Saturday, September 17, 2016

O is for OneNote

"For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." - Benjamin Franklin

OneNote as a Campaign Organizer
If you are like me, you have, or at least had, notebooks and binders filled with your Traveller stuff: adventure ideas, NPCs, session notes, sketches, maps, deck plans. If you were organized, you had a different binder for each section. It's not a bad system, but hey - this is the future. Let's use technology to help keep us organized.

My first attempt at creating a consolidated location for my gaming information was using Microsoft Word. I already owned it and knew how to use it. I could easily add graphics, and knew you could create text links to other parts of the document. I played with it for a couple of weeks, and while it did everything I needed it to it was just sort of clumsy, clearly not a tool created for the purpose I needed.

I decided my next attempt should be to use actual wiki software and found TiddlyWiki. It was a kind of generic, multi-purpose wiki and had a lot of features that I liked. It was free, relatively easy to learn, had good linking abilities. Originally I really liked it, but I'm big into using imagery as part of story telling. TiddlyWiki couldn't, or I wouldn't learn how to, import graphics. So I searched for something better.

I didn't have to look far to find Obsidian Portal. I found this to be much more of what I was looking for and it was designed specifically with gamers in mind. I transported all my TiddlyWiki entries over to Obsidian. I really liked that it would easily import graphics and did everything else a decent wiki should. Additionally, your campaign information was right there with hundreds or thousands others - a great source for inspiration and feedback. I eventually left Obsidian Portal, however. While they had a free version, I think there more features in a pay version (I could be wrong about this). The bigger issue for me at the time was that I traveled a great deal and did not always have a dependable internet connection. Since I mostly do solo-gaming, I didn't need a web-based wiki. I decided to look for something that would work on my desktop and laptop. I abandoned Obsidian Portal in 2009. I just checked and my Traveller campaign information is still there. Check it out if you are curious.

I had heard good things from the gaming community about Evernote, Apple's note taking program. Being a PC boy myself, I checked and saw that I had Microsoft's OneNote already installed on my computer, but had never taken the time to learn anything about it. After plunking with it for a couple of hours I realized it had everything I needed, so I transported the data again from Obsidian Portal and put it in OneNote. I've been adding to it ever since.

Writing text is as easy as any word processor and creating a link in text automatically creates a new page for that item. It includes an extremely easy screen clipping tool for capturing online images. I use it to link to favorite websites, and directories on my hard drive. There is no real page size, like in a standard notebook, which is a feature I have mixed feelings about. While you basically have unlimited space to write and add pictures, doing so is not conducive to easily printing on a standard paper size. This is not a huge issue for me, since I do very little printing, but an inconvenience when I want to.

This is not meant to be a review of anything. I didn't do any research or anything to see what might be the best new software to address these needs. I imagine after seven years that Obsidian Portal just got better and that there are more options to choose from. Johnn Four, who runs one of my favorite gaming sites, Role Playing Tips,  went live with Campaign Logger  not too long ago. It looks like it might be promising.

I'd be interested in hearing what other people are using to track their Traveller games with. I've added some images of my OneNote Traveller campaign (splash page/adventure summary, PC, NPC, bestiary, and equipment) so you can get a feel for how I use it. Enjoy!


  1. Just wanted to say that I am enjoying all your posts. They are well written, informative and useful.

    And I really enjoy your various designs and plans - I've stashed away a few in case I ever get to play again (stupid real life...)

    I did some research a while ago on documenting campaigns, and oddly one (which sadly I cannot recall or find now) was actually an on-line resource for movie creation. Since an adventure is essentially a movie in many ways, that seemed a natural fit.

    1. yes, replying to self... had some of the links for other useful tools. Scrivener (book writing) was the one I was thinking of! ahh, the pitfalls of senility...

    2. Thanks for the link. While I probably won't switch software for my campaign notes, I have been looking for software that will expedite my Microscope RPG work, which I've been using to enhance my Traveller world building. Scrivener looks like it might be an option.

  2. Glad to see someone else is using OneNote, it's my primary tool for keeping gaming stuff organized and had been for a few years also. The other tool that I use is The Brain, a really nice mind-mapping tool.


  3. Also a OneNote fan. I copied my OneNote file onto OneDrive and now I can access it from my desktop, my tablet, and my smart phone.

  4. Another option I may try is Trello - I use it for work then thought this would be a good tool as well (my OneNote got really large as I kept stuffing more into it, and it turned out we really did not need as much of that as I thought. But I like game prep as much as gaming so all is well).

    See for review of using Trello.

    1. Thanks for sharing. All of the "card-based" programs like Trello and Scrivener certainly have their benefits - especially in story planning. For my uses I really need something with linking/wiki capabilities, so I'll probably stick with OneNote for now.