System Split: Campaign Managers

Roleplaying games are an information-heavy endeavor. Before the game, you need to sketch out your setting and initial conceit. During the game you need to track what your characters do and who they encounter. Between sessions you need to prep and see what’s changed. How do you keep all that straight? For years, the standard answer was a spiral-bound notebook, maybe a binder if your notes got particularly voluminous. And while that answer still works, it’s 2023. We can use a little technology.

Somewhere between a completely analog down-in-the-basement experience and a session run entirely on a virtual tabletop is the use case of the campaign manager. Campaign managers don’t aim to run your game or change your environment, but instead serve to provide structure for both your game notes and the setting material you present to your players. What makes campaign managers different from simple note-taking software is that ability to share and collaborate with your players, which helps extend your table into the setting as you’re envisioning and creating it. If it sounds good, it’s because I think it is good; I’ve used the campaign manager Obsidian Portal in the past and it’s very likely that I will start using one of the sites reviewed in this article in the near future. That said, a campaign manager is another tool in the GM’s already bursting toolbox, and reviewing the campaign managers out there fairly starts with a question of need.

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