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The Douchey DM » Resources » Campaign Organization – Obsidian Portal

Campaign Organization – Obsidian Portal

Organization from my games has lately been a collection of Google Docs in a folder. I generally start will a PC Information document — this is something I distribute to the players, and it contains stuff their characters would probably know about the game world. Most don’t read it, but it’s there for reference nonetheless.

For my own reference I usually have an NPC/Bad Guy document, where I put descriptions of significant characters the players are likely to meet or have met. Sometimes I’ll have a document describing the overall story arc.

For each session, I set up a document with the clues, plot hooks, and events that will occur and what will happen if the party decides to follow those leads. Since the storyline focus changes with the PC’s actions, I only work on the very next session’s document.

The system has worked for me thus far, but with the re-boot of my fantasy game approaching in the next few months, I wanted to try Obsidian Portal, a campaign organization tool.

For review purposes, I’m using the free version of the service.

Features of Note Thus Far

Feel free to take a look at the campaign site if you like. So far I’ve only included a list of NPCs, a brief timeline of the previous game sessions and PC guidelines.

From the main page, you get tabs for the various features.

Adventure Log

First is the “Adventure Log.” Handy? Yes. But the real question is will I (or one of the players) take the time to write up synopses of each session. It would be nice if that happened. As I just implied, both the GM and players can add entries to the Adventure Log.  The GM  can also add secret entries that only he can see. It’s handy for a GM to make a quick note about a possible future plot twist or whatnot. The paid version of the service also allows the players to create secret entries as well.

I should point out that all of the additional services are visible but disabled with a free account. Certainly a wise yet frustrating marketing ploy. More than once, I’ve clicked on something only to be told that I should upgrade my account to an “Ascendant” account.

Wiki

Next to the Adventure Log is the campaign “Wiki.” I’m torn on the the whole wiki thing. I like the collaborative nature of wikis. I like the amorphous flexibility of them as well: you can literally organize a wiki any way you like — and that’s awesome. The problem is, YOU have to organize it. There’s no default organization to a wiki, so pages can often get lost unless you take the time to index them on the main page (or some sort of parent page).

That issue aside, I like the potential this feature may have. As the amount of information grows, I can see a time when players would add information (and speculation) about various NPCs on their wiki pages, and the players can use it as a tool to gather and collate the information they’ve gleaned  during the game.

The question, of course, is “will they?”

Characters

This is the feature I was most excited to see. My fantasy game is going to continue in Hero System 6th Edition. I was very surprised to see that I can specifically add Hero System characters to my campaign. In fact, there was quite a list of different RPG systems to choose from when setting up a campaign.

When I went to set up a character, I was greeted with a Hero-specific “dynamic sheet,” allowing me to recreate my character sheet for all to see.

As a GM, I would LOVE it if my players used this feature, as it would allow me to check their powers and skills on the fly when developing adventures.

Items

The “Items” feature is one I probably won’t use in this game, but who knows. It allows you to build items, provide their stats and powers, etc.  There’s no system-specific features here that I could see. In a campaign with Wondrous Item, thinking swords, etc., this feature could be very useful.

Forum and Calendar

These features are not available with a free account.

Maps and Comments

It’s a pretty straight forward features. You can upload images of your maps to share with the players. Handy if you have players who forget or lose handouts. The ‘Comments” feature is pretty self-explanatory.

Usability

Since I’m not actually running the game yet (and the players don’t even know the site exists yet), I can’t really gauge the site’s usefulness.

The site is fairly easy to use. It’d be nice to have a WYSIWYG interface for editing, but I can get by without that.

I like the fact that so much information can be kept in one place. I can totally see myself at the table, with a laptop next to me opened to my Obsidian Portal page.

The Wiki pages allow me to tag entries as “GM Only” so I can write up descriptions of PCs, places, etc., and once that information is divulged to the players, I can uncheck the “GM Only” box and it become available to them for future reference.

As I continue to prep the game (and run it), I’ll post another review as I become more familiar with the site and its features.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of DoucheyDM.com. He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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6 Responses to "Campaign Organization – Obsidian Portal"

  1. BazzaNo Gravatar says:

    I have been using Ascendant Obsidian Portal since Xmas, running a Runequest 2 game – I find it very useful. Other comments

    * The ability to hide bits or all of pages is real cool
    * Really suffers from not being to upload files
    * The character page is very handy tool
    * I have my episode plans in ob portal and then another tab with the Adventure log open – i simply type as i go with the log, it is a bit fiddly but when sesssion done, so is the log and the players understand and value it
    * Wiki is easy to use but does take a bit of work to set up
    * Having the players complete their characters online with background is very hand

    Shell out the 5$!

    :)

  2. JazzIsBluesNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve used Obsidian Portal to manage games in the past and found it a bit cumbersome to work with, and my players seemed disinclined to put their information on it. I’m glad it works for others and I may give it another try with my upcoming campaign time will tell whether it or my players have changed.

    Cheers,

    JiB

  3. DaeglanNo Gravatar says:

    With a lot of games now having character generators it really should be able to upload the files from them. At least as PDFs

  4. GetWreckedNo Gravatar says:

    For those of you who use the DM Toolkit app for your iPad/iPhone/iPod the next app update will allow you to download your Obsidian Portal wiki directly into the app so that it is available offline. It looks pretty kewl.

  5. [...] I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been using Obsidian Portal to organize my current Fantasy Hero [...]

  6. Rob CrawfordNo Gravatar says:

    DM Toolkit does appear to download your OP wiki, but it doesn’t appear to let you do anything with it. Disappointing. I was hoping for offline editing or something.

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