I recently started running a new 5e D&D campaign, and I had to decide what I was going to use to keep track of notes and ideas. I was tempted by Kanka, which is similar to sites like Obsidian Portal and WorldAnvil in that it was designed as a tool specifically for keeping track of rpg campaigns and worldbuilding. Kanka seems most useful for sharing information with players, and I still might use it that way as the campaign moves forward. What I needed, though, was a tool to help me plan and run games.
I settled on Trello, which is a popular project management tool built around cards that you can drag and drop between columns. While it may not be as good as tools like Kanka for referencing and presenting information, where it shines is in its flexibility and tools for organizing.
Currently, I’m early in the campaign, so I just have four columns: one for resources (mostly important links), one for ideation, one for cards that are in play but not immediately active, and one for cards that are relevant to the current session. Trello is built to let you move cards easily between columns and make new columns as needed.
Each card is either a generic resource (such as a link to our virtual tabletop), an in-game location, a NPC, or a plot line. I use labels for these, so I can filter by them. I also attach a token to NPCs and a map to locations. These get displayed on the front of the cards, both for easy reference and to aid me with visualization. I make heavy use of Google docs, and Trello’s new link card feature allows me to paste the URL of a google doc into the title of the card directly. I don’t use this just for written documents—I also have a spreadsheet of the PCs with important stats of theirs noted (allowing me to see their comparative Insight bonuses, for instance), and I’ll occasionally use Google Draw for quick sketches that I want to share with the players (not something I’d recommend for everyone, but I’m very fast with Google Draw after years of using it for quick wireframing).
As the game progresses, I will continue to add notes and additional details to cards. I’ll also be adding a card for each PC to track important notes about them, particularly with respect to their relationships to NPCs. One thing I haven’t done yet, but plan to do, is to use Trello’s built in checklist features to represent progress clocks. These will mostly be useful on Plot cards, but I expect to use them to measure the impact of the PCs actions on NPCs and maybe even Locations as well. I’m also exploring Trello’s Power-Ups. Some of these offer tools such as relationship links between cards which I expect to be useful as the campaign grows in complexity with more elements coming into play.