Organizing Your Game – Some Tips

Image by: Jeffrey Beall

I was talking with a gaming buddy of mine,  going through some esoteric portion of a game I’m running, and I couldn’t remember a particular detail. So, I fired up my laptop, navigated to the folder I set up for that game and quickly found the info I was looking for.

As I looked at my folder hierarchy, I thought: man, I really have this stuff organized. I can find whatever I want really quickly. This was a realization for me, as I have never been the most organized person in the world. Growing up, my room was always messy, I was always the kid who left his homework at home, and I rarely have everything that I need when I leave the house for the day. But when it comes to my game, I can always find what I’m looking for. I figured that I’m not alone in terms of forgetfulness, so I thought I’d share what I’ve done to make sure I have what I need for my games, when I need it.

The Laptop

People have mixed feelings about using a laptop during a game. For me, it is the single most important piece of how I got organized. Everything I use on a regular basis is right there, at my fingertips. It helps that it’s a fancy-dancy tablet PC with a pen input so I can draw on my maps, and I can track initiative and HP without having to erase anything. The truth is, even if I didn’t have the particular laptop that I have, I would probably use a laptop anyway, for the following reasons:

  • PDF Files – I have a number of resources in PDF format, and having them there, searchable, makes it much easier for me to look things up quickly. Combine them with Foxit for faster PDF browsing, and it makes for a good set-up.
  • HeroLab – If the system you use us supported by HeroLab, then use it. I have never statted NPCs out so quickly before, and I have tried a number of different character management programs. HeroLab does cost some money, but if you game in a regular basis, then it is well worth it.
  • Excel or OpenOffice – This one is a recent development for me, as I am just learning how useful a spreadsheet program can be. If you, like me, end up with a lot of  NPCs in a lot of place, then a spreadsheet of them, which you can sort  by category, is super-useful. If I want to know who is in a given town, which of those people are fighters, and which of those fighters are alive or dead, my spreadsheet gives me that info, and quickly. As well, if I had more Excel mojo, I’m sure I could do even more.
  • Organize Your Folders – This is a boring one, but if you’re the type to just leave everything on your desktop, just stop. Make a folder for your gaming stuff, decide how you want things broken down (monster files together, GMing files together, etc), make a bunch of folders that are appropriately titled, and put your stuff inside of them. Presto! Instant organization.

Three-Ring Binder

This one is so, so simple, but I ignored it for many years. Whether you’re a player or a GM, grab a three-ring binder, grab your character sheets, spell sheets, hell, whatever sheets you use on a regular basis, grab a three-hole punch and slide those sheets in. There, doesn’t that feel better? The best part is that when you go to toss everything into your gaming bag, most RPG books are skinny enough to also sit inside of the binder, making sure that you don’t have an organizational problem inside your gaming bag.

Also, if you want to break this bit down like you did the folders on your computer (you did organize your folders already, didn’t you?), then more power to you. This is also very helpful, especially if you chose a massive three-ring binder.

The Gaming Bag

If you do not already have a bag which is dedicated to your gaming habit, get one. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (like this), but it does have to be sturdy and roomy. Bonus points if it has pockets to hold your dice, minis, pencils and other gaming paraphernalia. Keep it around, keep your gaming stuff in it, and that way you’ll never wonder where your digital voice recorder is; it’ll always be in your bag.

A Place for Everything

I have benefited quite a bit from all of this organization, although it is both tedious, and time-consuming. It has taken me nearly a year of regular gaming to get my supplies into the organized state in which they currently reside. But, it’s worth it. I spend less time rummaging through my crap and more time planning and playing.

[tags]rpg, rpgs, GMing, tips[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Organizing Your Game – Some Tips

Add yours

  1. For the same price, you can pick up a fishing tackle box from Wal-Mart or something. They’re more spacious and give you a better way to organize, as long as you’re okay with your minis banging around a bit.

    Obviously, it’d be too big to fit in your gaming bag, but it can sit nicely right next to it on the floor so you’ll always remember to grab it.


  2. I’ll add another program to your list. For a while now I’ve been planning out my encounters in Office’s OneNote; it’s free-form enough to throw pictures and text together in a hurry, and it’s great for getting campaign notes organized.


  3. I’ll agree with you, to a point. Even though I use a tablet PC, I’ve found OneNote to be slow and clunky. Windows Journal came as a free installation when I upgraded to Windows 7, and Journal is to OneNote as Wordpad is to Word, except that Windows Journal works really well.

    So, agree with the idea, but change the program slightly. =)


  4. TO World Cruise:

    Then stay tuned, because it is very likely that I am going to write an article about how to get back the old games you sold; I did the same thing about a year before I started playing D&D again. There are ways and means…


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