Hi folks! I went Ascendant yesterday, I just thought you should know that.
If you are not familiar with Obsidian Portal and you are a detail-oriented game nerd like me, then you need to head over there right NOW. It's really a one-stop online shop for any DM trying to put together a fairly organized campaign.
I joined OP a year ago and started using its free features as a repository for a bunch of campaign information. At first that's all I really wanted it for, but as time went by and I started watching some of the film tutorials, I was really impressed. This site has tons of functionality. If you've ever tried doing your own hosting or setting up a forum or a wiki, you know how front-loaded that is. It's a lot of work just to get started and by the time you've got the seed of a website going, you don't even really want to look at it anymore (I realize that some of you are either enthusiasts or professionals and aren't daunted by this sort of thing, but I think the majority of us probably lack the time, the tech and the cojones to launch such an enterprise).
Rather than give you a long spiel on all the features at the site, let me give you the real reasons you're going to love Obsidian Portal; along with all the communication, informational, organizing and data warehousing features, there is a level of control that lets the campaign manager set the opacity of data.On every data page, there is an entry for "GM Only". No one sees the stuff entered into this field except you.
For example, say you want to introduce an artifact to the players. This artifact has an alignment-altering curse or effect that kicks in after a set number of uses, but the players don't know this and you want it to remain that way! You can create that item under the Item's tab, list the benevolent data in the public area, and enter all the secret info on the artifact under the GM Only field. You can also keep track of WHO has used the item and how many times.
Once one player has activated it a set number of times, you can add a "Player Secret" to that item, so that when that player goes to the Item page, only they can see that their alignment has been changed and that - gee! another new set of powers has been unlocked! You can also link to this Item page (or to any Character page, for that matter) from or to the wiki, so that all this data is aggregated and linked in an organic and useful way. Nice!
On top of all the in-game functionality, it adds forums and a calendar (for the Ascendant member). You can post the next game date on the calendar and they can respond with yeas or nays as to whether they can make that date or time.
It's all very user friendly, very simple to start, and I anticipate that I will be using this for my upcoming Castle Whiterock campaign, and for many other campaigns following... and really, what higher praise can a DM give to a tool?