I used Obsidian to manage my first Spire campaign, here is what I learned

I play all of my roleplaying games online which is why I am always looking for digital tools such as Obsidian to help me manage my games like Spire. In this post, I will explain how I used Obsidian for my Spire campaign I recently finished and what I learned from both.

What is Obsidian and Spire?

Obsidian is a program that formats text files on your computer with markdown and allows you to make connections between notes. Notes can be anything from locations, NPCs, or anything else you would like to include in your campaign and session prep. It helps me manage the various hooks and situations my players engage with during a game.

Spire is a fun and chaotic game that uses the resistance system. It has a rich setting, straight-forward mechanisms, and a focus on player-led campaigns (though I still like to have a frame for my games to fall back on or provide that early juice to drive players forward).

Obsidian allowed me to create highly connected and organised notes

When I run games, I like to have as much information for a given location or scene on the one page so I do not have to navigate away and potentially lose my place. I accomplished using two features of native Obsidian: canvas and page preview.

In Obsidian, I started by creating a separate note for each major NPC with all of the usual details and formatted in a way that highlights key information quickly for myself. Then, I employed the canvas feature of Obsidian to create my primary locations (sometimes called adventure sites).

A screenshot of a canvas page in Obsidian which shows a map of the adventure site, keyed location descriptions, rando encounters, and common enemy stat blocks.

In the image above, you can see what one of these canvas pages for an adventure site looks like. There are a few different elements to unpack here:

  • A map or an image is used to help me visualise the space along with a note up the top with the name of the adventure site and a brief description of its context in the world.
  • A note I dropped into the canvas which describes what can be found at each location keyed on the map, and provides some descriptive elements I can convey to my players.
  • Another note I dropped in is an ordered list of random encounters that I can pull from when there is a lull or as a consequence of player action. These random encounters are themed tot he adventure site and some link to various background events.
  • Finally, the NPC notes I created earlier are dropped in at the bottom of the canvas page if they are likely to be found in the area. In this case, these NPCs are stat blocks for generic enemies and allies.

I can scroll down to see more information I included in each note such as more keyed location descriptions or deeper information about any of the NPCs linked on the page. Additionally, some of the keyed locations are hyperlinks because they link to another note with more information.

As you may remember, I do not like clicking away which is where the page preview feature plays its part. I can just hover over any hyperlink to see a preview of the note I have written and even scroll through it to find the information I am after.

I used Obsidian to create a kanban board to track events in my campaign

From my last campaign recap, I used a campaign tracker to help me prepare sessions and track events changing over the course of the campaign.

Using the kanban community plugin for Obsidian, I created a kanban board of notes which described these changing events.

A kanban board of event notes organised into the headings: resolved, immediate, approaching, emergent, and dormant.

Given the campaign is over, many of the events are in the resolved column, but typically these notes would begin either in the approaching or emergent columns and move up over time.

Instead of using clocks to track each event’s progress, I would roll on each column between sessions to determine which would escalate towards resolved. You can read more about how these campaign trackers work here.

I found this to be a very helpful tool with preparing sessions and incorporating the checklists for major events helped to remind me of things that happened. I never used this during a game, but I would often pull from this tracker and note down certain events that are likely to occur during the session, i.e. any immediate events are likely to happen during the session.

My players and I enjoyed the impact of their Spire characters’ abilities

Spire felt like a very chaotic game from my perspective as a game master. The players are given character abilities that allow them to do some wild things from the very beginning such as traveling to the Vermissian (a sprawling series of tunnels that connect all of Spire) or to add new environmental elements to dangerous situations.

It led to some very exciting encounters which frequently went completely off the rails. We all enjoyed the chaos that could be created from these abilities, even if they came to really hinder the players when they were racing against the clock to uncover the mystery of the campaign.

Acquiring new abilities is how the characters mechanically grow over time, and there were a lot to choose from. However, some of the abilities were really dull in comparison and were never picked.

Spire’s setting is rich and interconnected

The setting of Spire is essentially dark elves oppressed by high elves in a mile-high city. The players typically take on the role of members of a cult-like resistance to the oppressors.

It is easy to base a campaign off the ideas behind Spire, especially given how sprawling the world is. Everything from the many religions and cults of the city to the different gangs in each district are all described in Spire’s various source books.

But here in lies a problem I had with the game: it’s not organised very well for someone new to the world. Information for specific locations is scattered throughout the book, and this becomes particularly problematic when players are given abilities that allow them to go anywhere at any time or call forth a crowd of people in a location or go back in time or whatever other super impactful ability they possess.

Closing thoughts

Spire feels like the kind of the game that becomes easier the more you play it and the more familiar you become with the world.

By the end of my campaign, I was pretty comfortable with improvising much of the city, but at first it was really overwhelming. Thankfully, my use of Obsidian helped to break up chunks of information and keep it all in one place for easy reference during the game.

I have not decided what I want to try out for my next campaign, or even which system I will run. If you have any suggestions, leave them in a comment below!

Want to read more?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s