The Analog Parts of My Gaming Toolkit

I like tech toys a lot - well enough to have gotten rather proficient at selling older items on eBay to help feed my habit for new items that sane people are perfectly happy waiting for...

Oddly, one area I find myself turning to some vintage technology is when I need to record my thoughts. Both in hobbies and at work I find myself making use of pen and paper as my preferred way of doing so. It's not that I'm uncomfortable with more modern methods - for example in my family we use tools Google Calendar and Google Keep as tools to keep track of everyone's activities and to maintain shopping and todo lists. When I'm at my local supermarket I'll have my cell phone in hand clicking off items as I put them in my shopping cart.

However, when it comes time to recording my thoughts, I've not found a good replacement for pen and paper. I've tried a number of them and I am quite fond of my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with it's active pen. My usual workflow is to record things in a notebook, possibly refine them, and eventually record them digitally should I feel the need to do so. For example, when I'm taking notes at a meeting in work I'll jot them down on paper and then transcribe them into a document.

For gaming, I often use a combination of technologies. I'll give an example from my most recent D&D adventure. Assuming all goes as planned, I'll be playing it on the evening of September 7th and posting this blog entry later that evening (I'm writing this on the evening of the 6th but I'm working out a new posting system.) Though my initial inclination was to be using a premade adventure, I was jotting down ideas and came up with an idea I found I liked. I wound up getting an outline of an adventure, drawing a map, and figuring out who the baddies were and what their motivation was. Most of it exists primarily in my creative journal (it's basically for all-purpose notes outside of work - random thoughts, adventure ideas, blog ideas, initial notes from meetings with my kids' teachers, etc.), though I did fire up Campaign Cartographer 3 to make some dungeon maps. I thought it might be neat to share some of the tools I used for this.

First here's a view of my current notebook and pen. I'm using a Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen with an extra-fine point. I started using fountain pens a few years ago, find they make for a much more pleasant writing experience - I'm able to write with a lot less force than I normally needed and I find the pen glides nicely across the paper. One does need to be a bit more careful about smudging when using a fountain pen and you need to be a bit more picky about paper. Normally I go for heavier papers so I worry less about ghosting (your writing be visible on the opposite side of the paper) but I'm experimenting with a B5-sized journal from Paper for Fountain Pens. It uses extremely thin paper. The disadvantage of such paper is for my writing style I really need to stick to one side of the paper. The advantage though is I'm able to put a template sheet behind the blank page I'm currently writing on. The paper is so thin I'm able to use that template as guidelines, allowing me to mix and match - if I need to write in a grid I can have a sheet of graph paper behind, if I need to write more traditionally I can have a lined sheet behind it. I'm letting myself fill up this notebook to see if I keep using this style or go back to a more traditional book.

This second image gives an idea of what a typical page of text in my journal might look like. On this page you can see I'm in the process of balancing encounters out - I've figured out the story, mapped out the dungeon, and now I was in the process of figuring out how to balance out the various encounters I'd been planning. You can also see some of the ghosting I'd talked about above. Also I made the mistake of closing the notebook before the ink fully dried (the ink I'm using takes a few seconds).

I also make use of an Android App called Genius Scan when I want to pull in some of notes I'm working on into an app like Microsoft OneNote. Below you can see an example of what this produces, the image above cleaned up and rendered in black and white:

You can also see my writing is absolutely horrible. I'm in the process of teaching myself cursive again, but in the meantime there's my horrific writing at present.

Often I'll sketch out a rough map and then either scan it or render it in Campaign Cartographer 3. This time I had a pretty good idea as to the kinds of dungeons I wanted so I was able to work directly in CC3. Below is one of the dungeons I'd worked out for this adventure:

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