First allow me to say how grateful I am to be recognized. This would not be possible if it were not for the passion my players bring to the table each week.
Other than Obsidian Portal, I have a website where I post stories from past games and anything else that strikes me as interesting. Virtually all of my non-gaming time is spent writing both sci-fi/fantasy and children’s stories. My wife, Amariah Rauscher, is a children’s author and illustrator who runs her own publishing company called Lemon Starfish.
Tell us about Adoraith: Echoes of Epirus in a nutshell. How did this singular event/mystery of Epirus shape your campaign world paradigm?
Echoes of Epirus started as a short story about the fall of a great city caught in the middle of the Blood War. I thought of this event as a pivotal moment in the history of Adoraith much like the collapse of Rome in Europe. However, I did not want to run the campaign in the days leading up to or just following the cataclysm. Instead, I was interested in telling a story set in the aftermath of the collapse of Epirus.
Much like the crusades, Adoraith is also comprised of a number of warring countries that fought primarily over ideology. Only in Adoraith wars are fought between those who wish to see arcane magic return and the theocracies that blame arcane magic for the evils of the world.
I apologize if I burst the nutshell but I could spend hours writing about how this singular event wove its way through the campaign on a grand scale as well as at an individual character level.
You have been playing this game for a while now – what is the most memorable thing that happened for you, the GM? What is the most memorable to your players?
This is a really hard question. There are so many events to choose from. Honestly, any moment where I can elicit a truly emotional response from a player is amazing to me. The moment that Merek realized that it was an ancestor of his family who was responsible for the fall of Epirus and that his family continued to cover up the fact was truly epic. Not only was Merek (Beau) left stunned but the revelation also threatened his family’s prominent standing in Acanthan society. A standing they secured through the dark pact that ruined Epirus.
I really loved the Trellmont Witch story where the Grey Coven was using the village of Trellmont as a proving ground for Night Hags who wished to join their coven. The horror setting was amazing to run at lower levels when player characters have a reason to be afraid of nearly everything. The sights, sounds, and overall feel really captured the imagination. In particular, the crucified bodies that would begin to howl at our approach warning the coven was shockingly memorable.
When we had to retrieve the artifact Dagon’s Tear and realized, the hard way, that none of us could even touch the item without being driven insane was amazing in a “I hate my DM but am having a load of fun” kind of way. Then having to fight “former” player character Nhar’Qual for the blasted thing was painful! He had become completely corrupted by the artifact and had Kuo-Toa followers to make our lives hell! Player character deaths seemed to flow like water during that quest.
This may have been a small moment in the campaign but I still laugh about our encounter with the Pandemonium Doors. Each side of the double door had a twisted face carved into it. When we approached, Matt spent several minutes rapidly babbling, arguing, screaming, crying, and chatting as the doors interacted with players and each other. Most of the time we couldn’t get a word in edgewise while we tried to figure out how to open this bizarre doors. Even after we walked away the Pandemonium Doors refused to shut up!
If I had to pick a favorite moment for me in any of the Adoraith campaigns it would have to be when my Barbarian, Jarl made a deal with a devil.
The story had taken the party into the Abyss. We had been carrying an orb that was used to imprison Orcus himself. The party had suffered quite a bit due to this artifact and the Abyss was a quantum leap in suffering. Party member deaths were becoming the norm. Every choice was trying to figure out which bad thing would be less bad. It was relentless. The party was fatigued all the time and every encounter was awful.
That’s when it happened. A devil (I wish I could remember his name) came to the party and offered some kind of deal. The party refused him and he moved on. However, a week or so later, Jarl’s companion Svolf was killed in yet another hopeless combat. It was more that he could take. He called upon the devil privately and made a deal. He would give him the orb (which was corrupting members of the party) in return for a full resurrection for Svolf and returning the party to the Prime Material Plane.
When the moment came to hand it over, most of the party was shocked. It caused quite an uproar at the table and I think there may be one or two players who still hate me to this day because of it. The DM rolled with it and it became canon for later campaigns. It turns out that Jarl’s soul is still in the Nine Hells since Orcus was no longer imprisoned in the orb. But that’s a story for a different day.
Anything involving Edluar is, by default, epic!
How regularly do you play, and where do you play?
We play once a week for 6-7 hours per session. We are approaching our 60th session of the campaign which gives us around 360 hours of table time!
First and foremost I draw from our own history. I find that the more realism you can insert into your game the more the players will be able to relate and immerse themselves into the story. If you are able to give your players details such as “this is a viking culture” as a lead into the sights, smells, and sounds of the village the heroes have just entered their imaginations will make mental leaps to tie the experience together in a much richer way.
Two of my players maintain the log for me. The logs are meant to keep everyone up to date on the story whether they missed a session or simply forgot a few details in between sessions. I started using photos of game play in our logs mostly because I never saw anyone else doing it. I just thought taking pictures was a cool way of sharing our game.
How did you get into tabletop gaming?
I first learned about tabletop RPGs from my older brother who would game with his friends down the street from where we lived. Not long after, when I was 7 or 8, I put my first crayon to a set of dice and joined in. Like most tabletop gamers I got my start playing 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons. I am not sure why but I was immediately drawn to the assassin class and yes, he was evil. Thus, Zorrod the human assassin was born.
We came to Obsidian Portal in 2010 after spending 7 years using Yahoo Groups as a home for our group. While I have always placed an emphasis on content over cosmetics, I did quickly learn a few quick tricks to pretty up the site which made our page much more interesting to look at. Additionally, OP made our job of not only organizing our gaming schedule but documenting characters, NPC’s, and past sessions so easy that making the move was a no brainer.
Your first question is actually a very tough one but I would have to say that the feature used more than any other is the Wiki. Prior to using OP I would get weekly questions about the world, NPCs, house rules, and magic items. Now they can simply refer to the wiki for any answers they need.
Prep time really depends on what’s happening in the game. If we are at a crossroads session, one where the heroes can potentially take the game in a number of directions, I generally spend an hour or two outlining, at a high level, the different routes the party can take. Then i might prepare a handful of both combat and RP encounters that can be used on the fly.
– Have your players write character histories and find a way to weave them into your main story. There is no better way to make your players care about why they are going on this adventure!
– Remember to include all 4 senses into your descriptions! It’s never enough to say “you see a graveyard.” What can the heroes hear? Smell? Feel? See? Your descriptions should be enough for the players to know it’s a graveyard without being told
That’s about all I have! Hope that helps someone!