Keep track of your campaign the Pen and Paper way

Hi All!

Yet something else I want to talk about :).

Working as what some people call DevOps Engineer, I found that I require time that is away from all the screens and digital tools. Dungeon and Dragons is said time off for me.
I am a Dungeon Master for multiple groups and while my experience is no where near the level of some of the DMs that are the wild I want to share what I have found so far in regards to tracking a campaign, the pen & paper way!

Motivation to not use a digital tool

Being part of the Open Source Software community I love me some good software, this is the reason I help the D & D Community out with open source tools at Dndbox. At the same time, digital tools and servers are my work day and a lot of my private projects. Being generally unhappy with how many note taking apps are I tried to find a method to do this entirely offline. A way to track an entire campaign, be it a homebrew campaign or a published adventure while still being manageable.

It can also be as simple as being a preference to use paper before . So without further ado let’s talk about the method of tracking your campaign on paper!

The basics, campaign tracking version 1!

I use a two notebook system:

The Tracker

The Chronology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of them are A5 sized. The chronology is a multi notebook book (Containing 4 notebooks), each of them capable of tracking all events happening in chronological order. This is good to get an overview of all events that happened in a session but not so good at tracking what NPC X thinks of the party or NPC Y. This is where the tracker comes in. The tracker contains pre made pages (which I can print as many as I want) where I can track events concerning an entity, NPC, organization or location. So let us go through the two books and see!

Note that the notebooks are used before, during and after a session of the campaign – more to that later.

The Chronology

It contains multiple note notebooks, it is from https://gametee.co.uk

During the active session I have this notebook with me. Each time the party decides to do something I write down a few points, the way they go through a dungeon, the enemies they fight, the NPCs they talk to. This is all written down in a “scratch” paper notebook. After a session, the scratch notes go cleanly into the main chronology notebook for a campaign.

Chronological bullet points of events, linked to rooms in a dungeon. This is the cleanly written down chronology.

The Tracker

The tracker is more like the “metadata” of a campaign, the stats of an entity. I currently use 4 sheets that I can print when required:

  • NPC Tracker
  • Location Tracker
  • Organisation Tracker
  • General Entity Tracker

Those sheets are used to write down events happened with something. The metadata of a world that I could get from the chronology if I interpret it but as you can imagine this is really unhandy. So let me introduce the papers:

The NPC Tracker

This sheet contains several that can be used to track the status of the NPC and it’s relationship to the party as well as quests given, hints and rumors spread.

If I create a significant NPC from scratch I also like to print the stat block and similar information on the backside.

NPCs being tracked

The Location Tracker

Tracking a location, a inn, a dungeon or an entire dungeon is important – of course not all of them, just the ones that are important to your campaign or current adventure.

Is the location hostile towards your party? Is it empty or does it have hidden secret the party didn’t uncover yet? Is it home of an underground organization? Also, when an NPC is not important enough to get his or her own tracking page, you can name them there.

Tracking a place and the events that happened there

The Organization Tracker

Organizations and their actions are worthy to be tracked, as well of course the standings to the party. Are they hostile? Or have they hired the adventurers to take care of that nasty monster bothering their supply lines?

The General Entity Tracker

I’ve not yet used this sheet yet but I created it in case I require something to be tracked that has not yet been covered yet.

How to use this system

Before a session

Very simple:
You prepare a session by going through the relevant bits of the notes. I like to follow the guide of Slyflourish, Return of the Lazy DM! With the notes taken like that, you know what happened last session because you have a chronological order of the events. You know what secrets have been revealed already when you look at an NPC. You know what the organization is still hunting down that monster.

During a session

Take small notes and key points of what the PCs are doing in a scratch notebook or a scratch paper. Those are going to be used after the session.

After a session

This is best done when your memories are still fresh, ideally after the session but because of the scratch notes, the following day is okay as well.
First of all, transfer the scratch notes to the chronology, each event after another so you have a bullet list of events. Out of those bullet points, get the important events that need to be tracked to the tracking sheets.

Did the party finish a quest? Did they uncover a secret?

What I also recommend is creating a recap. Think of all of the events that have transpired and of the notes that you have taken and do a quick 2-4 bullet point recap of what happened.

This should be able to help to have a solid grasp on your story.

A session recap from the previous session

Conclusion

This is still pretty much new, a version 1 if you want. I’ll hope to improve and update this blog post with time.

This is a link to the custom tracking files I’ve created. Let me know what you think!

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