Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Campaign Timelines

For years now, I've had every intention of taking good notes when I run a campaign.  Typically what I'm left with is piles of papers with rows of descending hit point totals, hastily scribbled npc names, and chicken scratching that I'm not exactly sure what are.  Campaign journaling rarely works out for me.  But I do gather up my notes on occasion and try to stitch them together to see what has happened.  Luckily, I have a pretty good memory for imaginary happenings, so usually everything adds up.

At the simplest level, I like to create timelines - like the one below.  This is for my Stars Without Number campaign.  Such a list is handy because I create it in excel and can do odd date math on the fly - which is especially nice since now spreadsheets can handle dates into the far future.  With an autosum, I can see that the campaign has lasted 311 days - Earth days, that is.  

Little titles and notes keep everything straight in my head, and I can remember if an NPC was planning on hunting down and killing the party - and how long that npc has been formulating the plan and stalking them - waiting for the time to be ripe.  You know, typical stuff to make the players paranoid. ;)

So that's why I like to do.  How are YOU at note taking?

Place/Event Duration Start Date Events of Note
Halal System 1 1-Jan-2300 Ship assaulted by Captian Kaylah Tabari.
Interstellar Travel 6 7-Jan-2300 On the Edmund Fitzgerald (Methan owned.)
Interplanetary Travel 2 9-Jan-2300 ''
Jaisalmar System 2 11-Jan-2300 Hijacked ore shipment on ice world.
Interplanetary Travel 2 13-Jan-2300 On the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Interstellar Travel 5 18-Jan-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 20-Jan-2300 ''
Hephaestus System 87 17-Apr-2300 Meet Methans, destoyed casino, Sgt. & Adam KIA.
Interplanetary Travel 2 19-Apr-2300 On the Konjiki Yasha (Methan bio ship.)
Interstellar Travel 6 25-Apr-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 27-Apr-2300 ''
Metha System 1 28-Apr-2300 Accepted by Methans.  
Interstellar Travel 5 3-May-2300 On the Fort Knox (Methan accountant transport.)
Interplanetary Travel 2 5-May-2300 ''
Perdurabo - Hard Light 2 7-May-2300 Begin clandestine criminal investigation.
Travel to Comet 2 9-May-2300 On the Leadbelly with Captain Ranse Hardlee
Stay in Comet 4 13-May-2300 Exploring tomb of the Ushans (asparagusheads)
Travel to Hard Light 3 16-May-2300 On the Leadbelly with Captain Ranse Hardlee
Perdurabo - Hard Light 15 31-May-2300 Foil evil plot on Hard Light
Travel to Colony 2 2-Jun-2300 On the shuttle Bon Grunj with pilot Kingston
Stay in Colony 62 3-Aug-2300 Fight pirates and capture pirate ship
Travel to Hard Light 2 5-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Perdurabo - Hard Light 2 7-Aug-2300 Fuel up and say goodbyes.
Interplanetary Travel 2 9-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 15-Aug-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 17-Aug-2300 ''
Euphrates System 1 18-Aug-2300 Refuel at mining asteroid.
Interplanetary Travel 2 20-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 26-Aug-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 28-Aug-2300 ''
Tigris - Blue Saturn 49 16-Oct-2300 Destroy 2 pirate ships, meet the Kingpin.
Interplanetary Travel 2 18-Oct-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 24-Oct-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 26-Oct-2300 ''
Nile System 1 27-Oct-2300 Return Thad, meet Captain Zarkon of White Chapel.
Interplanetary Travel 2 29-Oct-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 4-Nov-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interplanetary Travel 2 6-Nov-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Amazon System 1 7-Nov-2300 Arrive at Kyroth Colony. PLANT ATTACK!

- Ark


  1. A number of games out there have 'campaign turns" - weeks in Traveller, months in Flashing Blades - that really facilitate keeping a campaign timeline like this.

    As Gary Gygax wrote in the 1e DMG, time is a resource. A little effort to track that resource is time well spent.

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  3. I've always kept track of time in any campaign I've run... Time is vital to our understanding of the universe whether in-game or IRL. If you run a series of one-off adventures with different players all the time, I suppose it's less important, but even then, it's tough to make a world feel real if it isn't real to you.

    Much like you, I jot down notes during play... then afterward write up a timeline of the events that transpired. It quickly ends up with more detail than my world calendar, but they feed each other... When I'm planning for a game, I review the events log to refresh myself on where the PCs are, then look at the world calendar so I know what the world may throw at them and can pre-determine any likely changes to encounters. Knowing that nobody will sell them weapons during the upcoming three week Festival of Life or that Ikarat Pass becomes impassible for the winter after first snow each year tends to hurry them along. Knowing the world has it's own logic and consistency also lets the players become their characters much more easily, and aids that ever-important "suspension of disbelief!"