Whenever I go to start a new campaign, I like to spend too much time looking at various campaign tracking and organization tools to decide how i want to lay everything out. Do i want to use something easy like evernote or google notes? Or should i use something more traditional like the wiki based Obsidian Portal? Should i dive into some of the fee based apps like Hero Lab, City of Brass, Realmworks Scabard? Or what about all the novel organizing and writing tools like Scrivener and Final Draft, those seem really cool. Plus I’ve always wanted to write a novel some day! Maybe something semi-autobiographical about my mythical life as a swashbuckling alpaca farmer / IT Manager.
When I was a kid I used to use trapper keepers or 3 ring binders. Sometimes folders and graph papers. This was in a time before time. A time before Ipads and smartphones and even laptops and PCs. During my parents big move back in April of 2018 I found a box full of all my old RPG stuff. I was so happy to find my old TMNT&OS, D&D and WEG Star Wars Books. As well as all my old campaign notes an folders!
Doing things in analog sure had it’s benefits. You only had to worry about paper and could organize things all you want! But lets be honest, PCs really revolutionized campaign preparation. Even using word and excel allowed you to organize things and track everything with so much more ease. I loved it and have used those tools a number of times.
In 2018 I decided I was going to run a campaign of Scum and Villainy in that fall for a bunch of my friends. See this old post for more about that system. I was hoping to start it once I wrapped up my Curse of Strahd D&D Game.. but that’s still running. So I geared up to run it around Thanksgiving or so. So I really wanted something to help show the interconnection of the different NPCs, Factions and PCs throughout the game. The first thing i realized was that there really are a ton of different systems out there.
Geek and Sundry did a great article on some of the tools you can use. I wont rehash it and just include the link: https://geekandsundry.com/find-your-ideal-rpg-campaign-organization-method/ . For this round of deliberation I spent a lot of time looking at various online demos and youtube videos, downloaded a demo or two, and signed up for about 4 different online services. I even stumbled upon a play by post site that is really cool and that I’m playing in a few games on . It’s called Rolegate. Check it out too!
One tool I’ve used in past is Obsidian Portal. This is a neat website that is in wiki format and uses collaborative editing. It allows the GM to build out pages and keep them separate or label them for different uses like PC or Locations. I’ve used this one extensively for a Dresden Files and D&D Campaign in the past. I also have their paid version for it that I barely ever use. Please don’t tell my wife.
I also looked at a new one called World Anvil, which was insanely in depth. It scared me away pretty quickly honestly when I went to create a “world” and came up with these options:
This was seriously a bit too intimidating. There were just a ton of options and each item had about 15 different fields to fill in. Yikes. I don’t know if i was ready for the level of commitment that this site asked of me. I have one marriage thank you very much. I think if I was building a world from scratch or writing a novel this would be a good option. But for something that I was hoping to use for a more in depth world building or writing a novel this would be a great tool. That being said I’ve come back to this slick website and all the neat features it has built in. Maybe once my kids start sleeping and I’m not tired all the time I’ll come back to it.
The Adventure Journal/Forums in Roll20 were also an intriging option. While it’s just a forum I considered using it to just document posts of information there. Most of the games I run I try and write up a session recap immediately after each session, or at least a few days later. However the features on the site were loacking and are really mostly the forum and an external journal of Characters and Handouts. Not organized enough to my tastes . So I ruled that out.
The more I looked at all these complex tools the more I just wanted something to take notes and be able to hyperlink those notes together. Something to make it easy and quick to write down info, look something up and edit it if necessary. This sounded like a note book so I shifted into looking at some of the note book tools that are out there.
OneNote: I use Microsoft OneNote for work and it seemed like a logical choice. I found alot of suggestions on how to use it on reddit and other forums. This one post in particular was pretty neat and showed how one guy used it to build out very detailed notes and templates for 5e and specific campaigns like CoS:
https://www.reddit.com/r/DMToolkit/comments/4yqnru/cryrids_5th_edition_onenote_templates/ . Really cool stuff!
So I fired up Onenote and started to take it for a test drive. And quickly ran into a problem. It was a similar problem to one I had in the past where I couldnt get it to synch my account across various devices, and I wasnt sure where it was saving my notes to. The cloud? My local PC? I tried fighting with it for a bit with using my google drive as a location for the data, but kept running into issues getting it to synch with my phone, my laptop and my pc. So frustrated I gave up. These things should just work!
So finally I was back to Evernote. I used Evernote for my Curse of Strahd campaign originally before, and still do, so I was familiar with it. I had used it for work prior to switching to OneNote. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
Overall I was very happy with Evernote. It was easy to use, simple and I could grab everything i needed in a given session very quickly. I did miss OneNotes organizational and free flowing.
I still wanted something to be able to present to players and have as a resource for others. So I went and setup an Obsidian Portal Page for it.
So the draw back here is that I need to do things in 3 places in order to:
1: Take my campaign building notes and where I do the rough draft, ouline and creation of my campaign.
2: Where I put the data for presentation to my players. That will still be Roll20.
3: Where I put the data for after play presentation.
4: (ok there is 4) I have a notebook I use to take written notes in during game play as i find typing to be distracting on my loud keyboard mid-session. Sigh.
So did i save myself work using these three tools? Definitely not. Now I have three places I need to keep update to date. I’m sure Info in one may not make it into the other two… Uggh. FML.
Well Either way this is what I came up with and will have to work with for now. I imagine I’ll stop updating the Obsidian Portal Page first lol.
What do you use for your campaigns? I’d love to hear! Maybe i should just go back to an old school Trapper Keeper or 3 Ring Binder.