The Blank Page And The Worldbuilder’s Notebook It’s Held In
“Its blood was the color of starlight.”
That’s what was scrawled on the first page of a stained and worn notebook near the bottom of one of the many stacks of notebooks shelved under my desk. In truth “It’s (sic) Blood Is The Color Of Starlight” was what I wrote. I had a nasty habit of adding apostrophes randomly in those days, a habit I have mostly broken thanks to vigilant self editing and brilliant staff editors.
You see, I began Storytelling and running tabletop games well before I would ever come to own or be given access to a computer for more than hunting pixelated buffalos in Organ Trail for 10 minutes at a time at the local elementary school. With a lack of cloud drives or even zip discs, I developed a love for notebooks and the possibility of the empty page they provided me. Lined, gridded, or blank a sheet of paper bound alongside more sheets of paper in a size I could stuff into my hoodie pocket or bookbag was (and still is) a thing of wonder.
I have tried all manner of notebooks and could expound upon them for pages on end, so rather than losing myself in that rabbit hole, I am going to talk about the notebook that has been sitting on my shelf right above eye level for a few months that has me very excited. You see, this notebook is very important because it will contain the foundation of my next major campaign. Within its pages, I will develop some of the systems and lore that very well may find their way into game design projects that I am working on. With my current campaign spanning almost 10 years at this point, the first offering of a new adventure has me very excited.
Called the Worldbuilder’s Notebook and created by Swordfish Island this very special journal is a 5.5″ X 7.5″ hardbacked tome with 192 pages that are divided into five distinct sections. It’s wrapped in a toothy grey cloth cover that is stamped with a sword plunging into stylized flame. The spine also has a small replica of the cover art on it, so that even sideways on the shelf you know exactly what you are looking at when you are scanning for it.
I have the grey version of this notebook and my internal font and back cover features art by Tim Hastings. It’s a beautiful blue skeletal serpent wreathed in flames and accompanied by a ghostly sorceress, all done in shades of spectral blue on a black background. There are other colors of the notebook that feature other artists, including a black version that features “Sea Witch” by the titan of fantasy art, Frank Frazetta.
What caught my attention and caused me to blindly purchase this notebook one weekday afternoon were the features printed on the pages of this notebook. There is a blank table of contents, so that once you fill a page you can add a notation to the table of contents, so you can quickly find the pages you are looking for. On top of that, each page is numbered, and the upper corner of the page has a spot for a title.
There are bordered pages throughout the notebook to make it easier to thumb through the pages and locate the section you are looking for. Each page (except the table of contents) has six blank squares on the edge of the page that can also be used for color-coding or in case rune designations to further help visually identify the content of the page when scanning for content.
The pages themselves are also very well thought out with multiple grid styles being present in a single notebook. While the majority of the book is made up of traditional dot girds that can serve as both writing or drawing pages, there are also six pages of 130 hex grids, twelve pages of 19 hex grids, and twelve pages of isometric grids.
The grids are also printed in Cyan, so if you want to scan directly from the notebook, you are able to isolate the cyan and digitally remove it with photoshop or your particular flavor of graphic software. It’s such a cool touch in my opinion that I don’t know why we don’t see it in other notebooks on the market. The binding of the notebook is also stitched, so that you can lay the pages flat on a scanner or hold it open for the PDF app reader on your phone and not worry that it will split the cover or unglue the pages.
The notebook even has a reference section that has a handful of maps designed by Dyson Logos, and information about Landforms including coastal lands, rock formations, caves, valleys, and more.
It also included a few pages on probability and dice rolls. When I am game designing I always have a few tabs open on my laptop to test probability and this makes me feel, at times, chained to the internet when I am working. These charts make it nice to totally unplug for a bit, and being able to do that eases the lure of distractions a bit.
In the coming year as I finish up my nearly decade-long story across three current running campaigns, my heart breaks a little knowing I will be closing the book on the world my players have been inhabiting and saying goodbye to old lore and well-loved NPCs. However, the prospect of the blank pages in this new notebook that sits just above my eye line lifts my spirits and calls to me to fill these pages with new horrors and wonders and maybe a creature or two whose blood is the color of starlight.
Until next time, may you always save verses purple worm poison.