is built in top of the previous one and oriented to move the campaign forward. I take 5-9 hours each week to prepare a session using that, but I also invest like 4-8 extra hours of creative time per week, adding to the OP material that helps the world grow, entries for future adventures and adventure hooks.

Our typical weekly session starts where the Play by Post ended or after the last weekly session ended. We divide the adventure in scenes and normally I try to have four main events that the players must confront and try to solve. I enjoy keeping a balance between Role Playing, Problem Solving and Combat events, but we also have sessions that are completely of one type. The players have freedom to choose the path they want, and the adventures are based on their decisions, so from time to time there are chunks of the adventure that needs heavy improvisation because of this. When the players take a path that I have not prepared for, that makes me more interested because it helps the world grow and the adventure to have and unexpected turn for me. They don’t know that I didn’t have that info, maybe I have a good bluff face (or so I think). Once the events are solved, and the adventure finished, I try to record the adventure log within the next 48 hours. I also ask them the high points and low points of the adventure and get some feedback.

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?

Mostly is my work as a GM to design the content of the site but I have a massive help from my players. We decide the objectives of a campaign before creating characters and establish the ground rules to achieve those objectives. Based on those accords, we build characters, entries, and adventures.

I give them special XP awards for adding material, but many do extra work for the fun of it and the creative liberty. I have one player that lives on another city far from us and loves to create content to maintain himself into the game as he cannot come to play on weekly basis. Now that we are playing online his contributions are more and he plays weekly.

The players have the option to comment on the adventure log, explore the world using Play by Posts during their downtime, keep logs of their characters, and to comment on the entries in character. All these options modify the content of the OP and their characters can find information during downtime about subplots allowing them to develop their character’s backgrounds and personal story.

For this campaign we worked together to build the Alphatian Empire and each character took one or more kingdoms to focus and work on the information and even to create descriptions of places. It was an expansive task that counted on the collaboration of all of them. Because of this it was a fulfilling result that everyone enjoyed. Once we started playing on that empire, they could find the places and NPCs they helped create and get a feeling of ownership and pride.

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?

The current campaign started 2016 with level 1 characters and they so far have reached level 20 and above. Now in epic levels, they have travel to a demiplane were a parallel apocalyptic version of Mystara named Taramis is the home of the main enemy of the campaign. They are there to finish him off for better and for worst with no way – yet – to come back to Mystara.

One of my players read this question you asked and answered: “They assume we are brave and not plain stupid.” Referring to the deep trouble they are right now and how the events that happened before took them there.

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

I read about Obsidian Portal in the EndWorld Forums. I believe I started using OP to its full potential around 2014, but I joined and used it to store information a few years earlier. I was first interested in the wiki style of the entries and the character bios. Then as I was using it more and more the tool became a must have and the center of the campaign’s information. Before that, I used mail lists, file sharing, a weekly bulletin, and a page with a forum to keep the information in post format but OP is a LOT better.

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

Only one thing? Is too difficult. OP has helped me so much I cannot begin to count all the things I see as optimal on the page. I think I have to say that the GM Only entries and GM Only boxes inside the entries are the feature I use more, and I that enjoy the most. I can write a complete adventure in one page and link to the characters bios and wiki entries and the adventure is there, hiding like a Mimic, waiting like a landmine for the characters to step on it.

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

My players are the biggest highlight of my campaigns, I am very honored to play with them. I think the biggest highlight of my games will be the capacity of surprising the players after all these years. Something that makes them come back for more. Is either that or they have some secret desire to get new psychological scars each week.

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

Concentrate on the story over the rules, and on the players over the rest. Once you commit to a gamming date, don’t change it, be consistent. Take the time to hear your players ideas and to incorporate them into the world. And take time to rest your mind, by playing other games or by taking vacation time from gaming.

And finally: Keep rolling those dice until the day you die!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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