Sunday, May 7, 2017

Favorite GM Prep Materials

I will get back to posting our actual-plays, I promise. I have a laundry list of excuses but I'm sure you're not interested in any of them. In the meantime, enjoy this blog post.

I'm an analog sort of GM. I like books. I like binders. Prepping for a game with a nice pen and smooth paper, books open and strewn across the table is a nigh religious experience for me. I realize this is not for everyone. Take my friend and fellow GM Sean, for example. He has his tidy little tablet. He keeps his prep notes on there. He keeps his game books on there. What physical books he has are not for other people to touch (unless he's quite fond of you...or you're sneaky.) It's safe to say we're pretty opposite ends of this particular spectrum. I hate reading digital products. My prep work for our Savage Rifts campaign did not begin in earnest until my actual, physical copies of the books arrived. They were licked. It was glorious.

All that being said, I thought I'd share some of what I like to use to make sure my game prep sessions are utterly satisfying.

First, let's talk pens. While it may be at odds with his love for digital gaming products, Sean has a deep and abiding love for nice writing utensils and turned me on to the deep deep rabbit hole that is Jet Pens. There, I found the perfect solution for my needs: the Uni Style Fit gel line of multi-pens. The Uni Style Fit Meister 5 Color Multi Pen fits all my needs as a GM: different color inks I can pick myself for color-coding notes, a mechanical pencil option, and an eraser. Jeez. Love this thing. I have two. I can have four different shades of blue and still have a pencil available, too. All this in one pen body that isn't nearly as fat as you might think it is. If you want something a bit classier or you only need a few inks, try the Uni Style Fit Meister 3 Color Multi Pen with it's beautiful metal body and slimmer design. My only beef with this one is that it has no built-in eraser. Jet Pens has even compiled their own handy blog post about it.

Even more difficult than finding the right pen has been putting together the right notebook. I did binders for a long time. My Greylord Magiya binder has gone through a few permutations and ended up with a softer cover and some paper I printed myself. I discovered law ruled paper on Printable Paper and found that it was ideal, though the lines are still too wide-set for my preference of tiny writing. I slapped a dot grid on the backside and whammy, I had some pretty great paper for my game prep.

Concurrently, I fell in love with B5 sized binders. Maruman and Kokuyo both make some deliciously silky paper to write on and the size was perfect for a game table. I use mine for my Wednesday One-Shot games, where I have less to bring to the table and keep with the notebook. The big downside is that B5 paper reams for your printer are a bit pricey and so I never really got around to printing things out to fit into the notebook. The hole punches are also a bit over-the-top expensive!

So here we are now, with our Savage Rifts campaign in its infancy and I'm working on my first scenario to run at GenCon. For my brief stint running Pendragon, I had tried out a discbound notebook and was pleased with it. That campaign was short-lived. I used the same notebook again for the Imitation of Life short campaign and liked it even more. It's been called back into duty for Savage Rifts and I am smitten. It has all the joy of a spiral-bound notebook with the convenience of a three-ring binder. I got bigger discs for the inevitable note-glut of a long, character-driven campaign. I got materials to make another book for my GenCon EVERYTHING, including notes for my scenario I'll be running there. I'm hooked, folks. You can punch your own paper or use any of the papers pre-punched for discbound notebooks. Including odd-sized pieces is easy; even small items like index cards (my favorite for stat cards) or notes passed at the table can be punched and stay secure in the notebook thanks to the many rings. My biggest problem is that most of the other folks using discbound notebooks are rabid scrapbooking people, so a lot of covers you'll find are printed with inspirational quotes, flowers, butterflies, and generally look like the craft store equivalent of a hairball. Fret not, though; you can keep it classy (or downright intimidating to your players) if you put your mind to it.

It should be noted, however, that dear Sean has fallen under the spell of discbound notebooks, too. I've seen with my own eyes some alleged game prep on actual paper for the Deadlands: Reloaded game he runs. In a discbound notebook. Clearly, they are irresistible. Mind you, I haven't actually been able to verify that it is actually game prep as I am a player in said game, but I believe him. Mostly.

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