View Full Version : DM Organizational Methods

07-26-2014, 10:04 PM
Hiya Folks!

It's been a little while since I've posted in these forums but I love the community and wanted to throw some thoughts out there, as well as a question or two.

I've been DM'ing (off and on) for almost a decade, and as such have switched my organizational methods for campaign management multiple times. In the past I've used notebooks (both combined for all different campaigns' information as well as dedicated to individual campaigns - ending up with multiple quarter- to half-full unfinished games), laptop computers (with myriad word processing and web-based formats), and now iPad apps (specific to 4e). I know that there are a number of you that have DM'ed for at least as long as I have (many for longer), and so I pose this question:

How do you manage your campaigns from an organizational perspective? Do you keep everything digital (and risk the info)? Do you keep paper-copy back ups? Have you turned your back upon the digital revolution and only maintain your information via pen & paper? In other words - what works, what doesn't, and how have you been successful or unsuccessful in your efforts to stay organized as a DM for your group(s)?

07-31-2014, 09:17 AM
I use a combination of digital and print methods to organize my campaign. I have a notebook, 3 ring binder, don't remember the size, but it is at maximum capacity, and I really need to get a bigger one! That's where I keep important information about the campaign that will probably not change, descriptions and stats for the 'gods' of the campaign, descriptions and stats of important NPCs, maps, etc.

I also have a folder on each of my computers that I access, including my work computer, that I try to keep in sync that contains various digital documents, from maps that I'll reference for ideas to ones I'll actually use for locations, to character generation rules documents, to spells converted to the game system I use from other game systems.

Finally, I have a website that contains information about the campaign world, including maps, info about countries, etc. This has mostly player known info, but some of it is information that they don't know yet, but with a change of a setting on the page, it becomes available for them to view. The code on that website is what I've written myself, with some of it modified from snippets I've found on the web. That's for my fantasy campaign world, which is a home grown one.

To some degree, I've done the same for my space/sci-fi campaign world, my 2 post apocalyptic campaign worlds, my weird west campaign world and my superhero campaign world.

07-31-2014, 10:16 PM
With a little practice, a laptop can save you time and table space. Dice rollers, maps, spreadsheets for combat - all at your fingertips.

Best part: mood music.

Matt James
08-02-2014, 01:08 PM
My good friend Mike Shea runs the SlyFlourish blog. It is all about tips, tricks, and tools for being a better D&D Dungeon Master. Check him out. At the very least, it helps reinforce your own practices, and helps inspire you to adapt and evolve.


08-03-2014, 07:50 AM
I use both. When getting a campaign ready, I usually type everything up and then print out a paper copy. Can't drag the desk top computer to game meetings. That 3 ring binder is a lot lighter in weight. One of the guys that games with us does bring his lap top and we do use it for mood and background music and sounds at various times.

09-15-2014, 10:06 PM
Thanks for the replies so far. I've found that maintaining a three-ring binder just doesn't work for me (unfortunately neither do composition books, spirals, or any hardbound notebook that I've found so far). However, I still struggle with a laptop computer as well sometimes. While not the use of it but rather how it can disrupt the overall setting of the game.

The ambient music may be something that I try in the future. I've seen other DMs use it and, when a very specific playlist is created solely to play D&D or other table top RPGs it's very effective.

Nothing like "Call Me Maybe" coming on in the middle of a BBEG fight to completely derail any semblance of immersion you had...that is, unless the DM were to time a paralysis-like spell on the party.

09-16-2014, 09:10 AM
Sorry if it's lost in translation, but it sounds to me like you're not getting enough mileage out of the GM-fudge rule. Related to Rule Zero. If you're playing a game like D&D, all you need to know is your character's level, which will give you an appropriate bonus to add to your die roll. You don't need to know the perfect stat. Look it up later. Fudge the bonus and move on.

Regarding the OP's campaign management concern - I've used a folders-approach before with paper. One folder is for campaign-level info, one is for adventure-level info, and one is for the encounter you're in. The make sure the appropriate sheets find their way to the surface.

10-15-2014, 02:00 AM
The three most important words in computing: Backup, backup, backup. (I'm running one right now.)

For me writing on paper is a painful process. I am full digital for the composition phase, but print the results for use at the table My campaign books get thick as the game goes on.