Sunday, November 01, 2009

GM Binders

Wow. Look at all the dust.
It's been a while since I've been here.

My new campaign is scheduled to start soon. After the meet-and-greet the players and I agreed upon a system (Pathfinder) and a background (HarnWorld). So that left me time to try and crank out the best resource any GM can have - a binder containing a series of odds and sods upon which your game will rely. This time around I'm also keeping an electronic version of my binder this time -- a series of directories and links to files on my computer.

I did a lot of looking around, trying desperately to find the old articles I based my last GM binder on years ago. I found lots of good advice, but most of it was very generic--and very few folk seemed willing to post details about what their binder contains. I have the contents of my last campaign's binder; but the older binders have long since been de-constructed, with some parts filed and others recycled. The last campaign's binder lost cohesion and organization somewhere around mid-campaign, about when my plot went off the rails and various plot threads were completely lost. It's something I'm trying not to repeat in this game.

My binder has the following sections:
  1. Cover. This is the first time I've created a cover page for my campaign. It's an letter page poster in black and white featuring the name of the campaign as well as a short piece of poetry designed to give a general feel for the game. It was fun to create and helped me focus the game and come up with the game's theme.

  2. Places. These are the places in which the game will run. I won't copy everything into here; a piece of the gaming map, a few small articles of the places the party will live in or travel through should be enough. Often, if the article exists elsewhere, I'll include a blank page with the name of the article and where to find it.

    To start the list is pretty short, but it will grow with time:
    Place nameCitations
    DunirKanday module pxx, xx, xx; Dunir article; \Harn\Kanday\Dunir\
    KandayKanday module; HarnWorld pxx; HarnDex pxx; \Harn\Kanday\

  3. People. This includes both copies of the PCs as well as lots and lots of NPCs. I start with a randomly generated list of names using EBoN and the Harnic chapters. I tend to create a list of about 100 each: female first names, male first names, clan names, other race names (25 elves (Sindarin), 25 dwarves (Khuzdan), 25 halflings, 25 orcs (Gargun)). These are just lists (no space for anything else); usually done up in 3 columns.

    I also include a grid that looks something like this:

    PersonRace/Age/SexNotes/location/Appearance/Game Info
    John Smith
    H:M:42Local bloke on the road to Dunir. Brown hair-balding, brown eyes, average height/build, ruddy complexion. See Stats pxx.
    Thomas Public
    H:M:33Local farmer. Likes his pigs. Just north of Dunir. Brown hair-curley, brown eyes, tall & thin. Animal Handling (pigs) 12, (other) 6
    Jane Smith
    H:M:18Unmarried. Shy. Won't talk to the PCs if her father's not there (John Smith). Dunir. Brown hair (long, straight-under a cowl), blue eyes. Petite. Cha 14
    Peter Principle
    H:M:22Talkative but doesn't know much. Willing to help, but clueless. Random. Brown hair-straight, cropped short, average height/build. Bookish. Knowledge (local) 6

    The grid lets me keep track of NPCs without worrying about stat-blocks. If an NPC requires something more than a single skill or stat (which I list in the notes on the grid), then I'll make a stat block and reference it in the grid.

    This time I'll also create a quick reference sheet of names for the locations (especially to detail the people in the party's home town).

  4. Rules. This section includes house rules, conversion rules (in my case from 3.5 d20 to pathfinder -- a free download from Paizo), and any other small articles that help me run the game. If we limit the number of books available to be used, I'll include that list here too.

  5. Background details. Typically I include a price list, articles on general lore, and any other small article that seems relevant to the background setting. I also include copies of anything given to the PCs as well as rough notes as to when and why the item was given out. Often, as the campaign progresses, most of the additional details I add to a location are stored here.

  6. Logs. Notes about the campaign. I start with the date and the weather and the party supplies all the rest. By keeping notes I can better deal with unfinished plots and party interests. Some nights the notes are detailed, other nights they aren't. I usually try to go back and write up my thoughts on the gaming session -- as much for creating a summary for the next game as to help with plots.

  7. Adventures. If I run an adventure, I either print it out and add it to the binder, or at least make a notation that the adventure was run. I try to include a brief summary of "how it really went". This section is a summary of the logs and deals only with the adventure and not all the other events that occurred while the adventure runs.

  8. Monsters, Treasure, and Monies. This section (I hope) will be pretty slim. I don't want to recreate the universe; but I will use it to keep track of what monsters the PCs fight, what treasures they get, and what they spend their money on. If there's anything unique to the game--I'll include its details here.

  9. Maps. These are empty (unlabeled) maps of various places the party might visit. I collect random maps that fit my setting and rely upon them heavily. If the party visits one I'll include a rough page of details and label the map so that, should they return, the ancient alter, secret hide-y holes, and pigeon coups will be right where they last found them.
And that's the details of my GM binder. I've got a fair bit of work to do before it's ready to be used.
Next step: making characters and fleshing out the starting point for the adventure.

No comments: