Game Night: Gotta Keep It All Straight

Those of us that play tabletop role-playing games, whether we are dungeon masters/game masters, players, or both, face a particular challenge… trying to keep our game information organized.  You might be surprised how much information there is for “just a game” 😉

Tabletop role-playing games are also referred to as “pen and paper” games.  There is good reason for this, though it’s safe to say that actual pen and paper are used much less now than in the “good ole days.” But the bottom line is that there is an abundance of information that is created before and during game sessions, and it must be maintained while playing these games.  Regardless that we’re now using computers, tablets and a myriad of applications out there to organize information, keeping the information straight must still happen to some degree.  The options have simply changed from folders and binders for all the paper to any number of hundreds of pieces of software that either mimic folders and binders for digital paper or offer all kinds of amazing ways to help organize your information.

So, what do players and DMs need or want to keep track of and why?

Players

Tabletop RPG players have quite a bit of information to maintain and track.  The first thing players must deal with are their character’s statistics.  In most game systems, the characters are first defined by a set of attributes and a class or profession (or something else… many variations).  This information is typically recorded on a character sheet.  A player will refer to this character sheet quite often during the game to figure out the degree of success or failure of an action the character takes in a situation where there is a chance of success of failure.  As the character gains levels or something similar, this character sheet must change to reflect the changes in the character’s capabilities.  It’s on the player to make this happen. These sheets are not necessarily single-pagers depending on the complexity of the game being played. So, keeping the character sheet organized in some fashion helps keep a game session moving and the player from forgetting about abilities and resources that their character might need to overcome a challenge in the campaign.

The second thing a player keeps track of in varying levels of detail is the character’s background or backstory.  Much of this is done early on, especially during character creation, but it is still something that is created by the player and referenced throughout a character’s “life”.  Also, many players will add to and edit their character’s backgrounds as the campaign progresses and the character’s story evolves.

Finally, a player will likely keep notes about the campaign that is relevant to their character.  They will keep track of events and information that they think is important to their character during the campaign.  It is important to have this organized so that the player can search through it and find necessary information quickly and easily. The player’s notes are kind of like the character’s memory. If the player can’t recall a piece of information about something in the character’s life in the game, then both the player and his/her character could miss out on something good or end up at a disadvantage in the next challenge or adventure.

DMs/GMs

Let’s just say that if a DM/GM doesn’t have, at least, some small level of organizational skills, he might just be in trouble…

Remember, it’s the job of DMs/GMs to create and/or facilitate the action and story of the campaign. It is their job to provide the world background and details of the world where the players’ characters live. It is their job to set up and moderate the action of the characters and the situations they encounter in the game. These situations can include people, monsters, challenging environments, and/or any combination of these elements and more. This can end up being a rather large amount of information that must be easily accessible for reference and editing as the story of the campaign unfolds. If the DM/GM can’t find something they need quickly and easily during a game session, the pace of the game slows or stops. That’s no fun.

Some of this information can be provided by adventure modules and rulebooks. That can help a great deal. Published game information is typically organized pretty well and is easily referenced. The DM/GM only has to learn where the information is located and how he/she intends to use that information in his/her campaign. That in itself likely requires some record keeping so that the DM/GM can remember what information to use and when. Bookmarks, notes, etc. start piling up so that the pertinent information in the publications can be accessed quickly and easily to keep the pace of the campaign going.

Some or all campaign information might even come from the DM’s/GM’s own imagination. Having a good memory about these details can really help, but writing it down works much better. Nonetheless, all this stuff must be kept organized in some fashion that allows for him/her to reference while spinning the yarn and creating the challenges and adventures that the players’ characters go through. Most DMs/GMs spend, at least, a little time preparing their ideas for their adventures and stories for their campaigns. That preparation must include a means to keep it all organized so that the pace of the game doesn’t slow down because he/she can’t remember where some idea or stat is being kept.

Gotta keep it straight…

So, what I’m saying is that without making some effort to keep things like game stats, ideas about characters, plans for adventures, and details about the campaign world & storyline organized, Game Night will not likely go off without a hitch. Even those that wing it need some connection to what has happened in the campaign and characters’ stories to that point. Continuity is an important part of a good story. Keeping even small amounts of game information organized to some level helps prevent stalls in the game.

You gotta keep it straight…

As always, if you like what you’ve read here, let me know by clicking that like button. It’s very much appreciated. If you have a thought, comment, or question, by all means drop, me a line. I love getting feedback. A dialogue is always better than a monologue.

Type to you later…

2 thoughts on “Game Night: Gotta Keep It All Straight

    1. For some, the organization is part of the appeal. Yes, it’s very good mental exercise. I would have to say that playing D&D – tabletop role-playing games, in general – have helped me with my organizational skills. Thanks for reading. You stay well, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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