So based on the rave reviews Stu gave OneNote while GMing his worlds and how it helped him track various important information, I too started using it many moons ago.
I have built several worlds in OneNote and had some great experience with its ability to both organize and make connections to other notes within the world OneNote files I have built. I tend to try and keep the OneNote descriptions non-game rules specific so I can run say for instance the Super's world in many various games (Example; Savage Worlds, Cypher System, Mutants & Masterminds, etc.).
I split the tabs across the top with a basic info tab, it contains a few pages, your elevator pitch, then your introduction to the world, and sometimes a history or short story for flavor to get folks a feel for what you were going for. I've also included things such as a glossary of terms or what the social structure is like for the world. In my steampunk realm, I copied and pasted from Wikipedia actual history, then went in and adjusted it for my fictional world to make it feel both familiar and yet strange.
Next tab is usually something along the lines of Folks or People of interest. The top page is a list of possible names I can use for NPC's on the fly, the characters will always think of things you didn't, and this helps you to quickly have something ready and appear as if you knew all along this might be a direction they would take.
Right under that are any of the player character backgrounds, names, and info of what they've shown either in their character sheet or more importantly, in gameplay. On these pages, I also farm for other NPCs or locations for my world based on their ideas and expand the OneNote accordingly, so they might run into those things, or if not, another group might at a later game. Right below the PCs is NPCs section where I describe the folks I have created in advance for my stories. I tend to give a description of the NPC, what race or gender they are, if they have any personality quirks I need to bring into play, how they dress, and if I think there's a chance they might be in danger or engaged by players, I link to the various system character sheets for stats and give a short description of their tactical preferences or special weapons and defenses if I feel needed. I also build a couple of standard NPC note cards and link to those in case I get surprised and they decide to attack someone I wasn't prepared for them too.
Also in this tab, I create pages regarding any organizations, cults, secret societies etc that may exist, how their members are ranked or outfitted, what their primary goal or mantra might be, and if there are folks within the groups that not 100% loyal or "in the know" that might be used against the group by the players.
Next, I create the tab for places within the world, Countries with subpages for cities, towns, and subpages for the businesses within said cities and towns. A city will be a page, the businesses or locations the characters go to will be alphabetized as subpages under the city they were in. Within a location may be linked to other locations, is there an underground tunnel linking the tavern to the blacksmith? Does the library have a hidden magical portal that dumps folks out behind the town hall? etc.
Next tab will be items of importance to either the story or characters in the game. I will link the items to the location they are found or stored in, that link might be moved if the players or NPCs move them around, easy enough to highlight a link from a location, control X, go to new place it is, control V. The item page will have descriptions, values, and usually why it's important listed. It's also good to know a bit about its history, I try to keep that in subpages below the item page so if someone researches, investigates, or maybe psychically see's its history, I am not making it up on the fly.
The tab behind that is game notes, I do a minor outline of what my villain's plans are, lay out a time fame things are going to happen behind the scenes, and then adjust on the fly based on character actions and just let it play out. I also have a couple of spare puzzles or random encounters I can use if things seem to be moving faster than I had thought they would, and a few optional parts that can be dropped if the game is going long. I also always try to have some sort of cliffhanger or three in the wings for discovery at game close so we both have a starting place for the next game, and the players leave the table thinking about the game and hopefully looking forward to next session.
Basically, I have tabs for;
- World info
- Game notes
After a storyline or game ends, I remove the PC tags from the characters and if they lived, they drop into the NPC area as fodder for future games too. In this way your players more than affect your world, they help me to build it out and make changes that can set up possible future storylines. I also often add my favorite personal PCs from other games I've played in into the appropriate OneNote worlds I have built as story fodder.
I'd be interested to know if anyone else has another way of using this tool or something similar and what adjustments, suggestions, or comments you might have.