Tag Archives: obsidianportal

1
Feb

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month February 2023: The Domain of Dread Council Meeting.

It may have been some time since you have heard the name “Ravenloft”, but in this DREADFULLY exciting campaign, you will hear it again. GameMaster ElMuggs has concocted a scenario where some of D&D’s BADDEST ever BADDIES have got together to remind people the true meaning of FEAR once again, in The Domain of Dread Council Meeting.


First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What brought you into the world of TTRPGS? Where can we interact with you on the internet?

Well I grew up in rural Australia and was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when my stepmother caught me playing Castle Adventure on my Dad’s computer and asked ‘Are you playing Dungeons and Dragons? You know some people played that on acid and KILLED someone?”

Being a seven year old girl this very much left a impression on me as obviously Dungeons and Dragons had to be the coolest, most extreme game EVER! But being that there was nobody to play with I had to rely on the videogames until in 2017 I stumbled upon three people sitting at the back of the room at the game store that had opened up in my home town.

They were the Redbook Roleplayers and did a total OMG You’re Playing Dungeons and Dragons can I play tooo OMG !

Yeah I’m that cool. I don’t use much social media but you can find me on the Obsidan Discord or Twitter (while it lasts!) as @ElMuggs

You have described “The Domains of Dread Council Meeting” as “a comedic misadventure through the mists of Ravenloft”. In a “nutshell” please explain to the Obsidian Portal Community what your campaign is all about.

Well that’s basically it, but to see why this campaign is a bit different let me ask the characters what they think it’s about?

Strahd (Vampire Ruler of Barovia): It is my duty as the first and greatest Dread Lord to show these lesser nursery rhymes villain what it means to be terror incarnate! Honestly these modern day dark lords, they can barely manage to lure backpackers into the woods, or leave a blood soaked message on the wall! Back in my day you had to do better than a jump scare or two! Here now Vecna, let me tell you how we used to do it in the old country! I’d climb into a coffin and lie in wait for hours on end, even weeks, just waiting for the right time to jump out and go BLEAGH!!!!

Daniel (Unkillable Tiefling): I don’t know? The Awesomeness of Awesome? I’ve been though the dark and the light and the light and the dark and it’s all the same. Apart from my Super-Awesome Domain but theres nobody in it, just me and the Hamstercows – but that was the Mistake. Maybe Llamacows? Then I found the perfect people to bring along but SOMEBODY ended them. Terrible Train accident! I’m all shiny though – got a shiny butt!… Problem with Tieflings though is that they can’t wear hats.. uh.. What was I talking about?

Vecna (OG Litch and God of Secrets): It’s my unjust punishment for getting involved with the other Lords of Dread.

Tasha (Witch and Best selling Author): Pft, always so dramatic! In truth Poor Vecna hasn’t had much to do for years, and Strahd.. well he’s so just so PRIMITIVE. He really needs to move with the times as the scary vampire in his castle pining over a poor women he’s obsessed with is just so cliche!

So then I thought why not invite one of these new Dreadlords to our secret little Council? The invisible one had the wonderful idea to ride out and spread some fear. But then Daniel showed up, Strahd got us lost and things have been going downhill ever since!

You seem to have started out the campaign with players taking on the main PC’s at HIGH LEVELS. Did this present any issues in building up the characters of the players?

The Campaign started by accident after a bit of silly in-character conversation between our ForeverDM talking about his love of Curse of Strahd. Soon he was roleplaying Strahd talking about how he was the greatest big bad in DND and it was hillarious. I immediatly wondered how Vecna would react to this? It didn’t take much to convince the others to jump in with their own characters.. and session 0 quickly ended up with the characters riding out on their first adventure.

The big challenge was getting a grip on the lore as playing with Strahd, Tasha and Vecna required doing a deep dive into the history going all the way back to 2nd Edition. Vecna had been a Dreadlord back in 2nd edition but escaped and outside of Critical Roll he hadn’t really been seen in 5th edition. Likewise Tasha also had a lot of gaps in her history as Wild Beyond the Witchlight hadn’t been released yet.

Then there’s Daniel who was a PC from our first campaign together. While we loved him there was the small problem that he died and being brought back to life via Wish had left him immune to the Dead condition! If that’s not wild enough for you there’s also the Invisible Person. Their unique power is that they are so invisible not even I know where they are at all times. This is because the player works, and so doesn’t make it to many games, so when they arrive I ask them where their character was and we fill in the gaps from there.

All of this works because I tend to avoid worrying about balance and CR ratings and instead look for what makes the most interesting challenge for the players? A lot of the game is about leaning into the personality of the characters.

What version of Dungeons and Dragons have you used for the campaign and what inspired this decision?

Our group has always used 5th edition+ UA Playtest material and a good chunk of Homebrew. In terms of story it takes place sometime after the events of Wild Beyond the Witchlight.

I like 5th edition because it gives you plenty of space to shape the rules around the story you want to tell. While DND is simpler then 3.5 etc. it’s also really flexible both for players and DMs. As a new DM the biggest issue I find is that if there’s a ‘Rules as Written’ sometimes you can end up feeling trapped because it doesn’t make sense for the situation or story you’re trying to tell.

The other reason is that it’s very easy to slip in rules from other games and editions. One of the Domains turned the characters into teenagers and had they stayed there I was planning to bring in some of the rules from Tales from the Loop to go with the 80s suburbia vibes.

Likewise the ‘Levelling for Dreadlords’ rules call back to 2nd edition as my first experiances playing Baldur’s Gate II. In earlier editions Vampires where much scarier as they could drain your XP and suddenly you’d lose all those levels you’d worked hard to gain! There’s also some older edition spells that were missing in 5th edition that also make a comeback in this campaign.

You obviously have a great love of the Ravensloft campaign. How long ago did you first play in or GM that campaign, and are any of your current players returning from that time? Have there been any issues in updating the concepts to suit your current campaign?

So first up I need to give props to James Haeck’s Strahd Must Die Tonight – in Space! https://www.dndbeyond.com/posts/895-strahd-must-die-in-space which inspired the idea of bringing in new genre’s to provide a new take on old DND adventures. Having now had to deal with Ravenloft Castle I have a lot of respect for Will who DMed this for us as a Halloween One Shot back in 2020.
It was the first time most of us had played in Ravenloft and set up the events that lead to Castle Ravenloft no longer being part of Barovia.

One reason I’m excited about people learning about this campaign is that the Setting Information is what I like to call the “Ravenloft Remix” as I really wanted to set up each Domain to really feel different from one another. So it was a chance to really bring in things that my players wouldn’t expect and each domain has it’s own little world. Because it’s the players that provide the comedy there’s really nothing to stop someone else using the material as part of a more ‘straightforward’ adventure.

Our group has a long history of working from older editions. The actual world that this campaign fits into is a big Planescape adventure that’s been run by multiple people over probably 10 years or more? We’ve done all sorts of crazy things from Tomb of Horrors to escape Dark Sun and Spelljammer (before it was 5e).

To date the biggest challenge for me as DM has been going back to Ravenloft Castle. I wanted to make sure I was keeping it in line with what the players knew and remembered of the campaign while avoiding any major spoilers for Curse of Strahd. I decided to use the map from the original 2nd edition adventure and age-up the Castle so that just enough things had changed while Strahd was away that even he didn’t know what to expect.

The timing was also perfect to bring back two of the heroes of the original adventure! Poor Strahd came home to find that his Castle now belonged to a young, handsome elven vampire who looked like he’d just stepped out of an Anne Rice Novel. Meanwhile the top half of the Castle is a fallen Solar who’s hell-bent on ensuring the Castle is destroyed!

There are some very innovative design modifications in your campaign, including a custom built navigation board. Who is responsible for your overall campaign design? Can you share any useful “design tips” with other OP members?

That would be me! At high school I wanted to be a web designer so I learned a lot of HTML and CSS. The nav bar is a recent addition and at some point I’ll probably find myself getting curious about what kind of Javascript functions are possible.. but not today!

Looking at past COTM was really inspiring early on to see what was actually possible but the hardest bit was deciding what to do. Odd as it sounds I wanted to try and replicate the feel of a mouldy old book the players might stumble across in Strahd’s attic. So a lot of work went into using code to capture that sense that it should smell of old books.

In terms of tips, One thing I learned studying CSS and web design is to be careful with images. You need them big enough to not be blurry, but too large and the file size will cause your site to become unusable. This site uses a lot of repeating elements because once you load an image it’s usually cache’d so you can use it over-and over again without any problems.

The other big trick is the Google Web Fonts – I have a love/hate relationship with them as when they work they’re amazing, but they can also be a pain because you often need to adjust the text size to make them readable. The Adventure Log uses a lot of them – but the actual posts just use a normal font. This is because it’s not easy to read a full page of text in script, so most of the time it’s usually just used for headers and special effects.

Finally learning to find your way around the Inspect Elements tools can make it a lot eaiser as you can test things without actually changing the site itself. There’s also nothing to stop you making up your own tags like this:

Lets me mimic those ‘comment’ boxes from Tasha’s Cauldon of Everything:

How important are the Adventure Logs to your campaign? Who creates them? How involved are your players in the process?

The adventure log is intentionally subjective, sometimes they might include the direct notes from a campaign but more often than not they’re pieced together from memory and whatever notes survived the session. Often I will forget small details, names or ‘what happened in what order’ but my players are always great at reminding me.

It’s very important to me as a DM as a way to keep track between sessions as sometimes months may pass between games. So it’s been great now that I have it and can start working on the Adventure Log the day after the game while it’s all fresh in my head. This way I can get everything updated, provide the players an update on Inspiration, and get ahead on any changes and planning for the next session.

It’s also has an in-game use as spells like Legend Lore exist so Characters could actually read the Adventure Log if they wanted to. This is because it’s canon in our games that there is a Library that records everything that ever happens – and one of the players is DMing a campaign set in it!

I’m still working on getting my players to use the Portal as it’s still very new – but I love the way they can post their own ‘thoughts’ on events and have the ability to add to it over time.

Your campaign seems to have been running from around the end of 2020 up to the present day. Have there been any modifications you have had to make to the way you play in relation to the worldwide pandemic?

We’ve been playing online via Roll20 since I joined the group in 2017. Playing virtual was really what made it possible to have weekly games because Australia is a really big place! Most of us also have crazy scheduals of work, study and other commitments so each week means looking for a notification to say there’s a game on.

I honestly prefer DMing online because you are not constrained by what you can hide behind the DM screen or fit on the table. So I found it really freeing in that if the characters want to do something crazy I can hide my face, take a breath and quickly look up whatever is needed to keep the game going. It’s created a game where I’m just as excited as my players to know what will happen next, as my version of prep focuses more on the first five minutes at most, then seeing what the players will bring to the table.

By far the hardest thing about running the campaign is that being a backup game that I run when there’s not enough players for the main campaign or the DM needs a break there’s often big gaps between games. Often I don’t know I’m DMing until the night and rarely do I know what will happen next.

This means needing to keep a lot of secrets from players to avoid spoilers for Domains and characters they might come across in future – or return to one day.

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

A few months? I found the site when I realised it was going to be impossible to run Ravenloft Castle without a proper system for keeping track of the 88 map markers. When I looked at others they where really locked-in on what kind of ‘style’ of campaign you could run – while they might look more ‘fancy’ I really just wanted something I could use while DMing to quickly get things at a moment’s notice.

I love how the Wiki section is really free to being used to store whatever campaign information you want, rather than being forced to use a format set for a particular game system or campaign style. I like how Items and Characters both have their own ‘section’ as these are things are repeatedly pop up in games, and it’s handy to be able to build up a database that you can quickly go back to when you forget a name or thing that you mentioned in an earlier session.

The GM section and Secrets are very important for my campaign and it’s great that my players can be given their own version of events. Plus, as a visual person, I love that I can share the artwork that inspired parts of the adventure, and give a lot more personality to the world.

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

It really makes it a whole lot easier to run games. Normally finding a specific NPC, picture or location would take combing through folders full of images and random documents on my computer or the internet. These days I keep the Obsidian Portal open behind the Roll20 screen and I can quickly run a search to find what I need.

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

So what’s been really fun DMing all of this has been how it really pushes you to ask the big questions like: ‘Would an angry Ultraloth consent to being Polymorphed into a T-Rex?’ “How many hit points does a black hole have?” Or the big one – ‘What happens if a Dreadlord dies outside of their domain?

So I thought I might share the story of how one of these questions lead to a series of events leading to what I like to call ‘Blobfish Strahd’.

This started with a classic question: What happens if a vampire is diseased by an Aboleth to only be able to breath underwater?

By RAW the answer is nothing – because apparently there’s one line in the 5e Monster Manual that says vampires don’t need to breath. But this is Ravenloft a land of poetic justice! Unlucky for Strahd I didn’t have the Monster Manual, I was using the 2nd edition Domains of Dread where there was no such comment. Nor did it make sense that a Aboleth would have a disease that didn’t work on certain types of creatures. So I ruled that was true, he didn’t need to breath BEFORE he was diseased by the Aboleth.

I wouldn’t have done this but being a high level party it shouldn’t have been too hard for them to find a way to cure the disease right? It was then that we learned that this party of Dreadlords had no clerics, no paladins and the only healing spell anyone knew was Wish!

So sadly for Strahd they missed out on curing the disease and the party was forced to seek help. However the player ended up deciding NOT to cure Strahd and instead stay in mist form. So, on entering Vecna’s domain I was given another big question:What happens to a vampire in mist form when subjected to the intense gravity of a nearby black hole? Turns out that under intense pressure a gas doesn’t become a solid – instead it turns into a SuperCritical Fluid forming Plasma!

So over time Strahd’s gaseous form grew smaller and smaller until he became a Plasmoid that could best be described as ‘Blobfish Strahd’. Which the player LOVED so much they set their Discord picture to this little guy:

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?

If I have one bit of advice for ForeverDMs it’s that if you want to play, challenge your players to try DMing for a night! This is how I made the jump from player to DM. Our ForeverDM was feeling burnt out after taking us all the way from Level 1 to 17 over a course of 3 years!

So, For New Years 2020 we were given a ‘challenge’ for three of us to run a game. My first game was supposed to be one-shot and had a proper map, detailed NPCs, Monsters traps etc. All the players had to do was escape. I had some ideas of HOW they could do this but apart from the setup the players where free to ‘solve’ the problem however they wanted.
This is how it started:

This is what it looked like by the end:

For this campaign, I got rid of the map and swapped to Theatre of the Mind so that there was really no limits to what could happen. This also had the perk of being able to give the players more power.This happens in a few ways over my campaign. The most obvious is when Dreadlords are in their own Domains they can use Inspiration to shape the Domain to their will. But a more subtle trick is that when dealing with crowds or where there’s a lot of decisions to be made on the fly, I’ll ask the players to help me out. This way if there’s a party split or whatnot you don’t have a character stuck waiting around with nothing to do.

Instead, I give them a job! One Player might be asked to describe the NPC’s appearance, while another might decide what the room looks like, and another gives them a name. Other times I will offer them a NPC’s during a party split or if they arrive without a character.

The first time I tried this was when a friend popped into the game to say Hi. We were in combat so I gave them a NPC Guard who was in the unlucky situation of facing down Strahd, Vecna and a room full of Strahd’s minions at the end of Man vs Machine > https://thedomainofdreadcouncilmeeting.obsidianportal.com/adventure-log/cyrelons.

While in my hands he was just another Guard for the party to kill, making him a Guest NPC changed everything! This guard managed to stab Vecna and hold them off for two full rounds – everyone was excited to see how long he’d last. We learned this nameless guard had taken the shift to avoid being at home with his wife and nine children. He died a hero – turning what might otherwise have been a forgettable encounter into this epic last-stand.

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!

2
Jan

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month January 2023: Fake News, Real Adventure

Reporters from the Sharn Inquisitive again outfoxed the untalented hacks of the self-proclaimed “premier news source of Khorvaire” to bring our readers exclusive coverage of the biggest story since the end of the Last War. Working tirelessly, our intrepid beat reporters delved deep into the seedy underbelly of the post-war tension to bring you the most shocking and sensational story ever covered in these illustrious pages. Braving the wrath of unethical guards, crooked bureaucrats, and corrupt nobles, our courageous sleuths uncovered a web of deceit and fraud the likes of which has never been seen before. So settle in, renew your subscriptions, and hold on for the ride of your lifetime!” Strap in for Fake News, Real Adventure with DM DSMfive and crew, a wild ride in this D&D game set in the world of Ebberon on the continent of Khorvaire following The Last War.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions for us. Tell us a little about the people behind the logs? What’s your group like, how did you all start playing together, and what drew you to Dungeons & Dragons?

We’ve been playing together for a long time now, after getting together in 2003 via an online “looking for game” website (I don’t even remember the name of the site anymore).  There have been a few losses and additions to the group over time, but the same five for many years now. It’s a pretty eclectic group with several IT folks who work in different environments, a health care provider, and an educator.  We wander through different game systems, although most of us started with D&D (some over 35 years ago!) and it always draws us back.  Eberron has been one of my favorite setting, and I’m always pulled back to the wonderful mix of noire intrigue, high fantasy and murkiness of good vs evil that is inherent in the world.

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

As a (very) amateur creative writing enthusiast, I was initially drawn to just having a place to tell stories, keep them organized, and allow the rest of the group to contribute and play off each others’ creations.  More recently, I have been loving the ability to have Secrets linked to specific players, that allows intrigue to be accessed seamlessly.  It fits extremely well with the Noire aspects of Eberron and while outside readers wouldn’t be able to tell, there is a lot of intrigue going on behind the scenes thanks to the Player Secrets feature.  Once the campaign is concluded, the Secrets can merge with the main Adventure Logs to make the story more obvious.

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

Juggling five busy schedules is often a challenge, although we are mostly successful in gaming every Friday night.  We’re lucky that most of us GM at least occasionally, and we can switch off to lighten the prep load.  FNRA has been on a hiatus for the past while because of new challenges in my work schedule, but we’re hoping to get back to intermittent play soon.  Being picked as CotM has provided significant inspiration for moving the restart forward, so there will likely be new material fairly soon.

Pre-pandemic we were very old-school in our gaming: chairs around a table in the basement with maps, minis and snacks.  That quickly transitioned to Roll20 when the first lockdowns started and we have been gaming remotely since then.  There have been intermittent discussions of returning to in-person gaming, but the convenience of online, combined with complications from small children (read: tiny bags of mostly germs) and having a health care professional who works with seniors, have kept the decision from being finalized easily.

What are the main inspirations for your game? 

Originally, it was the release of the Rising from the Last War sourcebook for 5th Edition that drove my desire to revisit the Eberron setting.  I threw together a number of ideas to pitch to the group and have them decide, because there were too many stories that I was excited to try and couldn’t decide on which to pursue.  Once the consensus pointed to the newspaper reporter theme, RftLW was the base for developing the idea and creating ideas for journalism-related adventures.  Some of the crazier aspects of the real-life political situation south of the border provided the inspiration for the Fake News theme, and changing the Sharn Inquisitive into a tabloid rag fits well into our group’s often irreverent sense of humour.

Can you discuss your approach to worldbuilding in your campaign?

The group is often the starting point for my worldbuilding, and I find it very difficult to plan anything plot-wise until I know what everyone is going to be playing.  When the foppish noble Fulton hit the table, he wasn’t initially related to the Brelish Prime Minister, but he inspired an entire planned plotline of political intrigue, terrorist, and family discord.  Most of my worldbuilding happens after the characters exist, when I spend long drives free associating how their backstories could overlap and mesh in unexpected ways that (I hope) will excite the players.  During play, I usually end up making stuff up on the fly, see what grabs their attention, and then run with it.  The entire relationship between Lester and Lilliana came about because of a throw-away scene that was meant to be focused on the team’s rivalry with another reporter, but when Lester’s player kept returning to his interactions with the gnome, an entire new plotline was born.

Swapping to your beautiful site for a moment, where did you come up with the style design you have?

After we decided on the journalist theme, I really wanted the site to feel like an early 20th century newspaper.  Since cgregory is very active helping people out with CSS on the OB forums, I had a fantastic resource to figure out how to get a layout that felt right without disrupting navigation too much.  The hardest part has been finding headings for the newspaper “Sections” that didn’t feel too forced.  Because I don’t invest as much time planning the campaign plots until I know what characters are going to be present, I ended up having plenty of time early on to invest in the layout, which greatly increased my enthusiasm.  I also had a lot of help from my teenage daughter who has fantastic sense of style and seems drawn to “old stuff” and had some great suggestions for layout.  She also created the “conspiracy board” that the group found, which has proven to also be a font of plot ideas and player inspiration.

I love your adventure logs, do you create them yourself, or do you share the load in recording your narrative?

All of our campaigns end up being a group effort, as we seem to have a lot of aspiring writers.  I write the main plot narrative posts either right after the game, or first thing in the morning to make sure it is fresh.  It is mostly for my own use, because I like to include call-backs or resurrect hanging plot-threads, but struggle to remember details if it isn’t recorded somewhere.  Everyone contributes in-character stories, and often the initial documents end up edited by different players, usually for comical purposes.

Back to your game, can you share an example of a particularly memorable moment from your campaign?

The opening session of our game managed to both set a fantastic tone for the campaign and keep us in stitches throughout.  One of our group was unable to attend and while I wanted to get things started, I also didn’t want to have a meaningful start to the story while missing a key character.  Thus, we ended up completely ad-libbing the story of Fulton being asked to come to the Tain Gala, shopping for appropriate clothing and finally tormenting multiple co-workers and Sharn nobility at the biggest social event in the city.  It was all unscripted, involved very little die-rolling, and generated a great deal of laughter.  My particular favorite was Lester’s use of the Artificer’s Magical Tinkering ability to embarrass their rival Carric by making him smell like a full baby’s diaper.

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

My best games have always come about when I structure stories and plots around elements that the players have already shown interest.  Focusing the plots on the elements they put in their backstories, allowing them to surprise me with their choices, and rolling their ideas into the narrative keeps it fresh and fun, making it easier to expend the huge effort it can take to run a game.

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!

28
Nov

OBSIDIAN PORTAL CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR 2022- Winner Announced!

Congratulations to HumAnnoyd and crew for a well deserved win of our 2022 Campaign of the Year! Check out the winning campaign, Emerald City: Requiem here.

Prizes include:

– Memorable Monsters and Extraordinary Expeditions from Crit Academy

– Tome of Adventuring Design by Mythmere Games

-Remarkable Inns and Remarkable Shops from Loresmyth

– Wally DM’S Journal of Puzzle Encounters from Wally DM

– 1 Year Ascendant Membership from Obsidian Portal

1
Nov

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2022: The Curse of the Crimson Throne

“Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten.” Thus, will you read as you enter the kingdom of this Pathfinder campaign set in the frontier land of Varisia. The inns are plentiful, the adventurers bold. GM Mogo‘s frontier city of Korvosa is both resplendent and magnificent, but a dark secret hovers over its royal bloodline, with many of the citizens whispering in hushed tones of what they have come to call The Curse of the Crimson Throne.

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?

Mogo: Well I’m Mogo and I’m from Indianapolis, IN I’ve been GMing for 16 years now, outside of gaming I do IT work for clinical research. I’ve been playing tabletop rpgs since I was 12 and in college I slowly became the forever GM for my friends. I don’t mind the title or role, I love weaving stories together and ensuring everyone is having fun.


Tell us about your version of “Curse of the Crimson Throne”. The Campaign is a well-known Pathfinder Adventure Path, but how much does your campaign stick to the structure of the book and how much is your own home brew? Also, what made you choose a Pathfinder campaign in the first place?

Mogo: That’s the great thing about Pathfinder 1e’s campaigns, there’s a lot of space to expand and fill in with your own content. For the overall plot/story I’m probably around 70/30 on keeping to the books and my own material with where we are now (Book 2). That’s going to be subject to change depending on the decisions and actions of my players. I figure that by the end it’ll be around 50/50 – a lot of being additions to the story but I do have a few BIG changes planned for the plot.

I’ve been running Pathfinder 1e since its beta days and my friends I are all still in love with the system. I’ve run and am running several other campaigns but Crimson Throne has always been on my list to run. It’s definitely one of the best ever published by Paizo, it gives you such a rich setting that can be made to feel so alive.


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


Mogo: We play once a month in person at my place. I’ve basically turned it into a nerd’s dream space for gaming within my size and budget limits. Our sessions are usually around 7 to 8 hours with a break for dinner – often times we pitch in and/or get some sort of meal that fits the theme setting of the current session. Recently they were at a cattle ranch and one my amazing players fixed a giant barbecue feast!

Speaking of my players I have four regular members and two who drop in when they can:

Sarcy plays Dagi and Taice – they’re our group’s resident artist. All of the original art on our site is their work; they’ve also helped me with making props, maps, and painted miniatures. This is their first ttrpg and they’ve really gone all out using it as a creative outlet, even as far as making amazing themed meals for several sessions.

Konquerer plays Estha and Jaier – he’s probably our most experienced player and has been my best friend since grade school, he’s been one of most prodigious writers and has been creating an amazing amount of short story content to fill in the background of our world.

Rob plays Aventus “Pip” Thorne, and Darby Goodbrew – Rob is the king of puns and bad jokes. His writings and roleplay are often a trap for me as at times they’re powerful and compelling then suddenly blindside with a joke that can leave the whole table laughing.

Jake plays Volturio Sura and Floriano Bellucci – I sometimes suspect he thinks he’s the hero of the story. (I’m kidding! …mostly) He’s also contributed write ups for the story and his penchant for accents (good and bad) crack us up and keep us immersed in the story.

There is a lot of great artwork in your campaign. Although some of it seems to be drawn from lore on the internet, much of it seems to be original. Who is responsible for this and how integral is this original artwork to your campaign?

Mogo: There is a lot of internet inspired lore but all of the original art is from our resident artist Sarcy. Their art draws us all deeper into the game and gives it a feeling of being alive/real that’s hard to fully put into words. Any art you see in the adventure logs from them and are considered part of the official canon for how our world looks. Their comics are drawn straight from the shenanigans of our group (often using the actual facial expressions of the players as guides for how to draw their characters.) In addition to the “canon art” they also make a lot of funny/meme humor art for us – I think at this point there’s over a hundred pieces. We’re lucky to have them in our group. (They’re open for commission as well if people are interested: [email protected])


Your campaign seems very much focused on the trading city of Korvosa and the wiki shows great detail of this. There is a particularly wide range of Inns, Taverns and Shops described. How important are these in your roleplaying? Do you have any great “tavern tales” or “role play moments” to share with us?

Mogo: Oh lord, where to start? The Inns and Taverns and Shopping in Korvosa come up quite a bit. I’ve tried to make Korvosa as “alive” as possible instead of just a flat background. The players are all currently residents of Tenna’s though one of the best tavern tales happened at a place called Bard’s End. There is an adventure log of it on our portal but to tell it in short I had let them all know at the start of the game that they should probably think up a name for there group as word is going to get around the city about their exploits.

If they didn’t want a name to be given to them by one of the newpapers they best think of it themselves. They had been debating for over a year with no clear decision when one of them took it into his own hands. Rob/Pip took advantage of an award ceremony following a jousting contest he had won to announce to the world that that they are the Wyldcats. We’re three or four games down the road from it and I don’t think anyone has forgiven him for it though the laughs and jokes about it are flying back and forth – no hard feelings in the real world but in game I think he’s lucky they didn’t lock him in a trunk for it.

Sarcy: Probably Dagi’s best tavern tale was winning a city wide drinking contest against a duergar black smith at Bard’s End during the end of our infamous “festival episode”.

Jake: One that really stands out to me is at the start of book 2 when the party escorted Trinia out of town to safety – something about a group of friends on a long roadtrip together in the form of a wagon ride, lots of idle time spent chatting, playing cards games in the back, trading off between driving the cart, hanging out in back and bonding really paints a vivid picture. The fact that to some (Volturio in particular!) it’s a super fun roadtrip vacation and to others (Pip especially!) it’s a cloak-and-dagger smuggling of Korvosa’s Most Wanted in direct defiance of the law of the city really adds depth and dimension to the experience. Sarcy’s comic really sums it up well!


Who is responsible for your campaign WIKI design? Can you share any useful “design tips” with other OP members?

Mogo: I build and maintain the wiki; I spent about two months before our game started building the obsidian portal website. The forums and various guides were a huge help, the community overall was fantastic in providing support and advice on building everything – I’m still learning new tricks all the time. Tags and hyperlinks are super useful. The biggest help for a GM has been the ability to have a GM secret for each entry as well as whispers for when I want to secretly share something out to a specific player or if they want to give me a little bit of secret intel.

Some of the other great tricks for me have been the ability to embed images, pdf’s, and expanding drop downs of information. Check out my front page and house rules sections for some of my favorite organizations:

Main Page
House Rules

Something else we really like even if the edges are rough is the items tab, it’s been super useful!

The Adventure Logs in your campaign are very rich and very varied, and all seem to have good involvement from your players. How important are the Adventure Logs to your campaign?

Mogo: The Adventure Logs were actually the entire reason we started using Obsidian Portal. We wanted a shared space where I could prep everything and to which everyone could add their own notes/content. They’re absolutely vital, I use the GM sections to write out my notes pre and post-game, we go back to check on previous events and I love that I can set them to GM only and use them to plan ahead. They’re a life saver for a GM with a knack for frying hard drives and/or losing his notes.


There is also some great Art and Cartoon work in the Adventure Logs? Who does this? How much time is spent on it? Both the art and the writing seem like great fun, do you discuss it in during your gaming sessions?

Mogo: Like I said all the original art is from Sarcy – have I mentioned lately how amazing they are? The art comes up all the time in games as reference, commentary or sometimes all of us just fanboying over it. We’ve been known to group text each other when Sarcy posts something new.

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

Mogo: I’ve been using Obsidian Portal for about 5 years now. I first learned of the site through a couple friends after a fiasco with One Drive and a dead laptop lead to a massive loss in content I’d been writing for multiple campaigns. This site is such a fantastic mashup of a blog and wiki data base for games which can be used as heavily or lightly as you like. It’s been a life saver for me in helping me keep track of logs for games and keeping all my notes together and linked to each other with tags and hyperlinks. As the world’s unluckiest gm when it comes to hard drives you’ve no idea how grateful I am for it. I have four campaigns on here as well as a space I’ve made just for one-shot modules.


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

Mogo: For me, the biggest thing is keeping my notes in organized and in one place. As a forever gm who’s always running at least three campaigns at once it’s been a life saver.

Sarcy: As a player my favorite part about having OP is having a place to put my Character information, we can do Adventure logs, secrets, planning of our own, and having reference to SO MANY things in the campaign for whenever the creative mood strikes is amazing, all in one well organized place.

Jake: My favorite feature of the OP site is with the adventure logs – there each of the players and DM can add the vignettes, background stories, details of things we don’t necessarily see during the sessions and so on. When the game only takes place once per month, having someone in the group post something every week or so really helps keep the game fresh and interesting to where everybody’s super excited once it’s time to get back to the table.


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

Mogo: Do I have to pick just one? I think the thing I’m proudest of is my in world newsletters that I write up, post, and print out for my players. They always insist on starting the game by having Jake read them aloud in character. But the biggest highlight for me has got to be Sarcy’s poster they made to commemorate our 1 year of gaming together. It’s not often the GM gets to be in the artwork and depicted how he sees himself.

Newsletter Link!


Sarcy: There has been so many! I absolutely have a couple favorite sessions but what I really enjoy are moments when I get sucked into the story and forget I’m just rolling dice at the table. There was a session where Dagi’s love interest was threatened and the panic and blind rage I felt was really a testament to Mogo’s story telling. The second time was the panic and fear when the big bad from Dagi’s past came back as a ghoul and nearly did her in. I visibly paled when I saw the pawn go out on the table.

Jake: The daily ritual where the group settles around the breakfast table and Volturio reads out the two newspapers while they all hold their breath with dread or excitement to see what kind of shenanigans ended up with good exposure, bad exposure or if they managed to skirt beneath the radar. One thing particularly strong about this campaign taking place mostly in the same city is that we get to see direct consequences of the things the party does – relationships with NPCs build and grow out into depth and nuance you don’t normally get with adventures that just go from set point to set point and just return to a home base briefly between books.

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?

Mogo: I’ll pass on the best lesson I ever learned from the GM’s who taught me:

“Make the players feel like they’re the heroes of the story.”


It’s such a simple thing but it can often be overlooked.

Remember as the GM your biggest responsibility is to ensure everyone at your table (including you) is having fun. We’re playing that’s the whole point. Sure you can write up gut wrenching emotional scenes, create horrible, enraging villains but at the end of all of it the point of this whole hobby is to have fun. Check in with your players and with yourself now and then to make sure it is, you’ll thank yourselves later.

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
Aug

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month August 2022: In Over Their Heads

“To admit defeat is to blaspheme against the Emperor.” ~Imperial Army Doctrine

Welcome to the 28th Chalkydrian Drop Regiment! Often outnumbered and outgunned but never outmaneuvered. Troopers of the Imperial Guard fight and die facing the many horrors of the Spinward Front. They are often In Over Their Heads so they rely on comradery, black humor and as much firepower as they can muster to see them through the bleak universe of Warhammer 40k.

Charge up your Tri-plex Pattern Lasgun, check your grav-chute and get ready to give your life for your Emperor! Continue reading for our interview with GM JayDoubleA to learn more about the exploits of these brave soldiers of the Imperium!

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?
Answer

First off, thanks for this award. I know there are a lot of amazing campaigns on Obsidian Portal, so to be selected from all of them is quite the honour!

I’m a veteran RPGer, in my late 40s now, and been enjoying this great hobby of ours for some 35 years or so. I was born in Liverpool, but grew up in the Netherlands, moving back to the UK in my 30s. And back here I met an amazing woman who happened to feel the same way about me – we’ve been married for over 12 years now, with four kids (one of whom is a player in In Over Their Heads).

Outside of this, I’m a web developer in my day job (which will be relevant later on in this interview), I play guitar and bass (currently between bands), and I try to run and hit the gym a couple of times a week.

I don’t post on Twitter, and my Facebook is pretty locked down (unless they’ve reset the privacy settings again), so your best bet is to message me here on Obsidian Portal.

Tell us about “In Over Their Heads” in a nutshell. How did it come to be? What drew you to Warhammer 40K? How have you hurdled the issues of rank that often plague a military campaign?

In a nutshell? It’s a squad of Imperial Guard, and their adventures – or rather the mission they are sent on and the moments of R&R in between. There are “on base scenes”, where they try to navigate base politics, rivalries with other platoons, and getting shouted at a lot by their drill sergeant. And then there are the “on mission scenes”, where frightening amounts of firepower get deployed on either side.

I played the original Wahammer 40K back when I was a teenager, and kept semi-in-touch with the Games Workshop hobby since then. When I came across a link to the totally amazing All Guardsmen Party (http://www.theallguardsmenparty.com/), I was inspired to try my hand at running one of the 40K RPGs. My regular player group was up for giving it a go, so I started prepping.

Handling the chain of command has proven to be fairly easy so far. Their platoon commander is woefully inexeprienced, but is smart enough to actively seek the input of his NCOs, which includes two of the PCs. And these PCs’ players are then able to take input from the rest of the group, to steer their Lieutenant in the “right” direction. The more senior officers assign the mission and objectives, but are otherwise smartly avoided by enlisted troops not wanting to get into any unnecessary trouble!

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

Since I also run RuneQuest at the moment for my main group, and one of the players in IotH has his own campaign he runs, we aim to play Only War every third session. In an ideal world, that would be every third Friday. Obviously things come up every now and then, but we are doing every third game, rather than every third week.

Some of the group are people I originally met through playing AD&D back in Holland, around 25 years ago. Others are friends I have made since. The old crew from the games back in the day got a Mage game (not run by me) and a 3rd Ed game (which was run by me) up and running about 12 years ago, after reconnecting through Facebook. We used Skype, as that is what there was back then. Force of habit has kept Skype as the main platform, though I have recently been introduced to just how much better Discord is. I sense a change might be imminent for us..

We’re a pretty mixed group, spread out across the UK, the Netherlands and Israel – we’ve got computer programmers, a maths teacher, a Games Workshop store manager – but we all share a love for both the storytelling and the social side of things. I’ve found pre-game banter needs about an hour to be factored in when planning the sessions, as we’ve got a whole week to catch up on with each other before we kick off.

Alongside Skype, IotH uses Owlbear Rodeo for the maps, Google Jamboard for quick diagrams, and a custom charactersheet/diceroller that one of the players and I built in .net/javascript/sql.

Your campaign is notable for its many design innovations, with lots of CSS usage! Lots of boxes and custom buttons, which adds to its look. Where did your design knowledge come from and what advice can you give to new GMs wishing to improve their sites in similar ways.

This is where I have to give a LOT of credit to Frak_Lou_Elmo, who’s one of the players in this campaign. He jumped on the Obsidian Portal site as soon as I created it, and much of the original look and feel comes from him. He’s also added a lot of content – I told the players they should all feel free to add any stuff they liked regarding people, places, etc., as long as it didn’t contradict canon. Several of the major NPCs and the entirety of their regiment’s home planet, are player created, and I love them giving this input to the game.

As I mentioned before, I am a web developer by trade. Although my qualifications are all in server side programming, I have been doing the job for well over a decade, and have worked around some very talented and helpful people. I’ve picked up a lot of css and other bits and pieces over the years, and it’s been great having this opportunity to show some of it off just for fun. Doing the IotH pages all in css, without being able to just launch piles of custom javascript at every problem made it a very interesting challenge.

For anyone looking to tune up their sites, I’d say to ask – I’m happy to answer questions – and look at how other people have done things, e.g. grab the css from my site (https://inovertheirheads.obsidianportal.com/custom_css) if you want to see what I did – and find some online tutorials on the basics of css and the DOM if you are a total beginner. But most of all, don’t be afraid to ask someone how they did something.

How valuable do you find being Ascendant? What do you find to be the best features?

You know, I wasn’t sure what the specific benefits are. I “ascended” ages ago, because I wanted more image storage space for a previous campaign I was running. When I started on IotH, I already had the benefits, so took them for granted… Knowing how unhelpful this answer must be, I went and looked them up.

Undoubtedly the custom css, alongside the increased storage. Without the facility to let my creative side run wild, the IotH site would be functional, but nothing that really stood out.

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

There are ideas being considered, scenes pre-emptively being played through, all kinds of things going on in my head well in advance of play. Usually I will sit down for a couple of hours the evening before the game and put down notes, maps, find ambience and sound effects, stuff like that. A lot of my prep gets revealed in adventure log posts after the mission is completed. I have learned not to overprepare, though. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan in any RPG session, so having ideas for scenes and moments that can be put into the story however it might unfold is more useful than mapping out an entire session that will never end up going the way you thought it would, in my opinion.

We’re only a few missions in, so I don’t yet know exactly what would be typical, though I suspect the format of the current mission may be repeated a few times. Starting on the base, I have a number of scenes prepared for the PCs to interact with others on the base, either solo or in pairs. These are often continuations of previous interactions, e.g. a lieutenant from another platoon trying to get cooperation for some illicit trading of materiel started in the first session, whilst still on board the transport ship to their deployment. All these scenes are time-boxed to a few minutes, to prevent this part of the session from taking over the whole evening (with several bored players being reduced to spectators for hours at a time).

After that, there would typically be an on base scene or two involving everyone (e.g. a training montage, a night at the bar), then the mission briefing… and then we get to the shoot-y, kill-y, die-y, explode-y part, where tactics and dice rolls take over and the bodycount increases at an alarming rate.

In a way, it’s probably not too dissimilar to a session in many games, whatever the genre. You do stuff around your current base of operations, you find out what the mission/quest/job is, you hit the action. The most significant difference, given that this is a military game, is that a lot of the planning is taken out of the PCs’ hands. They get given the plan by their commanders, but still need to figure out an effective way of implementing it and coming out of it alive.

There are some amazing design aspects in your campaign (e.g. altered images, music videos for the different characters 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?

Frak_Lou_Elmo has to take a lot of the credit for that. He had a lot of these initial ideas, which I was then able to use my technical knowledge to build upon. The theme songs section was entirely him, as well as much of the layout, the military font, and a load of other input. His hard work inspired me to put in more work of my own, and we have built off each other since we got going with this. To be fair, can we accept this award jointly? He deserves at least as much recognition as I do for this!

The advice, once again, is to ask. I am more than happy to help people, and if I don’t see your forum post, message me directly!

https://www.w3schools.com/ has some great tutorials for the basics of html and css – and a lot of what makes the IotH site work is that I wrote custom html, rather than using the text editor and its own markup. Once you’re comfortable with the basic html tags and assigning them classes, you can start messing with css. Trial, error and have fun! Oh, and learn how to use your browser’s developer tools so you can experiment with changes in real time.

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

I’ve used it and dropped it (laziness, there is no excuse) for past campaigns I have run, and used it as a player in friends’ campaigns. It was initially a friend’s game that introduced me to it, but I keep coming back now because we’re making something special with IotH, I feel. And I’m having fun doing it, adding to it, and see how far we can push the boundaries of what can be done with the Obsidian Portal platform. Getting player input (such as rotating the adventure log write ups) goes a long way to counteracting the laziness factor, too!

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

One thing? It helps me get the ideas out of my head and somewhere where they are more accessible to my players, and where they can be looked up without having to personally remember every detail. It’s like the most glorious notebook a GM could ever wish for.

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

As I mentioned, we’re only a few sessions in, but we’ve had a couple of memorable moments. I am going to invoke GM’s ego prerogative here, and say that for me, the highlight has been playing the NPC Sgt-at-Arms Williams. He is entirely and unashamedly a genre transplanted version of Battery Sgt-Major Williams from the old BBC sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum”, complete with shouting, abrasiveness and deep baritone Welsh accent (which I do extremely poorly, but very enthusiastically). It’s great fun (and somewhat liberating) having an NPC like this that you can be really over the top with, totally hamming it up, and the PCs just have to take it, because he outranks them.

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

Accents – develop a few. It doesn’t matter if they are any good (most of mine are truly terrible), as long as they are consistent. It adds so much to a recurring NPC if they have some kind of distinct voice. Even more so in games running online.

Listen to your players – often they will plan for something, or mention something. And sometimes this something is actually a far better idea than what you had planned. Which leads us to…

Be flexible – no plan survives contact with the enemy! And even though the players aren’t your enemies, they will scupper your plans in a multitude of creative ways. Roll with it, ride it out, have fun, just never fully take your hands off the wheel. You are still the final arbiter of what happens; just remember that the story is fluid, not set in stone.

Timeboxing – one on one (or two) scenes can add a lot to the story. But remember that means the rest of the players aren’t involved. I try to limit scenes not involving the whole party to a few minutes each, with an onscreen stopwatch to keep track of time spent. Obviously developments can take you past that limit, but try to stay within it wherever possible, to keep the game moving for everyone.

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

1
Jul

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month July 2022: Signs and Portends

Obsidian Portal loves to celebrate campaigns that have stood the test of time, such as this month’s Campaign of the Month winner — “Signs and Portends” by ketherian. Well-organized and well-loved, this game has been running for 10 years! We’ve asked ketherian to Hârness her experiences with the HârnMaster system, GM’ing, writing, and running conventions to answer a few questions and give us some insight into stories and fun that last for years on end.

Hail, ketherian! Congratulations on winning July 2022 Campaign of the Month! “Signs and Portends” is a captivating HârnMaster campaign that has adventure logs on Obsidian Portal dating back a decade. For those who don’t yet know the world of Hârn, can you give a quick overview of the campaign and what it’s about?

It started as a mystery campaign, although I’m sure the party would have called it a Murder-mystery campaign. The first few adventures are even written up for GMs on the Fantastinomicon Encounters page. But after many (many murder) mysteries, the party wanted something different – so the PCs “graduated” into something more political. After a war, and a long MacGuffin hunt — the party will soon embark on a there-and-back again type adventure to purify the MacGuffin.

According to your OP profile, you have many years of experience with many different kinds of games and even a few writing credits with published game material. If you had to narrow it down to some of your favorite systems and settings, which ones would you choose?

That’s a hard choice. I’ve played some games, and run a few too – but I’m always willing to try something new. For me, it’s more about the background world than the system. I’ve played HârnMaster and run games in HârnWorld for a very long time mostly because I fell in love with the detailed background, maps, and the quality of the fan-written materials. Is it my favorite? Currently, yes. But I’m always willing to try a new system and learn a new world.

What do you and your gaming group like best about HârnMaster?

We really enjoy the background and the details of the society. It’s not quite your standard Arthurian fantasy, but it’s close enough to feel familiar. From the system, we enjoy the fact that it has no classes, nor hit points. Instead, you build a person who has skills. It’s led to the party having a Mage-Knight, and a Cook (Herald/Thief/Spy), a Yeoman (Sargent/Guide/Tracker), and a Spearman (Guardsman/Shaman).

The other two characters (a priestess and a church knight) are a bit simpler in construction.
Another neat thing is that HârnMaster combat is lethal regardless of how experienced you become. Your player-character can die from your mistakes. And exhaustion kills. So, it’s no wonder that people invest in armor as soon as they can afford it.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your players, and your lives outside of game?

I won’t speak for my party; but we’re in Montreal and meet up every 2 weeks. Our game table is often laden with snacks. Home-baking and cheese feature prominently, and the tea is pretty free-flowing.

The other neat thing? The table has more ladies than men (by 1). I have spent so many years as the only woman in the game, that this is a most pleasant change (although, it’s not the first time).

How did you first get into gaming? How did your current gaming group find each other?

I started gaming when I was 12. My older sister was the GM. I thought she did a lousy job, so I took over. 😀

I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences (being a woman and a GM isn’t always accepted in conventions or when I join a new table), so I’ve had to learn to leave the bad situations behind. But I’ve had a lot more good experiences than bad, most of them at conventions. It’s incredible when a player viscerally reacts to what’s happening at the table (laughing, crying, shock, etc.); it’s even better when they show the emotion I was hoping for.

As to the Signs and Portends group, we mostly know each other through another hobby: running fan conventions. This makes gaming difficult during the convention season, but we manage.

I’m a forever gm, and I’ve run previous campaigns for everyone in the party (except the new guy). We’re not quite a permanent gaming group – but we are old friends.

Your campaign organization on Obsidian Portal is remarkably good and the pages are all easy to navigate. Do you have any tips for GM’s regarding organization?

I haunted the forums (and now discord). As much as I love messing with layout, I always started with the suggestions, advice, and templates created by others. When I ran into problems, I reached out for help in the community; and the community always helped.

I have a background in data management, and Obsidian Portal was not my first wiki. I regularly surf my own site, and I use it to share log updates and loot lists with the players, as well as background information – so it has to be easy to navigate.

When organizing your data, design your structure like you will never remember where you put things. 😀 And then, remember to define your categories on a page so that everyone knows what you mean with your categories.

“Signs and Portends” features a handy section on House Rules. What rules changes or additions have you found to be most useful, either for this HârnMaster campaign or for other games?

HârnMaster has 1 book of rules and 2 supplements (religion and magic). Most everything else is about the society and the world – so house rules tend to be few and far between. I set up house rules to try and make the game flow a bit more evenly and to give the players more control at the table.

House rules typically fill a need or fix a mistake in the game system. But when they get to be too numerous, they become their own problem. I prefer systems with less rules (even if that means not every situation is covered) and also less house rules than more.

What highlights of the campaign have your players loved most, so far?

A player got her monkey. The player asked for the pet at the beginning of the game. Rather than say no, I explained that (a) monkeys are not native to this part of Hârn, and (b) her character would have never seen a monkey. She came up with a backstory of where the desire came from, and I incorporated the whole process (getting pictures of monkeys, meeting with a master merchant, ordering a monkey and trading for it) into the game. It was a long, slow process – but she got her monkey. And the party celebrated.

The party fought a dragon (more-or-less). The Mage-Knight almost got bit in half. It destroyed his sword (which was quite the work of art). After the battle, the party found a master swordsmith – who cried at the site of it. The fight was part of a longer adventure where they cheated their way into an enemy keep and found and killed the evil oracle who ran the place. That whole long-ranging battle is memorable as the party was cut-off from their support, but still they managed to lure most of the forces in the keep outside before locking them out. Their success is a point of pride for them, and trust me, they really worked hard to get it!

After so many years there are a ton of stories, and lots of good memories. 🙂

What part of the story are you most pleased with? Or, what was the most enjoyable moment for you as the GM?

For me, it’s the little moments. A player will ask for something, or mention something they want to do. A lot of things take so very much time in Hârn (there’s no teleportation), so by the time that thing comes around — the player usually has forgotten (not the monkey though). So, when it does come to fruition, it’s a joy to see the effect on the player.

There are the odd jokes too. At one point the church knight is testing his ability to detect evil, and on a whim, I told him the goat nearest him was evil. I thought it would be a quick scene. The party still teases him with evil-goat references.

I often mis-speak, so the party has walked through thin thickets, dry waterfalls, and wet deserts. 😀 Somehow, we make it work.

Overall, what part of the work of a GM do you love best and why — world-building, story-writing, battles, improvisation, and so on?

I love the world-building and the story-writing. They are what keeps me interested in the hobby. I’ve gotten better at improvisation over the years, although I try hard not to rely on it.

Can you give us any hints about the future of “Signs and Portends” (pun intended) without giving too much away? Or, do you have other, upcoming projects?

The party wanted a there-and-back again adventure (a la Hobbit). So, they’ll be traversing Hârn and visiting the mainland (Lythia). They’ll travel a penitent path – traveling from holy site to holy site until they reach the high seat of Larani. In-game, it’s expected to take around 2 years. Naturally, something’s going to happen at each site (maybe even a murder!). After that – I’m not sure.

Given your experience in gaming — playing games, running games, and writing — you have certainly seen changes over time in roleplaying games at your own tables and within the industry as a whole. What developments over the years have really impacted or improved gaming the most, for you? And if you’re willing to speculate, what do you think roleplaying games look like in the future?

I love the session 0 concept. When I started, the world you played in was what the GM presented without party feedback. I was never that comfortable with that, and have found over the years that I prefer it when the party give me feedback and tells me what they want from the game.

I still sometimes have problems with acceptance and inclusion, but now it’s regulated to forum posts not games or conventions. Gaming is, and always will be an apprenticeship process. To be a good player, you have to play with other good players. To be a good GM, you have to be in games with good GMs. Taking feedback isn’t always fun, but if it’s given with compassion, it’s always valuable.

I love to see the innovation of other GMs and their parties. I read everything I can find about GM’ing, but also about communication, improvisation, and negotiations. I don’t know where things are going to go from here — but it will be fun to find out.

Finally, Obsidian Portal always enjoys asking if you have any advice or clever tricks to share, as a GM, author, a site-designer, or as a game-player in general.

Ask questions.

As a player, as a GM, and as a person – it’s better to ask and seek for answers than it is to remain silent.

Listen more than you speak. As a GM that’s really hard to do. 😀 But when your players are talking – listen. Take notes. Use what they say to enrich your world, and don’t always use it against them. You need your party’s trust. Earn it and repay it by asking them questions about what they want to see – for their character, and for their game.

And lastly, if you don’t like the way some other game is run or played – don’t harsh their yum. Be careful with your criticisms, and remember that your words have an effect. Make that effect positive, not negative, every chance that you can.

Thank you for this honor. I look forward to see what happens in the near future. Maybe people will stop liking my Rise of the Runelords adventure, and start liking Signs and Portends one. 😀

And many thanks to you, ketherian, and to your players, for sharing your creativity and craft with our community. As we say farewell to the world of Hârn, we look to other horizons for more excellent examples of gaming goodness. If you know of a campaign on Obsidian Portal that deserves distinction, let us know about it on the forums! Happy Gaming!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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