Wednesday, October 16, 2019

How I Set Up My Notes For The Next Session

I'm always looking for better ways to take notes. I'm always looking for better ways to prepare for a session. It occurs to me that if I am always looking for those ideas, that other people may be too. And while I am not so arrogant to think I have my shit together, everyone is at a different place in their journey and maybe my setup could help. So with that, today I want to go over the basic set up for my session preparation notes.

Monday, October 14, 2019

End of Session Note Taking

Ever have the meme above happen as a DM? It sucks. It completely sucks. I ended up having to axe a 7th Sea campaign one time because we missed a session, and during the break I completely lost the campaign in my brain and for some reason either didn't take notes, or didn't put them in the right place from the last couple of sessions.

Since then I tend to take my notes with a rocketbook notebook, and scan them to my google drive so I have a digital copy accessible anywhere of the previous session. Even with that though I've had times where I lost exactly where the PCs were. It leads to a muddled beginning of trying to recap with the players what they did, vs what they talked about doing, towards the end of the previous session and then figuring out what is going on from there.

Which is why I have started - or at least I am trying to start - a new practice.

At the end of each session, at the bottom of my notes, I write down where all the PCs are, what they are doing, and what they are planning to do at the beginning of the next session. I then copy these notes into the beginning of my prep-notes for next session essentially doing my recap bullet points and giving me a "current situation."

The sessions I've done this has made the transition a lot smoother. I know exactly where the PCs are. I know exactly what they are up to. I know what we talked about them doing. And once we get going on that, my brain fires up, and I can ease into the next session properly.

Sometimes what they are going to do changes. They have had a week or two to consider and maybe have a new idea. It happens. But often it doesn't.

With only a few attempts at this done, it has already been life saving more than once. And maybe it will help you too.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Discussion: Online or Physical Notes?

When you take notes for your game, do you prefer to do it on a computer or online, or do you prefer to do it in a physical format?

I don't see much difference between the two effect wise, but I've seen people express very strong feelings regarding how they take their notes.

I personally do almost all my game prep online. I make my prep notes in google docs. I make custom monsters in dndbeyond for D&D - and on gdocs for other systems. I do this because it lets me do it anywhere without a problem. I can poke in on a break at work. I can log in from a friend's house. I don't have to carry a whole bunch of notebooks with me, nor do I have to break out a notebook to do that work.

I have a Surface laptop that I use to review those notes at the game table to save paper and spare the trees. It also lets me have multiple tabs open so I can have more notes up and easily accessible all at one time.

However, I take my notes during game on a physical notebook. In particular I use a rocketbook. This lets me take notes during the game on a notebook, then scan and upload the notes online to use when making my prep notes for the next session.

It works well for me, but I know lots of other people do things differently.  So how do you take your notes? And what do you like about it?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mechanics Worth Stealing Lite: Giving the Environment a Turn

At GenCon this past year I got to play in a demo run of the Sentinels Comics RPG. It is a super hero RPG based off the universe used in the Sentinels of the Multiverse CCG. One of the neat things that happens in the game is that during combat, the environment you are fighting in gets a turn.

It's an idea I kind of like. And today I want to talk about it. This isn't a full on "mechanics worth stealing" though as I haven't seen the mechanic enough to fully know how it works. So this is more just me going off the idea and what I think and hope it could be.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Does The Game's Core Mechanic Emphasize What You Want?

Games are built around a core mechanic. This core mechanic is what pushes forward the theme of the game. In the past, core resolution mechanic and core mechanics were different. Games used several systems together to give a feel for the themes they were built around. More modern games are built with some games - particularly indie games - having that theme in their core dice rolling mechanic.

When choosing a game, it is important to consider these mechanics. After all, running a horror game where there are supposed to be real consequences for fear and acting in fear is going to be a lot harder in a D&D game than it is in FATE. Why? Because D&D has no real built in mechanics for handling fear aside from the combat focused "Frightened" condition. However, FATE's Aspects and Consequences allow it to come up and be meaningful.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Discussion: How much attention do you pay to World Lore?

When you run a game in a set universe, how much attention do you play to the established lore? Do you try to run 'canon' games, where all the information is up to date and accurate? Do you just take the basic ideas and play with them? Do you make specific changes to things?

I know a lot of GMs in L5R whose preferred way to run Rokugan is "The Scorpion Clan Coup, the Clan Wars, and the Second Day of Thunder happened...but after that this is what happened."

I know some GMs who will read and re-read a ton of lore while planning their games looking for places to fit their stories and adventures in that matches up with the established story.

My own tendency is to take the vague idea, but not behold myself to lore. When I run L5R I'm running my Rokugan, and that means things may be different from established lore to fit my story. This is communicated as it comes up, and I try to keep it to a minimum, but it still is there.

What about you? Do you have a strong preference either way?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Building A World From The Ground Up

The other day I had an idea for a world for a potential future campaign. It was focused on my semi-fascination with sunken cities, ships, castles, etc as a location for adventures in movies, comics, videogames, RPGs, and everything else. The idea became persistent to the point it wouldn't let me think about other stuff. And so last night I set out to make the world. Only I had one problem: I know basically nothing about geology, and most of my friends know - especially by comparison - quite a bit. It happens a lot where aspects of maps irk them just because it goes against expectations.

Now I'm a big fan of fantasy being able to break rules from how the real world works. After all, in a Fantasy universe gods, magic, and monsters are all provably real. But it is also nice to have a grounding in at least the basic aspects of our world. If nothing else it pre-emptively solves problems. You don't need to figure out where is dry - and why it is dry - when you know how the winds generally travel in your world. And so working with my friends over the course of about two hours we made the following world, and I figure I will present it step by step so you can see how it went.