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Group Lovin’ For Your Wiki

Posted By Phil Vecchione On May 30, 2008 @ 4:00 am In Tools for GMs | 15 Comments

The Wiki. A self-editing web page. A Swiss Army Knife application. It has been hailed as the office savior and reviled as the destroyer of corporate culture. It has reached the techno buzzword status in corporate America. That’s all fine and dandy for the boardroom, but what about the game table? How can your campaign benefit from a wiki? Let’s take a look.

To understand how a wiki can help your campaign, we must understand the main functions of the wiki: documentation and collaboration. Documentation is pretty easy to understand, it’s about putting information down for others to read. The ability to create and edit pages, through your browser, without having to use any special software, makes creating and maintaining information easy. The fact that the wiki is web-based, makes accessing the information convenient.

Some of the basic uses for wiki’s in campaigns, have focused on documentation. Players and GM’s use wiki’s to post elements of their campaigns. For that use, there is a variety of information that you can post on a wiki:

  • Campaign background information
  • House Rules
  • NPC’s/PC’s stats
  • Spells/Magic Items/Gear
  • Session notes
  • Character Journals

By putting these kinds of information about your campaign in one central location, that is easily accessible by your players, both outside and during your game, is a great asset. This is a very straightforward use of the wiki, but one that provides immediate benefit for the group.

While documentation is very helpful, the real power of a wiki is its ability to be a platform for collaboration. Wiki software is designed to have multiple people collaborating on creating content. Most wiki’s contain a content control system that allows for version tracking and rollbacks. The software does a great job of allowing people to build on each other’s ideas, without individuals feeling like they have lost control of their ideas. It is through that system that trust, in the collaborative process is built up; encouraging people to work together and share ideas.

So how can you create a group collaborative effort to support your RPG? Here are some thoughts….

Group Session Notes

In the past, players have kept notes from each session. Some are very good at this, creating detailed notes of every scene during the evening. But the vast majority of us are actually not that good at taking notes, remembering only the scenes central to us, and missing details when the focus is not on us. So rather than each member of the group taking their own session notes, leverage the collaborative properties of the wiki, and let the group as a collective create a single set of session notes.

One person starts the notes by typing in what they remember from the session. Then each member adds to the body of text. Some players will have better clairity on specific scenes, others will add new text, and some will make corrections and perform some clean up. Finally, the GM can come in and add in any details that the players may have overlooked, such as names of NPC’s, town names, etc.

In addition, by using the wiki’s hyperlinking, you can create links from the session notes, to supplemental pages that contain informaiton about a given location, NPC pages, previous session notes, etc. Now your session notes have transcended mere documentation, and have now become a campaign encyclopedia. In the end, the session notes will be stronger for the group effort that was used to create them. They will be a true campaign resource.

World Building

Years ago, I attempted a wiki-based project with some friends, to collaborativly build a campaign setting. The project was called WorldOne, and it was a cyberpunk setting. I asked a number of friends, including potential players, to log on and make up background information for this world. We had some ground rules about what the setting would and would not support (AI’s yes…aliens, no), but aside from the very basic guiedlines, everyone was free to build their own background elements, and encourgaged to play off of each other’s pieces. The end result was a very rich setting, with a large variety of elements, and some very unexpected twists.

The collaborative built world has a number of advantages over having just the GM create the campaign world. First, with numerous authors contributing to the body of work, there will be more material than just a single author working alone. Second, multiple minds are going to create a richer pool of ideas, than a single mind can come up with on their own. When done properly these multiple ideas build upon one another to create novel elements, that are stronger than the sum of their parts. Lastly, because the world is built by the whole group, there is a shared ownership and investment in the world, that will help your players get into your new campaign.

In many ways wiki software is a like a role playing game. It is a platform that was designed for group collaboration, and the works best when everyone contributes. So get your favorite wiki, get some friends, and put your minds together and create something amazing.

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.




15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Group Lovin’ For Your Wiki"

#1 Comment By Ishmayl On May 30, 2008 @ 5:38 am

Great article – much love for the wiki here. My group has been using the wiki on my site for the last 2 years to keep easily up-to-date character sheets, adventure logs, treasure lists, etc. I, as the GM, even have a function so that I can set up completely private GM notes by adding admin-only tags to certain entries. Wikis are supreme.

In the past 3 months or so, the wiki has been finding very new use for people to post their full settings on as well. You’ll find nothing but love for the wiki at the CBG! :)

#2 Comment By LordVreeg On May 30, 2008 @ 6:11 am

We end up with one (at least) laptop per player. The only person with any pwper in front of them is me. And since we placed all the rules and setting notation on a pbwiki (http://celtricia.pbwiki.com/) a few years ago, even though we have our own spells, rules, etc, everyone just keeps a tab open on the site. SO the wiki is really useful as a better rulebook in play. Takes up no space, everyone can look at the same thing at once, etc.
Moreover, after the session, collaboration is easier there. PLayers collaborate on notes, changes they want to make, etc. Since my gamers are in their early 40’s for thr most part, this has been a huge boon to collaboration.
A younger version of myself was a miser for information, but by openning up the players to the system and allowing them to edit and help, it has become everyone’s game. The players as much as myself.

Above, Ish talks about the CBG wiki, where many members put up their settings, aided by those more technically savvy, and get instant feedback on the ‘talk’ pages. No better way to sharpen a setting than to have other game creators helping.

#3 Comment By Micah On May 30, 2008 @ 7:36 am

Once again, I have to pimp Obsidian Portal ( http://www.obsidianportal.com ). We built it from the ground up as a campaign content management system. It has a built-in wiki, but also has some specialized tools for managing characters, as well as a blog (the Adventure Log) for a chronological view of your adventuring.

Another neat feature is the ability to have GM-only information on each wiki page, blog post, or character. It appears on the same page, but only for the GM. This is a BIG help when adding secret plans and such.

Plus, it has the added benefit of the surrounding community of campaigns. You can easily solicit and receive feedback from fellow GMs and players.

On getting your players to contribute, the current favorite is bribery :) Just give out some bonus XP to anyone who writes up an NPC or adds an adventure log post. It seems to work pretty well.

#4 Comment By Scott Martin On May 30, 2008 @ 8:39 am

That’s a good list of a wiki’s advantages. While the current campaign (and a few previous ones) have had wikis available, they’ve never become a big part of our group’s focus. It’s really shining at the moment, as we’re adding one player– by pointing him at the wiki he gets a good pool of information, and since he knows we created what’s up there, he’s encouraged to add his own twist to things.

Unfortunately, group session notes are a lost cause in our group– I tried encouraging collaborative notes on the wiki afterwards, but found the burden was still on me, whether as player or GM. I decided that as nice as it would be to have the notes, it wasn’t worth the time. We can always revisit the decision again if there’s a passion for notes and volunteers…

#5 Pingback By of Dice and Dragons » Use a Wiki for your Gaming Group On May 30, 2008 @ 10:03 am

[…] folks over at Gnome Stew posted today about using a Wiki for your gaming group in their post: Group Lovin’ For Your Wiki. After covering the basics of what a wiki is they dive into the uses for your campaign and start by […]

#6 Comment By DNAphil On May 30, 2008 @ 10:29 am

It has been my experience at both work and home, that wiki collaboration is a very slow process to implement. The first things everyone learns with the wiki is documentation, and for most people that is as far as they progress.

Reaching collaboration is very tricky, and in many ways needs its own mini-social contract, to govern how things will be done, who writes the main body of text, who will make edits, what kind of edits can one make to a block of text, etc.

My advice if you want to reach true collaboration, is to do a few Google searches on wiki collaboration. There are a few good articles out there that talk about how to get collaboration going for your wiki.

#7 Comment By David Reese On May 30, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

My group just started trying out Universalis, from Ram’s Head Publishing. It’s a pretty neat system, and the process of collectively creating a world that you described happens in every game. It’s a nice break from running a more traditional game, and you get the richness of contributions from everyone bumping into one another in interesting ways.

#8 Comment By tallarn On May 30, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

I’m using Obsidian Portal for my new campaign, and I hope my players are happy to get involved in it.

I’m aiming to keep a list of NPC’s (including villains and who killed them), items, character sheets and some game notes on it. I think the wiki is going to be a nice easy way for all the players to get involved, if they want to.

#9 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On May 30, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

Let me add my voice to the chorus praising Obsidian Portal. Having a campaign wiki out in the open “forces” me to be more creative, to fill in more blanks and attend all the little details that I might otherwise overlook or skip. My game is a better game because of OP!

#10 Comment By Snargash Moonclaw On May 30, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

I’m curious about OP and I’m looking at it but not sure up front whether it will support what I’m considering doing down the road. I’m posting my offline (D&D 3.5) Home-brew development into the CBG wiki. I love the site for feedback, development ideas and help from other home-brew builders, etc. Much of what I’m writing however is essentially “DM’s eyes only,” contains a lot of behind the scenes “spoilers” that I won’t want players to see.

In about a year I’ll be moving back to Denver where I can access a broad base of players I know and I want to unveil an on-line version of the setting in advance to begin prepping to run and get players involved in some of the interactive aspects of setting development. I’ve noticed someone mentioned OP allows some way to flag for DM only or player access, but I’m wondering how smoothly and flexibly that works – what it can and can’t do. Ideally (and I may find nothing to fully implement this:) I would like to be able to grant partial access to specific material, e.g., someone playing a dwarf will be able to read a lot more about dwarven culture in Panisadore than other players. Different backgrounds may even produce conflicting information reflecting the character’s perspective due to race, religion, location or other cultural influences. So I’m looking for a great deal of flexibility in presenting the information once compiled in a single location for actual play separate from the “development lab.” Any OP users care to input please?

#11 Comment By Ishmayl On May 31, 2008 @ 7:19 am

Actually, GM-only notes on wikis is just a matter of a certain template! I’m honestly starting to believe that wikis can do anything… weird…

#12 Pingback By D&D Monday morning speedlinking – wiki edition – Dungeon Mastering – Dungeons and Dragons blog – DM tips, D&D books, RPG fun On June 1, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

[…] DNAphil from Gnome Stew was lovin’ the wiki this week – good article. […]

#13 Comment By dhelfman On June 3, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

For my campaign, I organize absolutely everything with a Luminotes wiki at http://luminotes.com/

This includes characters, locations, maps, loot, links to the D20 SRD, etc. I even use it while I play, so if a player asks about something I don’t have right in front of me, I can just do a search for it.

(Full disclosure: I develop the Luminotes personal wiki software.)

#14 Comment By kensanata On June 15, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

I like my wiki & blog stuff as simple as possible. That’s why I created http://campaignwiki.org/ – feel free to give it a try. Example wikis:

Shackled City:
http://campaignwiki.org/wiki/CompanyOfLanternStreet/HomePage

Burning Wheel:
http://campaignwiki.org/wiki/Krythos/HomePage

German Forgotten Realms:
http://campaignwiki.org/wiki/SohnDesSchwarzenMarlin/HomePage

Anyway, nothing fancy.

#15 Pingback By Use a Wiki for your Gaming Group | of Dice and Dragons On May 17, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

[…] folks over at Gnome Stew posted today about using a Wiki for your gaming group in their post: Group Lovin’ For Your Wiki. After covering the basics of what a wiki is they dive into the uses for your campaign and start by […]


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