NOTE: Fata Morgana: The Ghosts of Saltmarsh is currently recruiting for its next round of applicants. Please read this recruitment thread carefully before applying. Thanks!
NOTE: Fata Morgana: The Ghosts of Saltmarsh is closed for applications. I have a list of players who are scheduled to try out for the remaining slots, and I don't want to get any more applications until I've gotten through them. I will re-open recruiting if there are still openings after all these players have finished their application process, or if anyone drops. Thank you!
In the southern reaches of Keoland Kingdom, a small civil war is brewing. For generations, the sleepy port town of Saltmarsh was hardly on the map as King Kimertos Skotti waged multiple wars in the north. Saltmarsh, and its close neighbor Seaton, enjoyed a relatively quiet, isolated existence by the Azure Sea. Fishing and shipping ruled the day, and any captain with extra room in their holds could make a tidy profit as a free trader, smuggling some of Greyhawk’s rarer goods through Saltmarsh’s mostly unregulated port.
But the absence of the Royal Navy was a double edged sword. With time, a greedy and unscrupulous minority took advantage of the open waters to engage in darker, more questionable activities by sea and by land. While the low-key, mom-and-pop smugglers were content to move ale, heavily taxed spices, or banned delicacies into and out of Keoland, some captains began trafficking stolen goods, weapon shipments, and even slaves to make their fortune. Others engaged in outright piracy.
When the bandits began to outnumber the fishers and merchants, they came together on the southern border of Keoland to form the Hold of Sea Princes, a loose pirate confederacy nation that dominated the nearby waters. What was once a blessing—the absence of Keoland’s military—had now become an undeniable curse. No ship was safe at sea, and even people inland knew the tyranny of the Sea Princes, who more than occasionally raided towns for slaves, food, and riches.
The tides changed when Keoland suffered a string of defeats in the north, and made peace with its enemies. Fearing a similar defeat in the south at the hands of the Hold of Sea Princes, King Skotti diverted his freshly freed military resources to the fishing village of Seaton, converted the town to a military fort, and brought the short-lived reign of pirates to an abrupt and bloody end.
Today, what’s left of the Sea Princes fleet keeps to the shadows, but the King’s forces remain—which is not a pleasing prospect for the 5,000 citizens of Saltmarsh. When the King realized the economic potential of the area, he began devoting resources towards protecting Saltmarsh, and developing it into a proper port city. The pirates have been subdued, but so too have the smaller, more benign smuggling operations. With the increased presence of Keoland’s merchant navy and port inspectors, even the fishers and merchants of Saltmarsh are finding it increasingly difficult to continue their livelihoods.
Then the dwarves arrived. If ever there were a rosy, bearded face to put to Saltmarsh’s current conflict, it would be that of the Copperlocks Clan dwarf, sent by royal decree to mine the area for mineral riches. Saltmarsh’s dwarven population is now 200 strong and growing every year, a fact many natives are resentful of. When brawls started breaking out on the docks between Saltmarsh fishers and Keoland dwarves, King Skotti responded by doubling the presence of the Royal Militia throughout the region. Now the fate of Saltmarsh is held in precarious balance between two competing factions, equally represented in a torn town council.
What lies ahead for the troubled port town is anyone’s guess. Will Saltmarsh offer enough resistance that the King finally abandons his efforts to shape it, leaving the fishers, merchants, and small-time smugglers to continue their heritage? Or will the old blood simply fade away after a few generations of dwarves, international sea traffic, and military bases take over the region, transforming it into an economic hub for Keoland Kingdom? Perhaps the Sea Princes will take advantage of the local conflict, sowing further seeds of discord to trigger an outright civil war, then sweep in from the south to claim the area for themselves in the aftermath.
I’m in search of five dedicated players for a play-by-post campaign that is set in WotC’s Ghosts of Saltmarsh D&D adventure module. D&D Beyond character sheets will be used, and I will be sharing all necessary content with my players. The campaign will be conducted entirely in Discord, so you will need access to the app on a regular basis during the weekdays. I seek creative types who enjoy writing, creating compelling characters, and weaving detailed stories. Consequently, players will need to be willing to dedicate at least 15-30 minutes a day to their posts, using proper grammar and punctuation. Players from time zones in the Americas only, please.
First, allow me to give you a short history of my DM experience:
There’s old school, and there’s just plain old. I have no qualms admitting I’m both.
We spent a year with TMNT (I was the GM because nobody else wanted to do it), then waded through a good chunk of Palladium’s library, including Robotech, Heroes Unlimited, and Palladium RPG. We also spent a few months dabbling in AD&D. What version? The version, thanks to a friend's older brother. But we were young and naive, and we thought rolling mountains of dice and consulting tables was actually fun, so we went back to Palladium, discovered Rifts, and called its sci-fi-meets-fantasy version of post apocalyptic Earth home for a number of years.
To this day, despite its slow and clunky game mechanics, Rifts is my favorite RPG setting. Where else do you get to fight extra-dimensional creatures, dragons, and fascist, D-Bee-hating nations from the comfort of 10-foot-tall power armor that shines like a disco ball of justice upon the post-nuclear scrubland? Think your level 9, 14-84 damage fireball is badass? This baby (pilotable at level 1) has an eight-foot-long, shoulder-mounted, nuclear-powered electromagnetic, jet-thruster- and laser-pylon-stabilized, supersonic shotgun that delivers a cloud of 200-one-inch-long-slug hellfire 11,000 feet downrange to the tune of Mach-2 and 30-180 damage, not counting crits. Hooooooie, baby! Come get some!
Anyhow, after Rifts, my group split up because we all moved away to do some proper adulting, and since then I’ve bounced around various system on my own: Mechwarrior 2nd, Shadowrun 2nd and 4th, and Savage Worlds.
Then last October, someone invited me to a tabletop campaign of D&D, where I not only got a taste of being a player instead of a GM, but I got to try 5e for the first time. I sort of fell in love with it. 5e’s rules are fast and efficient, with enough abstraction to make old-school improvising a snap. I’m currently a player in three campaigns, one in Roll20/Discord, and two play-by-post. (The tabletop campaign, unfortunately, dissolved.)
Now I’m ready to get back behind the GM screen, and I want to do it PbP-style.
If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking, “OMFG, enough about you and all the crappy old systems you played. Tell me about your Saltmarsh campaign!”
I’ll let you in on a little secret. That not-so-brief personal history you just experienced wasn’t a mere exercise in self-indulgence. (Not to say I didn’t enjoy it as such.) That wall of text is the first line of screening for potential applicants to this campaign.
Here’s the deal. If someone is all for spending 20 or more minutes building a character, but isn’t willing to put in the additional 5-10 minutes to read the history of the campaign, along with the GM’s personal resume, then they’re sure as hell not going to read anything you post in-game that doesn’t immediately involve them. So pardon me a moment as I say something in a few strategically placed bullet points that you’re welcome to skip past:
- Abilities: All abilities will be rolled using 4d6 - Classes: Any class from the PHB, but no multi-classing - Special Requirement: If you skipped any of the preceding text in this post, but you stopped to read this, this campaign is not for you. Please do not apply. Thank you. - Races Allowed: human (no variant), dwarf, halfling, gnome, elf, and half-elf
A little dirty, I admit. But it gets the job done.
Okay, so let’s talk turkey—what type of players am I looking for to help create a future for Saltmarsh?
Firstly, you should not have played the Ghost of Saltmarsh adventure. You should not have even read the module. At all. I’m not budging on this one. If you read the module and never intended to run it, then you were cheating—cheating yourself out of the joy of discovery when you finally find a campaign. That's fine by me, since that's your loss. But I’m not going to risk my other players being cheated out of that same joy when someone uses their meta knowledge to farm the module for every bit of damage, gold coin, and magical items within its pages.
Secondly, this is going to be a writing-intensive, narrative-driven campaign. As you might have guessed from this post, I’m not about bullet points and quick summaries. I like details, description, and imagination. I’m entertained by reading other people’s writing. I’ll be looking for players who like to do the same, and who will put considerable effort into making their character or a scene come alive with those creative elements. If you’re here just to feed your dice-rolling addiction, then please move on; there are scores of campaigns out there for that playstyle. Think of my PbP campaign as your weekly 6-hour session, broken up into daily chunks throughout the week to write at your leisure.
Thirdly, players should be able to write well, using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation—including quotation marks. I understand how eye-popping colors for dialogue text is all the rage in the PbP forums these days, but it’s popular for one reason: to make posts scannable for people who can’t be troubled to read details. Quotation marks aren’t that hard to decipher, and they’re easier to use than font colors.
Finally, players will be expected to interact at least once a day with the campaign, weekends excluded (though I’ll try to keep things moving if players choose to contribute on the weekends.) Notice I didn’t say "post at least once a day." Signing on for five minutes to see if it’s your turn, rolling a few dice, then slapping 2-3 obligatory lines of text onto the post isn’t going to cut it in this campaign. I want players who are proud of their storytelling and writing, who like to read others’ posts for little details to use in their own contributions, and who aren’t afraid to engage in dialogue with other characters while they wait for the action.
A few final words about my campaign style, as a few elements may be deal-breakers for some players. I subscribe to many old-school DM techniques. I like my RPGs to have random elements, my campaigns to have substantial but manageable risk, player progression to be slow, combat a little less frequent, and stories and events to be plausible and believable (in the fantasy context, of course.) Game mechanics and rules help guide my campaigns, but I don’t let them limit players’ options. And while I try hard to make encounters fair, there's a decent likelihood of having to roll a new character or two.
Players will likely enjoy my campaign if they enjoy random and unknown elements to play to (including getting a bad Ability or two on character creation,) if they like thinking outside the box when determining their player’s actions, if they work hard to create consistent and believable characters (and are content to reveal them a little at a time,) and if they view bad dice rolls as an opportunity for creativity rather than outright failure, and if they enjoy the reward of higher challenge levels. Min/maxers, character optimizers and “build”ers, obsessive tacticians who try to math their every move, and loot-driven or combat-loving players will hate my campaign, guaranteed.
Finally, a few noteworthy rules in particular:
- Character abilities are rolled one at a time, in the order they appear on the character sheet, using 4d6 drop lowest. There is no assigning or swapping them around. In this campaign, you’ll be rolling a character, not “building” or optimizing one. - Races and classes are chosen after abilities are rolled. Because of the Saltmarsh setting, the only races allowed are human (no variant), dwarf, halfling, gnome, elf, and half-elf. PHB classes only. There are a handful of subraces and subclasses that will be restricted to keep the campaign setting consistent. - No multiclassing. Feats are available beginning at level 8. - Milestone progression will be used. Additional hit points are rolled, not averaged. - Theater of the Mind is used for combat. - Healer’s Kit Dependency will be used, meaning you won’t heal from a short rest without expending the use of a Healer’s Kit in addition to using your Hit Dice. - Death Saving Throw DCs are 12 - A custom version of the Lingering Injuries rule will be used; characters reduced to 0 hit points have a chance of acquiring a longer-term injury, so there's more incentive for smart play and to keep each other healed and on your feet rather than trying to save spell slots by waiting until someone drops. - Inspiration will be used liberally to promote roleplay, innovation (thinking outside the ruleset), and avoiding/escaping combat. (If you plan on fighting every battle to the death, you *will* be re-rolling a character at some point.) Heavy use of Inspiration will also help players offset the dangers of the previous 3 rules (Savage Worlds players will feel right at home.) - Absolutely no meta. D&D Beyond character sheets will be made private, and if in-game or character information can’t be shared in-character or via descriptive text, then it’s not to be shared at all. This includes such things as HP, inventory, spells and spell slots, character backstories, etc. This is not to say we all won’t get to know each other and have fun while we play; there will be two OOC channels in Discord for side-talk and in-game questions. - Real-world plausibility will dictate actions. Players must describe what their characters are doing, rather than what 5e mechanic they want to use. Want to persuade someone? Have your character persuade them in-character, using in-game details. Then the DM will ask you to roll the die. Want to help someone persuade? Jump into the conversation and add your character’s two cents to strengthen the argument. The GM will determine if it’s worth giving Advantage for. Going to take the Dodge action against a swarm of bees? You’d better figure out exactly how you “dodge” bees first, and explain it to the DM to see if it will be allowed. Need to convey a tactical message to a teammate in combat? Keep it around 10 words or less, or else be willing to spend an action to say more. On a related note, if you expect to trek around everywhere with your fully laden backpack and your armor donned, your character is going to have a bad time. - Discord’s smartphone app will be required to play. Daily access to your desktop computer is recommended, though if you’re comfortable writing paragraphs of properly edited text on your smartphone, you’re welcome to conduct the entire campaign on your 6” screen.
If you’ve made it to this point, and you’re not put off by any of what you’ve just read, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy my DM style. If you’re excited by any of these rules, and by spending 20-30 minutes a day at your keyboard to help your gaming group make Saltmarsh come alive in the coming months, then I’d probably love to have you as a player. Please note: North American time zone players only. Sorry Europeans, I'd love to have you, but the time zone difference drags PbP posts to a standstill all too often.
If you’re interested in joining, please PM me to begin the application process, which will be a role-playing “audition.” I’ll have you roll to be assigned one of three temporary pre-made characters, and one of four pre-made scenarios for that character to be thrown into. After you roll to determine the temporary character's personality (traits/ideals/bonds/flaws/etc.) you and I will roleplay the scenario out for a few days, so I can see how you might contribute to the Saltmarsh campaign as a player. If you’re accepted, we'll toss that character, I'll invite you to the Discord campaign server, and you will roll your permanent character's Abilities. You're free to create that character however you see fit, according to its Abilities. Once you're done, we’ll work together to weave him or her into the Saltmarsh lore with a solid backstory.
A custom version of the Lingering Injuries rule will be used; characters reduced to 0 hit points have a chance of acquiring a longer-term injury, so there's more incentive for smart play and to keep each other healed and on your feet rather than trying to save spell slots by waiting until someone drops.
Can you elaborate on this a bit more, mechanically? What is the "Lingering Injuries" rule and what's a "longer-term injury"? It sounds like a really interesting rule and I've never played with it before.
Fata Morgana is now holding auditions to replace a player who dropped. Please read the first post of this recruitment thread, in its entirety, and contact me if you're interested and/or have any questions.