The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Review – Obsidian Portal


A decade ago every time I had a new idea for a campaign in my head I would flesh it out by making a website for it. The absolute pinnacle of this process for me was the campaign I ran when I formed my current group. To this day I am very proud of that website; on it I documented every PC, every NPC, every adventure, every location, and every house rule, plus I had immense background information, and a huge library of stories I wrote to set the mood of the game.

In all I spent about 100 hours preparing the site before the game began, and about a dozen every week that the game was running. It was beautiful, but it was exhausting; in fact I ended the game because I was burnt out (between the website and other DMing prep work, I was spending about 4 hours in prep for every 1 hour played).

Since then my online efforts have been minimal. There was one game a couple of years ago I ran a blog for, but mostly I have just ignored the electronic side of gaming.

Not long after I started the aforementioned blog I became aware of Obsidian Portal. I wasn’t up to checking it out at the time, but I bookmarked it both in my browser, and mentally. In the intervening time I have read nothing but good things about it, so when my players and I started discussing a new game including a website, I immediately signed up.

I must say, that I have been very underwhelmed by what is there. When you create a campaign on Obsidian Portal you get sections for Home, Adventure Log, Wiki, Characters, Forums, Maps, and Comments. In each of these sections you can create html files.

This all seems well and good, but the problem is that you only get 2MB of space to work with. (also, for no apparent reason you can only have one picture file listed under maps) This is brutal. Basically with 2MB of space you probably aren’t going to have more than half a dozen images for your whole campaign. I’m can’t imagine having a campaign website without lots of maps, character portraits and other pictures.

Ah, but for a very low price of $5/month they will sell you 2GB of space. That’s not very much money, but as soon as you start charging any money I have to start wondering what can I get elsewhere for free.

Within minutes I could setup a WordPress blog that is organized in the exact same way as Obsidian Portal with none of the limitations. With that in mind, basically the $5/month is for

  • A built in forum
  • The ability to hide parts of documents from players

Neither of these are very important to me, and if the forum was it would be very easy to create a message board and just link to it from the blog. The only person I could imagine making extensive use of the hiding feature would be a DM who keeps all his notes on the website. (and that seems very alien to me)

I’m not sure who the customer base for this site is or why so many people rave about it, but it isn’t for me; I think I will go the blog route for my next game,

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September 28, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, Review, RPGs | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Sorry to hear it wasn’t for you. We don’t really try to compete with free services. Instead, we do our best to make it easy to get your campaign wiki up and running with a minimum of hassle.

    As long as you’ve got a system that works for you, that’s what matters.

    Good luck with your campaign!

    Comment by Micah | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thank you very much for your reply.

    Unfortunately for you, its not you who decides if your service is comparable to free alternatives, but consumers. My point was, and still is, that your service is nearly identical to the free alternatives; which is why I stated that in effect the monthly fee would be paying only for those items that go above and beyond free alternatives.

    Yes, your setup has a slight convience factor, but unfortunately for you the market you are competing for is largely made up of consumers who are IT savey, and don’t consider setting up a blog to be more difficult than setting up a wiki.

    I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself, but suspect I am typical of your non-customers. I want a service that makes setting up a campaign easy, and I would willingly pay for it if that service gave me some value. But after investigating your product, I was very much left with the feeling that there wasn’t much above what I was getting elsewhere.

    Comment by The Red DM | October 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] Ways to Take My $5 After my review of Obsidian Portal, and the subsequent response from its staff, I began to wonder just what I would be willing to pay […]

    Pingback by 7 Ways to Take My $5 « The Red Box Blog | October 14, 2010 | Reply


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