Tag Archives: campaigns

1
Jun

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2022: Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate is the greatest commercial metropolitan port on the Sword Coast in the continent of Faerun. Popular video games have cemented its name to the adventure loving community since last century, making it one of the best known campaign settings to have evolved from the Dungeons and Dragons legendarium. Join Nimrod, Eran, Gal, Gilad, Guy and Tom as they explore this great city, breathing life into its many parts, and describing just how they do this in this month’s highlighted campaign, Baldur’s Gate. Let the revelations begin…

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?

Nimrod: My name is Nimrod Yanai, I live in a kibutz in Israel (a kibutz is a small, agricultural community). I have been playing roleplaying games for almost 30 years now, most of it as a DM. I also enjoy computer games and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. I can easily be found on Facebook under my own name.

My players are Eran, Gal, Gilad, Guy and Tom.

Tell us about “Baldur’s Gate” in a nutshell. How did it come to be, and what made you choose this trade city on the Sword Coast of Faerûn to base your campaign?

Nimrod: I have always been a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate computer games. I still see Baldur’s Gate II as the best game that was ever created (though its predecessor’s plot is superior). My party and I just finished running through the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms published campaign, and I decided my next game will be something I haven’t done in a while – an urban campaign. I had an idea for a plot that I wanted to try out, and since Baldur’s Gate is my favorite city in the Forgotten Realms, it was easy to place my plot there. In many ways, Baldur’s Gate is the greatest city in Faerûn, because it doesn’t reply on magic yet manages to compete successfully with its more magical sisters such as Waterdeep. It also makes things more interesting for the players, because it is difficult to raise to power against such people as Elminster, the Blackstaff or Larael Silverhand.

To give a familiar feeling to the campaign design, I used images, elements, backgrounds and concept art from the computer games and various adventures published. I even tried to use the fonts from the computer games, but unfortunately those were not available in the supported packages. For example, the adventure log design has Baldur’s Gate I’s stone background, with the leather and title design of Baldur’s Gate II’s character page.

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

Nimrod: We play once every second Friday (in Israel, Friday is like Saturday in the Christian world) at my house.
My party consists of five friends who knew each other before we met. They are exceptional players, who enjoy deep roleplay and character development (and the occasional battle).
One of the reasons I enjoy the game with them so much is that we developed very good trust relations. I think they trust me to make the game fun for them, which makes them generally flow with things that happen in the campaign and try to advance the plot, not just roll with it.

Your whole WIKI section is very detailed and quite comprehensive. Who is responsible for adding the information and organizing it? How much time do you spend updating it as the campaign progresses?

Nimrod: An urban campaign is different than a journey campaign. Most characters and locations are permanent, and the players and DM need to remember a lot of details. Before the campaign began, besides for all the locations and characters I added as a DM, each player was tasked with creating 10 NPCs (either ones their characters know from their background, or just people in the city) and 5 locations (these could be inns, temples, establishments, stores, houses, towers, etc.). This meant the campaign was full of information relevant to the characters before we ever started playing.

Each session, one of the players is responsible to record the session events, and create a corresponding adventure log, including creating new characters, quests, wiki pages, etc. for anything new that happened in the session. This keeps the players engaged and takes some responsibility away from me as a DM. The players spend more time updating the campaign, while I create the pages for more important NPCs, locations, etc.

Gilad: Before the start of the campaign, it was a parallel collaborative effort where every player and the DM each added content to the wiki – be it NPC’s we’ve each created for our backstories, general NPCs to populate the setting’s city, and any other wiki page that might be relevant such as places of business or notable locations.

Once the game has started, each session a different player is in charge of summarizing the session and uploading it to the Adventure Log, then creating new wiki pages for places and NPCs encountered during said session if they do not have a wiki page yet.


Your campaign has many maps and makes great use of Obsidian Portal’s interactive mapping system. How do you feel the extra work it takes to implement this benefits you and/or your players?

Nimrod: Maps play an important part of the campaign. As I said, an urban campaign is different. I usually place the relevant maps on my TV screen for the players to see during the game. There are many locations, it would be impossible to remember them all.

Nimrod: I treat each neighborhood as an NPC, each one as its own description, music, and map. My DM screen has a section for the map of the city with each location’s description for quick reference. This helps keeping the city alive and important as more than just the location of the campaign, but making it feel like a real city.

Gilad: Our campaign is centred within the city of Baldur’s Gate and so a detailed map is crucial. Not only do we need the various borough maps for navigating the city, a detailed map with points of interest aids in making the city feel like an actual, vibrant, lived-in city. And even as it is currently densely populated with such POIs, there’s always room for more.

You have added a new section to the left navigation bar entitled “Quest Logs”. Please tell us a bit more about this. Why did you add it? How important is it to your campaign? How does it differ from the “Adventure Logs” section?

Nimrod: The campaign is currently still in its prologue phase, which is relatively linear (we are following the Murder in Baldur’s Gate storyline, with some modifications for my future plot). However, once the campaign starts, the city will have a plethora of quests of many different types. Many quests might run simultaneously or contain many details. Having a quest log helps keep all the relevant information for each quest for future reference.

A relatively unique thing in my campaigns (which I learned from playing Baldur’s Gate II) are what I call “personal quests”. Personal quests are quests that follow one character’s plot. It can be something based on the history the player wrote, but can also be based on the character’s background, class, race, etc. For example, an elven character could have a quest related to the Eldreth Veluuthra, while a Druid character could become conflicted with the Shadow Druids, and a Soldier might have a quest related to events from a campaign he participated while in the army. This allows me to give more focus for each player and helps me give their character a unique story that is only their own and helps them develop their character.

The Adventure Log is more of a summary of each game session, including everything that happened in that session – conversations between PCs that are not related to quests, for example. The Quest Log has a quick summary of what the quest is and serves more as a reminder of what the characters need to do, like a “to do” list (complete with check boxes).

Gilad: Our “Quest Logs” section, as the title suggests, is where we keep track of active and past quests we’ve received during the campaign, both as a party and as individuals. Whereas the “Adventure Logs” section is used to keep detailed summaries of our game sessions and help us keep track of the story and events so far, and so we can come prepared for each new session.
As I’ve mentioned before, each week a different player is in charge of the summary, but once they’re uploaded the rest of the group go over it and add any missing details.


What made you choose D&D 5e as your gaming system? Have you played other gaming systems, or earlier editions? How do you feel it compares?

Nimrod: I have been playing D&D since the old red boxes, through 2nd and 3rd editions, and now 5th edition, which is by far the most elegant in my opinion. I think 5th edition does a good job with focusing on roleplaying, which I like very much. It keeps combat simple but has enough variety so that players who dislike too much strategy can still find it interesting. It’s not just how the rules are built – the text of the books encourages imagination and creativity and gives ideas and inspiration. I played many systems in the past (Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Pathfinder, Star Wars, Dragon Age, Exalted and others), but I always come back to D&D eventually.

Gilad: We’ve known each other for about 13 years to be precise, and we’ve played together as a group for 10 of those. Before we’ve had the fortune of joining him, we’ve played D&D 3.5e for quite a while. Edition and system preferences are subjective, but personally I prefer 5e for the streamlining it introduced to game, which in my opinion only aids roleplay and a lower barrier of entry for new players who might be interested in a game previously rather complicated.

Gal: As the other answer states, the players of the group have played 3.5e together before for quite some time. As someone who also enjoys the aspect of mechanical character building, I did like 3.5e for its customization options, as there were many classes, skills feats etc. to choose from and combine. 5e has its pluses as well. The simplicity of it is nice sometimes, and the tools that exist for it like D&D Beyond make the character management very easy. As most of our group prefers to play 5e over 3.5e and I’m ok with both we chose to go with 5e.

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

Nimrod: That depends on the session. Sessions that involve a lot of combat are much easier to prepare for, as battles require much less preparation than plot-related role playing. Other sessions could take 5-15 hours to prepare, if not more, depending on the amount of plot they are meant to advance.

The portal is only one aspect of preparation, though. Aside from the design and content, I also prepared an extensive soundtrack for the campaign (I use Syrinscape for all background music and sound effects). Most locations have their own unique soundtracks, including each neighborhood in the city (as detailed in the maps). Many important NPCs have their own theme music. Specific, planned events in the game will also have their own unique soundtrack. In the images you can see my setup for the Lower City soundtrack and the city locations soundtrack.

Nimrod: Preparing said soundtracks, especially for specific events, finding the proper tracks, etc. takes a long time.
Just to give you an example, you can see this video which contains a unique music clip (taken from Mass Effect 3), that I used in a previous campaign. This was just before a battle between a Zhentarim army, and the forces gathered by the characters to fight it: https://youtu.be/RJQQ4mSrIIo


Another video, from the end of that campaign, depicting the final demise of the god Auppenser, with a soundtrack from Disney’s Tangled: https://youtu.be/CD-P9-fOH1o

A typical session always begins with one of the players recapping the events from the last session (plus any relevant information from previous sessions). I use Baldur’s Gate I’s main theme for background for this. After the previous sessions are recapped, we continue with where we left off, or time-skip ahead, depending on where we stopped and where I want to take the plot.

I usually give a detailed description of what is happening, or ask the players what each of their characters do before I describe what’s next. There is a lot of back-and-forth between the players and me, as they describe their actions or ask questions and I detail everything their characters know of the situation, before they decide. Often, they will role-play between their own characters, sometimes in length, as they become more familiar with one another. This also helps them develop their characters and strengthen the party bond.


I was unable to view any of the details of the Deities in your campaign. Is there a reason why you keep these secrets? Of what importance are the Deities to your player characters? How does their influence compare with the influence of the many groups and organizations detailed in your Wiki?

Nimrod: The wiki for gods is not hidden. Because I often DM in the Forgotten Realms, I found that I keep duplicating certain wiki pages. Instead, I created a generic campaign where all wiki pages I use often are stored, and I put links from that campaign where needed.

The place of gods in the campaign changes significantly based on player and plot. Some characters follow their god’s doctrine fanatically, while others don’t care that much one way or the other. I try to tailor the experience to the character. Sometimes, religion plays an important plot role, too. For example, in another campaign of mine, a paladin was struggling with his faith. As his personal quest, he had two NPCs, one for his own god Helm and another for the god Hoar, a paladin who tried to convert him to join Hoar instead. He was set by moral and personal dilemmas and eventually made his choice.

In this specific campaign, the various organizations usually have a much greater influence. Baldur’s Gate has a large following for Gond but is a relatively secular city. Gond himself encourages invention and creation over reliance on magic and gods, which the city encourages as well. This gives non-religious or non-magical organization, and especially mercantile ones, a lot of power.

Gal: Deity importance varies between characters as it is not forced upon those who don’t want it, but for those who do it is a very good tool for character progression and mostly personal story development. Personally, I like my characters to have a relationship with and be influenced by the gods of the setting. As this campaign is quite new my example would be my last character who has a very present love hate relationship with Gruumsh throughout the entire campaign, and eventually tried to achieve godhood himself. He now exists in the campaign as a dead demi-god, and there’s an npc who’s a follower of his. Unlike the other deities in the campaign, he was kept secret (or at least we attempted to keep him secret) as a surprise for the rest of the players, to discover later in the campaign (which most of them discovered anyway by seeing the latest changes in the main page).

Gilad: deity relevance honestly just dependent on the players themselves. I, myself like to integrate them deeply into my characters, seeing as they are very much present in the setting and influence it deeply, while others are not as interested in the subject. In contrast, the different organizations in our campaign tend to be more influential, as they usually impact the story of the group rather than just the story of the individual.


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

Nimrod: I have been using Obsidian Portal to varying degrees for at least 6 years now, but only in the last two campaigns have I really started to take full advantage of it (with this group).
My other groups were less cooperative in adding things, and as a DM I really don’t have time to both run the entire campaign by myself AND update the portal regularly.

Gilad: I believe we’re nearing our 3rd or 4th year of consecutive use, perhaps?

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

Nimrod: It’s difficult to choose one functionality, but I would have to say the characters are the most important thing for me. I often create many characters, and it is difficult keeping track of them all, which is important to keep the world coherent and continuous. I also often create hidden characters that are only reveled later, and each one has a DM only section that I use to map out future adventures or encounters related to that character.

Gal: I’d say that the adventure log is the feature I personally find the most useful as that’s the feature I use the most to refresh my memory before a game session.

Gilad: I’d have to say the formattable, linkable Adventure Log we keep. Helps keep track of the plot and NPCs we encounter.


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


Nimrod: This campaign is rather new, but for me the highlight so far was how I structured the start of the campaign. I built it a little like Marvel’s The Defenders – when the players built their characters, each one had to choose a neighbourhood where his character lives/operates. I then had a solo adventure with each player, where they all learned some common information, but also each had his own local, neighbourhood issue to deal with, and they became sort of a local hero for the people of that neighbourhood. For example, the character from Little Calimshan stopped a mercenary that was hired to kidnap people who were slaves and escaped Calimshan and bring them back to their families’ original “owners”, the character from the Temples investigated the involvement of a cult with some of the local patriar’s children (which are Baldur’s Gate’s version of nobles), etc.


With their reputation in their own neighbourhoods, they were then called upon collectively to help with other matters, and quickly found the common information they all received, etc.


Of course, we are about to reach a new high for the campaign, but it will take a few sessions 😉

Gal: As this campaign is pretty new I don’t have any specific highlight, but this is the stage of the game the characters learn about each other the most (we do not share the backstory or any information other than sometimes class with anyone other than the DM), and I enjoy that stage very much as it’s fun to learn about the characters your friends developed and slowly expose information about your own and build a relationship and trust between the characters.

Gilad: While our current campaign is rather fresh and so we did not have many notable events per se, our previous one had plenty.
For me the biggest highlight was the time we knew we’re going to have to confront a clan of Illithids deep beneath the ground, and we knew we’ll probably lose in a direct confrontation.

So we came up with a plan – a summoned Umber hulk enhanced with the Longstrider spell dug a tunnel directly down to the previously-scouted inner sanctum of the clan’s Elder Brain, followed up by my Ethereal bard.

Then when the tunnel has been dug, my bard was contacted psychically by the Elder Brain demanding surrender, surrounded by most all members of the clan. Instead, he sent a Sending spell to signal for the insane part of the plan.

Giant boulders began rolling down the tunnel. The Illithids began scrambling towards the exit. My bard placed a Wall of Force over it. The boulders arrived and decimated a good portion of the clan and damaging the elder brain greatly. It contacted my bard again pleading for surrender.

Then the logs began rolling into the chamber.

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?

Nimrod:
1. My biggest advice to DMs is this – you are not there just to make it fun for your players. If you are DMing the game, it is because you have a story you want to tell. The characters interact and influence that story, making it revolve around them, but it is still your story, not just theirs.
If I design a city campaign in Baldur’s Gate and the players decide to go to Waterdeep for no reason, my response will be “You reach waterdeep after a few weeks of journey, and about a year later you hear that X happened in Baldur’s Gate. The End.”

While the game belongs to all the players, only one will for sure cause the game to stop if he leaves, and that is you. You must keep the game fun for yourself, or you will lose interest and end the game, or worse – start to drag the campaign, your players WILL notice, and everyone will end up not having any fun.

2. Always tell your players the following: “That’s what my character would do” is not an acceptable answer. D&D is a game of group cooperation. As a DM, my expectation is that you make your characters get along. I have enough to do without keeping your party together.

3. Have a session 0. That is a way for you to ask your players questions about what they would like to see, what they won’t like to see, what aspects of the game they want to see more of, etc.

4. Use music to get your players in the mood. You don’t have to use a paid software (I used a regular iphone playlist for many years). Music can be used to set the mood, but also to make your players better understand situations. Nothing like an ominous music to make your players realize the conversation they are having could have dangerous repercussions, or to throw them off with some whimsical music for the BBEG they meet without knowing who it is yet.

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!

27
Aug

Fresh Backgrounds to Kick off September!

Okay so September isn’t here just yet, but we’re getting started early with another bundle of campaign background updates. Here’s what we’ve got going up this week.

17
Jun

More Backgrounds Have Arrived!

Fresh Backgrounds For You!

You remember a few weeks ago when we rolled out some new backgrounds for you guys? Well guess what, there’s more where that came from! Remember each background also comes with a complimentary color scheme for you campaign so that you can just pick it and go to town. Let’s discuss this week’s batch!

30
May

Haste! 2 Year Anniversary Show – RPG Bundles, Published Adventure Pitfalls, and More!

[powerpress] | Episode 85 |

Announcements

We bring with heavy hearts the bad news that legendary author Jack Vance has passed away. If you’ve played D&D in some format or another you have been touched by his work, if you were unfamiliar with him we suggest reading more about his amazing life.

Also the fine folks at d20Burlesque need some help getting to cons this year, if you’d like to see one of their shows at a con you’re going to or if you just appreciate half-naked nerds consider pitching in.

18
Dec

Campaign of the Year 2012

Vote Now!

It’s that time of year again folks! We need your vote for Campaign of the Year, because one of these lucky winners is going to get a giant golden trophy full of dice and other goodies!

Need to jog your memory? Check out the quick links below or just hit up these blog archives and do some research, then be sure to cast your vote at the bottom of the post here. Good luck to all of our amazing CotM’ers!

7
Nov

Haste – Episode 22: 3 Questions to Kick off A Campaign, Revengers, Geek Seekers

[powerpress]Intro: “Prelude” ~ LukHash
Outro: “
Stande Alone” ~ LukHash

Announcements

We’ve got a brand new thanksgiving themed d20Monkey comic contest for you all to enjoy, so get out there and get on those one-liners for your chance to win some awesome OP prizes. We’ve also got a fresh Campaign of the Month for November – Avatar: Conquest of the Imperial Order, be sure to check out our interview (and the campaign) when you’re done listening to the podcast! We’ve also got an interview and giveaway with Wizards of the Coast Writer/Editor Scott Fitzgerald Gray about his new collection of sword & sorcery stories A Prayer for Dead Kings and Other Tales.

Now, onto the topics!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
Petrified Articles
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