Campaign Wikis

After checking out at least a dozen free wiki sites, I made my first campaign wiki five years ago for my HackMaster campaign, but that site was far from ideal. Despite its flaws, I made do for several years, and even prepped it for my steampunkish Warehouse 23/13-inspired GURPS campaign, but never actually used it due to how annoying it was adding things to the site.

Two years ago, after again checking into every free wiki site I could find, I finally found a better one (by which time we had converted it to 5e), but my Depression kept me from actually setting it up until last week. Now all that’s left is to get it updated (which, naturally, I’ll leave mostly to the players).

This whole thing has gotten me thinking about what I really need from a campaign wiki:

  • Easy to set up – getting the first wiki’s files arranged, including parent/child arrangements, took me at least a week; wikidot let me create parent/child connections as I went along, streamlining the process greatly.
  • Easy to make templates – While learning the process on wikidot I knocked out a fairly simple one for character pages in a couple of hours. I never did get the template to automate on PBworks.
  • Tightly controlled access – Thus no wikia. PBW went so far as to let me control who can edit a specific page, meaning the players can’t edit each other’s character pages. So far my players haven’t had time to join the new one, so I’m not sure exactly how much control I have, but I do get to manually approve all uninvited applicants (and I’m the only one who can send invites).
  • Easy for my non-wiki-geek players to edit – PBW uses standard HTML instead of wiki code, but has a WYSIWYG, so it’s great for less techie players (even though my job of setting up the documents in the first place was a major pain). Wikidot, on the other hand, \uses a mix of standard wiki and HTML markup that isn’t terribly intuitive. Thankfully, it too has a WYSIWYG of sorts, but doesn’t give non-coders you the option to hide the code, so they might still get confused.
  • Customizability – PBW is aimed primarily at classrooms, so the only customization it offers is color scheme. Wikidot, on the other hand, wants people to upgrade to their premium service, so they offer all sorts of bells and whistles. In some ways I actually have more control over my wiki’s appearance than I do this blog (although upgrading on both sites lets me write my own CSS, giving me complete control over their appearance).

Over the years I have looked into just about every free wiki site out there (all of them unless I overlooked one), and at the moment wikidot fits the bill best, but its wonky markup and lack of a proper WYSIWYG for non-programmers is a big problem. If all of your players speak HTML and Wikipedia then wikidot may be perfect for you.

One especially exciting feature wikidot has but that I haven’t tried yet is the ability to post comments on pages. I’m hoping that will let the characters talk to each other during down time, adding to party cohesion. It looks like those comments are even threaded, making it easy to track conversations. I’ll edit this as soon as I know one way or the other.

Naturally, I tried Obsidian Portal, but many of the features that where free on every other wiki site were premium upgrades there, and none of its actual premium services were anything I need (it’s been a couple of years so I don’t remember any specifics). Now if I were running a play by wiki instead of just using a wiki to organize a table game, then OP may well be worth the upgrade.

So the question is, do you use a campaign wiki? Why? Would you recommend your host? Why? If you don’t use one, are you considering it, indifferent, or think it’s totally pointless?

Assuming I don’t change wikis again, my next step is adding my GURPS game, and the Pokémon game I run as a pick-up when we can’t run the scheduled game for whatever reason. After that I’ll add campaigns I’m planning so those wikis will be filled out and ready to go as soon as we need them.

Not a wiki, per se, but another campaign management tool I employ is Lino, a virtual corkboard. As an example I made a now very dated public copy of the board for my first HM5e mini-campaign (we put my 4e campaign on hold long enough to try out the new edition to see if we wanted to convert). Simply looking at that will explain Lino far better than I can, but I’ll give it a go.

Lino is, as I said, a virtual corkboard. Each board’s creator can set it as private, public, or limited to certain people; you can even create groups, as we did, and everything posted in it is automatically accessible by everyone in the group. We have found it mostly useful for campaign planning, but it can remain useful during the game as well.

In my example above, I describe the world and starting location, and sort of the concept, but it was known by all the players so i didn’t explicitly state it. Since it was primarily to learn the new edition, we took inspiration from the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and started the PCs as members of an adventuring company. People with problems that need solving submit their requests to the AC, along with contact info and the reward offered. Since those requests are then pinned on a bulletin board in the AC, a virtual corkboard seemed obvious.

If you scroll to the right of the setting info, you will see the actual AC job board. Blue jobs are completed, and have notes on the results. Red jobs are in progress. I used another color for available jobs, but I don’t remember which since it was years ago.

Where it becomes really useful is demonstrated by my wife’s sticky on one of the in-progress jobs. As the job progresses, players can stick on their own notes about clues, relevant NPCs, their characters’ reactions, and anything else that seems relevant to the job. More general info can be posted on the left side.

Since my current campaign is partly an experiment in cooperative world-building, we could devote one entire board to the world, so players can brainstorm ideas together. The wiki can do the same thing, but the benefit of Lino is that the whole thing is visible at a glance. Another board can be used for various rumors, threats, and clues they find along the way.

So far they have found:

  • a summoner hiding in the sewers of the starting city, who groused about having to report to his boss before teleporting away. As yet nothing is known about his boss.
  • that the country a few hours west of that city is beginning to amass troops near the border thanks to the presence of the adolescent dragon the PCs rescued and befriended.
  • the steampunky city in the middle of the nearby desert was invaded by Silurians, but the PCs brokered a peace. What’s not known is who woke them up, and why. Also promising to be interesting is what will come of the combination of the city’s technomancy and the technology of the Silurians.
  • and so on.

Shortly all of that will be listed on the wiki, but it will be much easier to see the big picture on Lino, even if it’s just covered with short notes that link to fuller details on the wiki. Trying to keep all those separate threads together with just a wiki could well be impossible if the game ends up running for years, but even known it’s getting a bit tricky.

(Note to fellow writers: Lino is also excellent for world-building, and keeping track of plot threads, threats, solutions, and minor characters.)

So that’s both of the online tools I use for campaign management. What about you?


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