Author Archives: Micah
Welcome to Haste!
Obsidian Portal is experimenting with running a podcast, and this is our first episode. We call it Haste because we know you are all busy people and don’t have time to listen to a group of podcasters drone on and on. The goal of the show is to get you some of the latest news in the RPG industry and get you on your way.
Outro: Black Electric– AFI
My day job has me travelling to San Francisco from 4/9 to 4/16. I looked on the big map, and there are plenty of campaigns listed in that area. I’ll have some free time in the evenings, and I’m wondering if there are any gamers in the area who would be willing to entertain a guest.
I’m willing to put myself to work, and I’d be happy to run a 1-shot. I love Dark Heresy, and I’ve got a 1-shot that I’m planning to run at GenCon. Otherwise, I’m happy to run a guest PC, an NPC, or even just sit and observe.
If you’re a gaming group in the San Francisco area and interested in having a guest, shoot me an email. I’d love to meetup and do some gaming!
Many of you have noticed that your tags aren’t fully case sensitive. In fact, the chosen case of a tag often seems very random. I can assure you that it’s not…but that’s not really what you want to hear. What you really want to hear is that now we will be respecting the case of your tags, so “cleric” and “Cleric” will now be distinct and you can choose your casing however you want.
The downside is that all existing tags will remain. This means that if you have a lot of pages tagged with a particular case, then switch to a different one, you will end up with two different tags. In other words, you can now end up with tags for both “cleric” AND “Cleric”. That’s probably not what you want.
That’s why we recently released DragonTagger, the bulk tag editing tool that works with our API. With DragonTagger you can quickly rename your tags to match whatever case you want. It’s not exactly fast (or pretty) but should do the trick.
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.
If you’re a designer who loves playing tabletop role playing games and would love to play a key role in improving Obsidian Portal, we’ve got an opportunity for you.
I’ll be the first to admit it: Obsidian Portal isn’t as pretty as it could be. Ryan and I are great programmers, but we’re a little lacking in the design department. Since the beginning we wanted to bring on a professional designer, but it’s always been on the back burner. Finally, we’re at a spot where everything is in place and a designer would be a perfect fit.
Who are we looking for?
We’re looking for a “hands dirty” designer. Someone who wants to get in and make the overall UI and User Experience better. Cleaning up the homepage, making the editing of pages and wikis friendlier, improving our landing page, adding useful popups, and so on. We need a gamer who uses Obsidian Portal extensively, has concrete, applicable ideas on how to make the existing features work better, and would be able to execute those ideas if given access to the code.
In addition, you must be someone willing to wear many hats. We’re a small team and that means often straying out of your comfort zone. For a designer, that means designing t-shirts, stickers, achievement badges, flyers, and just about anything graphical you can imagine.
- Be part of a small but dynamic team. You’ll be amazed at what we can get done in a very short period of time.
- Play with cutting-edge technologies – Ruby on Rails, jQuery, MongoDB, Redis, Chef, Amazon Web Services…you name it, we’ve tried it.
- Work from anywhere on a schedule that fits you.
- Interact with an awesome community. They’ll thank you profusely every time you make Obsidian Portal easier to use and look at.
- Best of all: Make Obsidian Portal look and behave like you know it should! How often have you said, “I could do this better…” Now you can!
- Great understanding of UI/UX
- Competent with Photoshop and Illustrator
- Not scared of interacting with server-side code. You won’t have to write it, but for testing you’ll need to be able to at least run a Ruby on Rails project on your local machine.
This is a paid, part-time contract position. The time investment required will be quite variable, but will probably come out to about 10 hours / week. Really, it comes down to how much time you want to give to making Obsidian Portal great.
Pay rate and compensation is negotiable. Tell us what you expect from this position.
How to Apply
Finally, tell me what parts of Obsidian Portal are in dire need of redesign, and how you would go about it. There are no right answers here. I have my own opinions, but I’d like to hear yours.
I’ve been listening to a lot of RPG-related podcasts lately, and I cringe every time I hear them mention a problem that Obsidian Portal solves. Whether it’s scheduling your game, keeping track of NPCs, or bringing a new player up to speed, I just want to scream at my mp3 player every time they discuss inferior solutions on how to deal with these problems.
Get Micah on Your Favorite Podcast
With that in mind, I’m launching Project GMOYFP: Get Micah on Your Favorite Podcast. I want you to reach out to your favorite podcasters and tell them to bring me on the show as a guest speaker. I love to talk about Obsidian Portal and how it can help you manage your game, but many of these podcasters have no idea who I am. When I reach out to them, they think I’m some random whacko off the Internet trying to worm my way onto the show. In fact, I’m a very specific whacko off the Internet trying to worm my way on!
I’ve been on The DM Guys and The Tome Show, and both times were a blast, plus I was able to hopefully introduce a few people to Obsidian Portal. I like to think that some lucky listeners out there heard the name, decided to check it out, and we helped re-energize their campaign. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but oh well.
Please! Do me a big favor and reach out to your favorite RPG podcasters, large or small, popular or unknown. Send the podcasters an email or post a note in their forums. A message from a regular listener and community member will carry a lot more weight than one from a whacko like me. Tell them to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll twist and morph my schedule and make myself available.
If we all work together, we can ensure that one more Internet whacko (me!) gets his voice heard.