D&D: Testing Bibisco for D&D and Tabletop RPG Planning


I have spent a long time trying to find the right tool and system for campaign planning for D&D. I posted about my struggles and my approach back in 2019, and I have to say that since that time I never found a perfect setup.  I like to keep my session notes to paper as much as possible, and the Tül notebook has severed me really well, but with the past year going fully online for all of our D&D play, that has shifted my approach and perspective a bit. The notebook works great for my individual session planning, but has proven to be a bit harder to manage long term planning and tracking of multiple narrative arcs. 

I have tried a whole ton of different apps for the past couple of years, ranging from Evernote, to Apple Notes, to Onenote and more. I even tried online systems like World Anvil, Kanka and Obsidian Portal. All of them have left me "wanting" in different ways. 

OneNote was a strong contender for a while and there is an excellent template setup online. Unfortunately my work uses Office 365 and at least when I last checked this out in the spring, there wasn't a way to login to multiple accounts for OneNote on a single device, so writing and development became a bit hard. The OneNote template also looked gorgeous, but I found myself often times fiddling a bit too much with formatting and not actually "writing" the campaign out. 

I also looked quite a bit at the various online systems, such as World Anvil, etc. While I did like them, at the end of the day I just can't pay for another online service. They also never felt "quick enough" for me. I couldn't login and get to the page I wanted to fast enough to just "idea dump" when something came to my mind. 

What I have discovered over the past few weeks though is an application called Bibisco. I have found that it has a really nice breakdown of writing sections that works really well for campaign planning, breaking narrative elements into Scenes. This has worked out really nicely for how my brain approaches my D&D planning. There is too much to breakdown into a single blog post, so I have instead put together a video overview of how I have been using Bibisco over the past month or so. The software isn't perfect, and I try to identify some of its shortcomings, but it has been one of the better fits that I have found to date for D&D planning. 

If the developers take a few notes to improve some areas, it could really become an ideal world building application. 

D&D: Testing Out A New Way to Roll Stats - TicTacToe

I have never been a fan of point buy system for D&D stats. I feel it lends itself a bit too much leeway for those people who are obsessed with building the "perfect" character build. I am not saying it is wrong, just I like the idea of D&D having a bit of randomness in everything it does to make the outcomes exciting and unpredictable. Typically I use the Standard Array system, but that admittingly gets pretty boring. There is of course the standard roll and drop method too, where you roll 4d6 dice, and drop the lowest number. You do that six times and add up your scores to get your character's scores. That works fairly well, but it can really skew someone's stats if they end up with even two very high or very poor scores. 

I have seen this "TicTacToe" method online which I sort of like, which should give people an option to not feel "locked in" if their roll and drop doesn't go their way. 

Here is how I understand to do it. Do your standard 4d6 roll and drop the lowest. You do it 9 times instead of 6 and place it into a 3x3 grid in the order you rolled it, left to right, top to bottom. You can then select one row and one column of numbers. They can overlap, but you cannot have your row and column overlap your highest number. This should give you a bit more options for choice and compromise and not have to feel so locked into to just choosing six numbers. It might even have you weighing some options or compromise. Do you take a row that has on really high stat with two low ones, or do you take the other row with all three numbers more balanced? 

So in this example attached I chose the 2nd column and last row, resulting in 16, 15, 15, 12,  9, 8.

I could not choose the 1st column and law row, because that would result in two 16's, which are the highest numbers in this case. Thoughts on this system? 


D&D Map: Adventures in the Borderland Provinces - The Mountain that Moved - Village of Yandek, Yandek Mines and Blood Boys Ranch

Village of Yandek


Yandek Mines


Blood Boys Range


Additional maps for everyone's enjoyment. These are maps from the third adventure from the "Adventures in the Borderland Provinces" book. These map sets include the Village of Yandek, the Yandek Mines and the Blood Boys ranch. 

D&D: Storm King's Thunder - Silence at the Table

A couple of weeks ago we had our regular Friday night D&D session with a new player coming to the table. Our group is still playing through Storm King's Thunder (nearly 3 years now), running around the countryside in chapter 3. They are in a home-brew session at this point, on assignment from the Harpers. 

Our party was working their way up to Termalaine looking for four other Harper agents. When they arrived in the city they found it to be eerily quiet, with the gates swung wide open. Our monk shadow stepped his way into the city to investigate and found a city that was in ruins from a recent attack by a war party. 

The usual D&D banter and roleplaying ensued from there with several of the NPC's. What happened next though caught everyone at the table by surprise, including myself. 

Trying to Organize my D&D Notes

I have been DM'ing for almost three years now, playing the same campaign in Storm King's Thunder with my Friday night group. Through all of that period I have gone back and forth on trying to keep myself organized as the DM. I have admittedly struggled to keep a good track of my notes through the campaign and in general. 

I have wanted to approach D&D in as analog a way as possible. I spend so much time online and on the computer as it is, bringing that to the gaming table seems counter productive. That being said, there is an endless amount of functionality that a laptop or note taking software brings to the table, that it would be foolish to try to manage all of it in paper alone. I have finally over the past year or so begun to develop a system that works for me on keeping track of my notes, etc. 


Tracking the Game

Tūl Notebook

My first stop here is the use of a Tūl paper notebook. As I noted above I want to be as independent from the computer as possible at the gaming table and my quick reference notes during a gaming session are all being placed right into this paper notebook. I fund this Tūl system to be fascinating because of the ring bound sheets which allow you to remove pages and re-arrange them in any order. I have used spiral bound notebooks in the past and they have worked fine, but I have run into two primary limitations with them. 1) What to do when you have narrative or note changes that required you to re-arrange pages and 2) what do you do with the notebook if it is only partially filled and you are done with what you need with it? 

The Tūl notebook solved both of those problems for me and I picked up the smaller format size which works well for sitting at my side on the gaming table. The page size is exactly one half of a standard 11x8.5" page, so creating a few templates in Apple Pages is pretty easy and straight forward. 

Right now I have it divided into three basic sections. Story Summary, Current Adventure Notes, NPC's

I think I want to add some supplementary reference material to it as well, including some quick random tables along with a master index sheet for referencing back to the various books. 


Apple Notes

Apple Notes, and Evernote before that, are the cornerstone of where I keep track of all of my documents. In Notes, I have sub folders where I keep the text I write out along with .PDFs, images, and ideas for the campaign I am running. Up until recently, I was keeping a running campaign summary and NPC list in Notes, having that pinned to the top of my notes list. This worked well, but wasn't the best for quick reference during the middle of an active gaming session. 

I have moved more to a method of using Notes to capture my pre-session planning and ideas. What I have begun to do now is create a new note for each location or story plot and incorporate the relevant NPC's, and information needed for that section into that session.

 I am also using Apple notes to capture various D100 tables that I find online for adventure planning. 


Homebrew Planning

Over the next couple of months I hope to begin development on some home-brew adventure planning. I feel my Ebenere Nanowrimo story for a few years ago would make for an excellent setting to place a campaign in. 

Mind Maple

Mind mapping is one of those things that I can recognize the utility, but I haven't really taken full advantage of. I experimented with it a little bit for my current campaign, but I think it hasn't been successful because I didn't start using it from the beginning. The result is I haven't had a good amount of connecting ideas to develop with the narrative. You can see my poor mapping laid out below when I tried to pickup with our party in Gauntlgrym. 

When I begin a new home-brew campaign, I anticipate this will become critical for mapping out the overall story arc though

OmniOutliner

Omnioutliner is a great outlining and note taking app. I anticipate this will also become a core component for my future home-brew campaign as I chart out future NPCs, characters, etc. You can see below my failed attempt at trying to keep track of items in it for the SKT campaign. 




 

Sometimes it all goes to shit....and the DM just smiles

Last week we had what was arguably a great or a terrible D&D session, depending upon where you were sitting around the table. Our adventurers found their airship crashed and in disrepair in the middle of grasslands, just west of the city of Longsaddle. 

Having successfully defeating attacking pirates, our group discovered, while going through the wreckage of that airship (also crashed), twelve slaves who were chained in the lower hold, forced to power the airship with their labor. 

Our group decided to free the slaves, but they now had to deal with the additional mouths to feed and bodies to take care of. Weak from their tireless labor and malnourishment, the slaves were all but helpless. Our adventurers had also lost three of their eight crew members during their crash and their ship would take four days to repair it. 

That evening we had a new player joid our group to play and I slipped them in as one of the freed slaves. Our evening seemed to start off to a good start, until I decided to roll for a random encounter. In front of me was a d100 table that had a large number of random encounters that varied depending upon the terrain in which our party found itself. Most of the time when I roll from this table, the encounter is innocuous. Sometimes some bandits, sometimes a weather event, more often than not, nothing at all. This evening though I rolled a 66. Looking through my table and checking the  terrain for grasslands I found that the encounter was 1d4 frost giants. 

"Ohh," I thought to myself. "This should be interesting". I rolled the 1d4 and up comes a 3. Three frost giants then emerge from the edge of the woods. Seeing the two ships crash in the night and the explosion of the fire elemental, their interest is piqued.

My party freaks out!!! 

At first they think that the frost giants might not be threatening. After all, they worked with a frost giant called Harshnag only a few months earlier. Well, our party's assumption cost them dearly. When the giant's arrived, seeing the disrepair of the ship and the condition of our party, they ordered the adventurers to turn over all of their weapons, armor and valuables, which included three precious relics . This was all promptly thrown into a giant bag of holding. Our giants then turned and marched back into the forest, leaving our party with nothing, and 17 mouths to feed. 

One party member, who is rather reckless, decided to charge into the woods after the giants to track them. He promptly failed his wilderness saving throw and got lost. The rest of our group spent the remaining three days repairing their ship and limped back to the city of Yartar.

Beaten and with their heads down they found that two of the slaves whom they rescued were nobles and upon returning them our party was paid handsomely, which allowed them to at least re-equipment themselves a bit. Things once again turned sour however. Our party was invited to stay in one of the noble's house as a thank you. Our new companion however got into a fight with another party member in the guest house, blew out a window and had the party promptly thrown out of the house.   

Our other member (barbarian) who ran into the woods did thankfully have ten days of rations on him. He was able to stumbled to the city of Triboar and now needs to either work or find some way to get himself to Yartar. And that is where we left our party that evening. 

I came away rather amused with myself, quite pleased with how defeated the party was. My players? Well, they walked away rather upset, perhaps arguing to me that I shouldn't have gone with what the dice rolled from the random encounter table. The best part is that several members were not in attendance last Friday and they are going to show up this week and find that they have lost everything in the matter of a week, 

We'll just see how everything plays out. 


So how is that D&D gaming going? - May 2017 Edition

So how is that D&D gaming thing going? Well, it is honestly going pretty well, at least for most of us. We have had a turnover in players recently. All of the new players in our group are really cool and easy going individuals. I believe everyone is having a good time, except for one guy who decided to leave. Not just leave our group. He left Meetup.com and I think left playing D&D. 

We had an instance during our game session where our players had the opportunity to help a hill giant they came across. The one player really wanted to help this giant, while the rest of the group was just sort of "meh" on the idea. It probably took our group an hour to discuss what they wanted to do. In the end they chose not to help the giant and the player who wanted to had a meltdown right there at the table. 

I was amazed to be honest. He got up and stormed out of the room after having a bit of a verbal tirade. 

So this resulted in him not only leaving our playing group, but he quite the Meetup entirely. Thing is he was the main oganizer for the entire Meetup.com page. I received an email the next day asking me to take over and what do you know, a couple of weeks later I am not the organizer of the entire Meetup.com group.


So how is that D&D gaming going?

Remember a couple of months ago how I stated I was going to be DM'ing a D&D game despite never having played the game before? So, some of you may be wondering how that is going.

Overall, I think everyone is having a great time, including myself. There are certainly some learning curves and road blocks along the way, but I think everyone in the group is rolling with the punches as best we can. There is a quote that I saw online that I think sums up common problems;

 "D&D is a game where a three hour walk takes five minutes and a five minute fight takes three hours."

There has been two encounters so far in the game where the fight dragged on way longer than it should have. Both times the battle took up most of the evening's play time and I could see that several of the party members were beginning to get bored. I wish I was able to do better in those and find a way to resolve the conflict more quickly, but I'll just chalk that up to inexperience and move on from there. 

One of our players and his wife clearly have played a lot, so he has been wonderful to help me out on some rules questions without interjecting himself too much into the role of being a "sideline quarterback". 

Here is a quick smattering of some of the more memorable moments that have occurred in the game so far. 

  • Our Dwarf has decided to carry a door around on his back. He used it as a shield at one point and never stated that he dropped it, so I have just said to him that he still has the door. It has become a funny on going joke. 
  • Our group has decided to pick a fight with almost every person they meet, resulting in the death of several different NPC's that they could have interacted with. 
  • Our Monk promised to help a goblin to oust her tribe's leader, only to end up killing her when she trusted him the most. He actually felt bad about his actions after that. 

Now, we have had a couple of "rough" moments in the game and one of those moments spilled out to a real heated conflict during our session this past Friday. Throughout the game thus far there has been a sort of "mistrust" dynamic between the Wizard and Monk in the group. So far, it had always been a sort of fun mechanic and the two of them had a "Gimli and Legolas" sort of relationship. They would tease each other, etc. Unfortunately, that back and forth spilled out of the game this past Friday and I had my first instance where I had to pull someone aside and talk to them about some conflicts in the game. 

The problem started when our Monk indicated that he was part of the Zhentarim faction. The group had run in with some NPC's from this faction near the beginning of the game and our Monk was not yet playing with us. When he revealed his membership, he did so in such a way that the people playing the game knew about it, but that their characters would not. This resulted in some problems where one of our members began to unreasonably challenge and question our Monk and in the end he actually just decided to stop actively participating in the game at all. 

It resulted in a pretty awkward situation for everyone sitting around the table. I talked to the character and I hope that everything has been smoothed over and we can continue without any issues as we move forward. 

Overall though, I have to say it has been an enjoyable experience playing and DM'ing so far and I can see myself doing more of it. 


DM'ing My First Dungeons and Dragons Session

This past Friday I had the opportunity to be a Dungeon Master for my first session of playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Go ahead...Chew on that....Yup, it is the same D&D that you saw stereotyped when you were a kid. 

I always had a fascination with D&D. I was a nerd at heart growing up and I almost certainly would have played D&D as a kid if my friends played it. A few years ago I got my first taste of roleplaying when I decided to try out Pathfinder when visiting the Wandering Dragon game shop in Plainfield. 

Pathfinder is an RPG system much like D&D. I played a few times at the shop, but it sort of fell by the wayside when there weren't a lot of people organizing games. 

D&D came around about three or four weeks ago when a group in Elmhurst was looking for some people to play. I jumped in and went to the first session. Unfortunately, the DM who was supposed to lead the session never showed up and the three of us who were there were left wondering what we wanted to do. Luckily the Elmhurst library happened to have the D&D 5e starter set on their shelves so I popped it open and we dove into trying to do that first game on a whim. I found that I enjoyed the session while reading through it. 

And that is how I found myself a couple of weeks ago volunteering to lead a regular session on Friday nights in Elmhurst. 

I was nervous all of last week. I only had about two days to try and figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing. I had papers and print outs and books and all sorts of paraphernalia crammed into a book bag.

The night started last Friday and we were away. I couldn't tell if I had enough stuff with me. Did I print up the right sheets? Did I bring the notes I needed? Did I have too much stuff? 

Thankfully the group we played with was pretty good.  Everyone had the same idea of just telling a story and having a good time. The night turned out to be a success and Megan even jumped into the fun and had a good time. 

Friday night ended with a huge sigh of relief and I think everyone had a good time. My first DM experience was a success. I think I may end up doing more of this.