By - July 30, 2008 - 31 Comments

Power Up Your Campaign With A Wiki

How to power up your campaign with a wiki – getting started

I usually try to reduce my prep time between games. I want to be play D&D as much as possible and prepare as little as possible. But every now and then I find myself wanting to work on something big, on a campaign of epic proportions. And I recently discovered that working with a wiki beats looking through (and carrying) thick binders of notes!

Here are some thoughts and pointers about working with wikis.

What can the wiki do for your game?

  • It can save time during your session. I had a misconception about working with a wiki. I thought it would save me time. It streamlines the game session because you don’t have to sift through piles of paper but it will require a sizable time investment.
  • It can make preparing a game more fun. I must say I enjoy the wiki because it facilitates the linking between different factions and NPCs and makes complex storylines easier to prepare.
  • It can impress you players. When your players decide to seek out that unimportant NPC they met 17 sessions ago, well, you’ll be one click away from finding your notes on that character.
  • It can make your sessions more fun. That’s the bottom line, really. If the wiki streamlines your game session AND allows you to squeeze in more info, more quests, and more NPCs then a wiki is for you.

Which wiki should you use?

I chose to use the Obsidian Portal RPG campaign wiki service. It’s free and it’s it’s designed specifically for roleplaying games.

Please leave a comment if you know of other wikis that work for you.

Wikis can be time consuming

Invest time now. Save time later. That’s the point of using a wiki to plan your campaign. Just make sure you do no underestimate the time you’ll be investing when you start planning. You’ll spend some time:

  • Learning the wiki structure and linking
  • Choosing how you’ll link between NPCs, Items, Factions, Locations, Scenes, etc.
  • Reading the forums to get pointers.
  • Waiting for your computer to dry after you spill water on the keyboard (but that might be just me!)

The campaign log

You don’t have to use the wiki for planning. You could use it as a campaign log or an NPC database. Keeping a campaign log, no matter if you or your players write it, can be a great way to create a self-sustaining reaction of RPG goodness.

Next installment

In the second and last installment of this series, I’ll share my strategies on preparing killer scenes, saving time, and giving your campaign a big wiki power-up.

Do you use a wiki?

What do you use to prepare your game? Pen & paper? Google Docs? Wiki? Improvisation?

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Leave a comment (31 comments so far) »

  1. Joey says:

    I use pen & paper Notepad/Word and my printer

    I am plannign on using a wiki in my next campaign actually once I have some more of the detailed worked out. I will be installing wikipedia to my server for it (am a wanna be web developer so it si pretty easy for me) I will also have it off line on my laptop which I also use a dev platform, especially since I don’t a wireless router in my house at the moment

  2. jonathan says:

    I use Google Sites for our campaign’s Wiki. Obsidian is nice, but I prefer the freedom of Google’s program; not to mention that it seemlessly integrates with blogger, google documents, picasa, and all the other google aps.

  3. Fishercatt says:

    I’ve always found that a lot of preperation tends to bog down the gameplay, especially when the players want to do somethig that’s not on the map. Which, you know, happens every time. All I really do for prep other than jotting down a few notes and thirty second sketches is to prepare some physical manifestations of the game. You know, coffee stained scrolls, scribbled notes on paper, telephone messages that give out clues.

  4. CzarAlex says:

    I actually bust open a small html editor and create a long web page for each session. On it, I have links (anchors for the page) for each encounter along with read-aloud text I’ve written in one color, and DM info in another. Each enemy has their stats written out and a drop down box with their HP from their max down to 0. Since I play online over teamspeak, I have a white board with magnets where I’ve written character names that I can arrange to track Initiative. Monster init is written in with a dry erase marker.

  5. Kurtis says:

    It took me almost 3 months to create the system I use now. When I purchased products (books), I would use a speciall scanner to transform them into an open adobe format, Then I used Excel to create an instant access database with lots of hyperlinks lol. However, now in a moment I can tell you that Queen Abiel was in MM2 used in the Grayhawk adventure or that the weapon Halfling Lajatang was debuted in Dragon Magazine #275, or that the Varient rules for Elven High Magic can be found in Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting realesed in Jun-01. It helps when a player needs the imediate response to a rule or to see if a weapon is available to them. I made it because I do not always want to cary around the now 85 books and 200 magazines in my library, And if I want to create a campaign for someone who would like to “see” what D&D is about I can throw one together with a fortress full of mercenarie NPC with in 15min. and have their character created and ready to play. the Wiki sounds like a great tool, however I am not always around an internet WiFi.

  6. Micah says:

    I too use Obsidian Portal…but that’s because I wrote the damn thing!

    I’m a big fan of minimal prep, and mainly use the wiki to catalog past events. I don’t write a lot about the game world, pantheon, history, and such, since my players never care. Instead, I try to keep a running list of NPCs (hence, the NPC tracker function), and a minimal description of the places they’ve been to. It takes a little work, but doesn’t lead to the burn out that I see from a lot of GMs.

    Also, the Adventure Log session write ups are very useful from a couple standpoints:

    1) When you have a long hiatus, assign homework to read the previous 2-3 Adventure Log posts. Get people back in the game.

    2) When you invite a new player to the game, have them read through (or at least skim) all the material, so they have an idea what’s going on.

    3) Sometimes it’s just fun to go back and read your old adventures. Usually other people don’t care (much as when you brag to your friends about your D&D game), but it means something to you, right?

    As WiFi and laptops become more and more pervasive at the gaming table, I see a blending of the paper and digital world. However, like many of you, I’m an old-school gamer, and nothing can replace getting together with a group of friends, rolling the dice, and using the pencil-and-paper. I just wanted to streamline some of the other, less fun logistics (like having to look stuff up in a messy binder).

    Anyways, as always, thanks for the link!

  7. For The Gamer Dome Wiki, I first tried Wikidot, which is a relatively new service based in Poland. I found the syntax difficult and the functionality limited. There are some neat meta things you can do with it, like AdSense integration, but for a campaign site it’s too difficult and inflexible.

    So then I switched to WetPaint, on the advice of a friend who works there. It’s simple, better looking, and has all the things you need. I haven’t worked with Obsidian Portal, but there is a Gamer Dome user over there right now that’s uploaded a campaign setting he wrote called Thousand Mountains and now has his gaming group there tracking their current campaign, Ulmerin. Check it out: The Gamer Dome Wiki

    –Prop

  8. Virgil Vansant says:

    Although I don’t use a wiki, I have extensively used a campaign web page. I’ve been doing it for my last four campaigns, before the days of wikis. I don’t think I could manage a campaign without one now. It works well to introduce the players to the world before the campaign even starts. And once we’re playing, I add in information on NPCs and places they’ve been. But most of all, I really like having my campaign logs and the players’ character journals all in one place for everyone to see. Down the road, I may switch to a wiki. It would be nice if the players could add their own information more easily. But that may wait for the next campaign.

  9. Dreads says:

    Really good article. I use a CMS and have the option of a wiki but never saw its value until now. I have one player whom everyone seems to always have to remind of what is going on.

  10. John Taber says:

    Is Obsidian Portal free??? The latest news entry on their site infers that it is a pay site???

  11. RPG Ike says:

    Wikis are great for gaming, and easier to run than a campaign web page. Seriously, you can have no web skills at all and still make a nice-looking wiki.

    I run two wikis for my current campaign; one for the players, and one for me. The players’ wiki is great for posting house rules, post-adventure synopses, player handouts, teasers, discussions, and character sheets–a one-stop shop for everything relating to your campaign. I keep the DM wiki open while we play since it is filled with secrets, NPC statistics, motivations, plot arcs, and (of course) monsters. As Yax mentioned, it makes it much, MUCH easier to track lots of important bits of information on the fly, and makes writing session synopses very easy.

    My favourite wiki service is peanut butter wiki (www.pbwiki.com). I know it sounds goofy, but they are awesome (and easier than the alternatives I’ve tried). Setup takes almost no time at all, and you can upload art, file downloads, movies, whatever. They have their own, easy-to-use wiki code, but also a WYSIWYG editor that makes it even simpler.

    If you run or play in a game, you should go out and grab a free wiki right now. They can be time-sinks if you enjoy this kind of thing, but the benefits to your game will almost certainly outweigh the costs.

  12. Micah says:

    John:

    It’s free, but you can upgrade to paying subscriptions to get a few extra features. However, it’s completely usable as a free site.

  13. fabiobeta says:

    >What do you use to prepare your game?
    I Have a walk and talk to myself about what is going to happen :)

  14. Elora says:

    I only have time to DM my current tabletop campaign about once a month, so I was keen to create an online log to give the campaign a more coherent feel, and give my players a chance to just glance over summaries of game sessions and easily look up info about NPCs. I tried using Obsidian Portal, but I honestly had a hard time with it. There are some really amazing campaign journals on Obsidian, and overall the site is well-designed (in my opinion). But I’m not a web developer, even on an amateur level — I like html tags and I got fed up trying to use the textile formatting. Everytime I tried to work on the adventure log, I ended up getting bogged down in trying to do basic formatting.

    So now I’ve switched to Google Pages, which I’m pretty happy with. I can actually write and format my pages in Word, and copy and paste them into a Google Page. I love that. I can also work on Pages at home, where I have dial-up (yuck). In just a couple of days, I’ve almost completed the journal and NPC index in my spare time. Once I have it up to date, it should only take me about half an hour after each gaming session to maintain the adventure log.

  15. Dave T. Game says:

    I used Obsidian Portal for my last campaign, and I highly recommend it for most DMs. The players liked that there was a place where all the loot given out was stored so that there were fewer questions.

    Now I use MediaWiki hosted on my site for the new campaign, since it’s more collaborative (there’s another game set in the same world that I’m co-DMing) and easier for players to edit. However, it’s not all that friendly for hiding data, so all the “DM eye’s only” stuff happens in a GoogleDoc.

  16. Plotter says:

    Strange. First, that Chatty DM character’s, “So you want to write an RPG Blog” series inspires me to move to a “campaign journal” for my detailed record keeping of my latest campaign and now you’re posting about using a wiki for campaign records.

    I may need to do both now. I started writing notes on my campaign setting, not the details of any particular campiagn, but rather general development of history, geography with a few notes on rules and cosmology on rpgnet’s wiki under http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/Alia:Main_Page

    It’s been a pretty good resource for my players, and I did get a little bit of collaboration from some players that were interested in the development of some of the regions. It is a lot of work though.

    …and RPGnet doesn’t display my images inline anymore. :(

    I’m going to give Obsidian Portal a look, and see what it’ll take to move my pages over to it if it’s worth the effort.

  17. Groumy says:

    I too use a Wiki site for my campaign.

    In fact it’s more than just my campaign, it’s my whole own world. With the 4th edition of Dnd out, i decided it was time to create my own world based on the principles of the world of the new dnd. And a wiki his so great for that, you can write about important places, NPCs, History of the world that you can edit with new informations as you give them to your players, and the biggest part, it’s an easy way to display information for your players about every thing in your world and a big plus, they can help building it, i ask my players to wrtie down sessions logs on the wiki and other stuff like that, so it help my player to perceive my world has OUR world.

    But I prefer the “serve your self approach” for the wiki hosting. I founded a really good hosting cie to host my wiki, with only 20 box you can have your own web site for a year (including the Domain name). http://www.3ix.com/ , 1$ / month and 8 $ for the domain registration for a year and you have 10 GIG of storage capacities …

    For the wiki I use Tiki Wiki, it’s an open source PHP Wiki site, witch so much more than juste a wiki, File gallery, Picture gallery, Forum, Blogs, and many other features. And No, it doesn’t require an MIT diploma to use, it’s simple to install (the web hosting cie offers it as an click and go install from your control panel) and after that just spend a couple of hour to search through the features to activates thoses you want and all.

    In conclusion, the tradionnal pen & paper is surely in changing process, and will become pen, paper & laptop ….

  18. ScottM says:

    You’re right, wikis are awesome. I like them for the chance of collaboration and ease of cross-linking, though I admit they tend to become solely my responsibility over time. Despite that, I really like the flexibility and note recall. The drawbacks you point out are unfortunately just as true…

  19. Talus says:

    I like to use TiddlyWiki (http://www.tiddlywiki.com/) because you don’t need a webserver. You can run it in a browser right off your hard drive or put it on a thumb drive. There’s even a gaming-specific version called TenFootWiki available at (http://unclebear.com/tenfootwiki/)

  20. Ravyn says:

    I started wiki’ing about half a year ago, when I realized that my NPC list had gotten so long even I was having trouble remembering it. Between that and the legendary short memories and inability to share acquired data otherwise of some of my players, it seemed necessary to have a place where people could hold what they knew, speculate a bit, clue each other in on things they’d learned, and keep summaries of all my sessions. WikiSpaces is the host I use; it works pretty well for me, particularly now that I’ve figured out how to type in color. It’s helped me enormously in keeping all of my inspiration straight, and telling people what day a given event happened….

    …..I just wish my players would actually use the silly thing themselves instead of making me look the stuff up all the time.

  21. St.John says:

    I use a fantastic mac app that essentially creates self contained wikis
    the program is called voodoopad and i highly recomend it to anyone who wants to try it
    sorry, its only for mac :/

  22. symatt says:

    err whats a WIKI ? i have never heared of it or is it a thing or a place ?

  23. ScottM says:

    symatt> A wiki is a webpage that anyone who has the password can edit and update. So I can create a page called “PCs” and you can edit it to add “Sir Fred” and link off to a page you create for Sir Fred with his stats, bio… whatever you have that you want to share.

    It’s a lot like creating a blog or other easy to update website, but with an emphasis on collaboration and linking things together.

  24. Joey says:

    symatt>I don’t know if you ever heard of wikipedia (wikipedia.com) but that is what a wiki is.

  25. symatt says:

    thanks for that everyone i hadnt heard or used one before i will have to have a look through them i gues,
    just a note on creating adventures i like to use game cards ie i use Seventh sea one at the moment i make a solection and use them as my story line just by what the picture on the card describes its good for realy quick small adventure creation

  26. symatt says:

    4e, setting traps off ? i have a problem where my traps do not have the full effect of suprise, what can i try to make them more of a shock to the player ?

  27. CrazyDE says:

    Hi, first time poster. I usually keep my head down, but this Obsidian Portal site is so cool I had to say something. Since I’m trying to make a detailed a world as possible, it’ll be a great help for me and my group. I’ve spent a lot of this afternoon getting the my wiki there started, and I can’t wait to get the players on there, too.

  28. Tony Law says:

    I used DokuWiki to set up our campaigns wiki. It works very well but I host it myself. It was a breeze to set up and get used to. You can check it out if you want. :)

    http://rpgcentric.com/wiki

  29. hmott says:

    I improvise a lot, but I know my PCs well and can guess what they’re going to do, so I don’t have to plan out a lot.

    I also occasionally use my laptop to keep notes, cuz whenever I have pen and paper to keep notes I forget.

  30. CJ says:

    I use MS Windows Sharepoint Service 3.0, it has document management, wiki, library’s, embedded web parts and it was free.

  1. Wikis: What The Hey? linked here

    [... How to power up your campaign with a wiki - getting started I usually try to reduce my prep time between games. I want to be play D&D as much ...]

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