Beyond the Character Sheet
“Character Keepers” as Digital Play Aids in the Contemporary Indie TRPG Community
Keywords:character sheet, character keeper, indie TRPG, online play, play aids
In this article we explore a central aspect of online play culture in some parts of the indie TRPG community: the character keeper as a shared and emphatically ‘digital’ character sheet, most often realized as a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Rather than simply functioning as digital equivalents of paper character records, keepers serve as shared sheets, allowing all players to refer to the information on all player characters simultaneously; take advantage of the programming interface of Google Sheets to provide automated functions like drop-down selections for character options or real time calculation of stats; often include tabs for tracking shared session and campaign notes as well as scenario and game state information for the GM; include a lot of the reference information needed to play the game; integrate supplementary safety tools that facilitate play; and provide links to other accessories used during online play like digital dice rollers or additional visualization tools.
In discussing character keepers, we outline their characteristics and the pragmatics of their use, followed by elements of a short history of this format, a description of some historical and contemporary examples, a systematic exploration of contemporary player and designer theorizing on this topic, and an attempt at locating our examination of character keepers within the broader context of (role-playing) game studies: participation and co-creation, platform studies, and an aesthetics of indie TRPGs.
Copyright (c) 2021 Adrian Hermann, Gerrit Reininghaus
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.