Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Organizing Your Gaming Notes

Any gamemaster (or writer) worth his salt always has more ideas than he has time. These ideas may be half-baked, over-cooked, or perfect and fully formed like Athena on paper from your Zeus-like noggin. It’s just a hazard of the mindset – too much stuff floating in our heads and too much “what if” thinking – if you’re like me anyways. So what do you do when the Best Plot Ever (TM) comes into your head while you are showering or driving? I’ve got a few ideas, tips, and tricks and I thought I’d share.

Getting It All Down
Making notes is an art form. There is a process to it. A flow. It’s different for each person because each person thinks and learns differently so you’ll need to tweak the process. At a minimum I suggest the following:

  • A catchy title to sum up the note.
  • Three to five sentences to encapsulate the idea.
  • Keywords related to the note.
  • Anything else related such as a diagram, math, etc.

Bad notes are worse than no notes and can lead to lots of frustration when trying to remember that brilliant idea. Take your time when making notes. Be precise. Use simple, clear language that you can understand later on and never abbreviate things. If you can’t get it down immediately a few quick notes are fine, but then go back over and write it all down so you can use it later.

Light Bulbs Love To Turn On At the Worst Times
They really do. In the shower? YUP. While driving? OH, YES. While having a dream where you see yourself standing in a sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you? No? That just me then? Ok, let’s move on. Ahem. Anyways, the thing here is that the idea shows up when you least expect it – much like the Spanish Inquisition. So what can you do as a young vibrant stud of a GM (or writer)? I like to use the following methods:

  • Get a crayon (you can use a grease pencil, but crayon is better) in a bright color (e.g., red) or black – you can always bet on black, Wesley said so – and keep it in the shower, bath, pool, etc. Got an idea? Make quick notes on what it is so you don’t lose the thought and then go back and fill them out later as noted above.
  • Get a voice recorder (or Voice Recorder app – they are VERY common. I like Tape-A-Talk , those EverVoice looks useful for Evernote users) and actually use it. Voice notes can be extremely helpful, the only issue is transcribing it later on.
  • Keep a pocket notepad, pencil and/or pen on you at all times. Again, this is low-tech. You can use note-taking apps on your smartphone or tablet to do the same thing – I like Evernote, but Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote do the same things.
  • Keep detailed notes on your computer (back up often!) or in a notebook (make copies!) so you can access them later. Keep them on your phone if you can using any of the above mentioned apps. Basically, have them with you when you need them. This is one of the things that smartphone has fundamentally changed for me. Access to all my notes right when I need them? Heck yes.
  • Keep post-it-notes or similiar in multiple rooms of the house you frequent often to make quick notes when you need them.

Picking Over the Bones
I’m sure there are things out there I’m missing – but these are my go-to-practices regardless of what I’m writing. It could be for my games, for Pyramid, for this blog, fiction – whatever. It pretty much works for anything.

What things do you like to do? What are your best practices? What software, devices, etc. do you use to keep your ideas?

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