Over on Encoded Designs, Phil Vecchione (longtime GM and TT reader (DNAphil), GM-Fu panelist and author of the kickass guest post Great Campaigns: One Out of Three Ain’t Bad) recently wrapped up an epic three-part series detailing his method for writing session notes.
This is one of those areas where you can never hear too many different ideas and approaches. Even if you’re completely comfortable with your own method, there’s always more to learn — and if you don’t have a standard approach of your own, reading a veteran GM’s outline can be invaluable.
Phil dissected his session-writing needs and constraints as a GM, and built his system around these three principles:
The system needs to as simple as possible.
It needs to be flexible. (I need to be able to speed it up or slow it down, depending on what is going on in my life at the time.)
It needs to have some slack. (That is, it needs to be able to be delayed and postponed for a day or two in the cycle without things falling apart.)
In Taking It One Step At A Time, Phil outlines what he does each week, covering the whole prep cycle from start to finish. Part two, Tools of the Trade, discusses Phil’s favorite tools, including Moleskine notebooks and TiddlyWiki.
With It’s All In The Notes, Phil brings the series home with a detailed breakdown of each element that he includes in his session notes, from giving each scene a short, explicit purpose to jotting down key dialogue and deciding which skill checks are important enough to merit rolls.
The bit about statements of purpose is a great illustration of what makes Phil’s approach accessible, adaptable and versatile:
When I looked over my old session notes, I noticed that there were scenes I had written that did not really seem like they needed to be part of the session, or worse, after reading the notes, I could not figure out why I ran that scene during the session. So now the first line I put on the top of a scene, is the purpose. It is only one sentence long. If I can’t explain why I am going to run this scene in one sentence, then either the scene is not appropriate, or it’s too sweeping and would be best broken in to parts.
Phil’s series is a must-read, and I encourage you to check it out (and let him know what you think about his approach in the comments over on Encoded Designs). Thanks for sharing these, Phil!