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The Onland Campaign; Its History and Origins


The Onland Campaign was originally conceived somewhere around 1988 as an expansion/re-launch of an earlier campaign Aeralund. Aeralund was EPIC, HIGH magic, HIGH fantasy. The characters were all great heroes, hauling around priceless magical artifacts, and having saved the world repeatedly, had achieved legendary status throughout the realms; some even ascending to divinity.

I needed a break from this high-minded, high-powered, free-for-all game style. I wasn’t going to make those same mistakes again; sheesh, artifacts! character-gods! What the heck was I thinking? (Not that Aeralund wasn’t a huge amount of fun. Not that we don’t from time to time step back into those shoes and play an adventure with those lofty characters. But I wanted Onland to be more accessible, more durable, as a long-term gaming world.

Consequently, Onland was to be something different. Onland was grim-and-gritty, LOW magic, LOW fantasy. Where in Aeralund, everything was, as often is the case in D&D, Black and White. Onland was a world of greys; a place more akin to the real world, where good and evil are relativistic. Where the good King of Drambor is bitter enemies with the Good King of Alsace, clashing at arms, fighting tooth and nail against one another, yet neither man is truly a villain, at least in his own eyes.


Campaign I

The first part of the Onland Campaign ran from approximately mid-1988 through the end of 1990. It was unique in the Onland Saga in that three seperate people shared the gamemastering responsibilities; Myself, Steve Abbot & Nathaniel whose surname regettably I cannot recall.

The central characters in my group were; Heri Tatfoot, Oidilmund Hrethlac, Tetras the Beastmaster, Nidal, Fluffy the Hopeful and Cantor Alhdegn of Osthryd. This group was based in Borlon and adventured primarily thereabouts and in the Wildwood. they weren’t particularly focused and didn’t accomplish much, but we had a great deal of fun. We all almost split a gut laughing when Heri the hobbit thief stole Tetras’ sandwich & Tetras’ panther chased him up a tree.

Steve soloed me as Archon Alterion. Archon was based in Koln, but actually did most of his adventuring on other planes of existence and whatnot. Steve was into that sort of thing and thus Archon’s exploits don’t figure into the current incarnations of the Onland Campain particularly much as planar travel no longer exists (Largely due to the preposterous things that Archon got up to).

Nate’s group was Crassmor & Eardric Tarrant, Sir Marrack Larron, Chuoz-Miez, Rygar the Assassin, Darth Lokar, Fionwe Eldargar and Zetar Duggan. Nate’s group’s activities were much more far-flung due to the two Dramborean Princes and their Knight Protector’s presence in the party. Much of the exploits of this latter group has served as a backdrop for the subsequent runs of the Onland Campaign.

In game time, Campaign I spanned about 15 years and overlaps with subsequent runs of the campaign. As such, it stands apart from those later installments. Much of what happened in that first campaign has still not transpired even now as we begin part five. Consequently, Part I is not considered as part of the Onland Campaign canon. It only serves as a guidepost for how things will turn out without the intervention of the player characters.

Campaign II

The second part of the Onland Campaign took place while I was an undergrad, round-about 1993-1994. It was a short lived expiriment using a completely home-brew rule set. Was that part of its early demise, probably. Difficulty getting people together regularly due to other interests (girls, drinking, work, etc…) and players missing sessions or sleeping through them because of newborn babies at home also contributed.

The characters were the paladin brothers; Topaz (actually an NPC) Quartz, and Feldspar, Blasmar the Destroyer and Sycamore Greensleeves. They were based in Koln, but due to the reasons above didn’t actually do much besides bicker… brothers do that.

Campaign III

The third part didn’t happen until a decade later in 2003. I’d taken many years off from running Onland, having taken another run at Aeralund, and run Dark Sun, Birthright, Greyhawk and Oriental Adventures campaigns in the interim, not to mention many games from other genres. I’d just finished an OA campaign that ended prematurely because within the span of a month one of the players was deported back to Sweden and another was transferred by his employer to Utica, New York.

I was bummed, because I really liked the oriental flavor and that got me thinking about Onland. The dwarves of Onland, after all are modeled after feudal Japan.

Campaign III is when things really started to gel. My gamemastering style had changed radically in the last ten years; ‘Characters’ had become more important; ‘adventures’ less so. I also really began to embrace the idea of using role-playing as an artistic medium. Gamemaster and players engaging in a cooperative effort to explore real issues; human nature, good and evil, the struggle to be virtuous in a world moral ambiguity. And thus, the struggle between Onn and Ahriman began to thematically take center stage.

I started to set up situations where the characters had to make tough choices; to be selfish or selfless, to decide for themselves what was right and wrong, to choose between the lesser of evils, situations where the characters feel like they could make a difference and like their lives had meaning beyond amassing gold and gaining levels.

Some players weren’t hip to this. They wanted black and white. They wanted big magic and big fights and didn’t care about character development and philosophizing about greater issues. And that’s all good. But it meant that there was a bit of a revolving door until we got to a group of players that got it. That were interested in what I was going for.

The major characters in Part III ended up being; Gwillam Trymbol ap Mathinwy, Shinzo Jubei Khazandurag and Shlas’tk.

Other characters included; Iocyn Kynath, Faerosin of the Black, Frederick Hawkins, ‘Sliver’, Frair Gregor Walfrus, Lutius, Kosanaga, Melnus of the Grey, Sir Devlin, Alucard Krissendorf, Leech the Necromancer, Jing, Pick, Shinzo Yoshinaga Khazandurag and Kelliam the Pixie.

The characters adventured in and around Oakhurst, Drambor, Vitruvi & Ironvale.

Campaign IV

Part four followed after a six-month hiatus and included Jubei and Shlas’tk from part three and added Mila Stalkingwolf and Felix Various, Tiln, Aelwold, Marcus Hawkins, Gar, Thinkswithstomach, Brutus Minimus, Cicero and Sir Roland. Cedwick, Veronica, Gille De Vert, Mischa, Red Bear & Blix were their cohorts.

The story mainly revolved around trying to take down a slavery ring and foiling the plans of an Ahriman cult.

The Onland Campaign V

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