Tag Archives: dnd

1
Jun

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month June 2024: The Planewalker’s Guild

After escaping the shattering sky, why not travel the multiverse with a group of Planewalkers as they move from Sigil to the Plane of Air in search of a notorious serial killer. Join up with previous “Campaign of the Year” winner, Dungeon_Master_Loki, and let him guide you through transitive planes, observing the “Rule of Three” and the “Unity of Rings, as part of The Planewalker’s Guild, in a pay-to-play campaign that has been in existence for a year and still has spaces for intrepid adventurers, as they travel to discover the Riven City of Bleurophil.


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?

Well, I’m an 8th generation French Creole from New Orleans and I’ve been gaming since the late 1970s. When Hurricane Ida hit I was an idiot and rode it out (NEVER try to ride out a Cat 4. Period). I relocated to Cincinnati, a city I had lived in for a few years about a decade ago when my ex wife was in school.

Professionally I work as a freelance game designer and copywriter, I run paid games online and at conventions, and I teach Introduction to Game Design at the University of Cincinnati. I also spent many years prior to that working in music and in online PR. I even worked through the pipe bombing at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta.

When not gaming I am a huge media buff – music, books, film, etc – with a long standing love of science fiction, satire, and what my friends refer to as “the weird shit”. I have a huge love of alternate histories and time travel stories (I have every surviving episode of Doctor Who for instance). This obviously shines through in my game design work as well, much of it being planar strangeness. I also love to cook, although I must admit I rarely do so when it is just me.

Alter egos? Well, I got the nickname Loki about 25 years ago while working at the House of Blues and have used it as my byline since if that counts. I do have a long suffering girlfriend, who plays Lenata the cleric in The Spelljoined campaign. The vast majority of my family is in the New Orleans area back home, except for Puck and Gremlin, my atrocious felines and editorial assistants.

Find me online? While often in need of updates, Planejammer.com is my main home on the web. My most used channel is Discord (DungeonMasterLoki). If you want me to run a game for you or join one of my paid games / campaigns you can find me through my profile on Start Playing Games and on GRIPNR. I’m on Facebook, but don’t often friend people I have not met in person or had extensive interactions with. (This is especially true with the combination of election season and use of AI rising as the year progresses.) 36 of my titles, books I’ve authored or contributed to, are here on DriveThruRPG and I am deeply thankful for every sale and review!

Please explain the basic concept of your game plan for The Planewalker’s Guild. The game seems to have been running for a year. Give us a few hints about the Planescape scenario.

Most of the games I run take place in a shared multiverse, usually centered around Spelljammer and Planescape. The Guild game is one of those. Massive changes are afoot across the planes, extremely destructive (one might even say apocalyptic) changes.

The past year of play started our heroes out as new initiates of the Guild in the wake of Planescape’s Faction War. One of their early missions had them become eyewitnesses to an interplanar incursions that “shattered the sky”. They are currently in the city of Bluerophil on the Plane of Air tracking down a serial killer during the equivalent of Maridi Gras. They have to stop him from completing a cycle of ritualistic murders that will call down the Planebreaker. Future adventures will vary thematically as the [lot of this game and the overall metaplot evolve. I predict between two and four more years for the campaign if we maintain a twice a month schedule bringing any PCs that make it to a solid 20th level.

While there are missions for the Guild I essentially run sandbox style player driven games. RPGs are collaborative storytelling when at their best, so the contributions of my players not only determine the overall direction but also create lasting effects on the in-game universe.

The opening page of your campaign says “Contact Dungeon Master Loki to book your game today,” with the link leading to a professional Game Master page under the “StartPlaying” banner. Please share with us how all of this works.

Well, like many freelancers, income is sparse and times are more often tight than not. Running paid games for companies at Cons and online games through Start Playing Games and GRIPNR helps keep the list on in the design mines. Since the game takes place in my ongoing shared multiverse that means I have hundreds of pages of background info, NPCs, etc available instantly on Obsidian Portal when I need them. All my players share the trait of zigging when I expect them to zag, so being able to pull up everything when they do is invaluable.

As to how it works, I post games online as I create them and those people looking for DMs contact me directly through the site. Cost per session is up front as are reviews of the DM by former players and a capsule review of what the game or campaign is. I run a safe table – LGBTQIA friendly and accepting of all and I require my players to abide by that. Both of the online platforms mentioned above also take care of billing and payment, allowing me to focus on creating something worthy of said payment.

When a new player joins the game I start with the player’s concept, and I encourage people to go big with ideas, which I then help them translate into an effective build. I then get them to write of a background which I then tweak in order to root them more firmly in my setting and provide hooks for personalized subplots down the line. Using Obsidian Portal we have a central place for character sheets and a wiki for the “in use” house rules.

I know there are some that find the idea of paying for a DM to be anathema, but there are a LOT of folks out there who cannot find one, have no one nearby, or other valid reasons. Besides when paying they can demand a certain level of expertise on the DM side of the screen.

Presumably, your games are all run ONLINE. You mention that you primarily use a “Theatre of the Mind” approach, but that you also use battle maps and tokens. You have listed platforms like Discord, Skype and Zoom. You also have “Owlbear Rodeo” listed. How much do you use a platform like Owlbear Rodeo, and how useful is it to your team?

I started playing in the late 70s and Theater of the Mind is the old school way. If you do it right it makes for fantastic immersion. I usually only pull out battle maps on Owlbear Radio when it is an extremely complex combat or a massive narrative moment. I personally find it to be my favorite of the online table top options due to its simplicity. While it has none of the bells and whistles of things like Roll20 it also does not require extensive learning to use. Players can log into your map from a link that you generate and immediately have control of their token. I find that with online games it is especially important to minimize dead time, even more so when being paid for the session. What you lose in bells and whistles you get back in the speed of play that you gain.

Your current player list comprises 6 players. Did they all start at the same time? I note on your StartPlaying page, you still have space for 2 players. Would 2 new players just slot in to the current game, or how would you go about that sort of integration?

Most started at the same time, two started later, and one left due to health issues and has just returned to the table. At the time I’m writing this I do still have two slots open.

When a prospective player contacts me I help them to develop their character concept and bring them in at an equivalent level. (That is why the guild membership is the baseline, it makes it more logical as faces come and go.) I use a good bit of third party material so I can usually find acceptable rules for implementing most ideas.

Your campaign “Planejammer: The Spelljoined” won Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Year in 2011, and it is still running. How busy are you with your various campaigns? Do you have any player crossover between the campaigns? In what ways does the new campaign differ from the old one?

The Spelljoined is my main personal game and the baseline of the shared multiverse all my games inhabit.. It’s on its 8th generation of players and has been running almost non stop since 1979 (there was a gap of about three years in the early 90s). That is the umbrella setting I mentioned before. While the Planewalker’s Guild are facing one aspect of the great multiversal disasters, the Spelljoined are currently in an alternate universe (Gamma World) trying to stop a massive mind flayer plot. Characters cross over between games fairly frequently, and events in one game do influence the others. I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of having a number of guests from the industry sit in on sessions. For instance in one game I not only had X-Crawl creator Brendan LaSalle join us for a session set in X-Crawl, but also M. Nystul joined us playing his Nystul the wizard character (which he played at Gary Gygax’s table) for an epic evening on Greyhawk.

The Spelljoined are 16th level characters with Mythic Ranks doing the crazy, gonzo, multiverse hopping stuff. Bouncing through the alternate realities when not in Sigil or the Rock of Bral. The Planewalker’s Guild is 6th level and operating in the Planescape/Spelljammer setting where evidence of the big battles of the Spelljoined are starting to manifest. The Dept 7 game is set in a variant of Dark Matter where the effects of these conflicts are bleeding through the multiversal barrier, etc. Each group is seeing and fighting different aspects of the Really Big Picture(™).

One of your Player Reviews in “StartPlaying” says that you often reward players for work “outside of the game”. Is this reward given in Experience Points, or do you have other rewards? How much “outside of the game” stuff does the current group engage in?

Work outside of the game includes things like journals and art, in character stuff that contributes to the world. These rewards are usually in the form of bonus Mythic Points or story driven rewards. It is NOT required. If I used XP that would also be on the table as reward, but I use milestone levelling. I find that removing combat xp from the equation encourages non-combat solutions. I don’t get much in the way of submissions from the paid gamers, but in my home game there are a number of players who keep journals and contribute art. We even have a full tarot deck that uses PCs and NPCs from throughout the years that one player made over Covid lockdown.

You have been with Obsidian Portal for some time now, so how would you say it has changed over the years, and why is it still a useful site for someone like yourself?

Over the past decade plus I have seen it evolve a good bit. The Reforge was an exciting time that ended with dashed hopes as things deteriorated for quite some time. When the current team took over and things became more responsive to the community and its needs I was thrilled. I had stopped using it and when I checked back looking at an old wiki I discovered my favorite organizational tool had been resurrected. The current team has my thanks for making my favorite organizational tool viable once more!

Most mission critical parts of Op? The wiki, the ability to keep secrets between players and DM, and the Adventure Logs are all endlessly useful to me as a DM. Especially juggling notes and details, not to mention conversions, that have accumulated over the decades of play.

After all these years of being a member, If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal currently helps you with the most?

The Wiki and privacy controls, hands down.

I note from your Adventure Logs, that your group has currently entered “The Riven City of Bleurophil”. Tell us something about that. How did they get there, and what do you think lies in store for them.

This adventure is a follow up to one I ran for a prior group. It came from Tales from the Infinite Staircase and presented the Riven City and the original serial killer. The Guild players are operating 25 years later when a new killer is trying to complete the ritual slayings, and the history of the prior crimes was established by the prior group’s actions. It is my own follow up and recontextualizing of the original adventure.

The players were sent there by the Master of the Docks in the City of 7 Seraphs (one of my creations in that book) and their Planewalker’s Guild superiors to do recon. As some of the only eyewitnesses to the Planebreaker’s transition through Elysium they are considered the closest thing to experts available. Now they’re discovering some of the bigger picture. As for what awaits them? That depends on their actions. Will they stop the Gasping Strangler’s successor from completing the dark ritual? Will they see the Planebreaker shatter the sky again? Will Geeta ever stop complaining? A lot can happen, and the stakes are rising rapidly. Let’s just say that there is potential to gain Mythic Ranks in their not too distant future.

The whole “Planescape” scenario was created in Dungeons and Dragons, and yet you are using Pathfinder for your campaign. What were your motivations for this, and did that mean you had to do a whole lot of stat converting?

I’m used to it. I’ve written professionally doing work in Pathfinder 1e, Starfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Cypher System. I also grew up hacking my RPGs in order to do crossovers back in the 80s. The meta campaign began in the late 70s and has evolved with the times. It started in White Box D&D, quickly shifted to AD&D as the hardcovers were published. The 3.x era was the sweet spot for us in many ways. When 4e hit it did not fit our playstyle so we bounced over to Pathfinder 1e which is what I run them under currently. I’m seriously considering using Rob Schwalb’s fantastic Shadow of the Demon Lord rules for the next generation.

I have an entire wiki of conversions I keep private since it is a lot of IP from various source materials that I do not own (i.e. Greyhawk, Spelljammer, etc.)

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?

Don’t be afraid to improvise, just take notes as you do because you’ll probably need them later. Yes, even the throwaway NPCs. Don’t say no, say “you may try”. Give everybody spotlight time. Be kind to your players and an evil bastard to their PCs. Most importantly: KEEP IT FUN!

May your 20s be both frequent and natural. Loki out.

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

1
May

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2024: The World of Elurah

Flickering candlelight illuminated the sage’s page as he worked his quill furiously over the parchment’s surface. He squinted with the effort of finding the right words to put to page and illustrate his thoughts.

“Hope here is not yet extinguished. While civilization is taking its first tentative steps towards recovery, danger lurks around every corner. The monsters of the Dark Tide have not disappeared and even in the reclaimed land nature’s wrath and magical anomalies pose formidable challenges.”

His hand paused as the dinner bell rang, and sighed.

More of his thoughts would have to come later. He signed the page, “LucasValenti”.

And more writings would soon come… join us as we talk to LucasValenti about The World of Elurah and read on further into his scrolls of knowledge!

Q. Congratulations on The World of Elurah’s selection as the Campaign of the Month for May!

We’d like to get to know more about the icon behind the GM Section! Tell us a bit about LucasValenti… 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?

A. Thank you! I wish I had some sort of fascinating story to tell but at the end of the day‒surprise, surprise‒I’m just a huge nerd. I live in the Seattle-area of the US with my girlfriend. She and I have been together for the past 8 years. We spend our days playing TTRPGs, making geeky stuff and annoying our cat, Ashamane. My day job is in construction, where I model out plumbing systems for commercial buildings and hospitals. Exciting, I know. I partake in the SCA (Historical re-enactment, check them out!) and do a bit of cosplay. Outside of that, I just love making anything and everything. We’ve got an array of laser engravers, 3d printers and other funs toys. Drawing, painting, sewing, sculpting, resin casting, leatherworking; we do a bit of everything. She has recently relaunched her business and we’re starting to set up booths at conventions and are working on setting up an online store where she sells dice bags, gaming accessories, hand-made dice and art. Check out Celestial Peryton on various social media to see her stuff!

Here’s a small portion of her dice collection that has gradually taken over our hallway over the years. Many of the sets here are various experiments we’d made over the past few years learning how to mold and cast resin. Not featured are few large cookie jar-sized containers filled the brim with more dice and a few bags scattered around. She’s recently been upgraded from Dice Goblin to Dice Dragon on account of her horde.

We just spent 4 days at a local convention called Norwescon. I don’t tend to meet a lot of players outside of my game group and social media, so it was a great experience. It was a ton of fun to spend a few days chatting with a bunch of other gamers and talking about character creation and world building with everyone that stopped by our table. Everyone was super friendly and really excited to just spend some time geeking out about shared interests. It was also really promising to see so many newer players that are just getting into gaming! I got to feel like some kind of wise old sage dispensing out advice, haha. The event went really well and we’re looking forward to doing more soon!

Q. The World of Elurah is a Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign. For those in the community who have not yet seen your site, and reveled in its glories, tell us a little bit about the setting you have created for the game, and what sets it apart. How did you create that awesome map? Where did you use Inspiration most during your campaign’s creation? Was it gained through Bardic Inspiration, or did you earn it through your pursuit of an Ideal?

A. Right, so on to the real reason I’m here. Elurah, as a setting, is something of a life’s work. I’ve been playing TTRPGs for the past 20 years or so and started GMing shortly after starting. Even before that, I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy literature and D&D, in particular. I remember reading Brian Jacque’s incredible Redwall novels in elementary school and later moving on to the Shannara books, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. So, when I started actually playing D&D in my early 20s I had plenty of inspiration to draw upon. The first game I ever ran was in a small kingdom I created called Hairen. As I went on to run other campaigns I started sprinkling in NPCs and small nods to the games I had run before, which eventually led to everything naturally interconnecting. Finally I just sat down and officially tied all these disparate stories and locations together and Elurah officially was created. It all happened rather organically. But I can only take proper credit for the structure. So much of the world and its background owes to all of my players over the years that have added to and “lived” in it.

And then there’s the stealing. We’ll call it inspiration. There are entire swathes of the world that reflect what my current interests were back when I was making those parts of the setting for a campaign. Names and locations based on a game or a book series I was into. Character that were tweaked slightly and dropped into the world, etc. I used to try really hard to make everything new and unique and different. Eventually I realized that I didn’t need to try so hard. Tropes aren’t strictly a bad thing. When my players catch on to references to Monster Hunter or Warhammer 40k or other things, they aren’t upset or call me lazy. They see them as fun easter eggs. Heck, a lot of the original lore was just directly ripped from the Forgotten Realms. Kailea is just Netheril with a new coat of paint slapped on it, amongst many others. But all of those things are what me and my friends enjoy, so I want to bring those things in and have fun with them.

The gist of the setting, in the current timeline, is that it’s set after the Dark Tide, a massive magical apocalypse that unleashed hordes of monsters across the world. For the past few centuries, civilization has been relegated to living in massive walled cities (there’s that “borrowing”, again). However, the current period sees the world beginning to reclaim what was lost. Trade routes, while dangerous, have been re-established. New towns are being built and old ones reclaimed. There’s something of a tension to the setting, a precipice where they’re on the edge of either reclaiming what was lost or losing it all again. The through-line of this setting is this delicate thread of hope the world managed to weave, and whether the players are able to preserve and strengthen it. I didn’t want a setting that is full of grim chaos and despair. That period happened in the skip of the old version of the world to the current time and the effects of it can still be seen, but I wanted to provide my players with a setting that can grow alongside their actions.

The current main party is trying to piece together sparse information from the lost period of time and figure out the origin of the Dark Tide. This was the first game I started in the current timeline after the setting jumped ahead a few hundred years. I was stagnating on stories to tell, so I wanted to shake things up and create an opportunity for a bunch of new mysteries and plotlines. The appearance of the monsters that swept over the continent and how the world got to the point it’s found itself in are two of the biggest mysteries.

Meanwhile Hairen, due it its isolation, was spared the brunt of the Dark Tide and is even somewhat prosperous. Currently the party there is working to unravel an ominous prophecy with grave implications. This was my original setting I made years ago. Back then the campaign was called the Sundered Kingdoms. But due to the players in those original campaigns unifying the fractioned nations and re-founding the kingdom, well….it wasn’t very sundered any more, haha. This part of the setting is a little more advanced after the skip, with a strong budding aetherpunk vibe that I’m really into.

Lastly, the disparate shipwrecked crew on Haven have uncovered a secret that could change the course of the world. The mysterious vanishing island is, in fact, one of the lost floating cities of Kailea. With the help of an Archmage they woke from a magical stasis, they’re working to restore the arcane engines that power it. However, the Archmage guiding them may not be quite what he seems. This game has been fantastic. It’s the newest one I’ve started and we’ve only been player for 5 or 6 months. My players are all my GF’s family, from be brother and sister-in-law to a cousin and her nephew. Aside from myself running and Skylar playing, everyone else is basically a brand new player. So it was a lot of fun to create a game and really focus on building an experience tailored for teaching and slowly introducing them to mechanics and concepts of the game. Everyone really seems to be having a great time so far, and the setting itself is a lot of fun. The island is designed to be something of a…limited sandbox. I wanted to give them the ability to explore and hunt around without overwhelming them with too much content. But, as with the other two games, everything here ties into the overarching plot of the setting. In fact, this game will probably have the most immediate impact on the world depending on how it resolves.

As for the map, you can thank Inkarnate. Huge shoutout to them and their tools. I was able to take years of hand-drawn maps and notes and combine them all into the current version on the site! I’m really good with character illustrations and creature design. I have come to realize over the years that I am…not a cartographer, haha. I was able to find a map on Inkarnate that was pretty close in overall design to the world and was then able to import and modify it to reach the version you see now. Though, the way things are going in-game, it may be due for yet another redraw soon. Here’s one of my older maps from when I was first trying to transition over to digital and attempted to update the map of the Sundered Kingdoms. It’s not…the worst, but the new version of Hairen is clearly much, much better, haha.

Q. How did your group meet up? How often do you play? What are your sessions like? I would be very interested in seeing some Adventure Log posts in the future about your group’s trials and triumphs – does anyone in your group plan to take on a role as Chronicler?

A. Currently, I have 3 groups all playing in different parts of Elurah, with a total of around 13 players spread across the different games. Some of my players are friends I’ve known since I was in school, used to be co-workers at previous jobs, or were just friends of friends. We play in-person, weekly, which means I’m currently running 3 nights a week. It’s a ton of work, but I genuinely love DMing so I don’t have any plans on slowing down. Our average session is about 3-4 hours. We’re all quite tight-knit, so our sessions tend to be quite relaxed and most of us have been playing together long enough that we just sort of have a groove we fall into. Lots of jokes, teasing, goofing off and we play some D&D in-between. We skew more towards roleplaying, so there are many nights where we don’t even throw all that many dice and just enjoy interacting with the characters and world.

As for and Adventure Log…I have plans! Before anything else, I have to give the biggest shoutout to one of my players, Seoc. She’s been playing with us for well over a decade now, and she takes the most meticulous notes. We’re talking stacks of binders over the years, hundreds of pages for each game. Check one of these things out!

There have been times where I’ve been struggling to remember the name of some random NPC from a single session 5 or 6 years ago. She snags a binder from the shelf, spends a couple of minutes flipping through some pages and BAM, there it is! I seriously cannot throw enough praise her way for all the work she puts into it. The only downside is, well, they are all handwritten. I’m planning on writing up some synopses for each game in order to have a starting point for visitors to the site to see how the setting is actually being used and the current adventures that are taking place. Look forward to it!

Q. Your site has quite a lot of interesting features that I have noticed you update very frequently. From the navigation banners’ design, to the linked banners on each page, to the way you have set your backgrounds to match the color of the corresponding navigation banner. There are so many interesting tidbits that it is difficult to list them all! Do you have a background in design? How did you piece together all of these ideas to use these features and put them together to create your site?

A. I don’t have any real experience with web design, per se, however I do have a background in art and print design. I also have a fascination with color. That said, if there was one overarching design philosophy it would probably be “readability.” At the end of the day, the Elurah wiki is intended to be a repository of information, and that information being presented is always the focus. Everything is aimed towards helping the reader, I don’t want the site itself to be a distraction. So I use color to break things up and divide information in an unobtrusive way. I’m a simple man, but simple doesn’t have to be boring. The color-coded backgrounds, for example. The wiki currently has sections for Elurah – the primary continent, Hairen – a smaller isolated kingdom, and Haven – a mysterious lost island in the Thirhe Strait. When viewing a page related to information on one of those three, the background changes color to match, as well as the color of the various badges and buttons. Since there’s quite a lot of information available it helps keep the reader from getting too lost, you always have a sense of where you are. It’s all tied into the site Tag system with a bit of CSS I cobbled together from the forums. Using a [class*=”arilon”] or whichever campaign before my line of code, as long as I tag the page with the name of the campaign it belongs to, the backgrounds and set dressing are automatically applied. That said, it’s a bit of a shotgun approach because it’s not *just* looking for the tag, but really anything to do with the page information, haha. So if the page name happens to have the word in it, it’ll apply the effects regardless. Thankfully for me, I don’t really have any pages with the campaign names that aren’t for those campaigns.

The Nav bar is another good example. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that the 3 bars for those sections are primary colors, and are of a higher saturation than the others. It’s just a subtle way to naturally draw the eyes towards them, since those pages are the primary focus. Aside from that, the page layouts have a consistent formatting intended to present information and guide readers towards related pages. I like to break up larger blocks of text with buttons and images to add some visual interest and make them feel a bit less daunting. Walls of text can be scary! The consistent and somewhat understated design is something I’m most proud of. I recently decided to add some fun little deocartive corners to the page…and subsequently had to reformat basically every wiki page, haha. They were cutting off the text in the upper left of every wiki page, so I had to go through and add page titles to every wiki page. I’m actually really happy with the end result. I forgot how helpful something as simple as a page title can be, haha.

All of the various assets around the site like the buttons, icons and mouse cursor are either designs I created or ones that I found and edited to suit my needs. I do all of my editing in ClipStudio, since that’s the program I use for my Illustration work. I like everything to match and co-ordinate, so I reuse and modify a lot of my assets in different ways. For example, the NavBar icon is actually the same as the main decorative title buttons. I just lopped off one side, added a decorative caret and compressed the height into more of a banner shape. Like a nice rug, it really helps “tie the room together”, haha. As for actually coming up with ideas for what to add, really I just shamelessly steal from all over the web. Sometimes I’ll be on a random website and see something neat that catches my attention. Then off to google and down the rabbit hole I go. Not everything works, but it’s fun to just test out new things and see what I like and come up with interesting ways to implement them.

At its core, the site is mostly just the original layout with a handful of tweaks and a shiny coat of paint on it. I added in a few additional Nav bars for each of the current campaigns so they could live on the side. I hid a few elements for a more streamlined look and used my illustration and art experience to build a unified aesthetic. Most of the CSS invested isn’t for any flash or spectacle but, rather, to make using the site easier and more natural. I try to make sure that everything works equally well on both Desktop and Mobile, since often my players are looking up information on their phones or a tablet.

If anyone is interested in the code for any part of the site, I’m more than happy to share! I can’t promise it’s the most efficient, though, haha. I’m available on the OP Discord server or just via a PM.

Q. Your Timeline for The World of Elurah is a fantastic feature! I feel certain that a lot of GMs would be interested in knowing your process for building that page. Tell us a bit more about your thoughts behind its design, and how you went about putting it all together!

A. The Timeline! So this was literally the first major CSS tasks I undertook, because apparently I hate myself. I do not have any background in coding or web design, so naturally I decided to tackle the hardest thing right away. The base code for the timeline was provided by Keryth987 on the forums from his Phoenix Rising campaign, and from there I spent probably a week smashing my head against it to get it to work properly on my site. His version has some really slick animation to it and is really just incredible. It didn’t quite fit what I wanted, however, so I spent a lot of time teaching myself the basics of CSS and HTML in order to understand how it worked. So much trial and error and I constantly kept breaking it. But I finally figured it out enough to make it work, and I’m really very happy with the end result. One thing I do need to figure out is a way to indicate that the timeline entries are actually links! A lot of people viewing it don’t realize you can click on each entry for a full writeup. In the end, I gave up on the animation because I just had too much information I wanted to fit in, so I kept the timeline entries to short descriptions and linked them to full wiki pages, instead. It was honestly such a great learning experience. It’s really uses quite a few different aspects of CSS and so I was able to learn the difference between the different elements.

The anchors to set the dates, in particular, were a major pain. Every time I would try and tweak something they’d just randomly move around, misalign or just disappear entirely. Thankfully with the original code as a reference and a couple online guides, I was able to figure things out and get them working. I think the best thing I came away with was an understanding that it’s fine to just try thing out and test stuff. Sure, I might end up breaking things, but the code can always be removed or edited without any permanent damage. Once I realized that, it’s really helped me moving forward with just testing out random stuff and seeing what works! Also big shout out to Keryth987, Abersade, Nuadaria and the rest on the Discord server, they’ve been awesome and have helped me out with various random bits of code and other ideas since I started working on this.

It was sort of a trial by fire that I unintentionally set for myself. I’ll usually just sit there with a ew different pages open so I can just tweak the CSS, adjust the HTML on the page and then refresh to live page. Just…changing things and seeing what happens. “What happens if I add a span element here?” “Oh, a line break would be good here…annnnd everything exploded all over the page. Let’s take that out.” It’s definitely a bit tedious, but I’m feeling much more confidant now and have been trying a bunch of new things recently. I actually just added a second timeline for Hairen that I’m working on, and it’s a night and day difference in how I understand everything now. I duplicated the code so I could have a color variation on it and just…the speed at which I can parse what originally felt like some kind of alien language is so much better. Changes that would have taken me 10 or more minutes just to figure out how to swap out a color…now only take a moment. It was daunting, initially, but I was able to find so much information and help from the Forums to the Discord server. Honestly, if I can figure this stuff out anyone can. Just maybe start with easier things, first, haha.

Q. As we follow along with The World of Elurah and watch it grow, do you have any particular additions planned that you’d like to tease us with?

A. I think I’ve already teased a few, haha. There’s still a lot left to add in. I have pages and pages of notes and descriptions to still be added. Hairen and Haven were added recently, so their wiki pages are going to need quite a bit of fleshing out. I also want to go through and do a better job of hyperlinking between pages so that if something is mentioned, you can just go straight there instead of having to dig around for it. I feel like the overall design could also use some more touching up. I recently added some nice decorative borders to the content pages. Extra flourishes. Lots and lots of little things. I would say the next big thing to tackle is the Adventure Log. I’ve already got some CSS in place the spruce it up, and I’m figuring out my plans on how to best make use of it so I everyone can keep abreast of our adventures!

Oh, right! The main page. With the current design, the Main Page was quite unused. I’m starting in on repurposing it into shining a spotlight on our current Adventurers and showcasing them…hopefully it’s finished by the time you’re reading this. I’ve got some really fun code using a mixture of scaling, opacity and hover effects to give it a sort of fighting game Character Selection look. I’m so happy with how it’s coming out so far. Also, there are a few more sections of the world to add in addition to the current 3. But I want to finish fleshing the current ones out, first, since they’re being actively played in at the moment. I’ve also found out some really neat examples for CSS to add a bit of visual interest and fun, so I’m still deciding exactly how I want to implement those. You’ll just have to check in periodically to see!

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

A. I first joined back in 2014. I really wanted a way to provide my players with access to all of my notes and information. You had various sites around, including tons of fan wikis for all kinds of various properties, so I figured I’d find some sort of free wiki site and just make something like that but for my D&D setting. A bit of poking around later and I what did I stumble across, but a site designed for the exact thing I needed! Seriously, I was really excited. I think for the first year or so I mostly just used it to keep track of NPCs and a handful of pages with basic information. Not exactly what I had planned. It wasn’t until I created the wiki for my Nexus campaign after a few years or using OP sporadically that I really started making full use of the site. Since it was for an entirely new setting and I was getting into it from ground-level, I really invested into building it out. I learned a ton from that and finally committed myself to doing it properly. It only took me nearly a decade.

Where was I? Oh, right. I really love that you can get as much or as little as you want out of the site. Whether that’s just keeping track of some NPCs or an entire world. Everything is easy to use and I got used to the basics in a day or two. I’ve also been really happy to see all the new features and updates that have been added recently. The Character and Item page update that was put out a bit ago was huge for me. There is such a massive roster for Elurah (seriously, there’s currently around 150) that the ability to break things up and organize them was a lifesaver. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

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

A. My players. It really helps so much at the table. A lot of the smaller questions that we’d have to take small pauses for “Who was the wizard we met in that one town?” or “Where was that place, again?” have slowly began to lessen. They can just pop onto the wiki and look it up without having to stop game. It also means they have access to all of the information away from the game table. It’s been a huge help. Also, personally, just the act of building the site and creating everything is very…therapeutic, is the word, I suppose. I just get to sort of zone out for a while and create.

Q. What you say has been the biggest highlight of your game so far (and please provide images and links if possible)?

A. While it’s not a single specific event, exactly, it would have to be bringing my players back to Hairen. It was the first game I ran. And, as established, I clearly am a glutton for punishment so I made this entire setting and storyline for it. We played games in Hairen for 3 or 4 years before moving on. A couple of years ago, after about a decade, I found my old Sundered Kingdoms campaign notebook and decided I’d start a new game there, with a significant time skip for the world, revamping the entire setting of that kingdom.

3 of the 5 players were in those original games. It’s truly been so much fun being able to let them explore that world again and see all the changes they brought about and how it shaped everything. Towns named after NPCs they fondly remember, bards singing tales of their previous characters and adventures. Some old foes reappearing…It’s really been a delight.

Q. As a grand finale, we always ask for the GM’s “pearls of wisdom”. What insights on how your GM style impacts play within your group to best facilitate a great time at the table with your gaming group that you’d like to share with the community?

A. Be flexible. An issue I dealt with when I was a newer DM and that I’ve seen others struggle with is learning to adapt and change their ideas. It can be very easy to pour tons of time and effort into creating a world and a story only to inadvertently lock yourself into how something ‘should be’. Nothing is sacred. I’ve been talking a lot about my world and how I built it, but that’s really rather disingenuous. So much of my world was made together with other people. Players, friends, internet strangers. Whenever one of my players makes a character in my games, it’s a co-operative affair. There are tons of locations, organizations and peoples in my world that came about as a direct result of my players want to play something I hadn’t prepared for, or potentially even directly contradicted established lore. Instead of forcing them to fit, I let the world adapt around them. Orc samurai? Sure, why not. Hell, why not an entire NATION of orc samurais? That sounds awesome. Tiefling Viking barbarian? Love it. There’s some icy tundra up north, why don’t we drop some reclusive tribes up there?

“Let your players build you world.” Noble houses to add in, new races to include and flesh out, entire cities and cultures to incorporate. Brainstorm, discuss and weave them into the history and lore. Let them see the effects those things have on the world. Take them there. Show them. I genuinely believe it’s the reason I have players 20 years later that are still excited to come back to a setting that they have been to a dozen times already. We’re all invested in it and have each left our mark. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun. Share what you’ve made and be proud of it, while staying open to new suggestions and ideas.

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

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Apr

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month April 2024: Season of Strife

Twenty years after the fall of Utugash’s kingdom, a group of adventurers sail into Celestine and into their new destiny. Villains and allies of every faction eagerly await to use the newcomers for their own purposes, while even more sinister forces lurk in the shadows… Join us in talking with GM EdgarS as we explore the Season of Strife!

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?

Heya, I’m Edgar, I’m from the Netherlands, and I’ve been playing D&D for about 15 years now since I was invited to join a campaign for the first time. I really got into Critical Role around 2018 and watching it helped elevate my gaming and give me a way bigger sense of the possibilities the medium held to tell a story beyond ‘there’s a monster in the next room of the dungeon, go hit it.’ I also started DMing in 2018 and have or are running a couple of campaigns at the same time.

Before D&D I came from the world of tabletop gaming: building, painting and playing Warhammer Fantasy and 40K mostly, which really helped me get out of my shell as a teen (you gotta play with/against other people physically present on the other side of the table after all). From there it was a hop and a skip to D&D. I’ve been lucky to have had a pretty stable and dull life. The most I have in terms of baggage is experiencing bullying in high school because, well, huge giant nerd, but it’s precisely due to things like tabletop gaming and DMing I’ve gotten over that and grew to be a version of myself I enjoy, and being way more extrovert and bringing the sorely needed levity at office meetings. But yeah aside from that, I grew up in a fairly affluent household with loving parents, went to college (studied history and international relations), and after maybe a couple of years in the wilderness got a proper job recently working for the government. I even bought my first apartment a few months ago, which gave me the opportunity to set up a purposely-built storage room for all of my D&D terrain!

As for online, I used to be more active in various places such as tabletop gaming forums, but now I mostly lurk in peace and quiet, stay in my lane, and occasionally tweet out some art or dnd pics on my twitter (no I’m not calling it X) at @DCabbagefarm. That refers to Emperor Diocletian’s cabbages by the way. I’m a historian. Hi.

Tell us about “Season of Strife” in a nutshell. How did you design the world? What was your inspiration?

So the Season of Strife was born when one of the players put out a ‘looking for group’ call on Tumblr for an online d&d campaign, and I decided to take the plunge and offered to DM, back in late 2020. Not quite knowing whether this’d end up being a massive campaign or would bleed out early I decided to use the same homebrew setting I was using for my weekly campaign, the Twilight of the Spheres (and by the way, that one’s got its own Obsidian wiki too, probably even more expansive than the Strife one), but simply designing a new area for the world like it was some kind of Warcraft expansion. Exactly how many hidden continents are there?!

After this I expanded the map further, filling it out as I went until it reached its current state of completion, with enough space for a few more fresh campaigns. Here’s the full map, and be warned it’s a big boy

The first Twilight of the Spheres campaign (2019-2022) took place in the north-eastern region of the world, Eos, dominated by the Coalition (a pretty standard late-medieval European fantasy society consisting of a union of city states) and the Kyshtar Dominion (a majority dragonborn proto-industrial semi-Babylonian hodgepodge). That quarter of the map was all that existed of the setting, with no more than vague allusions to other stuff being beyond the boundaries. The new area I added specially for the Season of Strife was far to the south of it, an island chain called the Teylu Archipelago, inhabited by the Teylu eladrin & water genasi people who mix inspiration from both Polynesian culture and aesthetic, and Scandinavian and celtic. Two of the players are Scandinavian so that’s how that got included into the mix, plus the traditional celtic influences of the Feywild re: the eladrin. As a historian I like to draw heavily on history as inspiration for my worldbuilding, and regions in my setting often have some kind of ethnic or socio-political conflict. In this case it’s the colonial settlers who arrived from the Coalition and Kyshtar Dominion (collectively called ‘the Elyzians’) in the wake of a devastating flood that hit the Archipelago, and whose presence is pushing the Teylu to the margins. This conflict operates as a backdrop to everything going on in the campaign and it’s been very fortuitous that the players themselves chose to have a party consisting of two Elyzian characters and one from the Teylu, so that they could RP through these clashing perspectives and get a multifaceted view of the situation. Settler politics. Fun!

Welcome to the colony of Celestine, our version of Pallet Town but a lot smellier

As for the outline of the campaign’s plot, in ancient times the Spring Court of the Feywild was cursed by the other season courts to slumber, and left behind buried in the material plane. However now a radical Teylu cult, the Teyhua, are seeking to awaken Spring and use its power to expel the settlers from the Archipelago. To do this a number of seals first need to be removed, which can each only be done by the Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring knight (mortals in the employ of the courts as their champion, because they’re able to break Fey rules such as crossing running water and being able to lie), and the player characters find themselves entangled within this storied web and – mostly by accident – becoming knights for the fey courts.

The players discover a magical tree in some hidden Spring Court ruins

I’m an avid worldbuilder, drawing heavily on historical minutiae, so in order to scratch that itch and build up a corpus of material I also write a “worldbuilder gazette” article every few months, dealing with info about the world that might not naturally pop up during sessions, such as how the different regional calendars work, lunar orbits, holidays, the economy, and nations the players haven’t visited yet. For every other worldbuilding-obsessed DM out there: I see you, I hear you.

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

The campaign is played online, using roll20 and Zoom, and we play about once every two to three weeks. With me included we’re a group of four from across the UK and west-central Europe. I’m gonna refrain from telling you too many personal details, but I’ll just say they’re some of the goshdarndamndest best RP’ers – nay, actors! – I’ve ever seen at any D&D table. They’re so insanely good. Sometimes I just shut up and listen for 30 minutes while they RP amongst themselves.

You put a lot of emphasis on the factions in your game, enough to place them on the front page. Can you tell us how important they are in your game?

As mentioned previously, I draw a great deal from history when worldbuilding, and if anything history is a revolving door of peoples, polities and cultures clashing with each other. The factions on the wiki’s home page are for the most part the main cultural groupings; what background an npc is from can inform a massive amount about their character, customs and perspective on things, especially how they relate to the local background conflict and what that means for their relationship with the player characters. I don’t want to have my game world populated by unattached caricatures, I want the npcs to have allegiances of their own – be they culture, country, ethnicity, etcetera. In my opinion they make characters richer and more vibrant, and give the players an additional set of approaches to relate to them (are they from a rival faction? Are they both foreigners away from home? Do they have certain proclivities or interests relating to their culture that might be used to sway them?)

I don’t want every country to be contained in its own cordoned-off little box either, like they’re in their own stasis bubble: People move! Countries do war, trade, diplomacy, propaganda, cultural exchanges, religious exchanges, espionage, migration and more! Interactions between the different factions are the building blocks of my world, and the quest design flows organically from that. Part of having a reusable setting is having background conflicts that continue to passively generate animosity that can be leveraged into new quests. In the season of strife campaign the main plot is almost entirely motivated and impacted by the background conflict of the indigenous Teylu being squeezed by the Elyzian settlers, and most quests and npcs are at the very least tangentially related to that. Most recently the players were sent on a little sidequest to solve a dispute on some Teylu islands where wealthy Elyzian settlers had built… well… the Hamptons, basically, and their mayor was secretly throwing meat into the bay to lure sharkfolk to the local Teylu water genasi village’s spiritual site to disrupt their traditional links to the land.

I’ve also been working with a couple of artists whom I have commissioned many times. One of them is designing the factions icons for me. Those icons are all unique and purpose-made for my setting, not just plucked from the web! The faction icons there are the ones that are currently done, but in the end there will be two to three times as many! I’ve currently got a plan in the works to start a project with these artists, in order to make an illustration of one or two “average joe”’s from each main culture, to create a kind of setting sourcebook and give an idea of what the regular person in the street of each nation would look like.

Your 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?

A work in progress icon for the setting’s Imperial Rome equivalent

Your 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?

L’wiki, c’est moi. It’s all done by me and I’ll conservatively estimate “a metric ton of time”. It’s a good thing I enjoy wiki-building (I read aloud from my hostage note) and I’m a glutton for punishment if nothing else. My players do help me out every so often with writing sections of the summaries if I don’t have enough time to finish them, and one of my players performs vitally important recording wizardry, making video recordings of the session and uploading them to a private youtube playlist so we can watch them back and use them to make summaries. And she also makes thumbnails for each session! Recently we also redistributed some tasks so that another player would help me out with writing the short synopses.

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

It’s always good to have a central place to store data as a master reference. Handing out item cards or putting them into word documents or reading out the item descriptions is all well and good but you can almost guarantee that stuff’s gonna get lost or misplaced at some point. Much better to have somewhere you can always refer back to. We also have a few items that have become real staples of the characters’ iconic look, such as the sword Spring’s Edge, one of the first items the group acquired in the first ten sessions, and it’s nice to be able to give these items an image to represent them.

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?

I played 3.5th edition in the first campaign I joined (playing for a good 13-14 years) and DM’ed it for a while, and gods above and below in hindsight I found it so cumbersome and bloated, with hundreds of sourcebooks and a level of stat block number crunching I was simply never going to be able to get a proper grip on; After a while you get monsters on the field with modifiers of +20 to hit, and if you overshot the challenge rating you were supposed to give the players by a bit you could quickly end up with foes the characters could literally do barely more than single digit damage to. And worse, I disliked how lower level spells became exponentially useless as time wore on, because both the DCs and effects of those spells remained as low as a low level character casting them, encouraging you to only throw your highest level stuff. I could probably go on for a while but I’ll save the internet the byte space.

In comparison the 5th edition rules are easy enough to follow that I learned them simply through watching/listening to Critical Role, picking up most of the game (and learning answers to some of the baked-in rules conflicts or less commonly understood features) before ever even opening the Player’s Handbook. The familiarity I now have with the system appeals to me, the basics are pretty easy to follow, flexible enough to homebrew off of, and combat can be balanced quite decently on sheer ‘vibes’ alone, while fixing a lot of the annoyances I had with 3.5 (I don’t think any annoyed me more than being unable to move more than 5ft and make more than one melee attack, turning most battles into stationary ones because it was actively detrimental to move). The system is also robust enough that you can overshoot and make monsters too strong, without instantly signing the players’ death warrant.

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

Most sessions take me a couple hours of prep, often about equal or slightly less than total playtime… except when I need to build a battlemap in Roll20, which can eat up hours of my time while I finetune tiny details. Regardless, my prep can often be described as “leapfrogging.” Whenever I prep a session I will inevitably have enough material that we end up covering (nearly) two sessions with it. Plus if I need to buy time, I’ll just let the player characters talk to one another. Bam, there’s half an hour filled, easy peasy. In our very latest session the players started right after having been portalled to the gates of a Feywild city. They were right in front of the gates! It took 30 minutes before they even walked up to the guards! It’s a miracle we get anywhere at all.

Can you please explain the difference between your session summaries and your miniature session summaries? What is the difference between the two types of sessions?

Those both relate to the same sessions. The ‘session summaries’ are the long versions – which are probably a little too long at times, sometimes reaching more than 10 pages and rarely less than 4 – and the ‘miniature session summaries’ are brief synopses about one paragraph long. It’s a practice I picked up in the first campaign that I ran, where I noticed players had difficulty recalling the basic outline of the few sessions before it (especially because that campaign only played once every 6-7 weeks or so), so the mini summary contains a very basic outline of the main events/facts of the session, just so you can more easily search back for when something happened and so you can recall the basics at a single glance, rather than walls and walls of text. The mini summary section on our wiki then links to the long-form summary of that particular session.

I’m a bit of a fanatic about chronicling everything in massive detail because:
A) I’m a historian and work with archival departments at a government ministry. It’s kinda in my blood at this point.
B) The first campaign I ever joined as a player ran for like 12-13 years and we had basically zero documentation, so halfway through there were just complete year-long arcs of the campaign I had no recollection of or where I didn’t know the order of events anymore, so a lot of plot stuff inadvertently flew over our heads half the time because we didn’t remember anything.
C) I just can’t stop myself. Help.

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

I had an account before then but I’ve actively used Obsidian Portal since about 2018, when I first started DM’ing my own campaigns. There might be shinier things out there, with widgets and gadgets and holograms, but I like the easy legibility Obsidian Portal’s format provides if you wanna put up big blocks of text. With some pretty basic coding you can do a fair amount to make it look nice, formatting it like it’s a Wikipedia article. And of course being able to hyperlink back and forth between different pages makes navigating through the wiki a breeze.

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

I put up stupid amounts of text, and like I said above I like the legibility Obsidian provides. As a history enthusiast my favored terrain is wikipedia pages (I get a +2 to hit modifier against other historians), so that’s the model I like to copy. I’m also happy with the pre-defined sections for characters, game logs and items, rather than needing to build custom wiki pages for each of them and it becoming a right old mess. If there’s anything else I might want to see from Obsidian Portal it’s one or two more sections like that, such as a bestiary section for common creatures/creature types found in your setting.

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

Oh gosh, oh golly, oh jeepers, I had such a tough time answering this question!! We’ve played 74 sessions up to this point, and so many exciting things have happened! Should I pick the time the cleric held an impassioned speech before the church to denounce the bigoted high priestess? Or the victory in the Autumn Tournament when the rogue defeated the other candidates to become the new Autumn Knight? Perhaps I ought to pick that time the party were surrounded by enemies on all sides and opened up the Iron Flask they’d carried with them for nearly 30 sessions without knowing what was inside, summoning a succubus to their aid? That time the ranger/druid had a romantic ride across the meadows of the Feywild on the back of a stag with one of the main villains (he’s hot so it’s okay), or simply when two players were wasted drunk and trying to escape across the rooftops from some bandits, with the air genasi rogue floating away from danger like a balloon?

This artist has done a huge series of illustrations for our campaign, all of which can be found here

I guess if there is one moment I had to pick it would be in the earlier stages of the campaign when the players were at a fancy gala, and the rogue suddenly ran into the crime boss (and secret weretiger) on the dancefloor whom she’d been romancing at the start of the campaign before getting cold feet and breaking it off. I cannot describe the utter mic drop moment when that French accent suddenly returned and I showed off the art I had commissioned for the occasion:

As an aside I also want to add that for me the personal highlight of any game is when the ranger/druid communicates with any flora or fauna. I never know what voice will come out of my mouth but let’s just say the interactions don’t really live up to the wise, sage druid image. Pigeons hate her, seagulls have died for her, trees want to practice their stand-up comedy routines on her.

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 mean you’re gonna hear this one repeated ad nauseam, but communication really is key in playing a game like this. You gotta have some people at your table you can trust you can talk with like adults, make sure you’re on the same wavelength as to what kind of game you’d like to play, and make the players feel you’re playing with them not against them. Though as a DM I feel you should always reserve the right to not acquiesce to every single thing the players might ask for; sometimes mother knows best.

However, apart from slam-dunking that low-hanging fruit into Tantalus’ head, there’s a couple more things I’d like to add: First off, the success or failure of your campaign can lean very heavily on what the players are like, irrespective of your quality as a DM. There’s something Brennan Lee Mulligan said at a DM roundtable a couple years back that’s always stuck with me, namely “there’s nothing you can do if the players don’t care.” You can be the best DM in the world with the coolest party tricks and goblin voices but if there are sacks of potatoes sitting opposite your screen it’s gonna be a bad time (and I don’t mean people who are simply shy or withdrawn, I mean people actively unwilling to engage or care). And conversely if you’ve got some people who come to the table with a good attitude, are willing to engage and have a good time, you can elevate any game to beyond what it is on paper. I’ve had about half a dozen campaigns in my DMing career and I’ll earnestly admit some are running better than others (but on the whole I’m very happy with them all), but there’s one that thankfully bled to death where I was straight-up not having a fun time, because of a complete unwillingness from half of the table to engage, like they were forced to participate against their wishes. I didn’t DM that game any differently from my other campaigns, but it was a rotten experience while my other campaigns give me a surge of energy at the end of the night. You’re playing a collaborative game and that collaboration is what makes or breaks a campaign.

Secondly, being behind the DM screen gives you certain insights into how the game functions, and you can try to transfer some of that wisdom to your players to help them get better/get more out of the game. If you have players at your table who are DMs themselves you’ll often quickly notice they play a little bit differently that other players, and in my experience they tend to be a bit better with spotting plot hooks, unearthing crucial info buried in a piece of dialogue, and jumping on opportunities to give the scenario a different twist. With a little encouragement and advice I’ve seen the folks in one long-running campaign in particular transform from ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ into model players. If you wanna give your players any insights to help their play, I’ll offer you this one: “If you don’t do anything, nothing happens.” This applies to every aspect of the game. If you don’t respond (promptly) when the DM asks you about scheduling, the game doesn’t happen. If you don’t go talk to that npc who seems to hold a potential plot hook, then that quest doesn’t occur and you don’t do anything during the session. If the rest of the party is chasing the undead who just attacked the village and kidnapped someone but your character doesn’t want to leave their bed (this happened once), you won’t be able to do anything in the game for the next hour or more. If your character is getting distorted visions about their personal quest but is informed they first need to consume the waters of life to see them more clearly but you make no move to acquire said waters of life, nothing happens. If you never take the initiative to turn to your fellow players and go “hey I think we should plan a heist to steal the plot item”, then no fun shenanigans-filled heist happens. If you play the game super safely and cautiously, none of the fun stuff happens. D&D is an immensely malleable game, where your efforts as a player can and will shape the contours of what the session is gonna be like: Make your players aware they have that power and co-opt them into making the game more fun and to try and get them to engage with what you’re putting out for them.

Thirdly, based on my own campaigns so far and the ones I’ve participated in as a player I’ve picked up a way to structure my campaigns that I’m quite happy with, and that I’m using for the second Twilight campaign. If I could do Strife again from the start I’d have liked to use this approach there too. I like to start by taking my time with the lower levels – giving players enough time to fully explore all their spells and class features and ways to use them creatively, and making them appreciate their new abilities more when they finally get to level 5 and beyond – and giving them a pure sandbox game. They’re set loose in the world and allowed to do generic low-level quests: Root out the goblins blocking the local road, escort the archeologists to the nearby excavation site, find out who’s stealing from the warehouse, etcetera. They get the sense of fulfillment of completing quests (rather than just subsections of a long-running main plot), get to explore your world and setting, get to build a network of NPC contacts, and have complete freedom to pick and choose for themselves what to do. This also puts them at liberty to fail or abandon quests without the stakes being too high and introduces the players to the idea that “if you mess up, you make a mess”, because at a certain point in a high-level plot the party can’t really be allowed to fail that much anymore without endangering the entire setting… and DMs put a lot of work in their settings! They don’t wanna toss it out on a whim! So this early sandbox stage both gives the party freedom and gives the DM freedom not to have to plot-armor the party. In the Season of Strife the party spent their first ten sessions in the starter-town, Celestine, engaging with a local crime boss (slash love interest), and then hitching a ride on an archeological expedition to another part of the island for a while and doing a bit of dungeon delving, before they got involved in the bigger plotlines. You can also start throwing in subtle foreshadowing to the campaign’s eventual BBEG… A namedrop here and there, a whispered rumor, mysterious graffiti appearing in the cities, and so forth. After the sandbox stage you’ll start reaching levels 6, 7, 8 or so, which in my opinion is the game’s sweetspot. This is the part where the format becomes more plot-driven, your players may encounter recurring villains (possibly lieutenants to the campaign’s BBEG), and the stakes start increasing. Perhaps this stage results in a kind of mid-campaign climax. A big victory for the players to revel in at the end of the second act. Maybe you’ll even return them to the sandbox stage for a while to do sidequests or loose ends, before the plot and stakes start dramatically ramping up again as the BBEG starts coming to the fore and you get to the big, epic, dramatic battles as you work your way to the final confrontation. Players generally don’t like losing more than once (in a row), so my recommendation is to always split up your plot into separate portions which can be won piecemeal.

Also, get theater kids to join your game. They are good at roleplay and drama. It’s… it’s in the name.

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

1
Jan

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month January 2024: More Things in Heaven and Earth

Get ready to jump into the mystical techno-magical future of North America after “the Awakening”. The year is 2082. The place is “The Emerald City”, where people are willing to risk it all and walk on the bleeding edge, making deals with anything. The GM is Dropbeartots. The runners are a rag-tag group of humans, an elf, an ork and a troll. They adventure in a Sixth World Shadowrun game called More Things in Heaven and Earth.

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’m just an Immortal elf hanging around waiting to see the Awakening happen still! My alter-ego is a dropbear, of course. My folks were military, so I really didn’t settle down anywhere for very long until my Dad retired. Since then, Ive been in Texas. Aside from gaming, I work a lot and try to make enough money to keep up with Shadowrun’s new releases and increase my collection of older edition books. Two of the gamers in my group are related to me: Ringpop is my wife, and Nomad is my youngest son. My internet activity has decreased quite a bit in the past few years, but I have a neglected site on WordPress called When Dropbears Attack! I really should get back into it…

You are running a Shadowrun Sixth World Game. Are you familiar with the previous editions and if so, can you mention any differences, or talk about the evolution of the Game? What are the things you most enjoy about the Shadowrun world in general?

Shadowrun has been the single game that’s really carried my interest across all editions. I’ve been the forever GM with it since first edition came out! The most captivating thing for me about it has been the evolution of the story of the Sixth World across the decades, and the back cover blurb of the first edition core rulebook just grabbed me more than any other game ever has. It has always been a game about three worlds – Man, Magic & Machine – that kept me engrossed the most as a reader, player, and game master. I keep coming back to it time and again even when I get distracted with my interests in a wide variety of other games. When most people can point to D&D as their definitive TTRPG starting point, I can honestly say that yeah I started with it but I never really loved gaming as much as when Shadowrun was first plopped down in front of me.

Sixth World, for me, has a plethora of good points. In the first five editions, the skill lists were pretty extensive. As a skill-based game, on the surface this always seemed appropriate. But this often seemed to me to cause characters to have a lot of spread-out skills distributed at a low level just to cover all of their bases. With Sixth World, the skill list has been very condensed, and I have found that a lot of my long-time players are happier with building characters.

Another good point to me is the Edge system. As a sort of advantage mini-game, it has encouraged a lot of thought by the players into roleplaying seeking out various environmental and situational advantages

in their exchanges, both in combat and social encounters. I will admit to it being a lot of work to keeping up, but I think if used and taken advantage of, the system offers a lot to players.

Mechanically at its heart, SR has always been a d6 based dice pool system. Since 4th edition, the target of rolling has changed from a sliding scale Target Number that varied wildly to 5 or 6 being a “hit” and the more hits you collect the better off you are at whatever you want to be doing. I think that’s great, as it puts less mathematical work into the rolling part of the game. Although I personally never had a problem with doing the math (and never had any issues with THACO, either!), more people seem to be into less math with their math rocks, so it meets that desire well.

I‘m well aware of a lot of the editorial and mechanical issues with Sixth World. I think the recently released corrected Seattle and Berlin city editions of the core rulebook have done a fantastic job of correcting a lot of errata and injected pieces that were missing with the original core rulebook. Also, the Sixth World Companion offers up a lot of optional rules to flavor your game to taste. Overall, I find Sixth World to be superior in every way to the previous 5th edition of Shadowrun.

As I’m sure most fans of Shadowrun will agree, the biggest draw to the game for me is the game world itself. From the 2050s to the 2080s, the game‘s writers have built up a backdrop of shadowy intrigue, corporate espionage and betrayal, magical wonders, ancient mysteries working their way into a postmodern cyberpunk world, and moved that world through some strange, weird, off-the-wall and sometimes downright head-scratching moments. In the end, it’s largely what you make of it at the table as a group though. And I personally have the most fun with it over all other games.

As far as my thoughts on the most complete, most well-written, and well-tested edition of Shadowrun? I would have to say I’m mixed on that. I find both 3rd and 4th edition to be the ones that grabbed me the hardest of all. I’d put Mike Mulvihill, Rob Boyle, and Adam Jury on my list of those who produced my overall favorite stuff for Shadowrun. Why don’t I stick with those editions instead, you might ask? Hrm, have you seen the prices people are asking for some of those out-of-print books? Can you say “collector gouging”? 😉

How did your group meet up? How often do you play? What are your sessions like?

I have known Bowynn, Krysa’s player and Kwaba, Robot Jones’ player, for an exceedingly long time, I think it’s going on thirty years now. We’ve played SR since Third Edition. It seems like I have known Nomad’s player all of his life 😉 It’s sorta my fault he got into gaming, after all. Twitch and Little Doll’s players, I met through my wife. She met them on the Amtguard field, and introduced them to me and we tried out gaming with D&D for a while, then i finally had to start them playing Shadowrun. I seduced my wife into the dark side of Shadowrun shortly after we met, and I think that she fell in love with the game just as much as she did with me, lol.

We have been playing weekly together for a while now, with game night settling on Tuesdays. My wife and I have been travelling a lot for her job as an RN, so there’s been a lot of play through voice calls on Messenger for a while. Since I recently settled into a new job a few months ago, I’ve been more localized to our house and our in-person gaming has resumed.

Our sessions can usually be boiled down to one word, lol. Chaotic! If you know, you know…

You have a very innovative Navigation System on your site. What inspired you? How did you go about setting it up? What advice can you give for new GMs on Obsidian Portal who want to do the same?

Really, I have to give a lot of props to the site’s design here. It gives the opportunity for Ascendent

members to edit, add, remove, and modify the navbar to their heart’s content if they wish. And I speak only for myself here, but it is a GREAT feature that I was super enthusiastic about when it came up.

I was particularly intrigued by the way you extended your Experience Point Awards to cover three different sections – Heat, Reputation and Karma. I know you also had this on your previous award-winning site, “Wildside”, but what inspired this, and in what way does it help you and your players?

Karma is the real “experience point” value among the three here, although all three are earned by characters in Shadowrun through play. Reputation is how well-known a character becomes among other groups of the world by their actions in-game – its not always positive, either! And Heat measures how much characters have screwed up and both how well-known among and how wanted by the authorities a Shadowrunner has become. The lower the better there 😉

Your “Critters” section is very cool. Which ones have been the most memorable in your game so far? And DO tell us more about the “Drop Bear”…

A lot of the threats a character will run into are human in Shadowrun, but there are other… things out there as well. In Shadowrun, these critters are normal animals that have changed somewhat due to the influx of magical energy into the Sixth World over the seventy-some-odd years of the alternate history. I wanted to build a section for my players to be able to see some of these things and reference rumor of their various capabilities. Most of the time, I add to the critter section before one is potentially encountered.

Well, the Drop Bear is kind of exactly what is described in the Critters section. An awakened koala with very sharp teeth and claws that fall off of trees to drop on their unsuspecting prey – which often tend to be humans! The group has managed to find one of these critters well outside of its native habitat that was subjected to a variety of experimentation in a corporate lab. Ringpop, the resident animal lover, has ended up sort of adopting it and is trying hard to tame it and teach it tricks. She named it Tater Tot. She gets a lot of static from the rest of group because of that…

How involved are your players in the site? Who tends to do what? Do your players add their own Adventure Logs?

The player of Little Doll, the group’s social butterfly and face, tends to post the bigger updates on the Adventure Logs from her character’s perspective about all of the goings-on. When other players are able, they have added to the Adventure Logs as well.

I tend to use the site as a whole as a reference and tracker for our game, and the Adventure Logs to post contacts reaching out to various members of the group to set up jobs, or to frame events that occur in the world that are outside of the characters’ spheres of influence but might affect them in some way.

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

I have been using OP since 2009. I had been looking for a campaign journal site, and I really enjoyed the features OP offered a lot. What keeps me there is the fact that they are so devoted to continually improving the experience of use and site utility, and the community built up around the site that is so supportive among the users.

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

I would say that Obsidian Portal is awesome for giving me the means to keep my campaigns’ details

organized, cataloged, and documented. And it allows me to customize so much of the way I would like to do that.

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

Little Doll and Nomad say that Tater Tot (https://morethingsinheavenandearth.obsidianportal.com/characters/drop-bear) is the highlight of the game 😀

Ringpop says it was the time her character got stuck in Dante’s Inferno and was singled out by Dion (https://morethingsinheavenandearth.obsidianportal.com/characters/dion), the lead singer of Thursus (https://morethingsinheavenandearth.obsidianportal.com/characters/thursos), for romantic overtures only to find out that he is actually a dragon! She ran so fast… Ringpop does not like dragons at all, they make her very nervous and she already has a difficult time in social environments.

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?

In Shadowrun especially, if you can set up paranoia, do it! Use what the players tell you about their perceptions of what’s going on to feed the flames. Don’t always confirm what they say, but do confirm enough to make them feel what they are thinking is right before you introduce a twist and pull their rugs out from under them.

Always keep pressure on the characters, keep them hungry, use external organizations to push them and show them the sharks swimming alongside them, and give them enough rope to hang themselves.

Be sure to reward them well when they pull off something ingenious, give their characters’ actions, relationships, and personal motivations weight, and make them matter in the world at large.

And last, but, not least, if they decide to take on an MCT Zero-Zone, go hard. Make them work.

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

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

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Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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