The games I run tend to be very detailed, requiring players to take notes, but the game experience should not feel like a bad school experience. In most games I’ve been a part of, a single-player does all the note-taking. They end up doing most of the work. They are responsible for maintaining the story consistency of the game because real life happens, and not every player can remember every single detail of every game session ever. The amount of work can put a lot of pressure on one person, so I encourage as many players as possible to share note-taking responsibility.
I love writing down notes on paper with my pencils, but note-taking can be a collaborative effort in a roleplaying game using digital tools. There’s nothing wrong with paper notes, but it’s harder to share information between players, and sometimes the person running the game will want to share data between game sessions. Digital documentation tools are a great way to track everything, have the entire group access the information, and make note-taking very collaborative. Cool things you can do with digital documentation tools include:
- The digital platform gives a group of people the ability to create a digital document and contribute to it. This functionality includes the feature to make comments on the document.
- Capable of adding images and video embeds. Perfect for adding pictures of a town or dungeon or a YouTube video that explains the history of the particular setting you’re using for your game.
- Create “To-Do” lists to assign specific items to a person. “To-Do” lists are a great way to keep track of storylines and plots, especially if a particular player needs to remember they need to do something during a game session.
Here are my favorite digital tools that I suggest checking out for the game.
If you use Gmail, you already have access to this great tool. Google Doc is a word processor that multiple people can control contributes to the document. If you’ve used software like Microsoft Word, you already know how to use Google Docs. You can invite anyone in your group to use it, and there’s a lot of fantastic stuff you can use for free.
Similar to Google Docs, Dropbox Paper is a great word processor tool. I have friends who swear that this changed the way they keep track of gaming because the user interface feels more modern and it comes with a ton of great features. The only downside to this platform is it hasn’t evolved as much as Google Docs, and there are some sneaky “for paid only” options.
Notion is my favorite tool to use for game planning. It includes everything Google and Dropbox includes with their products, but there’s a ton of additional tools like built in spreadsheet tables, advanced organizational tools, and a extensive system for cross collaboration. There is a free version, but I use the $9 a month version so I can invite players to my account, and they can start using it.
My friend ran a game using this product and put together some badass PowerPoint presentations to help set up the game story, share many documents where players can annotate their characters’ perspectives, and deliver a ton of high media experiences. The big downside of Office 365 is that it is costly compared to other solutions.
I have used this tool for work a lot. It’s a great project management tool, but I never thought about using it for a tabletop roleplaying game. I recently met a group of people organizing a large and complicated tabletop event. They use Asana to help assign specific tasks to the various game organizers. I was surprised by how effective this tool was in helping everyone stay organized. This tool may be overkill for most tabletop games but perfect for large group games (or even Live Action Roleplaying games)! Definitely check this tool out if you have more than one person running a game, or if you’re running a roleplaying game that involves more than 6 people.
Special Note: I know there are a lot of solutions out there! These are just the tools I have used, and I would love to hear what you use. I know there are a lot of digital tools that include a note-taking system, but so many of them lack the collaboration functionality that I think is important for documenting a roleplaying session.