April 2014 Blog Carnival: The Game Master’s Binder – That’s a Wrap

rpgblogcarnivallogoIt may have taken a while for the posts to come but thanks to those that contributed to this month’s blog carnival The Game Master’s Binder.

After my initial offering which covered my use of Evernote as my GM Binder we were privileged to hear from another half dozen bloggers on the topic.

Over at The Warehouse of Trinkets an interesting take on the topic, using a catalog instead of a binder. The thought is that carrying a folder with a number of RPG related items in it serves as a great resource for the GM when pressed into service. I like the idea as it’s similar to my ‘ideas’ notebook but it takes it a step further by including free RPG rules as well.

We next get a distinctively different feel from The Gaming Blog of General Tangent who, being British, lends an international point of view and gives us an interesting post that shares his binder evolution. Here’s another example of someone that has moved through paper into digital and shares some of the challenges that having your campaign material tied up in desktop software brings to the table.

Phil over at Tales of a GM shares his journey as well. He’s settled on a ‘mix and match’ setup that combines both the digital and analog worlds. What makes this article is that Phil takes some time to explain his issues with using technology – things like power and space for the laptop. I can definitely sympathize with his issues as I encountered a number of them when I used a laptop as a player and had a tendency to actually need more space than most of the other players (often needing more space than the GM!), go figure.

Over at World Builder Blog James starts us on his journey, from the composition notebook. I remember using these for school but not as a place to keep my GM notes. James then goes on to share some of his Google Drive setup and how he uses email and a wiki to keep his players informed. He also takes some time to share the other tools he uses to store items relating to his campaign and what tool he’s looking forward to using in the future (assuming it does make it to the Mac).

So, please raise your hand if you ever programmed your own GM binder/screen system. I know I made a feeble attempt at one many, many, moons ago but that’s exactly the idea behind the binder that Elthos RPG shares with us. We start with the humble beginnings of a self made screen and then move through the creation of his current tool.

We close out the month with the evolution of the binder of RPGames.be. This post, like many of the ones before it, chronicles the move from paper, to digital, to something of a mix. What makes this binder’s final form interesting is that it is not just a combination of paper and software, but also the GM’s gaming blog as well (something I’ve tried in the past myself and may do again).

So there you have it, the wrap up for the April Blog Carnival be sure to check out all Blog Carnival’s Home Page for a full listing of all the carnivals that have been run.

May your dice roll well.

Update: We have one more entry that I missed when I wrote the wrap-up: A GM Notebook’s Evolution where we see the move once again from paper to electronic. This time the move is into a wiki and Google Docs and there’s also a cautionary tale about tossing out your old notes.

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My GM binder? Evernote of course!

rpgblogcarnivallogoSo for this month’s blog carnival we’re taking a look at one of a Game Master’s most prized possessions, the GM Binder.

I know many still use a three-ring binder for this and in fact for my last multi-year campaign I did the same. It had dividers in it, graph paper, campaign notes, world notes, and all sorts of other items that were collected during the course of the campaign. Now, finding something in all of that was easy when we played three times a month, go to once every three months and it gets a bit harder. Trying to locate a specific detail about a town, or an NPC, became difficult the longer the campaign ran (I stopped publishing the named NPC list when it crossed the 100 mark).

In a past post I mentioned that I was moving to Evernote for my next campaign and it’s to combat the items above – sheer volume of material and being able to find what I need at that moment at the table.

For those that read Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips Newsletter you may have caught my recent article containing a few tips on using Evernote as a GM, please bear with me as this will look familiar.

I should also state up front that this is a work in progress and the manner in which I’m storing things may change over time – I’ll be sure to pass along updates in the future.

Also, I’m going to make a small assumption that you know something about Evernote – sorry about that, if I include all the background I’m not sure I’ll ever finish this post. (I am planning a number of future posts where I’ll go into a bit more detail on what follows.)

In order to make things easier to find in my “binder” I’m going to use an abbreviation or code to mark all my notes. This code needs to be specific to the campaign but since I haven’t named the campaign yet (it may sound strange to some but the campaign name is something I trust to the gods – it will reveal itself in time) I’m using the code “cpgn” which is short for campaign, for now. A simple edit of the tags later will change everywhere I’ve used it.

rpg-notebook-setupSo now that tagging is out of the way, I’ve created a notebook stack so that I can keep some semblance of order to my notes. As I’m still in the creation stage the stack is fluid but as you can see I’ve got a section for the NPCs, PCs, Plot Ideas, and Setting. Once the campaign gets rolling I’ll likely add sections for Session Notes and possibly a public notebook which the players will be able to access.

As I work through the creation of the campaign (and eventually running it) each time I want to add something to my ‘GM Notebook’ I simply create a new note, tag it accordingly (so it doesn’t get lost), and file it in the appropriate section.

The nice thing about using Evernote as my binder is that it is always with me. I have it installed on my phone, tablet and all my computers. If by chance I need to use it anywhere else I can pull it up on the web.

Now, I should mention that only the PC and Mac versions will have all your notes right there handy for you unless you’re a Premium user. The phone and tablet versions can create an ‘offline notebook’ which will store everything in that notebook locally (as well as sync it to the cloud) so you never have to worry about whether you’ll have access or not.

What about your binder? Why not write something up and link to the carnival this month I know I’d like to know what others are using.

May your dice roll well.

Don’t have Evernote? Sign up through my Evernote referral link and get a free month of Premium Service.

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April 2014 Blog Carnival: The Game Master’s Binder

rpgblogcarnivallogoFor some, creating it was a rite of passage.

For others, it was a project that was never completed.

For all, it was something we poured our lifeblood into creating and held it as a prized possession.

The Game Master’s Binder

Many of us started our GM career simply using a few sheets of paper or index cards stuffed inside the front cover of our gaming book. The progression continued through paper clipped pages, note cards with binder clips, folders and then finally to a binder where pages were punched and inserted between dividers to keep it all nice and tidy.

Then, the computer age hit and it all changed.

For this month’s RPG’s Bloggers’ Carnival we’re taking a look at this prized possession and asking you to share what yours is. As usual to participate you simply need to write a post on your blog about your GM binder – it can be your current one, a past one you remember all to well, or what you’re planning to use in the future. Once you written it up be sure to link to this post and drop a note in the comments so I can be sure to collect them all up for a final roundup on the posts.

So the question I put to you now is what does does your GM Binder look like? Is it still a three-ring binder? Is it a tablet? A laptop? Your smartphone?

What does it look like on the inside? What do you keep in it? How do you organize it?

If you don’t have a blog feel free to share in the comments about your binder, or jump over to the of Dice and Dragons facebook or Google+ page and share your thoughts on the entry there.

Now, go on and post something, this isn’t an April Fool’s Joke (seriously, it isn’t).

May your dice roll well.

The Carnival has moved on but be sure to check out this carnival’s wrap-up post.

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Planned Server Maintenance

Server MaintenanceI’ve been notified by my hosting company that they are doing server maintenance tomorrow night, January 22, between the hours of 8-10 PM MST.

During that time period it is expected that this site will not be accessible for about 15-30 minutes along with my email.

Hopefully all goes well and the outage will be minimal. My apologies for any issues this may cause.


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Happy Birthday #8 – State of the Blog

8th-birthday-imageIt’s hard to believe that as I write this of Dice and Dragons is turning eight and as I have done the last few years (here’s a link to 2012 and 2011 for comparison if you’d like)  I’m marking the occasion, as I have in past years, with a look back at the last year.

It’s been an interesting year to say the least. I’ve have had, and continue to have, many challenges in the offline world that are impacting my ability to focus on the blog but through it all there are those of you continue to support the blog, occasionally promote it, and even give me the chance to take on new challenges. For all of that I thank you all.

So where did I end up against my goals for 2013?

  1. Post more frequently – As in past years I’ve missed the target I set of 52 or one a week but this year I did improve over last year. In 2012 I managed just seven posts while in 2013 I’m currently at 10 (counting this one) and I hope to publish at least one more before the end of the year. While I would have liked to hit the goal I’m improving my frequency year over year so I’ll take it as a win.
  2. Start a new campaign – A total miss here. I did take some time and toy with a few ideas, make a few notes, and come up with some possible story hooks but a campaign was not started.
  3. Increase blog traffic by 10% – A HUGE WIN. According to my Google Analytics account this blog saw an increase of 29% year over year. When I look at the chart it’s interesting that traffic started out lagging behind the previous year but then starting in March came on strong through the remainder of the year. I have to thank you, my readers, for even with a low post count you kept coming back.
  4. Participate in a blog carnival – Another win as I participated in not one but two carnivals in 2013 (I’m still thinking about one going on this month so this might bump to three). In addition I hosted my first carnival in October which I thought did well and I’m looking forward to hosting another in the future.

So, tallying things up, one total miss, two solids wins and an area that improved but still hasn’t hit the mark. It would appear that 2013 was a good year for the blog, thank you again loyal readers.

The statistics:

Yes, I’m still crazy enough to share the stats from behind the scenes, does this make sense? I have no clue but I’m hoping that by sharing these pieces of information it will help others to understand that writing a blog is in fact, real work. You’re not going to get rich over night with one and in fact many write a blog for the enjoyment of it or to just give back to the hobby or industry they love.

Total visits: 5,321

As I mentioned above, this represents a 29% increase from last year which is when I saw my single biggest drop in traffic, 44% from 2011 (the high water mark at 7,289). I like the direction things are going, as upwards is always good, but the question is, is the blog simply returning to its natural traffic level or is this an indicator of things to come? Only time will tell but I hope it’s the latter.

Pageviews: 9,703

It wasn’t surprising to see this number to up, after all if you have more visits you should have more pageviews. It was surprising to see that pageview per visit stayed almost the same which means that accessibility to related posts and other materials is still solid, but could use a bit of improvement.

I should also note that the average length of a site visit also did an uptick, by 23%. Some of this is due to some of the longer posts I did this year but also I’d like to think it’s because folks are reading more than a post or two.

Goals for 2014

As I look forward to 2014 I find myself again wanting to keep the list of goals small and continue to focus on improving the consistency I post at and the quality of the posts which should in turn increase the traffic to the blog. I also want to get my offline gaming back on track as it can only improve what I write here and hopefully the reverse will also be true.

  1. Post more frequently – I know, I know, I put this up every year but as I still haven’t hit the bar I’ve set, 52 posts or one a week I feel it still needs to be here.
  2. Increase blog traffic 10% – While this year saw some really strong gains in traffic I’d like to grow it a bit more. I know that the numbers have seen some big swings the last couple of years but I’m hoping things stabilize a be more going forward.
  3. Host a blog carnival – This year I jumped in to help out as a host was needed, something I was glad to do and was a good experience. In 2014 I’m looking to do it again but with a bit more planning and prep so it will hopefully be an even greater success.
  4. Start a new campaign – I had this on the goal list for 2013 and while I dabbled with some ideas and thoughts it never materialized. For 2014 I’m going to make a effort to get this off the ground and running. I’m going to define the “start” as the campaign is laid out and the members of my group are interested in playing in it and character discussion is underway. Do we actually need to have played a session? No, but it would be great if we do.

As in past years I’m keeping the list short as Murphy has had his hand in more than a little of my life of late and continues to create “challenges” for me. If things go well this list will be more about gaming than the blog starting next year as I hope to be able to focus more time on this area of my life as other responsibilities I have are winding down.

Do you have any RPG goals you’ve set for yourself? Care to share them in the comments?

May your dice roll well.

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