Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Most Important Tool

Tools, Great for bashing damage!
            First, I’d like to apologize for not posting an update last week.  I was working at Kami-Con, an anime convention, in Birmingham, Alabama, and I just didn’t have time last week to write an article and complete all the preparations necessary for the convention.  I hope that some of you were able to attend the convention, and if you didn’t, I hope that you’ll come next year.  Hopefully, I’ll be adding an additional update this coming week to make up for the lost time.  I’ll also write something about the convention, if you are interested in hearing about that.
            The topic for today is the most important tool to bring to the table as a player or a storyteller.  In this case, I mean something physical.  While we can talk about having a good attitude, being cooperative with other players, and all of that, I want to focus on what a gamer needs to be ready for any given session.  I’m going to take for granted that a player shows up with his or her character sheet, dice, and a pencil to each session.  Although we all know plenty of gamers who show up lacking even the most basic things, this article isn’t about them.  Instead, I think the most important tool every player should bring to a session is a notebook. 
A player diagram of a dungeon in D&D
            Way back in the day, when most people played Dungeons & Dragons, it was common to divide up workload for a party.  One person would be responsible for taking notes about NPCs, treasure accumulated, etc. Another person would be responsible for making any maps of the dungeons that were encountered.  This was before the modern era of dry erase maps with 1 inch squares or hexes already drawn on them; so, it was the players’ responsibility to draw a map as the DM or GM described it.  However, since D&D 3rd edition, those responsibilities have radically changed.  Most role playing groups rely on dry erase mats from Chessex or other manufacturers and forego the use of hand drawn maps which could be right or wrong. 
            Nevertheless, taking notes is still incredibly important and probably more so in Storyteller games with the large cast of NPCs on hand and the various locations.  This goes for both the storyteller and the players.  To be quite honest, I ran a campaign last year, and I have forgotten many of the events that transpired during that campaign because I didn’t take notes as I was running the game.  I have to rely on my players to remind me of details, but their stories sometimes conflict, and we have to reconstruct the campaign.  This is not an ideal situation, since I use the same setting, Baltimore, for all of my World of Darkness games.  If only I had made notes while I was running each session, I could have avoided this problem. 
            This note book can serve lots of purposes beyond just being a place where you keep notes about your ongoing campaign.  I use my note book to write down story ideas for games that I may run or may not run.  For example, I have lots of notes for a future Planescape game.  I also have notes for an upcoming Werewolf the Apocalypse game.  I’m not sure when I’ll run either of these games because I currently prefer to run Vampire 20th.  You can also make notes about the game system when you come across interesting rules or fluff that you want to incorporate into a future session. 
Mead's classic comp book.  
            For players, it’s important to have your own set of notes.  I’ve noticed that each player experiences the game differently and has their own opinions and beliefs about a particular NPC or an event.  Writing down your personal thoughts on a scene or encounter can help you better role play your character.  Also, you can make notes about things you saw that the other players didn’t see or didn’t think were important.  For players, like me, who become invested in the story and their characters recording their personal experiences may improve the experience.  Think of it as your character’s personal narrative.  Some players may even want to turn those notes into an in character diary which they share online. 
            Also, this is the 21st century so don’t feel like you have to be tied down to a notebook or a binder.  I am slowly beginning to move all of my note taking over to my iPad.  It’s so much more convenient since I don’t have to worry about the pages getting lost or moved around. They are all saved in cloud storage as well as on the iPad.  I’m a bit of an Apple fan boy when it comes to mobile devices, but plenty of manufacturers make great tablets that are excellent gaming. 
            However it is that you prefer to take notes during a session, make sure you do it.  You never know when you’ll need to remember that NPC you met 4 sessions ago and don’t remember his name at all. 
            My next blog will be about my current Vampire the Masquerade campaign and how badly the players have screwed themselves over. 

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