A Brief Look at How I Use Notion to Organize My D&D Campaigns
“But wait! Weren’t you just touting World Anvil?” Yes. Yes, I was. Because I use both! Someday, we’ll talk about whatever complex I have that keeps me from using one thing. But that’s been my goal with Notion from day 1. Build the one thing. It’s flexible enough to build exactly what I need. It’s just a matter of trial and error.
If you’re wondering whether I recommend World Anvil over Notion, the answer will be yes for most builders. Notion requires some heavy-lifting upfront unless you enjoy using someone else’s templates. World Anvil may have a learning curve but they’ve also got wonderful guides and help is available everywhere. Not a fan of World Anvil, check out the other options I covered last year. But enough of that, let’s get into it.
This articles assumes you have a basic understanding of Notion. If you don’t, check it out here. The article is also a brain-dump of my ideas. An actual guide may follow if people are interested. The two major concepts that drive how I build my Notion setup for D&D are the core and the facade.
The core is a series of databases. These are easy to use in Notion and infinitely easier if you already have a general understanding of how databases work. The databases define what sorts of things you’ll have in your world or campaign. Think characters, items, locations, etc. I have a database for each (and many others — see the screenshot below). Any time you’ll need a new type of page with its own properties, consider making it a new database. However, if you have two types of pages that are similar, you can use the same database and just differentiate using tags or properties.
For example, I have three types of locations within a single locations database. The type property has Geographic, Settlement, and Building. That may change as right now I’m just trying to emulate a few pages I have on World Anvil and those are the designations they use. I also use a property called classification that classifies beyond the three above. So I can have different kinds of Settlements and so on.
Again, the purpose of these databases is to organize what types of pages you want but also how they interact with each other. So I have properties that link between databases. An easy example for locations is the parent location property. It links to another location. This allows for some real magic like embedding locations within a settlement on the settlement page!
I have dozens more relations throughout the databases. For example, you can link a character to an organization, session notes to an adventure log, and more.
One thing that’s important to me is that my world and campaign documentation is accessible to my players. After gathering feedback, I’ve found that many of the established tools are difficult to navigate (granted some of that is how I set them up). The series of databases we just mentioned don’t solve this problem. They probably make it more difficult to find what you need. Thus we create the facade.
The facade is the series of pages you make to display information from the databases. But we’re not just embedding an entire database otherwise, what’s the point? For the facade, you need to think about how your readers or players will interface with your world. What information are they commonly looking for? What information don’t they need right now?
I broke down sections for the facade into the following:
- Gods & Followers
- Life in Kandalur
- Campaign One-Sheet
I’ve got a few more in mind but these pages will focus down the databases into different topics. For example, Gods & Followers will talk about the state of religion in the world, display onlyreligious organizations, and onlycharacters with the deity type. The Atlas will display only regionlocations with the parent location of Kandalur. That way, players can click on a region and slowly zoom in to what they need rather than being bombarded with 100s of locations from the database at once.
You can see how creating these facades can make your documentation much more accessible.
A “campaign one-sheet” page will provide only the latest and most-relevant information for the campaign. Think current quests, recently learned info, recent places, NPCs, etc.
Permissions are mostly fine in Notion. You can make your notes public or share with specific people. You can also make certain pages private. One step further, a workaround exists that allows you to make single blocks private — which is excellent for embedded secrets!
Customization is pretty good. As you can see, I use custom icons (from game-icons.net) and custom headers. You can change text color and style with limits (you can not use your own font).
If any patrons are interested in access to my Notion setup, please reach out. I’m happy to share the working project with you!