Tag Archives: OP

2
Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1
Oct

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month October 2022: Wildside

It’s time to clean up that chrome and run the Seattle shadows with “Wildside” — October’s Campaign of the Month, by two-time winner, Dropbeartots. If you’re looking for some paydata on slick site design and some advanced advice on running Shadowrun 6th World, this is the plex for you. No SIN required…

Hail, Dropbeartots! Congratulations on winning Campaign of the Month for a second time — a rare achievement! “Wildside” is a Shadowrun campaign exploring the dark future of Seattle’s urban sprawl. Can you give a quick recap of the campaign story and what it’s about?

Thanks! Can’t tell you how proud this makes me 🙂 Of the campaign, our group, and all that we’ve been building with Wildside!

The campaign started with the idea of remaking some old SR3 characters a few members of the group had a looong time ago back before OP was even a thing – Gex the Snake street shaman, Malvain the elf street samurai, and Abraham the elf adept. The act of rebuilding these characters from SR3 to SR6W was interesting to say the least. Then they were joined by Dot the troll decker and Bobcat the techno-rigger to form a group.

The campaign has largely followed the PCs’ (mis)adventures starting with the job that cemented them as a group that I called Sweet Tooth, in which they liberated ten tons of rare real cacao from an agricorp and delivered it to an unknown Johnson. They later learned that Seattle-Carnation developed a particularly delicious new chocolate milk after this job.

They have also dealt with having a hand in Seattle gaining its independence from the UCAS (and all of the good and bad that entailed), stealing a dragon’s egg (Urubia), rescuing an ingénue from her abductors in Chicago to deliver her to a dragon (Urubia), meeting up with an independent underground trog rock band (Hez Nation), dealing with bug spirits in Detroit, messing with Humanis Policlub, exploring Toronto during a power outage while it was infested with dark spirits, rescuing one of the two lead singers of Hez Nation from a corporate kidnapping, stealing an ancient treasure from the Fourth World for Harlequin from right under the nose of Arleesh, and stealing a dragon’s egg again (recovering the egg they had stolen from Urubia back from the Sea Dragon)!

We started Wildside up in early 2020, took a short break for Hazard Pay to try something different in 2021, and then started up again at the beginning of this year. So it has been ongoing for close to two years now. Along the way, the PCs have gained and lost contacts, friends, enemies, lovers, Heat, and street rep.

The Shadowrun setting is rich enough that almost any modern-day issues can be explored, with some tech-fantasy twists. With “Wildside”, what kinds of themes or plot ideas have you enjoyed creating the most?

Mainly the dragon stuff 😀 The players and their characters had been walking on eggshells, guarding their thoughts, and trying not to let Urubia realize that one of their first few jobs was stealing her egg while at the same time later working for her. I think it got pretty tense more than a few times. But I really enjoy setting up the group to expand their horizons by personally meeting and interacting with creatures that are above and beyond the normal human power struggles of corp and government that you find in a lot of campaigns – dragons, immortal elves, free spirits, and the like.

I also enjoy exploring the interactions between different variations of metahumanity. In particular, I am fond of Orks and their struggles. Hez Nation was one of the most amusing creations to come out of this game for me.

If I ever get to sit down and play in a game, I have a Cascade Ork I’m ready to jump into some vehicles with to run a wheelman!

If you could bring one element from Shadowrun into the real world — either magical or technological — what would you choose?

It’s my favorite game world of all time, and I’ve been heavily invested in SR since 1E. I can’t name any one specific thing above all others tbh, I love all of the aspects of the game world and love bringing them all to life. While in reality I’d be a wage slave in the SR world I’m sure, I’d like to think I would immerse myself in VR hacking and cyberdecks or rigging if they were real activities.

We already know a little about you from your previous interview. Any news to share since the win for “Hazard Pay” in 2020 or has time just kind of flown by (like it has for many of us)?

Not much is new besides my employment status changing rapidly numerous times. Bobcat’s player, my fiancé, has taken up travel nursing so we’ve recently traveled to New Mexico. This has put our in-person gaming on hiatus, but we expect to get back to it soon.

Shadowrun sometimes requires a little bit of extra record-keeping, and we’ve noticed that you built special sections just for Karma, Reputation, and Heat — an excellent idea for GM’s and Players to keep a running tally for just about anything. Can you talk us through briefly how you made those customizations?

I had to do a lot of experimenting with inspecting and figuring out how to best use the Custom Navigation options. I created a separate wiki page for each of those sections you mention and more, and then added them to the front page navigation so that the players and viewers could see and interact with them. I used the OP page detailing available icons to grab those icons for use. I’d like to experiment with some custom icons as well.

Many of your Obsidian Portal campaigns including “Wildside” have a lot of style. Everything from the font choices to the artwork to the layout seems to “fit” the campaign in question. Do you have any tips you can share about how you make it all work together? Or are there any go-to online resources that you rely on for cool imagery?

I am pretty finicky about finding fonts to use that are thematic to the game, setting, and campaign that I run – Google Fonts is an invaluable tool for that. There are some that get repeated, but I generally try to use something at least a little different for each site. As far as the artwork goes, I just do a LOT of Google Image searches until I find something that feels right – sometimes the stuff that pops up happens to actually be for the setting or game I’m building the site for! I do like deviantArt a bit, and Artstation as well. I try to be very deliberate with the art choices based upon the mood and feel of the site I am building that I want to convey.

What highlights of the campaign have you and your players enjoyed, so far?

I have enjoyed the interactions, the double- and triple-deals, the intrigues, and the combats. SR6W provides, to me, a very interesting addition to character capabilities with the new Edge actions. It’s quite a task to remember them all, but boy it’s fun to see them in use!

Dot reports: “The chocolate heist was a funny shadowrun, just so unreal to think of such a thing in real life that it feels like a highlight to me.

Gex reports: “For me it was running around a powerless Toronto. It was a change from the norm, no power no vehicles possible zombie like outbreak with a mystery of why everything was offline. We didn’t do it for the money either.”

Malvain reports: “My personal favorite moment? When that one dragon (Arleesh) came after us after the river man sold us out and I just nonchalantly walked right up to her and said, “Look if you are gonna kill us and take it hurry up, I don’t have all day.” And walking away unharmed. It was kinda just a full circle moment for me, we were out matched and still felt like just going out like a badass and somehow it went the other way.”

Bobcat reports: “Stealing a dragon’s egg.Twice.”

Abraham reports: “I like that we basically ignored all of Robert Charette’s original truism. Especially dealing with dragons.”

Anyone who looks at your profile page on OP can tell you’re one of us — a hyper-creative individual with a lot of work already on display. Are there any ideas floating around in your head for future games that you just haven’t gotten to yet? Or are there any old campaigns that you’d like to revisit and re-work at some point in the future?

As one can see from all the games I’m working up on my profile (and those in Support know from the number of games I have requested to be added 😉 ), I have a ton of stuff running around in my head that I will probably never really get around to running or playing. But I have loads of fun building the portals themselves, and every one of them is a learning experience.

I have something brewing for an old game nobody I play with currently has even heard of… oh, they have heard of D&D 3.5, but not Iron Heroes. I feel the need to run a swords & sorcery low magic fantasy game after all of the high magic 5E, SR6W, and SB&CS that I’ve run lately. So building The Ashlands will be my next big project (expect to see a request to add Iron Heroes soon 😉 ).

My next Shadowrun game is already up and in planning – California Dreaming, a different sort of SR game and a revisitation of one that started at some point in the past but never really floated anywhere. Instead of ‘runners shooting people in the face for money, the characters will be vault divers in Los Angeles, fighting with critters, corpus, and fellow vault divers to uncover the treasures of deluged LA in the aftermath of The Twins, a pair of big earthquakes that buried half of LA underwater. I’m looking forward to getting that one off the ground!

If you like Shadowrun, feel free to check out the game I’m running for my Shadowrun newbies called More Things in Heaven and Earth! As I noted previously, our in-person gaming is at a standstill for at least three months, but we will be back to it soon.

And I’ll probably be reworking a lot of the portals I already have set up over time, trying to improve on them before I start approaching running the games. The Cyberpunk RED and Fading Suns sites especially!

Lastly, Obsidian Portal is always looking for tips and tricks from the best game-makers and site-designers. Do you have any pieces of advice you’d like to share that you’ve learned in the last couple of years?

Steal everything you can that looks cool!

Inspect, inspect, inspect!

Get on the forums and ask questions. Get on the Discord and ask questions. There are so many helpful creators on OP, they are super helpful and willing to answer questions, and portal building can be really fun!

Keep learning and practicing CSS and textile for your portals. The more I practice and learn, the better I feel about the things I am creating with them. I feel like I’m still a beginner compared to some of the folks here, with a lot more to learn. I have honestly been really surprised and humbled both times that I’ve unexpectedly learned that my portal was selected to be Campaign of the Month. But it does make me proud of what I’ve managed to grasp and accomplish.

And my utmost respect and love goes out to my friends, my players, for helping create these amazing adventure with me.

We’ve pulled too much heat on this run, chummer — it’s time to bail. Many thanks to Dropbeartots and his players for giving us a T-bird tour of the Seattle shadows and SR6W. We’re looking forward to seeing more of your games in the gritty future. If you have a campaign that the 6th World needs to see (including your own), be sure to nominate it on the OP forums and keep a cybereye out for updates on our Campaign of the Year vote. Until the next run — stay meshed!

1
Sep

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month September 2022: Merovia

It’s that time again, another month and another opportunity to celebrate some of our amazing community! This month we take you to the world of Merovia, where GM rappt0r and his party explore a complex world of magic and adventure. Created and refined over several years- and several campaigns, our interview barely scratches the surface of the mysteries to be uncovered. Read on to find out more about how rappt0r and crew have built an incredible, evolving world and the stories that lie within.

I have to start by asking who does the coding for this campaign- it is really unique!

So, all of the coding is done by me. I spent a lot of time with the tags because I feel like it helps me keep track of events and smaller threads. I created a google sheet that actually auto-builds the code once I have all the parameters in place. I would like to add even more, but I think I’ll need to go back and thin out the code where necessary. I also recommend w3.school and textile-lang.com/doc/definition-lists.

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

I am originally from the US, but I moved to Sweden 6 years ago. I’m a Swedish Citizen now and it’s been a very rewarding experience. On Instagram, I am @Rappt0r.


Apart from gaming, in nearly all forms, I would say attending metal shows. With all the different kinds of gaming and designing I do, it can be difficult to get outside. I sunburn easily 😉

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

I started DMing during 3rd edition. I loved the crunch of that edition, but for many, it was daunting. I found that new players struggled to find the class combinations that were actually worthwhile as well as the magical items necessary to lift some into a decent tier of play.

5th edition offers a streamlined system that is much more accessible. Yes, each class peaks at different points, but generally under level 15, I have found it’s more balanced than the previous editions. I also find that Homebrewing for it feels very comfortable. I use 3rd edition as a backbone for some of my rulings that fall outside the RAW.

My largest complaint would be how long it’s taken for the Psion (Mystic) to get its final version.

How regularly do you play?

My last campaign lasted 57 sessions and we met generally once a week. That took about a year and a half given people going on vacations or illness etc.

How did your group meet, and how long have you been together? You have a group of 11- how do you manage such a large group?

Many of my players were in my previous campaign (In the same realm), but the new players are coworkers of mine who heard that I was DMing and wanted to give TRPGs a shot. So, my group is technically 6, but I have had sessions with 11 people. Those were all-day sessions back in college and the best way was to group them for different encounters.

The balance is taking that group to an event, explaining the issue, and then bouncing to the other while the first group makes a plan together. This makes it difficult to counter any silliness, but it also keeps you on your toes and can be quite exciting. If one group gets into combat, without the others, group enemies with the optional rules and switch back to the other group every 2 rounds.

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

Obsidian Portal has been an amazing host for the content that I am making. It feels like my own little corner of the internet alongside many other brilliant DMs. Some have contacted me and we have had excellent conversations about planning and world-building.

My players don’t normally write anything on the Merovia site. They have access to their character’s page, but everything else is strictly me. This has been daunting and a lot still remains up in my head, but I try to create relevant pages as soon as possible. I will often make pages in advance, make them DM only, and then open them up after an interaction with an NPC that explains the details.

Where do you draw inspiration from when preparing your game?

Oh geez, alright this will be a big list. However in order to clarify, remember that when designing, remember that most fiction can be translated by changing aspects of the setting. My inspirations are generally every piece of fiction that I enjoy.
Anime & Film: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Seven Samurai, Curse of the Golden Flower, Pulp Fiction, Steins’ Gate
Games: Dark Souls 1-3, Bloodborne, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Metal Gear Solid 1-5, Mass Effect 2.
Novels: The Dark Tower series, Dune, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, The Well World Series.
Music Lyrics: Kamelot, Amorphis, Machinae Supremacy, The Sword, and Rush

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

So, for my weekly 3.5 hour session, I prep for about 5-7 hours. This includes brainstorming, fact-checking, and dungeon building. Streamline your process by using real-world maps and reading about the history behind them.

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

I have played GURPS, d20 Modern, Mutants & Masterminds, Pathfinder, Starfinder, The Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Shadowrun, Vampire V5, and Wrath & Glory (before the rewrite). I have enjoyed each

one of these systems in its own right, but my heart is with 5E.

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

I would say that the final session of my last campaign was the best moment. Essentially, the party had gotten to the Shard of Creation(the MacGuffin crystal) within a flying city, “The Last Bastion of the Giants”. The cursed Druid accidentally pulled aggro from the Giant King which dropped his HP down to single digits. He ran and took the crystal which prompted the King’s legendary action. By “light spearing” the druid, he was overtaken by the cursed wolf pelt which brought forth a fallen angelic being.

Now the room held a furious fallen angel, a giant mage king, and the other members of the party. On top of all that, the flying city was now falling into the valley below given that the crystal was no longer in place.

In desperation, the Rogue Phantom was able to communicate with the Druid’s spirit and looted a single coin from the body. That coin was a gift given to the Druid for a good deed in session 2. The coin was received in session 16.

With a flip of the coin, time rolled back 24 hours allowing them to correct their final encounter. It brought everything full circle, it was an amazing moment that sat with them for months now.
The full Adventure Log is available for viewing on the Merovia site.

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

Plant seeds. So, for me, the most important thing for making the world feel dynamic is by mentioning ideas, npcs, scenarios, and items that MAY become relevant later. Mention them early.

As any seasoned DM knows, there is always the chance that the players will go off script and pursue a lead that, to you, was irrelevant. You make those moments pivotal for these odd times by bringing something back that you mentioned previously. Maybe they met a throw-away NPC near the beginning of the game, bring them back if they would be great for that scenario. In a way, it follows Chekhov’s gun. Hopefully, this will make it easier to plan for follow-up sessions.

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

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