Tutorial: how to make and share character sheets for online play

In light of the sudden increase in people looking for options to roleplay online, I thought it might be worth sticking up a how-to guide on taking a character sheet, which you might otherwise have printed out for use at the table, and setting it up so that it can be shared with others around the world (and who will be able to see it updated as you fill it out).

Sorry if you find some of the steps rather obvious. I am writing this as if it were for the benefit of my less tech-savvy colleagues and relatives. As such, it is also rather picture-heavy.

To get started, you need a Google account and a pre-made character sheet. For the purpose of this tutorial, I grabbed the freely available character sheet for Old School Essentials to work from. Do go and check it (and the rest of the OSE product range) out. If you don’t have a Google account, there will be an extra step where you can set one up.

First things first – you need to turn the character sheet into an image document. If it comes already saved as a JPEG or PNG file, you can skip this stage and go to ‘Making the character sheet online-friendly’, but most character sheets comes as PDFs.

Converting the character sheet into an image

You will need to open it up in some form of PDF reader. If you don’t have Adobe or something similar installed, you should be able to right-click the document, choose ‘Open with’ and select an internet browser.

Rotate the sheet so that it’s as large as you can get it while still all being visible, and take a screenshot.

Paste that screen shot into MS Paint or some other image software, and rotate the sheet back to its preferred orientation.

Save it wherever you feel most appropriate, being sure to save it as a PNG file (for a better quality end result).

Great, now you’ve got your favourite character sheet as an image.

Making the character sheet online-friendly

Now we will need to submit ourselves to the almighty Google corporation. Go to docs.google.com/presentation. If you don’t have a Google account, this is where you will be prompted to make one. If you do have one, this will present you with a couple of options to create a presentation. Create a blank one.

It brings you to a new document. If you’re familiar with Microsoft Powerpoint, a lot of it will be quite recognisable.

Get rid of the default text boxes – you will be creating your own later.

Now we find out what size the character sheet is. Right-click the image document wherever you saved it, go down to Properties, and then Details, and you should see its height and width in pixels.

Go to File and scroll down to Page Setup.

The Page Setup box will let you customise the size of the slide, and you want it to be as close to the character sheet as you can get it. Go down to Custom, change the measurement units to pixels, and put in the appropriate width and height.

With that, your presentation slide should resemble the shape of your character sheet. Perfect.

Go to the Slide menu, and head down to Change Background. Choose Image allows you to upload your character sheet image file as the slide background.

What this means is that you can now mess around with the slide, drawing text boxes wherever you want there to be an editable entry, and there’s no risk of messing up the layout of the character sheet design itself.

Adding editable entries to the character sheet

There’s a button along the toolbar at the top of the slide. Clicking on that let’s you then drag an appropriately-sized text box wherever you like.

Reformat it to taste.

My advice would be to place all the text boxes you want to use going forwards, turning the sheet into a form to be filled out, and then you can save it as a base copy from which you can create new characters as and when old ones die off.

Sharing the character sheet with other players

Once you’ve filled everything out, you’ll want to share it so that your GM and other players can see it. Look to the top right for the Share button, click on it and then on the Get Shareable Link option

This will give you a link which you can give to anyone you want to have access to the sheet.

And if you want the sheet to be one that these people can also modify themselves, click on the Can View drop down menu and change the permissions.

If you’re the GM, it might be worth considering setting up the character sheet yourself, and then duplicating it so that everyone has a character sheet within the same document, making it a lot easier to jump from one to the other.

And there you have it! Now you can make use of all those character sheets you actually like the look of, rather than those soul-less spreadsheets you might have been using up till now.

Do let me know if you found this helpful, and if you have any comments or suggestions to make with regards to using Google Slides!

Here’s one I made earlier for a Knave character:

12 thoughts on “Tutorial: how to make and share character sheets for online play

  1. Delighted to hear it – do let me know if you discover any handy tips I’ve missed!

    It’s great to have some so system-agnostic too, without having to learn any coding.


  2. Awesome! Of the dozens of articles popping up about playing online, this is easily one of my favorite. Thank you for putting this together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If anyone felt like doing a whole lot of work, you could link each text box on the page to a cell from a Google Sheet. Then you could auto-calculate most of the numbers (proficiencies, saves, attacks, etc).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, that’s interesting – I shall have to look that up. Most of the systems I play are simple enough that it probably wouldn’t be worth the effort of setting that up, but I can see slightly more complex games like 5e benefiting from it.

      Now to see if Slides can lock said text boxes to avoid user error wiping out the connection, ‘cos that *will* happen…


  4. Wow. Thanks for this! I have never used Power Point or Google Slide, but your walk through makes it seem doable for the occasional user. And I am motivated to take my FrankenDnDiy(OSE mixed up with GLOG with many ideas generously stolen from Logan Knight, James Young, and others) character sheet to an online version. With increasing need to stay at home, I think online play will the thing for a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear – sometimes the proficient can forget how intimidating something can be to those unfamiliar with it. I know that’s the case for me and many RPG games – I struggle to parse great walls of text, and these rule tomes can be daunting. I’d love to see more visually-oriented examples and explanations for games. Ironsworn and ICRPG do this very well – more publishers should look to their examples.

      Hope your foray into online play works out well!


      1. Looks nice! And excellent use of the additional slides for quick reference info. I rolled up a few pregens for our campaign and found it quite handy to just copy the levelling table from the character creation pages on the last slide, so now the player needs only their Slides doc for managing the character.


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