Technology in Gaming: How Gmail Made My PCs Roleplay  

Posted by Michael Donaldson in ,

I have recently started up a new game, in the last month or so, where I am GMing a d20 Future ruleset in a world that is basically a sort of Firefly / Eve Online hybrid. After the first few sessions, they became official bounty hunters for the government, and set off trying to make a fortune for themselves.

What I did next was far more effective than I ever imagined.

Collecting their names, I created gmail accounts for each of their characters and then gave the players the name and password and instructed them the account was to be used in-character only. Then, I set about making a massive array of NPC e-mail addresses (so far there's about 30 I've made and 100 on a list to do) that the PCs could interact with. After having a nice collection, I slowly started to send the players e-mails from various NPCs they had interacted with.

It was subtle at first, but I noticed it kept the players in the game even throughout the downtime during the week. By sending an e-mail once every day or so, I could constantly keep them in character and in the game for a little bit each day while introducing flavor and information to the world. By the time the next session rolled around, everyone had a plot hook to discuss and the first half hour was filled with nothing but enthusiastic roleplaying from my combat-hungry players.

As we played through the session, I kept small notes on their interactions throughout the game and marked which NPCs the PCs had left an impression on. Then, when the session was done, I followed up with those NPCs, and the chain had started again.

It's amazing what a little effort towards immersion can do for your game. Here I provide some screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

How do you keep your players intrigued week in and week out? Have you ever used technology to improve your pen and paper gaming? Sound off!

This entry was posted on June 1, 2010 at Tuesday, June 01, 2010 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


This is a really neat idea, although creating new mail accounts constantly may be a bit unmanageable in the long run (or maybe Google will contact you :) ). But cool nonetheless.

June 1, 2010 at 6:29 AM

Enable the 'send from' feature of gmail and this is actually manageable. I can see this coming into play for a modern game, maybe fantasy, but definitely modern.

One thing that is going to come up in my old group is that long, drawn out, down time. This may be something to consider.

June 1, 2010 at 6:42 AM

Amusingly enough after I started making my 5th or 6th account google started requiring my cell phone number so they could text me a verification number.

I keep all the e-mail addresses in a notepad file and they all have the same password (my NPC accounts, that is.) I keep the players' passwords as well, so rather than checking all my NPC's e-mail addresses I just check the individual's outbox.

June 1, 2010 at 2:13 PM

A nifty idea, but it seems like a lot of work, any other ideas for maintaining immersion?

I've told my players that they needed to write me 1 paragraph per week about the past of their characters, which helps some, but not hugely.

June 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Similar to your email idea, I have in the past used a blog service to represent the local newspaper. I updated it whenever I felt like it, which was a few times a week (or more, depending on my mood) and it was a very useful tool.

The "newspaper" had reports of crimes, events / holidays, opinion pieces on politics, etc. Not only did this make the world seem a little more alive, but sometimes the players would take interest in a particular piece and go investigate / attend. One of the players even started to write his own articles, which had to be reviewed and approved by the newspaper's editor.

Of course, sometimes a little grease on the wheels could get an article published, even if the editor didn't particularly like it.

Calling someone out in a widely read newspaper is a surefire way to get some attention... Good or ill.

July 30, 2010 at 12:52 PM

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