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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!

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
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.

20
Jan

Update Post – January 20, 2022

Hail, Portal People!

The last reckoning was a few months ago in the previous calendar year. I had thought we were going to end up not doing them anymore because last time I asked if anyone cared, and we didn’t get any responses … for a couple months. But then recently, a few members mentioned they appreciated the updates, and so the updates continue!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to post them in the Community Forums, or email support directly at [email protected].

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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