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The official blog of the Obsidian Portal.
20
Jul

Update Post – July 20, 2023

Hail, Portal People!

The season clock has chimed again, so it’s time for another reckoning. See below for all of the new features and bug fixes that were added to OP since the previous Update Post.

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
Jul

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month July 2023: Esomor Prime

Enter the intriguing realms of Esomor Prime, a 5th edition D&D campaign set in the homebrew world of Sam. Here we find a world dominated by 13 powerful noble houses, who rule over dozens of factions and hundreds of lesser houses. In this world Sam runs SIX separate groups, totalling TWENTY FIVE players, all in different regions of the world, for now…

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 your current system?

The groups are all friends of mine through various corners of my life, and I use one Obsidian Portal site for all of them. My original group has been playing D&D since 1995 and we were brought together back then by our mutual friend and first DM, Roy. I eventually took over as the full time DM of that group and have never relinquished the reins. The other groups started trickling in over the last 5 years, and include a “brewers group” a “work group”, a “circle of friends new to the game group”, and “friends from college group”, and an “online only group” for those out of town.

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

The online group is constantly going in a “play by post” format. For live sessions I usually DM every two weeks but with so many groups, they only get to play every two months. Sometimes I am booked solid 4 months out!

What’s the primary inspiration for your game? What themes do you and your players like to explore or situations you dream would come about?

For this current campaign I am running, I wanted a Game of Thrones like setting with lots of political intrigue with strong noble houses and powerful factions and huge world-changing story arcs. My “oldest” group is 8th level and my newest is 2nd, so some of them are just now starting to see the beginning of the “big picture”. I do have a dream of assembling an All-Star game with one player from each group and them all coming together to form an epic, end-of-campaign, world saving task.

You have a mighty list of Player Characters, what complications does that add for you and your players?

Obsidian Portal makes it so easy for all of my players to sort by their own campaign, but there is so much crossover information at their fingertips that each group can indirectly learn from each other group. Not sure who this NPC was? Look them up on the website! Maybe another group has run into them before and you can learn even more about them!

How long did you spend developing the style of your site, and did you have any help?

This huge campaign has been a dream of mine for a long time and I have been tinkering with the idea for years. For the longest time I would just make notes on what style of campaign I wanted to run and eventually this homebrew world started to take shape. As a previous campaign world was coming to an end, I launched this one to transition into. Lately, ChatGPT has really helped streamline the process for some of the minor details.

I love your inclusion of art/memes in the adventure logs, do you create them by yourself, or do share that responsibility?

The Bing Image creator through DALL-E has been a huge help, such a time saver!

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

Obsidian Portal is so easy to use! It looks great, links are easy to create, and it is a breeze to import images. Plus having one single wiki page for the “Order of Bones” faction that is seen across all groups is a HUGE time saver.

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

Each group has had some amazing moments, but one of my favorites was my “Bronzewood Valley” group following up on a random minor encounter I left for them where they found a broken compass on a trail. They thoroughly investigated who left it, where it was purchased, and was able to track and save the lost explorer. Through a long series of other events, this led them to working with that adventurer to establish their very own town in the mountains, all from this random broken compass!

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

Have fun! Sometimes I worry if I have enough prepared for a session, or do I have enough handouts, will the battles be challenging, but once the session gets rolling just go with it and remember why everyone has taken time out of their day to play, so have fun!

 That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

1
Jun

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2023: Candlekeep Mysteries

Welcome to heroic fantasy in a D&D 5e world setting beloved by many. Allow GM soulhack to welcome you to Candlekeep, the greatest library in all the realms of Faerun. Discover the secrets of such a place, honoured by the Gods of the realms, as the GM guides two separate parties through worlds of high adventure in his most intriguing campaign, Candlekeep Mysteries.


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 live in Northern Europe, in the middle of Sweden, having found my way back to my roots in the town where I was born and raised. A large part of my family lives here as well, having moved back from cities just recently. I currently have two children which I am already teaching the magic of tabletop games.

What inspired you to set your campaign in the Library of Candlekeep? How integral is the library and the deity, Oghma, Lord of Knowledge, to the adventures you run?

I was intrigued to see it featured as an official quest-like book, Candlekeep Mysteries, with no obvious connection to each and every adventure inside. While I had my own emotional ties to the place through the old Baldur’s Gate series, it also felt natural to use Candlekeep as a headquarter of sorts. In combination with my own love for libraries and magical castles such as Hogwarts, alongside the deep lore provided by Ed Greenwood and others, it felt like an awesome place for a whole campaign.

Regarding deities, we introduced the rule of Piety (which was officially featured in Mythic Odysseus of Theros), and most of our players have chosen others listed on our campaign site than the Lord of Knowledge himself. He is, however, featured in many NPCs and gatherings within the library.

How long has the campaign been running and what made you choose Dungeons and Dragons 5e as a game system?

We have been running this campaign for roughly a year now. D&D 5th edition has simply been the favoured rule set for a good amount of time. We all like other RPGs and boardgames, but for some years now, content has been so richly transferred into 5e which makes it easy to roll with. Also, having a mutual good understanding of the rules makes all players viable for switching the DM role between different adventures in the official book.

Navigation throughout the site is very easy, with good tools for getting around. Does this encourage your players to use it more? How interactive are your players with the SITE you have created?

I have always tried to make interactive campaign sites on Obsidian Portal on previous campaigns I have completed there. This time, I just went all into it and wanted it to both to look interesting, and for me to be able to navigate the site easily for myself. I knew most of my players wouldn’t delve into all the lore gathered in the Wiki – but I found myself pulling it up on a big screen beside our gaming table, switching pages as the players interacted with different NPCs in Candlekeep or lingered around any of the sites, taverns and rooms featured there. Players followed with interest and got more and more invested.

One of the players even re-made parts of the lore on the site, and has actively been adding magical items and NPCs from when he was a DM at one adventure. He has also written a few adventure logs.

One of our players answered this question with the following:

“I don’t put in half of what others might, but I’ve found the site very useful and easy to navigate. Our GM is very good at updating lore, characters (NPCs and useful information related to the campaign, as well as both recaps of previous sessions as well as those that are coming up!”

There is great artwork throughout the site. The logo itself is particularly intricate. Tell us more about where and how you go to find these things? And how important are they to your campaign?

The artwork was gathered from 3rd party publishers, official D&D lore and hours of search on Pinterest. The artists I would like to mention the most are cartographer Marco Bernardini and Bob Greyvenstein, both vital producers to the amazing product “Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion” that is available on the DMsguild.


Your main WIKI is all in English but the Adventure Logs are in Swedish. Why the difference?

Historically, I have leaned into using the most established language that is available regarding most of the lore, simply because reading about descriptions, even if it is in another language – creates a sense of immersion itself.

However, we do most of the role-play at the table in Swedish, so I have been experimenting using translated transcripts from the lore, describing things in Swedish instead, with positive impact of the overall flow and immersion of our games.

That said, I also have 2 different groups of players present on the site. One English speaking group playing online, and one IRL group of old friends playing around a table.


There are 11 Players listed in your Front Page. Do these players all play at the same time? If so, how do you organise your play? Tell us more about how you run your sessions.

As mentioned, there are currently two different groups playing in the same campaign location. One being our group of 6 childhood friends in Sweden, whom I play with 1-2 sessions each and every other month for years. The other being with 4 old friends from a roleplaying corporation in EVE Online, playing a sort of “play by post” using digital tools such as Discord and Avrae bot with D&D Beyond integration.

While I haven’t gotten there yet, I plan on integrating the two groups in their respective stories in different ways (gossip, hearing of their different achievements, walking past each other at important locations etc.).

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

I have been a member of Obsidian Portal since 2015, creating may first campaign there at that time. I have created and run 6 other campaigns since then, and been a player in a few selected others. What keeps bringing me back is the special way of keeping track of all things regarding a RPG campaign, and help bringing it alive.

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

Being a portal to a creative world for me to enter and build fantastical worlds whenever I want to, with and without my friends.

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

One of the players wrote this to me in response to this question, and I think he nailed it:

“One of the coolest things about this campaign has been experimenting with rotating dungeon masters. It’s been great watching fellow players stretch their creative wings while running an adventure, and it’s given us the chance to see our regular dungeon master in a player role. We’ve learned that when a dungeon master becomes a player, they create characters that are just as lively and detailed as entire worlds they’ve made.

Not to mention the use of Discord to sometimes play out combat encounters and handle downtime activities in-between real life sessions. It’s been a really fun way to mix things up that we hope to continue.”

Personally, I also love the feeling of playing with two entirely different groups (both in-person and digitally/VTT) that thematically are in the same place. It fuels the creative fire of imagination within me in that the world is alive and breathing as it gives the illusion of things are playing out simultaneously.

Okay, as a last question, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What GM insights can you offer the community this month?

Put in the work for yourself. Being a GM is sometimes hard work, but remember that as long as you feel enjoyment in the creative process – you are on the right track. Your players’ excitement is not your sole responsibility, it is everyone’s, and especially, oneself.

 That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

1
May

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2023: Motes in the Serpent’s Eye

In space… no one can hear you Psychic Scream. But they can feel it! Half dragons in combat armor and bio-anthropologist plant-creature druids find themselves embroiled in galactic politics for May’s winning Campaign of the Month: “Motes in the Serpent’s Eye.” Captained by The_CDM, a GM who has sailed the cosmos of space-time to engineer a fantastic combination of multiple systems and settings, there’s plenty of Veteran-level knowledge to impart on how to run a successful, multi-season game. Come join the experienced crew of the Royal Exploratory Service’s Cygnus Class long-range science vessel, the Speaks Softly, as they seek the origins of life, the universe, and everything.

Hail, The_CDM and congratulations on winning Campaign of the Month! We know from your Obsidian Portal profile that you have been gaming for many years and have been a long-time member of OP. How did you get started in the world of rpg’s and what keeps you involved after all this time?

For me, I suppose it all really began with Chain Mail, which led inevitably to that darn blue box of original DnD basic. A couple of friends and I discovered them in grade school and that was it – we were hooked. Far beyond the dull and regimented board games of the late 70s, we discovered a medium to express our imaginations and develop a sense of deep friendship and camaraderie while doing it. I don’t think I’m being trite when I say it was eye-opening and mind-expanding. Over the years, my gaming groups and I have explored the realms of Traveller, Space Opera (from FGU), Call of Cthulhu, Villains & Vigilantes, Hero System and many, many others. But always we return to that touchstone, some form of DnD.

What keeps me, personally, involved in the hobby nearly fifty (omg that long now?) years later is both complicated and very very basic. Friendship. Camaraderie. The joy of collaborative story telling. Shared experiences, both good and bad. Many of the players and friends that I began this journey with are still with me to this day and to paraphrase one, “Some of my favorite memories are of things that never happened, places that never existed, and folk that only reside in my head.”

From TheTokenShadow, who plays the soul-mech, RC-880 “Durendal”.

Hail, CotM! I am TheTokenShadow (name flub when creating my account and I just stuck with it). I have been playing D&D since 1989 and met this current group in late 2011.

From Zentropyse, who plays the half-dragon, Lord Serpentce:

A long time ago (1982) in a land far away a friend got this new game called D&D he wanted to play. It was a blast! Months later another friend who ran a game I played in introduced me into a group he played with at college. I’ve played with this group ever since because our GM/DM rocks and whatever he’s running is always amazing and fun!

From AcReiBuruCGe, who plays the half-dragon, Pei’Fa:

I play Lord Pei’fa half blue dragon/Drow, who presents as a Mandalorian/Jedi murder machine, who is a truly good time, stabbing bad guys with parts from other bad guys, or sharing a story with the over-entitled nobility at a draconic imperial ball.

I’m called Doc, and I got started in D&D in high school, right before I joined the service. I started because I realized I could utilize the game to practice problem solving skills, and it turned out to help me to not only survive, in some situations, but excel in my career. My friends call me that due to being a combat veteran who was a Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Navy Corpsman (medical). I have PTSD as well as a full list of physical problems from my military service. I added to this list of problems on, many occasions with many activities, including not sleeping well for 23 yrs and living in my car with 2 cats for a bit. I now work at the local Veteran’s Hospital as a Yogi trained by Hindu and Tibetan monks, and last month celebrated 22 yrs of service, at the hospital, not including my 10 yrs in uniform. (Our gaming group is old. Average age around late 50’s. The core group has been together for over 35 years)

My duties now include working on the wards of Acute psychiatry, Dementia, Rehab medicine, long-term Spinal Injury (residents, who live in the hospital), and Blind rehab. I’m also the Aquatic conditioning instructor for our amputee and TBI (traumatic brain injury) patients who are Para-Olympic athletes.

The reason for the “wordy” introduction is to answer the second part of the question. The reason for me to continue gaming is very simple…the gaming group I’m in. We often hear/read about gaming groups calling themselves “family”. The group that makes up this gaggle of “Homicidal Indigents” or “HI”, as we affectionately refer to ourselves on occasion, have been the best support system I could have been blessed with. They were there for me when I was a complete idiot, didn’t deserve any slack, or was simply broken for awhile…over and over. My ability to become a yogi, or even simply do my job, is due to these people. Generous and loving even when they would’ve loved to punch me, these folks had my back when I didn’t or wouldn’t. Our DM told me that he was glad to see that the healer inside me was stronger than the warrior, as his congratulations speech for getting out of the military. As far as I’m concerned, these are the best reasons to continue gaming, even if it’s only 2-3 times a year.

Your winning campaign, “Motes in the Serpent’s Eye” has been running for about six years, split into multiple seasons. Can you give us a brief summary of the main story-lines, so far?

Brief, huh? The main, hidden story engine that drives the campaign has to be Dr. Eon Rose’s research. She’s trying to prove that all sentient species in the setting are not only related, but ultimately are derived or descended from some unknown origin species. Publishing her hypothesis set off a long chain of events that have led to the story-lines we are exploring in Motes. Other ‘main’ story-lines include: the integration of the remaining ‘original’ crew of the Speaks Softly with the ‘new’ crew members, overcoming mistrust, resentment and personal bias to become a team and family that truly cares about one another; the behind-the-scenes machinations of the powers that be in the Dragon Empire, who is involved in promoting and funding this mission? What stakes do they have in it’s success or failure? Why is this mission important?; Encountering new cultures and people and finding ways to interact with them with wisdom (and sometimes violence); Exploring themes that could be taken from our own world, such as the abuse of power, strength through inclusivity and compassion, and of course politics – with a few Kobayashi Maru scenarios mixed in – for instance, the Safe Haven story is proving to be the group’s crucible of fire at the moment.

To create “Motes” you and your friends had to combine core elements of the D&D space opera Dragonstar with Savage Worlds, as well as some supplements and modifications. What kinds of challenges caused the biggest headaches during this process? How did you solve those issues?

Biggest headaches? Emulating that DnD mechanics feel with Savage Worlds was the most gigantic. Especially the magic system. Without it, Dragonstar was just not the same flavor. Originally we tried a version of this campaign using DnD 3.0 – a complete disaster that resulted in an unintentional TPK (a failed piloting roll in an asteroid field combined with me not realizing just how much damage can be generated by such). Savage Worlds presented an opportunity to try it again with superior mechanics, but capturing that vancian magic from the original rules really proved to be a challenge. Stumbling across Rich Woolcock’s work (Savage Vancian Magic) really made it viable. Since then, the new SWADE updates and their exceptional new Fantasy Companion has helped immensely. Savage Worlds modularity makes much easier to describe and emulate new spells, creatures, items, etc. DnD in it’s various incarnations provide players with hundreds upon hundreds of spells and items. At first glance, Savage Worlds, with its fifty-plus powers seems sparse by comparison, but use of trappings, limitations and power modifiers are essential to creating a cornucopia of magic options. We are obviously still evolving the rule set as we continue the campaign, but are pretty happy with what we’ve got going on now. Other headaches were codifying the monstrous amount of gear available in the original Dragonstar setting books. That is still an ongoing process, but I deal with it on a case by case basis. Player: Hey I saw this in the DS books? Can I get one? What are its SW stats? That and the continuing debate between the coin counters and the simple wealth mechanic factions in the group – but that’s a relatively minor headache.

Zentropyse writes:

It’s a work in progress, the tech/magic balance is hard to master- in my mind you’ve got technology which can almost be magical but it is really just absolutely mundane- all of it. Then there’s magic which is magical but in a head to head comparison plays second fiddle to the powered armor, big guns and missiles, IMO. Having a spell battery with spells like Power Down, Control High Tech Devices as well as custom spells like Arcane Cyberjack and Electromagic Pulse helps immensely.

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

a) Play testing
b) Play testing

The mix of high-technology, fantasy, and magic was really intriguing in this setting and it appears to have blended very well into every aspect of the game. Have you or your players discovered any clever combinations that stood out? Any cool items or special spells that saved the day?

Serpence using a Ring of Invisibility and the spell Arcane Cyberjack to take over a pirate gun emplacement in ep 18.
The enchanted gatling ice laser (tripod mount) used by Doctor Keystone to repel pirates from the Speaks.
And while it didn’t save the day, I thought that the intro for episode one, describing the player’s approach to Mount Rimidil Skyhook Station and it’s techno-magical space elevator was quite cool.
Dr Nodagil saving a bunch of the crew from certain death after an explosion on the bridge. Everyone who had been present was bleeding out. The good doctor used his cloak of teleportation to get to the bridge immediately and his Healing with the Mass Healing power modifier to save the entire bridge crew.
Giants shooting down the ship’s shuttle with arrows, giant ones, of course, during Rumble in the Jungle.

Zentropyse writes:

I have been waiting for the perfect moment for the combination of Dampsuit (creates silence) Shattergloves of Ambidexterous Speed (the base Shattergloves- a short range sonic disruptor outlawed by many planetary governments) and Brilliant Energy Touch spell to debut. It will be glorious! If I don’t flub the roll…

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

My character has a glamoured t-shirt, that doesn’t “save” the day, but adds a little ray of sunshine. As he tends to present himself as a fun-loving moron, he will often casually walk towards enemies letting them see various sayings crossing the fabric.

“Your demise isn’t required for my meal to start”

“If I’m not wearing your insides on my outsides, it’s an off day”

“Open your mind and say ‘Ah'”

“I’m not egotistical… I don’t think I’m half as good as I really am”

That sort of magic item is precious to a character hampered with the conceit hindrance.

In the Encyclopedia Obscurum within your wiki, we noticed you even incorporated some X-Crawl, the gladiator-style arena battle game (and a personal favorite). How did this element feature in the campaign?

Primarily as background noise and role play fuel. First of all, X-Crawl is cool as heck. Second, if you had a five thousand year old, galaxy spanning, fantasy race inhabited, civilization hanging around, do you think the favorite imperial sport would be softball? No, they’d revel in the ‘good old days’ of idealized dungeon-delving heroes, romanticized and polished up for broadcast across the empire. Monetized and replete with player-endorsements, and over-priced team tabards for sale! Every scaly backside that’s sat upon the Imperial Throne knows the value of bread and circuses – keep the masses appeased and they will never revolt. Motes players have created their own teams and celebrities (many of them based on old DnD characters) and posted them on the campaign wiki. One player (who plays Lord Pei’fa) graciously runs an occasional side game that is just X-Crawl events in the Imperial League. They are, of course, bloody and gratuitous.

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

I tend to be the one who latched on to the X-Crawls concept. I have written a couple of Imperial Sports Presentation Network (ISPN) news segments. We also have referenced characters from previous games being current superstars in the professional league. There is also a semi-pro, college, and amateur leagues (pros and college are the only ones with full resurrection, post-game contracts).

You seem to be blessed with an abundance of players and have experience running for larger gaming groups. How did you find each other and do you have any advice for maintaining and organizing big parties?

Most of these chuckleheads that I call my dear friends have been hanging around in my life for forty years or more – proving their questionable judgment. Some go back all the way to high school where were understandably the oddballs of the student body. Gaming came naturally and was a less expensive and more dynamic pastime option for us back then. We all ran a game or two, but it seemed either I had a talent for it or was masochistic enough to become the primary game master for the group. One particular friend ran a Villains & Vigilantes game that actually focused on continuing stories rather than the battle of the day, which inspired me as a game master. Members of our gaming group came and went and came back, brought friends, partners, and the curious to participate.

My advice for maintaining and organizing big parties? Patience. Communication. Keeping a campaign alive and focused with 8-12 adults all with real lives requires high levels of the cat-herding skill. Thus tools like Obsidian Portal are essential for scheduling games, keeping players up-to-date, and session recording. Use the Forum feature in OP to give players and GM a place to post in-character interactions and information tidbits in between sessions. The Secrets feature is another amazing tool – every character and NPC has at least one or two on the site. As PCs explore and investigate, they are able through this device to discover hidden stories about their fellow crew mates. As adults getting all of us together regularly can be a serious challenge, but small interactions, secrets and even character short stories posted for all to see can keep the momentum and interest going for those ‘dry’ gaming periods when no one’s schedules mesh. Lastly, if you’re going to be foolish enough to running a game with an average of a dozen players – find a simpler gaming system. DnD will always have a warm place in my heart, but that many players, especially once they get high level, can turn a ten round combat into an 8 hour session. Savage Worlds was our solution to that dilemma. It also makes generating challenging opponents on the fly MUCH easier on the GM. Because when do players do what you expect?

Zentropyse writes:

Obviously we are all cursed, fated to band together and bear that burden though all eternity with aplomb and resolve knowing the game doesn’t serve us, we serve the game.

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

I was introduced to the group by one of the current group. He asked if I could be allowed an audience game, due to being a wordsmith smartass with a dark sense of humor. I’ve been his and the DM’s “special project” ever since.

Do you or your players have any memorable moments, epic showdowns, or favorite quotes that were highlights during the campaign?

One of my favorites took place during the crew’s attempt to capture the pirate ship Happy Insanity. The players used an EMP grenade to disable the bridge defenses – only to ultimately cause that vessel’s demise by disabling the control systems in a key moment. They beat the pirates but lost the ship.

TheTokenShadow writes:

One of the things I enjoy most is the collaborative aspect of our campaign. We have a number of really good writers in the group and some of our best material is spontaneously created when we riff off each other’s experiences.
For example, there was an in-character conversation between the characters Bishop and Rwvyan regarding their secret benefactors.
They had the discussion on the forums and it was generally assumed to be a private interaction over the ship’s comms. I decided to add a bit of chaos and chime in:
Durendal leans over and casually presses the commlink.
“Bishop, you’re on the open channel again…”
It about killed the CDM, he was laughing so hard. Rwvyan’s player rolled with it in good natured fashion however:
“You hear muffled cursing from an unidentified person, and then the line goes dead…”
Ultimately the CDM decided it was an in-person discussion between the characters, rather than over comms, but it’s still an interaction we reference and chuckle over, 4 years later

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

a) Having the requirement of dragon conceit, all of my character’s moments are memorable and all his experiences are highlights as shining examples for others… so I have two.

The first is when my character needed a little exercise and dropped a T-Rex in 3 rounds with his lightsaber through its head. He rode said head to the ground, ala Legolas, and casually stepped off the corpse to announce “Tada!”

That’s when he saw the rest of the away team fighting demon dryders. Everyone was too busy to notice his performance, so he tore into the demons for stealing his moment.

The second is when my character grabbed 4 corpses with telekinesis and used them as shields dancing towards their bad-guy friends. 24 bad guys and 2 hover vehicles ran away just because my character was grinning at them the whole time.

b) My favorite quotes tend to be on my t-shirt.

From laser-lit combat while boarding spaceships to galactic political intrigue ruled by royal dragon houses, there’s a little bit of everything in this massive setting. What aspects of a fantasy space opera story have resonated best with you and your players?

The Dragon Empire is supported on the Twin Pillars of Magic and Technology. What science can’t overcome, magic picks up the slack – for instance – FTL. The laws of science can’t break the speed of light. But a high-powered teleport spell ignores that limitation. Mighty magic is wielded by individuals with specialized discipline or talent, but any old Joe with a week or two of training can climb into power armor and ravage their enemies with laser rifles. The mix and contention between these forces make for intriguing dynamics and some strange dichotomies in the setting. Why bother developing a deep understanding of the healing sciences when you can call a cleric? Prayers don’t need to understand cellular mitosis to fix a broken leg or cleanse toxins from the blood. Same with Starcasting (FTL travel). Science couldn’t solve the FTL puzzle, but magic did handily – but modern commerce and interstellar travel wouldn’t exist without technology – the automated manufacture of which can outstrip the output of an entire school of mages. With hundreds of thousands of worlds under the sway of the Dragon Empire, it is simple to find any flavor of adventure you care to run – from a dungeon-crawl exploring a ‘primative’ world in the outlands to Shadow Run-like stories in the back allies of the Throne Worlds. Its the sheer cornucopia of rpg experiences that are available all in one setting that really resonates with me. Finally, the concept of soulmechs I found fascinating. Science can’t create true AI in this setting, and while magic can appear to with creations like golems, they are either merely sophisticated automatons or controlled by bound spirits. Leave it to gnomes to find a way around that combines both magic and tech. Summoning the spirit of a deceased individual and binding it to a mechanical body is both inspired and pure nightmare fuel.

Zentropyse writes:


For this particular setting, having a Half-Dragon character in a Galactic Empire ruled by Dragons, who are supposed to be arrogant, full of avarice and conceited means my character is an unrepentant jerk that even other Half-Dragons, or as my character relishes in pointing out, other Half-Mammals can barely stand, much less any of the lesser races. That’s fun to play to see how far I can push it before he actually gets thrown out a space lock.

AcReiBuruCGe writes:

I work for the federal government and often refer to it as the Imperium. As a player in this setting, I’m just here for the fights, not the politics.

Without giving too much away, what hints can you give us about the future of this futuristic plot? Is there a Season Four somewhere on the event horizon?

Oh, very much so. The seasons were originally implemented as a way of separating both story arcs and times when we needed a break due to busy real-world lives. Season three will culminate in the finale of the Safe Haven story-line with some very telling reveals and surprises in store for the crew of the Speaks Softly. Assuming they survive and prove victorious over the little pirate kingdom, expect to meet more characters from the Royal Exploratory Service and perhaps some changes in the crew itself might occur.

Season Four, well, that’s going to focus on the Duchess Reythliivmaar and House Esmer’s involvement in the politics and intrigue surrounding the Speak Softly’s mission. Her minion, Lord Di’Shio, Eater of All, has not been idle since the episode six teaser… We will also get some glimpses of some of the other players in the machinations that plague our heroic crew. There’s enough material to keep us all going for several more seasons at least.

Zentropyse writes:

The Dragon Emperor Mezzenbone will be dethroned and suffer the shame of having had the throne and lost it, and my character will have played some small part in that but it’ll probably be somewhere around Season 37.

As always, Obsidian Portal loves to ask experienced GM’s if they have any tips, tricks, or words of wisdom when it comes to delivering fun gaming experiences.

Always remember, the story you are telling is not exclusively yours – it belongs and is being crafted by you and all the players who are joining in the game. Railroading is good only for one-shots and short, focused campaigns, don’t hesitate to embrace the plot twists and kinks that players create with their decisions. Don’t expect to predict their actions – they will always surprise you should you become complacent.

Know your NPCs and plots. Everyone has a story or secret – it doesn’t have to be more than a single sentence about their motivations, but it is essential that you understand them even if your players do not. Let the gears of the evolving story unfolding reveal and alter your plans.

Don’t try to build the entire world(s). Understand the portions that the players currently inhabit and the interaction between these places & people and other parts of the world. This makes you more nimble when your group does something unexpected. Don’t be afraid to improvise on the fly.

Listen to your players. Especially when they are trying to figure out what’s going on in part of the story. Often they’ll come up with a speculation that is a hundred times better than what you came up. Be the Environmental Interface, not the Author.

Take LOTS of notes – they don’t have to be particularly meticulous, or verbose, but jotting down little mnemonics for yourself during sessions/discussions/brain storm meetings gives you a plethora of dangling plot strings and ideas to tie into adventures and help you remember that, for instance, Bishop-1 was once a family man and still has flesh-and-blood relatives out there somewhere. Writing something down helps fix it in your memory for later use.

Give everyone a chance in the spotlight. Tougher with bigger groups, but worth the work.

Never let the players see you sweat. Even when they do something you never saw coming that completely upends your plans for the adventure. Smile knowingly, make a few notes, roll some dice and improvise as if you had planned on that very decision.


Well, the sound of incoming laser-fire and proximity klaxons means it’s time for us to wrap things up. We hope these cosmic insights have helped inspire you to re-tool your own systems and settings to make something really stupendous, like “Motes.” Special thanks to The_CDM and the Players for an excellent interview! Keep a robotic eye out for future Campaigns of the Month here on the blog, and be sure to visit the OP forums if you’d like to nominate a campaign for consideration (even your own).

20
Apr

Update Post – April 20, 2023

Hail, Portal People!

The season clock has chimed again, so it’s time for another reckoning. See below for all of the new features and bug fixes that were added to OP since the previous Update Post.

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
Apr

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month April 2023: Torg Rise of the Storm Knights

This month we enter the fascinating world of TORG, with the Savage Worlds system, where six brave adventurers cross worlds in their quest to defend the multiverse. GM Elvathadrin will take us through his game, Torg Rise of the Storm Knights and tell us a little about the process he has with his players to bring their stories to life.

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 am from New Jersey, lived here my whole life, don’t really have much of an online presence even though I am on the Obsidian Portal Discord. Outside of gaming, I enjoy hanging out with my friends watching movies. I also paint miniatures and when I can play miniature based games like Warhammer 40K and Xwing, I also play World of Warcraft, and Star Wars the Old Republic/this is the game I also RP most evenings in, and have for quite a few years.

Let’s talk about the visualization of your campaign. Did you make the animated banner yourself? And the video? What made you decide to place this video on your campaign’s landing page? Why did you decide to explain about your campaign in such a way? Are you the person speaking in the video? 

The Banner was created by one of my good friends who’s also a player in my game. To be honest I found the video on YouTube, and why did I put it on the Landing page because after watching it I found it explained the universe of TORG perfectly, in an easy to understand and concise manner. I am not the person speaking in the video.

Is the narrator in the video meant to be the same person quoted in the description on the landing page? 

The narrator in the video is not mean to be the same person quoted on the landing page, the man quoted on the page is an unknown individual that saw the initial events with his own eyes and lived the tell his tale.

I noticed that there was over a year’s time gap between your original start date in July 2021, and the next adventure entry in January 2023. What was the cause of this gap? 

This is an easy question to answer, I started to work on the website a good year plus before the game we were playing ended, and I knew I had a lot of information I wanted to impart to my players, and knew it was going to take time to put it up and make it easy to read.

I see that you are using the Savage Worlds system. Can you please talk about what made you choose this system? How does the system support the campaign design and your game style? 

I chose Savage Worlds because I was talking to a few of my friends about wanting to run a TORG game as I love the universe but not a fan of the system it uses, so they brought up Savage Worlds. The system in question is designed to be extremely malleable, and since TORG’s universe requires the ability to meld multiple of genres and make them fit with each other, Savage Worlds was perfect as it already did that so it made things easy to fit everything together without one overpowering the others. Savage Worlds had already put out different books that where all designed to work together from the beginning so it made it that much easier.

You seem to be integrating many characters from movies, tv, etc. Can you tell us a little about how you bring these characters to life? Do you study them from their respective franchises? Do you try to imitate their mannerism/voice?

Most of the characters I use are from TV shows and or games that I and most of my friends have already watched so they already know these characters, I do try to keep them in character and how they react and or help the group with their expertise in relationship to the universe itself.

At no point do I try to imitate their mannerisms or voices as I know I would never be able to do them justice.

How do the players contribute to the world design, if at all? 

My players helped me with ideas for some of the new COSMS I have introduced into my universe that are not in base TORG, the ones they helped with where The Galactic Empire, The Big Heat, The Holy Roman Empire, Middle Westeros and The Main.

I see that you have a very detailed wiki section. How helpful is the Wiki for your players? 

From what my players have told me it is extremely helpful, as it is referenced at least once most sessions, especially when they go into a new COSMs, the maps I created have also been extremely helpful to give my players an idea of where they are.

Can you please tell us why you choose to open each adventure log with a “wild cards” section which seems to include all the PCs? What is its meaning? 

The reason I include the PC names is similar to the reason a TV show has credits, to remind the reader who the characters are in each session and if anyone new reads any Adventure log they know who was involved.

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

Obsidian Portal helps with keeping all the information in one place and helps make it easy to find, if it wasn’t for the site I would never have been able to run this game.

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

That is not the easiest of questions, but if I have to choose one, I would say the group was going after a Forest Dragon in Aysle the Fantasy COSM, the dragon preferred to hang out under water, so David the mad scientist of the group decided to create primitive depth charges. The idea was to drop them from the Quinjet.

While he was creating them, he created three by the way, the first and third where created without a hitch, unknown to anyone, David made a not so minor mistake on the second depth charge. When they went to use them, the first dropped fine and hit the water as it was supposed to, as they were getting ready to get the second in place the jostling caused it to explode prematurely while still inside the Quinjet, causing the jet to take a nose dive forcing Astoron to re-right the jet before it crashed, unfortunately he disconnected and completely froze forcing Ellistrae to quickly jump into action and right the jet. David the one that created the depth charge took the quick action to jump on the charge hoping to contain the blast, he succeeded in containing the blast not the concussive force that caused the jet to take a nose dive.

Okay, as a last question, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What GM insights can you offer the community this month? 

I am still a fairly new GM, as I have only GMd four games, so most of my wisdom comes from that, I would say for those afraid to GM for the first time, don’t be afraid, because you will make mistakes, you will stumble as a GM, not everything you do is going to work, your players are going to throw monkey wrenches in your plans, from my experience, let them.. This is a collaborative effort, if your players come up with an off the wall idea, let them do it. It will make the game that much more fun and memorable.

Always remember you are the story teller, and it’s supposed to be fun for everyone, keep a light hand, don’t be heavy handed with your rulings.

In the end as a GM always learn from your mistakes, because no matter how many games you run, you are still going to make them.


 That’s all for this month folks! Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

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