MoonHunter Sayeth 20170608


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Core Things to know
1) Cue Cards
2) Riffing
3) Magic Boards
4) Chronicle Packet (aka world pack/ packet, aka Campaign Packet, aka Setting Book)
5) GM Journal (aka GM Pad, GM Notebook, etc)

GM’s Journal aka GM’s Pad, GM’s Grimoire, GM’s Notebook, Chronicle Notes, Chronicle papers, and so on. Really, almost as many names as there are GM’s. And don’t get me started on doing all the DM variations.

Observation: Every Games Designer tends to use their own personal vocabulary for commonly used gaming terms just so they can put their spin on “how things should be”. Besides, the point of game vocabulary is to have something to argue over… isn’t it?
The GM’s Journal is what you use “at the table”. It is a binder (but could be notebook or pad) that the notes prepared for the session are kept (plots, locations, npcs, etc) and notes about the game are taken. It is everything you need to continue to run the chronicle/ campaign without having to resort to their sometimes faulty memory.

It should have some other features as well. From my last three GM’s Journals, they all were something like this.

0) Campaign Introduction (optional)
1) Session Summary and EP list
--) Playbill
2) Session Planning Notes. This will include the bits of plots, npcs
3) Session Notes: These are the notes that occur during the game.
4) List of plots and events to be used over the campaign.
5) Write ups for NPCs, Locations, Items, etc.
6) Grab and Go Pieces
7) GM’s version of the Chronicle Packet
8) Archive
9) Anything which makes sense to you.

Physically: I recommend having a binder, especially binders with sleeves on the inside. I would recommend a D-Ring Binder because it lays flat and preserves the paper in the binder when flipping pages. I print the pages from the computer files, punch their holes, and put them insides. I will sometimes will keep a note pad on the inner front section of the binder (mounted or not, in the sleeve or not). This is where I tend to be writing during the game. I can also short cut some of my typed notes, by leafing back to previous pages on the pad. I also tend to put in sleeves, dividers, and keepers (pencil holding things that zip up… but I will have 3.5 cards or 1” cardboard tokens for NPCs and mooks in them.)

Digitally: I have a GM’s Journal File and Folder on my computer (or on the cloud). I try to keep the two in synch with each other as much as possible. Yes, I transcribe my written notes into the various files every session or three. This becomes a “forced review” of my notes and keeps the information organized in my head. This works so well that I seldom have to review the actual digital or paper notes:

Hardware: Some people do this all on a computer/ laptop/ tablet. I find I need too many apps/programs open at one time (PDF program with the game rules open, a word processor for notes, character sheet spreadsheet, graphics program to draw with, and IM programs, to keep it all going. It is getting the point where the information age will catch up to the GM and a few pieces of paper, but it is not there yet.

0) Campaign Introduction
If you have been reading this scintillating blog, you will know what this is. This is the first section of the Chronicle Packet. Now this is completely optional. Sometimes even I don’t use it. I like putting it in the front of the Journal so it constantly reminds me what should be going on… and that everything in each session should fit what I said there. I sometimes put it second, after the EP list as I tend to use that and the paper pad more.

1) Session Summary and EP List
I print out a table where each row is (roughly) .75” thick and each character and the GM gets a .75” wide column, and the remainder is the short summary. The information is usually hand written here, but I update it every few session to being totally online.

The top row shows the character’s name and cumulative EP/ check total. The larger section to the right, will have the name of the chronicle

Each session gets one row. The GM’s row has the date of the event. Each character’s box on the row shows any experience points/ advancement checks earned… and if you can fit them in any points expended (show level change if you want). The remaining space in the row is for key notes about what happened. (This would include scene cards used on various plotlines.) Once transcribed, I will also include the session’s Episode Name. Note the typed notes tend to be longer, than the hand written notes. Remember this is the working document, so make it work as you want or even create another section to keep them.

So why is this important? It is the summary of the campaign at a glance (or three). It is something you will use just before and just after the game, and occasionally referencing during the game.

-) The Playbill
This is a list of “named” NPCs, named locations, and named things. Most of them will be written up in section 4, 5, 6. This is just a one line summary of each “thing”. Now this is just the combined TOC for section 4-6. Sometimes you just need something to quickly refresh your memory and the playbill is it.

Oh some of my mooks might not have a name, but they will be marked as “Tough guy with Scar” or “Female with Whip”. Most players will not get why I record that there was a hot dog vendor on the corner. When they are back on that corner a few sessions later, you will see them smile when they see the hot dog vendor.

2) Session Planning Notes.
This section of the binder gets shifted around a great deal. Every session, I pull together the important scene cards, needed NPC print outs, location notes, and plot bits I expect to use. Usually I reprint them, but sometimes I use the little sticky tab in the Journal to find them.

Now the session notes are for “the episode”. Ideally, one episode of the chronicle should be one session. If the episode bleeds over into another session (or two) the session planning notes will stick around until it is over.

Most importantly, there is the Flow Chart. In fact, it is the first thing in every planning notes section.

This is also where I tend to make the flowchart that is tonight’s plot. Boxes with key scene numbers are there, but I also list where I am going to put in some filler scenes (some for action, some for color, some because logic dictates there needs to be something like a travel scene in between). This flow chart is “exploded” (that is what my Dad an Old School Computer Programmer called it). There is a lot of space between boxes so I can “fill in” new scene boxes… show different branches, and so on.

(Sometimes I will have a flow chart listed on the paper notes in the front of the journal, but I only do that if tonight’s session has a really simple plot progression. )

I will also list all the scene cards being used this session and all the piece in their card format. I tend to print them out in “The Journal format”: The Journal format is It is a two column format with a line between. I put a .5” gutter on the page. The first column is 5" (4.5” column with minimum .25 margin from the line and from the edge) Again, There is a horizontal line I put ever 11th line, so each card will be 10 lines. The second column is on the other side of the dividing line. That is for my hand written notes about the card entry or typed entry on the other side.

I tend to reference this section a great deal through the game. In fact, I usually have a tabbed divider page so I can find this section instantly when ever I need it. If the NPCs are important and have a sheet, I will have it here. Location Notes will be here as well. Most of the time, the opposition is just “grab and go” things or something we do all the time… so I might not have anything for them in this section or they might be a note on the Outline. However, by prepping everything I will probably need ahead of time, I tend to know it all “Cold” and seldom check the section.

At the prepping for the game (before every session), I tend to pull out the previous session notes and put them in the archive in the back, so it does not get confused with what I will be using today.

To be continued.
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