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The official blog of the Obsidian Portal.
1
Feb

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month February 2022- “Emerald City: Requiem”

There is something green in the heart of Seattle….again! Using the FATE ACCELEARATED Game System, GM HumAnnoyd and his team of players/GMs return to their original 2012 location with an updated system, new members and a brand new OP website in Emerald City: Requiem. What legacy remains in the city after a war between Vampires and Wizards? Are the trolls staying under the bridges? Are vampires still respecting their limits? Will you be the one to give Harry Dresden a call? Read on to get a detailed analysis from the team behind this phoenix of a site.

First off, 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? Life partners? Family? Where can we interact with you on the internet

I have been playing RPGs since the 70s when I first ran into a D&D group in a friend’s basement. It was love at first sight. Drawing character portraits for all our characters is one of the main reasons I got into art as a kid. I auditioned and was accepted into an amazing fine arts public high school as a result.

From there, I graduated with a BFA in Drawing & Painting from the University of Georgia, and I did the starving artist thing for quite some time, selling 18 more paintings than Van Gogh.

Of course, he only sold one painting. To his brother.

I tired of the art world (and the south to be honest) and took a huge gamble and moved to Seattle.

Here I managed to find a career doing art & animation for video games and educational programs for over a decade. I have since moved into graphic design doing a great deal of freelance work. Outside of gaming, I am an avid Karaoke singer (I have won a few contests & even got a gig with a local band) and I love art, football, reading, comics, and movies.

Tell us about “Emerald City: Requiem” in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how does it differ from your previous award-winning campaign of 2012, “The Emerald City”?

When the original Dresden Files Roleplaying Game came out in 2010, I knew I had to play it. I love the novels and I went online and discovered a local group who wanted to try it. Within 2 weeks of the book’s release just under a dozen strangers met at a friendly local gaming store and began work on creating a campaign. After some debate we decided to set the game in Seattle. We went through the game’s amazing city creation process with each of us picking a neighborhood and populating it with supernatural characters and politics creating a living, breathing city, The Emerald City.

Over the next 7 years we played that game with new players coming and going over time. Our group had as many as 8 and as few as 3 players actively involved at any one time. The game nearly died off as life intruded and many moved out of town. We were down to only two of us left in the group in 2017. That was the same year that the new, streamlined Dresden Files Accelerated came out. We managed to find a pair of new players and decided we should reboot the game for a fresh start.

At first, we were simply going to use a different city but, as a group, decided against that. Instead, we advanced the timeline for the Emerald City campaign several years into the future to just after the major events of Changes, the novel that concludes the War between the Red Court Vampires and White Council of Wizards. That novel fundamentally changed the supernatural world of Dresden and that informed our Requiem for the Emerald City.

We used DFA’s new Faction rules to recreate the Emerald City’s landscape allowing the new players to put their stamp on the game, made completely new PCs with my Warden character being the only hold-over from the previous game. He was a fundamentally different character though. His magic had been stolen by the Un-man, a mystical mana-thief, and he had become a family man.

So, Emerald City: Requiem is a campaign that has different players, player characters, game system and city politics but it is informed by the events from the original Emerald City.

Unfortunately, both those new players moved out town after just a year, leaving the fate of the Emerald City in doubt yet again.

Fortunately, I was able to recruit MalloryLover23 from another game I had been playing and because of Covid we started playing online. This allowed us to recently bring Lanodantheon, one of the founding members, back into the fold even though he no longer lives here in Seattle.


How regularly do you play, and where do you play? Tell us about your current group of players.

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We try to play every 2nd and 4th Sunday for the last 12 years. Originally, we used to meet in person (either at my old workplace or in my condo) but Covid changed all of that. We now play online through Roll20 and Discord although we are considering other online options.

Justins and I have been in the group from the beginning with MalloryLover23 joining us several years ago, breathing new life into the campaign. We are all excited that we were recently able to reconnect with Lanodantheon, a founding member, who now joins us online from California.


Both your original game of 2012 and the current game use the Dresden Files RPG system, the more recent campaign opting for “Dresden Files Accelerated”. What is it about DFRPG that keeps your group engaged? Tell us more about the “Accelerated” version.

I think the main reason the campaign has been so long lived is that we spent time creating the city’s background and politics as a group. This gave all the player’s agency in the game and a stake in the stories being told. We also revolve GMs with each of us taking a turn at the reigns creating their own “book”

The main difference between the two games is that DFA has infinitely more room for new and interesting stories because of its loose nature. The narrative is not as constrained by rules which has allowed us to create completely original new characters like Justins’ Golem Lawyer, MalloryLover23’s Guardian of the Seventh Gate and Lanodantheon’s magic stealing Kleptomancer. None of which have ever been seen in any of Jim Butcher’s books. Fate Accelerated can accommodate these unique character concepts even better than the incredibly flexible original DFRPG game.


Tell us a bit about Jim Butcher, the author and his body of work. How much do his novels inspire your games? Do you follow the narrative of the books or do you radically diverge from the original stories?

I will let Brad, who is running the current scenario answer that question

When I run, I always go back to the books to see if there is any existing world information so, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The current scenario that I am running (Book 8) only has one bit part character only there for a chapter or two in one book that is vaguely related to it.

Butcher’s writing style has definitely influenced the Adventure Logs when I personally write them. But we are not beholden to the books. We have long accepted that we are never going to line up with the books 100%.


Do you or any of your team actually live in Seattle? Is this important?

Up until the last year we all lived in Seattle. I think this really helps us in the campaign as we can describe a particular street or neighborhood and we all have a familiarity with it.

Looking at your adventure logs, it would seem that you have different GMs reporting on events. Do you actually take turns as GM in your game? If so, what do feel are the benefits/drawbacks of this?

We rotate GMs giving everyone who is interested a chance to craft a story in the campaign. We divide these scenarios into “Books” with each one being a self-contained story that is informed by what has gone before. This is a great setup for us as it allows everyone to have a chance to be a player instead of being forced to be an eternal GM like it is in most games. It also allows us to experience a diversity of scenarios that keeps the game fresh and staves off the dreaded GM burnout.

How much time is usually spent preparing your game sessions? Describe a typical session.

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I will let Brad, who is running the current scenario answer that question:

About an hour per session when I am running, but I can always use more. A typical session of prep for me is going over the previous logs, making lists of potential NPCs and encounters the players are likely to run into and locations they are likely to go. I write down my session goals and think about what happens if my players “jump ahead” somehow. I prep locations by looking at Google Maps of places they are likely to go and figure out where set piece moments could be.

But Players never do what you expect. If the players go somewhere I am not expecting, I just roll with it and follow my Improv Training of “Yes, and…”.

The current scenario (book 8) is a magical mystery, and I honestly don’t know how many sessions it is going to take for my players to figure out the main mystery. I would love for it to go for 3+ sessions before they figure it out, but the players could very well figure it out five minutes into Session 2 by making a Sherlock Holmes-worthy deduction or making a wild guess. I am prepared for both.


There are some amazing design aspects in your campaign (e.g. altered images, rain falling on the main page, great hover links, etc.) Who is responsible for this, and what words of advice can you give to aspiring creators on Obsidian Portal, who may not have a design background, but are wanting to improve the look of their sites?

I have been creating and refining the look of the campaign for years now. As a graphic designer, animator and artist, I truly enjoy creating the art and animations for the site. I have done over 150 character portraits and 300+ illustrations for the Adventure Logs over the years. I am constantly changing and growing the site as we progress and have completely redesigned all the art for the site three times now.

When I first started customizing my sites, I had no working knowledge of CSS or HTML and, with the help of the OP community I have since added both to my skill set. This actually helped me to land jobs in the real world.

My advice to anyone getting started with OP is to use the community to help them create the best campaigns possible.


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

When our group first got together, I had been trying to keep a word document with all the Locations and NPCs we had created. However, it was unwieldy and disorganized not to mention hard for everyone to access and edit. Luckily one of the original members, Manu, suggested Obsidian Portal to compile all the information we had come up with during City Creation.

I fell in love with it immediately and started using it heavily. Obsidian Portal was so easy to use, and I began tinkering with the CSS to make the game look the way I wanted with help from the OP community. That ease of use, helpful community and versatility of OP is what keeps me coming back.


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

Obsidian Portal has been invaluable in organizing our city locations, adventure logs and numerous NPCs. Having access to the locations and NPCs is vital for the GM as they consider their own storylines When we have had to fill in vacancies as people moved on the Adventure Logs have been great for introducing new members to the game. It allows the players to participate more fully in the campaign than I have ever seen in over 30 years of constant gaming. The access that Obsidian Portal gives us is wonderful for empowering everyone who wants to get involved.


What would you say is the biggest highlight of your game so far (please also provide images and links if possible)?


Justins:

Because we are a rotating GM game, you really need to have a favorite moment as a player, and a favorite moment as a GM. As a GM, I had a building set up for a heist of some important magical documents. One of the players had his character bluff his way into the security room with some prep, disguises, and good RP. As I said goodbye to half my planned challenges, I was mentally applauding the RP and the character elements to get there.

As a player, my character found his hated foe and long-term nemesis, The Patient One, being held and actively drained for power by a monstrous foe. I made the call to free him instead of letting him be a casualty of the greater threat. FATE is such a great engine for tying the personal into the action, and the action into the personal.


Lanodantheon:

Fergus Mac Cormaic’s wedding was a longtime coming. I was able to come back to the campaign just in time to be a part of it and I am glad that I did. We were wondering for a long time, “What could possibly go wrong at that wedding? It is not a question of if but a question of what and how bad.”. We knew we had to play it out.

Going into the Nevernever on a rescue mission was fun as hell and that Hag was deliciously scary.

Reading through the logs from before I returned, my favorite part of the game was when David Clay faced off against The Patient One and almost got dusted. It was a hell of a setup going into the wedding.

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HumAnnoyd:

As a player on of my favorite moments was when Fergus Mac Cormaic finally decided to come clean about being a changeling to his fiancé’, Anna Maria Avila. Justins was GMing the game at the time, but I had previously roleplayed Anna quite a bit during my last turn at the helm and had really discovered her “voice”. Justins asked me to roleplay Anna as Fergus desperately tried to prove to her that he wasn’t losing his mind. That the supernatural did exist. It was an awkward, funny character moment in the game that I really enjoyed.

As GM my favorite moment was probably when I had a terrorist’s bomb take out a whole building with the PCs in it. Fergus had been separated from David in the blast. He managed to survive along with his rival, Doctor Wotensen, who he bravely rescued despite wanting to leave him behind so badly that he could taste it.

David was able to overcome the collapse of the building as well and managed to shelter Emmie Mercer and get her out alive. It was a fun session that required both players to think quickly to survive under deadly circumstances and it stands out to me because of the unique challenges it presented to them.


MalloryLover23:

Without a doubt, my favourite moment from Emerald City was the infamous hex curse chase. My character had been ambushed and seriously wounded by a ghoul assassin and while being rushed to the local supernatural clinic by my large golem teammate, my character was targeted with a hex curse. Imagine Final Destination meets an on-foot Fast and Furious. Bits of masonry, out-of-control vehicles, suicidal citizens. All these were hurled at us as my partner carried me through the chaos. It ended with me being doused in running water from a demolished fire hydrant (it had been ploughed over by a rogue ambulance that narrowly missed us) to temporarily dissipate the curse until I could be brought to safe and shielded territory. It was just such a wonderful list of compounding disasters that took all our combined ingenuity and luck to avoid. It still makes me chuckle, years later.


Okay, as a returning winner, and also, a previous winner of Campaign of The Year 2020, you must have some shiny “pearls of wisdom” to offer…. Give us your best shot….

I think almost all success I may have managed as a GM has come from keeping an open mind and to listening to what players want. I may not always be successful at doing so. But when I am I find that my players often become more interested in the game because they have agency in what will happen next instead of just being spectators to what the GM dictates. This consensual approach is more satisfying both as a GM and a player and can often surprise the GM of the story as much as he does his players. The Emerald City: Requiem is not just my campaign. It is the campaign of all who took part in its creation and transition from old to the new game and who continue to add to its rich tapestry today. I expect it will continue to grow and change for many years to come.

20
Jan

Update Post – January 20, 2022

Hail, Portal People!

The last reckoning was a few months ago in the previous calendar year. I had thought we were going to end up not doing them anymore because last time I asked if anyone cared, and we didn’t get any responses … for a couple months. But then recently, a few members mentioned they appreciated the updates, and so the updates continue!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to post them in the Community Forums, or email support directly at [email protected].

1
Jan

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month January 2022- “Lakes of Blood and Ash”

Utilizing the Exalted system, Lakes of Blood and Ash is a sprawling story nearly a decade in the making. Nehebkau and their party explore a rich, living world of political upheaval that threatens to fall apart- literally. Navigating this environment is a delicate balance that emphasizes the importance of discretion and soft skills as much, if not more, than martial merits. Read on for a peek behind the screen into the mind of the Storyteller who watches over it all.

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet?

A big hello to all the storytellers and writers out there. My name is Chris Rose. I’m a 35 year old science/history teacher, both of said disciplines I use extensively in my storytelling. Married, no kids, my wife is my co-ST and we met gaming online before I moved north to be with her. We are both very dedicated to our craft and talk about the story each night before bed. What odd lives we lead.

In terms of reaching out to me, that’s probably best done on swordofcreation.net where I’m The Gemling Prince or else Discord where I’m Vael, The Gemling Prince#4126.

You use Exalted as a game system- what do you like about it? What would you, or do you, change?

I’ve honestly always struggled with it. I like the world, but I’ve had to rewrite tons of content from mechanics to major canon npcs to work for me. The system has largely drifted towards a more anime power-fantasy style of play reminiscent of Gurren Lagan or DBZ. I prefer to tell my stories in a more Greek Epic or Conan style, gritty and dangerous. I love the setting though and it gives me a lot of material to build my own house with.

It is clear that this campaign has gone on for a while- please tell us about Lakes of Blood and Ash in a nutshell.

Lakes of Blood and Ash is actually a continuation of another story in another Obsidian Portal Campaign of mine, The Silver Princes Awash in Crimson. Across the seven or eight years we’ve told our stories in the same living world. Retired PC’s become npcs, the best npcs, you know their goals and personalities so deeply. The goal is to make a whole living and breathing world, not just a game where the pieces move when the players move the spotlight around, freezing into place as they drift off. It’s ambitious and I’m never satisfied with it, but I view it as my magnum opus that I’ll likely work my whole life on.

The story is told akin to Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time. It pays a lot of attention to sociopolitical issues and the players often find themselves engaged in drama and debate rather than sword and sorcery. The focus is on a group called The Walkers – a group of Luna imbued demigods that seek to offer an alternative to the debt and tattoo binding systems of the Silver Pact.

How often do you play, and where do you play?

We’ve always played weekly for 4-7 hours. We started out on Skype, but when Discord became more popular, we moved there for recruiting purposes and found ourselves way preferring it there. We have our own discord server where we hang out and talk daily, a rarity among such Exalted servers!

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

This actually is a more complex question than one might expect. I work on creating the world more akin to someone running a homebrew game. Creating NPCs and locations for scores of hours in bursts and then putting all of it on the back burner in my mind to enrich it. When it comes to game night, I may have a note card or I may not. Usually, I just wing it because I understand all the npcs well.

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

Running the game so long, we have seen a lotta people come and go. There have probably been forty different people move through this game. I’ll just make note of the existing ones and the longest running ones. The only one who’s been through the whole story thus far, four full years in game taken day by day, eight years irl, is my wife. Then there is Bap, who’s been with us for a year and a half. Grad school ties him up a bit but he talks daily even when he can’t play. The third player is Will, who has only been with us for about six months. Everyone was met in an Exalted game first, but a great crew for sure.

I’d also like to credit two others. Heidi/Friti, who may well be back in the game in the future, still in the Discord and just waiting for the stars to align. Then there was Max, who played with us for a long time. He even helped write some locations and was a cool dude.


Keeping players involved is always a struggle, how do you keep them involved?

Well answering this question is going to make me seem a bit of a fiend. I don’t have much trouble keeping people involved. This is because I have an extensive interviewing process before players join the group, and even then, you have to make sure everyone gets along.

I tell people, the intent is to be with a player for 10,000+ hours. You can consider this a relationship or a job. The way we engage with this hobby is not as a distraction, but as artists and creators, with our whole passion. So, those in the game have risen to that call.

You actively use the map markers on your maps- what do you like about them?

I likely have over a hundred map markers. We are always looking at the map and calculating travel times, conducting geomantic surveys, and other such activities. The map and its markers are a great way to keep track of armies and groups on the move and which areas of the map are controlled by which factions and groups of interest via color. Love the map markers and looking forward to every set of new pins that rolls out.

You have a unique log system in your wiki- can you explain how it works?

I suppose I think of my log system as something of a nesting doll. I use images and hyperlink titles to direct readers to areas of interest. Within a category there are further subcategories and these continue to narrow until you are looking at specific people or a manse/fortress. It was a great revelation when I figured out how to put a back button at the end of each article. This allows one to just move to the previous page and navigate much more smoothly through the levels.

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

I believe I’ve been using Obsidian Portal since its inception. What brought me to the site is in previous RPs as a player, I was never satisfied with the dispensation of information. I liked to delve into the npcs and learn more about the locations. This became a more serious concern when graduating from D&D to the Storyteller systems. In terms of bringing back? I never left, I expect my OP to outlive me and just hope there is someone to inherit it a couple decades out.

What would you say the single biggest highlight from Lakes of Blood and Ash has been so far?

First, I have to say, it’s a sandbox game – so the players take a lot of credit for how things play out. That said, there was this time where the players had purchased their way into the college of Raksi. It cost their mentor, MaHa-Suchi a great deal but the whole of university life was very odd to the players. One of the players could best be thought of as Mowgli from Jungle Book all grown up. He brought several animals into the dorms and then started sleeping on the lawn. This saw him arrested by campus security for a 24-hour lock up. Despite how minor the offense and the sentence, the players hatched a huge plot to bust him out. In the end, they left their friend behind and fled to the hills. We are usually very somber and serious, so these occasional silly and light hearted sessions can be a memorable and a good break for the IC stress meter.

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

This game would have likely ended long ago if not for a firm hand. These days, it seems like most games I read about have the ST as nothing but a facilitator for the players with no agency of their own. It is important, even if it’s hard, for the ST to be firm. This won’t be for everyone, but to run a game similar to this one, it’s important to put the story first and be willing to argue your case in that regard.

A second piece of wisdom. It’s common to hear about session zero, but it is better when you can have a session -3,-2, and -1. If you plan to spend thousands of hours with someone, that’s a huge investment and you want to make sure you are a good fit for your benefit and to respect everyone’s time. Always keep in mind too, your players have made an investment and if you respect that, they’ll be much more likely to take ownership and shoulder the many burdens of a long running story.

1
Dec

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month December 2021- “Le Sang versé d’Occitanie” (The Spilled Blood of Occitania)

Bonjour, and welcome to The World of Darkness within December’s Campaign of the Month, “Le Sang versé d’Occitanie” (The Spilled Blood of Occitania) by Orion_JdR. Set in the south of France, this supernatural, dual-campaign features a GM running for two rival groups of players — a Werewolf pack and a Vampire coterie — who discover each other’s blood-stained activities within a region full of history and mystery. Read on to discover how it is done in this month’s interview. And for those of you who only spent one point on your real-life language skills, click here for an English translation of the campaign.
———-

Before we ask about “The Spilled Blood of Occitania” we would like to know more about you and your players. Who are you and how did you meet?

Of course, with pleasure! I am Orion, a french role-player and blogger, and I have been a game master for thirty years. Half of my players are close friends, while the other half are friends I met on social media during the lockdown and had good feelings with – and I don’t regret it!

What was the inspiration for your campaign and what kinds of stories do you want to tell?

The Spilled Blood of Occitania is an original creation inspired by (and sometimes identical to) pretty old scenarii from World of Darkness or Ars Magica. Through this campaign, I wanted to reach my players and make them live adventures in a universe close to us (contemporary France) yet extraordinary : Europe destiny, nothing less. Thus, the world we believe we know is full of beauties (landscapes, Cathar history, the magnificent Toulouse), dangers (pollution, crime, corrupted politicians) and mysteries (history of France, magicians alliances, etc…).

The concept of this creation is to have two competing campaigns : a Werewolf Pack with opposite objectives to a Coterie of Vampires, in the same area and the same temporality. Each group (Wolves and Vampires) is aware of the other group’s progression via Obsidian Portal. Thus, the players find out more than what their characters do, and understand the general pattern while the characters can only get small parts of it.

The campaign is set in the World of Darkness in France and includes vampires, werewolves, mages, and more. It is rich with information. How do you stay organized with so much material? And how does your gaming group use apps like Discord and the Miro whiteboard to help

Obsidian Portal is helping us a lot to organize all of this stuff. Through links to the characters, labels assigned to each page, a player willing to find a vampire in Toulouse or a magician living during the Middle Ages will easily sort and find what he needs. I also use colors and icons a lot (tribes, packs icon, etc.) as a visual aid for players.

To conceive the campaign, I use OneNote. During games, we use Discord with a bot for dice rolls, and Miro to display characters sheets, game rules and pictures. And after each game, we publish an adventure log to describe what happened on Obsidian Portal: it can give ideas to the players and game masters from other role-playing gaming tabletops, but above all, it gives to the players from the other group (Wolves or Vampires) the possibility to be up-to-date with the general pattern (and see what the other players have discovered).

The writing in your Adventure Logs (Stories of the Ages) is exceptional and really adds style to the story. Who does the writing in your gaming group and how much time do they spend on it?

Yes, I am really grateful to the authors of these adventure logs, and always give them credit at the beginning of the texts. Moreover, they get extra bonus Willpower points for their characters as a thank-you gift to their efforts and the quality of their texts. In each group, a player volunteers (always the same in the werewolf pack, and in turn for the vampires) and spends several evenings writing a high-quality adventure log from simple note-taking. The aim is to publish it before the next game, to help us recall what happened last.

Your Obsidian Portal pages are very beautiful and easy to navigate. Do you have any advice to share about designing websites for games?

I think you need to put yourself into the skin of a player reading: he wants a simple, good-looking website where he can easily find the information. I took inspiration from the most beautiful campaigns I found on Obsidian Portal to create The Spilled Blood of Occitania, for I am not a graphist nor a web-designer myself. The result is a clean, colorful campaign, with a clear visual identity for each group, vampire, werewolf, etc.

You have several beautiful campaigns on Obsidian Portal — Shadowrun, Pathfinder, Legend of the Five Rings, and World of Darkness. What is your favorite game system and why?

The game system I prefer between these four campaigns is the one from Legend of the Five Rings, for it is epic and light at the same time, very close to the game’s universe. Lately, I have resumed the campaign “Les Fragments du Vide” (The Void’s Fragments) on Obsidian Portal (https://lesfragmentsduvide.obsidianportal.com/), which was stopped due to the pandemic. My players are really excited and have a lot of ideas for the next games – you’ll be able to read it on Obsidian Portal!

What have been the most interesting or challenging moments within “The Spilled Blood of Occitania” so far?

The Werewolves players offered me beautiful roleplay scenes, when their Pack had to ally with the Pack from Narbonne despite the fact that they hated each other at first, or when they stole a thousand years old fetish to use it instead of giving it to the arrogant Silver Teeth pack.

The Vampires players, on the second hand, are always surprising me and it is not simple to anticipate where they will lead the story. I really like it, as it is always an adventure for me to master them. Happily, I managed to schedule unexpected twists to get my revenge!

What part of your campaign or your Obsidian Portal pages are you most proud of?

I am really proud of the adventure logs, those are very pleasant texts to read. I am also proud of the “Characters” webpage, for it is functional and pretty nice to browse, just as I wanted.

What parts of your game do your players enjoy most?

Every game starts with a reading of a small introduction, which describes a small part of the general pattern that the characters ignore, but that enlightens the players about the entire story. I also think that they like to meet eccentric non-player characters. I am giving my best in those encounters…

Can you give us any hints about the future of the campaign without giving too much of the story away? Or, do you have other, upcoming projects?

Some hints? You mean, like the daunting battle of the Werewolves against the Wyrm’s Forces? Or the merciless fight of the Vampires against Sabbat? Oops… No spoilers!

Otherwise, in addition to Les Fragments du Vide (L5R 4e) resuming, I have other projects for campaigns which will be logged on Obsidian Portal, but it is too early to tell you more yet. Stay tuned!

Finally, Obsidian Portal always wants to know if you have any advice to share about gaming or being creative?

Giving advice is the aim of my blog (Autour d’Orion: http://orionjdr.fr), but if there is only one to keep, it would be this one: be welcoming to new players. They are the future of roleplaying games, we need to attract them and fulfill their desires, even if we are not used to those kinds of desires.

Thank you very much for these questions and for the Campaign of the Month Award! I am really pleased and touched, especially by the fact that you granted the award to a non-english campaign, this is even more impressive. See you soon on Obsidian Portal!

As we bid bonne soirée to Occitania and thank you to Orion and the players, the Campaign of the Month Committee would also like to thank everyone on Obsidian Portal for sharing their creativity throughout 2021. Be certain to check back often on the blog, forums, and Discord for more wonderful campaigns like this one, news about voting for Campaign of the Year, and to nominate campaigns that you love (especially your own!) for consideration.

Translation from French by @Kapryss (thanks to her)

1
Nov

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2021- Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory

The year is 2375. It is a scant few months since the cessation of hostilities in the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, known as The Dominion War. Many Starfleet personnel lucky enough to have survived and to have even a modicum of command experience have seen their careers and ranks accelerate at a faster rate than would have been possible in peace time. Such are the crew of the USS Odyssey. Check out Mallorylover23 and crew’s adventure into the unknown in our November 2021 COTM: Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory. Learn more about their tales of boldly going where no man has gone before below!

Tell us a little about the people behind the logs? What’s your group like, how did you all start playing together, and what drew you to ST adventures?

We’re a mix of guys who’ve been playing together for a while and newcomers. Humanoyd and Justins have been playing in “Emerald City:Requiem” for more than a decade and I joined them about 6 years ago. Every now and then we take a break from that setting to run a medium length palate cleanser campaign. “Laurels of Victory” was such a game. We’re all fans to one extent or another except for the newest member; SeanP619, who did some impressive binge-watching to get current with us, and now I believe he’s quite a fan of the franchise.

Humanoyd played as Te’Yanah Shran; the Andorian First Officer with serious war wounds (both physical and emotional), Justins played the young and eager joined Trill Ops Officer; Denba Mox. She became the solid and reliable backbone of the group. The one everyone could rely on to be there to provide advice or help. Hummanoyd’s roommate; Mattcarter1 joined us for the first time on this. He did an amazing job playing the ship’s rescued-borg Doctor; Jesse McClain, and always had a dry quip to get us laughing when the group got in a pinch.

An irl friend of mine, SeanP619, rounded out the group with Forrest Kelly: the fresh-out-of-academy helm officer, with a bigoted streak against Cardassians, who he blames for the loss of his family during the Dominion War. His issues surrounding that became a major emotional fulcrum for the entire campaign and led to one of our best episodes. I was drawn to ST Adventures because the system felt robust enough to tackle the scifi elements but was also loose enough (not unlike Fate, which most of us are used to) to allow seamless cooperative storytelling.

How often do you play and how do you generally do so?

I started the campaign in August 2020, knee deep in quarantine, and it had been months since our group had met in person. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get playing at something
and I was the one person with the most free time to learn how to run a campaign on a VTT, which we did. We used Roll20 and met practically every other Sunday except around the holidays. We concluded Season 1 in June of 2021, so this ended up being a much longer campaign than I had originally planned.

So the primary inspiration for the game might be a bit obvious, but do you have any inspirations that might be harder to see? Themes you and your players like to explore or situations you dream would come about in the world of ST?

Well the initial inspiration was actually pretty concrete. I built the campaign around the established setting and publicly available Living Campaign on Modiphius’ website. This is a collection of 20 modules set in the Shackleton Expanse. 10 of the modules are set in Original Series times and the other 10 are set just before the Dominion War. I chose to adapt the setting heavily, since I wanted to not be too constrained by canon, and adapted the modern time modules to be set just months after the Dominion War. This allowed my players to create more compelling backstories, I believe and also left me with more room to break stuff in the modules to suit my own ideas.

I would say the themes central to this first season were almost completely player driven and centered mostly around the process of healing from trauma. Shran lost her legs in the war and has retreated to procedure and rigorous performance of her duties as a shield from her trauma. Dr. McClain is struggling with a new non-binary identity and the suppressed trauma of being assimilated by the borg, all the while doing his best to administer to the needs of his crewmates, despite some of their open suspicion of him. Forrest is having to deal with letting his crew become his new chosen family and later in the season, crossing lines to reunite with the family he thought lost to war.

OK, now for a hardball. Which series is the best(ToS, TNG, DS9, etc.), and who is your favorite character?

It’s not at all a hard question for me. It’s DS9. I understand why some people disagree and I’ll always have a deep love and affection for TNG, since that’s when I first was exposed to Star Trek and I fondly remember sitting with my father after doing homework, to watch that week’s installment. The draw of a new world each week is strong, but the depth of character and nuance of emotions, motivations and more grounded themes of politics and social strife, set against the hopeful and optimistic Starfleet mission really makes DS9 seem far more relevant and accessible to me these days.

Favorite character is a lot harder for me. If I had to choose (and I hate doing that), I would have to say Quark, followed closely by Odo. It’s really their antagonistic relationship that drives so much of what I love in that show that I can’t really disentangle them.

Your LCARS style is phenomenal. How long did you spend building all of the various static and moving bits?

I absolutely cannot take credit for this. It completely lies with Hummanoyd. He does all the layouts and art for all the campaigns we put on OP. He said that this style was by far the most challenging he’s ever done and he wanted me to let you know that it wouldn’t have been remotely possible without the amazing help he got from the OP community.

I love your adventure logs, do you create them yourself, or do you share the load in recording your narrative?

Generally the GM doesn’t write the logs in our games, though that’s not always the case in the Dresden Files game or when I ran Pendragon. For “LoV” One player volunteers to take notes and then the log gets written based off those notes and is usually completed by one of the players, though there are a few logs in this one that are written by all of them, each taking on the log of their own character. I awarded momentum points the beginning of play to each player who contributed to the log, to encourage participation.

As you’ve been on Obsidian Portal for a while, what is your favorite feature for helping to manage your campaign?

For me, it’s definitely the character page. I cannot do without it. It keeps everyone clear on who everyone is and helps me keep my rogue’s gallery organized.

Back to your game, what would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

I actually polled my players as to what stuck out to them most during the season and it was split down the middle; between the two emotional arcs that I think embodied the heart of the season. The first was Dr. McClain agreeing to perform in an impromptu modern Klingon Opera celebrating the exploits of Worf (referencing the excellent DS9 two-part episode; “In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light”) and consequently meeting and starting a love interest with the quirky Klingon engineer; Lt. Olok. Their romance became a pretty hotly anticipated side drama of crossed signals and missed opportunities that everyone got pretty invested in.

Secondly, Ensign Forrest’s breaking of the Prime Directive in Episode 6 came back to bite him in Episode 13. The emotional fallout from his betrayal and then their investigation, and legal defense run by Shran, for this young man’s career helped gel them all together. It all came down to Shran’s closing arguments and it was so close that I had to ask the group if it was alright if I left it to chance and made a roll instead of just deciding his fate. Even though he was unfortunately stripped of his commission in the end, he did avoid being completely drummed out of Starfleet and I’m keeping him in my back pocket for when we come back to this setting. SeanP619 was in the navy irl, and he said it was an amazing experience to play out something he never would have come close to in his career. He was such a good sport in following my hooks and playing the secret betrayer; covering his tracks during the campaign. And he was even more good natured and helpful when rolling up his replacement.

Let’s round this out with one of our favorite questions for our featured GMs! If you haad a secret sauce for running a great game, what would be the most important ingredients?

It’s different for everyone. Some Gms run completely homebrewed settings and I admire them for that. I cannot do that. I become paralyzed with the possibilities and nothing is more frightening to me than a blank page. I pick established settings and in this case very firmly established modules and I take them apart. I use what works and discard what doesn’t and I thread the emotional stories that I insist my players provide me with during session 0 through at least the first several modules. Then I see what happens. I continually adapt and re-break and re-write. All within some boundaries provided by the established setting and the eventual end point the last module suggests.

It is gratifying to hear that the moments that stuck out to my players was what was created from whole cloth by our combined storytelling, rather than any encounter or challenge that I copy and pasted into the adventure. You need to look at that stuff as scaffolding and the emotions and motivations of your PCs and NPCs as the brick and mortar of your campaign, if you want it to be memorable.

Finally, that brick and mortar will not hold if you don’t give your players agency. You might be plugging away at putting up challenges and obstacles, suggesting hooks and strategies or delivering a carefully prepared description or monologue and then a player will come out of left field with something you would never think of. It might feel like a threat to your established tone or how you thought things would play out. Don’t let that feeling make you say the dreaded word “no”. You need to let them guide you. If they throw something silly your way; like “genetically modified space cbd” that’s them telling you that you need to lighten the mood and you should incorporate that silly thing. I know it’s said often, but “yes, and…” is the most important tool in a GMs bag. If there is something that you cannot bring yourself to say yes to, then at least consider saying “no, but…” Avoid saying no to anything but the most obviously disruptive or harmful choices. It kills the mood and shuts down players and makes them feel like they can’t experiment.

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Oct

Update Post – October 20, 2021

Hail, Portal People!

Another season has passed since we last gave a reckoning of the updates on Obsidian Portal, so we’re back to do it again.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to post them in the Community Forums, or email support directly at [email protected].

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