Friday, September 1, 2017

How I prep and run my games: RPG a Day revisited

Last month, I participated in the RPG A Day 2017 series of Q&A on Google Plus, and I thought I'd throw together a bit of the "best of" posts on GM process, etc. This here is a modified version of what I posted the for...

Day 27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

A: I'll break these into two categories: game prep (as a GM, mostly) and at the table (as GM and as a player).

GAME PREP TOOLS


EVERNOTE for note taking
There are a lot of these types of programs out there but I like Evernote since it has the same support for both mobile and desktop. Mostly, I'll just hit the text icon, then the microphone and speak my idea directly into the phone. Then, I add tags/labels

If I get an idea from an article I just hit the SHARE button on my phone, choose Evernote and it saves the article. then I can go back and pin a few tags on it so I can quickly find it later -- and more importantly -- recall the context of why I saved it.

For example, if I find an article online that has a great character I could use for an NPC, I'll share to Evernote, tag it as "NPC" maybe even "Villain" and the [campaign] name. Later, when I begin the writing process, and I need to call up my notes for that campaign I'll easily find it when I click search one of those tags.


PINTEREST for image aggregation and selection
Pinterest allows me to create Boards by virtually pinning images or links. I've several private boards that I use to collect art and photos to help me sketch out the look of my games. It's a fantastic way to quickly visualize your worldbuilding.

I can search easily by keyword, artist name, or whatever else you think will help me find the right picture. Or I can Google search an image and pin it from there. It's great for making a "look board" for my games.


TRELLO for organizing GM notes
I don't know how I ever lived without Trello. Seriously one of the best online tools out there for organizing your game. With it, I'm able to basically create digital notecards that I can organize by category and color. I usally do the prep part on a computer, to speed up data entry.

For a Rad Astra game I ran a while back, I made different categories (think of them as "stacks" of cards) for things like Weapons, Items, Vehicles, Monsters, Villains, Other NPCs, etc. Then with each category, I was able to color them according to which location they were found.

Color coding made it super easy to correlate where stuff belonged and voilà! An encounter takes shape. It's a more associative way of building your encounters and MUCH easier to mentally wrap your brain at the table.

I'll add a short description, maybe some bullet points with "rumors" or other clues. But at the very least, I'll enter all the stats I need so I don't need to look them up. I can even make a card with an empty stat block and copy/paste that as many times as I need -- filling in the blanks as I go.

Finally, I'll add in some images that I've now cherry-picked off Pinterest. Or maybe a map, that can be shown to players later.

Oh, and if there are any tables or charts you need for the game, I can just take a picture of that table, give it a title and then it's right there for me so I don't have to go searching for it in the book.

All the cards are searchable, FYI -- so if you've got a ton of them for your game, you can just search like you would any other website. 

AT THE TABLE TOOLS


TRELLO for Running Games
Here's where the mobile version of Trello comes in. I've got a table I use to run Trello which allows me to quickly access all of my game notes (just need to make sure it's got a wireless connection to grab all the updated cards -- something you can do before coming to the table if there's no wi-fi where you game).

I'll have the stats and descriptions at the ready. I might even have a clip of music linked. But the biggest/best part is being able to flip my tablet around for players to see an image or a map. It's right there! I can even pinch/stretch to zoom in on a map.

Image: TheNoteboard.com

NOTEBOARD for quick map sketch-ups or tracking initiative
One of the best accessories I've found to be really useful at the table was this folding white board that's made exclusively for RPGing. It's got both a grid and hexes on one side and is blank on the reverse. It comes with one dry erase, but it will take any, really. And the carrying pouch doubles as an eraser! Throw in a d20 (like I have) and you've literally got yourself everything you need for a game-on-the-spot RPG!

Other stuff


  • Pencils? Check! 
  • Paper notecards and Sharpie markers for tabletop name badges (we do a lot of public gaming) Check!
  • Hand sanitizer? CHECK!

Yep. I'm a germaphobe. Well not really, but did you ever get sick after a convention? Congrats! You've had Con Crud, the staple cold bug that get passed around from gamer to gamer. I get it. Every. Time. At least I used to. With this stuff, you're warding off quite a bit.

Yes, yes DO tell me how I'm hurting my own immune system by not exposing myself to bugs. You'd be wrong, mostly because I have a preschooler and she's FAR more infectious than any gamers. This just reduces the amount of exposure and general grunge encountered at the game store. Also, I only use the alcohol-based stuff, so it actually KILLS germs. Don't get the triclosan stuff, it's proven to not work.

In any case, I throw a few bottles around the table so other folks can use it to. Or just make fun of me. I'm not afraid of a little ridicule. :-)

So there you have it, a few cool tools to help lighten the load when it comes to prepping and running games!

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