When playing RPGs online, there are some obvious downsides. Anyone who has come from a background of playing face-to-face knows this. But there are also some considerable upsides that technology can provide to gaming!
With online games, we can play with people halfway across the world. We can find people who like the games we like, even if the games are less well known. We can attend conventions without exposing ourselves (or others) to germs and other hazards of large meeting places.
If you want to improve your online gaming experience, you should try to maximize the strengths of using online platforms while minimizing its weaknesses. One unique advantage of gaming online is access to online character sheets. Many popular games like Dungeons and Dragons have extensive, advanced character sheets capable of handling the large amounts of information that a player needs to track; often these sheets can be accessed from a service like Roll20 or Tabletop Simulator. Here at the Gauntlet, we tend to avoid those platforms when possible for a few reasons:
- We try to avoid asking players to install additional software onto their devices. Browser-based solutions are strongly preferred.
- We try to avoid asking players to create accounts for platforms outside of our own services (which usually only require a Google account, a necessary and ubiquitous ask).
- Most relevant to this discussion, here at the Gauntlet there are many indie games being played which do not have premade online character sheets (although in the future we hope to see that change!)
With these points in mind, the most practical and accessible solution we’ve found for character sheets is Google Sheets, which are Google’s online, collaborative version of a spreadsheet very similar to Microsoft Excel. Noble Gauntleteers have already created a number of character sheets for various games. We prefer to call them character keepers because they keep all of the characters for any given campaign in one place! You can find the tons of our character keepers in our Player Aids folder on the Community Resources page. The benefits in using Google Sheets character keepers include:
- Easy access and sharing! It’s browser based and doesn’t even require a plug-in to operate. You can find/share a view-only version as a template, make a copy for yourself, and then send a link with edit permission for your players.
- Everything you need can fit on one page. Being able to see every player’s character sheet all at once is something that paper sheets can’t achieve. This is a helpful way to keep an eye on everyone’s names, preferred pronouns, abilities, etc.
- A well-formatted sheet can streamline and simplify character creation.
- Different tabs on your sheet can allow you to keep all of your notes and hand-outs in one place. You can have a tab for maps, NPCs, lines & veils, or rules references.
Some people have found Google Sheets so easy to use that they use it to design the rough drafts of their games (looking at you, Hearts of Wulin!). But not everyone has had experience with using Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or other spreadsheets, and at first it can seem overwhelming. In this series of blog posts I will walk you through how to create your own online character keepers.