World-Building 101: Keeping Organized

Last week we discussed the pros and cons of various formats for campaign bibles. The one thing that remains true no matter what format you select, though, is the importance of creating and maintaining a system for keeping the information organized and accessible. Fortunately this is fairly simple if you begin with organization in mind and keep it as a consideration throughout the creation of the campaign bible, regardless of format.

It’s worth stating that before you begin writing anything for your campaign bible—excepting perhaps what you included in the campaign brief—the organization of the document should be considered. An organization scheme early on ensures that from the start all your information is accessible and will remain so—trying to impose organization later can be a mess, especially if you have simply tossed all the information together willy nilly.

There are a wide variety of ways to plan organization schemes for your campaign bible.

If you favor a top down approach, you could begin by brainstorming all the categories you want to use, then sorting your notes to fit into those categories. For a bottom up approach, jot down all the bits of information you will include, then sort them into likely categories based on common elements. You may wish to break down certain categories into sub-headings, as well. For my own campaign bible, I chose to use the following general categories as a jumping off point:

  • People
  • Places
  • Things
  • History
  • Culture
  • Misc.

This pretty much covers anything I could reasonably want to take notes about. As I began to work on the campaign bible, though, I realized that I could further divide some of the categories to keep things even more organized:

  • People
    • Player Characters
    • Nobles
    • Commoners
  • Places
    • Kingdoms
    • Points of Interest
  • Culture
    • Races
    • Religion
    • Organizations
  • History
    • Events
    • Battles
    • Myths
  • Things
  • Misc.

I then broke down some categories even further—Kingdoms includes subheadings for each separate nation in my campaign, with entries for towns, cross-referenced entries for nobles, religion, and culture, and so on. This gave me a very firm starting point for making sure that any information I entered into my campaign bible would be easy to locate at a moment’s notice. It also plays to the areas I am emphasizing in my campaign—I am weaving a political tapestry for my players to take part in, but there is little emphasis so far on specific magic items or artifacts as setting details, and next to none at all on fantastic creatures. Your own breakdown will almost certainly be representative of the areas your game focuses on, and should be unique to each setting you create.

Creating the organizational scheme is only the first step—but having it in place is vital to keeping your campaign bible organized as you add to it.

Depending on the format you have chosen, this may be as simple as updating a central list of links on a wiki or inserting the information into the appropriate section of the text document. If you’re using a binder and looseleaf, it’s a good idea to limit your topics to one per page or pages—this will allow you to simply slip the pages into the appropriate section. You may wish to provide cross-reference information for subjects that may appear in multiple categories—for example, in my breakdown above, I might include a reference to a king under his entry in Nobles and also under the entry for his kingdom. Again, the method you use to cross-reference data is dependent on what format you chose.

Keeping your campaign bible organized will help you to locate your information when you need it, make it easier to update it or add to it, and improve how easy it is to digest the contents. Next week, we’ll spend a bit of time discussing the actual contents of the campaign bible itself!


Comments (1)

Zyrallus (December 11th, 2009)

Campaign bibles are, indeed, helpful. Great post for outlaying a useful organizing strategy.

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