July 31, 2008

Information Management for DMs: Should you use a Wiki?

At least, that's the question for eDMs. This morning I read a post over at DungeonMastering.com where Yax starts off a new series titled "Power Up Your Campaign With A Wiki - Part 1". The number of comments started pouring in, including my own, as readers started sounding off how they manage all the information needed to run a good campaign. From comments as simple as "jotting down a few notes and thirty second sketches" to as mind-boggling complex as using "a special scanner to transform them into an open adobe format ... [and using] Excel to create an instant access database with lots of hyperlink." Wow! Maybe he should have also included an AJAX-enabled mobile-web front end so he could access his data from his iPhone. But I digress...

I've been a DM for about 20 years. I've also been a Guild Master for a large guild in World of Warcraft for nearly 4 years (which I recently quit playing, THANK THE GODS!). If you add in the fact that I'm also a molecular biologist, home owner, and father of two kids - I have TONS of information to manage. I'm just about buried in it. And I'm just about 100% sure that I'm not alone in this: we all have tons of information to manage.

Information management is a major problem for some DM's who haven't figured it out yet. Personally, I lean toward the "jotting things down on paper" route because I just don't have time to devote to a full blown website. I did that once, for a particularly excellent campaign, but that was years ago before blogging and wiki's were even in the common vernacular of geekdom. For my most recent campaign, The Kingship Chronicles, I've created a wiki site - I figured, since I sit in front of a computer so much this is just as good as 'jotting things down on paper'.

My advice to DM's who are thinking about making a Wiki, or a website, for their campaign basically can be summed up with a few bullet points:
  1. Start small. Building a large, highly detailed website from the start is usually a massive waste of time, unless you like doing that sort of thing.
  2. Keep your focus on what aspects of your campaign world actually affect your players. For example: NPC's they have met, town/villages they have visited, house rules, history the characters may know about, etc.
  3. Make no promises. Let your players know that you are busy, and although you would love to do nothing else than update the website with oodles of information for their once-a-week 4 hour fantasy getaway, you simply can't.
  4. Let your players know when you have updated the site.
  5. (Optional) Inject clues into the website. Those who read the site will pick up on them, and this will encourage others in your gaming group to use the campaign website as well.
If you decide to go the wiki route, you can go for the semi-commercial route and use Obsidian Portal (its free; but you can upgrade to a paid premium service as well). I personally chose Google Sites for my current campaign because its' 100% free, and is fully integrated with Google's other web-aps like Documents, Piscasa, Pages, Blogger, etc. Plus, for a mere $10/year you can get your own domain name with Google and about 2 gigs of disk space.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to more posts from Yax on his series on using a Wiki for DM'ing. I'd like to see what he has to share - I'll no doubt learn something new in the process a well.


  1. I've started a wiki for my last Forgotten Realms Campaign, and I think it is pretty useful - you get the names of main npcs down, you got regular inn names and everything else that is important down there with you.
    So I can only say, even for non-eDM's it is a great tool and definitely a recommendation you should consider.

  2. We use the google pages site for our Star Wars Campaign. I find it works well.

    Check it out:


  3. nice site! can your players edit those pages as well?


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