I’ve been obsessed with the intersection of software and tabletop roleplaying games. In particular, the management of campaigns and worldbuilding. Nearly a decade ago, I kickstarted one of the best choices out there. But by 2016, there weren’t many options keeping up with modern technology. I ranted about it. Twice. In the years since, this micro-industry has taken off. Now we have an overwhelming number of options. So where do we start? Here.
This guide will take you through discovering what’s important to you and your process. Then we’ll look at how each of the best options in the industry perform and stack up against what’s important to you. I’ll discuss key features, benefits, drawbacks, cost, and more. We’ll look at software built for TTRPGs as well as powerful alternatives. Let’s get started.
Before looking at the options, take a moment to consider your needs in a program. Some of the benefits or drawbacks that I list may be the opposite for you and your needs. Or might not matter at all. Here are some important questions to answer before proceeding.
Who Needs to See My Notes?
This is the most important question.
- Just me. These are your private notes. You don’t need any specific functionality to share them with a program.
- My gaming group. Your gaming group needs to be able to see your notes. But no one else.
- The general public. You want the general public to be able to find and see your notes. Or at least don’t care if they do.
Do I Need Granular Permissions?
This question only applies if you want to share some of your notes with others. Do you want the general public to see something different than your gaming group? Do you want your players to each have different permissions for what they can see?
How Important is Presentation?
After understanding the audience of your notes, you need to know how important presentation tools are. What does this mean? Styling your notes. Do you want complete control of what the page looks like? Or is general text and images enough? Do you need the custom styling that a website offers? Or is a program for note taking enough?
- I want styling control. You want to control how your notes look by adding custom coloring, background images, borders, etc.
- I don’t need styling. You don’t need any styling tools beyond headings, images, links, etc.
Do I Need Offline Access
Do you need complete access to your notes with our without access to the internet? In an online world, this is still a popular question. If you need offline access to your notes, it will severely limit your options. But you still have a few! And I’ll cover those. Just know whether or not this is a deal-breaker.
“World Anvil is a set of worldbuilding tools that helps you create, organize and store your world setting. With wiki-like articles, interactive maps, historical timelines, an RPG Campaign Manager and a full novel-writing software, we have all the tools you’ll need to run your RPG Campaign or write your novel!”
World Anvil is a gargantuan suite of tools for building worlds, managing RPG campaigns, and writing novels. Even better than their amazing product is the community around it. The passionate founders interact with the massive community through yearly contests, weekly streams, and a bustling Discord server. No other programs out there come with more features out of the box. I’d even argue that no other program offers as rich of a way to present your world to an audience.
World Anvil presents your world in a series of “wiki-like” articles. A robust tag and category system allows you to organize those articles however you like. Templateshelp drive creativity. All templates include basic settings like permissions, styling, and primary content. Each unique one includes its own “template specific prompts & connections.”
Timelines allow you to create a visual history. The robust map tools lets you lay out your world. You can add pins, regions, layers, and more.
Linking helps you connect all of the pieces of your world. Quickly @mention to link text and link articles to timelines and maps easily. More excitingly, an auto-linking system is in early release as I write this.
Permissions allow you mark articles as public or private and even define people or groups who can see some things but not others.
A personal favorite is the Update Discord feature. From World Anvil you can trigger a webhook to post an article preview and link in your desired Discord channel.
- Feature-rich. World Anvil has hundreds of features and guides to go with them. I’ve barely scratched the surface here. And they’re constantly adding more with some much bigger overhauls on the horizon.
- Community. World Anvil boasts an active community. You can see other worlds and gain inspiration right in the platform. They’re always doing community events, writing challenges, and inspirational prompts.
- Customization. With the right knowledge, you can truly customize your world to present it to the right people in the right way.
- Overwhelming UI/UX. There’s so much going on for nearly every interface. Dozens, if not hundreds of buttons and options. It’s improving but can be overwhelming at first.
- Moderate Learning Curve. Though the guides are great, there’s a moderate learning curve to find the best workflows in World Anvil. Some pages load veryslowly while other interfaces are quicker. Finding the right way to work can take some time.
- Campaign Tools. The campaign tools are, unfortunately, still forgettable. It’s hard to understand how they integrate with the world. Luckily, you don’t need them. You can manage most everything without. And better campaign tooling is on the roadmap.
World Anvil has robust pricing. You can do a lot for free. They also offer monthly, multi-month, and yearly subscriptions. Monthly range from $5–$12.00. Paid memberships can create more worlds, articles, get more storage, and much more. If you like the tool, I recommend upgrading to a paid tier. It’s usually worth it.
“With its free-form Wiki, integrated Atlas, and collaborative Boards, LegendKeeper makes it easy to build immersive worlds for RPG campaigns and any kind of story.”
LegendKeeper is a fast and flexible tools for worldbuilding and TTRPG campaign management. The tools is surrounded by a passionate founder and community. The use of modern technologies under the hood make this app fast to use. I’d argue that no other program offers workflows this fast with as little of a learning curve.
LegendKeeper is a blank canvas, waiting for you to create and organize wiki pages to your heart’s desire. The quick editor pulls up dozens of editing options with only the press of
/ on your keyboard.
Boards act like whiteboards where you can collaborate with others for a more visual approach. The atlas allows you to upload maps and drop pins linking to your wiki.
The platform supports real-time collaboration on a single document (you can see their cursor!), full-text search, and even offline support. It’s all backed by a granular set of permissions that defaults to private.
Linking once again helps you connect it all. Quickly @mention other documents to link them or allow the auto-linking feature to find them for you.
A personal favorite is how quickly you can add in-line secrets to a document. Share the document with your players, but keep any sections private to only you.
- Easy to use. LegendKeeper has almost no learning curve. Just open a document and start typing. The tools are easy to understand and feel familiar. Drag and drop to organize your wiki.
- Fast. LegendKeeper outperforms most competitors when it comes to load times and workflow speed. I’d attribute this to the founder embracing modern technologies and making performance a priority.
- Flexible. You’re in control of what documents contain and what templates you decide to create. You’re in control of how the wiki is organized.
- Presentation: Private. The biggest drawback for LegendKeeper is presentation. First, there’s no public access. For someone to see your stuff, you’d need to add them to give them access. Then they’d need to set up and account and all that jazz. That’s a bigger hurdle than most people realize.
- Presentation: Styling. You can create columns, headings, tables, etc. But you can’t add custom styling like CSS or custom fonts. You’re left with the interface presented to you at the beginning.
“Kanka is a community driven worldbuilding and tabletop RPG campaign management tool perfect for worldbuilders and game masters alike. We help you create and organise your campaigns and worlds with our @mentions system and a whole range of features such as calendars, interactive maps, timelines, organizations, families, and as many characters as you can come up with!”
Kanka is a nice organizational tool for worlds and RPG campaigns. It’s seen some great upgrades over the years and a passionate founder keeps the momentum moving. Let’s dive in.
Kanka uses “entities” to represent different kinds of pages. They present interfaces that allows for sorting entities and even filtering to show only specific ones. This also allows for bulk changes within an entity type.
Kanka also boasts a robust set of permissions for your entities.
A personal favorite is Kanka’s calendar. Few other sites have as good of a custom calendar option.
- Clean UI. The user interface is clean and easy to understand.
- Easy to use. Kanka is relatively easy to figure out. You might visit the guides once or twice but the features are mostly straightforward.
- UX. The user experience is a bit lacking. I’ve not found any great ways to create a quick workflow.
Kanka has a free tier that gets you most of what you’ll need. You can also pay monthly ($5 or $25) to unlock custom CSS, header images, default images, and more.
“Build your campaign website with our easy to use wiki. Organize things in a way that makes sense for your game.”
Obsidian Portal is a solid tool to organize and present your world on a wiki-style site. It’s by far the veteran of the bunch with its founding over a decade ago. The site has changed hands a few times over the years but recently got a boost when a passionate gamer bought it back. It’s got good bones so let’s dive in.
Obsidian Portal allows for custom styling and layout. You can enter raw HTML/CSS to take full control of the presentation of your wiki pages.
- Simplicity. Obsidian Portal only has a few things to learn to start using it. The interface is also rather simple.
- Customization. You can style and present your world to your heart’s content with a little time and effort.
- Outdated. Most features work fine but are outdated. Again, nothing wrong with them but they are well behind competitors. The general tooling could use some quality of life updates in terms of design, too.
Obsidian Portal’s free version serves basic needs while the Ascendant membership ($5.99/monthly or $49.99/year) unlocks more storage, player secrets, email notifications, and additional features.
“100% free, powerful & feature-rich offline worldbuilding tool that runs on your computer!”
Fantasia Archive is an app for your computer that organizes your notes completely offline. The app is fairly modern and looks nice.
I’ve only just started playing around with this one so I don’t have any specific features to call out. I’m including it because I think it’s worth looking at.
- Organization. Everything is organized and templates exist for nearly everything you need. Items link and show relationships, too.
- UX. The user experience is a bit much. There are so many input fields on each type of document. The app just feels like you’re constantly filling out forms.
TTRPG Honorable Mentions
I don’t find the following as powerful or useful as what I’ve reviewed above but that doesn’t mean they aren’t work a look! They might be exactly what you need.
- The Goblin’s Notebook
- Adventurer’s Codex
“A second brain, for you, forever. Obsidian is a powerful knowledge base on top of
a local folder of plain text Markdown files.”
Obsidian is a powerhouse for organizing notes. If you forced me to pick one option from this article, Obsidian wins by a mile.
If you’re curious about an in-depth look at features for TTRPG campaigns, take a look at my articles covering Obsidian. I’ll just cover a few here.
The most powerful “feature” is the community plugins. Any developer can create plugins to use within the app and there are already a dozen or so for TTRPGs. So this “feature” is really dozens of potential features, depending on which you choose.
Linking content is a powerful way to organize your notes and create a graph view of connections. The app automatically locations any mentions of notes, whether linked or not.
You can customize your workspace with available themes and even write your own CSS to style things the way you prefer.
- Speed. The offline nature of the app combines with an excellent search algorithm to produce lightning fast speeds. Nothing else in this article can match it.
- You Own It. The files and folders are structured how you want and live on your computer. Unlike anything online, no one can take it away from you. And Markdown is a fairly popular markup language so you can always take these notes elsewhere.
- Community. There’s an active community always sharing and showing off their workspace. And creating plugins. The plugins introduce unlimited potential for functionality and features that the community can build. No need to wait for a company to add them.
- Sharing. Though Obsidian has a publish feature that you can pay for, there aren’t great ways to share notes with others outside of it.
- Scaling Learning Curve. The basics of organizing and writing notes couldn’t be simpler. But the more advanced the features, the more you may need to read documentation or watch tutorials. For example, some of the plugins provide really powerful capabilities. But you won’t figure out how to use them without a little reading.
Obsidian is free but you can add syncing ($8/month - or free if you use iCloud) or publishing ($16/month) for more.
“One workspace. Every team. We’re more than a doc. Or a table. Customize Notion to work the way you do.”
Notion is an awesome app to manage anything and works just as well to manage a TTRPG campaign.
Create databases to manage everything in your game. Create different views and filters to present exactly what you want from each database, where you want.
Add banner images to pages and use any number of available blocks to add and customize other content.
Publish your pages to the web for anyone to see. Or invite guests to limit who can see specific pages.
- Flexible. You can organize your stuff any way you’d like. Nearly limitless.
- Simple. The app is easy to understand and use.
- Too flexible? If you don’t know what you want going in, it can be really difficult to keep things organized. Google “Notion for D&D” to find inspiration and templates from others.
- Slow search. Despite being an enterprise level solution, I’ve found their search to be a bit slow. LegendKeeper’s search is quicker (possibly due to the offline capabilities).
Notion has a generous free tier that includes everything you’d need for managing a TTRPG campaign. $5/month adds unlimited guests and unlimited file uploads.
Non-TTRPG Honorable Mentions
I don’t find the following as powerful or useful as the two I’ve reviewed above but that doesn’t mean they aren’t work a look! They might be exactly what you need.
- Microsoft OneNote
What tools do you find useful or how are you using something mentioned in this article? I want to know so hit me up on Twitter!