Tag Archives: interview

1
Jun

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

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

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Life partners? Family? Where can we interact with you on the internet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the logs began rolling into the chamber.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1
May

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2022: Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane

A ship has been seized under mutiny, the captain murdered, and the ship has disappeared. The captain’s lover seeks revenge and wishes to recover the ship. Was it mentioned that this lover is Lord Ardragon of the Moonsea, one of the best Zhentarim agents? Thus begins Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane, a very different pirate adventure using 5E! After all, how many pirate ships have a ball gag in the skull’s mouth? Read on to learn more about GM AggieBear90 and party’s adventures on the high seas!

I have to start by asking where did the concept of this game come from? I love the double entendres, the wordplay is excellent, and I just think this would be a blast to play in!

So, the story actually stems from the backstory from my very first D&D 5e character – Barkus Esteme. I am story builder so he has a very rich backstory. As I played him through to lvl 20 I just started feeling like there was more story to be told. And that is where Revenge on the Kraken’s Bane comes from. I’ll make sure to add Barkus’ backstory (which is currently in a word doc) to the portal if you are interested in finding out more. Long story short, the ship (The Kraken’s Bane) he served on was stolen during a mutiny and Barkus is motivated to get it back. Mysteries are uncovered and he needs to get a crew of pirates to help him get it back. I also wanted this to be something a little different, so I invited my best gay friends and made it an all gay pirate adventure. A little cliché but hey…it is all for fun.


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?

I’m 53 yo and live in Irving, Tx just outside Dallas. I am gay and married to my partner (Patrick) for 22 years. He also plays but not in this campaign. When I am not gaming I will either be working on one of my two businesses (Blue Consulting & Resourcing – Instructional Design Consulting; Monkey Mind Tabletop – We organize and run D&D events at game shops and local conventions). Beyond that, I also have a degree in Geology so you might find me out doing rock hounding and fossil hunting. I also love college football (specifically Texas A&M Univ Aggies) so in the fall I am normally watching games all day.

Me on the internet:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/curtisg1
Twitter: @AggieBear90
Instagram: aggiebear90

I also have 2 D&D Adventurers League modules on DMs Guild:
CCC-MMT 01-01: Secrets of Imaginary Friends
CCC-MMT 01-05: Secrets of the Cure

Monkey Mind Tabletop on the internet:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/monkeymindtabletop
Instagram: monkeymindtabletop


You mention you found your calling with D&D 5E- What do you like about it? Are there any things you dislike about it?

I actually started playing with 1st ed when I was a teenager. I played through 2, 3 and 3.5 but totally skipped 4. I went on a long hiatus as many adults do but started playing 3.5 again just before 5th came out. I really liked how streamlined 5th was. It was so much easier to teach to new players. As an educator I really liked that. I also like how flexible it is. The rules are there as guidelines but a lot of the rest is just for the DM to kind of flex with. I think for some people that flexibility is a bit challenging though. There isn’t really anything that I dislike but there are a few additions that I would like to see. More development around larger scale combat, guidance on crafting, more social interactions and downtime. Some of these things are very specific to particular ways to play, but they are things that I have struggled with in game development. I often incorporate 3rd party content when I am looking for solutions…which may be the reason that WotC doesn’t officially come out with guidance on it.


You use Foundry, Discord, Obsidian Portal, and Syrinscape- tell us how those tools interact for you and your group.

We use Foundry as our VTT. Since we have been playing virtually during the pandemic. We decided to continue to play virtually be because we are all spread out around the DFW metroplex and it was just easier. I transitioned from Roll20 because I found the tools in Foundry to be much more useful and I could utilize the content in D&D Beyond easily. With a few useful plugins you can import content and rolls pretty easily on the fly. Because we were telling a story I wanted a place to capture everything so we could all see it. Obsidian Portal is a great tool for that. I make sure that my players all know that this story is a group collaboration. They totally bought in. You may notice that each week one of the players gives the recap from their point of view. We also use the Wiki extensively and I use it to keep notes on the game that only I can see. Discord has been a life saver. Since we aren’t playing in person we miss some of the face to face interaction so we use the Discord audio during game but we also have a channel specifically for chatting. We check in to see how eveyrone’s days are going, we share news and just general BS. It is a good way to keep in contact with everyone. We use Syrinscape to provide a little ambiance. Usually it is just thematic background sounds. I use Syrinscape much more prominently in my Curse of Strahd game. I’ll also point out that I use Microsoft OneNote to organize ideas. It is a great tool to help me get thoughts down on “paper” and flesh out things ahead of time.


How regularly do you play? You say that you are playing remotely due to Covid- are there plans to go back to in person?

I am currently running two campaigns on alternating Tuesdays. So we play every other week. On the other weeks I have a Curse of Strahd game that I am running (also has a page on Obsidian Portal). We started this campaign during Covid and we did discuss starting to meet in person but decided that it was easier to continue online since we are so spread out.


How did your group meet, and how long have you been together?

Most of the players I actually met playing D&D Adventurers League at a local game shop that I DM at (Common Ground Games – Dallas). Most of the players were people who had just signed up to play in one of my games. I am really drawn to players who really lean into the roleplay aspect. All of these players are exceptional at roleplay. They are also all LGBTQ. Some I have known for about 4 years but a few of them I didn’t meet in person until after Covid was dying down and we had a little summer pool party. This particular campaign has been running for about 19 months (so we are over a year and half).


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?

Obsidian Portal helps us to recall what has happened over the adventure and keep organized. This story is planned to eventually get the characters to lvl 20…so there is a lot going on. Players can always go back in and remember NPCs, who they are and what they know about them. That is helpful. And yes, my players are active contributors to the log and the wiki. As mentioned above, each week I have them roll to see who will be responsible for the recap in the Adventure Log and they provide me the story through the character’s eyes. It has been really amusing.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

Mostly from Barkus’ backstory, but I have also looped in interactions with Barkus’ campaign party (Fedhiin Taloth) who make cameos. I also did a lot of research on the Forgotten Realms Moonsea/Sea of Fallen Stars region (our setting) for backstory and hooks. I also did lots of research on pirate culture to kind of get an idea of what life on the sea might be like and looped some aspects of that research into story development.


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

I tend to binge prepare. I may spend hours on a weekend prepping for games week in advance and then will just spend an hour or so the day of. I would say that if you averaged it all out I probably spend 2-3 hours a week prepping for each game.


Aside from DnD I’m sure you have played other systems too, what are some others you enjoy?

So, the funny thing is that I haven’t really. I have played a little Monster of the Week and Powered by the Apocalypse. I do want to learn to play other systems but I am a “show me how” kind of person and I just haven’t found people to teach me the other systems as of yet. I have done a lot of reading in the Vampire: The Masquerade core rules and am fascinated by that system. I actually have used the relationship building scheme in it to map relationships in my D&D games. I have also looked into Thirsty Sword Lesbians and Star Wars, but once again I haven’t had any one to teach me how to play.


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

Gosh, this is such a hard question. There have been lots of great moments. We have had moments when we have laughed until we can’t talk, we have had players cry, we have had epic battles and entire sessions where not a single dice has been rolled. But I think the best moment was when the adventurers were given a ship by their patron. They were so excited that they immediately started thinking of a name (The Vicious Seaward), designing the figure head, designing the flag, even designing the crew uniforms. They wanted to identify who got which room on the ship and who would play what role. It was a pretty exciting moment. Many of the players even started creating NPC crew members (many are on the portal)


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

– Go with the flow. Telling a good story is a collaboration between the DM and the players. You provide the scaffolding but the characters really drive the progression.
– Don’t get hung up on the rules as written. If you don’t know the rule just wing it. Most players will understand.
– DMs are players too…you are allowed to have fun.

Time to let our daring adventures return to the open sea. Don’t forget to head on over the the OP forums to nominate your favorite campaigns for our next Campaign of the Month!

Until next time!

1
Apr

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month April 2022: A Rising Darkness

Legend tells of a time when the Three Worlds of Chornalth – Beregond, Liga, and Krynn, were one. A time when science, not magic, ruled supreme. Of the deity of Destruction, Skotos, and his eternal struggle with the Creator God, Phos. A struggle which ended with Phos sacrificing much of his power to destroy Skotos, shattering the one world into three, ending science’s rule, and allowing magic to reign supreme. Located on Beregond, one of the Three Worlds of Chornalth, this is the world of A Rising Darkness, our April 2022 campaign of the month. Keep scrolling to find out more about this epic campaign in our interview with GM Keryth987 and party!

Thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions for us. So, as is tradition, why don’t you start off by telling us a little about yourself and what you do apart from run an amazing looking campaign and site.

Well, most of my info can be found on my Obsidian Portal Profile. However, I will add this to what is there gaming wise. As for IRL, well, I’m a School Bus Driver by profession, which actually provides a lot of time to think about campaigns. I have a girlfriend I adore and love, though right now it’s a long distance relationship. I have a great group of friends, all of who I met around the gaming table. And then there is my family – parents who supported their son’s interest in this crazy hobby, a sister who let me contaminate her with it, and two amazing nephews who I am working on converting into gamers.

Anyone who spends more than half a second on your site will see that you have perhaps a slightly less than traditional assortment of character races as options in your world. What was the process like for filtering down all of fantasy and scifi to an end result that includes Hobbits, Klingons, and Twi’leks?

My campaign world is part of three shared with two other GMs in our group (Collectively called Chornlath), and A Rising Darkness is only one campaign in one of those three worlds. Beregond, my world, is largely based originally on Forgotten Realms, the other two being based on Krynn and Oerth. We’ve each added things ourselves. As for the races, well Twi’leks and Klingons are only two of the ones I’ve added. The cleric in the group (an NPC) is an Asari from Mass Effect. I’ve also added Night Elves and Draenei from World of Warcraft. Why you ask? Because I think these races are cool and fun. And after 30 years or so of gaming, you get tired of the standard races of fantasy. This can be seen in the makeup of the party in A Rising Darkness. Only one half elf PC, the rest being a Klingon, Asari, Dragonborn, Satyr, and Minotaur.

It looks like you are managing to maintain a weekly schedule. What arcane rituals did you have to perform to lock a group of players into such a regular game? In addition, do you play in person, virtual, or a mix?

Well, we all just make the effort, and always have. It’s no different than someone’s weekly poker game, just more imaginative. Our wives and Significant Others are quite understanding in regards to our Saturday Night activities, which helps as well. However, I think the most important thing is we all feel that the friendship, fun, stress-relief, camaraderie, and memories we get out of our weekly campaigns are well worth it.

I also went to my players for answers there, so, I’ll let them add their thoughts to my response. 

Maltheas:

“We originally went with your standard ritual of “sacrifice a squirrel or pigeon” but that didn’t give consistent results.  I was about to upgrade to “sacrifice a seagull” (not that I really thought it would work but any excuse to get rid of those flying rats, you know?) when the group collectively came to the realization that we all really just like to see each other suffer.  The addition of Vorpal Board (when the electronic gremlins behave) drastically increased the ability of everyone “to make the game” any time family, health, life and/or work prevented someone from being there physically.”

AaronSheffield

“I for one have simply avoided entanglements that would require me to be elsewhere on a Saturday night. Mostly, anyway. I’ve only had to sacrifice one manager to the Elder Gods, because she kept scheduling me on Saturdays.”

Elvathadrin:

“It is a good question, the answer is quite easy, practically everyone at the table is a GM, so we don’t have the issues that many groups do of GM burnout. It also does not hurt that we aren’t set to one specific system like many groups are, we have played many different systems, so we are willing to try other systems which keeps the games fresh. Third we also have a strict set of rules for GMs also to combat fatigue after you have run a campaign which can go from 6 months to a year or more on average you need to wait a total of 2 games before you have the chance to run again.”

Apollodorus:

“One of our secrets is that virtually every member of our group is a GM. It’s not the same GM or the same game system all the time. Over the years, we’ve done: 

– D&D (all editions except 1st and 4th)
– Pathfinder
– Shadowrun (multiple editions)
– IN NOMINE
– MechWarrior/BattleTech
– Deadlands
– Star Wars
– Rune Quest
– D20 Modern
– Weird Wars
– Mutants and Masterminds
– Dresden Files
– Fate Core
– Spycraft
– And I’m sure I’m missing some

When a campaign is nearing its completion, members pitch games that they’d like to run, and we vote on it. And the cycle continues.”

DaveInOCNJ_2k21:

“There are two things a little different about me from the rest of the gang, so my perspective may be limited compared to their’s. First is that I’m the most recent player to join, so I wasn’t there for the 25-30 years that most of them have been playing together. The second is that I have degenerative spinal issues, so although I needed to take around a two year break from the group to work on adjusting to my new physical limitations, the offer was always there for me to return.

That said, it’s always easier to commit to a hobby when it’s something you enjoy with people you like. Everyone in our group is good-natured, likeable, supportive, and we get along well outside the game as well. My first campaign with the group, I was able to make it in person without much issue. But my back got worse and I had to leave during my second campaign. Now I’m playing virtual from home, and while I’m in too much pain to play some weeks, the group is understanding enough to be fine with me missing sessions from time to time.”

For those that aren’t in the know, you’ve been on Obisidan Portal for a while, what is your favorite feature for helping to manage you campaign?

Honestly it’s a toss up between the Logs and the entire wiki. OP lets me organize my thoughts. Lets me actually put down in an organized and coherent manner what I have in my head. And the Logs let me keep track of what happens in a session and have it in an easily accessed location for later in the campaign

In thinking about the themes of A Rising Darkness, what made you choose 5e as the backbone of your ruleset as opposed to starting in Edge of the Empire or Star Trek Adventures and moving the more “traditional” fantasy elements intot hose settings?

First off, my last few campaigns had been FATE campaigns, and I really wanted to go back to my roots and run a D&D campaign. I started the group on a 2yr+ AD&D 2nd Edition campaign way back and it had been some time since I ran a “traditional” D&D campaign in my part of our shared campaign world. We had played 5e in a previous campaign (Shattered Empire, run by Marinex) and I really liked the system. I came into this hobby playing D&D and a lot of 5e hearkened back to AD&D for me, without a lot of the things I didn’t like. Also, I enjoy the streamlining from 3.5 and Pathfinder. Combat moves much quicker in 5e than in previous editions, and with less skills its simpler to figure what skill applies where – which f0r my group is great as we rarely default to dice rolls for anything that can be Role Played out.

What is your current favorite system outside of 5e?

My players might groan at this, but, being honest, probably FATE. I like Dresden Files usage of the FATE ruleset, as can be seen on my 4 campaigns of my Shadows Over New York campaign

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?

The most? The ability to actually put together a coherent campaign. My GM style is very much on the fly and reactionary to player actions, so, OP helps me keep all that making sense. I spend plenty of time running through my head during the week what I’d like to see happen in the next session or two, as well as what the overall BBEG and his cronies are doing, but everything at the table still essentially boils down to me reacting to the players actions.

I know you give credit to a few folks on your home page, but outside of influences and help via the commmunity, did you do all of the design and implementation work on your site yourself or have you collaborated with anyone directly?

Yes. Everything from the layout, to the content, to the videos and images was done by me. I got plenty of assistance from the OP Community, both on the forums and on the Discord, when I was stumped on how to do something I’d want, but the work and design was all me. I’d also like to thank one of my players, Elvathadrin, for always being there when I needed a second opinion on how something I tried looked aesthetically. 

What originally drew you to using Obsidian Portal as a platform for your madness?

How amazing many of the other sights looked initially caught my attention. I saw sights like Wolfhound’s Dresden Files Dallas and KillerGM’s A God Reborn, and I decided I REALLY wanted to do that myself. It didn’t hurt that at the time I had begun, on the FATE forums, to develop locations for the Dresden Files Campaign I was working on. I then found Wolfhound’s tutorial for OP (something I’d recommend anyone who wants to design an OP site look over, even though, since The Reforge, not all of it applies still)and I was off. Then it was just a matter of being able to easily work on my emerging Dresden Files Campaign (which surprised me by winning COTM and COTY)

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

Well, the game itself is still kinda young, the players only having reached 4th level as of this interview. However, for me, it has to be the first time the group met with Lady Sorsha, the commander of the garrison assigned to the Town of Goldshire (where the campaign is currently based). The characters interactions with the overburdened Knight was a delight to role play out and hearing the new characters come to life before my eyes was just wonderful.

For this question I’ve again gone to my players and will let them tell you in their own words.

Maltheas:

“For me personally, I think the best moment so far is a toss up between either my wild magic sorcerer becoming blinded for a whole day due to backlash from casting Detect Magic in the ‘primal creation room’ or the point blank fireball on the entire group when trying to heal somebody’s missing 4hp (granted, at level 2 missing 4hp is kind of a big deal but … lol).  WILD MAGIC, baby!!!!”

AaronSheffield (who decided to respond in reference to ALL our campaigns rather than just this one):

“This one is pretty hard to pinpoint, because there have been so many. But if I had to pick one, I’d probably say the time our youngest player finally graduated to be a DM, and completed his first game. Sure, it was a little rough, but it was his first outing, and he managed it from start to finish with a minimum of kibitzing from the table at large.”

Elvathadrin:

“For me it was when my character a Klingon Monk by the name of Torg, gained the second most important weapon to his people a Mek’leth by the name of Hurgh’lI’Iw (klingon, meaning Drinker of Blood), it was gained when Torg went and destroyed the altar/statue to an evil deity the group had stumbled upon, as he was slashing down to strike the statue his weapon was replaced by the weapon slicing the Statue is half destroying it. acquiring the weapon was completely unexpected, yet quite memorable.”

Apollodorus:

“Hard to say, as the campaign is so young yet. Probably the most dangerous moment came when our characters contacted the local (quite powerful) local mage. He was in a very foul mood but had a local girl accompanying him to his tower. She was obviously charmed, and one could easily see where this was going. This could have ended the campaign, but through a combination of tact and firmness we diffused the situation (and got the girl going to her home). This was definitely one of those encounters where combat wasn’t in the cards.

I’d say the best is yet to come, though.”

DaveInOCNJ_2k21:

“I love exploration and discovery in my games, and I am most definitely a fan of the combat for its strategy and it’s occasional “Wow, that made me feel really powerful” moments. But on the rare night when we’re able to pull off nothing but role-play, I sit back when it’s all over and just marvel at our collective ability to be dropped into this fantasy world and have an impact on it with our collaboration and decisions. Sometimes we all come to the same conclusion on how we should handle a particular situation, sometimes it takes serious discussion of our different ideas, and sometimes it even comes down to a vote because there are 2 or 3 viable paths we toss around as potential solutions to the conflict we’ve found ourselves in.

So yeah, I’d say my favorite moment in this particular campaign was the realization at the end of the no-combat session that we’re all vastly creative storytellers. Anyone can roll dice and kill monsters, but having a creative narrative is just priceless.”

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

To quote “Dorkness Rising” – Story trumps rules. Have an idea of what you want to do, and nudge your players in that direction, but also let everyone have fun and explore what they want as well. It’s a careful balance. And most importantly, remember, you are all there to have fun. Gaming is NEVER about GM vs Players.

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

Until next time!

1
Mar

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month March 2022- Deadlands: Damnation


If you’re hankering for terrific tales from the Weird West and a campaign with more shine than a silver six-shooter… well sir, tip your hat to March’s Campaign of the Month winner — “Deadlands: Damnation.” Designed by Basileus, GM’d by GamingMegaverse, and populated with a posse of award-winning players, it’s the real McCoy. And bully for you, we get to hear from all of ’em!

Gaming Megaverse: I just want to start by saying that the whole site was designed by Basileus! I loved “Outremer,” his previous CotM winning site, and when he offered to design the site as we were planning the game I jumped at the chance to let him go! So this award belongs to him more than myself!

Before we explore the weird and wild west of “Damnation,” we’d love to know a few bits about the folks driving the stagecoach, as it were. Some of your story is in your Obsidian Portal profile, but what else can you tell us about yourself, your award-winning gaming group, and how you got together?

Gaming Megaverse: My bio tells a lot of who I am, so I will address the group. I started playing with some people in this group in 2011 (CraigCoxson, Gaitkeeper, BlkUnicorn) 2012 (MachineGunHarry) and 2015 (Lurch6571). All of the above were regulars in our “A God…Rebuilt” game except Harry, who was an occasional guest. “Rebuilt” was usually friends of friends, but sometimes, such as the case with Lurch, found through ads that we were looking for players. Basileus I met through Obsidian Portal, but other than a guest spot I made in another game this is our first game together. We take pride in our cooperative world building and gaming- most of the enemies in our games come from the players, as well as most of the plots in general. I wouldn’t trade my group for any other- they are my friends as well! We have been online bi-weekly since 2011, and pre-Covid we would get together in person once/year for a marathon 12 hour session- hoping that will come back this year!

You and your players have wagon-loads of experience with different settings and game systems. For the tenderfoot who hasn’t had a chance to play Deadlands yet, what aspects or mechanics do you enjoy most about it?

MachineGunHarry: I like the primitiveness of the setting. You got a pistol in your hand and somehow you’re supposed to take on the impossible darkness. In some cases your character takes a piece of darkness in order to fight the rest. In a way, we all have a bit of anti-heroes in our characters. I have loved tackling the moral questions in our adventures. Will we be the badass banditos that protect the innocent whatever the cost, or will we be the bastions of civility that ushers in a new Era of modern peace. Fortunately, our group is full of both of these. This makes for good role-playing inside the group that keeps me coming back for more. While our drama isn’t on the level of a soap opera, it feels like a page from a Firefly script. And who doesn’t want a second season to Firefly…even if there ain’t a space ship? I love the exploding die mechanic that allows the little guy to have a remote chance of success. I also love the Bennie and Conviction economy. I play a huckster, a card dealing wizard, where a Bennie can be spent to play a metaphysical card game with a Dark higher power to access THEIR list of spells. So, Bennies make my character have more breadth without having to advance very high. But there is a big risk in doing so.

Basileus: Settings adjacent to the real-world like Deadlands or other historical fantasy provide a level of immersive grounding that even the best “pure genre” settings struggle with. It’s very easy to inhabit the perspective of your characters when you can say “oh yeah, we’re in Seattle, I know what that area looks like and I know what my character would want to do on a random Saturday afternoon”. So Deadlands hits the best of all worlds because you have immersive grounding, wild fantastical elements hiding beneath the surface, and a very compelling central aesthetic.

Gaitkeeper: Cowboy campfire ghost stories come to life, pun intended, is my favorite part of Deadlands.

Faeriemage: It is a completely different mentality to play a game, especially a Savage Worlds game, in which there are no races other than Human. It makes you think more about who your character is in an established world, and who they can become.

BlkUnicorn: The ability to help and enhance each other creates a group mentality I like.

What has been the most interesting or challenging moment of the campaign, so far?

MGH: The most interesting moment for me was when we sent Alphie, the 15 year old protégé, on a mission that really could have killed him. We were on a moving train, and decided that the illegal cargo in the last two cars had to be destroyed. We concocted a plan to have Dan, the huckster, do a “deal with the devil” to be able to cast Wall Walker on Alphie. We almost chose Rain, our Indian Scout, due to her better athletics. But we decided that only Alphie had the knowledge to derail the cars once he got there. With Wall Walker he ran along the side of the moving train so the guards up top wouldn’t see him. Once there he deactivated several traps, unhooked the cars, then picked the lock to reenter the unaccessible car. He pulled off some crazy rolls with several acing exploding dice. It was an epic scene. Though we are still having to deal with the repercussions of such a bold move.

Basileus: I think the most interesting parts so far have been seeing the players (try to) coalesce around what their shared priorities and ethics are, such as what to do about prisoners or sympathetic characters that don’t offer a clear mechanical advantage one way or another. This is doubly true since we have characters who come from different walks of life, and we are trying to give voice to different experiences (age, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc…) while being thrown together in a shared battle against supernatural evil.

Lurch6571: Trying to engage in the campaign with a character that is seemingly one minded in his purpose (GM Note- Lurch’s character is very single minded- or at least that is the appearance- his is the first character in one of my games with a secret bio).

Gaitkeeper: Most challenging moment of the campaign has been solving the riddle of the Mourning Fog. (GM Note- Mourning Mist or Fog is caused by an unsolved heinous murder.)

Faeriemage: I’m playing a teenager. Trying to straddle that gap between child and man makes for a lot of story moments where I can easily swap between a childish character and a more mature one, but dealing with how other people (players and NPCs) deal with my nominal child has made me re-evaluate how I can solve a lot of problems. It’s hard to be forceful when someone basically says, “my, aren’t you just so cute.”

What parts of the game do your players enjoy or engage with the most?

MGH: I love the fact that magic is sort of rare. It makes it more special. In fact, you don’t need super powers or magic in Deadlands to be an epic character. Even though in character we don’t always agree and play into those social dilemmas, we work well together when it counts. Our last battle with a coven of witches showed that.

Basileus: Seeing the long-term consequences/impacts of our actions on the wider world is what motivates me as a player, but I think the things that grab my attention most in the moment are the little details of how the presence of the viscerally supernatural changes the world from what we might expect in a historical setting, and then exploring how to deal with that as a player-character. It’s a good way to challenge your own experiences and explore a character’s perspective.

Lurch: It has the be the psychological aspects, mind games, intimidation and /or persuasion

Gaitkeeper: The players seem to engage with investigation the most – whether it’s mundane bank robbers or ghosts haunting Western towns.

Aside from the great aesthetics of your campaign pages, you also have a useful collection of house rules, which includes rewards for good attendance, log-writing, and an MVP award. What house rules have been most successful for you, either in this campaign or others?

Gaming Megaverse: We started with rewards with “A God…Rebuilt,” and have tweaked them through the years to fit the group and the system. The MVP, log, and attendance awards have been staples, and I recommend that everyone does it- it makes a difference in participation!

The campaign’s adventure logs are the heart and highlight of “Damnation,” and very well-written. Each author has a distinct, in-character voice that makes reading the story a real treat. What parts of the logs have you enjoyed the most?

MGH: Well, I love writing. I put on resumes and applications that I write fiction with a group of amateur writers. I love rubbing shoulders with all the other players. Some are brilliant writers, and all are passionate about creating art in the form of a good story.

Basileus: I really like seeing how other players imagine the fleshed out interactions of characters that are not their own – things like little embellishments on what a PC did that really flesh out the characters and provide a view of how other players perceive characters externally.

Gaitkeeper: The logs I enjoy most are the ones that give wildly different points of view of iconic in-game sequences.

Faeriemage: I personally love that they exist.

You’ve been involved with a lot of great projects on Obsidian Portal over the years, including this campaign. Without giving away the plot, what does the future hold for “Damnation?” Do you have any other projects going on right now or coming up soon that we should watch for?

Gaming Megaverse: The players drive my game, so outside of the big bad guy/girl (who I cannot name as they are not sure who it is yet) most of the future is unknown. The group has a delivery of a sealed letter to make that began the game in Silver City, Idaho, and are currently in Seattle- so that is the one future they know. As far as outside projects I just retired and bought a boat with my wife- we are fixing it up to sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii and then to Alaska- you can follow the progress on Instagram @TTRPGSailor.

Your gaming group is an enviable one and includes excellent writers, designers, creators, with the awards to prove it. We would be remiss if we didn’t ask your team for any gaming advice, tips, or tricks that you’d like to share.

MGH: As a player, get involved. Help as much as you can to make the GMs job as easy as possible. Do it as an appreciation for the other players. I find role playing as a way to fill my need to create. GMs, let your players create. It is so rewarding to build something together.

Basileus: Everybody has different strengths. The best you can do is find a strong central “thing” (theme, story element, aesthetic, etc…) that everyone strongly connects to, and then let each member engage with it in a way that they enjoy. Everyone may be doing slightly different things but they’re getting the most out of their own and each other’s efforts.

Lurch: Voice concerns about player style or attitude that seem to cause discord, before it becomes an issue. Be prepared to take a hiatus if the game or group seems to be dragging. Inject new players to keep the viewpoints fresh and the action changing. Change up the campaign or genre to keep players interested. Find a game system that has the right balance between ease and complexity.

Gaitkeeper: Encourage all of the players to create or design parts of every game. Get people invested, and you’ll be surprised how common good design or good writing can be – and they get better with practice!

Faeriemage: Never be afraid, as a GM or Player, to admit that something just isn’t working. Never be afraid of the RetCon. Sure, it might be weird to suddenly have one character change everything on their sheet but their name, but personality means a lot more than some would like to admit.

Well partners, the campfire’s a-gettin’ pretty low and it’s time for us to turn in. We hope you’ve gleaned some learnin’ from these old hands and we hope you get a chance to read some of their stories. If you’ve found a favorite campaign that’s right as rain in your book, well canter on down to the OP forums and nominate them (or yourself) for Campaign of the Month!

Until next time!

1
Feb

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

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

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Life partners? Family? Where can we interact with you on the internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


Justins:

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

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


Lanodantheon:

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

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

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

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HumAnnoyd:

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

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

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


MalloryLover23:

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


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

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

1
Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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