October’s Featured Campaign (System?!): WyrmShadow

This month’s Featured Campaign is a bit different. It’s also late, but that’s not really worth noting. The important part is that it’s amazing, it’s innovative, and it’s a whole world managed by our dear friend, Duskreign.

Obsidian Portal: Ok, so most of the time we have a featured campaign. We’ve never had a featured campaign setting before. Tell us about what it is that makes your setting a setting and not just a campaign? Are there multiple campaigns? How does one join in your setting? Are you managing your world on Obsidain Portal and do you have multiple DMs that report their campaigns to you?

Duskreign: Let’s define the term Campaign Setting, using our old friend, Mr. Wik I. Pedia. “A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place” (Wikipedia, 2010). Six unique campaigns have taken place in Wyrmshadow, taking place in different eras throughout The Age of the Phoenix, The Age of Shadow, and currently, The Age of Enlightenment, spanning over a thousand years of the world’s history. In total, twelve players have played in campaigns set in Wyrmshadow, some going back to the very first campaign, Good Intentions, back in the winter of 2003. Since then, some players have left the game, some have been kicked out, and some new folks have joined the group.

There have been two DMs that have run Wyrmshadow campaigns: myself and Andy Kilduff. The first two campaigns were run by Andy, and then the world was given over to me to do with what I wished. What I wished was to take the skeletal structure of what Andy started (a game where we literally had to talk to “Mayor” and get “Quest” to rescue “Person” from “Villain.”) and add some tactile, engrossing depth to it. The world had no name, nor did any of the towns or nations, before I took the game over and solidified it into a full campaign setting. I credit Andy with getting the ball rolling, but for the most part, everything that Wyrmshadow is can be attributed to me. That’s not me being immodest or pompous, but proud. This wasn’t easy, and it has taken a lot of my time over the past seven years.

Obsidian Portal is my home on the Internet. This site has more respect for my dedication, hard work, and devotion to roleplaying than any other website I have ever encountered. There is no question it is where Wyrmshadow belongs.

Obsidian Portal: How much of the campaign system is original content developed by you, your DMs, and your players?

Duskreign: With the exception of a few pieces of artwork on my wiki, Wyrmshadow is almost 100% original. All of it was developed by myself, Andy Kilduff, Greg Mann, or in the case of the player characters, their individual players. One of the few exceptions to this actually started as a joke by Andy. He decided to introduce the Groosalugg, a character from the television show Angel, as an NPC member of our adventuring party. Despite my personal reservations (I thought it cheapened the game at the time), I came to respect the idea and embrace the concept. I named a region of Infernia (Wyrmshadow’s analogue of Hell) after the hell dimension Pylea from Angel, in honor of this one, brief dalliance with unoriginal content.

Obsidian Portal: Your art looks great, can you tell me more about it?

Duskreign: Thanks! I think I have improved quite a bit over the past few years. I always loved to draw, but I was discouraged from exploring a career in art by my dad, who thought the whole idea impractical. He was right, of course, in that most artists struggle to see any kind of a profit from their hard work, and he did not want that for me. However, I lived for my dad’s approval, thus I was discouraged, and I didn’t really draw anything from when I was ten until toward the end of high school. Even then, I only dabbled. I have no formal training, and I think it shows. My production values aren’t too bad, I admit, but aesthetically my art is kind of awkward and amateurish in a lot of ways. I can only imagine how good I might have been if I had just pursued art a little more vigorously than I had. Oh well. Hindsight, right?

Obsidian Portal: Where do you get your inspiration the story and the world?

Duskreign: If I had to name a few literary inspirations, I would have to say the Divine Comedy, the Lord of the Rings, the Suikoden, Vandal Hearts, and Breath of Fire series of video game rpgs, the Book of Genesis, the Record of Lodoss War anime, R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy, and definitely Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

On a personal level, I have to credit Andy with inspiring me to take the foundation of his first game and flesh it out into a living, breathing world. I also have to mention a few players, like Greg Mann, who has been a driving force for my creative exploits since I took the initiative to create this campaign setting. Finally, I would not be safe at night if I didn’t mention how inspiring my wife has been to me. Seriously, she had never played a game like this before, and she decided after seven years of marriage to give it a try. She is currently one of the most talented roleplayers at the table, and that is no joke.

Obsidian Portal: How well do you know your players?

Duskreign: In the case of Christine, pretty damn intimately. I’ve known Matt and Greg Mann since seventh grade (so, 20 years). Some of the players I have met through work, and I have only known for a few years, but I already feel very close to. We all have our own lives, our own responsibilities, but on Friday and Saturday nights, we all gather in my house, and for those few hours, we are not friends. We are family.

Obsidian Portal: What kinds of challenges are you faced with in your campaign setting?

Duskreign: If I had to narrow it down, I would say that the biggest challenge is creating a story that keeps everyone at the table motivated, engrossed, and immersed in their characters’ roles. One of the difficulties I sometimes run into is when a player can’t make it to the game on a given night, and I have written a substantial story element revolving around that player’s character for that night.

Another difficulty is that, frankly, sometimes the dice can seem to be working against a player, and in order to prevent a meltdown, I find myself pandering to those who complain about the dice and letting them play on easy-mode. I know that the story is more important, but without the wildcard of random number generation that dice offers, the players never feel that their characters are in any danger. I offset this by viciously maiming, crippling, and/or murdering player characters as a part of my general game plan, which is kind of like treating a skinned knee with C-4. But, the dread is there, so I guess it works.

Obsidian Portal: What aspects of your campaign setting are you really proud of?

Duskreign: There is no damn question about it. I am most proud of my Obsidian Portal wiki, and of the friendships I have made since finding this wonderful website. Of course, I am proud of the story (especially The Night Sword, which is still my favorite of the campaign stories I have written), the art, and some of the characters (Tarrik Martok, Kelain Iolius, and Cackle are three of my current favorites). However, whenever I see that someone has left a comment on my Obsidian Portal page, on one of my adventure logs, or made Wyrmshadow one of their favorites, I swear it feels like I am floating a few inches off the ground. I am that proud of my wiki, and that proud of Obsidian Portal.

Obsidian Portal: According to your players, what have been the highlights of the campaign setting?

Duskreign: There are a lot of players, so this may take a while…

Mike Graziano says his favorite elements of Wyrmshadow are the NPCs that populate it, and the fact that it does not feel like this world shuts off when we leave the table. The fact that he has to be both proactive and reactive makes Wyrmshadow special for him. He also appreciates the visceral nature of my descriptions, and the energy at the table during a particularly tense encounter.

Paul Vilbig has a particular fondness for the care I take in ensuring that everyone at the table feels like they matter, like their character is the hero, and that the things they do and say have an impact.

Vinnie Pecoraro loves the fact that I am ok with him trying absolutely anything he wants, but when he messes up, I do my very best to make him pay for all his high-risk baloney. He honestly likes failing almost as much as he likes succeeding, just because the penalties are often as fun as the rewards for success.

Miguel is impressed if I jangle my keys in the air and say “ooogiddy boogiddy boo,” so he’s probably not the best one to ask.

Matt Mann’s favorite part is the cosmology. He likes the idea that the realms are so defined, that they each have populations with their own desires. He loves the way I handle magic and divinity in the game as well, and is especially fond of my concept of Death as a neutral force, rather than an evil one.

My wife, Christine, said that her favorite aspect of Wyrmshadow is how interconnected all of the stories really are, and that at any given time, she knows that her previous player characters are out there, kicking butt and saving the world in their own way. She said that she appreciates it when I shift back and let them see what life is like for the old cast, and is thrilled when I have one or two old cast members make a cameo.

Derek is just happy his character isn’t dead yet.

Finally, there is a consensus among my players on this subject. Some of the most popular elements of this campaign world is the depth and attention to detail. If anyone ever asks me to describe anyone, or anything, I have a thorough description, a name, and a rough background to give them. This is Greg Mann’s favorite element of Wyrmshadow; he feels strongly that this world should be filled with as much detail as possible, and in that goal, he says that I have succeeded.

Obsidian Portal: What future plans do you have for your campaign setting?

Duskreign: I recently ran the 33rd session of a planned 66 session campaign, Wyrmshadow Adventures: War is Hell, so I have a long way to go on this game. I am trying to add more features and pages to my campaign wiki to help reinforce some of the core concepts of the game.

I drew a map of my world, but instead, I would like to develop an atlas and host it on Obsidian Portal. I want maps to depict all of the realms, not just Materia (the Prime Material Plane of Wyrmshadow), and as for Materia, I want maps to depict how the landscape changed over the course of a million years. That is going to be a big project, but I hope to start it soon.

The next campaign, Wyrmshadow Adventures: The Duskreign Prophecy, is planned to begin almost immediately after War is Hell. Details about that campaign are forthcoming.

After that, I have tentative plans for a far-future campaign called Wyrmshadow Inevitable, which takes this world 2,000 years into the future, and involves magically-powered split-soul mecha (a person’s soul is severed in three parts, one remaining within them, one going onto a weapon, and the last powering a sentient mecha called a Soulframe.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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