Obsidian Portal


obsidianportal_logo_alt01Obsidian 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.


Looking Back at Best of the Dragon


Smoldering Wizard

I’m enjoying going through a recent purchase from Noble Knight GamesBest of the Dragon, Vols. I-IV. I particularly like the collection of From the Sorcerers Scroll articles in Vol. II. If you haven’t heard of them, these are Gary Gygax’s articles/editorials from the early days, in this case, from 1978-1980, during the development and publishing of AD&D 1e.

Best of Dragon Vol II

We take for granted now a rich ecosystem of old-school fantasy RPGs and retro-clones, along with an overload of new ideas and rule variations from the OSR community. But back then, D&D was pretty much it for fantasy role-playing, and you can see how the nascent house-ruling movement really bothered Gary. Here are some fascinating quotes from the article Realism vs. Game Logic in Dragon #16, this was July of 1978:

The D&D game encourages inventiveness and originality within the framework of its rules. Those who insist on altering…

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[Friday Map] The Seer’s Font


Dyson's Dodecahedron

Hey look, I bought a compass!

No, seriously. That’s exactly what triggered this map – I picked up a compass in November (along with some circle templates) and this was the result of me doodling with its help a few days later while at a long and boring meeting.

The Seer’s Font is a temple cut under the roots of a massive tree. The central circular chambers are walled in ancient roots and a pair of small fountains are on the upper level of this central chamber. The true seer’s font however is in a smaller chamber just off the side of the great room and down a small flight of stairs. The seer is an ancient man, now seemingly more tree than human, who stares into the font for weeks and months at a time, occasionally murmuring prophecies and observations of the world around him.

Over time, an institution…

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Looking Back at Best of the Dragon – The Half-Ogre


Smoldering Wizard

While lamenting the changes he saw DMs trying to make to D&D, Gary Gygax alFrom the Sorcerers Scrollso gave some examples of what he thought were balanced changes that worked within the D&D system. In the article Humans and Hybrids, Dragon #29, September 1979, he gives an example of a racial hybrid for use in AD&D, the Half-Ogre (note I removed or re-worded some of the footnotes on ability scores, but this gives you an idea):

Character Classes Possible: Cleric or fighter
Class Level Limits: Cleric 4th; fighter unlimited
Ability Adjustments:

  • STRENGTH: 14 – 18/00 – Use d6 and 5 or 6 equals 18, with a percentile bonus of 25% to the roll if a 6, but 18/00 maximum.
  • INTELLIGENCE: 3 – 12
  • WISDOM: 2 – 12
  • DEXTERITY: 3 – 12
  • CONSTITUTION: 14 – 18 – Use d6 and 6 equals 18
  • CHARISMA: 2 – 8 – Charisma score…

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