Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Open Atrium for Collaborative Campaign Websites

Open Atrium is an online team collaboration tool that's used for intranets and project management.

I've recently found that it makes a pretty kick-ass campaign website, as well.

Essentially, this is a free (if you have web space), open-source alternative to Obsidian Portal. It is built on the Drupal CMS, so it is extremely extensible. Built in features include:
  • blogging - Anyone on the team can write a blog post. So far, my group has used this to discuss character ideas, generate setting questions, and discuss rules.
  • microblogging - This is kind of twitter like. My group hasn't used it for anything useful, but it is mildly amusing. I might dedicate it to off-screen, in-character discussions down the road. or something.
  • a calendar/event system - good for scheduling games. If you are running a modern game, I suppose you could use it to track in-game events as well. That could be interesting.
  • Notebook: a wiki alternative - This requires some explanation. It is based on Drupal's Book module, and it allows hierarchical structuring of pages. I've set up one notebook for rules and one for setting. I'll probably also create one for NPCs. You can use this for just about anything you can use a wiki for... though it isn't precisely the same.
  • case tracking - I haven't enabled this. It might be useful as a quest log, but is probably overkill.
All content is, by default, restricted to your group, and you can allow group members to create all and/or edit the different types of content (or not, if you prefer). Commenting is enabled by default on the blog, but you can add it to the Notebook as well. You can also use Drupal's powerful taxonomy system to categorize content across blogs and notebooks.

There are some additional features you can download for Open Atrium that look pretty cool, such as an ideation tool and integration with Graphmind. There are also thousands of other modules for Drupal, but they will require varying levels of configuration and customization to work the way you want them to work.

So far, I'm a pretty big fan of the way this is working out. I have no complaints about Obsidian Portal, but this gives me a bit more control over my own content.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

System Matters... Sometimes too much...

I'm going to be running a Wasterunners campaign for some friends scattered across the country. This is exciting, but it is also a bit frustrating. I have a good idea of the setting, but I don't have the necessary game mechanics down.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that system matters, otherwise I'd just run this in Shadowrun or something generic. Unfortunately, Shadowrun has some mechanical bits that just won't work for this setting (the opposition of magic and technology, magic as physically-draining on practitioners) and a whole host of mechanics that promote a different feel than I'm going for...

A generic system is... well... generic. It sacrifices flavor and focus for flexibility. A generic system might be able to model the powers and such in my game, but it isn't going to provide mechanical support for the game's spirit. Also, I want to go relatively rules-light, and most generic systems aren't.

What game systems do get at the spirit I'm going for? Well, Unknown Armies isn't far off... unfortunately, it has some limitations. It is a very human-centric system and isn't well-suited for things on a superhuman scale. Also, I really don't like the combat system. The combat system I can modify, but the human-centric nature of it is a bit rougher, since it is a percentile system scaled to set the 'human maximum' at 100%.

FATE is nicely flexible insofar as it can be tweaked to support different tones, but I'm a bit burnt out on it at the moment.

I feel like I'm missing something.

If I had the time, I'd just write up my own system for this... but I'd like to get going with it in the near future.