F . A . Q .

Who am I?

I'm Leo, a Minneapolis-based storyteller and illustrator creating intricate and story driven tabletop roleplaying campaigns.

What's my philosophy on what makes a good campaign?

I believe that the most important thing about a campaign is the story and the way everyone engages with it. If people are legitimately invested in the narrative, everything else that makes a game succeed will follow. High narrative engagement by players in the form of speculation, intricate planning, or campaign inspired creative projects are things which make a campaign extremely memorable.

My philosophy is that this depends on a tacit contract between the GM and players. Players agree to invest into the world and tone of the campaign, and respect the game and the vision of the GM. In exchange, the GM agrees to create a game that is worthy of investment, and to always prioritize player agency and enjoyment.

The Signal-man's Carnival Poster. 2021.

What is the Gallowtides and what are your campaigns about?

The Gallowtides is the setting in which my campaigns take place. It is a dim and enigmatic universe about which nothing is known outside of what is learned in-game.

Each campaign is different in genre, tone, and sources of inspiration. All Gallowtides campaigns are largely connected by themes of eldritch horror and mystery, with an intricate central story and a relatively open world to explore.

How do you create an engaging campaign?

As the GM, I ask myself several core questions both in and out of gameplay to hold myself to high standards of quality and uphold my side of the contract. The following are some, but not all, of those questions.

  • Is the world alive?: Is the world and plot moving forwards beyond the scope of the player's immediate situation? Is the setting detailed and open to explore? This makes the campaign feel less like a video game and more like an immersive journey through a dynamic world.

  • Are sessions balanced?: Does each session have a good mix of combat, downtime, roleplaying, puzzle/mystery elements, optional side content, and main story hooks? The ensures that sessions are not boring and account for all player types and moods.

  • Is the narrative consistent?: That is, could I give a satisfying and logical in-universe answer to any question about the world or plot? This allows players to maintain their suspension of disbelief and make story predictions on the assumption that everything will have a consistent answer.

  • Is each player paid attention to? Does every character have a moment to shine and does the campaign allow their story arc to be incorporated and developed? Are things regularly included in the campaign that will excite each individual player based on their strengths and interests?

The Lazurian Runic Crest. 2020.

What is your ideal tone for a campaign/sessions?

I operate on a simple philosophy of tone: plan serious, faciliate fun.

When I plan, I typically create narratives and situations that are grounded in tone- consistent with the relatively no-nonsense horror/mystery elements of Call of Cthulu which I often ascribe to.

However, it is obvious that discouraging non-serious moments makes for a miserable plying experience, and is not realistic. TTRPGs are supposed to be fun, and most memorable moments are moments of humour. Therefore, I often improve, riff off of players, or change plans to create moments of lightheartedness or silliness.

After all, humorous moments are usually best when unplanned. And of course, moments of humor make the horror that much more potent.

What systems do you prefer?

For many years, I ran 5e due to its high accessibility. Upon discovering Call of Cthulu 7e, I fell in love due to its tense and exciting atmosphere and smooth, interesting mechanics. This system is ideal for me and my eldritch horror/mystery style.

However, there are elements to this system which cause me concern, namely in the commitment to grittiness and realism. The lack of character progression and customization means players may not maintain the same investment and excitement as they would in a system where they can acquire new loot, abilities, and subclasses. After all, TTRGs are largely a means to create and play a character that is exciting and personal. In addition, the slow, cautious, mystery-driven feel of CoC means that players need to have a lot of patience, trust in the GM, and appreciation for the plot.

Therefore, I often adopt "CoC with DnD characteristics". I follow the core system of CoC (although I lean rules-light and story over mechanics regardless of system), but try to implement some power fantasy-adjacent elements of progression, loot acquisition, and combat in games.

What do you look for in players?

I think that enthusiasm is always more important than mechanical knowledge. Rules can be learned quickly, but are nothing without an excitement for the game and the story. Mechanical knowledge can certainly add richness to player experience, but willingness to role-play and participate creatively in makes a player much more valuable.

Because of this, I am more than happy to incorporate inexperienced players into campaigns. Often, these players are more invested than experienced players due to a lack of preconceptions about how games should work.