The new Obsidian Portal: A first look

A while ago, Obsidian Portal has undergone a massive relaunch. The way the site looks and works has changed tremendously. Earlier this month I have been contacted by the people running Obsidian Portal and was asked if I was interested in reviewing the site. I have played around with Obsidian Portal in the past, but never done anything serious with it, so I decided to use it for releasing my Fallout Fudged rules.

So what does Obsidian Portal offer to its users? On OP you can create a site for your campaigns which features a blog (called Adventure Log), forums, a wiki, a calendar for scheduling game sessions, digital character sheets and many more. Alas the forums and calendar are for paying customers only. And if you don’t pay for OP’s services everything you create is public.

Luckily upgrading to the so-called Ascendant Membership is not that expensive. After a 15-day free trial period, you pay $4.99/month or $39.99/year. This is actually not that expensive, especially when you use what OP offers you extensively. Personally I haven’t decided yet if I am upgrading to Ascendant or not. It depends a lot on whether I get my players to sign up or not.

When you first sign up on the site you realize how beautiful everything looks. The OP team has done a great job making the site look very professional. Alas everything looks pretty cramped on laptop computers. The new site was definitely designed with high-res displays in mind. But this is only a minor issue.

Creating a new account and setting up your first campaign is extremely easy. OP even allows you to sign up using Google+, Twitter or Facebook, which always comes in handy. Generally the site is easy to use. Understanding how the wiki works and how you can change the look of your campaign site only takes a few minutes.

Alas there are some rough edges to the software OP is using. I repeatedly tried to upload a new avatar image and it didn’t let me. I got no error message, but the new avatar just didn’t show up. After a while I realized the file may have been to large, and tried a smaller version. This worked perfectly. It still would have been nice if the software just told me what was wrong in the first place.

Another problem is the Markup language the wiki uses. While it’s simple to use, it caused a lot of issues when I copied over text from Google Docs. Every time I wrote something like “+1” the wiki thinks I meant to have the following text underlined. There’s probably a way to fix that, but I wasn’t able to find out how.

In general OP works like intended and it’s pretty easy to set up a great-looking site for your campaign including a wiki. The minor issues I found while playing around with OP will hopefully be fixed in the future, and are definitely not deal-breakers to me.

If you are looking for web-based tools to organize your roleplaying campaign you definitely should give Obsidian Portal a look. You can use it for free and even use the 15-day free trial before having to become paying customer. And even then about $5 a month are not much considering that you would have to invest more time and money if you had to pay for web hosting and set up a blog, wiki, forum etc. yourself. Over the next few weeks I will probably continue sharing my thoughts on OP with you, so stay tuned for more!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

2 thoughts on “The new Obsidian Portal: A first look”

  1. I’ve used Obsidian Portal as a player for a number(2 is a number) of games I’ve played in but I haven’t seen a need to upgrade. Probably because I haven’t run. I also find the Wiki coding to be an issue. I use Hero Lab pretty heavily which exports to Wiki text. It goes up fine to my own hosted MediaWiki site so I prefer to link there than have to fiddle with the + equals underline issue.

  2. It doesn’t please me to say this when I say, don’t use it. The ones who run it are out for money, not facilitating good rpg gamers. They don’t give a damn about solving problems on it even if your paying money for it (I speak from personal experience). At face value its a nice site, but once you start using it in depth, you’ll find its not worth the cost they try to run people for, and the free version doesn’t allow use of it in any manner you couldn’t achieve with some PHP or Google Docs. My advice: Find a free alternative; save your money for something deserving.

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