posted Wednesday, December 2nd 2009 by
Dungeon Mastering Advice
Last week we discussed keeping a campaign bible, a collection of notes and documents detailing the world in which your campaign is set. Campaign bibles are important tools for any DM, but especially for those who are building their own campaign setting rather than running your game in a published setting created by someone else. They enable you to create the same familiarity with your world as one might have with a published setting or a setting from popular fiction, such as Star Wars or Forgotten Realms.
One of the first choices you make when setting down your campaign bible is what format you wish to use to create it. Once, the only real choice was to create a series of hand or type-written documents in a notebook or binder, but with the ease of availability of computers and the world wide web, there are now a number of options open to an aspiring world-builder.
Read on for a few of the more common choices, along with some pros and cons for each option:
The traditional approach, as has been mentioned previously, is to keep a binder or notebook of notes on the campaign setting. The binder is probably a superior option, as it allows for expansion of specific sections of the document and scalability, as well as reorganization without having to rewrite the entire thing. Keeping it organized is as simple as using dividers for each category you choose–major NPCs, minor NPCs, important places, etc.
- Does not require access to a computer to use in-game
- Great for tactile individuals to have a tome for their world
- Relatively simple to expand
- Easy for players to contribute to the campaign bible
- Relatively simple to reorganize information
- Difficult to change information to reflect new situations without rewriting or appending
- Only one person can access it at a time, barring multiple copies
- Multiple copies need to be kept up to date individually
- Can be damaged or lost easily
The Electronic Document
Another option is to store the campaign bible in a text file or word processor. This definitely makes updating and sharing it a breeze, since you can just share or print the file as needed, and outdated information can be removed and replaced with the newest version. One problem with this approach, though, is that several different versions may exist, especially if the players have been making notes or adding to it on their own, and it may be difficult to ensure that everyone has the correct file or update everything to reflect everyone’s work.
- Simple to update and share
- Can be stored remotely and accessed by several people at once without trouble
- Requires a computer or a printout to view
- Can become complicated to ensure everyone is using the correct, up to date version
- Difficult for multiple players to update
- File format may be incompatible, depending on format chosen
- Reorganizing information can be a tedious exercise
The Web Page
Putting a campaign webpage up with all the details of your setting can ensure that everyone is looking at the most recent data. It also avoids compatibility issues found with text documents. You can also include hyperlinks to allow cross-referencing of pages with other pages easily, or a search function to quickly locate something. A traditional web-page can be difficult to update for players, though if you include the option for players to append information to the page in a comment or message board style posting it comes somewhere between a binder and a wiki for content management.
- Simple to update and share with everyone
- No version tracking required
- Possible to permit players to update individual entries
- Hyperlinks and searching make finding information simple
- Requires a computer to access
- Difficult for players to create new content entirely
- Reorganization is a highly involved process
- Formatting and initial setup can become very involved
Technically this could be considered a web page, but the philosophy and concepts behind it are different enough to list wikis separately. The wiki format permits easy updates by multiple users, easy creation of new pages, and a simplified markup compared to HTML. In addition, it’s very simple to set up a wiki initially compared to a more traditional web site; otherwise all the same benefits of a website apply as well. As an additional bonus, reorganizing a wiki is as simple as changing the way you use categories.
- Simple to set up initially
- Very easy to update or create pages for all users
- Very easy to reorganize
- Very easy to find information
- Requires a computer to access
- Players may be unfamiliar with wiki markup
There is no wrong format for a campaign bible, though some are easier to use or better suited to the purpose than others. The decision depends on your personal tastes and the needs of your group. Whatever you choose, though, it’s important to keep it well organized so you can find what you need.
Next week, we’ll look at some ways to do just that.