Still, for today I want to talk about how a spreadsheet can help save time while tracking important NPCs and Information about them.
The Core Sheet
The spreadsheets I use for tracking NPCs start off with a base, core sheet. This sheet holds every NPC that gets a name in my game if I even think there is a chance that the PCs will run into them again - or go looking for them again. So basically, if someone goes "what is this guys name?" they get a line on this spreadsheet.
The core spreadsheet tracks certain information for every NPC, modified for different games. The list is: Name, Race, Job, Sex, Age, Disposition to PCs, and Location. Race can change to Clan for L5R or Nationality for a modern day 'normal' earth game. You get the idea. This is very bare bones, but that's ok. All this needs to be is a master list of the NPCs.
I also have a Notes line for any quick things I need to jot down, but I don't consider that core information, and you'll see why later.
Additional Sheets for Each PC
The spreadsheet workbook then gets an additional sheet for each PC, and an additional sheet labelled "Important."
Each PC sheet gets the name of the PC it is for. I then enter the names of NPCs that are important/key/relevant to that player. I use an Index/Match function to fill in the other 'core' information off the main page, but you can also use vlookup or just duplicate the hard work (plz look up how to use index match. It's magic!) The PC also gets a notes section, and in this I fill out why the NPC is important to the PC and other important memory jogging information I have.
When I'm done you may have an entry like this on the main page:
- Kiera : Elf : Tailor/Thief : Female : 134 : Friendly : Ebeah City
And this on a PC's sheet
- Kiera : Elf : Tailor/Thief : Female : 134 : Friendly : Ebeah City : Went on a date with Robert. Gifted him a nice boot knife. Also a contact for the Ebeah Thieves' Guild
The Important sheet is done the same way, just for NPCs that are important for my current plots or the meta plot. Notes there say how they're important for that.
Quick To Review
With the spreadsheets set up like this, it's not hard to review them when I need them. If my players tell me they're going back to Ebeah city, I can quickly sort my spreadsheet for Ebeah City and find the named NPCs the PCs met there last time. Then I can check their individual sheets to see if any were of particular import to a specific PC in general. Finally, looking to the Important sheet will remind me if they have some part to play in a plot I started but maybe forgot about.
It's worked well for me. Perhaps a similar setup would work for you.