2006-05-22 1112 Review: I'll say this first; as a general rule I don't do site reviews…….

The one where Greywulf writes a site review

I’ll say this first; as a general rule I don’t do site reviews for the simple reason to be able to review anything, you need to be qualified to be able to do it. Who am I to say if a blog or website is good or bad? What qualifies me? Not a thing, that’s what! All that site reviews end up being is a bitch who’s bitching about “such-and-such a site’s crap colour scheme, terrible layout or how the writer needs to get a life and aren’t I oh-so-superior to you”.

Sorry folks, that’s not me. If you want a bitchy site review, there’s plenty out there already. They’re not difficult to find, they’ve all got crap colour schemes, terrible layouts and need to get a life. And I’m superior to them all.

There. I feel better now. :)

Anyhow, I’ve been asked to write a review………
-cut –
………. about a site that contains two elements dear to my heart – roleplaying and wikis. For those that don’t know, traditional roleplaying is about getting friends around a table with pen, paper, pizza and sodas and having a great time building worlds and adventures using nothing but words, imagination and funky dice. It’s about exploring the dungeon, finding the treasure and not leaving the guy playing the thief alone in the room with the GM, ever.

Wikis are about words, about masses and masses of words and pages all joined together like an enormous collaborative mindmap – a meeting-of-mindmap, if you like. They’re great for storing ideas that can grow exponentially, where imagination can be documented, changed and evolved.

Put the two together and you get PlayByWiki. That’s a site that allows anyone to use a wiki as a collaborative gaming tool, where gamers can meet, store information about their characters, the setting, rules, whatever. It’s a place where the game logs are hosted. With a little effort, you can host and play your entire game through this site.

I’ve used wikis to track a role-playing campaign, and it works well. I’d suggest wikis are the best tools for that particular job, and PlayByWiki scores points for doing it right. It also offers it’s own rules-lite system called Ninth Sigil. While the rules themselves are interesting enough (I like that there’s smooth or crunchy options), I suspect few people will come to PlayByWiki unless they’ve got their own rulebooks in tow. That said, I do like the concepts in Ninth Sigil and would be tempted to include them in my game rather them ditch my rules system completely. I’m guessing that’s ok to do too. I’d have been more tempted to offer something established like FUDGE (especially Five-point FUDGE) as a default gaming system instead of re-inventing the wheel, but that’s just me.

So, what separates PlayByWiki from say, setting up your own wiki, or using wikispaces to host your game? Thankfully, there’s several things; firstly, it’s specifically targeted at gamers, so you’re in the right crowd surrounded by people who know what you mean when you ask for advice about including dungeon graphics in your site. Secondly, they offer real, paid-for tech support. Accounts start at free, and go up to the still reasonable $100/year. I like that Adult content can only be hosted on the most expensive account type. Make them pay, that’s what I say!

There are a few areas where PlayByWiki could do with a little improvement though, and it’s really a case of “more” rather than “doing it wrong”. I’d like to see an integrated dice roller, template pages for character sheets, and some kind of open-house forum where gamers can meet, greet, adverise for players in their games and discuss house rules. Links to the major free online rulesystems would be good too (like FUDGE and the The Hypertext d20 SRD). These are all easy fixes though. While they’re all readily available on other sites, it would be good if PlayByWiki could offer the complete package.

In all, PlayByWiki is great. The layout needs a little work (looks icky in Opera), but that’s no biggie. And I don’t like beige.

Damn. I’m turning into a bitch. Better stop now.

If you’re into gaming, give PlayByWiki a look. It’s good.

Update: fixed the links to FUDGE. Thanks for spotting that, Andy.

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