Obsidian portal can be a very powerful tool for organizing a D&D campaign, particularly if you play your game online via a VOIP service like Skype or if you play by post on a message board. Even if you play in person like I do, a good portal page can be invaluable to you and you players.
I’m beginning a short series of posts about the do’s and don’ts of using an Obsidian Portal. I plan to include commentary on what a portal can and can’t do for you, how to get your players to engage and actually use the portal, and what sort of head space you should be in when creating and maintaining your portal, and more.
For starters, it’s free to use. All you need is a valid e-mail address and you can start making a custom web page for your D&D game immediately. There is a more comprehensive selection of features you can access if you care to pay for the privilege, like an added schedule to keep your game dates on track, a message board to create discussion pages for your game, and a few other handy features. I personally find the free version to be incredibly useful as is and recommend it highly to any DM who struggles to keep their notes or players organized.
A free Obsidian Portal account allows you to create sites for two campaigns, and each site can include an front page, an adventure log, a repository for character sheets and NPC bios, a place to post a single map of your game world or setting and, most importantly, a wiki. I’ll link my own portal page here as an example. It’s still under construction.
The idea behind Obsidian Portal is to keep your game organized. For DM’s who are already good at this, the portal can seem like a natural extension of your already good habits. For those DM’s, like me, who struggle to keep good notes on an ongoing campaign, learning how best to use a portal site can seem a little overwhelming at first. The good folks at Obsidian Portal do a great job of including tutorial videos to get you learning and organizing quickly, but I’ve found a few things that weren’t covered in those videos to be invaluable to the portal crafting process.
First and foremost, have fun with it. If you approach the organization of your game as a chore, you will either never do it, or do it badly. A portal site is a chance to not just get your game back on track, it’s also a chance to express just WHAT your game is to your players, and even total strangers. Dressing up your front page with epic mood setting art or videos, typing up an exciting blurb to pull people in. This is another opportunity to entertain people, and I think every DM enjoys entertaining others, or they wouldn’t do what they do.
The simplest and most fun portion of the site to create is probably your front page. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time here, as it’s going to become the face of your game. Make it attractive and informative so you can be sure to pull people in. If you’re going to use your page to recruit new players into playing a game, avoid putting too much detailed information here for any portion of your game OTHER than character creation. You don’t want to scare folks away with a wall of text detailing every corner of your campaign. I typically put a blurb at the top of a page to gather interest, and include basic character creation details towards the bottom. The main reason I put character creation info here is because it’s something a new player might want to know right away.
That’s all I have time for now, but next time I’ll get into how and why you should create your wiki page, and how to engage your players with the portal. If you have found this helpful or interesting, or if you have something more to add, please feel free to comment or drop me a line.