Wiki and the Perfect Campaign Trip

Inspired by the fictional Wiki and the Perfect Camping Trip, I’m prompted toward something similar but only semi-fictional to illustrate the uses of wiki for gamers.


Background:
Several of my friends and I want to start a new roleplaying game and we need to brainstorm what exactly we want to do. We’ve already settled on the system (and I’ve been building a wiki on that as well, just to record my thoughts on the rules), but some particulars need to be nailed down (not the least of which are the player characters). We’re going to be a small group this time, so redundancy should be avoided if possible to make it more interesting for everyone.
Our big goal for the wiki it to get everyone participating. Luckily, we are all computer users and several of us are familiar with wikis – which is a type of website that can be updated/edited without html programming knowledge or special permissions to the website.
The Wiki:
Using PMWiki (one of many possible wiki options) I open the new wiki, using a layout that is similar-but-not-identical to the layout of the ‘system-wiki’ I already built for detailing the system rules — I want them to visually tie together, and building one wiki page that’s a close variation of another one is easy as pie for the site admin. Now, I didn’t have to even do that much — if I’d wanted to, I could have created a new page that was completely ‘default’ in appearance or exactly like my ‘system wiki’ pages — either of those options would have been even easier.
Like all new wikis, the HomePage starts blank — no content at all. Since I opened the wiki (and I’m the GM), I take the lead and start off by editing the front page by clicking the ?Edit Page? link. In plain text, I describe the campaign a bit, the setting we’ve agreed on, the general premise for the game, and stuff like that — then I save. The front page of the wiki now has content that relates the basics of the game.
Then I edit the page again and add a couple headings: ?Player Characters? and ?NPCs?. To make the headings stand out, I use special punctuation like this !!!Player Characters, which the wiki will display as

Player Characters

Under these headings, the group will use the wiki to add stuff about the campaign.
I let everyone know that the wiki’s up and that they should log on to add stuff as appropriate to the various headings. I provide the link.
Growing the Game’s Wiki:
Over the next week or so, the three other players visit the wiki and click the ?Edit Page? link to add information on their characters.
Dave is the first one on (he’s at least as much of a wiki-nut as I am) and gets to work. He doesn’t want to paste all of the stuff he’s written on his character into the main page, so he makes a completely new page for stuff on his character, Ken Osato.
He edits the front page and makes a WikiWord to create a link to the new page. A wiki word is just two capitalized words “smooshed” together in the text on the page — the wiki code will read this and make a link out of it. In this case, the wiki word link he adds is his character’s name KenOsato. Once he clicks ?Save? and returns to the wiki home page, he sees that ?Ken Osato? is now a link with a little question mark after it. When he clicks the question mark, a blank page appears with the heading Ken Osato. He types in all of Ken’s stuff, using simple text and some basic formating, and saves it. (It’s easy to add bold, italics, underlines, and bullet lists to a wiki, and there are notes at the bottom of each editing page that tell you how to do basic text formatting if you want to.)
Under NPCs, he also wants to add a link to a page on his servant Doji. The problem here is that Doji doesn’t have a nice easy name you can turn into a WikiWord… it’s just “Doji”, but that’s okay — Ken edits the front page again and adds Doji under the NPCs, but puts some punctuation around the word to tell the Wiki “Make this word a link even though it’s not a WikiWord.” In this case (using PMWiki), that means he types in {{Doji}}.
Once he saves, Doji(?) is displayed on the page, and he can click that question mark to edit the Doji page.
Eventually, everyone else goes to the page and adds their characters and NPCs, including adding pictures to some of the pages (which can be done by simply pasting the URL for the picture into any of the wiki pages — the wiki reads that URL, sees that it’s a picture, and automatically displays the picture instead of turning it into a link — no coding required).
During this, I’m also logging in and adding GM notes and links to house rules, NPCs, and custom stuff. Some of that I might want to keep secret for now, which I can do by adding security to that page to block other people from reading it — for example, the page on Randy’s character’s mentor, Candace Lynn Voight. (Later, I can shut off that security and make the page readable by everyone. Easy-peasy.)
Once We Start Playing:
Finally, we start playing. Since I don’t have a good way to bribe entice the players to take turns doing a game log of the sessions, I end up writing them myself. Now, I could do this in the wiki, but wikis aren’t perfect for everything: in this case, I want the game logs to be a journal kind of thing on which the players and others can comment and ask questions — given that I have a gaming blog, I just blog the game events, which gives me everything I want.
Still, I want to keep that sort of thing as part of the wiki as well, so I want to edit the main page of the wiki for the campaign and add a link to each of the game logs. However, these logs aren’t on the wiki, so I can’t just make a WikiWord to link to them — I need to point to the URL (internet web address) for the page.
Like most things on the wiki, that’s pretty easy. All I have to do is edit the front page, make a new header for the game sessions (!!!Game Sessions) and then add links to each session’s blog entry. The simple way to do this is to type in the name of the session and then just paste the web address in after the name, like this Session One – An Unexpected Party: http://random.average-bear.com/archive/004155.html The wiki will automatically detect URL and automatically turn it into a link — I don’t have to code a thing. (There are also easy ways to make it look a bit prettier, but I’m in a hurry and this works just fine.)
The Wrap-up:
When the game’s done, we have a collection of PCs, NPCs, rules annotations, and game logs all pulled into one location and self-organized into a nice little summary of the game, plus it’s a great resource for other gamers or for ourselves if we want to pick the game back up or use some of the material for another game. We also made some notes about what worked and what didn’t work with the wiki and the game, so the next effort can be even better. Great stuff.
On the wiki, we were able to really come together on the game and work to create something fun for ourselves and for other players who want to check the game out. Best of all, because we each have access and there are no technical barriers, everyone in the group can participate equally in the wiki.


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