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Finding Inspiration & Note Taking.

Today I wanted to talk about the importance of note taking at the table as a game master. For years I did not take notes. I just ran my games and a day or two later I would sit down and pencil in the high points mentally and carry on with my game. I am not sure if it was my youth that kept me sharper or that we were gaming nightly, Likely a combination of both. As I became more experienced, older and game far less frequently over the years I have come to understand the importance of note taking.

I am not suggesting that you should be running game with your head down scribbling away at every little thing that your players are saying or doing. I am talking about jotting things down in shorthand or recording your session and going back to the audio later to take notes. I know some GMs that record their games and go back over their sessions later. Myself I have never done this.  I do take more and more shorthand notes during my session. One thing that you will quickly begin to realize after a little bit of doing this is that your players will provide you with tons of thoughts and content for you to expand on between games.

Personally these days I take more and more shorthand notes during my session. One thing that you will quickly begin to realize after a little bit of doing this is that your players will provide you with tons of thoughts and content for you to expand on between games. Taking notes is also extremely helpful when your party takes that inevitable hard right turn off the rails of your planned storyline.

So as I said, I am not encouraging you to go into a ton of detail. Actually, I am suggesting that you to write as little as possible so that you can easily maintain focus on the game you are running. So only focus on what is Important. So what is Important.

  • Names, Race, Disposition/Connection to party or players.
  • Locations of discovered interest to detail later.
  • Game Notes from players players
  • Random stuff

Here is an example of my own notes from my recent Star Wars FFG game. Before the start of the game, I knew my players would meet the crew of a starship that might be their way off the planet. But I also know my players may have found other ways off worlds so my notes looked like this before the start of game.

Ship Hanger
Cs Comet Light Freighter.
Captian Zhane Human.
Note: Ship Shields down from Imp Encounter

Starward Light Freighter
Captian Drall the parts dealer

Nebula Light Freighter
Captian Vance Yanish
Note: On Safari

I knew what was going to go on that night that my players were going to HAVE to get off the world. So I penned in a few ships that were in the port and left it at that. Because I had no idea what ship they were going to take. In the end, the way the story unfolded they took a quick shine to the Comets crew for being shady about their damage shields and that was the ship they ended up taking off the world. Minus the crew that came down with a bad case of Imperial Blaster fire.

After that session even with the crew dead, I detailed the crew a bit since they are part of the history of the vessel. Also, this might come back to haunt the players. So my notes from before became:

Ship Hanger
Cs Comet Light Freighter.
Captian Zhane Ordo Human Spice Dealer/Smuggler. 
( one paragraph of backstory)
+3 contacts Names/Planet they reside
Jae Yovv Twilek Starship Tech
( one paragraph of backstory)
+3 contacts Names/Planet they reside
Gralbacc Gamorian *classified*
( one paragraph of backstory)
+3 contacts Names/Planet they reside
Forrannnish Ithorian Scout
( one paragraph of backstory)
+3 contacts Names/Planet they reside

Note: Ship Shields down from Imp Encounter
2 paragraphs on the history of the ship. Because it will be with the players for a long time.

Now just from my expanded notes on the ship alone I can gather tons of side quests and options as the players maybe seek out the contacts of the former crew while they try and make contacts of their own.

Now if I were running a game and my players ran off the rails and into any generic location I would not take the time to make a note of it. It is unlikely your players will care about the power fixture salesman ten min let a lot ten sessions from now. Don’t waste your time detailing him.

NPC’s that I will note down often are in places I had not expected my players to arrive at or I had not planned to introduce yet. Ie The Sherif, A Mayor or anyone in a position of power. If the players do this I jot down something like this.

Alex Gateway Sherif, Landover.
Walks with a limp.
Players got on his nerves.

This is enough to let me remember him between games and fill out more detail about him when I need to. Or play him as is when the group revisits him out of the blue in 6 sessions for their own reasons. Other notes I might make might be.

PC’s Suspect Sherif ?

In this case, it is a short side note to remind me to think on away from the table. Like I said your players will hand you Tons of plot ideas if you just take a moment to listen as well as write them down.

So all this is good but where will you put your notes or write them down on ? Pen and Paper this works fine but at the game table, I find that Index cards are the best for a quick note. That or either Evernote or OneNote. Personal I use a combination of Onenote and Index cards. The nice thing about Evernote and OneNote is that both of these products can store your notes on the cloud and you can even check them from your phone. Giving you the ability to look over your game ideas from your phone.


1 Comment »

  1. Shorthand! I run a site explaining the Pitman Shorthand writing-system. But in fact the Gregg Shorthand system is more prevalent in the United States. It takes a long time to learn and practice but it stays with you and makes you independent of recorders. It also looks like a nifty alien language you can bewilder your players with.

    Liked by 1 person

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