You might be wondering… Did he miss a week? Yes I did! Sorry dear reader… Personal matters kept me away from the blog last week. Everything is almost back to normal now, so time for the next instalment on the Sci-Fi Fridays! series. Last week was, what I would would be the last Wanderers of the Outlands post for a while, but the campaign continues apace and I may soon be back to talking about it and sharing information and material created for it. This week, much like I did with the interview in Part 17 I’d like to review a tool I’ve been using for the campaign, Obsidian Portal!
I’ve known about Obsidian Portal for a while, I created my free account back in 2012 while searching for options to share information about my campaigns. I played around with it, and as nice as it was I ended up not creating my campaign in it. You may ask, why? My biggest reservation at the time was privacy. I don’t mind sharing campaign information, heck I do plenty of that here in the blog, but the day to day details of the game itself, a place where the players can communicate freely, unconcerned about typos or spelling, a private space to share ideas was paramount. The free version of Obsidian Portal did not offer that and I continued my search.
I began to use Facebook Groups, Google Sites and other tools (I talk about them in this post), I moved on… Then Obsidian Portal ran it’s very successful Kickstarter campaign, and I was intrigued, but I was “kickstarted out” at the moment and did not back the project. I followed their re-launch but still I did not switch over.
Then the fine folk at Obsidian Portal reached out to us and asked us to review the site. Michael did an initial review, a first look, and Obsidian Portal provided us with free Ascendant Memberships so we could examine the site fully. It has truly made the difference. The free account of Obsidian Portal is good, the paid account is even better.
First of all it took care of my privacy issue. I know part of the fun of Obsidian Portal is sharing your creations; just look at June’s featured campaign and the interview with the GM. The features for paid members are amazing, from personalizing your campaign, to forums, more maps. But to me the most useful feature is the wiki. Handling large amounts of information for a campaign, from locations, to NPCS can be a hassle. Obsidian Portal’s interface it is easy and simple to create pages for each important detail. The use of HTML, Textile and easy linking features made it a breeze.
I’m no master of HTML and had little experience with Textile, but I picked it up pretty quickly. The Obsidian Portal community and guides available were VERY helpful. Also my good friend Mario Agrait (GM Extraordinaire!) started using the platform not long before me to organize his MASSIVE and long running sci-fi game and offered many pointers. If you want to find him in Obsidian Portal look for Galero.
Could you do what Obsidian Portal does with other tools? Probably, but the amount of work, using different platforms, creating things, pretty much defeats the purpose. Here you can create a consistent look, a sole repository for the information for your campaign and then share it with your players. With your ascendant account players can log in and have the full functionality of the site for the campaigns you’ve created.
While I’ve used the Wiki most of all, your players can have their characters in the site, you can enter your NPCs. Keep a calendar, an adventure log, the possibility of having maps your players can explore, adding markers to the map and linking it to other entries on the site is amazing. GM notes on entries are also very useful. It can help you keep your notes organized in the same place you keep the information your players have, but they can’t see it. In the past I use to keep a file with what the layers knew and my notes, now they can all be in the same place. In the case of various GMs sharing a campaign, this helps with sharing information and minimizes stepping on somebody else’s toes because you did not know! Since everything is online, you can access it from any browser, so there is no problem is you left your notes, home, or the computer is being repaired.
I’m a happy Obsidian Portal user! I’ll happily pick up a subscription ad recommend it to any GM that wants to organize his or her game. Did I have any reservations or find any stumbling blocks? Yes… Like anything there is a learning curve, mine was specially wit Textile, BUT as I said before the guides and community help made it very easy to pick up.
My biggest stumbling block has been getting players to visit the site; nothing to do with Obsidian Portal, while I may be incessantly online and in social media, not all my players use the Internet the same way. While one player works with technology and fully embraces the use of such sites, others are more casual users, due to their line of work or personal preferences, but their online habits are different. Getting them to go to other sites or learning how to use them, no matter how easy it may be, is not easy.
This is not a judgment call; everybody uses technology to their needs. I also do NOT want the game to become a chore or an assignment so that they HAVE to go somewhere to study materials. My solution was to post links to pages and entries in places where I knew they’d see it. It had the effect of most, not all, my players joining Obsidian Portal.
Now that the sci-fi campaign is running I’m planning on going back to update and enter information of individual sessions. No matter what Obsidian Portal is an awesome GM tool, a campaign organization helper, and a place to keep in touch with your players. I highly recommend it. Make sure you check it out!
Find me in Obsidian Portal as Sunglar (no surprise there!). See you all next week.
I also like Obsidian Portal but have the same issue with getting my role-players to check it out, even when house rules, session notes, and characters are posted on it. Still, having one place to go for all of those things is great.