Evernote for Dungeon Masters

by Mike Shea on 28 December 2009

I am a huge fan of Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit, and I've written before about the "idea box" for Dungeons and Dragons. In my spare time I am always looking for new and interesting ways to capture and store random bits of stuff in the virtual world with an eye towards archiving this stuff a thousand years. In this strange hobby, I've run across the program, Evernote, a few times.

I won't waste too much time describing Evenote except to describe it as a system for capturing digital stuff and making it available on your PC or Mac, on your iPhone, and across the web.

Recently I've been using Evernote for my D&D games much like Twyla Tharp uses banker's boxes for building Broadway shows. Whenever I find an interesting thing, whether it is a picture from the latest D&D gallery or a new song I've heard that inspired me, I throw it into Evernote. If I get a random idea when I'm out walking my dog, I can record it in Evernote and process it later. I can use Evernote items to outline adventures or write a paragraph of flavor text. I can even cut-and-paste interesting nasty beasts from the D&D compendium so I can have them on hand.

There are a lot of interesting ways to use Evernote as a Dungeon Master. Right now I store my random bits of stuff in it and then, when I'm ready, I build an actual adventure as an Evernote item. I don't run a game using digital monster stat-blocks, I still prefer printing them out on 5x8 cards using the Monster Builder, but I will use it for flavor text during a game displayed off of my iPhone.

Evernote is built using notebooks and tags. A DM can build each campaign arc into its own notebook and throw all the interesting tidbits associated with that arc into that notebook. As the DM builds the arc, that notebook continues to store more and more useful bits of data.

One of the most important features of Evernote is the ability to get your stuff back out again. Both the PC and Mac versions of Evernote have ways to export your notes, although each seems to do it differently.

There's a lot of interesting technology out there for Dungeon Masters. There's been a lot of attention given to Google Wave as a way to run a collaborative D&D game. While I think such collaborative tools are quite interesting, it is personal organization tools like Evernote that really gets me excited to build a D&D game. Give it a try.

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If you enjoyed this article please take a look at Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, the Lazy DM's Workbook, and Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot.

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