Tools to help manage D&D group communication

Ahhh… it feels good to be back! So a question I have been thinking about a lot about lately is what is the best way to plan and coordinate D&D sessions with a larger group of friends. I have experimented with a few tools over the years and have failed many times, but I think I have found a solid solution to this problem.

Starting from the Beginning

Before we get to the solution, I find it helpful to explain what I have tried in the past and why those solutions didn’t work for me and my group.

The Good Ol’ Text and Remember Method

This method was my first attempt at trying to wrangle people together. I tried this method for a few years, and it was a lot of work for me the DM. This was “back in the day” when our phones could do two things, call or text. On top of that, most of us would have to pay per text, so keeping it short and sweet was the key. The problem here was that as the DM I needed to communicate with each person when times for weekly games changed. There was always back and forth on new dates, and it just made my head spin. The biggest drawback was that people would get on different wavelengths, and not everyone would get information that I intended them to get (That last part was usually my fault.) But then, the advent of the smartphone came about, and everything changed.

The Chain Gang

As we all know, the smartphone brought about the age of accessibility. We were able to connect with people anytime anywhere through many different forms of connections. You could email, facebook, call and text all on the go. This was a giant step forward for me as a DM as I began using email chains to consolidate my communication’s to my group. As a note, the only way this form of communication works well for us was because all of my friends that I played with kept an eye on their email boxes. Email allowed us all to talk together when we were away from the table. It got rid of the issue of people getting more/less information and honestly was fantastic. The issue here was that it was a group chat basically. We had one extremely long email chain and if someone didn't respond properly, then the chain would break or some people would never see a reply. Even with this drawback, we all seemed to accept that this was a pretty good way of doing things. What made me want to look for a better solution was the lack of event planning. We had a great way to communicate, but a poor way of planning events and gathering attendance

The Facebook Party

Moving the group communication to Facebook was, in hindsight, a bad way to go. The problem with Facebook groups is that there is still just one long “chain” of communication. Yes, we got the event planning aspect, but it wasn’t worth it. The biggest thing that ended our Facebook group was not everyone checked Facebook regularly. Yes yes, I know that sounds like a crock of poo. “Who doesn’t check Facebook!?” I hear from future questions. But, this is the truth and is why we landed where we did.

Our Current Home

Our group, the Roll with Advantage crew, uses a communication stack that involves Google Calendar and Google Groups. To be upfront, this can work with non-Gmail accounts, but it works best when everyone has a Gmail. So let me dig in.

What I absolutely love about using Google Calendar is it is integrated with everyone’s smartphone. People can see on the fly, what is going on that day, when the event is, and even accept/decline the event. This part is great for me as a DM because we have an attendance rule, that if a certain percentage of people can’t make it, then we cancel the session. When I cancel the session Google will email everyone on the event for me, telling them about the cancellation. This also works for when the event changes, like maybe if the session gets bumped up by an hour or has to move to the next day. How I like to run this is by creating a repeating event for our standard time and add everyone in the group to the repeating event. This takes a lot of guesswork out of planning, and for my players that live by their schedule, it is handy for them to have it there on their calendar.

Now, “Google Groups?” you might ask. Google Groups is not a widely popular Google Application. It is basically a way to simplify emailing a group of people, and a way to manage those email chains. Think of a hybrid of Emailing and a Forum. This allows anyone in the group to easily email the entire group and start a thread of communication. It also has a dashboard so that users can graphically see the conversations and threads, and then interact that with them in a formatted way, like you would hope and expect you can create groups that are Invite Only. There is a lot of customization options as well. If you have not considered Google groups as a potentially valid part of your communication stack, then you really should. It works with any device or email.

That is where I am going to leave it for this time. I would be very interested in reading what your communication stacks look like. As always, thank you so much for stopping in and reading. Feel free to comment, I love to read constructive feedback and love discussing topics like these. Check back in next week to see what else I have on my mind or decide to analyze. Remember to follow The DM’s Table on Facebook or on Twitter @dmstable for updates and to let me know what is on your mind, or what you might want to read about. Also, go check out Roll with Advantage! It is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast that releases every Monday by 5 pm Eastern Time. We play, laugh, and have a good time playing a game we all love. Thank you for reading and if you enjoy these articles feel free to donate, using the button below, to the website to help keep it up and running!

― The DM