I've recently been using a piece of software called Scrivener whilst writing my NaNoWriMo novel over the course of this month (you can find the website for Scrivener here for both PC an Mac) and have been very much enjoying using the software, at it's most basic Scrivener allows you to break your novel, manuscript or whatever into a series of discrete chunks, these can then be annotated and assembled in any way you see fit and output in a variety of formats. Whilst writing my novel i've been very much enjoying the program's corkboard facility where you can click on a chapter and see all of the sections that make it up, from here you can make notes on them and drag and drop to re-arrange the order that they appear in; as so often when I use a new program on my computer one of my first thoughts was 'how can I use this for RPGs?'
The answer in this case, i'm happy to report, is 'very easily', since Scrivener is a content manager it could easily be used to divide up the notes for a RP session into sections and re-order them as necessary, Scrivener also allows you convert websites to pdfs and tuck them away in a research folder for reference as you write as well as adding other files, this might be handy for people who make use of pdf rulebooks or character sheets during a game. They could easily be put in an appropriate folder and referenced when needed since another great thing about the program is that when you save the file, your position in files also seems to be saved so that you can pick up where you left off later on, this is an absolute godsend when working through large or complex documents and you have to sign off or end your session halfway through.
Another aspect of the program that would be of potential use for the budding RPG planner/GM is that there are a number of template documents set up within the software, of course most of these are based around the needs of authors but many could also be applicable to RPG session planners; two that spring to mind are the location and character documents which give you a prepared blank document with headings to fill in. For example the place template has the following headings:
- Role in story
- Plots involved in
- Thematic Relevance
And the character template has the following headings:
- Role in story
- Physical description
- Plots involved in
- Relationship with other characters
These could easily be used to detail important locations and NPCs in a session and, since the templates themselves are saved as accessible documents within the project file they could easily be duplicated or changed to suit the particular needs of your campaign.
A project created in Scrivener can be set to automatically make a backup at regular intervals (I currently have my novel backed up to my Dropbox account so that if the worst happened and my computer blew up i'd still be able to get at it once i'd re-gained access to the internet) with the backups being essentially Zip files with all of your documents and materials stored in them. You can also compile a document into a variety of formats; i've only really experimented with the formats suitable for novels at the moment, but if you wanted to distribute your setting either during or after you've finished your game then you could easily compile it into a single PDF file from within the Scrivener software.
Over the next few days i'm going to be moving the notes for the Numenera game that i'm running online via Google+ Hangouts (you can find a link to the actual play videos here) onto a Scrivener file to see how useful it is during play and whether it will eclipse Tiddlywikis as my RPG information management tool of choice.
Scrivener costs $40 USD and is available for a 30 day free trial; as one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo they are offering a special trial edition for participants (available here); all participants can get a 20% discount if they choose to buy the final product and, if they complete the November target of a 50000 word novel, can get a 50% discount off the final product.