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Organizing Logs in Campaign Logger vNext

SoloRoboto

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I mentioned this is a totally different (non-beta-related) thread, but...

I dislike the way literally everything is just called a "log" with no way to differentiate between levels when talking about them.

It makes it tough to communicate what we're talking about here, AND makes it hard to mentally organize things.

I know it's called "Logger" but is there any chance of labeling different levels... differently?
The adding of "campaigns" in vNext is certainly helpful (I jumped straight into vNext without ever touching Standard, as it had some things I couldn't mentally organize without). And we have "entries" at the bottom level. But the middle... what, 2? are still just "logs."
 
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ELF

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I dislike the way literally everything is just called a "log" with no way to differentiate between levels when talking about them.

It makes it tough to communicate what we're talking about here, AND makes it hard to mentally organize things.
I agree with you. There has been some discussion about terminology, and vocabulary such as libraries and articles has been proposed, but I'm not sure what's the final verdict on that. What would you propose?
 

SoloRoboto

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What would you propose?
Honestly, IDK. Organization isn't my strong suit - hence turning to somebody else for a system! lol

Left to my own devices I tend to work with nested lists: top level, sub level, sub-sub level, etc. Usually unordered, un-numbered.

I think terminology is flexible, so whatever works for people is fine, so long as there's some differentiation.... Right now we have, what, 3 levels? Campaigns, Logs, and... more Logs? (Again, with the names being identical I'm actually not positive on the hierarchical structure - I posted elsewhere how a quick visual-aid showing the breakdown would be MASSIVELY helpful - as a visual person, if I can't SEE the structure, it's not very helpful and might as well just be an endless list).

Campaigns makes sense, keep that.
Logs makes enough sense. I'm just not sure which "level" Logs should be? If they're 2nd level, then keep them there.
Maybe Notes? Or something as generic as Entries? That FEELS like a smaller thing than a whole "Log."
Log makes me think of a Ship's Log, which is equivalent to a Journal. ie, a whole Book. And since Journals have Entries (according to every sci-fi and fantasy voice-over I've ever heard)...

If I'm right in that there's 3 levels, then Campaigns > Logs > Entries/Notes makes sense to me.
But that's MY brain. I need to break things down into smaller categories (and categories that are both literally smaller, and contain smaller things) otherwise why break them down further at all?

This is kind of what I'm doing. I made a Log for Session Notes, and I'll put each session... Entry? In there. With separate Logs for Ideas, Planning, and House Rules / Charts (because, again, I'm a visual / buckets kind of person, and I want to see all those bits of info in one place without doing ANY searching at all). I know not everybody needs that level of granularity - which is partly the point of this whole thing, keep it simple.

But if I'm literally going to run a game out of it, and I have a LOT of stuff to track (my games tend to be Urban, so NPCs and factions stack up fast, and get reused a LOT), I'd love to break a session down into sub-notes/logs/entries/chapters/whatever.

Without blowing the scope of this issue way out of hand, how difficult would it be to let users add more "levels" on their end? Say, letting them add sub-levels as desired? (and is that counter to the entire idea of simplicity and quick-reference that Logger was built to do?)
 
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JochenL

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Log makes me think of a Ship's Log, which is equivalent to a Journal
That is my personal reading, yes.

Let me sketch the hierarchy verbally first:
- We have campaigns
- Campaigns contain Logs
- Logs consist of (Log) Entries

An entry is any item (mostly text) that you find noteworthy, that you want to remember, or just want to jot down to have it out of your mind.
If you have more than one log in your campaign you need to decide into which log you enter your entry.
I am using a Planning log for preparation and idea-collection, a Session log during the actual session, and sometimes a Summary log whose entries I publish in a stream that I share with my players.

So this is my typical structure hierarchy-wise:
1591267627526.png
 

SoloRoboto

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An entry is any item (mostly text) that you find noteworthy, that you want to remember, or just want to jot down to have it out of your mind.
If you have more than one log in your campaign you need to decide into which log you enter your entry.
I am using a Planning log for preparation and idea-collection, a Session log during the actual session, and sometimes a Summary log whose entries I publish in a stream that I share with my players.
Thank you for this! This is exactly what I (and several others in another thread) were looking for. I've been attempting to base most of my thinking around a blog post you wrote explaining this structure, as it's the ONLY one I've found that tries to explain the thinking behind Logger. (As I've said, every time I read Johnn's description it *feels* like I've got my head around it, but then I try to DO it and... nope, I don't.)

- I'll just note that in the actual Logger site/app/software, there's no mention of "entries", just more "logs." It's Campaign > Log > Log (which, with the lack of a functional "breadcrumbs" or other visual hierarchy, is easily confusing if you're jumping around a lot in your notation - I'm in the process of transferring a lot of old campaign notes into Logger, so I may be doing a lot more of this than most people).

So, question for you - do you RUN your sessions using Entries in the Planning Log (attempting to use the levels you've outlined here)?
And then actually take notes via new Entries in the Sessions Log? (that seems to match Johnn's initial ideas of making quick notes in-session and cleaning them up after).

What do you do if you're planning a long dungeon crawl, for example? Say something sandbox-y that could last 3 or more sessions, where you can't easily break it down into Session 1, Session 2, etc? Is that just... one big Entry? a whole bunch of short Entries (that hopefully you remember to tag so you can find them all later)?

I think it's this last part that loses me a bit.

And apologies for taking this conversation rather off-topic, since it's not necessarily a feature/bug, but more conceptual. I'll be happy to move it elsewhere if desired.

The 3-tiered hierarchy matches my mental workflow fine for simple things, but when we've got more in-game options, I lose the thread.

To be clear, I don't think this is necessarily a problem with Logger! it's just not... how I normally process / plan things. I THINK it's more efficient, which is my main goal is using Logger - efficiency. But I'm still wrapping my head around the INTENT, so I can align my thought process to a more efficient system. (My default mental process is great for WRITING things, but terrible for RUNNING them. It's also slow as molasses. But until I grasp what I'm trying to do here, I kind of... can't?)
 

JochenL

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So, question for you - do you RUN your sessions using Entries in the Planning Log (attempting to use the levels you've outlined here)?
And then actually take notes via new Entries in the Sessions Log? (that seems to match Johnn's initial ideas of making quick notes in-session and cleaning them up after).
I have two browser tabs open: one for the planning log and one for the session log. For prepared locations/encounters/rooms/etc. I am using the section tag § (you can see an example here: https://www.roleplayingtips.com/gm-techniques/creating-first-5-room-dungeon-campaign-logger/). I am using the same tag in the session log whenever the characters get there.
 

JochenL

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What do you do if you're planning a long dungeon crawl, for example? Say something sandbox-y that could last 3 or more sessions, where you can't easily break it down into Session 1, Session 2, etc? Is that just... one big Entry? a whole bunch of short Entries (that hopefully you remember to tag so you can find them all later)?
In my Planning log, I usually reserve one entry per room/encounter/scene, one overview entry to link to all of those. That's my "static" background then. Each actual session gets its own short entry where I summarize open ends from the last session and line out possible developments for the coming session. For those "session entries" I usually use the asterisk like so: *S01, *S02, *S03, and then adding *Evaluation or *Preparation (all in my Planning log).

In my Session log, I set the Prefix at the beginning of a session to "*S04 %2020-06-05" (e.g.) so that it gets added to every entry I will write from now on. My entries in the Session log tend to be very short, from a few words to a few short sentences at most. Just jotting down things I find noteworthy.
 

JohnnFour

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Thanks for having this conversation. It's tricky stuff. And it's important. I know @Gary F is frustrated as well with figuring out structures.

Truth is, we've created a sandbox type app on purpose. Twitter meets Wiki to help game masters make and find notes fast.

Version 1 of CL was created with minimal structure based on our vision of how GMs could manage their game inofrmation. There are many modes of thinking, and we wanted the app to work for each GM's way of doing things.

Since the release of CL in 2015, one consistent piece of feedback was the limited character count for Log Entries.

We made Log Entries limited to roughly 300-400 words for several important reasons, chief being the tag feature. If tags are buried in long entries, it becomes difficult for the Twitter slash fast-reference philosophy to succeed.

Imagine a long web page. When you hit CTRL+F it comes back with several hits. That forces you to CTRL+G through each hit until you find the section you need to reference.

By slicing and dicing your campaign data into small bits, you can find what you need almost instantly in CL.

However, we agreed that longer entries are advantageous. I wanted them myself as singular library entries for backstories, adventure plans, and anything that was hard to read when broken up into small chunks.

Thus Campaign Entries were born. With 250,000 characters, that should be enough space to input any kind of long-entry article of information.

However, this poses a new problem. Or, actually, it resurfaces an old problem that made us create CL in the first place: lightning fast searches and references.

I don't want to sit at the game table and hit CTRL+G again and again to find a stat block, encounter, or detail in a long entry.

The Campaign Entry feature is just a baby right now. We built it without a specific use case in mind. We need everyone's help to share how they're using CL vNext, and where the friction points are. There's no single best way to use this tool. We need to invent best practices and cool uses and hacks for it now.

Unlike CL 1, where we had a specific vision that we delivered on, this 250K character Campaign Entry feature is new to us too, and we created it to meet demand and deliver it in a way that does not defeat our still existing vision of Twitter meets Wiki.

What we have today for this beta state tool are these known and hard-coded factors:
  • A GM can have multiple Campaigns
  • A Campaign can have multiple Logs
  • A Log has multiple Log Entries
This gives us a basic hierarchy:

2020-06-04_07-38-28.png

CL vNext introduces this new hard-coded factor:
  • Every Log Entry has one - just one - Campaign Entry, which is optional:
2020-06-04_07-40-48.png

Where our mental model gets funky is with this addition new hard-coded factor:
  • A Campaign can have multiple Campaign Entries (the 250K character entries)
This means Campaign Entries live within Campaigns and across many Logs.

A Campaign Entry for @JohnnFour can be referenced in a planning Log, an adventure module Log, a world Log, an ideas Log, and an SRD rules rule for example. @JohnnFour's Campaign Entry can be referenced by all those Logs, which is pretty handy.

Thus, we called items in Logs, Log Entries. And items in Campaigns that are shared by multiple Logs of a Campaign, Campaign Entries.

We can rename all these things if desired. But it seems different GMs think of the tool in different ways, and have different definitions or semantics for word.s So it's been a tricky exercise.

Evernote is my primary notes tool for things outside of my campaigns. It's for business, personal, writing, and so on.

But I rejected Evernote three times over four years because I did not understand its design philosophy.

I like to nagivate by lists, menus, and nested hierarchies of things. I like to see the visual relationships of my information:
  • A1
    • a1
    • a2
      • a2.1
    • a3
  • B1
    • b2
  • etc.
Evernote back then didn't work like this, so I didn't understand it.

Only until a friend said to use Evernote more like Google than an Encyclopedia did I get it.

"Oh, I see. I Tag notes then use search to bring up the information I need by tag or string."

Apparently, other evernote users struggled too. Because they introduced Notebooks and a side bar with vertical, linear, hierarchical navigation. They also added Recent Notes and Tags listings. Then they added Bookmarks.

That definitely made me happier. I was ok managing my information and Notes in a "pool" and using search and scrolling to find specific Notes. But adding a vertical, hiercarchical nav really helped.

I think CL vNext needs the same.

Many people's brains remember an "image" of information location based on where it sits within a hierarchy or list. Even if that location is imaginary. The brain wants visual + static location to orient itself.

Just having a pool of Campaign Entries and Log Entries at your finger tips with search and alphabetical listings is to ethereal for many folks. I'd prefer a hierchical navigation too.

So I think that's what vNext needs the most right now. Some way to list Log Entries and Campaign Entries together in a vertical navigation where you can group and nest them as desired.

@JochenL and I have chatted about this. I'm not sure if it's possible. But it's a feature I'd vote for.

As for naming things, we're looking for more suggestions. Articles and Library items did not get overwhelming support.

We have the hard-coded rules listed above.

We have Campaigns and Logs. And we have "entries" with rules related to each "container" of Campaign or Log.

We need more naming suggestions.
 

Gary F

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Excited where this is going.

I'd like to have a thing where we come up with one or more default structures people can import into their campaigns to hit the ground running
 

JochenL

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Excited where this is going.

I'd like to have a thing where we come up with one or more default structures people can import into their campaigns to hit the ground running
Leaking: We discussed having templates you can choose from when creating a new campaign (or log). Such default structures (created by the community) would be excellent input for that feature.
 
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JochenL

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What about a little "challenge" to increase insight in organizing one's logs?

There is a thread about free adventures: https://campaign-community.com/index.php?threads/free-adventures.659/

Let's pick one of those adventures, best a short one, and everyone who wants to participate starts to prepare that adventure. We then export our campaigns and compare notes. Then we could continue the preparation and try a session - whether an actual one or simulated one - and compare the exports again. Finally, we can write a summary or whatever you normally do to share a recap with your players.

Would anyone be interested in such an experiment?
 

Gary F

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I think the campaign master data is a great idea. Static, source of record information for things that are true.
I'm less clear on using campaign master data for prep, other than using it to store permanent information.
Your front or scenario or adventure or next action in a storyline isn't master data - it may never happen, or it may have happened but no longer be true.
Maybe another way of thing about this is to allow for differentiating between long form notes (like in the master data, made for reference) and log entries (short, made for searching).
 

JohnnFour

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@JochenL I am interested! But alas am swamped until October, give or take. :)
 

JochenL

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@JochenL I am interested! But alas am swamped until October, give or take. :)
Me, too, and therefore a short adventure. Best would be a Creative Commons one so we can share publicly.
 

ELF

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What about a little "challenge" to increase insight in organizing one's logs?
Would the stillborn Trilemma adventure be good at least for this purpose?
 

SoloRoboto

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As for naming things, we're looking for more suggestions. Articles and Library items did not get overwhelming support.

We have the hard-coded rules listed above.

We have Campaigns and Logs. And we have "entries" with rules related to each "container" of Campaign or Log.

We need more naming suggestions.
I think you've answered your own question already - just call them "Entries". Keep everything one word, and don't overthink it. The only thing that makes it confusing is that the label that's VISIBLE in CL is just "Log" regardless of if it's a Log or Log Entry.

If you can add in a visual tree (I'm a huge fan of the idea - I use OneNote as opposed to Evernote because it does exactly this tabbed / foldered system you mentioned very well), you don't even need necessarily specify if it's a Campaign Entry or Log Entry - just glance to the side and see what level your in.

OR, call those something specific - I think in early mentions of it you called it something like Root Node or something along those lines.
I think those terms that just... pop in your head when you're attempting to navigate are the best, because your brain has already done it. No adapting / remembering required.
 
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SoloRoboto

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Truth is, we've created a sandbox type app on purpose. Twitter meets Wiki to help game masters make and find notes fast.
I 100% get the intent.
And I LIKE how sandboxy it is.
It just wasn't MY sandbox, so I didn't understand what you'd DO with it. Or maybe more accurately, HOW you'd make use of it. Which was why I just wanted to know what the people who built it were thinking - like you said, it had a purpose, and I could almost see that purpose, but not quite. The pictures and further explanation have really helped (as has clarifying terminology).

That's the thing with sandboxes, right? With zero guidance, nobody knows where to go or how to have fun in them (just like how a truly sandbox style adventure can quickly result in aimless wandering and/or frustration).

I'm still wrapping my head around it, because it's just not natural to me - my natural method is long, and slow, and thorough, and tedious, and while I understand the process I HATE doing it, so it never gets done. Which is why I'm here - trying to learn a faster, less structured approach so I can just, you know, RUN SOME GAMES.

I'm getting there, and I think I see how to use this for me. @JochenL 's continued examples have certainly helped a lot.
 

SoloRoboto

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FWIW I don't see any complications from the Campaign Entry side of things. Those make perfect sense to me (maybe that's my linear, hierarchical brain talking?). How anyone wants to use them, if at all (since they are totally optional) can of course vary.

I plan to use them for stuff that won't change - put an NPC's basic stats and description in there, for example. So I can see it whenever they pop up in another search. Same for places and items and whatnot (at least, anything that's repeated / referenced a lot). I run an Urban campaign in Eberron, so there's lots that's already built into the world (which I like) and putting bulleted lists of stuff in there makes referencing it WAY easier down the line.

Since, for me, the main purpose of all this is to have to remember as little as possible. Having an entry with that sort of... "boilerplate" info in it, that appears in all search results for the thing, is great. Whatever you want that boilerplate to be.
 
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