How To Wrangle Your Million Campaign Details
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0820
Roleplaying Tips reader S.S. Asked me:
I have recently bought both MyInfo and Campaign Logger. As I am starting the MyInfo course you have I was wondering if you were considering a blog post illustrating using the two of them together? MyInfo seems like it’ll be perfect for my world-building, and CL seems great for…well…campaign logging.
This is a great question. I’m going to answer it today in a way that will help all game masters trying to wrangle their campaign information, regardless of what apps and tech you use.
As my note-taking and campaign-detailing methods evolve, I’ve formed three general buckets for my game information.
- Brief and rapid notes logged during sessions
- More detailed notes created for reference in sessions
- Long-form notes I make to support my campaign before sessions
None of these buckets is restricted to a particular topic. Use any and all of them for world details, campaign information, adventure notes, encounter plans, and people/places/things reference.
The tip here involves the intent of your information and how you plan to wield it.
Use this format for jotting down information fast. Perfect for session logging when you don’t want to slow the pace down.
Also ideal for brainstorming and ideation. Stream-of-imagination type stuff.
Don’t worry about grammar, formatting, or spelling. Just get the info out of your head and into print!
This is what I designed Campaign Logger for. The tagging and autosuggest feature lets you make tons of notes fast without annoying typos. Connect notes and ideas as you type, without stopping or losing your train of thought.
Mind mapping works great for this too. So do index cards.
For apps like MyInfo, Evernote, OneNote, Google Docs, etc., I stay inside one document. I type until done, using line breaks and headers to crudely separate and group thoughts. Then I parse through the doc later, filing info away into proper locations.
Here’s where the bulk of my world-building, plotting, and design happens.
I aim for under a page per entry, topic, or grouping of thought to make future reference easier. For example, pick up a world book and look at the table of contents. Each entry in the races, kingdoms, or history section would be one doc to me. And the races, kingdoms, and history chapters would be a collection of docs.
Doc-per-topic lets me reorganize information as needed. It also lets me find this information in high-pressure moments, such as during games or when I’m trying to get ideas out fast before losing them.
I use detailed notes for two main purposes.
First is to think through my game. For example, what is this kingdom about? Who lives in it? How do the people live? Who are their enemies? What are their beliefs and values?
Second is to be my canon, my official record of continuity. What’s the milieu, why do the game pieces move the way they do inside it, and what details do I need to keep straight each session?
MyInfo, Evernote, et. al. are perfect for these entries. I can format, add images, scrape web content, nest docs, and use all the spinners and gizmos the app offers.
Campaign Logger entries have a maximum of 2,500 characters. That’s an average of 300-400 per Log Entry. (For reference, the Gettysburg Address is 272 words.)
This is the perfect length for sketching out topics, ideation, and session logging. Unlimited Log Entries and Campaign Logs means you can log infinitely and cross-link everything as much as you want without friction.
We made Logger entries shorter on purpose. We found that once you add more than 300 or so words to a piece of information, you lose a lot of fidelity in Searching, Filtering, and Tagging.
For example, if the thing you’re searching for is buried in two pages of text, that’s going to make you pause and hesitate until you scroll and scroll and scroll to find the info. If the search match ends up not being the one you quested for, then it’s on to the next long doc and you waste even more time.
Think of it like a box of index cards, and each card had an NPC. The card forces you to put what’s most important and relevant on it. Perfect as a reference tool. Pull the cards you need for a session, order them by name or group them by encounter with a clip, and Bob is your uncle.
Only with Campaign Logger, you add search, filter, PDF export, instant edit, autosave, RPG tags, and so on to make each “index card” Log Entry immensely valuable.
MyInfo, Evernote, etc. is your weapon of choice when it comes to building world books, campaign almanacks, player guides, and other reference materials that need more room.
My favourite use for Detailed Notes is refreshers. Before sessions, I’ll re-read my plot lines for the thousandth time. I’ll study up on the details of a place so they’re fresh in my mind for the game. I’ll go through background notes to help maintain continuity.
To rekindle my memory on what happened in previous sessions, I’ll look at my session Log Entries in Campaign Logger. I give each entry an automated session number tag using the auto-prefix field. Between games, I can easily pull up any session’s complete entry listings and read through the logs, pulling out details for consequences and continuity. I can even export the session’s entries as a PDF and store in MyInfo or on my hard drive for reference that way.
Here’s where my creative writing itches get scratched.
Backstories, histories, and long rambling plotlines get eked out on these long pages. Great for writing books, but terrible as in-game reference to surface details when you need them for quick reference.
I use long-form to think things through, as well. I’ll just ramble at my keyboard until I’m spent. Then I’ll grab the good stuff, if there is any, and file it in relevant Detailed Notes or Log Entries.
Using MyInfo & Campaign Logger Together
Regardless of what apps or info-wrangling system you use, each distinct note, topic, or document needs a point of reference so you can find it later.
For example, if using index cards, number them and colour code them. For paper, order pages in sections of a GM binder. In both cases, create a Table of Contents card/page so you have a cheat sheet to make searches faster.
For digital tools, I highly recommend one that gives you external links to each doc or entry. This lets you cross-link between entries to provide additional context (e.g., related entries or sub-topics) and make finding stuff just a click away.
MyInfo offers document links. Right-click, copy link. Same with Evernote. Same with OneNote and a few other apps.
Unfortunately, most apps only give you internal-style links. For example, this is what Evernote gives you:
By default, these are not clickable. You’ll need to manually create a link entry for them in the text of your notes each time.
Online apps will often give you friendly URLs that’ll instantly be clickable. For example:
To turn this into text that’s useful and part of your notes, however, you will need to manually create a link text each time, as well.
In my system, I trade links between MyInfo and Campaign Logger freely.
I actually use Evernote these days because I’m on a Mac and Evernote is native to the platform. I can run MyInfo in emulation no problem, but the GUI is not as slick that way.
But usage is the same. Choose one app, either Logger or MyInfo, and make it your single Source Of Truth. Your campaign details go into either app, but your indexes and tables of contents for any given topic go into just one of the apps — whatever app you choose.
If you choose MyInfo, then Campaign Logger becomes your session logging tool and short details tool (under 400 word style entries). Log to your heart’s content.
You then paste links to key Log Entries back into your MyInfo contents-type notes.
For example, you might create a document called Plot Summary. It’s an overview of all the plots, side-plots, and loopy plots in your campaign. Each plot note can have links to key Logger Entries, Logger Listings, and MyInfo documents and sub-documents. I also add a couple lines of description text.
Your Plot Summary document lets you scan fast anytime you feel overwhelmed, stuck for ideas, or need a quick link to find a more detailed plot note.
It doesn’t matter if your plots and side-plots are spread all over MyInfo and Campaign Logger. Your master MyInfo document with links and summary notes is your single Source Of Truth, keeping you organized and sane.
You can use Campaign Logger as your Source Of Truth just as easily. Create a Log Entry. Name it [NAME].master. Put all key links to MyInfo documents and Logger Log Entries inside it.
For example, if you have an NPC named Johnn, create a Log Entry called @Johnn.master. In it you put the NPC’s stat block and details. And you add curated links as you see fit so it’s all in one spot for you.
Talk about Johnn anywhere you like, as much as you like — in MyInfo and Campaign Logger. You still have Find, Filter, Tag Listings, and all the tools from both apps at your disposal. But you use the @Johnn.master Log Entry as note #0, your key note, your single Source Of Truth.
Campaign Logger does not support embedded media files. We’re considering the feature, but it’s circling the Idea Pool for now. It does handle links easily. So if you have a picture you want to use for Johnn the NPC, a game PDF, a sound file, or any kind of external file, you can link to it directly in your master note, or insert it into a MyInfo document and link to the document.
Key Takeaway: Strategic Organization
Again, it does not matter the tech you use. If you like OneNote, go for it. Prefer pen and paper? Awesome.
The strategy to help you stay sane remains the same:
- Create a single Source of Truth for every game piece in your campaign to avoid confusion, outdated version problems, and finding needles in haystacks.
- Create Tables of Contents to all the different places you hide details about each game piece, whether it’s via numbered index cards, internal app links, or external URLs.
- Curate your information so you can rapidly find what you need when you need it, especially in high-pressure situations.
- Refresh yourself on your key notes before sessions to improve your improve and continuity.
Avoid long-form notes as reference materials. Stuff gets buried and lost that way. Use long-form to think things through, channel your inner author, or ramble without stress of structure. Then pull out important keeper details into cards, Log Entries, or documents.