I’ve been running a campaign website for a couple of years now, and I’ve learned quite a bit in the process. I thought it would be worth sharing some of the highlights — specifically, the 5 most important things I’ve learned during that time. (I’m not going to talk about web hosting, or how to build a website — just the gaming side of things.)
Back in 2002, I played in a D&D campaign based on Monte Cook’s Banewarrens. It was run by one of the most ambitious GMs I’ve ever met, Mark Serrahn. Mark puts in a ton of prep time for his games, creating large maps and making stand-up cards (with pictures) for major NPCs, among other things. But what stood out the most to me was the fact that he ran a website dedicated to the game: The Banewarrens.
This site was an offshoot of the larger site for his ongoing campaign, Falconmoor (which is even more ambitious!). For the Falconmoor game, each player writes a character journal for every session, and Mark writes up massive “story hour” style journals as well. The site also features a host of campaign info, pictures and other details.
Fast forward three years to 2005, and the idea of a campaign website probably isn’t new to many gamers — but back in ’02, this was a very new idea for me. Unfortunately, the game itself died due to scheduling conflicts, but the next time I ran a game I knew what it needed: a campaign website of its own.
So I started one: 3d6.org (since that campaign is over, I moved that content to its own section: The Selgaunt Campaign). That game ran for about 18 months, and the website itself continued on, to be used for other things and later campaigns.
There are lots of reasons that you might want to put together a website for your campaign — for instance:
- Keeping track of the game through journals.
- Putting characters online, so forgetting a PC doesn’t hold up the game.
- Posting pictures that evoke the mood of your game.
- Dispensing setting information and character knowledge.
- Listing your house rules.
Whatever your reasons for starting a website for your game, here are five suggestions for getting the most out of the experience.
1. Start Small
Running a campaign website can become a chore pretty quickly — and when you’re putting something together for a game, which is supposed to be fun . . . that’s no fun! So start small, and look at the needs of your campaign.
For the Selgaunt campaign, I had a large group (7 players, some of whom I didn’t know) with very different schedules, so I knew I would want a few things on my site based solely on that:
- All my character creation guidelines and house rules, so there’d be no surprises.
- Journals of every session, since we were only playing once a month (to jog our memories).
- Full characters online, so absentee PCs could be played be someone else.
- Ways for the players to earn bonus XP, since we weren’t playing very often.
You’ll find things to add over time — as well as things to subtract. And once you’ve done a site for one game, doing it for the next one will be much easier. This comes back to my first post here on TT, “Every Campaign is an Experiment“: having gone down the high-detail route with the Selgaunt game, I’m trying out a simpler approach with the site for my next game (the Airship Privateers campaign).
2. Don’t Expect Your Players to Visit Your Site!
After the initial push — when everyone had to read the site to see the CC guidelines — I was surprised to find out that most of my players didn’t visit it. Or at least, didn’t visit it without some prodding from me. Why? I don’t quite know — I’m pretty obsessive about that kind of thing, and when I get a chance to play I love looking at campaign-related material.
The same is true with my current group, so I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably a good general rule: don’t expect your players to use your site. Some folks just aren’t interested — even though they’re great players, show up for every session, etc. — and trying to make them interested won’t really help.
That said, some of them will use it, and they’ll tell you what they liked and didn’t like, and over time others may be drawn to it by their interest. And if by some chance your whole group does visit the site, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
3. Get Your Players Involved
It didn’t take long to figure out that some of my players were interested in the various bonus XP activities — like taking photos of our sessions, writing character journals and drawing artwork for the game. Not only was this pretty darned cool, it also took some of the burden of updating the site off of my shoulders — they sent interesting things, and I posted them. And after a few months, players started suggesting new ways to earn bonus XP, like making movies and drawing illustrations for the site itself.
It’s good to get your players involved in another way, as well: ask them what they’d like to see on the site. You’ll probably get some ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, and you might pique the interest of some of the players who would otherwise be less likely to visit.
4. Don’t Worry If It’s Not Perfect
Like most time-consuming tasks, working on a campaign website can be held up by the desire not to put it out there until it’s perfect. Chances are, it won’t be perfect — but at least it will be there, able to be used and enjoyed by (some of) your players!
I know that sounds pretty inspirational-poster-rah-rah, but it’s true. Once you’ve got something on the web, adding a bit more — or changing what’s there — will seem less daunting.
5. And Lastly, Take Some Pictures!
Sounds odd, right? At first, it was a bit odd — but two years later, I love being able to look back at pictures of my group. It triggers all sorts of memories about my friends, and about the game, and I’m very glad we took pictures. We used a digital camera, so I was able to include pictures with my writeup of each session — but even if you don’t post them online, you can put them in a photo album or even just stick them in a shoebox, to be discovered years later.
And that’s it, in a nutshell: the 5 most important things I’ve learned about running a campaign website. If you run a site for your game, or if you’ve been considering it, I’d love to hear from you! There are so many ways to approach something like this, and it’s always interesting to hear new ideas.