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Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four

7 Tips For Fast & Effective Note-Taking While Game Mastering, Part II

Review Your Notes Within 2 Days After Each Session

Not only does reviewing or rewriting your session notes help put more of your campaign into your long-term memory, but it also gives you excellent feedback about your note-taking. And you can use this feedback to improve your skills over time.

For example, in one D&D campaign, I waited until several sessions of notes had accumulated before reviewing and re-typing them. Unfortunately, I soon discovered during the re-writing that I didn't need to keep writing out long names of NPCs, magic items, monsters & places. After writing an item a couple of times I could have used abbreviations or unique symbols thereafter because I knew what I was referring to.

If I had reviewed my notes after each session, I would have learned this early on and saved myself a lot of writing.

Return to Contents


Group Your Notes By Drawing In The Margins Sometimes I have notes that can be grouped together, either on a single page or over several pages. I can easily group these notes together by drawing "[" or "{" lines in the margins to connect or group lines together. And I can label these groups with numbers, letters or names in the margins as well, so that I can relate things across multiple pages.

Another way of grouping lines and sections is to actually circle the information. I sometimes make several circles on a page and link them together with pen lines. And, in the past, I have used multiple coloured pens to circle different information on a page to make things easier on the eyes. What a rebel eh? ;)

The purpose behind all of this grouping, in the end, is to reduce the time it takes to make notes while GMing. Grouping info eliminates the need to write headers, additional comments about groups or "this refers to" type of notes.


Use Standardized Index Cards Index cards are an easy and portable way to take notes while game mastering. See Issue #44 for more information about using index cards.

I mention them here because they can greatly assist you in your note-taking. Create several standard layouts, or templates, for subjects like NPCs, monsters, towns/cities, villains, etc. Then, taking notes simply becomes filling in short forms as you GM the session.


Underline Names If you underline names of things like aliens, NPCs, monsters, places, magic items, etc as you go, you make your notes very scannable for in-game and post-game research.

I'd avoid using hi-lighters though. It's a pain taking care of them during play.


Focus On Actions When I take notes, I have two goals: Record all the important facts (i.e. dates, distances, names).

Record all the important actions of the session.

If you record the game's actions then you can review and think of reactions, effects & consequences afterwards--your notes will help give you ideas and keep events straight.

There's two types of actions you should look out for: PC actions

NPC actions that the PCs would know of

For #2, if the PCs don't know about it, you can save game time by not recording it--you can always make something up in the future if you forget. If they do know about it, then do record it for campaign consistency and future reference--it'll help.


Clearly Label Your Pages After a few sessions your notes can easily get mixed-up. Write the campaign name and real world date for that session at the top of each page. I also number all pages in the top right corner to make gathering them in their proper sequence easy.

As your campaign progresses, write game calender references in your notes too, preferably as a header.


Record What Is Important To Your Players Look for clues from the players that indicate what they consider to be important (vocal, postural, and visual cues) during the game and write that information down.

If you use your notes for reporting (i.e. you write a campaign journal, or do a verbal, pre-game recap) then adding what is of interest and of importance to the players will give your game a real boost. By mentioning, for example, a great insult a PC made last session, or perhaps a good deed done, you will really please your players and encourage them to roleplay even more.

Have more fun at every game!

Johnn Four

* Coat of Arms 1.2a
* Promisance
* World of Phaos 0.9.2
Is Magic Armor Lighter Than Standard Armor of the Same Type?
Yes indeed
No, never!
In 1E yes, in 2E no
Only for encumbrance
Of course it is
Not in my world
* And-Mag.com

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