Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Meticulously Mercurial

This post is brought to you by two statements of fact:
1. Successfully running and maintaining a tabletop RPG game requires a great deal of meticulousness and organizational ability
2. As a relatively new DM (I have only really run one campaign for two years) I am still searching for my own game management style.

Now, pour these two facts into a cocktail shaker, mix thoroughly and you will wind up with a set of campaign notes that is patchwork at best and a pile of nonsense at worst.

During the two years I have been running my game (that's right, suckit Risk!) I have organized my notes in binders, notebooks, in Excel, Word, directly written out on maps, in Google Docs, One Note, Evernote aand Obsidian Portal... and that doesn't even touch on the various character creation software I have experimented with.

The whole situation leaves me feeling like a confused and angsty tween, searching in vain for stability in my organizational partner, only to be distracted by the next pretty thing that comes along. The new system walks by on the way to its locker, and suddenly, I can't help but notice everything that is wrong with my current "thing". It's text is too small. It doesn't "do" tables or pictures. It will only let me change it in "editing mode" O.M.G. we are so breaking up! 

And so, I dump the old and get to know the new shiny... only to then realize that the new shiny comes with its own baggage.

I mention this, because last night I had a wonderful brainstorming session with a buddy of mine who writes on the blog Minor Actions and he introduced me to an older, classic organizational system: The Notebook... aaand, I once again find myself in the thrall of something new and different.

I feel compelled to list out the qualities of Notebook that make it better than my current One Note on the laptop:
  • Flexibility - A notebook will let me put in pictures, tables or whatever else I want. I can even print and tape in my digital printouts, scribble in the margins, keep statistics that I don't want to change in pen while variable stuff can be in pencil!
  • Unassuming - A notebook will take up far less space at the game table, and wont break if I accidentally drop it.
  • No power trips - A notebook doesn't need power. My current digital solutions immediately shut down if they are not plugged in -stupid laptop battery!
  • Portable - My laptop weighs a ton! I could much more easily bring a notebook to bed, work or wherever I want... It's always a challenge to get Laptop to leave the house.
  • More open - It is far easier to look at a whole page on a notebook than on a computer, regardless of the program you are working with.
Okay... now, in an effort to be more realistic about things, I feel compelled to list things I expect not to like about Notebook.
  • Time consuming - It takes longer for me to write things out by hand, much less neatly, than it does to type them.
  • Easier to lose - one of the problems with being unassuming is that it is easy to disappear in a crowd or pile of clutter.
  • Unforgiving - Its much more difficult to reorganize notes once they are in a notebook than it is in a computer program. If I go with a spiral bound notebook, I cant pull pages out and put them in a new place... but then again, that means there is less chance they will get lost... right?
Sigh... so, do I give my old note-taking system the boot, or stick with what I know?

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