View Full Version : DM Notes

2009-08-21, 05:28 AM
Alright, well, I'm busy working on a campaign for my cousins (and possibly a few other peeps) but I have a problem at the moment, beyond the hand-drawing a continent size map detailed enough to show individual roads, and rewriting the spells lists, blah blah blah.

That problem is notes. So far I've already written up generic commoner stat sheets for every race (planning on doing generic militaman later, but haven't gotten around to it) and I've got half-written articles on the starting location (basically what you could expect a Knowledge (Local) check to bring up), the first subquest (Encounters, Additional Threats, XP rewards, the main boss), and the overarching plot(s) (just short blurbs on what I'm planning).

My question here is, what tactics do you use, or reccomend me to use, in writing up notes for my campaign?

2009-08-21, 05:48 AM
It sounds like you basically need to turn your brain on. Talking helps, also try just randomly writing about the subject. Sooner or later you know what you want to do.

2009-08-21, 06:00 AM
DM secretary (http://tinyurl.com/lj3m6c) is an excellent program (tee hee I'm a jerk!).
Make sure you know where all your notes are. Before I moved to DM Secretary I had the stats for a paladin villain, the PCs encountered him, and I had no clue where the stats were. I ended up having them fight the DMG paladin, who they killed easily.

2009-08-21, 06:01 AM
Getting ideas isn't what I've got a problem with, I can spit those out like watermelon seeds. Where it goes wrong is that I can't find a way to organize them efficiently... after all, dozens of pages worth of train-of-thought ramblings aren't very helpful mid-campaign.

Ninja'd: Thank's, I'll take a look at that program.

2009-08-21, 06:10 AM
First rule of creativity: you need to start somewhere, get it down and you can always change it. Once you begin to put things in a logical sequence you realise what is missing and what you'll need.

2009-08-21, 07:06 AM
So many people respond without reading your question (pita excepted, of course). wow.

I've heard good things recently about people using Evernote for their DM note-taking, though I haven't tried it myself.

2009-08-21, 07:22 AM
As for the DM Secretary; it was a nifty toy that amused me for a few minutes, but ultimately it lacks most of the functions I need. In some respects, a random pile of notes is easier to search through than a labyrinthine collection of tabs.

But honestly, does anyone have any simple notetaking strategies that are more organized than mumbling like a hobo on a WordPad document?

EDIT: Perhaps it would help if I gave an example of how I'm doing things NOW. This is a verbatum copy & paste from my notes;

A frail man in a hooded black robe of simple design, the holy symbol wrapped around his wrist marks him as a Cleric of Hades. His eyes are unusually narrow, darting about the room constantly. His narrow frame, while clearly not sturdy, is still relatively muscled, though this could simply be from the lack of fat on his body.

This cleric is quick to beg and quicker to flee. When he sees the characters, his first reaction will probably be to panic and set his skeletal bodyguards after them. When those are destroyed, he will flee by the quickest means possible, though if they corner him he will beg for his life.

If they interrogate him, he will ramble about how his order, the White Hand, intends to make a utopia by purifying the world of evil. Being pressed further, he will explain that this means that those considered unworthy by his order will be slain.

If they ask how many are in his order, he will explain that he doesn't know, that they are spread throughout the island. His particular sect of the order has about three dozen members, including his master, a relatively powerful Cleric of Hades and the one who raised the skeletons in the crypt, which the White Hand had been using as a base of operations for about a month. (That is, three weeks prior to the crypt's discovery by Jayan and Borod.)

He will also explain that he was merely instructed to guard the crypt between sermons, and he had only expected to have to keep accidental discoverers, such as Jayan and Borod out, and was by no means prepared for a large competant group like the players.

If the players allow him to leave (or if he sucessfully escapes) he will immeadiantly report to his master, the local undertaker, and thereafter the crypt will be guarded by five clerics.

2009-08-21, 07:26 AM
Writing them down on sheets of paper you can file? Than you can rearrange it as needed. 1 page = 1 idea/category, That way, while you might get a fat file, you don't have a page that you need to refer for 2 different things.

2009-08-21, 12:49 PM
I have a very refined note taking/planning system which I'm very happy with. My games are overly convoluted and complex and the system has stood up to them so far, but doesn't introduce much overhead. This is pen and paper based.

Get a notebook. I like the one subject variety, wide ruled, but I'm sloppy when it comes to penmanship.

On the inside of the cover, write a one line summary of what happened each day of your game. It'll be something like "day 9, killed Steve with lava. Group met Raoul."

In the first few pages write out summaries of any rules you don't quite grok yet. I usually skim the PHB for such rules. If I were to run 3.5 right now, I'd probably include summaries of combat maneuvers like grapple, bull rush, sunder, etc. You might want to leave a page for taking notes on these, especially if you plan to home brew rules. Figuring out what rules require lookups will speed up your game tremendously when those rules come up.

Then start writing sessions. I don't like planning more than one session in advance. I don't write a lot of speeches, just bullet points. Sometimes there will be a map. Dungeons can be done in bullet point form too. Improvise the layout, but come up with traps ahead of time. If you're using monster manual enemies, either write out their stats or include page numbers here. As sessions complete, stick them together in a big paper clip. You want them all there for reference, but getting to the current session is more important.

So far, so good. Here is where it gets more interesting.

Now go to the back of the notebook. This is where plots go. On each page write a paragraph long summary of a plot. It helps if you title them. I like checking off plots that have been set in motion. After each game session go to the back of your book and advance plots. Check off plots that have started. Write notes (usually 1 or 2 lines) about how the players advanced that plot. If the players neglected the plot, write out what the NPCs did in the mean time (this part is key for making lively world). If a plot hasn't been checked off yet it doesn't have to advance but can at your discretion.

If you're going to be running a lot of plots at once, I recommend getting some colored label stickers (http://www.amazon.com/Avery-See-Through-Removable-0-75-Inch-05473/dp/B00007LVF3/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=office-products&qid=1250876808&sr=8-1). Give each of your major (or active) plots a color and fold the sticker around the edge of the page. This will be helpful at the next step...

Characters are stored on index cards. One side of each card should have name, description, and roleplaying hints. The other should have stats. Don't worry about statting every NPC. Just put the stats on the back as you need them. If an NPC is involved in a plot, also put the aforementioned plot sticker on the side of the card. This way you can pretty quickly find all NPCs involved in a plot. Depending on the game you may also have to divide NPCs into different groups or organizations. I use different colors of notecards for this purpose. This may sound like a lot of color coding, but it's really not that bad.

I think that's it. I also keep an idea file on my computer (actually it's in my google documents so I can get to it at work, but that's besides the point). When I come up with ideas for a plot or NPC I put it in here. Later when I need material for the game I skim through the idea file and see what fits. Anything good gets copied into the game notebook. It sounds like you've already got one of these for your various plots. It is important to note that sometimes most of the detail in a plot is going to be in your idea file, not in your session notebook. The notebook is for what has happened in game or will be happening next session. The idea file often holds longer term plans. IE, a BBEG is planning to take over the world. The PCs meet him in session #2. His evil plans will not be included in your session notes as they dont' happen until session #10. They might be in the back with your plots or they might still be in the idea file.

- addendum -

I haven't done this yet, but I hope to in my next game. NPC cards should also track attitudes towards other characters. This will probably mostly be relevant for PC relations (and even then it only really matters if the PCs each have their own relations to the NPC).

Lord Loss
2009-08-21, 01:00 PM
Use The Holy Booke of Arkvoodle. Otherwise known as my trusty 360 page notebook with a chapter on '' NPCs'' another on ''Monsters'' and another on campaign/plot ideas. I write my adventures on looseleaf and put them in a folder before retyping them on a Word Document.

2009-08-21, 03:22 PM
I use a 3-ring binder with section dividers and put different things in each section. Like I have a section for the PCs, one for important NPCs, one for the adventure notes, one for encounter info & monster stat blocks, one for maps and pictures, etc.

I also make extensive notes using plaintext files on my laptop.

2009-08-21, 09:27 PM
My question here is, what tactics do you use, or reccomend me to use, in writing up notes for my campaign?
Just steal mine. :smallbiggrin: