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How Do You Organize Past Scenarios?

Once you’re several adventures into a campaign, how do you organize the scenarios your group has already played through?

There are two components to this question: the literal, physical organization of material (using a GMing binder [1], for example) and the meta-level management of past events — keeping track of stuff that will impact future adventures, etc.

For the Mage chronicle I’m starting today, I’ll be using a GMing binder with numbered tabs to file my scenarios after they’ve been played. I’ve never been that organized in the past, so I’m looking forward to it this time around.

I’ll also be taking notes as we play, and then synthesizing those notes into my setting material, NPCs and future scenarios. I’ve used some variation on this fairly organic approach for most games I’ve GMed, and it sometimes gets messy. Thinking about it explicitly should help me this time around, though.

How about you?

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#1 Comment By Arthur On October 20, 2007 @ 11:13 am

I started a wiki – you can get free, highly useful wikis at wikidot.com, with the option of restricting access to just those people who are involved in the campaign. There’s pages on the wiki for all kinds of different aspects of the setting and system, and I make a new page for each session for my own session writeup (and any additions/character diaries the players want to contribute).

I’ve found it an excellent way to organise campaign materials, especially since I was willing to let the players come up with setting elements before game start.

#2 Comment By ScottM On October 20, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

I’m pretty bad about it; I’ll toss scenario specific stuff off in an envelope, or even throw it away if I don’t think I’ll use it again.

That said, I spend more of my effort on reusable material (like NPCs, organizations), so I have a lot of clutter [people, companies, etc.] that keep active in the world even after the scenario where they’re introduced is over.

#3 Comment By MikeG On October 20, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

I use a wiki myself to store all the info and use as a reference. During a session, I use multiple tabs on my browser to point to the D20 SRD and relevant web sites for my game (which is Midnight and has a great SRD site for Midnight-specific rules, called darknessfalls).

One thing I’ve been doing is scanning books into PDFs and using OCR to copy the relevant text out of them and I place them in the wiki.

I usually take the info out of the Wiki and prepare a Word doc to print out for use in play, that way I can mark it up with notes and whatnot.

#4 Comment By Scot Newbury On October 20, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

The last campaign I ran I used a GM binder to track this information. In one section I kept the in-session notes – things like combat results, player reactions, plot notes, etc. – in another section I kept printouts of all the newsletters I created over the course of the campaign which included items such as an NPC lists and session notes which mentioned not just an overview but also the real date, campaign date and character levels (just for reference) for each session.

This go around I’m going to make an attempt to keep most everything electronic. My current plan is to use text files along with Freemind (I’ve imported the SRD into it for game use already) for my notes organization. It’s my first attempt at putting everything on the computer – should be an interesting adventure.

#5 Comment By Jorge On October 21, 2007 @ 1:22 am

Wikidpad is an invaluable tool for me. It’s portable too so I can organize all my stuff on my USB key. It can interact with some command line progs, and have kindof macros (If you know Python)

#6 Comment By DNAphil On October 21, 2007 @ 5:30 am

When I ran from paper, I kept a campaign binder, where all my past session notes were organized in time order. I did this for a number of campaigns, and I still have the binders in a box. That was the easiest way for me to keep paper notes organized.

Now that I run from my laptop, I keep all the notes for my sessions organized on my hard drive. I have each TiddlyWiki file numbered, and in their own directory, along with any maps, counters to be printed, etc.

As for the electronic files, I mirror them on a backup server I have, and once a month make an off-site backup to a portable hard drive, which is in a drawer in my office.

#7 Comment By the Mighty Bruce On October 21, 2007 @ 6:09 am

One thing we’ve done a lot is my group is designate one player as the “Party Journal Keeper.” That player is responsible for writing down everything that happens during the game including NPC names, treasure found, marching order, and any other useful info. As DM, I can look over the entry between games and make my own notes or corrections as necessary. Then, at the beginning of every game, the PJK will read the entry from the last game. It seems to have worked pretty well.

#8 Comment By Wes On October 21, 2007 @ 8:14 am

I use DokuWiki – and I encourage my players to edit in any little details they want (since there can be a lot of information). It’s the best thing I EVER did for my RP community.

#9 Comment By Frank Filz On October 21, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

I’ve mostly not been very organized with this.

With one of my Traveller campaigns, I used a portable computer during the game, so I had a reasonably complete log in a text file along with all the PCs and NPCs stats and some special notes for myself.

For my first Arcana Unearthed campaign, I started to keep the session notes sheets, labelling each.

I’ll usually keep some kind of set of notes about significant stuff, but since I tend to run episodic games, and don’t have a big master plot or anything, I don’t need to keep track of as much stuff.


#10 Comment By Martin On October 22, 2007 @ 9:17 am

Damn, but there are some incredibly detailed approaches showcased here.

I am now officially ashamed of my own organizational efforts. :S

#11 Comment By brcarl On October 22, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

Mark me down as another wiki user, stand-alone (offline) TiddlyWiki, to be exact.

I love the “many to one” organization/categorization that Johnn describes above, and with a few plug-ins (checkboxes are GREAT) the thing is about a bajillion times better than a Word doc.

#12 Comment By Adam On October 25, 2007 @ 3:21 am

My group has used a message board for the past couple of years (proboards.com has ’em for free, with ads). Each GM can post whatever info they want, and the players can post any extra RP or background info they want to. We even have sections for custom rules material and feedback, and a section for organizing unusual sessions or other group events. It also keeps the members who’ve gone to college out-of-state in the loop for when they come back over the semester breaks. It’s not exactly the most structured approach, but it scales well. This is good, because my group is about 12 people with 4 concurrent campaigns right now.

#13 Comment By GilaMonster On October 27, 2007 @ 7:38 am

I use a tool called keynote. For each adventure I create a entry with some notes on what happened, some detailed notes on anything that the players discovered, or didn’t discover and a couple lines on the influence on the main story.

Most of my other notes are also in that key note file. I keep the main copy on my flash drive, with copies on the laptop and desktop.

I’ve recently started having the laptop on and near me while running the games, and it it very nice to be able to check over the old notes quickly when necessary.