Campfire is a software platform that traditionally has focused primarily on fantasy and science fiction authors, but is now a much more robust program that works for authors of any genre.
It has a lot of features and benefits, and even though it might not have quite as many features as a program like World Anvil, it provides almost everything you need as an author, and does so in a way that is clean and organized.
In this review article, I will explore what Campfire is, who it is for, as well as the pros and cons of this dynamic software platform.
But if you want the long and short of it, I do recommend campfire as one fantastic piece of worldbuilding and writing software.
- What Campfire is
- It's pricing and available plans
- It's many features
- It's pros and cons
- Whether Campfire is right for authors
Table of contents
- What is Campfire?
- How Much Does Campfire Cost? Pricing and Plans
- How to Use Campfire Write
- Campfire Features
- The Pros: What I Liked
- The Cons: What I Didn’t Like
- Campfire Write Alternatives
- Verdict: Is Campfire Write Worth It?
Don't forget that if you click some of the links below, and purchase any products, I do get a small kickback from that. But it costs you nothing extra, and all of it goes to my coffee fund, which I greatly appreciate!
What is Campfire?
Campfire is a plotting, planning, and worldbuilding platform designed primarily for authors to write their books and other storytelling projects.
Unlike some of its competitors, like World Anvil, Campfire focuses more directly on authors as their primary target audience, and less on game masters and RPG players, though they could also take advantage of this platform for their purposes.
Who is Campfire For?
Campfire is a platform primarily geared for writers of fantasy and science fiction, though with recent changes in their platform, it works for any kind of author.
However, any of the following could use Campfire to great effect:
- Game Masters
- Role players
- World-builder hobbyists
Is it Campfire Pro, Blaze, or Write?
Campfire started out as Campfire Pro, which was a software you could install on your computer, and would live there. Later the developers released Campfire Blaze, which was an online version of Campfire Pro.
But if you look at their website, you will notice that it's now just Campfire, or Campfire Write. To make matters more confusing, the parent company behind all of these is called Campfire Technologies.
So which is it?
This program is now called simply Campfire or Campfire Write. This is a rebranding of what was previously known as Campfire Pro and Campfire Blaze. Those two have been rounded up into a single product that works offline on your computer and in the cloud.
This is actually a good thing, as it really scales back the complexity, but if you do research on this platform anywhere else, you may be confused to see a bunch of different names out there. This is why I wanted to clear up this particular question.
But no worries, it’s just Campfire Write now.
How Much Does Campfire Cost? Pricing and Plans
Campfire has a rather unique pricing structure, one that lets you pay only for the specific features that you need. Back when the software was called Campfire Pro, this was a little different. Now, you don't need to pay for the worldbuilding features if you are not a world-builder. This is useful if you are a writer of romance, thrillers, or any genre that doesn't require heavy worldbuilding.
For you, you would only need the basic features, and you would save money sticking to those.
However, if you are an author of fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, etc., then many of the other features would be very helpful for you.
Let's start by looking at each of the different modules, what they do, and their basic price tag (all prices are in USD):
|A module for actually writing your book.
|Build your characters from the ground up.
|For writing generic articles about your world.
|For creating languages in your world (from words to phonetics).
|For creating magic systems of all types.
|For creating interactive maps that sync with your locations.
|For keeping a list of notes and other research relevant to your novel.
|For creating a list of events for your novel.
|For showing changes over time for your characters and other modules.
|For descriptions of your locations.
|For all items (i.e. weapons, important clothing, etc.)
|To show the web of connections between different characters, items, locations, etc.
|For creating flowcharts or hierarchies of organizations, people, or information.
|For creating your cultures.
|For creating different ideologies and schools of thought within your world.
|For creating different religious beliefs in your world
|For creating different species within your world.
One potential downside of this software is that it is expensive if you are looking to purchase every single module.
A lifetime purchase of all modules will set you back $375 USD. If you want all of these in a subscription service, that number comes to $12.50/month or $125/year.
However, one of the benefits of Campfire is that it has lifetime purchase options, so you don't have to worry about the subscription price rising in the future.
You can also try a mix of pricing options, purchasing the lifetime option for your favorite modules, and the subscription package for modules you are just trying out. This is an incredibly flexible pricing system, and one that I personally think is somewhat revolutionary, if a bit complex-looking when you first take a look at their pricing options.
But the fact that you don't have to pay for any feature that you don't want or need is one of the biggest benefits of using this program.
How to Use Campfire Write
Using Campfire Write is simple. It's challenge comes not from using the platform, but from writing a lot of articles (which is a hurdle regardless of what worldbuilding platform you use).
That said, here are your basic steps for using Campfire Write.
Step 1: Create Your Project
Once you've created an account and logged in, you can navigate to the “Write” section.
From there, you can create a new project, and you will be prompted with the basic information needed for that project. Or, if you have already created a project, you will see it listed here. Simply click on the project, and it will take you to your project dashboard.
From your project dashboard you will see pinned articles, recent changes, and anything else you've elected to see here.
On the left, you will see your list of project assets, which is basically a list of your articles, keeping everything handily organized in one place.
Step 2: Fill Out Your Articles
From here, you can select or create new articles. And I'm happy to say that each module walks you through the creation of that item in a way that is very easy to follow, helping you keep track of everything relevant for that thing.
For example, when creating a character, it will walk you through basic info, physical attributes, personality traits, statistics, and you can even add an image. And if you have information that doesn't fit into any of those categories, you can add your own panels with additional information.
In other words, it's versatile, but it also walks you through the process in a way that makes it very easy to use.
Step 3: Write Your Book
In the manuscript section, you can write your book within Campfire if you want, and doing so has a number of advantages.
For example, you can highlight proper names, locations, or items, and link those to the article on those specific things.
You can also have notes and relevant information pulled up to one side, for example a character profile, which allows you to keep all of the relevant information on hand when writing a scene. This is incredibly useful if you have a lot of small details to keep track of while you are writing.
Step 4: Continue Fleshing Out
As I mentioned in my other review on World Anvil, the real trick here is to just continue creating content. It will require a lot of work on your part to flesh out all of the characters, locations, artifacts, not to mention your actual book.
Thankfully, Campfire Write keeps everything fairly well organized (although it can start to get a little unwieldy if you have too many articles), so it doesn't take much work to really flesh out your world as you go.
Under pricing above, I already outlined the basics of each module, but let's take a look at some of these features and how they work.
If you have the manuscript writing module, you can write your book directly into Campfire. This is the most expensive module, so if you plan to use another writing software (hint, hint Atticus), then you don't even need this module in the first place.
However, it does come with a number of important features that I have already mentioned above: such as having your worldbuilding or character info right on hand, and the ability to link the names of your character in each chapter to the relevant information about that character.
This could be especially useful if you have free portions of your manuscript available for everyone to look at, and you want to provide an interactive experience for your reader.
Most of the features of this program fall under the different article databases. These include:
- Magic systems
- Encyclopedia (for generic articles)
While World Anvil offers a lot more categories than you see here, these are most of what you would need as a novelist. Each of these is tailor-made specifically for that category, and they are easy to use.
Relationships and Systems
If you have the relationships or systems module only, you can create different webs showing the hierarchies or relationships of different items on your database.
For example you could do a family tree, or a political structure, or loyalty web, or literally anything you can think of that involves relationships or systems.
Campfire Write has a standard timeline module that lets you construct multiple timelines for multiple uses. This could be the basic plot of your novel, but could also be the history of your world, the history of a specific character, etc.
While I have seen other timeline software that is more advanced and in some cases easier to understand, for most people this timeline will absolutely do the trick.
To be clear, Campfire Write is not a map-making software. However if you have the art files for your map, you can integrate your maps with your location articles.
This turns your art into an interactive map, where you can click on a specific location and learn more about it.
This is one of the better features of Campfire Write that you will not be able to replicate with just a simple website or in a book. It's a feature that you can only find in programs like Campfire or World Anvil.
In addition to Campfire Write, there is also Campfire Learn, which is the repository for all tutorials, tips, and strategies related to this program.
You can find great worldbuilding advice here, interviews with various authors and creators, as well as top-notch tutorials for the program itself.
While I would not call their level of documentation that extensive, the videos are very helpful. As the switch from Campfire Pro to Campfire Write is fairly recent, I'm expecting more tutorials in the near future.
Explore (Making Your Project Public)
Lastly, we have Campfire Explore, which is where you can view other projects created by other creators.
These can be fun to look around at to get ideas for how to build out your world, and this is also where you can share your world with your readers.
One of the best features of Campfire is that you have the ability to make anything public or private. If you have a public project, you can choose which articles are public, and which should remain private. This is useful if you don't want to reveal a spoiler, or you are still in the middle of writing something.
The downside to this feature is that you have to submit your project for publication in the explore section. You cannot simply publish your project whenever you want, it has to be approved.
This puts a damper on the community-driven aspects of this program. It means that your project remains more of a personal tool for most authors, and not a personalized wiki to share with your fans.
If it is important to you to have that personalized wiki, it might be a better option to go with World Anvil.
However, assuming your project is built out enough, there is a good chance that your project will be approved for the explore section.
One of the less important features that I actually found quite enjoyable were the different themes that you can have for your project.
There are a variety of themes, usually based on a specific genre, which will show up when you are creating your project, as well as the public facing side, if your project is available on Campfire Explore.
You can also customize your themes to be even more unique.
That said, the amount that you can customize is a little limited. And while the layout of the projects looks great, if you want something completely different, you will have some trouble getting there.
However, for most authors, this will not be an issue. The level of customization that you get should be acceptable for most.
The Pros: What I Liked
Overall, I was very happy with this program. Here are a few of the features that stuck out to me the most.
- I thought the pricing structure was unique and particularly useful for authors who may or may not need certain features. It makes it just as relevant for authors of any genre, regardless of the worldbuilding capabilities needed. Plus, having a lifetime subscription option is very handy.
- I like that the software works both online and off-line, and that integration is virtually seamless.
- By far the best quality is how user-friendly the whole process is. It's very good with hand-holding, and guiding you through the creation process for each individual article that you write.
- While my experience is still limited, I've heard many good things about the support, and judging by the quality of the product, I believe that they are doing what they can to make this the best tool that can be.
- This tool is not overly complex, and while some authors might need some more advanced features found in other tools, most will not.
- You can collaborate with readers and editors to get their feedback
The Cons: What I Didn’t Like
Despite all the good things I've said, there are a few things that I thought could be improved.
- First of all, it is not as community driven as a tool like World Anvil. Your projects need to be submitted before they can be publicly shown, and each public project is clearly part of the Campfire program, lacking the capability to make it look like your own page, or even customizing the URL.
- Despite the many pricing options, it can be expensive if you are looking to buy every single module.
- I found that each project is somewhat limited in its scope. It works better for a single novel, or a series, and not for an entire world. It would be difficult to have multiple novels set in the same universe, and linked in a single project.
- There are many more categories that they could yet explore for article types. The problem with introducing these article types is that it could drive up the cost.
- True collaboration requires that all users have a Campfire account.
Campfire Write Alternatives
If Campfire doesn't sound that interesting to you, then there are a few other options that you might consider.
The largest competitor to Campfire is World Anvil, which in some ways is a more powerful tool, but in other ways is not.
World Anvil focuses more on the worldbuilding side of things, so if you are buying a tool for the plotting or writing capabilities, then Campfire is a better bet.
However, if you are a RPG player, World Anvil is definitely the way to go. It is also more advanced and gives you more options for different article categories.
Plottr is a more focused and simple tool for writers. It focuses specifically on the plotting process, and has a number of similar tools to Campfire.
It also has the advantage of being a little cheaper, which can be useful if you don't need all of the features that Campfire provides.
One Stop for Writers
One Stop for Writers is another platform that is used for plotting, character creation, and worldbuilding. It's a simpler program that doesn't do as much, but if you're only looking to jot down a few notes about your story, this one might be good for you.
I really like the thesaurus features, something that you don't find in a lot of other platforms.
However it lacks the advanced functionality that Campfire or World Anvil provide when it comes to worldbuilding your universe.
Verdict: Is Campfire Write Worth It?
If you are an author, then I definitely recommend Campfire Write as one of the best worldbuilding and plotting software out there.
If you are looking to get into Campfire as a game master or RPG player, then I would maybe look elsewhere. This tool is geared for writers.
In my opinion, it's greatest feature is the fact that you can customize its modules to your needs. No magic in your novel? No problem. You don't have to buy that module. It gives you exactly what you need for a reasonable price.
While it certainly lacks some advanced features, it makes up for it in simplicity and ease-of-use. Most authors would not need some of those advanced features anyway.