When I first started, I knew there would have to be sacrifices made. Either it would be completely neutral, and therefore useless to everyone, or it would be biased toward one system or another. There’s a wide spectrum in there, and I decided that whenever a question came up, I would bias the system toward D&D, which I was playing at the time.
The best example I can think of is that we added race and level to the character sheets. They were freeform fields, so you could type “Elf” or “Dwarf” if you wanted. Or, if you were in a totally different system you could type “Eldar” or “Metahuman” or just leave it blank. It was up to you. Still, the concept of race and level is admittedly a D&D centric concept.
The shift to neutrality
As I migrated away from D&D to other systems, so too did my views on how Obsidian Portal should work. I realized that the central elements to all RPGs were the characters, adventures, and campaign world. As such, I focused on making those entities the core of the site. We politely declined requests to add more detail and fields to the character sheets and instead added things like the quick select popup to help you more easily interweave your story and characters. When the time was right, we released the Dynamic Character Sheets, thereby saying “Make the characters what you want!” Subsequently, we removed race and level from the character sheets, instead deferring that to the DSTs where it belonged. We want characters to embody the story, not the stats.
The commitment to neutrality
I started out thinking we would bias ourselves toward D&D, but I’ve become much more committed to overall neutrality. I’m convinced that the future of RPGs does not belong to any one company, brand, or game. Likewise, the future of Obsidian Portal, in supporting the RPG community, does not belong with any one game. So, when I’m told that we’re being too D&D specific, this is a cause for concern. What do you think? Are we too biased toward one game or another? Or, on the opposite end, are we trying too hard to please everyone all the time, and therefore offering a mediocre experience? We feel like we’ve charted the correct course so far, but I’m curious to hear what others think.