Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Obsidian Portal

Obsidian Portal (OP) is an online community dedicated to the tabletop gamer and especially the game master. At its core, the site allows a GM to set up a wiki to use as an online world-building and /or game note knowledge base. Beyond its core, however, OP allows a GM to coordinate with his or her players, find new players amid the many users, show off the fruits of his or her obsessive labors and bounce ideas off of like-minded individuals in the Portal's forums.

I had a false start with OP back in February of 2009. I set up an account while looking for a way to establish an online nexus for my game group. At the time, OP had very little established support, so confused and alone, I turned to Google Groups instead. Well, later that year, I once again stumbled across the Portal after reading about it on Penny Arcade. In the 9 months since I had last visited, the site had gestated into a more fully formed entity and I decided to once again give it a shot.

I've been there ever since.

The basic interface of Obsidian Portal is the wiki -like the 'Pedia, but different. Each GM is allowed a certain number of wikis depending on whether they are a free or paying member. The wiki utilizes a language called "Textile" which acts as a shorthand version of html. It is basically interchangeable with its more full-bodied counterpart, but is MUCH easier to learn. One of the biggest things that drew me to OP was the opportunity to learn something new... In this case, how to develop a site in Textile. As a measure of just how simple it is to pick up... I really got my site going in November of 2009, had written a custom template for building a navigation interface by early 2010. Then, one year ago this month, my little narcissistic corner was found worthy enough to be named Featured Campaign of the Month. I had 15 minutes of nerd fame!

Any GM running a game that actually gets rolling winds up with a whole lot of imaginary world piling on his or her brain. Since a successful tabletop RPG campaign can stretch years, or even decades, it is incredibly helpful to have a way to keep track of the bajillion x2 places your players visit and people they meet. That way, when they come back to Ol'Stinky's house of Fish ten years down the line, you can easily remember that Ol'Stinky had a baby girl they rescued from the otyugh garbage disposal who would be about 10 now. 

The thing that really makes OP special, however, is not the interface... it's the people. In an online universe where John Gabriel's Law seems to be a proven constant, the boards at OP are a bastion of civilized values.

Everyone is welcoming to newcomers, eager to assist with wiki programming and real life game-planning challenges and just generally positive about fostering everyone's creative impulses.

Anyway, If you are running a game and haven't checked out OP yet, I highly recommend that you do. Even if you are a writer looking for inspiring stories in the fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, horror and/or superhero genres, it might be worth a peek at the various and sundry adventure logs chronicled in the Portal's numerous wikis.

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