When taking ones campaign from a three ring binder to digital format things can get messy in a hurry, especially if you're used to just tossing it all in a folder and sorting it out later, or put everything into a single word file that winds up being 100-500 pages long.
When beginning with organizing a campaign on a computer start wit the basics, a simple folder with the Campaigns title, and a couple folders inside it labeled "player" and "GM." The titles are conveniently self explanatory, with Gm only matters going into the Gm folder and Player related odds and ends into the player folder. The foundation of simplicity keep everything separated and prevents some of the frustrating confusions of "do the players know about locations/NPC X, Y & Z or only Y?"
Expand on the Basics
We'll focus on the Gm folder to start; given this is the center of the campaign and where all the most important info will be stored. Within this folder I created the following sub folders:
For all the important details of the campaign, major plot lines, behind the scenes occurrences etc... This folder is mostly filled with Word documents and a few stray pics.
Current Session Notes:
In here go the notes for my next adventure and all the requisite details I need, from NPC, Item and Monster Stats to pics and floor plans. (Often this is little more then shortcuts to other folders and files elsewhere in the campaign folder.)
This was where numerous word documents went, each detailing a single item (stats item history/back story etc..) and pics of various items/treasure the party will acquire (and NPC's will use) throughout their adventures. In more high tech games there's some subfolders in here of "Vehicles," "Weapons," "Armor," "Tech Devices." etc..
In here go all the pics and word documents detailing notable locations, and sub folders for specific towns, cities, star bases or kingdoms. (For more high tech space faring games I usually create several sub folders named after planets or solar systems to keep things easily organized.) Within each sub folder are also shortcut links back to the NPC's and items native to that location for quick and easy reference.
In here I put the pics and stats for whatever monsters/animals inhabit the game world as needed, slowly building on the database as the campaign progresses, and then having a large selection to quickly reference by the mid point of the campaign.
Every campaign needs a good soundtrack, and in here goes all the .mp3 files that add to the ambience of the game. (Mostly music without lyrics) In here are several subfolders separating the music tracks into various themes and sound effect folders for easy reference. (Town/Cities, Ocean, Combat, Weather, etc...)
The location for pics and stats for every significant NPC in the campaign, often organized with subfolders for major/minor NPC’s and a graveyard folder for the ones that didn't survive first (or second) contact with the players.
This is where I place world maps and word documents detailing the key specifics of the world as a whole, from legends and locations of buried treasures to maps detailing the borders of kingdoms and unexplored reaches. (For space faring games there's also a lot of notes in here about unexplored planets and alien races as well.)
Playing With the Players Folder
This folder I used for everything player related, so I had a fast easy reference of what the Characters were like, and their campaign knowledge over all. Using a similar style tot he Gm folder I divided it as follows:
NPC's the players counted as trusted comrades had shortcuts to their files form the GM N PC folder placed in here, as well as any specific player related notes concerning each NPC and what role they played in the groups life.
Organized just like the Allies folder, but containing the foes the group makes on their journeys, as well as a few notes of which notable organizations/factions they have upset.
In here I have the notes covering any vows/oaths/quests the group has agreed to undertake for any particular factions in the game world, as well as their current status with the groups involved and possible future benefits to be gained.
Player X Folder:
This title is usually the name of the player (or their character) with pics and notes about the character in question inside. (Along with short cut links to items and whatnot the player will likely acquire down the road) This is also the place I store info on a characters background and highlights of their adventuring career, as well as short cut links to significant NPC's that character is related to or in a significant relationship with.
Expanding On the Foundation
Once you have this basic folder structure created it's easy to expand and customize it to fit your specific campaign, be it adding a new folder for "Secret Societies" or sub categorizing the item folder by melee type or magical/non magical items.
For those GMing running more then one campaign it's usually best to save a blank copy of the entire directory before adding in all the campaign details, so when the time comes to start another campaign you don't need to recreate all those sub folders or spend time deleting the current one.
While the initial set up may take some work, the time saved by not having to sort through piles of info just to find a single stat listing or adventure note will be well worth it in no time, as will the speed with which you can prepare the next adventure.
Also for those who wouldprefer a visual example of this layout, here is a link giving a bare bones example of the campaign folder I described.
Additional Ideas (2)
GOOGLE DOCS, GOOGLE DOCS, GOOGLE DOCS.
Seriously, Google Documents is amazing. It has been a godsend for my online campaign. Any of my players can open and edit their Campaign Google Doc, and they've used it for session summaries, listing their inventories, quests, rumors (which I actually post to twitter for them to find), and so on. I even have a few documents that only a few players can see so I can dynamically introduce them new information as the campaign progresses.
An excellent option for when you have continual online access. Unfortunately for those of us out in the sticks regular access to online resources is rare. (most people I know don't even own a computer let alone wireless internet) When going to game at someone else's house it's usually a lap top and whatever files are put on it and no chance for online updating until I return home. (We also have the added fun factor of the net being down for days at a time in the winter after a nasty blizzard, making it even more of a headache to keep a campaign online.)
On the upside the organizational method I outlined will work just as well in Google docks as anywhere else given it's a simple directory structure, (well as long as you have a good connection and don't mind uploading all of the campaigns music files and pics to the site.)
A desktop wiki (such as Zim) is another excellent tool for this. The power and ease of use of a wiki running as a desktop application that requires no internet access. Everything is stored within a single folder so it is easy to back up and to transport between machines.