#RPGaDay2015 Day 15: Longest Campaign Played

The longest RPG campaign I’ve played in is The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm.

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Back in 2011, I wrote a post titled The One Character That Got Away, in which I spoke about Hal Whitewyrm, a player character I always wanted to play but never had a chance to. At the prompting of my friend Judd Karlman, I spoke about Hal, and what kind of game I would want to play if I had the chance. I wrote,

“I’d play the character I’ve carried with me for years, Hal Whitewyrm, a half-elven bard with weredragon blood in his ancestry (weredragons are a race of female-only shapeshifting wyrms from the Moonshaes – see the thread there?). He’s the guy I wrote stories about in my teens yet never got to play. Hal is all about the romantic journey (as in literary genre, not mass market Harlequin titles), facing adventure in a large world, ideally of the legendary danger kind, with fast friends at his side, a love life to look forward to, and death around him to put it all in perspective. Think Aragorn’s journey, but with a bard who also deals with issues of identity.”

Next thing I know, Judd had made a campaign at Obsidian Portal and we started to play a Burning Wheel game set in the Forgotten Realms. In tune with the ideas we spoke about the type of game we would play, we named the campaign The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm, both a reference to Hal being a bard, and to the medieval ballads from which we would take inspiration. This would be a play-by-post game, and we were jumping-in-place excited.

We played that game for 3 years, from 2011 through 2014. It was lightning in a bottle. The first few months alone we were on fire, practically playing dueling keyboards. Our posts were fast and furious, a rat-tat-tat of high adventure gaming. I would be at work, back when I was at the university bookstore, writing posts in my crappy semi-smartphone in between cashing out college students buying sodas and microwave burritos. Judd would reply as fast as he could while he juggled school and work and his other extracurricular activities. It honestly was gaming magic. And like magic, with time, it vanished. Time passed, life happened, and although we both loved the world we had created together, we let it languish. I’ll always see it as my fault.

See that description I quoted above? Judd was spot-on in bringing those themes out to play in our game. As I wrote in my original post, Hal was me, my avatar. And as much as I tried to see it as only a game, at times it affected me personally. Hal’s journey in many ways paralleled my own. It was uncanny, because Judd did not know anything of what was going on in my private life, yet his insight into the game, his ability to hone in on the themes important to Hal, this meant that more often than not, Judd was pushing buttons without knowing. And at one point, I had to tap the mat. I had to concede. It was gaming magic.

We played in fits and starts after that, fueled by the love we had for this game. We refused to let it go, but it happened. My life changed a lot over 2012-13, and Hal went on living his life in the Realms, just without us there to see his adventures.

In terms of actual time spent playing, this isn’t the longest campaign I’ve played in; that title actually goes to the Vampire: The Masquerade Miami By Night chronicle I ran at home for almost 3 years of weekly-ish sessions. But The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm feels like the longest campaign I’ve played in because of the emotional connection I have to it. Each post I wrote describing Hal’s life in the Realms felt as if I was truly there, seeing through his eyes. We experienced the world together. We shared a life. If you have seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Inner Light, where Picard experiences 40 years in the life of a man in what are a few minutes in real-time, then know that is how I felt every time I played Hal Whitewyrm.

It was gaming magic. And magic lives forever.


During the month of August, I am participating in #RPGaDay, an opportunity to talk daily about different topics related to games and gaming, organized by Dave Chapman, designer of Doctor Who: Adventures In Time and Space. I’ve been out of gaming for a while, so this is gonna be an interesting exercise.

#RPGaDay2015 Day 14: Favorite RPG Accessory

Forgotten Realms AtlasThe Forgotten Realms Atlas was this gorgeous book published in 1990 by TSR that was part map archive, part chronicle of the novels published up to that point, part travelogue across Faerun. Printed in black and sepia, it had an air of antiquity to it that made it seem like a found artifact rather than a book purchased at the store.

I spent long hours reading it, studying the maps, learning the history of the Realms. I poured over it cover to cover more times than I could ever count, and never got tired of it. Every time I see it on my bookshelf, every time I pick it up for some random reason, it takes me back to a simpler time when I felt right at home in the lands of Faerun. It remains to this day one of my absolute favorite books, gaming or otherwise, and certainly right in the top 3 of my Forgotten Realms Hall of Fame.

The page for the PDF version of the Atlas at DriveThruRPG.com has a product history by Shannon Applecline that is both short and interesting, if you’d like to know more.


During the month of August, I am participating in #RPGaDay, an opportunity to talk daily about different topics related to games and gaming, organized by Dave Chapman, designer of Doctor Who: Adventures In Time and Space. I’ve been out of gaming for a while, so this is gonna be an interesting exercise.

#RPGaDay2015 Day 13: Favorite RPG Podcast

Yet another tricky topic for me. I got into gaming podcasts back in 2006, right at the start of the movement. Not only did I listen to pretty much all the podcasts of the first wave, a year later I became a podcaster myself (if a short-lived one). I don’t listen to gaming podcasts anymore, but I do have great memories of those early days. I have made lifelong friendships thanks to podcasting, which is awesome.

I’ll start with a quick shout-out to Paul Tevis’ Have Games, Will Travel, probably the first podcast I listened to, and how I was introduced to the larger world of small-press/indie/story games.

Sons of KryosMy first favorite podcast would be Sons of Kryos, hosted by Judd Karlman and Jeff Lower, later joined by Storn Cook. SoK was fantastic in that it truly felt like I was sitting at a table with Judd, Jeff, and Storn, just talking about games, having a chilled time. They talked about the games they were playing, what they wanted to play, what they had bought, how to be a better player and gamemaster, and just general gaming chatter. They were polite, upbeat, and positive about gaming, and I liked them for that. SoK ended in 2009, and I know many people who miss it to this day.

Fear the BootMy second favorite podcast is Fear The Boot, hosted primarily by Dan Repperger, with a number of co-hosts that has changed throughout the year. With 375 episodes and counting, FtB is the longest running gaming podcast, broadcasting weekly (with few exceptions) since 2007, if I recall correctly. They have covered pretty much every single aspect of gaming I can think of, and every so often they revisit older topics for their newer audience. In addition to the podcast, FtB has put on a successful gaming con in St Louis, MO for the past 8 years, and have published two fiction anthologies. Dan and company run an amazingly tight ship that continues to do great things for their audience, and gaming in general.


During the month of August, I am participating in #RPGaDay, an opportunity to talk daily about different topics related to games and gaming, organized by Dave Chapman, designer of Doctor Who: Adventures In Time and Space. I’ve been out of gaming for a while, so this is gonna be an interesting exercise.

#RPGaDay2015 Day 12: Favorite RPG Illustration

There is a lot of awesome art in RPGs, but for me there is a clear favorite piece: Larry Elmore’s cover to the Dungeons & Dragon’s Basic (Red) Boxed Set released in the 80s.

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The red box was the first RPG product I got for myself, and that image defined what roleplaying was all about: being an awesome warrior fighting dragons in a world of awesome fantasy. That image fueled endless nights of adventures; in a way, it fueled a lifetime as a lover of roleplaying games. Even now, looking at it, it ignites my desire to grab some dice, roll up a character, and head into a dungeon to fight an evil dragon. Simply superb.

I have a second favorite RPG illustration, much different in tone, but no less impactful: the cover to Vampire: The Masquerade 2nd Edition.

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It’s hard to describe it without it seeming super simplistic: a field of green marble with a single red rose lying across. Somehow it works, though. It is the perfect image to welcome you into the realm of the Masquerade. It speaks of beauty, loneliness, ominousness; it speaks of death, and life. I always viewed the image as that of a rose placed on a marble tomb, but just as the rose is still alive, so is the occupant of the tomb. Or maybe a rose is just a rose. It’s art, and I love it.


During the month of August, I am participating in #RPGaDay, an opportunity to talk daily about different topics related to games and gaming, organized by Dave Chapman, designer of Doctor Who: Adventures In Time and Space. I’ve been out of gaming for a while, so this is gonna be an interesting exercise.