Scabard, Clean Campaign Management

Managing my Campaigns with Scabard

Since I began my GM journey back in 2021 I’ve been using Scrivener to manage my campaigns. This is my writing application of choice, and it’s served me well-enough through two campaigns and several one shots. As my campaigns grew, however, my setup became more and more unwieldy. The fault for this falls on me, as I’d never organized something as wide-ranging as as a multi-year TTRPG campaign before and my strategy was inconsistent. Some non-player characters were saved in the location in which they were encountered. Others were saved in s separate NPC folder and linked back to the location in which they were encountered 1. Notes and comments were saved all over, so a lot of details became buried under the sheer mass of information.

I needed another option. The problem was I had a non-negotiable requirement. I needed to be able to export my information from whatever campaign manager I choose in a format I could convert to something else–with minimal hassle. An export to PDF wasn’t good enough because my data would be locked into the layout of that specific file. I wanted a system from which I could pull out information and reformat it at will.

Why is this such a big deal to me? Because if I don’t have that option all the work I put into making my content is held hostage to a platform. If I cancel a subscription I end up losing full access to my data. That’s a non-starter for me.

I wasn’t able to find a service which fulfilled this requirement, and so I just kept working with Scrivener. Until I came across a video by Misfit Adventures which mentioned a tool which interested me, Scabard. This campaign manager boasts a simple design, a layout which is usable on any size screen, and an excellent discord community. I tested it out and was hooked from the jump.

Scabard allows a GM to create different campaigns, add a timeline of events, keep session logs, track lore, manage a world’s denizens 2, create locations, add maps, and design adventures which draw content from all the other campaign pages. Each page can be set to “secret,” or information can be entered into the “Secret” or “GM Secret” editors to keep players from reading that information.

While this sounds impressive, most of it can be done in just about any writing tool. It is, in fact, what I’ve been doing in Scrivener for the past two years. What makes Scabard stand out is how it makes creating relationships between campaign elements easy.

Scabard’s automation features shine most bright in the way it can detect proper nouns. Whenever a GM creates a new page which seems to contain the names of persons, places, or things Scabard will bring up a window asking if it should create a page linking to that name. As it does so it will ask what type of person, place, or thing this is and then offer an opportunity to set the primary relationship between the page which is being saved, and the proper noun which was identified.

For example. For my upcoming ShadowDark live play I created a new Place called the “Broken Falcon Inn” and in the description remarked that it’s owned by “Grunthor Brackenheart.” Seeing this, Scabard Jumped into action. It asked me if I wanted to create a page for Grunthor and prompted me to state he’s a “Character.” It then prompted me to create a relationship between Grunthor and the Broken Falcon Inn, in this case he’s its owner. When the page for the Broken Falcon Inn is opened, Gruntho’s name will be linked to his character page, and in the “connections” tab he’ll be listed as the owner. Even more impressive, if I use a character’s first name on any page, Scabard will say “this is a lot like this other name, do you want me to set this as AKA?” If this is accepted a link will be created back to the original page. It cuts down on a lot of time, and the ability to highlight the relationships with such speed is a game changer for me. Proper noun detection is not perfect, but it’s very close. Any proper noun which is not auto detected can be added in the “Connections” tab, which will also create automatic links.

  • The Scabard editor in action. Below the description block are two areas for "Secrets" and "GM Secrets."
  • "Grunthor Brackenheart" and "Wayford Sunshade" are detected as proper nouns
  • Setting Grunthor Brackenheart as a Character
  • Setting Grunthor Brackenheart as the Owner of the Broken Falcon Inn
  • The final result with the proper nouns automatically linked to their appropriate pages

The application has a number of relationships which can be made for any page, together they are called “connections.” Connections include things like group membership, sub-regions, ownership, homeland, and familiar relationships.

Scabard also allows a GM to pin locations on maps, a feature which expands in Scabard’s paid tiers. This makes tracking numbered encounters for dungeon crawls more simple. Clicking or tapping on the pin will reveal the room’s description, and clicking or tapping on that will open the location’s page. This is something most campaign managers do, but it’s a first for me and I love it.

But what about my non-negotiable feature? Am I able to take my Scabard content and export it to a format which is easy to convert? Yes I can! In fact, I can accomplish this in two ways.

My preferred method is to select the elements I want to convert, select “Printable” from the triangle menu, and then click/tap “Save Markdown.” Markdown is a human-readable format which is designed to create well-formed HTML when read by an application, but many Markdown editors will convert the file to a format another application can read. Markdown is easy to read and write, and once it’s exported a file’s content can be used in most writing applications 3. Applications like Adobe Indesign even have plugins to import and format markdown direct into a document.

The other method is to export the campaign as a JSON file. JSON is a more complex file-type, because it’s really a relational database file. All the connections which Scabard makes are preserved in the JSON export file, and it can be read either as plain text or through an application which will grant you the ability to access the file as a database. For a geek like me, this is phenomenal. Because of its structure, however, it is more difficult to wrangle.

In the end, Scabard fulfills my need for a better campaign manager, while still allowing me to preserve my data whether I keep up with my subscription or not. Some of the layout could use tweaking, the connections interface would benefit by organizing relationship by grouping 4, but it’s usable right now without being overwhelming. It’s a nice trick.

Users are also added to the “Scabard Community” campaign, and can level up as they create their content. “Gamifying” is not something in which I tend to be interested, but for some reason it “clicks” with Scabard. I want to earn experience points for my different pages, darn it, so I’ll create the relationships I need to get them 5! Better still, a GM can invite their players to take ownership of their character page–which allows them to edit it and keep it updated!

This is a tool I see myself using for the foreseeable future. The “Basic” tier of service is free, which allows for 2 smaller campaigns and gives access to the system’s core features. The “Hero” tier, which is what I have, is $54.95 a year and adds both a number of premium features and the ability to create unlimited campaigns. The “Legend” tier adds to the maps functionality, opens up the ability to create family trees, and allows a user to set templates for different pages. I’d love to see the template feature come to the “Hero” tier, but the balance of features between the three levels of service is rather good. If you’re looking for something to help you manage your campaigns a bit better, check it out!

  1. If I remembered to do it, that is.

  2. PCs, NPCs, and creatures–it will even allow the uploading of character sheet PDFs and has the ability to lay out stat blocks.

  3. I recommend PanDoc, and it’s graphical editor and front-end PanWriter. Both are free software. Scrivener is also able to convert basic markdown in to a number of formats.

  4. Relatives in one group, spatial relationships in another, Groups in another, and so on.

  5. For the record, since joining the service I’ve reached 7th level.

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