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.