April 24

April 2014 Blog Carnival: The Game Master’s Binder



This is my contribution to Aprils RPG Carnival, The Game Master’s Binder.

This month Scot Newbury of the Of Dice and Dragon blog is hosting the blog carnival and wants to know whats in our Gamesmaster’s binder.

I never really had what you’d call a traditional game master’s binder.  If you ever found yourself stuck and rolled on one of those random book description tables and ended up with a result of “a loose sheaf of leaves tied together” that would pretty much sum up all of my binders or collection of unsorted notes.

Being British I never really had the traditional three ring punched binder that I understand that my colonial cousins use, here a binder is a two ring binder with the holes close to the centre of the document.

When I started game mastering I used to use reporters notebooks to keep track of my campaigns and since I am a proliferate note taker I used to fill them up at a rapid pace.  I then turned to A4 pads to retain my notes; being a superstitious sort each new campaign got a brand new pad and also a new set of dice 🙂 .  Being loose leaf I started to use foolscap folders to hold everything in place and certain colour folders represented important parts of my filing system.

When I moved onto the epic Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer I moved on to using an expanding document wallet, all the pockets gave me plenty of space to hold all my notes, blank character sheets, maps, calendars which also included lunar phases and handouts.

Now I’ve moved into the Information Age and my iPad is my binder.  I use the notepad app to keep my notes before I upload them somewhere else like Obsidian Portal where  I keep track of my current campaign.    I mentioned before that Obsidian Portal is a structured Wiki and collaborative space where I can give my players access to things that they should now and important npcs they have encountered.

I did try using NBOS software The Keep for a little while and although it keeps everything in a relational database being a PC only package means I can’t always keep it with me.  Having access to information in a relational database is light years ahead of trying to find a sticky note or random piece of paper that you may have lost.  The other downside is that unless you’re willing to create new database files it tends to lump everything into one database which can become problematic.  However the software does have access to their integrated table rolling tool which is a useful addition to the package.

I’m also testing the waters with Lone Wolf Development Realmworks to see if I can use this to track all my important notes on say for example new factions yet to be discovered or other characters yet to be found.  It’s also a relational database with some extra knobs on and each campaign gets its own database or Realm to use their terminology.  Realmworks does look good but it requires me to be at my PC whereas my iPad doesn’t 🙂

So far that’s described my filing system but what did my binders contain?  Apart from blank character sheets, maps and handouts I would also ensure that I would have some random names to hand for that moment when someone asks “So whets his name then?” I’d also have lists of moon phases and even weather descriptions for the next few days; although the early days of using the tables in the books did lead for some interesting weather conditions 🙂  I even used to have the odd random menu for a tavern in case someone asked for it and a floor plan of said tavern.

I used to explain that the coaching inns in the Warhammer universe were built almost identically.  I live in an area that used to be used as a coaching stop into London there is numerous old pubs around here that were once coaching inns and they all share similar features.

My Forgotten Realms campaign binder also used to contain lists of all the deities and their holy days, which almost filled it!  I also included various maps that I printed out from the Forgotten Realms Atlas including a players one and one just for my usage.

I hope you’ve found this somewhat rambling discourse entertaining and let me know what you think in the comments below.



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Posted April 24, 2014 by GeneralTangent in category "RPG

About the Author

I've been gaming on and off since about 1989 and during that period have played with numerous game systems. I'm fluent in a few, have a basic understanding of quite a few more and can get by in others. Somewhere along the way I found time to be a playtester, contribute to an unpublished game supplement and be associated with another gaming magazine written by far more talented people than I. This lead to one infamous article being written in which I followed the letter of the adventure and torched the parties river barge. I'm also listed on http://rpggeek.com as a game designer.