Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Software to help design adventures

I'm still looking for the perfect software to help me write D&D adventures, from brainstorming ideas to creating all the encounters in detail. I can't say I have found it yet. One thing I like is Evernote, not because it has the best structure, but because it stores my notes in the cloud, where they can be accessed via a PC client, via a browser, or via my iPad. Masterplan on the other hand is better designed for a story flowchart with encounters, but only works on one fixed PC unless you use mail to ship your files around.

An adventure isn't just a series of encounters, although that is what the final product resembles to most. But at the start there are various ideas for the plot, for NPCs, or for specific items or events you want to include. For the brainstorming phase of gathering all those ideas I just discovered an iOS app called Stickyboard 2. It allows me to put my ideas of virtual sticky notes, arrange those notes on a virtual white board, and to draw on that whiteboard. Useful for sorting ideas, but it doesn't go beyond that.

I've been looking into mind mapping or similar software to create some sort of graph or chart connecting all the various ideas for the adventure, but haven't been able to find one I like. Anybody got a recommendation?

For the final step, producing the finished adventure with all the details, I'm boringly using Word. Monsters are copied from the WotC official D&D Adventure Tools monster builder. And I use either poster maps I have available, or create my own with Campaign Cartographer 3. And I just ordered some Gamemastery Face Cards as illustrations for my NPCs.

Putting the Masterplan save directory in a Dropbox (or SkyDrive, or Google Drive, etc) location might help schlep files around easier. Certainly better than email, at least.

I've used the iOS SimpleMind+ app, but unfortunately most mind-map software's been unimpressive to me in practice on a desktop machine. XMind, FreeMind, and Freeplane are all workable, but they don't really handle the transition from concepts -- where items are separated by title or by a short summary -- to details -- where an individual item might have hundreds of words. Docear looked promising, but even it still falls to hyperlinks if you want to unfold really complex concepts.

Theoretically, good project management software or even good outline software would close the gap, but they tend to make design assumptions that don't really do well.
Its for writing, but maybe...
Have you looked at Scrivener? I think it has several options that might work well for you.
I use Masterplan on a removable USB hard drive. The only issue with that is once you start using libraries, you're stuck using it on the system where you created that library.

I've been relying more on Tiamat for mapping Although it's pay per download, you can create as many maps online as you like using their library of tiles.
Doesn't CC3 have a steep learning curve?

My daughter uses mind maps extensively for studying and she swears by mind42. It is a free web based tool that stores your mindmaps in the cloud. I haven't really used it myself but the interface seems very intuitive.
Doesn't CC3 have a steep learning curve?

It does. But there are some good tutorial videos on YouTube that help you over it.
What a coincidence!

I'm still looking for the perfect software to help me write a BUSINESS PLAN, from brainstorming ideas to creating all the PRODUCTS in detail.

What a coincidence!

I'm still looking for the perfect software to help me write FEATURE LENGTH MOVIE SCRIPTS, from brainstorming ideas to creating all the SCENES in detail.

What a coincidence!

I'm still looking for the perfect software to help me write iOS APPLICATIONS, from brainstorming ideas to creating all the ALGORITHMS in detail.

gee too bad this creative thing is tough and all... otherwise we could just let computers make AND play the games for us.
If you think that tools can't be helpful, then maybe should climb back up on your tree.
Taskboard on iOS has no bells or whistles, or even image attachments, but the interface is clean and uncluttered. You make categories, put cards into them and the software keeps them nice and tidy. There are some colored dots as flags, and if you need it, there is also a 'due' time flag for timing encounters. Worth checking out if you think those mindmaps are too cluttered.
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