Obsidian Portal and Wiki World Development

Everyone probably already knows about Obsidian Portal, right? I mean, I found out about it from reading Penny Arcade, and they have several orders of magnitude more readers than I do. So, I’m pretty sure I’m a little late to this particular barbecue, but I want to talk about it anyway, because I think it rocks.

For those who don’t know, Obsidian Portal is a combination wiki, blog, and social networking thing, designed specifically to manage RPG campaigns. You register, log in, create a campaign site, invite players, build a wiki for your world, and post to an adventure log to track events in the campaign. It’s dead easy to use, and the basic level is free. You get a fair bit at the basic level, too: the ability to create two campaigns, upload a map, and all the wiki, blog, and networking you can squeeze in. The premium membership costs $40 for a year, and gives you unlimited campaigns, 10 maps, more levels of map zoom*, and the ability to limit who can see your campaign.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m moving away from the Scales of War adventure path that’s being published in Dungeon magazine***, and taking the characters into adventures of my own devising. So I decided I would develop the new campaign using Obsidian Portal to see how I liked it and if I wanted to use it for other campaigns, as well.

Now, Scales of War is based in the Elsir Vale, the setting for the 3.5 mega adventure Red Hand of Doom, and takes place roughly a decade later. This means I have a fair bit of background material from both the original module and the adventure path to plug into the wiki****.

And I have discovered that I absolutely love the way wikis work for world design.

This is the first time I’ve ever used a wiki, and I had no idea what to expect. I watched the tutorial video that is linked from Obsidian Portal’s main page, learned about forward linking, and thought, “Huh. That looks pretty simple.” And I was right.

Not only is it simple, it really helps guide the creative process. I can see at a glance what bits I need to fill in on any given wiki page. I can look at the list of pages and identify gaps that I want to fill, and opportunities to expand the information. I can watch the campaign world take shape in a non-linear but still usefully structured way. There is even a special GM Only pane of each wiki page where I can put in my secrets and notes, and not have to worry about the players seeing them.

So, I’ve invited the players to the campaign to register for Obsidian Portal and sign up for my campaign. I’ve only got two of them to do it, so far, but the rest will come along eventually. I’ve also told them that they’re free to add stuff not only to the adventure log, but also to the wiki itself*****.

Anyway, that’s it for now. If you’re interested in a peek at the campaign, you can see it here. I hasten to point out that it’s still in early days of development in the wiki. But let me know what you think, anyway.

Just be gentle. It’s my first wiki.



*This is important: the map I uploaded shows up as a single pixel at highest zoom. I can view the original image by clicking on a link, but I was hoping for the zoom to work better. I probably did something wrong**.

**Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything in the help or forums that specifically addressed this issue. One of the hazards of a new service – not enough time for real depth of support to develop.

***As a complete aside, I was really impressed by the latest adventure in Dungeon. It’s called Depths of Madness, and focuses on a number of interesting and well-developed skill challenges, rather than just a lot of dungeon crawling and fights. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still a lot of fights and some dungeon crawling, but I think this is a big step in the right direction.

****Technically, this is a violation of copyright. Well, not just technically, I guess. I’m hoping that WotC won’t care enough about my little indiscretion. If they do, I’ll have to figure something else out.

*****Though I’m not sure if this will actually work.

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3 Responses to Obsidian Portal and Wiki World Development

  1. Ryan says:


    Thanks for the glowing review of Obsidian Portal. Glad to hear that you found the video tutorial so helpful. In regards to the premium subscription, we also eliminate all advertisements and we’re going to be adding some more cool features shortly. In the meantime we’re dealing with the spike in traffic all you Penny Arcaders are bringing to our site and still trying to work my way through the Bug List in the forums.

    I’ve looked at your map and at all zoom levels I can see everything just fine. Can you please look at it again and if there’s still a problem drop us an email with the specifics of what browser and platform you’re using.

    Thanks again,

  2. Micah says:


    This is Micah, the Co-Founder of Obsidian Portal. I wanted to say thanks for the kind words and good luck with your campaign. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, as there is no wrong way to do things. As long as it works for you and your group, you’re doing it right.

    One last bit of advice: Don’t get burned out trying to do too much too fast. You don’t have to detail your whole world and campaign in one sitting. Put in the barebones skeleton and flesh it out as you play. If you’re using Obsidian Portal and it starts to feel like work, quit and come back later! Remember, its a game!

  3. Pingback: Obsidian Portal Update | What's He On About Now?

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