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Organizing Your Campaign

Written by Kate Manchester


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If you're a GM, you know running a game is not an easy task, and being unorganized makes a tough job even tougher. Keeping your players entertained while you're struggling to find that map of the town or make sense of your notes can be another feat altogether. The simple solution to this problem would be to keep your gaming materials organized. Of course, for many of us, that's easier said than done. During my own career as a GM, I have found the following organizational tips helpful. Hopefully, you will too.

Perhaps the simplest piece of advice I can give is this: Keep all campaign-related materials in one place! A two or three inch D-ring binder works best. D-ring binders hold more material than conventional O-ring binders. They also compress paper better, making a full binder easier to flip through. A binder can also make it easier to tote your campaign materials around. If your gaming situation requires you to do so, buy the most durable binder you can afford. If money is an issue for you, try hitting the local thrift stores. Two inch D-ring binders can be found for as little as 48 cents.

Now that all of your materials are in one place, it's time to set up an organizational system. First, identify the sections you'll need, and use binder tabs to separate them. For example, you might have a section for Current or Pending Adventures, one for NPCs, and one for copies of your players' character sheets. My own campaign binder actually has ten separate sections, but you can certainly create more or less as needed. Binder tabs can be easily changed and are cheap enough to expand if necessary.

Once the major sections are in place, you can further subdivide the sections using either smaller tabs or colored paper. For example, you might group all the members of a street gang into a subsection of your NPC section.

Which brings me to another tip: Colored paper is both a useful and inexpensive organizational tool. You could, for example, copy all of the PC sheets onto one color of paper, and all the NPC sheets onto another. This would allow you to distinguish the difference between PC and NPC sheets more easily. Also, if you have to lend your copy to a forgetful player, you will know that he or she has YOUR copy and therefore needs to return it at the end of the session. Another possible use would be to create your campaign's -To Do Lists- or notes in progress on colored paper. That way, when you are ready to work on your campaign, you can easily find those pages as they will stand out more than plain white paper.

Index cards are another handy tool. You can use them to organize your notes, perhaps having one card that corresponds to a location. These are also great if you're GMing at a convention with pre-made characters. Make a smaller copy of each character sheet, attach it to an index card, then paper clip the card to the corresponding character sheet. When a player chooses a character, simply remove that index card and keep it handy for easy reference. It should also reduce cheating because you would have all the characters' stats at your fingertips. You can purchase index cards in various colors and sizes, allowing a color-coding system. (Perhaps green cards for outdoor encounters and yellow cards for in-town encounters.)


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