Friday, August 7, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Obsidian Protal

I haven't posted in a while so I thought I'd check in to tell you what I've been doing. I've been working on a campaign for my family and friends. In prepping for this campaign I started using a new (to me) tool I discovered a few months ago: Obsidian Portal (OP).

OP, which has been around for a couple of years now, is a free wiki for game masters and players. In this portal GMs can layout all the elements of their campaign including locales, background, history, maps and NPCs. Each page created by the GM has a special 'GM Only' area. This allows all the information on a particular topic to be in one place. Players only see the information they can access while the GM can see it all. The GM can also recount all the player's adventures in an Adventure Log which works like a typical blog, complete with comments.

Speaking of players, there is a lot for them to do in OP as well. Players can join various campaigns and create PC pages with as much or as little detail as they wish. Also, OP has teamed up with Pen & Paper Games to help players find games in their area. I haven't tried the player side of things too much yet, so I'm hoping to get feedback from the folks playing in my group.

As far as ease of use, let me say that I'm not that big a fan of wiki's, primarily because of the odd syntax for formatting of text. In the short time I've used OP, I have become fairly comfortable with laying out the text in the fashion I want. There is a WYSISYG feature that I have not turned on as of yet. If I get too frustrated I'll give it a try. Support for the site is available through some limited tutorials and the help forum.

All in all I'm very pleased with the way it is going. I will let me share information in an organized manner with players who can participate on-line as little or as much as they would like. It remains to be seen how much my group will utilize it.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that the service was free, and it is, but there is (of course) a premium subscription service available (Ascendant Membership) for a cost. The free mode limits GMs to two campaigns each with one map. That is plenty for me, but for a fee you can have unlimited campaigns with 10 maps. The Ascendant Members also have a campaign-specific forum, no ads and the ability to make a campaign private or friends only (all free campaigns are public). The cost for a year as an Ascendant Member is $40, but semiannual and monthly rates are also available.

So far I'm really enjoying the experience. OP has been nominated for an Ennie this year and I hope they do well. If you are at all interested, stop by to see what is going on in my Back to (D&D) Basics campaign. I plan to talk about other tools that I'm using in my campaign in future posts.

Follow Your Bliss,

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