'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Friday, April 6, 2018

The GMs Journal: Notebook selection.

So.... what mapping
programs are you
using for making
world and area maps?


A couple of days ago that question was posted to a local role playing group I belong to.

The standard answers all came up: Pyromancers, Inkarnate, Photoshop, Hexkit, VTT software and Campaign Cartographer. These are all useful tools, and although I suggested some of them, I don't personally use a single one of them.

I occasionally try and use the cool and fancy tools, but I never like them. I find it easier to simply grab my notebook/journal and jot down ideas and story arcs and finally flesh them out into maps and adventures. At most I sometimes organize thoughts in Google Docs. They never allow the ease of use that a simple piece of paper allows.

I like notebooks. I have always liked notebooks. I used binders in school with looseleaf paper and never liked it as much as a simple notebook. Perhaps I find the journals of the old masters inspiring. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci being a prime example. His notebooks are as important as his masterpieces.

I don't journal, which you would think based on my above statement I might do, but I do keep a sketchbook and that directly leads into my current favored set of notebooks for GMing. I follow an artist on social media named, "Jake Parker". Aside from being a cool illustrator he has some awesome videos about creativity and projects on youtube. One of the things he has turned me on to is the Moleskin Cahier line of notebooks. My first reaction was, "Must be nice, Moleskin notebooks are expensive!", and indeed some of their line, like many other journals, are pricey. He went on to show how they were resistant to bleed through with inks and could even be used for some basic tone with paints, and the best part is that they are NOT pricey. They are quite affordable.

So I went out and bought a three pack of these to use as my next sketchbook. The three packs will run you around $20, and each notebook has 64 pages in them. They are not huge tomes, but that is also a blessing in disguise. I liked them. They were easy to use. They are small and easy to take with you. The paper isn't pure white, and so you can add white to sketches pretty easily. Finally because they are not 100s of pages long, they are easier to fill up. That act of completing one gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

When I went out to find a new journal that had dots or grids on them I quickly started looking over at the Cahier line, which offer books in three flavours: Plain, Lined and Squared. I immediately went to Indigo (our local bookstore chain, and maybe yours) and tried to buy a set. Squared journals are apparently more difficult to find. Off to Amazon I went!

I found a set of 3 and ordered them. They took a LONG time to arrive as I did not order them directly from Amazon and ended up shipping from the UK. When they did they were smaller than I had realized (being the 5"x8.25" journals), but in the end I think I prefer this size for most GM journaling. I feel it is a good middle ground, but I think that is a personal preference.

Like the ones I use for sketching, they are small, allowing for completion and that sense of accomplishment. They are also filled with the same type of paper that resists bleed through; I use a uniball pen and write on every page, front and back. The slightly off white color will allow the addition of whites to your journal entries if you desire.

Of course these are not the only notebook on the block, and they are far from the cheapest, even if I do think they are affordable. For the most affordable notebooks, which I have used extensively in school and out, the crown has to go to Hilroy or a knockoff. These cheap coil bound books provide an inexpensive way to get a journal. They open flat and provide an easy way to remove pages. The downside, as I have always found, being the coil interfering with your hand when you are writing near the end of the page.

I have again provided links to Amazon and the tools I have mentioned in this post. These are affiliate links and purchasing through them provides me a small commission. Thank you!

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