I had attempted to record a video that touched on several considerations for TTRPG organization, but where blog authoring takes time to conceive, write, lightly edit, and fill with images before publishing, video takes10,000 times longer. I thought that video might make it easier to showcase other apps and websites because I didn’t have to snap and organize screenshots, and it was but the recording, editing, and uploading was, by far, costing more time than I thought I was saving by just using ShareX’s PRINT SCREEN and pasting the screenshots into a normal blog post. So here we are, chiseling words into the digital tablet once again.
My use of Notion to format a notebook that would handle a TTRPG campaign went…well. I got it organized for the most part, but I don’t think I can convey how stupidly important it is for my brain to accept what I am looking at when working with a tool. Notion’s database backing is powerful, but its lack of really good automation forces me to accept that most operations are going to have to be manually performed; the limited implementation of “linked databases” only works under very specific circumstances — so much so that I might as well not even chase that dream. My current layout is built around the attempt to leverage what little automation the platform offers, so if I’m not able to rely on that happening, then my design is kind of kaput.
I then tried Obsidian, the desktop Markdown editor, for reasons I am still coming to grips with. Obsidian is a powerful tool if A) you like Markdown, which I do not, and B) you’re content to have all of your content local and not more widely available through the web (they recently introduced a “cloud” version which I didn’t bother to check out). Obsidian’s “selling point” was that there was a plug-in which allowed for specifically crafted YAML to be formatted as a standard D&D 5E monster stat block, and while that was a really nice feature, I’m not looking to create just a binder of monsters and NPCs in the 5E formatted style.
During the recording of one of these videos (I tried six times thanks to interruptions and general ennui) I thought to mention OneNote, the stalwart note-taking app that’s highly regarded among those who highly regard it. I used OneNote a lot with my iPad and Pencil because the iPad version allowed for handwritten note taking (despite my atrocious penmanship which any future AI would reject on principal) but had stopped using it when I got my reMarkable. OneNote’s free-form approach to content placement and powerful searching across an entire notebook got me thinking that maybe it could be a good candidate for TTRPG content organization after all.
This morning I opened the Windows 10 edition, which is more powerful than the web version (I think) but is significantly less powerful than the version that comes with the Office suite. That’s a bit of a hamstringing right there, but the proof of concept would have a formatted display for tracking NPCs, items, and so on. I did learn that we can create templates for future use in OneNote, which is one aspect that made Notion a strong contender, so I fired up OneNote this morning and was quickly disappointed to find that the Windows 10 edition only allows for the setting of a single, default template for all pages within a notebook, and does not allow for the creation of a library of templates. One way around this would be to create a “template” page and then duplicate it whenever that specific template is needed, which isn’t bad, but isn’t what I had hoped to accomplish.
I then got the urge to check to see if anyone had already made a template for OneNote, and lo! someone has! It’s available on DMsGuild for the low, low price of $1USD, although once again it seems to be aimed at world building and not straight-up campaign management. However, comments on this item suggest that the template does not work in either the web, Windows 10, or the Office 365 edition. Thankfully, the last “good” version of OneNote, 2016, is still available as a stand-alone download (at least it was at the time of this post).
Back in the Windows 10 edition, though, I did import an image of a D&D 5E character sheet and set it as a page’s background. I then added a single table cell with formatting, and duplicated it down along the Abilities column:
This would allow for an “editable” character sheet. If I were to use the image not as a background but just as an image…I’m not sure I could stack the tables on top of the image, but if I could then I could add the backside of the character sheet on the same page and with the table cell overlays, could make a working character sheet! Working in the sense that data could be filled in, not that it would do any kind of dice rolling calculations or anything.
Once I had downloaded and installed the 2016 edition of OneNote and opened my existing notebooks, the template page was present, and I managed to find the section which allowed me to turn the page into a reusable template throughout the notebook. This OneNote edition might actually work well for organization, but I still need to investigate actually creating these templates, and then have to work on formatting for other, less structured presentation items. My hope, then, would be that by putting this up on my OneDrive storage, I could then share out either the notebook or a copy of the notebook which has the written campaign inside. This should allow anyone to download their own edition. The final test would be to ensure that any “completed” campaign notebook copied to one’s own file location could be opened by all editions of OneNote: 2016, Windows 10, web, and Office 365, to ensure the greatest possible reach. (Spoiler alert: It does open in the least of the versions, the web version, although some of the table formatting is a bit off).
tusicApril 6, 2022 - 10:29 AM
The fact that Microsoft has splintered One Note so frustratingly is… frustrating. I’m still surprised a site like DnD Beyond or even Roll20 hasn’t come up with better campaign-tracking tools. You would figure they could corner the market on online DnD if they did that.
ScopiqueApril 7, 2022 - 9:49 AM
Right? I remember Wizards was supposed to have a VTT for 4E and it had some traction for a while but got abandoned for some reason. There have been several web-based VTTs springing up, and a few (like Astral) which have already shut down; Wizards should BUY one of those and integrate it strictly for use with D&D and Beyond.