Tag Archives: cotm

27
Nov

OBSIDIAN PORTAL CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR 2023!

WINNERS FOR 2023:
First Place: Elvathadrin with Torg: Rise of the Storm Knights
Runner Up: Lord_Sam with Esomor Prime

It’s that time of year again- you guessed it, it’s Obsidian Portal’s Campaign of the Year 2023! It’s the ultimate showdown between some of the best of the best Obsidian Portal has to offer: The winners of our Campaign of the Month 2023! Voting is open to anyone who wishes to contribute- be sure to keep an eye out on the OP Community Forums, the OP BLOG, Facebook and Twitter for more information!

We have some great prizes in store for both the first place winner and our first runner up! In addition to winning Free Ascendant membership time, this year we have some AMAZING prizes generously donated from some of the best in the industry, including Paizo, Frog God Games, Limitless Adventures, Crit Academy and Mongoose Publishing!

FIRST PRIZE includes:

– Digital copies of both Starfinder and Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Boxes and/or Core Rulebooks from Paizo,

– Physical copies of Traveller Core Rulebook and the Paranoia Core Book from Mongoose Publishing,

– Digital copies of Limitless Encounters 1, Limitless NPCs 1 and Limitless Monsters 1 from Limitless Adventures,

– A gift certificate worth $200 to select any digital items in store from Frog God Games, 

– Physical copies of Bountiful Bounties and Aelx’s Bombastic Oddities from Crit Academy

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from Obsidian Portal


RUNNER UP PRIZE includes:

– A gift certificate worth $100 to select any digital items in store from Frog God Games

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from Obsidian Portal



A huge thank you to our sponsors for this years prizes!:

2
Nov

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2023: Violet Hill

Saddle up, Browncoats, and take a gander at the goods in this November’s Campaign of the Month — Violet Hill, by Jonathonathon. It’s a veritable ‘Verse of slick design, custom rule-mechanics, and unique Firefly/Serenity storylines developed over many iterations by a husband-and-wife team and it’s just plumb pretty. Fire it up and let’s get this bird in the air!

Salutations, Jonathonathon and congratulations to you and your gaming group on winning Campaign of the Month! Please tell us a little about yourself, how you found your way into roleplaying games, and how your group found each other?

Thank you! I’m really excited you guys took notice of the campaign and selected me! Sorry the site isn’t mobile friendly, my most recent ones will be through!

A little about me: I’m Jonathon and when I’m not scribbling game notes I work my day job as an eCommerce manager. I’m an omnichannel digital marketer but mostly specialize in analytics. I found my way into tabletop games in college when I worked at a grocery store. While I was working a register for my shift, my coworker pulled out a Players Handbook for D&D 3.0 and I started asking questions. Eventually she invited me to a game and that was my first experience with a ttrpg.

My current (and only) PC is my wife, and we actually met because of gaming. I ran into her then-boyfriend on our college campus one day when I was late to class and we chatted for a few minutes. He briefly mentioned a game he was running and asked if I was interested, so I showed up and joined his group where we met. It was a BESM game set in the Outlaw Star universe.

I used to have a pretty regular group for a while but we all grew apart, so mostly I just run games for my wife now. We try to get in a session on weekends when we can scrape together a few hours. Unfortunately it’s tough to bring in more people with an inconsistent schedule and heavily homebrewed mechanics.

Your campaign, “Violet Hill” is set in the universe of the Firefly TV series, using the Serenity RPG mechanics. Could you give us a few, brief highlights for those unfamiliar with the setting and game system?

Sure. We use the old Cortex system, not the most recent and probably more widely known Cortex Prime. The system uses a die rating of d2 through d12 and every trait in the game can be measured on that scale (with the exception of Assets until an alternate version of the system was released in a later publication called Big Damn Heroes). What we love about Cortex is the plot point system. It rewards players for cool descriptions and ideas, and in turn they can use those plot points for things like minor story edits. I like the system because it actively encourages players to be more involved in the game. After you get to know the system, it’s also crazy easy to write and stat for.

What’s the story of “Violet Hill,” so far?

We’ve run this campaign around half a dozen times now, so there’s quite a bit. We first played a pretty traditional Serenity game but I really like running high powered fantasy games. So I started working on a rule set to bring a high fantasy vibe into the world. Thus the “Red” game was born. It was the idea that the Alliance had released a compound which caused people to develop unique powers. The “Red” game ran through a few iterations of mostly super-hero-esque Serenity fun but my wife and I continued developing the story and iterating on the concept.

Eventually every color of the rainbow became its own mutation with unique attributes and the story of “Red” continued to evolve. My wife and I used to trade off running games and we would build on the cannon that we wrote with each successive game. Where we wound up with it is that Red is a fraction of the genetic material of an advanced alien race that the Alliance is trying to understand and control. The alien race that are the progenitors of the mutation have incredibly advanced abilities and technology but their motives have changed from campaign to campaign. At first they were just explorers that happened to accidentally get captured and experimented on.

In our most recent campaign, they’re a pacifist race being attacked by another conquering alien race but have embraced pacifism so completely and for so long they’ve long since lost the ability to defend themselves. Most of the race believe that if they can’t escape the alien invaders they should resign themselves to their fate, but a splinter faction searched the universe for an answer and found humanity. As we all know, humans have a long history of gruesome experience in war and were ideal candidates to fight back. So this small sprinter faction began implanting a small part of their genetic material to mutate humans in the hopes that they could rally an army just powerful enough to save their species. The campaign tells the story of the humans that have been drafted, their quest to overthrow the Alliance to unite humanity, and return to the home galaxy of their alien benefactors using their advanced technology to fight back the invaders.

The alien mutations mechanics described in “Violet Hill’s” wiki are very intriguing. Where did this idea come from and how has it played out, in-game?

Just the desire to bring a superhero/gritty fantasy element into the Serenity universe, although we began exploring the powers further with each campaign iteration. Early on the mutants were identifiable by their eye color which changed when they were exposed. It was a quick and easy photoshop effect we could apply to customize character pictures a little and give PCs bonus XP for. We took to just calling them by their color after that. Reds were superhero lights at first, then we developed different stages of mutations with more powers. After the Red campaigns we moved on to the color Violet. These mutants had higher highs than the Reds but more complications. A big part of their abilities were naturally forming hive-like structures which lent itself well to the crew-style game Serenity was based on. We also wrote custom assets to support this mechanic, further building on the system we’d already established.

The rules have lent themselves to some truly epic moments in game: saving a colony on the Rim that’s out of water by drawing it from nothing, growing biomechanical ships with technological capabilities far beyond what humanity has achieved, growing an additional organ off the brainstem to control an entire army of mutants directly, boarding ships by “jumping” onto them in the middle of intense space battles, and much more. It’s definitely a different tone and feel than the show but there’s still plenty of six shooters and swearing in mandarin to go around.

Your Obsidian Portal profile shows that you have been on the platform for quite a while and have experience with a wide variety of games. If you had to narrow it down, what would be some of your favorites and why?

Yeah I’ve been on OP for over 13 years now. OP was exactly what I was looking for since my games were moving from paper to the digital space unavoidably. At first I was a little resistant because I loved the pen and paper aspect of the hobby but practicality finally won out. OP is just such a convenient way to communicate with players and compile everything all in one place.

I love to try a little of everything, but I have a few stand-out campaigns that I really enjoyed and was inspired to run. I ran a Changeling: the Lost game about a girl who inherited a Goblin Market Stall from her grandmother and began acquiring supernatural powers through deals but was otherwise completely human. One of my wife’s favorite games was “Corporate Woman” which was run in Chronicles of Darkness, where she was a human that could wear supernatural templates like suits and used them to infiltrate different supernatural societies at the behest of a mysterious corporation run by an impossibly powerful administration. I’ve run a BESM game based on one of my favorite anime series, Soul Eater, which focused on a DWMA Meister and her journey through the academy. Adjacent to the Serenity system, I’ve run a Supernatural game where the players were supernatural creatures hunting other creatures that plays pretty similarly to Violet Hill. There’s quite a few, I like to bounce around a lot.

As for what’s next, I’m usually working on a few campaign ideas at any given time, but right now I’m writing a Pokemon Noir-style game inspired by the webcomic “Viridian City” (borrowing that name for the campaign) using the PTU system.

Do you or your players have any memorable moments, crazy twists, or favorite, Firefly-style quotes that were highlights during the campaign?

One of our campaigns involved a mercenary Captain with “Cold as the Black” but my wife, playing an Alliance-hating Rim folk girl, was set on bringing him out of his shell. They grew close over a dozen or so games until at one point they were planet side and her character was approached by a perfect duplicate of the Captain. The two of them merged back together (one of his abilities was that he could duplicate himself and never told her) because the original him was an Alliance Operative running interference for his clone and its crew. He had technically never met her before, but merging with his duplicate transferred all his memories and the Operative was pretty stunned by their relationship. She was pretty mad and it took a few sessions for her to forgive him, but they worked through it.

“Violet Hill” as well as some of your other campaigns, feature an innovative navigation interface with graphics that really help sell the themes and moods, as well as drawing attention to the information on which you want your players to focus. How did you create that layout and has it helped engage your players when they use the campaign site?

Wow thank you, that’s nice of you to say. I’ve got a pretty regular block of code I use to adjust the layout of the campaign then go into color schemas and particulars from there. I’m not all that great at coding and particularly terrible at anything art related, but I’ve been working a lot with MidJourney lately to create assets for my campaigns. It’s an amazing tool for GMs, I can’t tell you guys how much time I’ve saved from not having to comb through pictures for my games trying to find just the right one. It’s really streamlining how long it takes me to prepare. Viridian City is the first time I’ve incorporated layouts from MJ as well as assets to build a campaign, but it’s still very much a work in progress. Historically everyone that is in my campaigns is on desktop so that’s all I wrote code for but this time around I’m trying to make things more mobile friendly.

The setting lends itself well to just about anything — exploration, politics, ground combat, space combat, intrigue, heists, stealth missions, and good old-fashioned misbehavin’. What’s your favorite and what do your players like best?

My wife is all about relationships in games and lives for a great romance and getting to know the NPCs. I’m all about tactical encounters and creative problem solving. Our campaigns usually meet somewhere in the middle. Quippy dialogue and outrageous plans are also frequent additions, as the complication “Overconfident” is often responsible for a ton of plot points changing hands.

Obsidian Portal loves to hear the wisdom of winning GM’s. Do you have any tips or advice for writing stories, running games, building worlds, tweaking mechanics, or keeping the fun going that you’d like to share?

Find a way to make every game special. Most GMs I’ve met do that through story but I advocate for doing it in mechanics as well. When I run D&D games, I borrow a tradition from a friend of mine where he gives every player a wish to really customize their characters. It ensures each character is truly unique and something that no one has ever played before which we all loved. We evolved that into an “Ultra Point” system which allows players to buy up additional class features to really play a truly unique character by exponentially compounding character options. It’s also a great tool to round out a party for smaller groups as players started to drop off.

As you can probably tell from Violet Hill, I love to write custom mechanics to ramp up the campaign and then challenge myself to balance the game around them. I’ve known a lot of GMs that were staunchly against giving their players power and never understood why. I’d encourage GMs to let things get crazy from time to time. The more creative power you give your players, the more interesting solutions they’ll devise. The mechanics all come down to equations and probability, so it’s easy to let your players feel really powerful and still present a balanced (or challenging, or easy, or whatever you want) campaign to the table because everything else is under your control.

Lastly, and I know it’s probably been said to death but, one of my rules to live by is to play your way. It’s really discouraging to go to places like Reddit and other forums where “purists” believe games have to be played a certain way. If you have a great idea for a game you should go for it, and surround yourself with influences and people that inspire instead of criticize. Even if that’s not your cup of tea, when you read something from someone reaching out for inspiration to go a different direction than you would, be supportive instead of dismissive. What matters more than anything else is nurturing our passion for this hobby we all love.

Thank you for choosing Violet Hill as CotM for November!

Wellsir, it’s a mite late and the ol’ brainpan’s full of new know-how. So let’s call it a night with thanks to Jonathonathon on a bang-up job. Obsidian Portal is always looking for new nominations for Campaign of the Month, and you can submit your favorites here.

Also, keep an eye out for news on our Campaign of the Year competition, which is happening soon!

2
Oct

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month October 2023: Thieves & Kings

Well met and welcome to Argoth, the land of Thieves & Kings — our October Campaign of the Month winner! GM Robling is no stranger to our crown of conquerors, and adds to his accolades with some of the best world-building and writing you’ll read this side of the City of Bright Sails. Thieves & Kings has been many years in the making and promises to take adventurers from humble inns to fey courts to powerful portals into the realms beyond understanding. Warm your worn hands by the common room fire and listen to our tale…

What’s new in your life since your Campaign of the Month win in 2014 for “Battletech (Farscape): The New Breed”?

Practically nothing, though, fundamentally, COVID changed all our lives, neh?

“Thieves & Kings” has many chapters and hundreds of gaming sessions spanning seven years of real time. We know it would be impossible to sum up everything, but could you give us an overview of the story, so far?

Overview, hmmmm. It started with six players, each representing a character, who had been fostered for their youth to various clans across the realm of Shem, being informed their adopted father had died and left them his farm. They gathered and discussed matters, and were immediately involved in an assassination, and fled the town of Hexwater a few steps in front of the local law. Over the next few months, they established themselves in the region of Thornkeep, and discovered the local mystery around a troll invasion, the local fey creatures, and mistakenly (?) began hunting a former fey hag as their chief enemy. As the years progressed, they began to acquire divine powers and discovered that their former enemy “Blackmaw” wasn’t so bad, really, and that she was fighting someone who was far worse, “The Great Hunger”, her former lover. At present, the survivors have decided they wish to embrace these offers of divine power, and are sorting-out how to achieve true divinity as a Demi-God. But their enemy, The Great Hunger and his followers, know them and work to unravel their plans as they unravel his.

The continent of Argoth and the world of Kethira as a whole is extensively catalogued in your wiki — it’s a veritable library of information that has been built up since your school days. And the character section is absolutely full of people and stories. What were your favorite bits to write and what parts of the site do you find most useful?

It’s extensive because of the years of effort both I and my players have placed into it. The efforts of today’s campaign reflect in the campaigns to come, and that forms a very wide amount of information that never makes the WIKI or Portal files, but exists, nonetheless. The ability of the Obsidian Portal website allows a wide disbursement of information, including bios, stats and even connects them to items and other characters, because each has their own story to tell and share. I’ve found if you approach each NPC as a real person, and treat their reactions as real and honest from *their* point-of-view, it enriches the encounters with the players, and then influences future encounters.

At the end of the wiki for “Thieves & Kings” there is a section on customized rules for the campaign — many adapted from various supplements and systems and modified to fit your needs. The Rulership and Thieves’ Guild Operation rules were especially interesting. How have these worked out for you and your players during the game?

I established each for the players to read and decide which version they wished to implement for various campaign management operations. Most were discarded, as the group slipped away from large-scale management of armies and realms, and decided to concentrate on small, close-knit organizations of their own, dealing with dozens of people, rather than hundreds. The “Thieves’ Guild” operations remain important, as one of the players has worked to establish their control over the underworld of Mornhaven, and allows us to abstract that aspect of the game enough to concentrate more on the role-play and combat. Which was kinda the point of them, really.

According to your Obsidian Portal bio, you have tried out many game systems and have a lot of experience with a variety of settings and game mechanics. From your perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages of 5th Edition D&D compared to other games? Was shifting Argoth from other editions into 5th Ed. a challenge? Are there any plans to convert it into other systems in the future, if needed?

The advantage of 5th edition, I feel, is that it remains very robust in sliding back and forth between combat and role-playing, and allows exploration to be easily adapted to the encounters. If you compare it to early editions, it allows a great deal of mobility and movement to combat, which allows players to shine, rather than simply two characters beating on each other, whittling away HP as they go (*Cough Cough* 2nd Edition *Cough*). Pathfinder is nice, but too dependent on Prestige classes and Feats determining each encounter, whereas 5th Ed allows simpler math and makes the combat flow swiftly. I don’t think we’ll be transitioning into D&D One anytime soon, if ever, and the recent “home rules” introduced by Larian Studios “Baldur’s Gate 3” are intriguing and show how simple rules changes can make a difference in playstyle and encounters, and bears scrutiny.

The Adventure Logs for “Thieves & Kings” feature a clever format — a quotation, an inspiring image, and a video link to help set the mood. Are these atmospheric touches selected prior to a game session or afterward? Do you find that reinforcing the moods or themes during gameplay to be important or is it better to let the players create their own impressions?

I have found my players don’t typically pay much attention to them, until suddenly in the middle of an encounter they remember the title of the episode, or the picture, or the video, and it all falls into place in their minds. That’s the point of it, really, to hint a little and to provide some real physicality at a key part of the episode. Sometimes, however, they ignore it completely, and go out into left field, and the title proves irrelevant, as they choose to follow a new line of investigation from what they said they wanted to at the end of the last session. But that’s okay, because, ultimately the Players have the power, and choose where they want to go and what they want to accomplish. I simply provide options.

As to mood, I’ve found sometimes that you can lead the players to the encounter,and set the mood, but if they’re not into it, they won’t care. Sometimes they just want to chew gum and fight, and they forgot their gum.

What have been your favorite moments in the campaign, so far?

The sudden realization that one of the main characters, Blackmaw, wasn’t really so bad after all. She’s unabashedly NE, but they have accepted her as an ally, because she doesn’t see them as rivals, and sometimes they prove to be useful pawns to play. Her reveal of her love for her monstrous children to the party was especially precious, and one of the players said it was the highlight of the campaign to her. “Blackmaw” is my favorite NPC of all time.

Also the moment they were confronted with the knowledge there were actually seven children raised by their father, and they had another “sister”. At that point, they realized that the place they had been investigating was called “The Hall of Seven”; and they realized a truth they had known for months, but never clued into. Later, she swindled them to acquire a magical artifact with them, and during that reveal, they realized they’d been utterly taken advantage of, and never trusted anyone for a long time afterwards. They really didn’t like or trust her for a long time, though now they are openly working with her. “Skazzy” is a favored NPC this campaign.

Without giving too much away, what hints can you give us about the plans (if there are any) for the conclusion of the tales of “Thieves & Kings”? Or is this the kind of adventure that might go on for as long as possible?

The players know the ultimate goal of the campaign is to achieve demi-godhood, and the defeat of The Great Hunger. Only a couple of levels away from that, they understand their goal, and know that their characters are going to become demigods in the campaigns to come, so they have a vested interest in achieving this goal. Back when they gained their first “Divine Level”, they established the path of their cult, and its worship, and now it’s all about following-up with this to achieve their proclaimed status. We just started talking about what the next campaign might be…

During your first interview with Obsidian Portal for your prior Campaign of the Month win, you wisely advised GM’s to avoid being adversarial and to “Be the storyteller, and make the players the focus of the campaign.” In the years between then and now, what other insights have you gleaned regarding the craft of game-mastering, writing, and world-building?

Don’t plan too much. While I run an open-world campaign format, and for the most part, the players are quite willing to stay close to home. They really have so much to explore closeby, that they don’t *need* to travel much. Just have a couple of adventures handy that you know well and can adapt on the fly, and apply, whenever the players decide to “go rogue”. And they will go rogue on you in an open-world format. Otherwise keep plenty of notes so you can allow them to explore the world around them, and forge their own destiny. If you have notes from previous campaigns handy, they can travel over lands from previous campaigns, and realize what their previous characters have done, and how much effect their actions have at the moment and reaching into the future.

If you want the Players to travel, provide them with the means; Teleport Circles and Flying Boats (Spelljammer), or even just normal boats, allow them to travel extensively and explore across the worlds you design, and let them explore other genres of gaming, such as Oriental Adventures, Fallen Empire ruins and even isolated rocks in space at need, and give them a tie to the campaign world that they will treasure and love. In this campaign, they adore their flying ship, the “Emerald Angel”, improved their ability to get across the map quickly, rather than slogging across mountains for weeks, they can travel across the planet in days, or reach the markets at Mornhevan in a couple hours, rather than a couple days, making them able to concentrate on the task at hand, rather than the means to get there.

Otherwise, my campaign advice remains the same, keep it open-world, keep copious notes, and let the Players explore themselves as they explore your world, and they will develop the stories you will replay and talk about for decades.

Thus concludes our tale of Thieves & Kings, for now. Our thanks to Robling and his Players, once again, for sharing their creative might. Go forth now, fellow adventurers, with this edict: find us more worthy campaigns upon which to cast our eyes, so that our circle of judges may bring you fresh insights and inspirations. Bring your treasured discoveries to the forums, here.

2
Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2023: Arcanearth

Do you enjoy Dark Fantasy? You will love this month’s CotM- Arcanearth! Great evil and selfless good, Magic, Angels and Fallen Angels. Religions play a big part of the world as well! This D&D 5E game has seen epic battles against ancient Dragons, Overlords, and giant frogs! The world itself has seen Ages of Angels, Dragons, Magic, Ice, and Rebirth! Come explore this rich world created by Omegabase and crew!

1. Tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? Where can we stalk you on the internet? What do you do aside from gaming?

Not much of a social media presence beyond OP. Live and work out of Austin texas. Father of 2 earning a living from IT consulting.

2. You made your home page your main artery to get information on your campaign- Why did you pick that approach? It is quite unique.

Didn’t see the need for another menu, convenient to have most info one click away.

3. You run D&D 5E- What do you like about it? Are there any things you dislike about it?

In most ways it’s the best edition of d&d. I did tone down the ‘easy mode’ aspect by eliminating hit dice for healing on short rests, limited healing on long rests, and allowing only one death save. This certainly contributed to the only 2 pc fatalities. Probably would use a different system next time around, like PF2, or integrate rules from other systems, like PF2. Also might consider an OSR system like the forthcoming Shadowdark.

4. You added Rogue Modrons as a race- what do you like about them, and how important are they to your campaign?

This came about from a short mini campaign where the players took a break from their main characters and assumed the personas of favorite henchman. These sessions don’t appear as separate logs but are mentioned in session 74 when one of the henchmen, who subsequently became a PC for a new player, revisited a key location from the mini campaign.
The player of Hoxton chose a modron he liberated from the plane of mechanus in session 63. Rogue modron seemed the obvious choice as this player has a thing for bots…played the robot Strelok in the last half of the gamma world campaign.

5. You have a very detailed world origin story, as well as a focus on angels and religion, for your game. How important are these to your characters?

Settings as such generally don’t have much utility to players and that holds true here as well. However the setting is indispensable to integrating the pc’s into the world events and related adventures when running an epic scale world-shaking superhero campaign such as this one. Ultimately the players will appreciate being part of a living world and adventures thereof.

6. How regularly do you play?

On hiatus currently, 2-3 sessions monthly when playing. Sessions average 3-4 hours in length.

7. How long has your group played together? How long have you been running Arcanearth?

Most of this group has played together since the 80’s. Most also played the last 50 or so sessions of gamma world 2754. Arcanearth started dec 2017. One player has the distinction of appearing in almost the entirety of both gw2754 and arcanearth (Grek/Strelok/Finch/Hoxton).


8. You won CotM all the way back in 2016 for Gamma World 2754- what keeps you coming back to Obsidian Portal?

Familiarity and lack of any worthwhile alternative. It’s a great place to organize and document your rpg campaign. A friend is starting a shadowrun 4e game soon, maybe we’ll throw that up on OP as well.

9. If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most? Do your players get involved on the wiki too?

PCs use OP for character sheets and backstories. The searchable database helps a lot for finding old npcs and events from past sessions. The character pages are the single most useful feature for both players and GMs.

10. Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

This setting is from fall from heaven 2, a total conversion mod for civilization 4. The epic scope of the macro game is inspired by the FFH2 setting and the fantasy works of Michael Moorcock. On the micro scale, you may discern the influence of Jack Vance. See the sessions about a certain ‘Green Pearl’.

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

On average across all sessions, not counting the original world wiki creation, probably as much time to prepare as to play (3.5 hours). The wiki and world building, hundreds of hours over the course of years.

12. What would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

For me, the green pearl sequence. For the pcs, possibly the waking of the sleeping god Danalin and defeat of the Overlords, or more recently, the close battle with the ancient red dragon Acheron.

13. Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing pearls of wisdom.

Don’t be afraid to feature a few challenges where it is uncertain or even unlikely the pcs can win outright. Have an out if/when they lose, that leads to more interesting possibilities rather than simply a TPK. Epic foes filled with hubris typically want more from pcs than merely their deaths. Such as their services, use as bargaining chips, information, entertainment, conversion to the cause, experimentation, torture, or simply groveling submission. All of which provide ample scope for a dramatic comeback. Players (and GMs!) enjoy nothing more than hard-won triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Victor
“Age just a number, one and one and one. We stronger than number. Next year I’ll be younger”
Li Na

 Thank you to the community for making this campaign of the month possible! That’s all for now, join us on our next adventure October 1st, and don’t forget to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

1
Aug

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month August 2023: Theophagie

This month we take a step back in time, joining GM AshleyMcdniel and party in their campaign, Theophagie. Set in the Iron Age, Theophagie explores a world impacted by an event known as the Theophage, where the majority of the male Greek Deities were killed, leaving large power vacuums and spawning the creation of matriarchal societies throughout Greece and Gaul. Here the Gods and aren’t just concepts- but real beings that walk the earth and see fit to involve themselves in mortal affairs. Join us in talking with GM AshleyMcdniel as he shares his insight, tips and tricks!

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?

My name is Ashley (He/Him) and I live in San Antonio, Texas. Besides table top RPGs I also play Magic and Battle Tech. I also enjoy swimming, fishing and target shooting. I live with the love of my life Charlie (they/them.) If you wanted to chat about gamming you can PM me on Discord at scarecrow#2992

Tell us a little bit about the setting of your game. What made you choose our own world for the game?

Theophagie is an anachronistic game set in Europe. It is a way to explore the myths and legends of several cultures and ask see how they interact. A friend of mine name Josh found obsidian portal and introduced me. I feel in love and have been using it ever since.

Tell us a little about why you chose Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition for your game system. How do you feel this system supports the type of game you are running?

I have a lot of fond memories of DND 3.5. However, it is not without flaws. I looked at it as a place to start and made a huge amount of home brew to change the flavor of the game. DND 3.5 has a huge amount of very high-power class and feat combinations. I wanted to have a more dangerous, high risk feel so I made all new class progression, level progression and an array of feats that allowed for that. Then I used my player base to provide feedback so they had input and buy in to the world and its development.

Let’s talk about the visualization of your campaign. What made you choose this design (color schemes, banners, dividers, etc.)?

The design really started with the picture of the trireme on the home page. The red, white and black made the picture pop. Then we just stuck with that.

You chose to share your design with the community and release the CSS code. It was so important to you that you placed a link to it on the home page of your campaign. You also give credit to the artist whose images you used by linking to their work. Why was this important to you?

The code part is easy. If someone wanted to know I did something they can just look. Now for the art. So, I have quite a few friends who are artists and work on commission. Now the first campaign in the setting was run in Gaul that was under Greek influence. I was looking around the internet for pictures of gods and found a wonderful picture of Hera and loved the style. I tracked down the artist and looked at the rest of what they had done and fell in love. I found their contact info on Deviant art. Turns out they live in France. Messaged them on FB and paid them to use it. They up to that point had just done it for fun and told me they had never been paid like that before so that made me feel pretty good. Since then, they have even published a book and are selling it on Amazon.

You have given a great deal of thought to the integration between your game system and your settings. Tell us a little about this integration (for instance, classes are limited by location).

Well, I wanted each nation to be an opportunity for a different flavor. So, the way the magic classes work in Egypt, Britain and Greece are all different. This also means that each God has a different type of connection to their disciples. I felt it was natural for Druids to be native to Britan and Bards to be native to Scandanavia. After doing some expansion and talking with my players we all collaboratively figured out what classes belong where and leaned into the mystisim from that area for insperation.

Tell us about your change log in the wiki page. Why do you keep it and why is it public?

The players wanted to be kept up to date about additions and the feature was a useful way to do that.

Tell us about the Adventure Log. You seem to have run several games in this setting already. How does that work? Do you play several games at the same time? Or one after the other?

The first game was centered around Gaul. After that Campaign was over one of the PC’s had died. One of the players Josh very much wanted to run a game in the setting so he took the second adventure. It was a sailing adventure in which we took the body from Marseille to Delphi so we could get the gods to resurrect them.

Tell us about the way you arrange your characters. I see characters have few tags with names. How do you keep track of the NPCs? How do you know the context under which each NPC was created?

The NPCs are any person have the opportunity of meeting along the way. Most are reoccurring unless they die (which is also a tag.) Most of time I will tag a location with the person and then the person at the location on the wiki. Below is an example.

Then on the other side of the link is also a reference to the person.

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

They do a lot. You can the best designed world but if the players do not feel like they have agency in it they are not going to have as much buy in. They are able to interact with the world any way they want. As an example, we are currently playing in Carpathia which is the setting of werewolves and vampires. A count was a little to cruel and evil for their liking so they defeated him and took over responsibility of the area. This is also reflected in the wiki.

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

Consistency. It allows me to organize my thoughts and present the world in a consistent way.

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

So, Mike was playing his first character in our first campaign JAQULEENE GRAVOIS. They had been a charisma-based character and a talker. They went to go get an item out of the ruins of Notre Dame. They kicked open the door and started to make a speech to intimidate them. There were a number of skeleton archers on the other side of the door which are both immune to being intimidated and also immediately only shot at him because they had been the only person they could see. One of them rolled a crit, we rolled a location dice which landed on head and they took more damage than they had HP. They also failed a con check and immediately died. That single choice set up the path for us to have a second campaign but also what we planned to do. It also hit home that the game could be very lethal during combat if you are not careful.

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?

Request feedback. At the end of every game, I ask the same questions for every player. Likes and Dislikes. Long-term and short-term goals. In addition, we vote for MVP and the winner gets a little extra XP. It is a way to celebrate each other when we role play well.

 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
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!

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