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ID: 8215


June 28, 2015, 2:06 pm

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Collaborative Storytelling Through Google Docs


Google Docs allows multiple people to edit a document simultaneously. How can this be used in gaming?

When I discovered that Google Docs allows multiple people to edit the same document simultaneously. Add to that the fact that you can actually watch others typing, and I immediately saw gaming potential and tried it out at the first opportunity I had. In htis article I will discuss how my group and I use Google Docs to game.

When my group plays we usually use Google Docs instead of a chat. Everyone writes their part of the story as if it were prose. This includes descriptions of actions, feelings, inner monologues, and speech. Over time I have refined how we use it, and will more than likely continue to refine our use as we continue gaming. I would like to discuss different methods we have used to make it work for gaming and the pros and cons when using Google Docs compared to other mediums. Of course, some of what I say is predicated upon the idea that the goal is to have "publish ready prose". That is, prose that I could conceivably post on a fiction or fanfiction website.



A major consideration when using Google Docs is what to do about mechanics. For those of you that wish to keep track of all the mechanics in the game, Google Docs provides the comment feature. For instance, if I'd have a player write something like:

Jim backed up, took a running start and leaped to the next building.

I would highlight the leaped to the next building and add a comment describing what roll I wanted. Jim's player would then respond to the comment with the result or request some clarification. The comments are like mini chat logs and do very well for unobtrusively recording what mechanics were at work behind any particular statement.

However, as time has gone by, we've really found that it is unnecessary to record those mechanics and have stopped doing it.

Currently we chat in skype and use that to resolve mechanics and then write the prose.

Writing Prose

This one is a hard one for many people. Because most RPGs are played in the first-person present ("I do") switching to third-person past ("He did") is a bit of a challenge. With the goal of having publish ready prose, though, it is necessary to make that switch.


Here are a couple of the pros of using Google Docs as your gaming medium.

Real-time Grammar Correction

If you have someone that is good at grammar, they can fix grammatical, spelling, and capitalization errors even before the offender is finished typing the sentence.

Character Inner Monologues

I have yet to find a medium that allows everyone to see what is going on inside the heads of the PCs as Google Docs does.

Splitting the Party

The bane of GMs everywhere. This is not as much of an issue as it is at other times because everyone can be editing a different part of the document at the same time. So, when the party splits, I simply move one group down to the bottom of the document, and let them start their scene. I, as the GM, will then bounce between all the different parts of the document that are being edited so I can respond as necessary.


There are definitely some cons to using Google Docs, and I don't want to simply gloss over them.

Slow Moving

This is by far the biggest con. We average about one scene every 1-2 hours of play. Our latest game has been going on for 5 3-4 hour sessions and are still on the first adventure. The game is slow, but the rewards, we feel, are worth it.

No Maps and Minis

This is obvious, and is the same problem that all text-based gaming faces. We get around it by using a Google Drawing when maps are required.

No Dice Roller

Because Google Docs was not created with gaming in mind, there is no built in dice roller. This one doesn't affect us too much because I trust my players about their dice results and don't generally verify them. If blatant cheating were to become a problem, I would have to find an online solution to this.


If you are interested in seeing what the results look like for our current game, you can check out my blog at

Additional Ideas (2)

Forgot about these on the original submission.

Suggestion Mode

In suggestion mode, you can edit, delete, and rewrite text, but it only makes the changes as suggestions, which can then be accepted or rejected.

We use this to not step on each other's toes. If we want to reword, add, or otherwise change the text that someone else has typed, we use suggestion mode. This also let's us suggest alternative courses of action, but gives the original author the final say.

Chat Function

Google Docs has a built in Chat function that you can use as a light-weight chatroom if you don't have any other alternatives


2015-06-29 06:08 PM » Link: [8215#94370|text]

Voice to Text

Google Docs has recently released the ability to type by speaking (I believe currently only Chrome is supported).


2016-02-25 07:41 AM » Link: [8215#95637|text]
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Comments ( 8 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Moonlake
June 28, 2015, 20:28
I haven't really started dedicated gaming yet (will start next Thurs or Wed over at the US) so this article isn't directly useful for me. But I think it has great utility value for most of the members of this site and it's written very succinctly as an article. That I've always liked and appreciated, possibly because I have the tendency to write long unwieldy things myself.
June 28, 2015, 23:27
It isn't necessary to play a game to use this, either. The star wars game I linked to is 95% freeform, and a fairly rules light system for the remaining 5% (Fate Accelerated). I feel the power of Google Docs is underutilized by many when it comes to collaboration. (or Office 365. I think it works the same way)
June 29, 2015, 3:06
I had actually used Google Docs for brainstorm for a collaborative sub for the Citadel before and it was an enjoyable experience. Like you had pointed out, multiple people could be updating different sections at the same time and we had experienced the slow moving problem (or at least me, I had to keep refreshing the browser after a while else the 'session' would just freeze up).
June 29, 2015, 8:52
The slow moving part, sounds like a different issue. I haven't had Google Docs glitch on me since I upgraded computers. I was specifically referencing the pace that the game unfolds compared to any other medium except PbP (even text-based chat). The flip side of that is I end up with an easy-to-read document that I can use for completely perfect notes in future sessions. That is something that face to face gaming can't have and even chat logs don't do well.
Voted Kassy
June 29, 2015, 7:52
This definitely has it's uses! Especially if the party is further apart. I'd love to test this at some point if there's another RP taking place here maybe and we decide to use this.

Voted Aramax
June 29, 2015, 9:23
Fantastic an yet should have been obvious idea!!!!!!!
Voted Murometz
June 29, 2015, 11:09

I found this interesting, as I no longer gm table top games :(

Not sure if this is pertinent to this post or not but my group had been using Roll20 and we love it. It also has a dice-roller, campaign notes, and maps.

Voted valadaar
June 20, 2016, 15:13
This is pretty nifty!

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

       By: Raptyr

Nine times out of ten, it’s the undead that do the running.

Not strictly animal or vegetable, the Corpse bud is a peculiar individual that shares characteristics from multiple kingdoms and species. In appearance, all corpse buds bear a shape of a large rounded top bud divided into four lateral segments, and a much longer, narrower bottom bud, also divided into four segments. Between the two halves are a set of four radial limbs, rounded on top and flat on the bottom, covered with tiny serrated hooks facing towards the body. In overall size, it’s limbs reach as wide as a spread hand, with the body being as thick as a fist. It is as long as a human hand from top to bottom.

Internally, the top bud of the corpse bud contains a bacteria filled membrane that produces the hydrogen that the corpse bud uses to stay aloft, and a series of fungal gills for the dispersal of spores for reproduction. The lower half of the bud contains a number of fine filaments, as well as a sharp barbed stinger containing a powerful local anaesthesia.

The Corpse Bud mobilizes by inflating its top bud, and steers by rotating its arms rapidly about its body. The corpse bud ordinarily drifts with the wind, orienting towards the scent of recent decay and death. It preys on the recently dead, burrowing the lower bud into the victim, using the anaesthesia in case the victim is dying, and not truly deceased. Once embedded, it releases its filaments into the body, replacing the current nervous system. This gives it full animation of the body, and allows the corpse bud to direct it.

Corpse buds are not a malevolent species, being primarily concerned with breaking down the host body for food, and infecting the reproductive cycle with spores in order to mate with other corpse-bud bodies. To preserve the corpse for this purpose, Corpse buds will seek out dry locations to prevent bacteria from destroying the corpses. This often causes a large number of corpse buds to gather in a single location.

In culture, Corpse buds are used to repair broken spines or degenerative diseases, as the sentient mind will easily overcome the mind of the non-sentient corpse bud. Once infected by a corpse bud, however, removal is usually fatal, and the infected individual cannot reproduce, or risk infecting another. Thus, it is a technique often reserved for the elderly, or a last resort.

Necromancers and other dark sorcerers will often preserve the corpses of their victims magically, and infect them with corpse buds, creating traditional undead as well, so as to seed their lairs with undead both offensive and non, in order to throw their enemies off balance. They will also enslave the rudimentary minds of the corpse buds, and transform the docile things into a plague. There have also been accounts of magically transformed corpse buds with stronger minds and a taste for living flesh, but thus far all accounts are unproven rumors.

Ideas  ( Lifeforms ) | October 12, 2011 | View | UpVote 3xp

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