Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tiddlywiki: The GM's Friend

While poking through the Treasure Tables GMing Wiki, I stumbled across this little gem: a 'program' (sort of!) called Tiddlywiki that gives you a quick and easy way to create what is essentially a low-tech Wiki that you can contain in a single file.

Cutting through the technical jargon, the bottom line on Tiddlywiki is this: it's a really nifty high-tech HTML file that uses some cute tricks with JavaScript and CSS to turn itself into a document that allows you to quickly create little bits of named text content, and then quickly link between them. Editing, linking, and formatting are all a snap, and the result is a single HTML file that can easily be thrown onto a thumb drive or onto Gmail to make a totally portable Wiki.

What has this to do with gaming, you ask?

If you're a GM for any RPG, you make notes. As games get longer and longer, and particularly if you're interested in creating an immersive and complex world, keeping track of all the little details that get thrown into a game can quickly overwhelm your memory. What was the name of that inn by the docks where the PCs got into a barroom brawl? What's the name of that shady shop owner who can quickly get ahold of 'special orders'- and did he have a hunchback, or was it a lazy eye? Keeping track of details like this can be even harder with online/play by post games, where weeks or months may pass between visits to a particular location or interactions with a specific PC. Not to mention the fact that you want to jot down notes about plot points, have quick access to the stats for PCs and major NPCs, and try to remember all of the various relationships between characters and organizations that exist in your world.

Tiddlywiki isn't a perfect solution for this problem, but it is a damn fine one. After an evening of playing with Tiddlywiki, I had converted my notes for my WFRP campaign from a flat text file (that I was always flipping back and forth through) into a Tiddlywiki document that included:

  • Day-by-day summaries of previous action in the campaign
  • Stats and background information for all the PC's, as well as a number of NPC's
  • Notes about important locations
  • Plans for the future

Best of all, all of this information could quickly be linked together, and sorted into logical chunks without losing the ability to look at any piece of information quickly. Anything that referenced anything else (for instance, a mention of an NPC in a PC's background information) linked to the relevant info, meaning that anything that you needed could be pulled up with a single click. Instead of a flat file that I was flicking back and forth through, I had a file that mirrored the web of interactions and relationships between people, places, and things that actually existed in the campaign.

With a little more fiddling, I had turned my copy of Twiddlywiki into a personal WFRP Wiki, containing some of my house rules and homebrew material, ideas and NPCs for a future campaign I've been thinking about, and a number of extra bits and pieces that I've either written myself or downloaded off the web and found to be useful. Most of the effort in incorporating this material was just copying and pasting text over, adding a couple labels, and then making links where I thought they were helpful. It's made it much easier to find what I'm looking for, and I daresay even made it easier to develop new materials; instead of having to keep a half-dozen files open, I can just pop between Tiddlywiki 'twiddlers' when I need to refer to other info.

At any rate, if you're looking for a convenient way to keep track of a lot of campaign information, Tiddlywiki is a great choice. It has nowhere near the overhead of more conventional Wiki solutions (no web server, no database server, no real configuration work to speak of), but still allows some customization (in the form of JavaScript macros and presentation tweaks using CSS). Play with Tiddlywiki and see for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Have you already seen TT's PDF all about GMing wikis? It includes an excellent article by Amy Vander Vorste that covers TiddlyWiki from a GMing standpoint.

    You can grab it for free from TT's PDF downloads page. :)