Impressions of Obsidian Portal

Since we are using the Obsidian Portal site for the Savage Potter game that I am playing in, and since it took me far longer than I would have liked to add the first three session journals on the site after I had already added them to my blog, I thought I would spend a little bit of time working with it by setting up the Deadlands Noir game that I am currently running on their and make notes on my thoughts. You can find the site here.

First Impressions

I really don’t like the user interface to add really any type of information to the site. The forms for creating a character are okay, but once you move into the description, biography, or GM only sections it gets harder to use and the choice of Textile (Red Cloth 4) as a markup parser seems just similar enough to the Markdown that I use on the blog to completely screw me up. The buttons for functions in the rich text editors are useful especially to learn the syntax, but the UI and text area are so small on my monitor that unless I up the zoom to about 150%, it is really hard for me to see the “:” and “.” that are needed as part of the formatting syntax. Another thing that bothers me is the width of the text displayed on the page. You end up with a narrow strip of text for each of your entries and a lot of dead space that is filled with your chosen background graphic. There might be a way to change the width in the settings section, but nothing I have found seems to do so.

After further usage

After I finally started getting used to using the editor and started to learn the syntax, I found that I liked the ability to tag things a lot. I started creating custom tags and adding even more tags to organize things. This in some ways works better than doing the same thing in WordPress especially if you want to store secret information on the page. To do this in WordPress, I have two basic ways of doing this.

  1. Create a page for all of the publicly available information with a link to a password protected sub page with the secrets. This is how I handled the players on my WordPress site which you can see here. You can even add a marker on the page and alter the link to navigate you to that section on the page (note it looks like at least for some WordPress themes, you don’t go to quite the right location, but it is at least close.) The problem I have with this is that you can’t tag the individual characters, but at least it doesn’t make you maintain two pages for every character.

  2. Create a page for each character and a page for each character’s secrets. I haven’t done this but it works similarly to that of the above, but now you no longer need to locate an anchor on the page, which also gets rid of the issue with the navigation not taking you to the correct location. You also get the ability to accurately tag each of the characters keeping them organized. The big downside is that you have to maintain two pages for each of the characters, and if you have a large number of characters, that can become quite time intensive (I might move to this format in the future).

My continued frustrations

One thing that I continue to find frustrating with Obsidian Portal, and this really shows up when you try to add a lot of data into Obsidian Portal all at once. Things that you add don’t show up in the options as soon as you add them. So I would find that when I added a tag, it wasn’t showing up when I went to add it to the next character, or when I added a character, it didn’t show up as an available character to link in a wiki page, or when I found a character whose name changed between the case planning and the session, and I went in and updated the record, it took quite a while for the character name to show up to add.

The really nice thing about Obsidian Portal

The one thing that I really like about Obsidian Portal is the GM Section on each of the pages to hold information that is only available for the GM, this easily gives you the ability to allow the players to update their information while not exposing them to secrets. There is probably a way to do this in WordPress especially with the right plug-ins, but if you are using the free version of WordPress, you don’t get access to add plug-ins to your site.

Final thoughts

In many ways, I think Obsidian Portal is a very good service for hosting campaign information. Especially if you are not already maintaining a blog of some sort already. If you do have a blog, you can do most of the things there that you can do with Obsidian Portal with just a little planning and work. The other thing that looking at Obsidian Portal for this has done for me is make me re-examine things that have gone on in my campaign that I had forgotten about. This allowed me to add several non player characters to my list which will allow me to have them show up again. I will finish translating the rest of my sessions to the Obsidian Portal site, but it will not be the first location that I add information to. I will also continue review the old sessions to find any other lost characters from previous sessions to continue to update my cast.

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Author: Hours without Sleep

I am a professional software tester, who has an interest in programming, computers, role-playing games, history, and reading in general. This is my third attempt at keeping a blog, and I am going to try putting all of my thoughts in one place, and see how it goes.

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