Banner from Obsidian portal

Obsidian portal banner

Obsidian portal has become my GM binder for my Rise of the Runelords campaign. My latest campaign has a series of pages there along with all the PCs character sheets & a mish-mash of background material. As with all my past campaigns — my plans to post information are always far greater than the reality that I seem to accomplish. Still, calling it a work in progress or the unfinished pages never seems right. The site acts as a GM’s guide to memory and a PC resource. Technically there are 2 players who are “members” of the site, while of the other 3, at least 2 visit from time to time.

Obsidian portal has the basic list of folders/sections that I require built into an easy-to-use wiki. It lets me download backups that, while not very viewable as raw HTML, at least allow me to retain the text entered on the various pages. And I have complete control of such things as banners, content, and who gets listed as a player. The site is public (with only a few pages marked as being GM-only information), and updates regularly. I can mark pages as GM-only or player/public.

The Obsidian portal is a site with several (horizontal) tabs. I use the following tabs as “sections” in my onling GM binder.

  1. Cover.  An introduction to the campaign with a bit of cover-art. Fortunately, for me, one of my players is very graphically inclined. He provides almost all the art on my site (through various means). The banner is, however, completely my fault.
  2. Adventure Logs. Written by a player, this is a PC-generated log of events. At first I thought I’d include a GM note (or five) below the adventure summary when there’s things I am supposed to finish/do before the next time. And that I’d link all the NPC names to the Characters stored on the site. Most times I don’t even remember to add the XP breakdown to the GM section of the adventure log, the treasure they collect, or the stuff they miss.
  3. Characters. One page per character. The site now has dynamic templates; but they’re a really handfull to try and fill in manually. Most of the NPCs are nothing more than a picture and a line or two of description. Ideally there’d be more in each, but I am rarely inspired to update these characters. A player in my game started (at one point) updating the NPCs with information he learned in session, but I’m not so sure he’s kept up with it. I know I haven’t.
  4. Wiki. This holds almost everything else. Here I keep an XP tally per game, background articles detailing the places the party has been, longer notes about religions or people, whatever and everything. There are no maps, however. Since I tend to “borrow” maps for my game, I don’t feel comfortable publishing them after the fact to the web. The formatting (such as it is) comes from advice found in the forum discussions.
  5. Items. This is new, and I’m just starting to use it. As the magic items get more and more complicated and customized, I add the details here. The downside is that now there’s some items in the wiki and some here – they use different formats (and that really should be cleaned up). And I should get to work trying to find images for these items. I agree with the blog post, in that having a spreadsheet-like interface to track loot and spending would be very handy.

A few things that are missing:

  • The campaign map. There’s a place to upload it but I’ve never quite gotten around to it.
  • A way to track changes. Between myself and one player – the site sees pretty regular updates; unfortunately there’s no way for him to see what I’ve changed, or for me to see what he’s changed. It’s not a question of trust — I trust that he’s not changing things without cause or reason (and vice-versa); rather it’s a question of purest curiosity. Did he fix a typo, add a power, or rewrite something? My failing memory is insufficient to be able to tell.
  • A way to group the NPCs together. If we keep going the way we have, there’ll soon be 100s of NPCs on the site. I have about 20 to add from the party’s recent adventures in Magnimar (political and religious figures they’ve met, a couple of powerful families, and some friends/family members, guards, soldiers etc).  They’re all tagged as to where they were first encountered, but it would really be nice if we could create sub-pages based on those tags.
  • Wiki-wide formatting (CSS and/or sidebars). I really wish the sidebars could be defined and updated in one place, then reappear throughout the campaign’s site. Updating my current format is, at best, incredibly painful – with each page having to be manually edited for even the slightest of changes.

I like using Obsidian portal, and I follow their forums for advice and help (even if I don’t post often). The forums have some interesting topics on how to format your campaign, use the dynamic templates, campaign of the month competitions, as well as a lot of creative folk asking questions and trying to solve problems both with the site as well as with their campaigns.

Speaking of the campaigns hosted on Obsidian portal, there are dozens (and dozens…) of Rise of the Runelord campaigns. Some are updated regularly, a few are finished, and a majority seem to be abandoned; but all have slightly different sets of information. In many cases it’s just the adventure log or a few PCs; others, however, have detailed back-history, unique locations, magic items or NPCs. All this stuff helps me figure out what to add to my own campaign. I can also mark another campaign as a “favorite”. This keeps me updated when that other campaign is updated.

Overall, Obsidian portal provides the infrastructure for a campaign website that is lacking on many free-wiki websites. Grouping the content of several games (different systems, different adventures) all on one site is a neat idea and it often saves me some time and effort when I am looking for information.  Next time you’re building a  GM’s binder, take a look at Obsidian portal as an alternative to the pen-and-paper or build-it-yourself options.