363 How Do We Organize as GM's


Dropping later today to the public. Producers, enjoy.

Inspired by Jim’s Forum post - https://forums.gamingandbs.com/t/my-rpg-index-card-file/1479

How are Sean and Brett organizing their GM stuff? campaigns, sessions, etc.

Anything not working?

How much is a matter of having to use the tools and use the tools (practice)?


Great show with some good information! I wasn’t familiar with Notion until Sean mentioned it.

I generally like my notes to be local to my computer vs. relying on a network connection to a site. OneNote is my preferred application for notes. Something people don’t realize is you can insert links to notebooks, sections, pages, and paragraphs into your text. It isn’t as seamless as a Wiki but it works and does provide a way to provide hyperlinks between pages. I use it to link between pieces of information similar to how Sean described his use of Notion.

Linking in Microsoft OneNote

Carl Davis


I was going to give Brett crap about the Delta Green thing, but come on, he literally bled for us this episode. I just can’t give him a hard time now, hehe.



Sorry, I can’t resist. Just one joke?

Brett was going to run Delta Green but then Majestic 12 caught wind of it and “erased” it from his schedule.


That was Need to Know info there @Akodoken … Steps will be taken to ensure you don’t make this mistake again… :stuck_out_tongue:

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Wait, why are their suits knocking on my front door?


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Great show, fellas.

At one point, Brett asked how much practice is needed to master the system I’m using for my index card file. Well, I don’t know about being a master at Zettlekasten, but when I was reading about the method and how other people do it, I did intentionally pare down some of the approaches I saw until it was simple enough that there’s not a lot of “ceremony” involved in adding and linking cards together. Then I just sat down and wrote maybe a dozen cards about some RPG mechanics I’d been thinking about. Then I added another dozen over the next day or two. At that point, it’d become very easy to grab a card, find an ID for it, write the date and time, and link it to other cards that I had spread out on my desk. So I guess the answer to your question about how much practice it takes is a couple of hours over a couple of days. But that’s me. Your millage may vary.

As mentioned in the episode and the forum post, the index card file isn’t the right tool for finding information at the table, or really for keeping track of what’s going on in a campaign. For that kind of thing, I use a combination of time tracking sheets (shared on Discord) that have space for a short description of what’s happening each turn. I also write some free-form notes before the session with information I think I’ll need, and then a few notes after the session about what actually happened, and questions I need to answer before the next session. Those notes usually fit on the back of the time tracker sheet. All that gets put in a binder with maps & keys and all that sort of stuff, and I review the last couple of sessions right before the next one starts.

As for numbers and crunchy stuff, I’ve also got a spreadsheet to keep track of XP and treasure for each session, and how much each PC and hireling has. It took some work for the initial set up, but once that was done it just takes a minute to set things up for a new session or to add a new character. Maybe I’ll write a post about that sometime.

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@sean, you mentioned a template for Notion. Would you mind sharing that? I have been using Notion for many things this last year and would be very interested in seeing your setup if you do not mind opening up the kimono and showing us. Thanks.

My means of organizing have changed a lot as I transitioned to running games online.

I had settled into writing out scenes on index cards, with some notes on what would happen in the scene, and how the scene might lead to other scenes. That way, I could just suffle to the scene that made sense to come next. If I never used one of those scenes, I could save it and potentially work that index card scene into another scenario later on.

This worked for any game where I was using my own scenario, and where I either could look up stat blocks in the rules, or potential opposition or hazards were super easy to stat on the fly.

I went into games feeling organized, but whenever I improvised a name or a place, or an important situation, I would have to write down a note quickly, and often I was at a loss to remember exactly what my shorthand actually meant.

When I started running online, I started to keep a simple Google spreadsheet open, and I would type in names and locations whenever I improvised something. It felt easier to have the spreadsheet open on one screen and have the Zoom session open on the other, than it did to look away from the table to take notes.

I also liked this method, because I could share the spreadsheet so that people could see all of the places and people that came up. Anytime the players wanted to look at it between sessions, those things were in an existing, shared space. This wasn’t like when I tried to set up wikis and fill in information later based on my notes. I could get down the basics, and maybe fill in some details later, but it was all there.

I did this for my Star Trek Adventures game, my Streets of Avalon game, and the Eberron game I ran. It became kind of handy for the Avalon game, so I could keep track of NPCs that had died and locations that were burned down or drastically changed in some way.

I got away from this a bit with my Sentinel Comics RPG game, mainly because I was getting used to using Roll20 at the time, and also because I was pre-planning environments and twists for the scene tracker, which took up a little more of my mental real estate.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I go back to running face to face, but as simple as it sounds, I really like having the shared spreadsheet to use for common information.


Here you @Idahogamer

All credit goes to Mike Shea for creating it.


Bah, that guy’s just a Lazy Dungeon Master.


Great topic, asking the question “How does one organize a pre-constructed narrative while having the flexibility to pivot away from a linear line of thinking?”

My answer has typically been to create a highly visual, large “mind map” that combines a standard graph paper map (rooms, traps, tunnels and so forth) with setting details, for the GM’s eyes only, right there inside the spaces they describe. Those details can then be woven into any inquiry the players have. Then, with as much room I have left, the passage that’s read aloud to the players is squeezed in underneath. Other details (random tables, monster stat blocks, etc.) either nestle alongside those spaces, in the margins, or live on a separate page that matches the number of the room.

But this mind map approach is very limited, principally by space, but also its rigidity. It doesn’t lend itself to improvisation. My mind is literally and figuratively “boxed in” to a grid.

It makes for a beautifully illustrated and tight layout that I enjoy designing, with the ambition to parlay that visual into a published piece down the road, but in the end, it limits my creativity more than I’d like, so I’m seeking a more interactive tool the next time I GM.

I’m intrigued by Notion, which Sean has mentioned, since it brings a visual approach to project planning and has many of the bells and whistles to both stay visually organized, but also access information quickly. That’s likely what I’ll explore next time I run a game, since my laptop is always present at the table anyway and connected to Wi-Fi.

Aside from a tool like Notion, Google is the second most important resource, for quickly looking up rules, or sharing a visual of a baddy, mook or setting.

Yours from the City of Brotherly Love,


I’d love to see an example of one of your mind maps, if you’ve got a picture of one that you don’t mind sharing.


This was an earlier draft of a one-shot I ended up publishing called Carbuncle Quest.

No one is going to comment on the Latin?

Standard protocol when you don’t want to write blah blah blah a bunch of times, man!

… really? I was unaware of this. I usually just use letter soup. neat.

Yup. It’s a typesetting thing.

Know what my favorite days are?
The days I learn something.