Field Notes – The D&D 5E Character Journal

Is your Dungeons & Dragons character sheet getting a little worn out? Are the notes you take from game sessions piling up to the point of absurdity? Where the hell is that crucial piece of information you jotted down about that shady NPC?

Dungeons & Dragons is a highly involved game, and a single campaign can go on for years. As rewarding and fun as it is, managing a character can also be messy – especially for people like me, for whom organisation is a glaring weakness.

Perhaps in response to people like this, Field Notes has released a little journal that does a lot of the organisational work for you. A compact, 64 page tome that you can use to keep track of everything related to your D&D character. It’s a simple idea, and it’s quite niche – specifically designed for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, with no real way to be anything else. But it’s quite neat, and may be precisely the thing you need if you fit the bill.

So, lets delve a little further into this 5E Character Journal. I’ll start with the more physical aspects of its design.

What Does it Look Like? How Does It Handle?

The journal looks nice and neat. A cardboard, red cover, simple but effective. It is a solid material, but would not be without damage potential – bending, creasing and some general wear and tear will likely happen to the cover over the course of a campaign.

But that’s easily rectified for those who want to put a little effort into protecting and maintaining it. And for those who like a little wear and tear, (it can add extra “character” to a character sheet, as it were), you can be rest assured the 5E Character Journal will hold up well enough to be functional in my opinion.

This a personal preference, but I can’t help but think a themed cover would be great for this journal – something that makes it look like a game prop. Perhaps later editions will provide such an option.

For brevity’s sake, allow me to bullet point a few other aspects of the journal’s physical design.

  • I like the feel of it – it’s nice on the fingers and easy to flick through.
  • It writes well and erases well with a standard HB pencil.
  • The light brown ink used on the page is easy on the eye, but easy to read.
  • The size of the journal is in the Goldilocks zone – large enough to provide good space for noting, but compact enough to transport and pack with absolutely no hassle.

Overall, the ‘material thing’ itself has a lot going for it, leaning towards the pragmatic and simple end of things.

Field Notes - The D&D 5E Character Journal

Why Is It Useful To Have? How Handy Is It?

Let’s move on to the guts of this character journal, and see why you might want one. How well is it designed for keeping all your notes in check, and reminding you of things to might otherwise forget to note down? More pointedly, why use this specific 5E Character Journal as opposed to buying a generic note book and simply customising it yourself?

That all depends on the individual, of course. But for me, organising my notes on anything can become overwhelming. If I had an NPC I could hire to help me complete life quests, they would be an expert planner. So, assuming you fit the bill, or just enjoy the convenience of such things, I will boldly state you will benefit greatly from the work Field Notes has put into their categorisation and labelling decisions. Rather than take you through each section of the note book, I’ll focus on the things that grabbed my attention.

Besides the pages that make the character sheet itself, there is a solid section devoted to the story behind your character – bonds, flaws, personality, etc. The great thing about having all this listed out is that it promotes creativity. A player might feel inspired to add such depth to their character simply because they see the suggestion in front of them.

One thing I like are the pages dedicated to each individual level. This provides a handy way to track the progress of your character’s journey. Need to know what significant things you achieved at level 4? Just flick back to that time and find out. Not only is such chronological noting useful to recall important information, but its also fun to relive the memories of adventures past.

All the stuff you’d expect is there, like treasure, equipment, spells and skills – you won’t find an oversight in the essential labels. You might find yourself squeezing in the words if you’re the type of person who likes to go deep with their character’s backstory. But the note book has enough options to cover the most imaginative player’s needs.

They leave room for factions, campaign quote, allies and sidekicks, and there’s even a handy session log, for those who like to keep a solid record of such things.

Finally, the cover pages include handy rules summaries, useful charts, and even a ruler!

For all its well-considered categories, I did find myself wanting some sort of mechanism for navigating through the journal. Perhaps it is too small for tabs, but something along these lines would be a handy feature. That being said, it is not too inconvenient to flick through and find what you in reasonable time.

Final thoughts.

This product is niche. You will want to be playing 5th edition D&D in a medium to long campaign to get the most out of it. And those who enjoy organising things might in fact find joy in achieving something to the same effect with a more generic journal.

But if you want to save all that time, or if organisation is not one of your strong points, then you will benefit greatly from the 5E Character Journal. And even if you do well at organising your notes, there is inspiration to be found in this journal to flesh out your character more fully. I can see myself grabbing one for any 5E campaign I might join in the future.

The 5E Character Journal is available now from Field Notes for USD$16.95 plus postage.

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