Life is hell on gaming.
My Dungeons and Dragons campaign’s been running for about five years. I’ve got about 10 active players ranging in age from early 20s to early 30s. Most have girlfriends. About half are married. A few have kids. A few are thinking about kids. All have day jobs and horde free-time like gold-starved dwarves.
Our campaign meets weekly, and between any given session all hell can break loose. One friend may need us to move the game to his house, so he can put his son to bed while his wife’s at work. Another may need a ride from the train station. And others need to bail for reasons that range last-minute trips to going out on dates. And then there’re the various meta gaming issues — arguments about rules, new ideas for the campaign, PC planning for the next session — you get the idea.
And it’s only going to get worse. Fortunately though, we have an ally on the net. And a powerful ally it is: Yahoo! Groups.
Yahoo Groups stated out as a company called eGroups, which was later absorbed into the search engine’s empire. It’s made up of several components, each of which makes organizing a campaign a heck of a lot easier. Check out the GriffCrier’s Yahoo! Group.
The message board allows members to post messages via the Web or e-mail and forms the central nexus for the group — everything else is just gravy. Conversations on the board are dominated by in-character planning and real-world coordination. During the week, folks post messages arguing what they want to do during our Friday gaming session. For a DM like me, who has maybe one night a week to prepare for the weekly game, the message board’s a godsend. The guys can hash out what they want to do, and I can plan accordingly.
We use it for logistics — figuring out where we’re playing, when we’re playing, and how everyone’s getting there. It’s particularly useful when we have last minute changes — like cancellations because of weather or weather emergencies.
We also use it to handle the nuts and bolts of game mechanics. Most of our really intense rules debates (and what gaming group doesn’t have those?) are now done online. We also done about 90% of the work of converting our campaign from 2E to 3E on the Group.
And finally there’s the miscellaneous day-to-day conversations — news about who got a job, who got laid off, stories of interest to the group, etc. It’s a way of keeping in touch between sessions, especially if we go a few weeks without gaming.
We use the Group’s polls to simplify some of the campaign’s big decisions. For example, after running a “sub-campaign” to learn 3E, we’ve decided to return to our regular campaign. The question was do we pickup where we left off with the high-level characters or do we start over again with first-level ones? We spent a fair amount of time discussing it after Friday night games as well as online. Then put it to a vote using the polls.
The Group’s built in calendar is nice — DMs can add events to it, and then the calendar automatically posts reminder messages to the group. It’s something I’ve used on and off — it doesn’t really impact on how many folks attend each session, but it can be a helpful planning tool. It would be better if you could sync up the group calendar with your PDA or own Yahoo calendar.
Each group also comes with a sort of online filing cabinet where folks can upload and download files to and from. We use it to store downloads (like the Adobe Acrobat-based introduction to Fading Suns) which are of interest to the entire group. We also use it to coordinate projects, like our ongoing “GriffDatabase”, which is an attempt to move all of our campaign notes into a huge MySQL-based database.
Bookmarks, Photos and Chat
Rounding out the groups offerings are three functions we almost never use — bookmarks, photos and chat. The bookmarks allow you to create a “links page” for the group, and the photos and chat sections are self explanatory. This sections could be useful, but we don’t need the chat, and handle the links and photos on our regular web site.