Using a Traveler's Notebook as TTRPG campaign journal
First published: March 5, 2023
Last updated: March 5, 2023
TL;DR: If you don't want to read the whole backstory, click here to skip to my concrete setup of the Traveler's Notebook as campaign journal.
I recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons. After watching a variety of content creators playing it for some years, I was hyped for taking notes right from the start - in the videos and streams, players are constantly scrambling back and forth in their pages and I love watching and listening to it.
Our campaign started very low key and unambitious - we are a lot of beginners and it was supposed to only be a one shot. So my notes so far look like this:
After out supposed one shot now turned into a proper campaign, I decided to get a proper notebook or journal. After some reasearching, I was very much in love with the concept of Cantrips Media's player journals that not only include the typical character sheed and spell list, but provides a structure for many more things: locations, NPCs, .... On top of that they re kinda pretty and refillable.
Unfortunately, Cantrips Media does not ship to Europe, so I had to find alternatives. The only one available seemed to be The Rook and the Raven with a similar angle towards notebooks. Alas, they were not as pretty, the company in the middle of moving, and also some of their reviews are unfortunately horrible. A lot of customers claim to wait for their product for 2 years.
On Mastodon, I then got recommended the company Traveler's Company and their modular notebook. At first, I wasn't that impressed. I really liked (and still like!) the idea of lose papers in a ringbook that easily can be moved around, taken out and refilled. I also was unsure about the idea of using rubberbands to keep full small notebooks together in a cover - that felt a bit unstable and easy to break. That being said, the notebook is apparently loved by travelers and I don't even mean to travel with it - so I hope the rubber bands will survive the bi-weekly commute to and from office in my backpack.
What made me purchase a Traveler's notebook was the variety of inserts. Something I loved about the journals of Cantrips Media were the so-called dry erase sheets made of plastic that are used for ever-changing stats and I definetely wanted to have those in my notebook. As soon as I saw the 008 Zipper Case insert for the Traveler's Notebook, my concern about them not fitting faded. I also wanted the structure for taking notes, and while Traveler's Company does not have DnD character sheet inserts in their product catalogue (I think they should change that!), these sheets can either be printed and added, or their other inserts used for exactly that.
So I took a plunge. This notebook was not what I had in mind iniatally and definetely is pricy with what I intended, but people seemed to love it and I might still be able to turn it into my thing instead of pre-made built one.
As the notebooks are incredibly flexible and modular, everyone's solution is obviously different. And while my starting set was a bit pricey for my taste, I also did not hold back and immediatly bought all the things. The most pricey part of the notebook is the leather cover that one might already get with a simple insert, and that one you only have to buy once. The different inserts were not that expensive, but if you splurge like me, it all adds up in the end.
If you are a simple notetaker or not looking for something fancy, this might not be the solution for you. Unless you really like the look of the leather cover with simple pages inside. Then this is perfect.
As another disclaimer, I'm a DnD beginner with only very few sessions, but I had a lot of big ideas and darlings. Even as I write this right now, I have not even brought the book to a single session yet. So might need to kill a lot of darlings when I'm finally playing and have to realize that I'm not that kind of note taker.
The Traveler's Notebook
The company Traveler's Company is situated in Japan. Outside of that, their webshop only covers the US, but they seem to be partnered with a variety of physical shops throughout Europe. In Copenhagen, I had to go to a weird little decoration and art boutique, that apparently is a big, big fan of Traveler's Company. I got free licensed stickers and the promise that they stock up on refills every week.
The book comes in two sizes:
- Regular size: 12.5 cm x 22.0 cm / 4.9 inches x 8.7 inches
- Passport size: 10.0 cm x 13.5 cm / 3.9 inches x 5.3 inches
The cover is made of leather and is available in the following colors:
For both sizes, there are (currently) up to 30 inserts or other accessoriers to pimp up your notebook with. I won't list all of them, but you can see the list for regular size here.
Allegedly, their paper is special and good for fountain pens. I'm not a paper nerd, so I cannot judge that, but I thought it should be mentioned here.
How I crafted my DnD campaign journal
(Calling it crafting might be a bit exaggerated. But I did find our printer and scissors for this, so I felt pretty crafty.)
I went with the regular size as I need some room for writing and structuring. On top of that I bought the following inserts and accessories:
- 003 Blank Notebook (came with starter kit)
- 001 Lined Notebook
- 007 Card File
- 008 Zipper Case
- 016 Pen Holder
- 021 Connecting Rubber Band
- Brass Index Clips
Upon gathering it all together, I tried out a few different orders and moved the inserts around a bit, which was very easy and will probably happen a lot more when I find out out, what is most comfortable for me when taking notes in sessions. It is not as easy as in a ringbook though - and full notebook inserts (blank and lined in my case) still need to stay together unlike in a ringbook.
Some of the part, that was "crafting" (if we want to continue calling it that) for me was digitally creating the DnD pages that I defeintely wanted to have pre-designed and not scribble by hand. There are plenty of designs for character and player sheets online. On Etsy a lot of designers offer their designs as printable downloads. However, the sizes of those designs are western-based and are usually A4, A5 or maybe US letter size. The size of the Traveler's Notebook however is really awkward in that regard (I'm not sure whether it's a Japanese default?) and I couldnt' find any sizes for it while searching.
For my character sheet, I used the generic sheet from Wizards of the Coast as I just wanted to get going. I screenshottet the seperate areas from the PDF and moved them around in Clip Studio Paint (Photoshop or other creative software would work as well). If one is more creative and patient, I'm sure one can do some pretty things even in the awkward size of the Traveler's Notebook.
008 Zipper Case for dry erase use
I love the zipper case insert! The zippers works very well and is satisfying to open and close. Only one side is zipper, the other side is open for sliding in sheets. This insert was a must have for me. In my current setup, it is inserted in a way where it enfolds all other inserts with the open side being first and the zipper side being last. My self-printed character sheet is in the slide in pocket, while I used the zipper case for printed and cut out spell cards that I'm not using.
007 Card File for spell cards
The insert for card files containing 12 plastic pockets comes right after the character sheet. I'm currently using it for my active spell cards, but I could also see it to be useful for equipment and weapon cards. The spell cards I used are from r-n-w and fit perfectly into the pockets. r-n-w offers a lot of affordable printable products for all kinds of TTRPGs (also character sheets)!
The notebooks are pretty straight forward - in my cases blank and lined. I'm intending to use the lined notebook for session notes and the blank notebook for a more glossary style of notes for people and locations. That is the plan at least. :D
I got the lined notebook cause I can't write straight. A good alternative would also have been the 026 Dot Grid notebook which provides a bit more freedom to switch between writing and doodling.
Self-made insert for DnD stuff
Behind the notebooks, I added some more "self-made inserts", if you want to call it that. After re-arranging a few information boxes in Clip Studio Paint/Photoshop/whatever, I printed and folded some inserts of my own to add like a regular insert (how many more times will I write the word "insert" in this post ...). As a tip for size: two pages in the size of the Traveler's notebook fit side by side on an A4 in portrait mode. Afterwards, you only need to cut off the bottom/top.
I would recommend to use thicker paper if you want to do this - maybe even some paper that looks a bit prettier than the thin, complete white paper that I used. We only had cheap printing paper at hand, and while it works somehow, it's not ideal. It sticks out like a sore thumb besides the warm colors of the Traveler's Company's products and it is also too thin and gets easily crumbled by the strength of the rubber band.
Another reason for me for printing these pages and adding them as an insert instead of logging it in the notebooks is that this way is more flexible for swapping out or adding pages. (The design for the sheets are again by r-n-w)
016 Pen Holder
The pen holder was not really that important for me actually, as I won't use the notebook while travelling, but in a pretty static situation where I expect to always have access to some kind of writing utensils. However, I could totally see myself getting a special pen for DnD'ing. Also, it might be handy to always have an erasable white board marker at hand (which I don't have at the moment).
The pen holder can be clipped on where and however you like.
Looking at the photos, I'm now doubting whether I attached the clip the right way - should I turn it around?
Brass Index Clips for sectioning
After watching some videos on how to takes notes during campaign sessions, I was absolutely sure that I needed to have the brass clips to sort my notes and make the different sections easily accessible. Now, one could argue that I don't really need them with the way that I plan to take notes currently (lined notebook for session notes, blank notebook for glossary) as the different inserts are pretty obvious and accessible already. But you know. They look so nice. And maybe I will have more sections at some point that all need be marked like this. Also, they're super easy to use and very flexible as one just puts in a small paper slip with the title.
(I could also totally see these clips to be pretty in ringbook situation instead of post its or other dividers)
How to take notes
As a quick side note, I actually watched a few YouTube videos with tips on how to take notes and am now super excited to put the knowledge to good use. The different videos all came with different tips, but they all agreed on one thing: it depends on what you feel most comfortable with and what you want to use your notes for. Do what feels right for you.
Some of their tips bled into how I set up my notebook - initially I had planned to use the brass clips to mark sections in the notebooks for when the glossary starts. That could for example have been in the middle of the notebook. German TTRPG YouTuber Mit Vortail (the name translates to "With Advantage", btw) gives the tip to start one kind of notes at the beginning of the notebook and the other type of notes at the back of the noteback. That way you don't run out of space for just one section, as they'll naturally meet at some point.
These are the videos I watched:
- In German: Wie du Notizen beim Pen & Paper Rollenspielen machst (Tipps für D&D, DSA, Cyberpunk, RPG) by Mit Vorteil
- Note-Taking in D&D: Tips for Players by Ginny Di
- how I take my dungeons & dragons notes | advice & tips by shaping shan
Here are some written resources:
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