16
Sep

Outremer, September’s Campaign of the Month

Today we’re here with GM Basileus to talk to him about his campaign, Outremer. It’s a deep space RPG using the Fate system and it sure does pack a punch. Check out the interview below and be sure to drop by the campaign site and give it some love!

Outremer

 

First off, feel free to tell us about the person(s) behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do both aside from gaming? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet, that sort of thing!

I was born and bred in the great state of Texas! As a consequence I tend to make frequent use of the word “y’all” even in written conversation, but I’ll refrain here for the sake of those from less… linguistically blessed locales.

 

I work in information security (sometimes called cybersecurity, though I always feel like that sounds just a bit cheesy for a real-world profession), currently on a team that manages website security for over 300 companies. I recently returned to school as well, as during my first run at university I floated around between majors and generally had no idea what I wanted to do. So right now I’m doing the “work full time AND school full time” thing, which is… delightful?

So…tell us about Outremer:

Outremer started out more as a setting than a campaign – an experiment in world-building. Originally, the idea was that Earth was lost and humanity was divided and scattered across dozens of distant star systems. Travel between the stars was slow, but technology was so advanced that cultures adapted to their new homes and eventually became alien to each other, and there was/is an emphasis on the interaction between these alien-yet-human peoples.

 

The players are highly creative folks and have done a great job helping me add depth and drama. We now have true alien species, governments and conspiracies, plotting megacorporations, etc… The themes are very “cyberpunk” – murder and mystery, crime and secrets.

 

I think it is very dystopic – the appearance of a thriving society with advanced technology and a bustling economy, but decay is lurking underneath.

What do you enjoy most about the FATE system?

Three things: flexibility, cooperation, and narrative-focus.

 

FATE can be adapted to handle just about anything with minimal fuss, whether you’re building starships or trying to figure out how to handle something on the fly. It also involves the players as much as the GM in storytelling, so it feels more like a partnership in creating interesting plots and scenes. And the mechanics are just enough to provide structure, without distracting from the characters and the action.

What do you enjoy most about sci-fi campaigns?

To me, science fiction is a study of normal people and fantastic concepts. Its characters have realism and are motivated by natural passions and needs, but we place those characters in places and situations beyond human experience. I think it grounds the writing and characters, makes them easier to identify and connect with, and draws everyone into the world because its…just…maybe… possible.

How regularly do you play, and where do you play? (If you play online, do you use any certain tools to accomplish your gaming such as Google hangouts, roll20, etc.)

We are a Play-by-Post campaign run entirely here on Obsidian Portal, using the adventure logs as our game threads and running OOC discussions in the campaign forums. We play at a fairly relaxed pace (perhaps a full “round” of posts weekly), but we get some high quality writing.

 

We do use one external tool – the dice roller at RPG Library. It took a while to find one that would not only email results, but also natively supports Fate dice.

Who puts all of your wiki together?

The players have done a ton to contribute and improve – creating new pages, adding content to old pages, improving formatting and cross-linking. It is truly a whole group effort.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

Mostly music, weirdly enough. I like to collect soundtracks from various movies and games, and I’ll put together a playlist that puts me in the right mindset for whatever I’m working on.

 

I also read a lot of hard-boiled and noir fiction, which is very dark but character-focused. So even though the game has a lot of high-minded concepts in the politics and technology that is in the background, its grounded by this idea that “people suck”.

How much time do you usually take to prepare for a session?

Hard to say with a Play-by-Post campaign since we don’t have distinct sessions, per se. Preparation is more of an ongoing thing every day: reading posts from the players, making small updates and notes for myself in the background.

 

In fact, one of the advantages of the medium is that you don’t have to prepare an whole session’s worth of material up-front. If you’re not a great improvisational GM (which I am not), you have time to react to the unexpected that players come up with. Instead you can do it a little at a time, all the time.

Aside from Fate I’m sure you have played other systems too, what are some others you enjoy?

Like most a played a lot of d20, starting with Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5 years ago. I really liked Pathfinder for a while (though I missed the material from my collected splat books… love a good splat book!).

 

I’ve enjoyed the Warhammer 40k roleplaying system (mostly Dark Heresy). In many ways it is the opposite of the Fate system: more mechanics than you can shake a stick at and your character is likely to die just attempting to eat hot soup with a blunt spoon. I think I have all the Rogue Trader material and would dearly love to play in a campaign of that.

How do you know your players, how long have you been gaming with them?

Our group is a product of the Obsidian Portal community. I think I interacted with most if not all of them on the community forums before the campaign, and they have other great campaigns going on OP, so if you want to see some excellent campaigns just check out their profiles. But we only started playing together earlier this year – we’re pretty young as a group.

I really love the overall feel of your wiki, the maps are great too, did you make them yourself?

Thanks! I spend in inordinate amount of time playing with CSS, layout, graphics, etc… I got a lot of help from the masters on the community forums when I was just getting started, and slowly worked my way up from there. Lots of trial and error.

 

I’m currently using maps I made myself – the star map I am particularly proud of. The data is taken from HabCat, a database of real stellar data containing stars likely to support human life. Then using the real-world coordinates of those stars I generated jump routes between nearby systems. The visual representations are “artistically” placed, but the names, numbers, and data involved are all as close to the real world as I could manage, and I tried to use that to drive some of the history in the setting.

 

It was a long, complicated process using various data sets, programs, and far more time than appropriate, but it was fun, too!

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

I think I first joined back in 2008 or 2009 as a player. I wasn’t really a GM at that point, so when that campaign ended I forgot about it for a while. Then when I started to get serious about world-building, I wanted a place to organize my thoughts online, so I could access the material anywhere, and I ended up sort of “re-discovering” Obsidian Portal, which was exactly what I wanted.

 

“Obsidian Portal addiction” is a big part of why I keep coming back. I really enjoy setting up new campaigns and wikis, even if I don’t plan on using them for an campaign in the foreseeable future. Beyond that, I like the community – browsing other people’s campaigns, discussing roleplaying games, storytelling, etc…

Now that the Reforging has been live for a little while now, what are your favorite parts?

In a word: customization.

 

It was hard at first, but I cut my teeth on CSS during the Reforge, and now with the power and flexibility that Reforged OP has, I can create a campaign site with a look and feel that reflects the campaign and setting. That adds a whole dimension beyond the merely functional, and I find a suitably atmospheric campaign site (and the work to accomplish it) to be incredibly satisfying.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from Outremer has been so far?

I mentioned before that we are fairly young, but I would say two things have been pleasant surprises already.

 

The first is the character background work that the players did. Where Fate only requires some brief summaries to help with character creation and tying the group together, the players in Outremer did an excellent job of writing mini-roleplays and short stories. They were a great read, and there are built-in plot hooks with these PCs that I can mine forever.

 

Also, they’ve already started to uncover conspiracies and make some enemies. Right now, they are confronted with a virulent alien mutagen that has been stolen, there have been secret human trials going on in the city, and there’s some substantial distrust developing between the group and some powerful NPCs.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GM’ing pearls of wisdom.

Story is king! If you care about making your world come alive, everything flows from there.

 

Branch out! GMs play the part of writer, director, and actor, so look for advice from “the greats” in those disciplines.

 

Also, consume as much diverse media as possible – particularly outside what you normally watch, read, or listen to. If you read a lot, try audio books; if you typically watch movies, try listening to just music instead; if you prefer action, watch a sappy romance. You never know when something new and different might be inspiring.

That’s it for this month folks, tune in next time for more awesome campaigns from the OP community, and in the meantime, keep your suggestions flowing to my inbox.

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