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Trello For Campaign Management

I’m fairly surprised that Phil isn’t writing this article. He’s my go-to person for organizational and project management tools to use for gaming, since he does it in his day job and project manages many gaming books and projects that I’ve been involved with. He knows his stuff, so I’m kind of proud that I’m scooping him on this.*
(*I’m using Scoop in a very broad way, since I’m sure he’s done this in some form, but it doesn’t look like he’s written an article about it yet.)

So, onto the story. I’m running a campaign that I started at a meetup to broaden my current gaming group and built through the first parts of buying a house, transitioning to a new job, and packing everything and moving. I haven’t been the most organized in keeping my game notes about sessions and planning forward. I’ve got a hundred scraps of notes about things I’ve done in the game, I’ve got 3 bullet point lists of the plot ideas for the next sessions [1] and I’ve got NPCs names and plans written down, but sometimes when I’ve introduced an element on the fly, I forget to add it all in.

Trello To The Rescue

So, I’ve been running the game, 6 or 7 sessions, trying to remember the names of the NPCs or exactly where on the map I put that organization’s base, all while looking through my half-unpacked gaming stuff to see where I threw those notes on that one list, and I finally realize how I should have been doing this all along – Trello. I use it for work, I use it for writing and art direction projects, I use it to organize my daily life, so why the heck am I not using it to keep track of my gaming stuff? I started up a Trello board for my campaign and this is what it looks like:

After a few weeks of use, there are many benefits to using Trello to organize a campaign.

Trello’s Utility As A Cross Platform Device And Archive For Old Games

I can keep Trello’s app up on my tablet and enter notes or reference things that I set up on my computer previously. I can add a note or reference the image attached to a card and wave my tablet at the players so they can see the image without revealing other elements about the element. I can always enter notes as needed on the cards, then move back to the computer since it is all hosted on Trello’s servers.

A gif from futurama of Leonard Nimoy's head in a jar nibbling excitedly at fish flakes being dumped in bya female attendant in a vertically striped uniform and hat. One of the beautiful things about the Trello board is that it can be exported or saved on the server so that you can reference it at some later point in time. I have folders and binders and notebooks full of old campaign information, mostly for nostalgia’s sake. I also have a half unpacked gaming space and constant questions about why I’m keeping certain things around in physical file formats. Trello, alongside its export feature, means I can store my campaigns digitally and save them to archival quality CDs if I am concerned about the long-term storage of my campaigns, at a fraction of the physical space. While I have no idea how future-proofed Trello as a service is, the export format is JSON, which is a very popular format that will likely be readable in some format when we’re all heads in jars at the head museum.

Campaign Organization

I’ve become a big fan of tools that let me organize my campaigns digitally. I’m familiar with Trello due to other ways it intersects with my life, but I’ve used programs like Basecamp, Google Drive, and Slack for campaigns as well. Trello is made to organize projects, and that dovetails nicely with the utility needed for organizing a campaign. The fact that it is free is, of course, a major selling point to being able to test it out and try it. If I want to share it with other people for feedback, adding team members or making the board public is an option. Trello hits a lot of sweet spots for me to keep campaigns organized, but it’s certainly not the only way.

Everyone has a different method of campaign organization, and having the right tool to keep some structure to your plans can help you feel more confident in your improvisation. What is your preferred method of campaign and game organization? Have you used Trello or an alternative? What worked and what didn’t?

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "Trello For Campaign Management"

#1 Comment By CHILL On February 4, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

I used Trello constantly for my work, but for some reason it never occured to me to use it for campaign management. Speaking as a convert to Island Design Theory (excellent stuff, by the way) – I’m a little embarassed it took this article for me to go “Eureka!”……..and I used Trello every single day for work. O_o.

…..I have boards to setup.

#2 Comment By Charles moore On February 8, 2018 @ 7:45 am

The free Trello lets you add one ‘powerup’ to your board. What’s your favorite?

#3 Comment By John Arcadian On June 1, 2018 @ 6:42 am

I honestly haven’t used any power ups for trello. Base trello fits my needs pretty well, but the more I use it, I’m sure I’ll stumble on something and kick myself for not finding it sooner.

#4 Comment By John WS Marvin On May 31, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

Is there a way for one card to point to other cards? If I have an NPC list, a town council list, and a thieves’ guild list, they might all want to hold the Yolanda Zak card. But if I update one Yolanda card, I don’t want to have to update all the others. What I want is a member card for the thieves’ guild that points to cards in the NPC list.

Is that possible?


#5 Comment By John Arcadian On June 1, 2018 @ 6:39 am

Yes, you can. It’s weird though. It is not where you would expect. Go to attachments and click on the Trello option. You can then do a search by name and add a card. It only adds by the first letters, and it is a bit finicky.

I did a little example video to show it.

#6 Comment By John WS Marvin On June 1, 2018 @ 1:33 pm

Wow, thanks! And I never would have guessed.

Off topic: what do you use for your screencasts? You made this in no time at all.

#7 Comment By John Arcadian On June 1, 2018 @ 1:39 pm

Happy to help.

I use a program called Screen-Cast-O-Matic. My wife turned me onto it, and I do a lot of client training on how to use websites I build, so I’m used to making screencasts quickly.

#8 Comment By Jon Mattison On January 8, 2019 @ 5:17 pm

What do you know of or think about Campaign Logger?