How to Keep Track of Your D&D Campaign


When did the party receive four pegasi as a gift from the Choqiti wood elf tribe? Where did they cause a volcanic eruption and accidentally massacre a clan of peaceful fire genasi druids? What kind of creature was Kifirith? Who infiltrated the party as a doppelganger and fed Lord Elyas Embong all the information about the missing gold dragon? Where did the party begin their adventure?

These are all questions that arise during a Dungeons & Dragons campaign or between sessions. Players — and Dungeon Masters — aren’t always able to recall key details. That’s okay! D&D is a complicated, vast game during which unpredictable and confusing situations can arise. 

Dragon lords spy on dwarf settlements while polymorphed into an elf. The Hand of Vecna hides in the backpack of one of the adventurers. An army of hobgoblins marches on the city of Galen. Draagad Dalamissent was the storm giant who died at the hands of his brothers. We’re only human, how can we remember all of this information in our mortal minds?

Using our campaign compendium, of course!

What is a Campaign Compendium?

A campaign compendium is a file that helps us keep track of our campaign. Preferably, it’s a spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, allowing us to keep track of specific information in a clean and concise medium. In this file, we store tons of important knowledge such as:
  1. Session names, synopses, summaries, and dates in the world and on earth.
  2. Names and descriptions of nonplayer characters, as well as when they were introduced.
  3. Player character names, descriptions, players, party status, mortality status, and notes.
  4. Maps of the region, continent, and world.
All of the information in our campaign compendium is available to our players at all times if we use a sharing service like Google Drive. This fact allows our players to read about or catch up on the campaign between sessions and even look up key knowledge on the spot during an actual session. Before we explore how to manage our campaign compendium, take a look at mine: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JscU_4NDsT9lqIhA6aXZaOkFQp7HB5sgMLgne2PmDrQ/edit?usp=sharing.

Unlike our campaign guide, our campaign compendium might be utilized by both dedicated and more relaxed players. People who are invested in the characters and story of the campaign might pore through our compendium, memorizing every character they've met, every event in our campaign, and every place they've visited. People who don't remember as much or don't care as much might be motivated to glance over our compendium before a session starts, eager to show off their enhanced memory or contribute more to the narrative. It's a win-win for us!

How to Manage Our Campaign Compendium

We don’t want our campaign compendium to be a confusing sheet. It needs to contain clear information that can communicate broad ideas about the story or important characteristics about the people quickly. So, before we do anything else, we need to set up the compendium.

Create three tabs and one tab for every key campaign map (most likely a region, continent, and world map). Name the first tab Journal, the second tab Dramatis Personae, and the third tab Party Members.

In the Journal tab, create a column for each of the following headers: Session Name, S# (Session Number), Session Synopsis, Session Summary, Date (World), and Date (Earth). The first column contains the names of each of our campaign’s sessions while the second column contains its number. The third column briefly alludes to the events of the session before it happens and the fourth column summarizes the events of that session. Only detail the most important events of the session, we don’t want this cell to take up more than one row of space. The final two columns hold the date the session took place in game and in reality.

In the Dramatis Personae tab, make a column for each of the following headers: Name, S# (Session Number), Description, and Status. The first column holds the name of a nonplayer character, excluding titles, and the second column shows the session they were introduced. The third column quickly dives into the NPC, outlining their primary role in the world. The final column alerts readers whether or not the character is still alive.

In the Party Members tab, build a column for each of the following headers: PC Name, Played By, S#, Description, In Party, Status, and Notes. The first column holds the name of the character, excluding titles, while the second column shows who they are played by in the real world. The third column shows when they entered the campaign and the fourth column details important traits like race, class, and background. The fifth column explains whether or not the character is still in the party and the sixth column shows if they’re still alive. The final column is for any extra notes, such as their current goals or aspirations.

In the Map tabs, simply expand the map to its maximum size. These tabs serve as a way for our players to navigate the region, continent, or world on their phones or computers if we don’t have printed out maps.

After our compendium is created, all we must do is manage it. Before every session, we update it with the session’s name, number, and synopsis. After every session, we update it with the session’s summary, any new nonplayer characters, and any changes to existing characters — both player and nonplayer. Remember, we need to keep everything concise; this compendium isn’t for fiction or long-winded discussions on our campaign. It’s meant to serve as a tool for us and our players to glance over and remember key events and characters of our campaign.

Different Ideas for Our Campaign Compendium

We can infinitely customize our compendium. Detailed below are a few of my ideas that might inspire a better campaign compendium.

Let the Players Handle the Compendium

While we are usually the ones who maintain its accuracy, we could give that responsibility to our players. All we must do is ensure our compendium is editable and explain to our players their new opportunity. If they want to, they can detail the events of the campaign themselves, summarizing key encounters and characters in our compendium. This will only work if our players agree to it, so make sure they’re on board before deciding this idea is the way to go.

Add Outlets for Deeper Knowledge

While we want our compendium to remain concise, we can still give players the opportunity to easily access more information about the campaign and world in it. For example, I include the link to my campaign-specific region guide in my campaign compendium for the Karlith Straits. This lets my players quickly see more in-depth lore about that region. In addition, I link to an in-depth campaign journal. This journal details the events of the campaign as if they were fiction being read in a novel. I love writing so it’s a special, interesting aspect I can add to my compendium — it’s not for everyone!

Campaign Achievements and Statistics

This one might be controversial and I might not ever utilize it in my own game. D&D isn’t a video game, of course, but one of the best features of video games that D&D doesn’t have that it could is achievements and statistics. Our campaign compendium could hold two more tabs named Achievements and Statistics. The Achievements tab could include an array of different challenges & goals for our party, especially if they’re goal-driven but refuse to come up with goals for their characters. Examples include: convince Lord Ambriosa to side with the rebels; slay Lazarus the Glutton using the terrain of his lair intelligently; stay in the Nine Hells for one week without making a deal with a devil; polymorph into monster of every type. These Achievements might inspire our players to approach social interactions, exploration, and combat encounters in unique and interesting ways. The second new tab, Statistics, could house awesome or pointless facts about our D&D campaign. How many dungeons has the party entered? How many monsters have they killed? Who’s casted the most spells? When did the party level up? Information like this might not have any direct benefit, but it’d be interesting to track.

In Summary

A campaign compendium can only help our D&D game. Utilizing it, we can:
  1. Keep all of our campaign information such as important events and iconic characters in a compiled yet concise location.
  2. Ensure our players remain engaged in our campaign by having knowledge obtained readily available.
  3. Give players the chance to immerse themselves in the campaign by keeping track of information.
  4. Add more outlets for advanced knowledge of our campaign and world.
  5. Try out radical ideas such as achievements and statistics in our game.
That’s all, folks. I hope you try out a campaign compendium in your own game. Let me know if this was helpful in the comments below, link your compendium, too! If you're interested, here are links to my campaign compendiums:

  1. The Enoach Desert: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1qVcAV53HKkM9IiYTpttBs5RdR2f9DLj13IxoVFHmtKQ/edit?usp=sharing 
  2. The Karlith Straits: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JscU_4NDsT9lqIhA6aXZaOkFQp7HB5sgMLgne2PmDrQ/edit?usp=sharing
Stay inspired, friend.

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Comments

  1. Nice! I do something similar, but you have some useful ideas and suggestions I can use. I've been breaking things into multiple documents in a Google Drive folder, when it would be much easier to put them in multiple tabs of a single document.

    I hope you don't mind me contributing a suggestion, though: I like to sort the Dramatis Personae by name. (In some campaigns, I'll also group by faction or something.) It's a little slower to add to the list, but makes looking someone up easier. Of course this depends on the campaign and the players, how it is used.

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    1. Glad to hear this helped.

      Sorting by name/faction is a great idea! Can't believe I didn't mention how to sort. I usually sort by order of appearance but I can see sorting by faction working very well.

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  2. This is such a creative idea and I love it! I've just started DMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen and having this template to keep myself organised is a godsend. I've put it together and now I'm wondering whether to make it viewable or editable for my group.

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    1. Fantastic! Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a truly interesting adventure, one that can be made great by a Dungeon Master who cares about their group. I can tell you're that type of DM - good luck.

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    2. We're currently just starting Chapter 2 and having the Sheets document has been very useful. I've made it so it is up to date with player knowledge. For example, Rezmir is currently labelled in NPCs as "Dragon Lady" and that is what they've heard her referred to as. The group is enjoying it and are using it to varying degrees.

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    3. I'm glad to hear it's worked out so well for you and your group. Keep me updated.

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