Using Obsidian Portal for a Shadowrun Campaign: A Case Study

BigLogoHow do you keep track of your campaigns? Do you write it down in a master list? Do you rely on an exceptional memory? What about if a campaign takes a hiatus? Here’s how I’ve used Obsidian Portal to solve some common campaign problems.

Obsidian Portal is a wiki hosting service for role playing games. It’s free to use, though there is a paid version as well, with expanded features.

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of work on my Shadowrun campaign’s wiki (Basement Shadowrun, if anyone’s interested), so I thought I’d offer my evaluation of it here. Frankly I’m finding it very useful and fun in large part due to all the questions I posted above. For instance the wiki has a basic tab for characters that allows you to track NPC and PC alike. You can also create NPCs in advance that aren’t yet revealed to the PC’s and list them as “GM only.” Thus you are the only one with access to them until they are revealed (with a simple toggle).

The “character” page supports image uploads that can really add to the characters. In fact you can upload images and video to the rest of the wiki as well, though it appears that the character images do not count towards your storage limit. The free storage limit is 2MB I believe, while the paid version is 5GB. When I was gearing up for a return to our Shadowrun game, I began using the image upload function a lot to spruce up the site and I think it’s working out quite nicely.

In addition to the characters tab, another common use tab is the “adventure log” which allows you to track your sessions chronologically. Now obviously you could do a lot of this with a word processor, but I’ve found the ability to link between the pages very handy. For instance, does your party ever forget the name of the NPC that gave them their quest? In the adventure log, you can link the NPC (or the PC) page straight in to the text. This is clearly quite useful for players to just take a look back and refresh their recollection about what the hell they are actually doing – probably with a greater level of detail than a rehash from the GM might provide.

SR_BB2075__Behemoth_MarkMolnarIn fact as time between adventures sometimes drags on or when the campaign is put on hold, I find my own recollections getting rather fuzzy. This can be the cure. Of course since it’s a wiki, it’s not going to record your adventures for you. You have to provide the input. For us that isn’t a huge problem. Our GMs do some sort of rehash by e-mail before sessions anyway, and this can allow for the collection of those synopses in an appropriate location. The more I’ve worked on my wiki, the more uses I’ve found for it. I wish I had put it to better use while we were in the original sessions of the campaign. I was using it then, but I was not well versed in the Textile markup language that Obsidian Portal uses. Not that I am now, but I’m certainly better than before. You can also use HTML among its more advanced user options.

There are other functions as well. The paid version includes a forum that we have used for in-between-session planning on a number of occasions. You can also upload maps, one in the free version and ten in the paid version. There is an “items” tab that functions much like the “characters” tab, and a game calendar for session scheduling purposes. The “GM only” function applies to entire wiki pages as well as GM only secrets on specific pages. With the paid version, you can also add individual player secrets, which I’ve only had a chance to use occasionally so far, but I’m itching to play around with more. By the way, players can add their own input, and you can post your gaming location and search for games (and specific systems) in your area.  And if it applies to you, there is a Co-DM option for the paid version.

If you’re someone who likes to log information for their campaign, no matter how casual, Obsidian Portal might be right up your alley. And since the basic model is free, it’s well worth a look.

2 Responses to Using Obsidian Portal for a Shadowrun Campaign: A Case Study

  1. I just need to get the player buy-in to actually feel justified to use this. I’ve floated a couple of times, but no one bit.

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I actually just started using it for my own log of information. I can access it anywhere, and the linking is very useful. rather than having multiple lists of character descriptions (like one for wizards and one for NPC’s of a particular city) I can have one description for a particular NPC and put his link into any lists I am generating. I find that very useful all bu itself. and the players just started jumping in to read and sometimes post on their own.

    another idea that i adopted form others on OP was to offer karma for doing write-ups and character back stories, etc. obviously some get into it more than others.

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