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Insert Catchy Wave Title Here

As many of you know, Google has released in a limited beta its new communication platform, Wave. This will not be a review of the Wave software; that you can find all over the net:  TechCrunch, Wikipedia, LifeHacker. What this article will be is a look at how Wave can be incorporated into your game.

Without getting all technical, Wave is a communication platform that can best be described, in gaming terms, as a multi-classed Wiki/IM.  What it does well is create an environment that tracks the flow of conversation allow collaboration of written ideas. At first that makes it sound a lot like a wiki or another shared word processor, like Google Documents, but Wave goes beyond, doing all of that and blending in group IM.

I was fortunate enough to get an invite to Wave from the guys over at Dice of Life (Thanks, Kristian). One of the other members of my gaming group also received an invite (his from Google), and between both of our invites, were able to bring the rest of our gaming groups over to Wave. With our gaming groups on Wave, we started to ponder some uses for our games, and what we could do with it that differed from the other electronic platforms we are already plugged into.

After some thought, we came up with a few initial ideas of how we could use Wave.  I have listed a few below, along with how we did these before Wave.

Shared Session Journal

My group tries to keep a running journal of our sessions. In our 4E game (in which I am a player), players can earn an additional action point at the start of each session by completing a journal, recapping the last session. Having players keep a session journal is a great way to keep players engaged in the game, and a mechanical reward for keeping the journal is a great way to motivate players.

Old Way: Our group has used Google Docs as a way to keep a shared journal. At the start of a story arc (for us, typically a module), the GM will create a Google document, and then share it with the players. During the game, one of the players fills out the document. After the game, the remaining players (including me), log in at their leisure and add their own sections. It was a nice way to interleave our notes together. However, it would require us to use different colors or different fonts, and that was kind of a hassle, so we just put each of our recaps after each other’s.

Wave: With Wave, I start a new wave and then add the other players and the GM to the wave. I start typing the notes, while we play. As I am typing the notes, other players can log in and start adding their own notes as replies to the body of my wave.

What really makes this different from the Google Docs, is that Wave is perfectly suited for this kind of interleaved discussion; plus it is geared for multiple people editing the same wave at the same time. Replies are contained in labeled boxes, and are perfectly threaded. Inline replies can be rolled up to keep the initial conversation clean.  Wave also supports simultaneous editing, showing you character by character as someone is typing. Honestly, it’s pretty wild to watch two other people typing into the same document at the same time while you are working on it.

Discussing Rules Issues

For the games I run, I like to avoid heavy rules discussions at the table, preferring to put the discussion off until after the game. In most cases, these discussion are conducted online, in the day(s) after the game session. These discussions are often detailed (and sometimes heated). Typically the entire group is in on the discussion, and not everyone can get online at the same time. Some of us have access at work, others do not.

Old Way: Email is the preferred way for us to discuss rule issues. Most of us have Gmail, which helps with the email threading, but still, with multiple people replying, there are a few issues that still occur: people get left off a message, sidebar topics arise in the email, and editing multiple replies in an email can be messy.

Wave: With Wave, you create a single wave, and then invite people to it. As mentioned above, Wave does an amazing job of handling comments and replies to a discussion. In addition, because the Wave is kept on a central server, and is not passed from email server to email server, there is no Reply All function. Once invited, everyone sees everything that goes on. But even if you are invited late, you can use the playback feature, and watch the wave unfold, one response at a time.

The Playback is one of the coolest features of Wave. Wave tracks every update to a wave in a way similar to a wiki. The Playback feature takes you to the first message in the wave, and then step-by-step adds each reply (called blips) one at a time to the wave. The effect allows someone who has come into the wave late to see how the wave unfolded. This is vastly superior to trying to decipher an email thread that has been replied to five times. Side discussions can be shunted to a new wave, by using the Copy To Another Wave feature, and starting the new discussion there.

House Rules Document

Most games have house rules which need to be documented for consistency. House rules need to accessible to the group in a way that everyone can easily reference them. Despite my best efforts, I am not always perfectly clear in the writing of my house rules, which means that I have to field questions about them, make corrections, and redistribute.

Old Way: Typically I create my house rules in either a Word document or a Google Document. Then I use email to distribute the house rules to my players and collect any feedback. After receiving emails with questions or comments, I then go back to the document, revise it, and then resend it to the group. Hopefully everyone downloads the latest version, now that multiple versions have been sent out.

Wave: Wave has all the basic editing features of a wiki or simple word processor, so creating a document is pretty easy. You will not be able to create a complex document, but you can easily create something with indentation, bullets, embedded images, and attached files.

As mentioned before, a Wave is located on a central server, and participants are invited to the wave, rather than sending it around. Wave’s excellent ability to handle comments, allows for an organized way for players to ask for rules clarifications or other questions. Wave also allows for the linking between waves, so a central wave can be created as a master document, with separate waves for individual rules (with their related discussions) to be created and linked together.

Waiting For The Perfect Wave

Wave represents a new and fresh way to look at documentation and communication.  Even in beta, the program is very functional and addicting to use. It’s strong points are communication and collaboration, which turn out to be cornerstones of our hobby. Wave looks to be a promising tool in the GM’s toolbox, that has a variety of uses, of which we have only scratched the surface in the this article.

It will be a little while before everyone can join Wave. While Wave is in closed beta, you cannot run out and sign up…yet. Like Gmail’s closed beta, Wave is invite only.  Eventually as the service matures, beta will open to anyone who wants to give it a try.  Until then you are going to have to hope to find someone who has some invitations to share.

Act Now For Your Own Wave

Now for the fun part. I have a Wave invite that I will give to one random commenter on this article. So, if you want a chance at an invite, just leave a comment on this article from now until 11:59pm on Friday (10/30). If you are commenting the article and already have a Wave account, please indicate it, so that I do not choose you. I will email the lucky person on Saturday morning, and send the invite afterwards.

So for those of you who have Wave accounts, how have you been using Wave for your gaming?  For those who are not yet part of the Wave, how do you think you will use it?

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.

57 Comments (Open | Close)

57 Comments To "Insert Catchy Wave Title Here"

#1 Comment By Czarzhan On October 26, 2009 @ 4:43 am

Oh! Oh!
(Jumps up and down like Donkey from Shrek)
Pick me! Pick ME!

I have wanted a Wave invite since I first heard about it back in July. My wife and I have been thinking of ways to use Wave, both in gaming and slice-of-life.

#2 Comment By karsten On October 26, 2009 @ 4:59 am

NO!!! Pick me!!!

#3 Comment By chadmr On October 26, 2009 @ 5:10 am

Oh, no — not them, NOT THEM! It’s gotta be ME! I need Google Wave the mostest!

I love the collaborative aspects of Wave, especially in a gaming group!

#4 Comment By Patrigan On October 26, 2009 @ 5:56 am

I would like a wave.

I think it could be interesting to see to what extent wave can be pushed by developers. I saw a picture of a chess game being played.

In a laptopped table environment with inet (like I have) there are possibilities. My group is one where eacxh players has a bunch of mysteries and often they want to do something alone (without the group knowing it. Now we use chatting, but with wave, this could eb enhanced. Imagine being able tro have a map and realtime updating of that map (as in a chess program). While the others are roleplaying, I could multi taks and roll with his character in a battle. This is but one of the many possibilities I see in sidestories. This allows players to fleshen their characters (because admit, which sane person would stay 24/7 close to the same group. Sometimes you want some lone time)

#5 Comment By bif On October 26, 2009 @ 6:06 am

I’d love to give Wave a try…

#6 Comment By Ronin8879 On October 26, 2009 @ 6:31 am

Sounds neat. Always up for a new gaming/communication tool.

#7 Comment By dortmunder On October 26, 2009 @ 6:37 am

One of the ways I am hoping to use Wave is for play-by-post games online, which are currently played out over message boards.

P.S. Pick me 😀

#8 Comment By mobuttu On October 26, 2009 @ 6:39 am

Wow. A Wave invitation! Please, here!

I want to use Wave in my games as a feed-back tool.

#9 Comment By greywulf On October 26, 2009 @ 7:05 am

Don’t pick me. I’ve already got one 😀

I think that Google Wave still has a way to go. It needs better integration with Google’s existing sites for a start. I want to be able to dragon drop Google Docs into a Wave and be able to edit them, right there. I want to be able to pull in and discuss RSS feeds from Reader. I want linking to and from GMail, Calendar and more. I want easy wiki-like linking between Waves.

I want all that, and more.

But it is a Preview after all, and I’m pretty sure these things will come.

#10 Comment By graebg On October 26, 2009 @ 7:17 am

I would love me some wave. I would use it for both work and play… oh man ohman

#11 Comment By ski309 On October 26, 2009 @ 7:25 am

Holy crap, a Wave invite? Count me in!

#12 Comment By stoppableforce On October 26, 2009 @ 7:32 am

This is *exactly* the kind of thing I was thinking about when I signed up for the Developer Preview for Google Wave. However, sadly, a Developer Preview invite does not translate into an invite for the real thing.

Count me in for the invite!

#13 Comment By RobbieRobb On October 26, 2009 @ 7:47 am

One of the first things that popped into my mind when I asked it “What could Wave be useful for?” was “For your D&D campaigns dummy! Get me an invite!”

Right now we’re using a phpBB forum for it. And, while it works, it lacks the speed (hosting provider issue) that would come from running Wave.

So yeah, I would LOVE an invite to join Wave!

#14 Comment By JediGamer On October 26, 2009 @ 7:55 am

I’m with a lot of the posters. My thought was it would make a great gaming platform. Among other cool things.

So certainly, I’d love that invite. But whomever wins, they need to post how they are using it!

#15 Comment By felonius On October 26, 2009 @ 8:10 am

I think the play-by-post is the first thing I would think of for Wave. I feel like it’s one of those technologies that once you get it, you play with it, and then you figure out what you’re going to use it for… Trying to predict how you’re going to use something which is different from anything you’ve used would be a bit iffier…

PS: I would like the chance to win the invite, please.

#16 Comment By cbdarden On October 26, 2009 @ 8:12 am

Long time reader, first time commenter. I’m very excited about what Wave could add to gaming in general.

(Oh, and I’m interested in the invite also. =D)

#17 Comment By Zig On October 26, 2009 @ 8:37 am

Very interesting article.

I was thinking about this over the past couple weeks. From what I had known of Wave it had possibilities for the gaming table. I also wondered if it could be used as a virtual game table for games with players too far apart to meet in person.

The idea of rewarding the players for keeping an adventure journal is a good one. I have only one player who will normally keep notes. If she doesn’t play or leaves the table for a bit then there usually is no one who recalls all the particulars of just what the heck they are doing.

Oh, and like other, I would love a Google Wave account. Have yet to have any luck finding an invite on my own.

#18 Comment By JBMannon On October 26, 2009 @ 8:39 am

Hey I followed this link in from Phil’s Twitter and it sounds like you have really found alot of ways of utilizing Wave already! I keep hoping that I will soon be getting an invite either from you or the development team or just one of my friends who has an invite already.

Just a quick thought on what else you could use Wave for in your game. A collaberative setting document would be a great use for the Wave technology. Each person involved with the game could add the bits that they think are important to the story as a whole as it progresses.

#19 Comment By Panthera On October 26, 2009 @ 8:41 am

This looks really interesting. I started by making a ‘house rules’ document, which never really got updated and the house rules and setting glue (hybridizing the athas.org 3e Dark Sun and the Dragon magazine 3e Dark Sun) has been accumulating without being written down anywhere. Could be useful.

#20 Comment By ScottG On October 26, 2009 @ 8:59 am

Wave me!

#21 Comment By farkadenear On October 26, 2009 @ 10:12 am

I have been wanting to get in on the wave action for ages!

I know someone will write a robot for it for dice rolls etc.

It will be great!


#22 Comment By Flynn On October 26, 2009 @ 10:17 am

I am interested in Wave, but I do have a question for you:

How do you get the rest of your group active in posting to your Wave?

I think that will likely be the biggest challenge. I typically only get posts to the list when I offer an in-game bennie or ask who’s going to be there this week. Otherwise, these guys don’t do much in terms of my game between sessions, as they have lives, families and other games that they are involved in. I’d even be interested in seeing a Gnome Stew article or two on getting gamers involved and keeping them involved in posting as the game moves along.

With Thanks,

#23 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On October 26, 2009 @ 11:05 am

Not much to add, except to note that I’m actually one of Flynn’s players.

Pretty lame, huh?

Oh, I’ve got my excuses, but they’re just that – excuses. (Okay, so a Big Secret Project, launching a new campaign, raising a toddler, and all the fourth quarter busy-ness is a bit more than “just an excuse”, but still…)

I may try to tackle that article. Not now, of course, but once my campaign starts getting under way, I’ll have a little lab in which to experiment… Mwa-ha-ha!!!

Perhaps Google Wave will be my Secret Weapon! Mwa!

#24 Comment By jinnetics On October 26, 2009 @ 11:06 am

Wave to the good man!

#25 Comment By Flynn On October 26, 2009 @ 11:17 am

Please share with us what you learn, Telas. I would greatly appreciate it. It may even be worth a bennie for ya. 😉


#26 Comment By Wild Joker On October 26, 2009 @ 11:18 am

This sounds like a really neat tool.

#27 Comment By Galyn On October 26, 2009 @ 11:33 am

I know there are a ton of good online gaming tools for playing D&D across the world, but think if someone created a good dice and mapping robot… Wave’s capabilities could improve on the online gaming D&D experience. I can’t wait to get my hands on wave to find out what it’s going to be like.

#28 Comment By felonius On October 26, 2009 @ 11:38 am

I *just* got an invite from a friend. He had one he wasn’t using! Take me off the list… Now, to play… 😀

#29 Comment By Erekose13 On October 26, 2009 @ 11:51 am

I too look at Wave for the PbP opportunities. Would love to get in on the action :)

#30 Comment By Protohacker On October 26, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

I would love to try out Wave for my group. We’ve tried a few methods of keeping in touch/track of the game online, but all so far have had limitations that eventually caused people to stop using them.

#31 Comment By Fintach On October 26, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

I’m running two campaigns right now: 1 D&D4E and 1 WEG Star Wars. I would love to have something like Wave to use for my rules notes, player journals, campaign background data and so on.

Here’s hoping!

#32 Comment By vestenraider On October 26, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

Alas, I have no Wave yet. I would love the invite!

I was excited when I saw the preview videos and, as usual, my first thoughts went to gaming. Your ideas are great. In addition, I think a downtime wave might be useful for some of our games. Passing out treasure and whatnot can get annoying in email, as per your points in this article. In a wave, you could simply add revisions to the treasure list, calling dibs on the things you want or recommending them for others. Disputes over an item could be contained. Everything would remain easy to follow.

In addition, you might even be able to get some RP done, especially if two or more people happened to be on at the same time. It would be like gaming in a chat, which is fine for IC discussion.

I think I prefer Obsidian Portal for game logs, but that’s mostly to make it easy for gaming friends who aren’t playing to see what we’re up to. I’d use Wave as a supplement.

I also expect, however, that no one in my house would actually have real, live discussions anymore; we’d all sit at our separate computers and Wave at each other.

#33 Comment By trisj On October 26, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

I hope it’s compatible with Linux.

I just moved away from all my gamer friends (my husband’s in the military and naturally, we moved to where he is) and well, my husband will also be overseas eventually. If I ever want to game again, this could make it infinitely easier.

Unless of course it isn’t compatible with Linux. >.<

#34 Comment By Sektor On October 26, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

You can count me in as a contender for the invite.

If I find the time, I would like to develop extensions especially for the hobby. For example, a formatted character sheet for the players, initiative trackers, some sort of map tool… the possibilities are endless.

#35 Comment By JoeyD473 On October 26, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

Google Wave looks like a great way to improve the game

#36 Comment By Taellosse On October 26, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

I found the tool fascinating when I saw the preview videos several months ago, and hearing this makes it even more interesting. I’d love to get my hands on this to try out with my upcoming Mage game, and I might even be able to interest my DM in switching over to it for his D&D campaign–we’re currently using Obsidian Portal, though sporadically, for that. I’d love to get that invite!

#37 Comment By Glikker On October 26, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

I am so looking forward to using Wave. I have plans to use it for gaming to collaborate with co-gms and players and running online play-by-wave games. I’ve got personal projects I will use it for (such as storywriting), and I want to get a server installed at work for team communication on our next project.

Could you let me know where to send the bribes?

#38 Comment By ROMzombie On October 26, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

I’m eager to give it a try for our group as well, since I’m already capitalizing on Google Sites/Docs for organizing our games. :)

#39 Comment By Danforthe Yellington On October 26, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

I’ve been waiting since I saw the first intro video for wave to get here. I’ve got to say it looks like an excellent way to keep track of campaign notes, NPCs (with seperate waves for GM and player info), even character sheets, wishlists, art, homebrew information. I find that with most of my players (and myself of course) playing multiple games with multiple groups the ability to check in on a campaign anywhere and anytime helps to remind them of what’s going on rather than having a lot of stuff to do when they get to a session.

The IM looks like it would be perfect for doing “downtime” stuff and could handle RP quite well. The possibilities for remote gaming are especially strong though I’m not sure if Wave has voice chat yet it would supplement a Skype game perfectly.

Bring on the future, I say.

#40 Comment By nash On October 26, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

I agree that Wave’s most promising area is for RPGs (they need a dice plugin 😉

And I would quite happy to receive an invite.

#41 Comment By Lauguz On October 26, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

Fascinated to see if Wave is a game changer.

#42 Comment By DocRyder On October 27, 2009 @ 12:56 am

Sounds cool. but interestingly, we’ve pretty much stopped using our laptops at the game, except me, as DM.

#43 Comment By Bastian.Flinspach On October 27, 2009 @ 2:03 am

Since Wave is so interessting and not only for supplementing your campaigns but also for playing entirely new ones with it, i have to chime in here.
Of course i want an invite. Who doesn’t? Google has done it again… :-)

#44 Comment By BladeMaster0182 On October 27, 2009 @ 11:17 am

I would love to get a Wave invite.

#45 Comment By Galyn On October 27, 2009 @ 11:39 am

#46 Comment By Latmorril On October 27, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

My group plays online with MapTool and Skype, and we use Google Groups to host campaign journals, collected links, common files and for an email archive.

Google Wave offers several interesting features that seem like they would be useful for gaming. I am interested in comparing it with Groups. Your article covers features that are interesting to me, and I would like to have my players give it a try- maybe Wave would make adventure journaling more accessible, and more of them will partake?

Using Wave for housekeeping between game sessions might be a good use for it, and it would be interesting to use for pbem, for when schedules don’t allow us to get together for several weeks.

It would be good to compare notes with others here who ty out Wave for their games.

#47 Comment By Lunatyk On October 28, 2009 @ 1:32 am

Pick me!

Pick me!

#48 Comment By laby67 On October 28, 2009 @ 1:45 am

Hy … here in Italy getting wave invitation is really hard. Ny case i’m planning to use it with my players as soon as anyone gets in as a tool for campaign journaling and also if possible as tools for connecting players in online sessions we hope to add to our live sessions.

#49 Pingback By CasaLeva.com » Blog Archive » Insert Catchy Wave Title Here – Gnome Stew, the Game Mastering Blog On October 28, 2009 @ 1:47 am

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#50 Comment By MarioB On October 28, 2009 @ 7:01 am

Oh man! A google-Wave invite would be so totally AWESOME!!!!

Read a lot about it.
Never thought about using it for any roleplaying management. Nice idea. Maybe it would even be usable as a virtual gaming table (Like FantasyGrounds) with some Apps… Hmmm….

#51 Comment By Airk On October 28, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

Nothing lures me out of the woodwork quite like a chance to win free stuff. Except maybe a nitpicky discussion. But free stuff is more fun.

I am off to watch their longarse video now, but hopefully this’ll be handy for me as I collaborate with my players on my homebrew system. (It’s like a huuuuge houserules document. 😉

#52 Comment By TheLesserDane On October 29, 2009 @ 2:54 am

I’d definitely be interested in trying Wave out. It shows great potential to dispersing information to your group and possibly running a game over it, despite it lacking the human element.

Oh brave new world!

#53 Comment By SarahDarkmagic On October 29, 2009 @ 6:41 am

I would love a Wave account as well. I like the idea of my group being able to do a game journal but I’m also interested in having some of the role playing that doesn’t make as much sense to do at table done on wave instead. I really liked the article on At-Will discussing the possibilities of playing via Wave. http://at-will.omnivangelist.net/2009/10/the-waves-the-thing-running-a-dd-wave-game/

#54 Comment By McMonkey On October 30, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

I think there’s going to be a lot uses for Wave that clever people come up with. This is very exciting. I know of a lot of people who do gaming by email type of stuff and Wave would make that much easier. Or what about collective storytelling type of stuff, very cool. I love when good tools are given to smart people and then watching what happens.

#55 Comment By Holden Butcher On October 30, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

Once I finally score an invite to google wave, im planning on trying to find ways to use it as a Virtual Game Table for online play. I have friends all over the US now who really want to give online gaming a try, yet are intimidated by the learning curve of things like RPTools.

#56 Comment By Galyn On October 30, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

Just got my invite, so take me out of the running.

#57 Comment By DNAphil On November 1, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

@Lauguz – Congrats to our Winner! Lauguz won the Wave invite. See you on Wave.