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Review: Epic Words

Reviewed by: Chuck Durfee

The first thing that struck me looking at Epic Words was the hand-drawn style. These days, I do my campaign planning and note-taking in a quad-ruled composition book, so the site's graph paper and sticky note style me immediately feel at home. Its tagline is "a home for your RPG", and I became excited with the possibilities. Sadly, the inviting presentation led me to expect more than this site is ready to deliver.

The goal of the site is to provide a home on the Web for campaigns, and I fit right into their target audience. I have filing cabinet drawers full of hand-written notes and drawings. My computer has directories chock full of the same. I would love to have all of that information at my fingertips, wherever I happen to be. And, as I've gotten older and started a family, and thus become less active in my campaigning, I have a desire to share the worlds I've created with others to "record my glory", as the site says so another might bring my dormant adventure seeds to life.

Epic Words provides each campaign with a journal, a forum, a wiki, setting and character pages, and a place to store source materials. It offers an RSS feed of changes, which as a player I know I would appreciate. Basic accounts are free but rather limited, offering game masters the ability to host a single campaign with up to three characters. Paid accounts allow for multiple campaigns, more characters, and file storage for a nominal fee.

The site offers a measure of information security. Campaign settings, character bios, and journal entries are publicly viewable. Access to other campaign content requires game masters, players, and lurkers to be logged into the site and subscribed to the campaign.

The site claims to be genre neutral. I'm currently running a Spirit of the Century campaign, so I began to set it up, to see what my pulp adventure serials would look like in Epic Words. Much to my dismay, I found the site is strongly geared towards Dungeons and Dragons. When creating characters, fields of entry include race, class, and level. Two of the pages associated with characters are experience and loot. Experience is tied to a character and measured in points. Loot is categorized into weapons, armor, potions, scroll, wand, and so on. While perfect for D&D, all of these concepts are foreign to my campaign's RPG system and milieu.

I believe in the site's premise. Instead of turning away from the site, I found myself wanting to suggest enhancements. As excited as I was by the graph paper look and feel, without providing any customization capability, Epic Words campaigns tend to look more or less alike. I wanted each page of each campaign to be able to reinforce my vision through graphics and fonts, easily achievable these days through custom style sheets.

Another avenue for Epic Words to explore is offering a way to group campaigns. Browsing recent posts shows all campaign journal entries, regardless of genre, and as such is of limited use. If, however, the site were capable of suggesting campaigns, settings, and characters, the results could foster social networking and campaign collaboration, even evolving into a strong tabletop RPG community. To facilitate that kind of collaboration, game masters would certainly need finer control over the security of their content than the site currently allows.

For a fantasy campaign, especially an online-only game or one with infrequent meetings, Epic Words could offer substantial benefits for in-between session work over the traditional email or mailing list approach. It might also be a good option for game masters who are not technically inclined, who want to offer players an easy, one-stop shop for online campaign materials, and a place for players to post character vignettes. While I don't plan to publish my existing role playing materials here as the site stands today, I will watch the site's progress with keen interest.

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