Following on the heels of Ingest Quest episode 1, the live stream fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer game, I shared some tips on managing and running a campaign using the D&D Beyond tools for keeping all your adventure information in one convenient place along with tooltip creation for easy reference to monsters, magic items, conditions and more. As the campaign continues, the public and private notes grow right alongside the characters and story. This presents a challenge for quickly finding what I need during play. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution.
Before getting started, if you miss any of the live Ingest Quest games streaming Fridays at 1:30 p.m. eastern on YouTube and Twitch, you can find them along with the rest of Nerdarchy’s live video content like our other games and daily live chat series with the gamut of creators as VOD on Twitch and with all our other video content on YouTube. The campaign features me as Dungeon Master, guiding a group of players through a fantasy space to discover the most exquisite cuisine and culinary delights in the universe. Our gastonomical adventuring party includes Nate the Nerdarch, author and staff writer Megan R. Miller, game designer Anthony Amato from Cardboard Fortress Games, Twitch streamer and Nerdarchy tech whiz Kienata, and animator and hilarious YouTuber Benjamin Scott of Puffin Forrest fame.
Campaign spoiler alert
In the previous installment of D&D Beyond campaign management tips, I touched on some things I hope to see added to the already incredibly useful tools. One of them was a feature allowing DMs to organize their notes into chapters for quicker navigation during play. I noted that a DM could use the spoiler feature to collapse portions of the notes, and after preparing material for episode 2 – and seeing how long the DM private notes became – that’s exactly what I did.
Then I organized the public notes with spoiler boxes.
And then the campaign description notes got spoilerized too.
Running episode 2 of Ingest Quest through DDB went incredibly smooth from an organizational standpoint – perhaps even smoother than past experiences running Curse of Strahd or The Sunless Citadel in Tales from the Yawning Portal. Both of those adventures are built with floating content navigation boxes in DDB, which are very handy for jumping to sections you need at any given moment. But if I’m honest, the campaign notes with customized spoiler tags was even easier to navigate.
For example, let’s say you’re running Lost Mine of Phandelver, the terrific starter adventure for fifth edition D&D, using the DDB toolset. Like all the official adventures, LMoP is divided up into parts, broad swaths of interconnected material within each adventure. In Goblin Arrows, part 1 of LMoP, there’s two sections: Goblin Ambush and Cragmaw Hideout, and when you open up Part 1 it displays the entire section from the road to Phandalin to the wrap up of adventurers’ potential victory over Klarg, the bugbear boss of the goblin bandits.
There are section headers within each part, and jump-to links under those headers, so you can find what you need pretty easily as the adventurers explore the hideout and so forth. And of course, the same helpful tooltips you can create are in full effect here, as well as blockquotes, maps and images – all things you can insert into your own campaign notes.
With the spoiler tags available in your toolbox for your homebrew adventures, you can add another level of navigation ease. This is especially helpful for a sandbox or modular style campaign where players will roam at their leisure. For Ingest Quest, I have a basic structure where the team’s producers (the campaign is based around the production of a travel series like No Reservations and the like) arrange visits to exotic cultures with a focus on unique cuisine. But since it takes place in the fantasy space of Spelljammer, a lot can happen on the way to a location.
During episode 1, the party chose one of four meals to prepare for a cooking competition. Since each of them was a distinct encounter location, my notes were very long and I ran into a few speedbumps scrolling up and down to find things. This was in addition to introductory text, NPC information and so on. After the session, I copied all those notes into a separate document and removed them from the campaign.
While preparing for episode 2, I decided to try the spoiler tags instead and the difference was enormous.
A predetermined destination lay in the party’s future, and the course was set. But what’s D&D without encounters along the way? Particularly in a Spelljammer game (or nautical campaign) travel aboard a ship can take days, weeks or even months. Handwaving travel time only goes so far. Travel time provides wonderful opportunities to allow more player agency, and as a DM you can and should ask the players to contribute ideas about what happens on the journey. But it’s always a good practice to have your own encounter ideas on deck too.
For Ingest Quest episode 2, I wanted to tie our game into its sister game, Starward Bound run by Pruitt from Web DM. On the way to their next location, the party’s ship comes across a derelict vessel near the edge of the crystal sphere. The encounter has an intro, description of the exterior and interior of the vessel, some treasure and a couple of homebrew statistics for spelljamming ships.
(Protip: the homebrew magic items tools are great for creating your spelljamming ships – you can add these magic items to character inventory so the players can see their own ships’ statistics.)
After writing all the notes for the encounter, I highlighted all the text, hit the Insert a Spoiler button (the exclamation point in the toolbar) and collapsed everything to a single line under a header name for the encounter. Make sure you give your spoiler tagged content a header and don’t include it with the highlighted text. The same method was used for other encounters, including the location of the group’s primary destination.
During the preparation process, I came to another realization – I should add the unused content from episode 1 back into the notes. Just because the party didn’t trigger those encounters doesn’t mean they have to go to waste. You never know what players are going to do, so having a variety of situations and encounters ready to go helps keep the action moving along.
If you want to go deeper, you can make spoilers within spoilers too, so you could have a section called Random Encounters with as many as you like, each of them collapsed with spoiler tags and then all of those collapsed into a single spoiler.
You campaign notes spoilers are by no means confined only the the DM Private Notes either. For our Public Notes, ongoing narrative session recaps each have their own section organized with – you guessed it – spoiler tags. The alternative optional uses for Hit Dice got their own section too. This is particularly useful since the text is very long. Within the text, each classes’ particular options are also spoilerized. And the homebrew warlock Spelljammer Patron is in there too.
Finally, in the campaign description, the various sections described in last week’s post are condensed as well. From a purely visual perspective alone, this is really helpful for our live stream game. Now, whenever a player opens the campaign in DDB, they can see their character options, schedule, pertinent links and so forth without scrolling down at all. If they need to reference our house rules, it’s right there near the top just a spoiler button click away from revelation.
Get a campaign rolling quick with D&D Beyond
I’ve been a DDB enthusiast since day one. The first teaser trailer early in 2017 sunk its hooks in me and as soon as it went live I was all up in there. At Gen Con 2017 when the toolset officially went live, Nerdarchist Dave ran an impromptu D&D session for me, Cody from Taking 20, GM Juce and “Nerdarchy Junior” (Dave’s son) using just the Monster Manual I pulled up on my phone from the DDB site.
Since then, I’ve been exploring, using, and falling more in love with DDB on a daily basis. As a player, creating a managing characters is so clean and easy. Most recently, at Cleveland ConCoction the crew whipped up characters in about 10 minutes at a time for several games. I ran one for the group, Megan R. Miller ran another. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and Nate the Nerdarch all created multiple pregen characters for their official convention games too.
As a DM, I use DDB in a variety of ways depending on the campaign, players and style of game (online, in-person or streaming). With the ongoing Ingest Quest stream, I’m using it even more. Running a live stream game adds enough extra work for a DM, and keeping literally everything I need in a single place makes this one of the easiest games I’ve ever run. I’ve got our Zoom chat window open on one half of the monitor, DDB on the other, and that’s it. As I prepared for the stream and as it progresses I’m discovering more ways to customize my DDB experience, and I hope these insights help you run your D&D games too. By the time the campaign wraps up, I imagine the notes will be pretty robust. And if I ever run the campaign for another group, all I’d need to do is share the join campaign link and start questing.
On a side note, DDB is unquestionably indispensable in my role as content manager for both the Nerdarchy website and our other written content. Fact-checking articles and research with the site search functions makes my job way easier. Using the search functions of DDB is a topic I plan to visit in this series as well, but if there’s other aspects of DDB you’d like me to cover, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige.
For my first foray into live streaming games as a DM, I’m having a blast thanks to a phenomenal group of players and the easy of running the game with D&D Beyond. Hopefully, the tips and guides in this series will help streamline your own D&D games. It’s absolutely worth noting that D&D Beyond is useful and adds value even without investing a single dollar into your account. Anyone with a Twitch login can use that same login for DDB and create characters, campaigns and homebrew content, as well as access the D&D Basic Rules. For more specific details about the user levels of DDB check out their website here.
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