My Gaming Notebook (or how I am learning to embrace order)

Let's start by saying I lean somewhat toward Chaotic. My notes, traditionally, are scribbled on margins, envelope backs, and other blank spaces sighted within my apathy radius.

I also have real difficulty with parsing text or writing while I'm talking or listening.

In that context, let's talk about July RPG Blog Carnival topic of "The Gamer's Notebook".  This post sat in my drafts since the beginning of the month as I wanted to take the opportunity to actually think about what I should be doing and if my emergent process is actually any good.

As a GM:

When I run a game I have started trying to keep separate reusable reference sheets for different things depending on their purpose and just reference the ones I need that session. I dread flicking through monster lists at the table as much as I do looking backward and forward in a published adventure looking for a certain piece of information.

Generally I'll want to have:

1 - A crib sheet for the area/location the party are in, and be able to switch this out for another if they move areas. I'm still solidifying what should be on this but generally this is relevant information, flavour notes, local plotlines and/or adventure seeds, stat blocks for any local "monsters"...  I suspect what goes on this will vary from game to game; for Blades in the Dark I didn't use any, although I could have, but for Stars Without Number they look like this (you'll note this is incomplete!):

Credit to Kevin Crawford for the left hand side, my supplemental notes page is on the right

2 - A crib sheet for whatever faction(s) is/are important to the current plotline or inhabiting the currently relevant location. Again this varies from game to game and I'm trying to nail down what I actually want on this, but generally this would include names, key NPCs, motivations, stat blocks where these are necessary.  For Blades I printed out the Factions section of the book and flipped to the relevant one, for SWN I had expanded faction sheets (even though I ended up not really using an of the faction rules, they gave me a good place to start from).

3 - A list of scenes that may or may not crop up in this session, more loose than an "adventure" but usually still with an intended flow.  I like to prepare prompts for things that might happen but happily follow the players down any rabbit holes or along any tangents they take as we play the game.  After a session I'll let the events percolate in my head for a day or two and then make a new list for the next session; some things may carry over if they're part of an ongoing storyline or it may be all new.

4 - Maps for dungeons or wilderness areas or the like, although I am trying to move away from this I do still feel the need.  I'm always worried my mind will draw a blank and the session will crash and burn.  Maybe I need to start printing out dungeons / buildings / deckplans I like and keeping them in a binder?

5 - Some notes on ongoing or incoming / potential campaign storylines.  For Blades I didn't have this, which felt odd, as the game doesn't really need it and, in fact, trying to do so felt like it was breaking something.

I've started experimenting with mapping in an old "laboratory" notebook I found (graph paper on left hand page, lined on the right) and I think I can make use of lab books for a lot of note taking; I just need to work out how!

As a player:

I take no notes, I just soak it all in and enjoy the immersion and not having to concentrate.

I'd probably sketch my mental images of what was happening, if I didn't feel it might be rude, but I take no notes.  Perhaps I should (do either) - what do you think?

Comments are always welcome - and finally thanks to Scot of Of Dice And Dragons for hosting this month's topic - and for organising the whole Carnival shebang!

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