Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #19
Never Forget Your Dice Again
A Brief Word From Johnn
Hi. I hope you had a game-full week. Today we discuss a
system for GM organization. Have you ever shown up to a game
session stressed out because you just spent the last half-
hour trying to find your game notes or because you realized
you forgot an important book? I've done that many times and
I finally did something about it.
I also added a section to this week's newsletter called Your
Feedback. I really appreciate all the ideas and critiques
that you have been sending. Keep it coming!
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Never Forget Your Dice Again
A while ago I showed up at a session without my dice. Oh,
the shame. What kind of GM forgets his dice? ...A GM who
writes a roleplaying tips newsletter to boot!
In the past I've forgotten many important things such as
session notes & maps, pencils, GM screen, key source books
and figures. Last year I vowed never to forget to bring a
thing for a game session again. And to date, I've scored at
least 95%. And 100% is just around the corner. Here's how
I'm doing it:
- I purchased a 13"h x 14"w x 22"l 40 litre tote. The lid
snaps on which makes things more secure and the tote is
plastic so all my stuff is protected from the elements. I
chose this particular size because it's deep enough to carry
my hard covers standing up, big enough to carry a lot of
books, binders and boxes, and still small enough to get onto
public transit or fit in my car trunk. I've tried larger
sizes of totes but they get too awkward and heavy when fully
- I pack in about 8 source books, modules, loose sheets and
a GM screen in a pair of plastic magazine holders. The
holders are a recent addition and I'm extremely pleased with
them. They keep all my books organized, protect the cover
corners during travel and they let me unpack all of my books
quickly by just lifting out the two holders at once.
They are also terrific to use during play, as they become
portable book shelves and I'm no longer fishing through
piles of books and papers tracking down the volume I need.
Today I'm going back to the stationery store and buying two
more magazine holders. I am currently game mastering two
different game systems which means a lot of book switching
and packing. I'm now going to keep the game system books in
their own designated holders so that I can quickly switch up
for a game without fuss.
- Beside the magazine holders I put my GM binder, spiral
notebook and reference duo-tang. The GM binder is an
interesting tool and I'll save a detailed explanation of it
for another time.
Briefly though, my binder contains a pile of interesting
articles and reference materials I've gathered over the
years such as random mundane treasure charts, a list of
fantasy and monster names in case I get stuck, campaign
world info, character questionnaires, etc. It also contains
plastic card holders where I carry trading cards that I use
as player hand-outs.
The notebook I carry around wherever I go and write in it my
ideas, stories and session plans. I use a spiral notebook
because the front cover easily folds around to the back for
easier writing and I also get the books which have been 3
hole punched so I can rip out filled pages and put them in
my binder. During sessions I start with a clean page, record
the date and session# at the top and then just stream out
notes during the whole session. I use the pages for
recording battle statistics and treasure values/item
properties found too. That way, after the session when I
write my campaign journal, I have many clues and memory
joggers to help--all in chronological game order.
The duo-tang is just a personal GM reference tool where I've
put photocopies of critical charts and rules in plastic
sheet holders for quick look-ups. Sort of a portable GM
screen. I use a duo-tang because it's lighter and more
flexible than a binder (i.e. I can fold it and put it in my
back pocket while GMing) and I use the plastic sheets so
that I can change charts and page order easily without
having to take out all of the sheets from the back each time.
I've marked special areas in the binder, notebook and duo-
tang with a neat little 3M product called Post-It Flags.
These are colourful, narrow little Post-It Note strips that
leave no residue when removed (which means I can use them in
my precious rule books). I pen the subject on the flag (i.e.
"names", "world map", "saving throw chart", etc.) and stick
it on the page. These will reduce your in-session page
flipping and research time by 50% or your money back! :)
- Next I put in the index card file box. I use index cards
during sessions as handy references. On them I put character
notes (i.e. their magic items, treasure items, skills, goals
and personality descriptions). I also sometimes write NPCs,
monsters, special encounters and campaign info on them. The
cards are great because I can clip them to my screen or
binder, hand them privately to players and file them away
for future reference (using the Post-It Flags to create
categories in the box: characters, campaign, NPCs).
- On top of the card file box I put my box of dice. I've
actually split my dice up into a couple of boxes and keep
one box solely for the tote--I'll never forget my dice
again! In the same box I put my pens, pencils, eraser and
over-size calculator. I carry extra pens and pencils for
players who may need them. I use a white eraser because that
kind doesn't leave marks when used. And I use a battery
operated, over-sized calculator because we often play by
candles and there's not enough light to power a solar
calculator. The calculator is huge so that the buttons are
easier to find and the display easier to read in the near-
- Finally, I throw on top and around the sides smaller books
(i.e. I carry around Latin and German dictionaries for
reference), markers, figure mats and junk food.
Believe it or not, I've still got space in my tote. And I
need your help filling it. I need a small container that
might safely hold a dozen or so lead miniatures. I say
safely because the containers I've used in the past end up
chipping the paint off the figs or not holding them tightly
enough so that they all end up squished to one side. Any
ideas? : email@example.com
All this might seem a little overboard to you. I know my
players laughed when I first showed up with a whole tote
full of stuff (back then I used a 60 litre tote!). But, I
can't tell you how satisfying it is having this system set-
up and going. I don't forget things any more. I don't get
rain on my books and my books don't get scratched and
bruised like they used to in my knapsack. I don't run around
in a panic just before a session packing stuff up, thinking
I'm forgetting something. And, over time, I've built up
great resources (i.e. the duo-tang and index cards) that
really do help me considerably while GMing sessions.
This system won't work for everybody. I know a GM who shows
up to sessions with absolutely nothing and wings it without
notes, books or dice. But it might work for you. How do you
currently organize your stuff? Let me know, I'm always
looking for ways of improving: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have more fun at every game!
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"I feel like your roleplaying tips guide is too focused on
fantasy RPGs, especially ADnD. Branch out a bit. I'm a
cyberpunk player, and when I don't play cyberpunk I'm
playing a ninja game with GURPS Japan.
Anyway, other than that I think your comments on general
GMing tips are great. They improve my game when I GM a lot.
-- Alex B.
"what a great site you have there I've used loads of your
tips Gming. I was wondering if you had seen the role-playing
based cartoons at hoodyhoo.com? anyway great site."
-- Aden F.
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