Monday, April 19, 2010

Digital Frontier - Part 3

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that Rob from Accidental Survivors invited me to play in an ongoing play-by-wiki game over at Obsidian Portal. This is a take on play-by-forum (which I did a little OWoD Vampire forum play back in the day of Prodigy) and was sparked by a post from Ken Newquist over at Rob is running the game using Mutants & Masterminds. So, as promised, here is the low down...

The Game

Mutants & Masterminds (M&M) has been around for a while now and has cemented it's position as the premier D20 supers game. The game is versatile and well supported in it's second edition. I've yet to come up with a super I couldn't stat out using this game system. I've game mastered and played both the 1st and 2nd edition IRL and had a great time doing so. I could go on and on about the game, but this post isn't so much a review of the game as it is of its application to the play-by-wiki (PBW) approach.

Let me make note before we go much further that Rob has stated that the current game is an experiment. Based on suggestions that Ken made in post at Nuketown, Rob is bringing the game to life over at Obsidian Portal. We all, players and GM alike, are feeling our way through play. Some elements are more collaborative storytelling and others more game-y.

First things first: the characters. We created Power Level 6 heroes. This sets the tone and feel for the game. PL 6 is below the typical starting level of 10. This fits in the range of street-level characters; these 'supers' will either be highly skilled/well-equipped 'normals' or possessing some small set of powers. This fits in nicely with the setting Rob chose - Freedom City.

Freedom City is normally home to some heavy hitters in the M&M world, but Rob has chosen to set the game during the setting's Iron Age. The year is 1985. In our world, comics were darker and populated with all manner of anti-heroes. This is the world into which The Raven was born.

Technical Aspects

I'm a self-acknowledged min/max-er when it comes to M&M. I like to feel that I get the most out of every power point. This leads to some intense character creation. In the past I've used a spreadsheet program for doing this. This time when I used it didn't seem to work very well when it came to the powers sheet. I may have too new a version of Microsoft Excel. I did not try the Open Office version.

Upon suggestion I tried Mutagen! a free Java applet for M&M character creation. The website that offered a download is now gone, the yahoo group is all but a ghost town, I don't believe the program is in active development, but I got my hands on a copy. It had a short learning curve and seemed to do the trick. The stat block in the character page (linked above) for The Raven was generated using this app.

Now the PBW is very similar to play-by-forum (PBF). You post something that relates to what your character is doing. The cool thing is that we're all editing the same wiki page of text. We build the story interactively. The down side is, like PBF, there can be down time between posts since not everyone has the same amount of free time. I have been guilty of that as I was away from my computer for a week, so The Raven didn't do much.

One of the things I had to get used to was how much I should write. I started off only writing a few lines, basically explaining one action. Rob pointed out that we had more authorial control and should expand. I loosened up and seemed to have found a nice rhythm.

Obsidian Portal also includes a die roller. We've used this in a couple of combat situations to relate the effectiveness of an attack or skill use. I'm interested to see how it gets used when more of the players are involved in the same scene.

I'm also able to create my own pages for things like my alter ego's apartment. and list off some supporting characters. The linking feature of wikis proves quite useful. For example, if Rob introduces an organization into the story, he create a page relating what is known about that organization without slowing down the narrative.

As a result of Rob posting about his experiment, Obsidian Portal upped his membership to the Ascendant level. This means the campaign gets forums, email notification and more maps. We're in the process of trying out all the fiddly bits. I recently posted the first two forum topics and we'll see where that goes.

After a little bit of back story development, Rob is kicking off Vol. 1, Issue 1 of Freedom City: Shades of Grey. Something very cool about this is that it looks like he is running two stories side-by-side. My thought is that the two groups of heroes will eventually meet up and interact together. But the possibility always remains to easily spin off a side jaunt or Shag & Scoob (spit up the party) if need be.

So far, smooth sailing. I'm in a mind to try running a PBW myself. If I do, I'll be sure to post it here.

Follow Your Bliss,


  1. "back in the days of Prodigy" is a hilarious throw-back, dude.

  2. Yeah, nothing like dating myself. :)

    On the flip side, it reminds me how long this form of role-play has been around. Seems like as soon as we find new mediums of communication, someone is figuring out how to role-play with it.

  3. If you start your own Obsidian Portal PbW, you know I'm in, dude.

  4. The question is "what to play?" So many cool things to try.