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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Game Day: Updates from the Frontier

by Ken Newquist / September 18, 2016
A map of the Pomarj peninsula from the World of Greyhawk campaign setting.
A map of the Pomarj peninsula from the World of Greyhawk campaign setting.

It's a funny thing to sit down to write your next adventure in a campaign and realize that somewhere along the line it went from "campaign" to "long-running campaign".

That's what happened with Obsidian Frontier, a sandbox-style campaign set in the World of Greyhawk. We launched it as a playtest campaign for D&D 5th Edition in October 2014. Two years and thirty-four sessions later, the playtest is still running, and the campaign's still going.

The playtest has been a success -- we've kicked the tires on most of the game's primary rules and we've found that the new edition fits our style of play exceedingly well. The player characters are now at 7th level and we're looking forward to seeing how the game holds up at higher tiers. Will combats still be speedy? Are the classes still balanced? Did I give out too many magic items too early in the campaign? We're on the cusp of finding out.

Regardless of how the higher levels go, it's been an interesting campaign. It's set in the city of Obsidian Bay, the homegrown city my gaming group has been slowly detailing for the last twenty years. Obsidian Frontier takes place in 516 CY, 70 years before our original "Blackrazor Guild" campaign (an even longer-running campaign that unfolded over the course of a decade). The idea was that we'd visit the city when it was a frontier town and the only civilized city in a land overrun by orc, goblin, and gnoll invaders. There have been a bunch of cool stories, but a few stand out:

The Blizzard: An unlucky roll of the dice on the Greyhawk Gazetteer's weather generation charts spawned a blizzard that dumped three feet of snow on the fledgling frontier community of Obsidian Bay. The heroes sprung into action, organizing an expedition to the nearby dwarven Principality of Ulek to secure relief supplies. They did more than that though -- they also convinced a significant dwarven faction to come to Obsidian Bay to help, leading to another major wave of immigration into the city. Weather has come to be a major character in the campaign, with randomly generated thunderstorms, heatwaves, fog banks, and high winds adding another dimension to the game. (For those playing in Greyhawk I recommend using the "Scroll of Weather Forecasting" to programmatically generate your weather).

The rise of the Wyvern Empire: In the early days of the campaign the heroes had a hireling named Kor, a down-on-his-luck fighter who happened have a map to the Lost Caverns of Quasqueton. After serving his purpose as the initial hook for the campaign, Kor accompanied the heroes on a number of other adventures. Eventually the adventurers acquired two magic items of questionable alignment -- a rusty gauntlet and a murderous axe -- and gave them to Kor.

Then they set out on their quest to the Principality, returning as heroes ... and to find that Kor had left the city. It seemed he'd co-opted a band of thugs known as the Wyverns and headed out into the countryside looking for fortune and glory. Weeks later, word began trickling into Obsidian Bay that a group calling itself the "Wyvern Empire" had taken control of the old Steel Skull Ruins and activated the Ironbound Warriors inside (flesh golems augmented by iron bands that boosted their strength and controlled their insane rage).

The Verdant Wastes: Ok, this wasn't a surprise, but it was fun. Our campaign has never done much with the Feywild and the expedition to the Verdant Wastes was my attempt to remedy that. A dragon known as the Green Blight took control of a portal to the Feywild and used its arcane energies transform the area surrounding it into a twilight realm.

The heroes, seeking to kill the dragon, entered the Wastes, but soon found themselves wandering the fetid forests of the Feywild. The unpredictability of this arc of the campaign came from a bag of beans which caused 1) the summoning of an elemental vortex that deluged the hills outside of Obsidian Bay 2) the appearance of a mummy-infested black pyramid and 3) the death of the aforementioned dragon by the forceful consumption of active beans.

Relocating a Bronze Dragon: In another fit of diplomacy, the heroes befriended a bronze dragon, convinced the city it would be good to have him as an ally, and then cleared out a nearby island for him to live on. My character, a male elven rogue named Telthanas, got a couple of displacer beast kittens out of the deal, but I digress.

The Rise of the Librarians: After the most recent story arc, the campaign effectively reinvented itself by introducing two new characters, both of whom have a connection to the written word:

  • Zaphrym, a male gnome sorcerer obsessed with magical tomes
  • Darogan Ferventfire, a male human paladin of Delleb, god of scribes and historians

This led me to create the Obsidian Bay Library Company, which looks to bring a first-rate (or at least second-rate), library to the city. Its changed the nature of the campaign by making books important. That's not to say that the player characters might not have appreciated finding an interesting spell book or collection of scrolls before, but now the emphasis is on the knowledge the books contain. It's about what you can learn about the world (though I doubt anyone will objective they learn a few new spells along the way).

Campaign Updates

Want to keep up with the Obsidian Frontier campaign? The campaign homepage details the player characters while the primer provides an overview of important non-player characters, businesses, locations, and other bits of campaign trivia. The sagas page lists all of our adventures to date.

Finally the Griffin's Crier is our gaming group's long running websites. It aggregates updates from across all of our active campaigns. Here are some of the most recent posts: