My Obsidian Portal experiment has failed...

edited January 2012 in General Discussion
Ok, first off, this is not in any way a thread to disparage OP. I love the shear potential of it. It is long and involves a huge malcolypse self pity party.

This thread is about my failure to use it in the way that I could have, and to ask for advice about correcting my OP shortcomings.

I had intended to run a long term campaign ( ) for some of my long term gaming buddies. I set up the page, started by sending out invitations to the two that I had the most contact with, so that I could get instant feedback from them.

Three weeks and three reminders later, the first one finally logged on and shot me and e-mail saying that it looked great, and they were looking forward to the game. Two weeks after that, four reminders by now, he logged on and created his character page.

Later that week, I actually threw something ( I don't remember what it was, but no harm was done, so it couldn't have been anything too bad) at the second potential player, who had not even looked at OP yet. He logged on, created his character page.

I don't think either of them has logged on since.

A third potential player then got sent an invite, and within two days had his character page made. My hope rose, and I began putting more information into the wiki, so that they might be inspired to expand on the very basic information they had originally included.

My goal was to have detailed character backgrounds that I could weave into the overall story, so that they would be participants in the creation of the story not just passengers going where I lead them, and see their creative seeds grow into significant plot lines.

After several more weeks, they had not even looked at the new information I had posted. I lost my faith, and haven't added anything to the page since then.

I spoke to one of them on the matter, and his rationalization was that he had been under the impression that since there was no fixed start date for the campaign he had plenty of time to update his character. He has limited internet access, so I was understanding. He had not, however, put any more thought into his character since his posting.

Now I ask of you, the wise and experienced OP forum members, that you grant me insight into what I did wrong and offer up sage advice about what I could do differently to successfully take full advantage of this great gaming tool that is Obsidian Portal. I know that I feel unwilling to run this campaign as I've had parts of it brewing in my skull for the better part of a decade now, and feel that at this point I'd not be doing it justice going into it in my current mindset. I will however be running something, most likely either The End or Classic Deadlands, with the same group of players.

What should I do to try to help get them (and myself) excited about the game and Obsidian Portal?


  • KenSee
    Posts: 93
    Well, unfortunately sometimes things just don't work out. Life gets in the way, unenthusiastic players, or anything else really that stops a great game from happening.

    First off, it helps to set distinct dates for sessions. When you plan a campaign, set a date to make characters. Set the date of the first session, and then set the date for next session when that first one is over. Rinse and repeat. This way, its clear that you as GM want to play and gives the players a time frame to go by.

    Scheduling fixes 90% of all problems in the First World. Just sayin...

    Other than that, make sure you have a good interesting game to play. I suggest Pathfinder, but that's just me.

    Hope that helped some.

    -Ken See
  • Savannah
    Posts: 188
    To be honest, it sounds like you had too high expectations. I know exactly what you mean when you say you've been planning it for years and feel you can't run the game you want to, as that's something that I struggle with quite often. From what you've said, it sounds like you were expecting the information to all come together and the players to participate a lot, neither of which come easily (just look at all the people asking for help getting players involved).

    What works for me is to keep reminding myself that it doesn't have to be perfect and, even if it doesn't come out the way I've had it in my head, the players don't know how it was "supposed" to be -- they're just having fun with how it is. As for using OP, I've been focusing on doing the sites for myself, not for any players, and so any player participation is a bonus.

    If you're not excited about the game anymore, it sounds like you might be burned out on GMing (been there, done that -- not fun). Is there any way you can play instead of running the game? Sometimes taking a break is all it takes to get your enthusiasm back. Alternatively, maybe running a pre-made module as a short break would be a good change.
  • Baalshamon
    Posts: 585
    My game just won Campaign of the Month and I am still struggling with the same stuff. Getting players to be active is like pulling teeth. I have one player that is posting nearly as much as me and three that might post one thing a week if I am lucky. Building the whole and keeping them interested in giving up twenty minutes a week to type on the computer is too entirely different things. First you need to talk to them about what you expect and are they willing to do it. Second you need to remind them with phone calls if needed, often. Third you need to set deadlines with rewards for making the deadlines. Forth you need to keep them interested in the game.

    If you do all of this you may, if lucky, get them to be a good addition to your OP experience. Dont get disheartened, try again. If it doesnt work out consider getting new players.

    "Star Trek Late Night":
    "Duskreign's CotM December 2011":
    "CotM January 2012":
  • HurstGM
    Posts: 205
    I have one player that pretty constantly writes logs or adds new stuff to the website. I have the rest of the group that does not. This seems to be what i call the OP divide. GM's vs players. Gms work on the site add things and generally keep up but the players are just along for the ride at best and dont really add things like they say they will or you expect. Dont be down its nothing you did an we all face this issue. I reward those that ass things and dont reward those that dont. At least you can say one thing your not alone all Gms face this.
  • CuRoi
    Posts: 18
    Players need a reason to go to your site. As most GM's (self included) you will think that just your remarkable wit and incredibly detailed back story would be enough. Wrong. Unless you are me and making this campaign: "Summer Crossroads": (See, I got a plug in...) But seriously I'd go with:

    Bribery. I give fate points for my Dresden RPG, I'd give XP if I was running a DnD game. Blasphemy! soem might say. Really, if it adds to the overall campaign, it is worth in-game rewards.

    Next is constant reminders. Not on the level of SPAM, but everytime you have a game you NEED to update and inform the players about it with easy to click on links in an email, phone text or something. Players have lives (unlike GMs) and will rarely get around to looking unless you remind them and make it easy for them to do.

    A bit of the stick also works. For my game if you don't update your character sheet on the site, I only have a general idea about what that PC is about. If you aren't there for a game and I have to make stuff up about your PC, well, it may suck. It wil be entertaining for everyone present, but may suck.

    You also need to engage the players. Dresden RPG is good for this because the story and setting are created collaboratively. That gives all kinds of reasons for a player to be updating wiki pages, adventure logs and the like. Right now I have two players coming up with their own scenarios either for me to flesh out as GM or for them to run as a "guest GM" at a future date. Again, and I can't stress it enough, if all you have is the Epic of "insert your world name here" on the site, no matter how awesome you think it is, it isn't worth going to. If the site focuses on the SHARED Epic, then it will draw them in.

    It also sounds like you are putting the cart before the horse. If I read it right, you haven't even started your campaign and you are lamenting the dismal failure of OP. If I were a player and a GM said "we might start the game soon" I'd blow it off too. Get people, sit down face to face (or chat room, or however you want to play...if this is a play by post, I'd reccommend finding different players that want to spend hours typing) and get some momentum before you worry about fine tuning a site for a game that isn't running! I get wanting to have PC backgrounds in front of you, but many players don't work that way. Some need prompting some like to discover their character through play.

    Add in game content that is useful to your players. Long detailed explanations isn't really enough. To really get many player's attention you need stats - reveal defeated (or potential) NPCs there. Add new power/skills etc. there. Players eat that up, it can directly affect their character's in game power and they always want more.
  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001
    I also give xp rewards. Each person is assigned a log in rotation (I now have 8 players, we only play every 2 weeks, so that means, at the minimum, a player HAS to write a log 3 times/year) I give extra xp for every log, so there are some players that write every week, and others that only write when assigned. I also have created a bonus xp category for anyone that creates something for the site- an NPC, a piece of art, area description, coding, etc. Lastly, the character must be fully updated before next session. If the character is not, the GM rolls random dice to determine not updated categories (happened twice- once was $, which character was upset for he lost 6000 gold, and the other was food stores, which meant the group had to make an unscheduled stop... has not happened in over 10 sessions since.)
    It works for me. Part of the reason it works is our game is completely online- I only have 1 player in my state, and he is a 7 hour car ride away.... We play by Skype, and everyone has to do their part.
    "A God...Rebuilt":
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":

    Just trying to help out.

  • TheMazeController
    Posts: 115


    Malcolypse baby,

    Dont despair man you're in the same boat with everyone like its been said.

    Imagine going what you are going through then imagine it while trying to manage 16 players while trying to recruit a full 20 while trying to run another successful RPG side project while trying to get more sponsors while trying to keep up with your own self imposed goals and deadlines to make the site awesome in the first place.

    If I had any hair left... (I do but its going too) I would be ripping it out.

    My answer to your issue is twofold. Get more players ones that are willing to participate and slowly replace the deadbeats and 2 let them have a hand in the campaign setting. Check out "Microscope": by Ben Robbins. Its a really really worthwhile investment. You can play with your guys and explore the back story and history that you let them make up! After that they should be willing to be more involved. Not to mention you solve the "I thought we weren't playing yet" issue.

    I am also going to be doing a few things that I dont want to reveal too much just yet, (In a lame bid to win CotM one day) that may inspire you for new ways to get players involved too. I will hopefully have a new log up with the game world map that my players made last Sat before this week's session on Sat. (I have come to the conclusion that my updates will be exactly 1 week behind actual play so I have a bit of breathing room.) When the new log goes up you will see what kind of special bribery I am talking about or if it isn't obvious just ask me.

    Oh and in case you're interested I have pictures up in our "multimedia page": now - one set from a world build session I ran with my regular campaign and another set from a side event called "Games that Cant Be Named": that I am running on wed nights in Soho with a friend.

    If you quit I will be severely disappointed in you! you can do it! I have faith in you!
  • magavendon
    Posts: 112
    I would like to point out that in my campaign, "Progression into the Stars":, I have 9 active players and only 1 posts any logs or wiki pages, or really does anything on the site with regularity, and that regularity is something like once every month and a half (we have sessions every 2 weeks).

    Sometimes you just get players that won't do things. I've just changed up how I give out experience so maybe this will be incentive for more creativeness to happen, but I don't expect much. Mainly, just like Savannah, I do things on the site for myself and if my players choose to do something as well then awesome-sauce!
  • Noblebrick
    Posts: 1
    What a shame...I kind of know how you feel...I have been trying to find a game for some time now...something closeby...and the only games close by that is on the site hasn't replied to a couple of messages. it stinks knowing some people have gaming so available to them and don't take to much advantage. oh well
  • wolfhound
    Posts: 354
    Lots of good feedback, but one post saved me the trouble of typing at all. Ditto everything CuRoi said =)
  • Sorwen
    Posts: 64 edited January 2012
    My 2 cents. For me this is just a place to help keep myself organized and perhaps get feedback from other GMs. It has been a long time since I've ran a campaign. If they use it then that is just a bonus. We had our first session and though I thought I had everything well organized we were still delayed in getting started. Now I have almost all of it right here ready for my use. If the players use it even better. Now as to getting the players to get things done, then all I can say is I felt that pain as well. I had originally planned on having them create two characters. I knew they would assume the were backups though I kept calling them second characters. The reason was I was going to have their second be a nemeses group. That didn't pan out because I had a hard time getting them to make their first characters. In fact one player had to finish his character before we played(

    It happens some times though. If nothing else get them to set a firm date when they want to start playing. They might be more motivated to get their characters done then.
    Post edited by Sorwen on
  • malcolypse
    Posts: 10
    Thanks for all the advice, everyone. It's good to know that my pain is shared by so many GMs. It kind of feels like the sharing spreads it out.

    I flatly refuse to give up. I will lash them to the table if I must.

    I have decided that I'm switching campaigns, though. Given the amount of personal investment I have in the Shattered Oz game, I don't want to run it for a group whose main interaction with the world will be, "Oh, look. A munchkin. Let's go beat it up and take it's Lo0t!"

    I love my players, they're a blast to have across the table from me, and I've known them for pretty much half my life. They just don't seem to want to develop the depth of character that I want for Oz. If they want to whack things and take swag, I can definitely accommodate them.

    New topic for discussion:

    Should I run a game of The End, which is a D20 game set after the biblical judgement day, where the players play "the Meek," those people who failed to serve good, but were not evil enough to merit banishment to hell, who have inherited the Earth?

    Or should I run a Classic Deadlands game, where the party will wander an alternate old west filled with magic and terror, fighting to put evil in boot hill.

    Either campaign requires minimal work to get started, come with fascinating settings that will keep me entertained, and don't require that characters be intimately and lovingly crafted by my players beforehand. I've been having a hard time deciding which sounds better to me, but I think the final determination will be made by the players.

    The first session of either will be deciding which sounds like more fun to them and character creation, with the players required to discuss what kind of character they want to play, so that I don't have a party full of one trick ponies that all do the same trick, and to cut back on characters not getting along hopefully. Then they'll have to tell me how their little group came together, and why they stick together, saving me a whole heap of trouble. After that, I'll let them advance their characters a bit to represent that they've been doing this together for a while.
  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001
    I think that it should be up to the players which game they want to play, especially if you are doing a reboot. I have had games go wrong before, and the best way to get the players involved is to involve them, right from the start.
    "A God...Rebuilt":
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":

    Just trying to help out.

  • twiggyleaf
    Posts: 2,017 edited January 2012
    Hey Malcolypse

    Welcome to Obsidian Portal. As others have said already on this thread, your experience is generally the norm. A few of my OP colleagues are blessed with continued online support from their players, and they ARE INDEED blessed, but it is rare. All the advice above may facilitate future player involvement, but my advice is don't beat yourself up about it. It is not a failed experiment, rather an expectation unmet, but one that should not kill your spirit.

    Personally,and with retrospection, I now feel lucky enough for the players to have contributed character sheets and discuss things on the Shimring Forum. By the way, I find they get involved more easily with the forum than the wiki so I have asked them to only tick their profile box for receiving new Forum updates. If there are any wiki pages they need to know e.g. Experience Points, I just send them an email with a link. (You need to be an Ascendant member to benefit from the Forums but I recommend it.)

    Like you, I had initially wanted so much more and was hoping they would get much more heavily involved, but I am a bit of a veteran and my players have jobs, families, other interests, etc. Not all of them are as "fantasy world consumed" as I am but they nevertheless enjoy the game and get involved at the table, which is where the main frisson is to be found. It is the playing of the game at the table that keeps me inspired to embellish my world, even if it is only briefly glanced at by the players (and possibly a few GMs on OP).

    Remember that to you (as a world creator) the game at the table and the hours of background work may be part an holistic unit, but to most RPG players, this is not true. If you bear that in mind and accept that the background work you do probably enhances your game (as GM) at the table, you should do well, and may yet inspire your players to take on more of the background work. But don't count on it, and don't get upset by it either. Mucho empathy!!

    "Shimring - The Faces of Divinity":
    (a multiplanar 3.5 D&D campaign)
    Post edited by twiggyleaf on

    "I met a traveller from an antique land....."

    CotM May 2016: Mysteria: set in Wolfgang Baur’s MIDGARD.

    Previous CotM Aug 2012: Shimring: High Level Multiplanar Campaign

    Inner Council Member

  • Dungeon_Master_Loki
    Posts: 359
    All good advice, to which I will add something I've just started doing.

    Beginning with the new game we just launched I have added a blanket rule- If it is not on your OP sheet it is not in the game. It's set as a ground rule to start and should make them keep up their sheets. Beyond that if you can get even one or two of them periodically creating content you are ahead of most GMs already.

    Stick with it, I wan to see how this all turns out.

    Game Designer, Pro GM, multiple ENnie Award winner

    GM of Planejammer: The Spelljoined (Pathfinder 1e) Campaign of the Year 2011 and still going strong!

    GM of The Planewalker's Guild (Pathfinder 1e) 

    Need a GM? Book me today!

  • HurstGM
    Posts: 205
    Loki I LOVE that idea
  • Dungeon_Master_Loki
    Posts: 359
    It seems to be working. I've got several players who will only log in to update their sheets but they're doing it so they can keep their treasure. Hopefully when they see the ones who are journaling and making art zip ahead of them in level advancement they might get more active.

    Game Designer, Pro GM, multiple ENnie Award winner

    GM of Planejammer: The Spelljoined (Pathfinder 1e) Campaign of the Year 2011 and still going strong!

    GM of The Planewalker's Guild (Pathfinder 1e) 

    Need a GM? Book me today!

  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001
    Loki- the 2 statements together is what keeps people involved in my campaign... In the beginning, 2 players were the only ones doing logs "out of turn", and they rocketed past people in xp. That and the first time someone forgot to update their gold, so I rolled a 6 sided die and that was what they had.... well, people get involved then. Now they challenge each other on who has the best log!!
    "A God...Rebuilt":
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":

    Just trying to help out.

  • Black_Vulmea
    Posts: 277
    I write my wikis for me to use as a tool at the table first and foremost.

    They're organized in such a way that I hope they're user-friendly and inviting for the players, and the players are welcome to contribute content if they wish, but I'm not at all worried that they don't.

    Referees are typically the most invested players at the table - we see a big picture we want to share with the other players, so it's kinda inevitable, in my experience, that the person spending the most off-hours thinking about and working on the game is the guy or gal behind the screen.

    Mike aka Black Vulmea
    "_Le Ballet de l'Acier_": - swashbuckling adventures in the age of the Three Musketeers and Captain Alatriste
    Featured Campaign of the Month - August 2011
  • DamienMaster
    Posts: 34
    Again, CuRoi is on the ball…
    It sounds to me like the problems are with the game and how OP is being used to run or create the campaign, not OP itself.
    OP is a tool and you need to use the right tool, for the right job; namely your campaign and/or gaming group.

    *Ask yourself a few questions…*
    1) Are you prepared to do most or all of the work yourself? If not forget it!
    2) What kind of group do you play with? Enthusiastic or lazy? Beer and pretzels or weekly epic? Dedicated lifers or casual gamers? Do they have families? Work commitments? Other hobbies? You need to know who your players are and their willingness and capacity to help.
    3) What are your players already doing? Do you get a 10 page character background? Are your players already writing session notes? Are they always pitching you ideas for items, home rules or story hooks? Have an artist who loves to draw all the NPCs you meet? Looks like you might be in luck! If they're groaning about 'homework', maybe not...
    4) What IS the best way to use OP for your game? For most groups, it's a database for NPCs, items and session recaps. But it won't do everything. I couldn't run a nights gaming from OP, simply because of how I like to write my notes and run my game- So I don't. Don't make a rod for your own back, use what works for you and your game, ignore the rest.

    *My Campaign?* "Rogue Traders":
    Why did I decide to use OP?
    1) I have a committed, mature and enthusiastic group.
    2) I wanted a repository for campaign notes, houserules and NPC profiles (but I still write the game in Word and print it out Module style).
    3) I wanted somewhere to record all my hard work and research somewhere where other GMs with a similar campaign in mind might find and use it.
    4) I was looking for an ’art project’ that would force me to get drawing in my spare time (I’m a professional artist)
    5) I wanted to immortalise the already extensive session notes my players were recording!

    It pretty much sounded like a good fit… And has been! One great thing for my campaign has been player participation…
    I asked my players to contribute one journal entry each session (one per session, not player) so at most it was a once a month commitment.
    And… My players stepped up to the plate and delivered! Every session has at least one entry, the more interesting sessions attracting multiple entries, in fact, as the campaign progresses, a friendly ‘rivalry’ has developed and it’s fascinating, even hilarious to hear the conflicting points of view.

    I give the credit to my players but I have a few tips to encourage player involvement.

    *Player Involvement*
    1) Be realistic and clear about your expectations
    2) Be persistent without being pushy. Be understanding and patient but keep nudging...
    3) Applaud their efforts. When someone writes up a new journal or adds to the wiki, email your group and say how good it is, why you like it, why it helps make a better site game!
    4) Foster competition. If someone writes a Journal entry, goad the others to respond!
    5) Build incentives into the site to attract their interest and attention. Create sections for them to contribute to, lace the site with hints and secrets (I publish NPCs BIOs!)
    6)Inspire by example. If you want more, give more. Fill the wiki with house rules and background information, maps and illustrations.
    7) Focus on what they DO do, I haven't had any Wiki contributions yet! But the Journals keep coming thick and (almost) fast so I don't complain.
    8) Lastly and most importantly, reward their efforts and don’t be cheap!

    I started off with a simple reward. Any journal entry got a Character Point (essentially a bonus dice) valid for one session only.
    I was (happily) getting my weekly entry but nothing more, so I decided to experiment and upped the ante…
    I turned character point into a "Destiny Point": (a character point on steroids).
    Whilst still valid for one session only, it could be used for about half a dozen additional purposes in game.
    The first time someone used a Destiny Point to do something cool, I was suddenly receiving a lot more Journal entries!

    Don’t threaten them, don’t throw a tantrum, don’t cry, don’t abuse them, don’t be passive aggressive and DON’T punish them in game (and don’t ‘throw’ something at them). Be persistent , be consistent, lead by example and don’t be a jerk (not that I’m calling anyone a jerk- It’s just the best rule of gaming)
  • DreadGazebo
    Posts: 218
    * begins slow clap *
  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001
    Joins in the slow clap, adding momentum...

    Just trying to help out.

  • dlaporte7271
    Posts: 94
  • Dungeon_Master_Loki
    Posts: 359
    And the sound of applause filled the forum!

    Game Designer, Pro GM, multiple ENnie Award winner

    GM of Planejammer: The Spelljoined (Pathfinder 1e) Campaign of the Year 2011 and still going strong!

    GM of The Planewalker's Guild (Pathfinder 1e) 

    Need a GM? Book me today!

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