One aspect of game mastering is distribution of information. Whether during a session or in between sessions, information about the game and system usually flows out from the GM’s spot at the table. There are many tools out on the internet for creating, collating, and distributing information that can make a GM’s life easier. Dropbox can give your players access to resource materials that you want to share with them. Onenote and Evernote give GMs and Players access to campaign materials and notes across multiple devices. Google Hangouts and Roll20 provide virtual tables to gather around and play. Of all the online tools available for modern gaming, Obsidian Portal is by far my favorite.
What is Obsidian Portal?
If you haven’t checked it out, go here and check out Obsidian Portal. At its core, Obsidian Portal is a site that hosts rpg campaigns. It enables you and your players to collaborate on game creation, session recaps, and character development. It is a great organizational tool for campaign management. Obsidian Portal allows you to create wiki entries for NPCs, places, items, etc. and then tag them to allow for easy sorting, location, and cross-referencing. It provides a blog-like feature for adventure logs to keep track of gaming sessions. As the GM, you can choose to keep some of this information tracked but hidden. You get to decide what is shared with your players and when. On top of this, Obsidian Portal acts as a hosting site for forms, maps and other campaign handouts. It notifies your players when updates to your campaign have been made. And if you upgrade to Ascendant level you gain a host of additional features, most noticeably a forum for your game.
Finally Obsidian Portal is a great CASE resource. CASE stands for Copy and Steal Everything. There are tens of thousands (Pathfinder has 11k games listed) of public games that you can view and read. See what GMs around the world are doing for their game! You can sort by game system, and spend hours reading on other campaigns. I can attest to time sink nature of Obsidian Portal, so consider yourself warned.
Getting the Most Out of Your Portal.
Like most tools, you get the most out of them when you actually use them. Obsidian Portal takes a lot of work to get up and running to the point where it is useful for you and your players. And it requires upkeep. You have to maintain the site to keep the information up to date. If you are like me, and plan a lot of your game in advance and do session recaps then this just becomes a formalized step and repository for that data.
The biggest piece of advice that I can give for Obsidian Portal is to get your players invested in the site. If they are updating pieces, those are pieces you don’t have to touch. I have handed out extra XP to those PCs who post recaps or who update NPC information for me. In the current next game, where we are not using XP, I asked a player who enjoys writing to partner with me on creating a player resource for the group. Getting a second, third or fourth set of hands on the site really helps make the campaign site sing and keeps it from being overwhelming for the GM to maintain.
How I Have Used It:
I still have a couple of campaigns up on Obsidian Portal. Most are for games that have ended or that have been put on hold. Games like my Mage game or my Legend of the Five Rings had good runs, but ended before the site really had a chance to become useful. However, there are two examples I would like to share.
Anima: Into the Shadows – This was my first real attempt to use Obsidian Portal for a game. What the group produced with this site was brilliant. I still go back and read through the adventure logs as well as the wiki pages. The group did a great job with their recaps, and referenced the site on a weekly basis. I came to count on the fact that the group could (and would) go to the site and revisit NPCs and group history. It enabled me to tell more complex stories, as I knew that I had a permanent record the group could reference.
DnD Next: A Dark God Arises – This is my current DnD Next game. I have partnered with one of my players to update large chunks of the site for game. As the players routinely separates into two groups, this allows me to potentially have eyes and ears in both groups. I have yet to talk to the other GM but I need to make sure he is ok with doing write-ups for his side if this player ends up in my group. He has done a great job with initial set up of this site. I will be interested to see if this becomes a resource for the group, or just an exercise for the GMs and this player in campaign management on Obsidian Portal.
So that is how I use Obsidian Portal. How do you use it?