There are plenty of different types of notebooks out there. As the office supply nerd that I am, I've tried a lot of them. But in the end I've found that discbound journals are the best for managing all of my D&D campaigns. In fact, the benefits of discbound campaign journal are numerous. Let's take a look at why.
What is the Discbound System?
If this is your first time on the site, or you're still in the process of researching the best way to organize your campaign notes, let me explain what the system is. Instead of a spiral bound or three ring binder, the discbound system uses a series of discs, made of plastic (but there are metal and wood versions too). The discs come in different sizes, so that you can create the customized notebook that you want. They range from about 1/2 in to 1 1/5 inches depending on your needs.
This binding method is different and allows for a variety of benefits that are very useful for D&D Players.
Move Any Page Anywhere
Due to its unique binding, any page can easily be moved, removed, or added. Pages are punched with a special type of punch. (Check out this list of notebook supplies for some of the punches I use). This mushroom-shaped hole (as I call them) allows you to gently pull to remove pages. To add pages, you simply push the paper tabs between the discs and the pages will slip in perfectly.
It Lays Flat
One benefit of this style of notebook is that it acts similarly to a spiral-bound notebook in that the pages lay flat for easy writing. You can also flip open to just a single page if you need more table space.
Punch Any Size Paper to Add It In
As a DM, I am constantly using notecards. I use notecards as a quick reference for enemy spells, for notes on special items, or even as a player for my beast shape forms. With a quick punch, I can add these loose bits of paper into my campaign journal. I haven't lost nearly as many notes as I did before this system!
Organization That Fits Your Play Style
I'll admit that my campaign journal as a dungeon master and my campaign journal as a player are vastly different. As a DM, I need a record of all my different homebrew and module elements. I find that taking notes on the module also helps me remember more and be able to improvise more. At the same time, I need to be able to quickly flip to a certain section of my notebook at a moments notice.
Our Dungeon Master's Guide to Adventure, does offer tab stickers to allow for easy flipping. Personally I find the mid-game scramble a bit derailing for my players (and myself). Instead, when prepping for my session, I will move all the pages that I'll need for that session together. Here's an image showing that a little bit.
As a player, I like to be able to take notes and look at my character stat without flipping. And while we designed tab stickers for easy maneuvering, I simply pull the pages out when I need them and pop them back in at the end of the game.
Different Brands All Work Together (mostly)
There are actually inserts that you can buy for discbound journals at craft stores. While these are not going to be D&D specific, you can easily find lined, blank, grid and dot grid paper to fit into your journal with relative ease.
While all brands will fit the discs interchangeably there are some things to note:
- The size of the punched holes may vary. While this doesn't mean that these pages won't fit into your journal, there are differences. For instance, Happy Planner punched pages are indented a little further, while Arc punched Pages are slightly closer to the edge and slightly smaller. At Cantrips Media, we currently use a Levenger hole punch, which is slighlty further indented than Arc but not as far as Happy Planner, but offers wider mushroom holes. We've found the larger holes make it easier to turn pages (there's less friction)
- The width of your pages may vary. While there are "standard sizes" to paper packs, from our experience, there's never an exact match when you mix brands. Be sure to note the size of your campaign journal when purchasing packs. Our Player's Journals are typically 8.5 inches by 5.5 inches. This is often considered a junior size of half-letter size. Our Dungeon Master's Journals are typically 8.5 x 7 which is NOT a standard size. You can still add these slightly shorter pages though.
- Paper quality and types will vary. The biggest difference between brands is the paper quality. If you use only a pencil, this won't be a problem. If you're like me, you need to be able to highlight important details. At Cantrips Media, we use 28-32 lb paper. (For old-school paper nerds, that's 105 gsm to 120 gsm.)
Try it for yourself!
The cool thing about this system is that it's completely customizable. You can add and remove whatever you'd like, whether it be pages that came with your campaign journal or pages you added in later. The only way to truly know if this system is for you is to give it a try!