I started following a community on google+ that talks about tricks and tips of using Microsoft OneNote for organizing your notes for a campaign and it got me to think about what I am doing to organize my notes for the Deadlands Noir game that I am currently running. You can find the community here.
I am currently not using OneNote for the campaign notes, I have used it in the past, and it is one of the few Microsoft applications that I can’t imagine how I would live without, so it is a good thing that it is a cross-platform application. What I am currently using which is Markdown1 and folders2 and this blog. I have found that I like the Markdown syntax especially for use with posts, and with the preview window open, I can see more or less how what I am typing will render on my blog where my notes will all end up living anyway after the group finishes either the session or the case depending on what is going to be covered in that post.
The important thing to me about using Markdown is a good editor with preview functionality since I don’t want to type my updates directly into the WordPress editor. My current favorite is actually another free Microsoft product called Visual Studio Code3. With this I open a base folder and it has sub folders to keep things organized.
I then use two templates to organize my session planing that I can just copy and paste into the new files when I am ready to work on them. The first is my high level or more accurately the format that I use when I first start working on a case/adventure and holds notes on all of the cases that I have started on, and the second is the one that holds an individual case’s notes.
Starting with the rough draft template, it looks like this.
# The Name ## What is learned ## What might be guessed ## Repercussions ## Foreshadowing
This is usually the bare minimum of information that I would want to actually run a session on4. It doesn’t contain much in the way of details but as the various sections get filled in, I move to having more information about what would be learned during the investigation. When this section is mostly filled in, and it looks like the players will be actively interacting with it, I copy this information and move it to a new file with the format below.
# The Name # Monster # Villains # Bystanders # Clues # What is learned ## What might be guessed ## Repercussions ## Foreshadowing # Location
These sections in some cases come directly from the previous templates list, but there are also more specific sections to give ideas on how they learn what is going on, who are the planed characters that they might interact with, who the antagonists are, be they monsters or normal criminals. Two things to note this list is very heavily influenced by Monster of the Week5 and also that not all of these sections have to be filled out, though the more of them that are, the more prepared I will be for the sessions around this. One last thing, these sections are named this way again because of the game that I am running and would be different if I was doing a different game.
After I write these things up in the markdown syntax, I then post the information to a section of this blog that I have organized in a limited form of a wiki to make navigation to the different section easy and blocking certain sections with passwords until I am ready for them to be exposed because the group is done with them. Also since I put up posts covering what happens in each session with some extra notes, all of which have a simple custom menu navigation that shows up only for that section of the blog to make things easier6. That way the players as well as I can use them as references at any time from anywhere with internet access.
- You can find out more about Markdown here ↩
- Under the covers OneNote also make use of folders as well to organize the files for the different sections, but that is a hidden detail. ↩
- This is a cross-platform Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that is light weight and responsive. To make it even better, there are free plug-ins that make it handle Markdown even better and it handles the folders in a similar way to OneNote. Others that I have looked at are Markpad, MarkdownPad 2, and Atom. Markpad and MarkdownPad 2 were good, but MarkdownPad 2 was limited without buying a license, and Atom while nice and extensible, seem to use more resources that Visual Code which ended up being what I eventually settled on. The Extensions that I use are Auto-Open Markdown Preview, SpellChecker, Spelling and Grammar Checker, and Word Count. ↩
- These sections are a direct reflection of the fact that the game I am running is Deadlands Noir and at least in part an investigation heavy game where the players are trying to find specific information about things that they have an interest in. If I was running something else that wasn’t so investigation heavy like 50 Fathoms, I would have different sections. ↩
- I have written a couple of articles about using concepts from Monster of the Week in Savage Worlds in the past and this game and the system (Apocalypse World system) has heavily influenced how I think about scenario creation and preparation. You can find my earlier posts Incorporating the Countdown clock into Savage Worlds, Monster of the Week and the Mystery Format for Savage Worlds, and Urban Shadows City Threats for Deadlands Noir ↩
- The custom menu setup is specific to WordPress, and while I setup most of the parts as blog pages instead of blog posts so that they didn’t roll off and had a level of hierarchy that made sense to me. I could have done them just as easily as posts in a specific category so I didn’t have to manually update some of the pages with new links, but then I would have to dig through all of the posts to find the one that I was looking for to update. So I am not going to go into any detail on this topic, and I am not even sure that the way that I did it is the way that I want to keep it. ↩