The April 2014 Blog Carnival is being hosted by the of Dice and Dragons blog and has as topic : “The Game Master’s Binder“. The Blog Carnival is a monthly feature of the RPG Blog Alliance in which bloggers agree on a specific topic to blog about during that month. Check here for the Blog Carnival Archives. Here’s a look at my Game Master’s Binder.
The early days
Coming from a computer-RPG background, my approach to roleplaying games was quite linear. I still remember my first session as a Games Master vividly. I was going to lead a duo of seasoned players on an adventure, and I had it all scripted out. So I arrived with a stack of papers full of adventure notes, from where to where the characters would be going, what they would be doing, … Of course the players had a mind of their own and about 15 minutes into the game, I could throw away the whole script and I was improvising my way out of the adventure. So I learned some valuable lessons early on. Don’t overdo it with the notes.
Back then most of the paperwork I would haul to a session was hand drawn maps, or stats of creatures since I don’t like having to look up things during a session. I think I even have some of that stuff from the early days lying around. I used to bring home lots of paper waste from work and then just use the back side to write and draw on. A bit later on, I had a small black sketch book that I used to keep notes. But I never ran a campaign of such magnitude that I filled one of those sketch books.
My first campaign campaign
Some years later I ran (part of) Call of Cthulhu’s Coming Full Circle campaign by Pagan Publishing. For that campaign I had an actual Game Master’s Binder, which held all the handouts, pictures of NPC’s and locations, floorplans, the whole works. The campaign managed to get through the first adventure after which it wasn’t continued.
Some more years went by and I really wanted to run an actual campaign. I wanted to know what it felt like to achieve the epic end of a story that took years to complete. I settled on the Shackled City campaign by Paizo Publishing. As I thought the Shackled City campaign was quite tough, I added a few introduction adventures for the characters on their way to Cauldron.
I decided to put this campaign into a wiki. The Shackled City wiki was an attempt at an online Game Master’s Binder and an attempt to have some interaction with players outside of the gaming sessions. The players could log in and add comments. They had sections for their characters where dreams and visions would appear, and there was a player-off-limits section where I added my dungeon master lore. In that section, I added NPC’s, prepared the campaign arc from adventure to adventure, added insights on why I chose to do some things and what I wanted to include. Unfortunately this campaign was also cut short, so much so, that the adventurers never even reached Cauldron and thus never actually started the Shackled City campaign.
The here and now
Recently I started my Pathfinder Society Home Campaign, a campaign for the Pathfinder RPG in which the players get to choose one of the iconic characters and play that character for the duration of a complete adventure. After that they choose another iconic character until all iconics have been played after which we start all over again. I chose for this format because it enables everyone in our group to be the dungeon master once in a while, and it gives the players the opportunity to play characters they would not regularly play. The first adventure we played in this format was Hollow’s Last Hope.
For this campaign I’m mixing all the above. I have some loose leafs of notes, the characters are all in a binder, and this website serves as a tracking tool to see the progress of characters and adventures. I quite enjoy working in this way. Whenever I invite the players for a new game session, I only have to link to the session reports on the site for them to refresh their minds and they can find the progress of their character with updated equipment and cash. This is of course still a work in progress but my goal is to have background sheets and character sheets available for download so other people can also just come to the site and pick a character to play.