A week or two ago (as I write this) I was chatting with someone on twitter, and they wanted to show me a map they were working on – but couldn’t find where they had stored it on their computer. File organization is one of those areas that no-one ever really talks about, so everyone evolves their own system by hit-and-miss without ever knowing whether the system they have created is merely good enough or if it actually helps their game prep. This is, in itself, an unsatisfactory state of affairs, so I thought I would address the problem by discussing how I organize my game-related files – in general (I vary it as I deem necessary).
The top level
Unlike a lot of people, I have multiple campaigns on the go at any one time. So the uppermost level has a folder for each campaign and separate folders for any metagame notes like timetables and so on.
The campaign level
I try not to have any documents in the top level folder itself; I find that it is better to impose some order and structure at the campaign level by employing subfolders. The folders I usually create at a campaign level are:
- 00. Campaign Overview
- 01. Campaign Plan
- 02. Campaign Reference
- 03. Campaign Notes & Research
- 04. Campaign Background
- 05. Campaign Background Reference
- 06. Spells
- 07. Character Sheets
- 08. Character Class Notes
- 09. Characters & NPCs
- 10. Enemies
- 11. Monsters
- 12. General Maps
- 13. Kingdoms & Cultures
- 14. Rules
- 15. Ideas & Rumors
- 16. Inspiration
- 17. Adventure Notes & Ideas
- 18. Adventures
What goes into these? In some cases, it may be obvious – but in others there are some twists to the tale, and still others are not clear. So let’s take a brief look at each of them…
00. Campaign Overview
The campaign overview folder is where I maintain a quick synopsis of the campaign concept at the start of development. This serves as a master plan of what is going into the campaign – not notes and possibilities and ideas, but the things that have actually been approved and incorporated. I will often have two versions of this document – the player’s version and the GMs version. Think of this as the non-rules briefing material for the players, and a GM’s version with lots of hidden truths added in – the revelation of which will constitute some of the adventures within the campaign.
Once play starts, a separate document in this folder maintains an overview of actual campaign events. This overview is more a “state of play” than a blow-by-blow account of what happened in any given adventure. It’s the document you use to refresh your own recollection before working on a new adventure. Once again, I will usually also maintain a player’s version that can be used to bring new or forgetful players up to speed – this needs to be updated rather more frequently.
I also keep a document in here called “reminders” which contains bullet point summaries of the key things to be incorporated into the campaign overview the next time I update it – which means that I only need to work on the main document once or twice a year. If I were running a weekly campaign, this would be a monthly or bi-monthly chore.
01. Campaign Plan
I keep the past and the future of the campaign as separate as possible. This always contains at least one file listing the upcoming adventures with a one-paragraph summary. Sometimes I will also have a player version that has the titles of the upcoming adventures – as long-time readers will know from Hints, Metaphors, and Mindgames: Naming Adventures (Part 1) and Part 2, in which I listed the titles of many of the adventures that were (and in some cases, still are) upcoming in my campaigns.
02. Campaign Reference
Sometimes this will be an empty folder, but things have a habit of ending up here. Descriptions of headquarters, photographic reference, in-game documents, saved web pages – you name it.
03. Campaign Notes & Research
The dividing line between content destined for the previous folder and this one can be hard to pin down. This folder contains the results of research aimed at answering specific questions, and any specific notes that relate to the campaign overall, and not to any one specific adventure. Quite often, material from a specific adventure that will have an ongoing relevance gets moved to this folder after the adventure in question is complete.
04. Campaign Background
This may be one document or many. Sometimes there will be subfolders. For one campaign I created an entire offline website. But they are all different ways of telling the backstory that players need to know before the campaign starts. Any GM secrets get placed in the Campaign Notes folder so that I can make this entire folder available to the players.
05. Campaign Background Reference
In this folder I put any supporting documents and materials that accompany the Campaign Background, again so it can be shared without stressing about showing the players things I don’t want them to see.
06. Spells or 06. Powers & Gadgets
The “Spells” folder is only present in Fantasy Campaigns. It frequently contains two or three subfolders – one for spell sources published elsewhere, one for any original spells I introduce to the campaign, and one for any altered or amended versions of standard spells that are intended to replace the ones in the core rules or other official sources, not simply supplement them.
Also in the Spells folder (in theory) would be a catalog reference compiling details of all the spells in the campaign, and especially noting any that for some reason were not to be available to anyone at the current time within the game. In practice, I started one (operating on the theory that I would compile a base document that could then be customized to each campaign) but haven’t found time to work on it for at least 8 years. At best, I have a list of spells currently barred from the campaign.
This is also the place where any rules interpretations involving spells gets stored for future reference.
In non-FRP campaigns, this folder is given over to new ways of combining and applying supernatural abilities and descriptions of gadgets and devices. This isn’t about the rules used for describing these powers in terms of game mechanics, this is about ways of applying those rules to create new and novel effects. Most importantly, this folder and its contents exist to prevent wasting time reinventing the wheel.
07. Character Sheets
For some campaigns, the rules are sufficiently different that I have generated custom character sheets. For some other campaigns, I have done so for NPCs only, usually because I have additional political or factional information to document. This is where blank character sheets and related forms live. Sometimes this folder is made available to the players, sometimes not.
08. Character Class Notes or 08. Alien Species
If I customize a character class for the campaign (which is a frequent occurrence) or create a new class, this is where it goes. For 3.x/Pathfinder campaigns, there are subfolders to distinguish between core classes and prestige classes. There is also a list of approved and rejected character classes. Except in very unusual circumstances, this will be shared with the players; any classes that I don’t want them to know about will go into the campaign notes until I’m ready for the players to know the mechanics of the class.
Of course, my non-FRP campaigns don’t employ a character class game mechanic. Instead, this folder is used for notes about alien and non-human species – even within the Pulp campaign there have been a few of these.
09. Characters & NPCs
Each important character within the campaign gets his own subfolder. These contain not only character write-ups and backups but any notes and plans for that character. In fantasy games, I will often also have a folder for some races and classes containing lesser NPCs whose affiliations are more important than their individual personalities.
Ideally, I would have a separate subfolder for a copy of each PCs character sheet, as of the last significant change it undertook – a level gained or important magic item acquired – but each of my players has his own system of tracking these things and not all of them are amenable to maintaining a record in electronic form.
From time to time, the inconveniences this causes have caused me to attempt to hold a hard line in this respect. Officially, the house rules require that I be given a copy of the character which is kept up-to-date. Inevitably, as I fall behind in keeping major NPCs up to date and have to rely on handwritten adjustments to the official version, I find this hard line untenable, and am forced to fall back on a less-severe stance: If you don’t bring your actual character sheet to the game, you lose any XP that the party earn, and any magic items the character acquires, on that particular day. I keep track of any expended items like potions and charges on items that have them, and deduct these from whatever the “official” character sheet shows when next it is produced.
Ultimately, though, the losers are the players, because I can’t tailor adventures to best suit their characters – and from time to time that causes a plotline to go wildly astray because they have some obscure and forgotten ability that completely short-circuits the adventure. When that happens, I again adopt a hard line with respect to any game rewards; I look on it as the player deliberately withholding key information that I, as GM, am entitled to have and which I require, and will also strip away or weaken any loot acquired. Coins are reduced in denomination by a rank, on top of any such change dictated by the house rules – so gp, which become sp under my usual house rules and game economy, are further reduced to bronze pieces. The same thing goes for the value of any material rewards. Magic items are reduced or stripped, or have negative aspects introduced that weaken them. And any spell that I don’t remember explicitly approving that appears on a character sheet is immediately banned from the campaign except for NPC use. I recognize that some or all of these are Draconian penalties; the goal is to use peer pressure to prevent a recurrence in future. At the same time, though, I tend towards a leniency in accepting any good reason – and if a player catches me out (for example, if they can show that I have in fact explicitly approved a spell or given out a magic item) then that character’s xp ‘take’ from the session is doubled. (And, if I ever forget something so vital for a game session that the game can’t proceed without it – like the adventure itself – all the players get a reward in compensation. Fair’s fair, and I have to hold myself to the same standards that I demand of them).
10. Enemies or 10. Gods
In a fantasy campaign, rather than “Enemies”, this will usually read “Gods”. “Enemies” is more melodramatic and appropriate to campaigns where melodrama is a feature – pulp and superheroes.
That doesn’t mean that these characters are less rounded than in my Fantasy campaigns – if anything, they have more attention lavished on them. Key characters will even have sub-sub-folders dedicated to them by name. “Enemies” include people who would have preferred to be allies or simply left alone, but who were forced by circumstance into opposing or being opposed by the PCs, as well as those who pursue an ideology that conflicts profoundly with that supported by the PCs. There are out-and-out villains here as well, but there are also those who – at the right times and under the right circumstances – could act as allies, however prickly the resulting relationship might be. (Another of my favorite tricks is to take an apparently-inexorably opposed character and ‘reform’ them into a quasi-ally or leading a trusted quasi-ally down a path that leads to bitter hatred and opposition. The players are forced by the resulting uncertainty into thinking of these characters as individuals, and not as ciphers.)
The major difference between an “Enemy” and an “NPC” in these campaigns is simply that an “Enemy” has a larger, more dramatic, and even a more melodramatic role to play in the overall plotline.
In contrast, the FRP contents of this folder, “Gods”, tend to be relatively unchanging. They embody and represent primal drives and forces and principles, and no matter how out of touch they sometimes become as individuals, the game world and its inhabitants continually discover afresh how relevant those forces and principles are to the futures of their existence. They don’t change, or not much – but the world comes back around to their way of thinking, time and time again. Instead of dynamic, evolving individuals, these are the foundations and pillars of existence – reinterpreted with the evolution of society and circumstance, but static and unyielding at their cores, and more akin to forces of nature.
This folder gets a lot of content in Fantasy campaigns, rather less in Pulp & Sci-Fi campaigns, and is barely used at all in Superhero campaigns. There’s not a lot more to say about it, really.
12. General Maps
This folder is used for maps that are available for general circulation amongst the players. More maps get placed here as the players travel.
The actual content of the maps varies from campaign to campaign – galactic zones of political control in some, star charts in others, and continents or explored landmasses in still others. I generally produce a master that shows everything and stays in a subfolder (GM Maps) and an edited version that hides things the players don’t yet know (Player Maps).
13. Kingdoms & Cultures
In this folder are maps and notes about different ‘kingdoms’ and cultures. “Kingdoms” is a general term, applied as equally to nations like the US and Australia as it is to places like the UK or Fumanor/The Golden Empire. I use as many subdocuments as necessary – I find it easier to keep one subdocument for each kingdom or culture, though if there grow to be too many I will look for some means of grouping them together using subfolders.
This folder rarely exists without subfolders. One for rules notes & ideas, one for rules research, one for draft versions, one for official rules, sometimes one for a player version. Specialized campaigns may have additional subfolders for Original Feats, Modified Feats, Approved Feats, One for Skills, one for Spell Research, one for Armor, One for weapons… you get the idea.
15. Ideas & Rumors
I never have any notion of where a rumor will lead or what its validity might be when I drop it into a campaign. I draw these from a stockpile of ideas, most of which will never lead anywhere. When a campaign ends, this is the first place I raid for ideas for the next campaign, and if I ever get stuck for an adventure idea, this is my first stop. There are three subfolders: “new”, “revealed”, and “explained”.
“New” contains anything not revealed or used in the campaign, and it’s where I stockpile new ideas.
“Revealed” contains those ideas that have been used as rumors within the campaign.
“Explained” is where a rumor goes once it has been, well, explained. What it means, what’s correct about it and what the rumor got wrong.
Note that if I actually build an adventure around a rumor/idea, it will get removed from any these folders; they are to hold only ideas that are either unused or that are still just rumors.
This is where I stockpile anything like illustrations from the web, we pages, etc, which may not be used directly, but which suggests one or more ideas for future development.
17. Adventure Notes & Ideas
The 17th folder category is where I put my actual adventure notes and ideas. This includes notes about alternate outcomes from past adventures that I can draw on for ‘other side of the coin’ plotlines. In theory, once a campaign is fully mapped out in the campaign plan, I stop adding to this stockpile.
Yeah, right – I didn’t think you’d believe that, either. In practice, you never know when you’re going to need a new idea to fill a gap, and any unused ideas in this slush pile can always be recycled. That’s why, despite the intensive planning that’s already gone into the Zenith-3 plotline, I have since accumulated another 15 ideas. Some of these are substantial, others are one or two lines long.
The Truth About Numbering
Despite what’s been described in the preceding paragraphs, I don’t actually number these folders. Instead, I precede some of them with a “minus space” so that they float naturally to the top of the list of folders if I refer to it frequently. “Rules” usually gets a “minus space”, the actual folder name is “- Rules”; “Campaign Background” may or may not get one, and so on. Instead, I reserve the numbers for something I really WANT to be able to keep in sequence.
Which brings me to the 18th and final folder – Adventures. Actually, there are a LOT of these, because each adventure gets its own folder, numbered in the order they get played. And don’t forget any zero padding required – adventure #3 isn’t in a folder named “3. [Adventure Name]“, it’s “03. [Adventure Name]” or even “003. Adventure Name”.
Internally, adventure folders have their own, entirely separate, architecture, which is why I’m treating them as a whole new topic within this article. Within an adventure folder, the usual architecture is:
- - Metagame [folder]
- Plot Overview [document in Metagame folder]
- Other Documents in Metagame folder
- Adventure Reference [folder]
- Character Reference [folder]
- Locations [folder]
- Location Notes [documents within folder]
- Location Pix & Maps [within folder after adventure]
- Maps – Display [folder]
- Maps – Print [folder]
- Monsters & NPCs [folder]
- Monsters & NPCs [documents within folder]
- Original Pix [folder]
- Pix [folder]
- Villain(s) [Folders, by name of Villain]
- Adventure [document(s)]
- Character Notes [document]
- GM Notes [document]
- Treasures & Rewards – GM’s List [document]
- Treasures & Rewards – Player’s List [document]
Once again, some of these may not be all that clear without some explanation, and there are a couple of tips and tricks that are worth noting.
- Metagame [folder]
The most important thing about many adventures, and the starting point that I always use when writing them, is the relevance of the adventure, how it is supposed to fit into the bigger picture, and what it’s purpose is. Sometimes the purpose will simply be something straightforward like “a change in mood” or “introduce X” (where X is a key campaign concept or villain or Organization). It always feels artificial to me when these things don’t appear until they have a significant role to play in the big picture, like you’re creating things out of whole cloth. The key to strong continuity is to introduce things long before they matter, then let them simply fade into the woodwork and become part of the larger tapestry that is the background against which adventures take place.
The Metagame folder is where all those details and connections are noted – so that if an adventure turns out to have a different outcome to the one expected (which happens more often than I let my players realize), I know which future plans have to be modified to accommodate the changes.
For example, at one point the PCs were supposed to come to the rescue of an NPC (who was going to be significant later in the overall plot) and kill another NPC who was attacking him (whose death was also going to be significant later). They fouled it up and the wrong NPC got killed, totally fouling up the motivations for other characters to act in a certain way in the future. The NPCs in question and the organizations they represented had to be completely reinvented to get the campaign back on track. Ripple effects spread through the entire campaign, until it ended up with virtually everyone who the PCs thought an ally was a secret enemy, and the PCs apparent enemies were actually trying to protect people from various things – for their own benefit, mostly, but nevertheless…
Plot Overview [document in Metagame folder]
The most important document in the Metagame folder is the plot overview – an outline of what the adventure is going to be. The second adventure in the current Zenith-3 campaign had a plot overview of “002: Blood Runs Cold. Vampire in the Paris Sewers. Establishes autonomy of Zenith-3 in D-Prime and new relationship of team with parent body . Villain: Bring back Baron Varnae, connects campaign with Background.” To make sense of this, the only additional information needed (because it’s taken for granted in the document) is:
- D-Prime refers to Dimension-Prime, the dimension of origin of most of the PCs. Most of the campaign takes place in another space-time, Dimension Regency, but under new guidelines given to the team in the previous adventure (that’s the 001).
- The PCs are an organization that is an offshoot of a larger parent superhero organization, which has recently experienced catastrophic losses, forcing them to give more autonomy, independence, and responsibility onto their branch organizations.
- Baron Varnae was a character introduced in the campaign before last, fifteen years or so earlier, in a solo adventure for one of the then-PCs. He was believed destroyed in that plotline and had not been heard from since – because his MO is to be very subtle and sneaky. A Vampire, he gains duplicates of his victim’s superpowers when he sucks the blood of a paranormal – which enables him to dispose of bodies in creative ways not easily detected. A minor footnote in the campaign background is the only exposure the current PCs have ever had to the Villain.
Other Documents in Metagame folder
It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time other documents will make their way into the metagame folder. Notes about how to handle it if a player can’t be in attendance on game-day, for example, or reminders that a player will be away, and to take that into account when writing the adventure.
The most frequent “other document” is titled ‘concordance’ and contains extracts from previous adventures – location descriptions, character descriptions, etc. These are copied from previous adventures as indicated in the plot overview not only to ensure consistency, but to enable me to highlight any changes that have occurred since, and any aftereffects from the previous visit.
Adventure Reference [folder]
This folder is only present when I’ve got content for it – PDFs and web pages that are relevant to the adventure.
Character Reference [folder]
Similarly, if there is something that a PCs skills should enable him to know and that will be relevant, this folder contains the research into the subject that I’ve done.
If there are only one or two items (the usual case), I will forego the folder and put the contents into the main adventure folder.
This folder starts off with one type of content, and acquires another after the adventure. I’ll explain that in a moment.
The purpose is to gather everything about a key location in the one folder so that the next time something happens there, I can simply copy-and-paste it to where it needs to go. It makes writing further adventures quicker and easier.
Location Notes [documents within folder]
Initially, each location will have a separate document describing it. These then get copied and pasted into the adventure at the relevant point – at least in theory. More often than not, a location that has never appeared in the campaign before will get written up in the adventure, and those notes will then get copied-and-pasted into the relevant empty document here.
Location Pix & Maps [within folder after adventure]
Illustrations and Maps depicting the location don’t start out here, they start out in other folders. After the adventure, they will get moved to the Locations folder. Having them in this location is useful when writing the adventure, and is useful when writing future adventures, but is not the most useful location when actually playing the adventure – so content starts here, gets moved when it is actually incorporated into the adventure, and then moved back out when the adventure has been played, ready for future reference.
Maps – Display versions [folder]
I use Google Maps and screen capture a lot to grab maps for various locations (less so for fantasy games). This is where I store these until they are ready to insert into the actual adventure, and where they stay if they are not to be revealed to the players in the course of the adventure – Dungeon Maps and the like. These versions are 72dpi and have a smaller file size, with realistic colors. They are designed for quick display on a laptop. The average map in this folder has a file size of maybe 250Kb, less if I’ve optimized the jpg, and many are 100kb or smaller. Sometimes I will reduce them in pixel size to fit the laptop screen, other times I will keep them bigger so that I can zoom in – depending on what I think I need to do.
In the course of writing the adventure, these get moved from this folder into the “Pix” folder, just like the location illustrations and renamed according to the protocol in place in that folder. After the adventure has been played, they move from there into the Locations folder, ready for future reuse, and again renamed.
So part of game prep is to fill this folder with resources, then empty it out. When the adventure has been played, this folder should be empty, and can be deleted.
Maps – Print versions [folder]
There are some maps that I expect the Players or myself to want to write on in the course of the adventure. That’s hard to do with a file displayed on a laptop, and easy to do with a hardcopy. These maps are 300, 600, or 1200 dpi, and also have a lot more pixels because a physical page holds a lot more than a computer screen. This produces a much larger file size. Because my printer is a 1200dpi B&W laser printer, pale colors tend to become a grey mud – yellow on white doesn’t show up very clearly at all, for example, and reds print as blacks – so a lot of color correction gets made; they are very ugly to look at, but are clearly legible when printed, which is what matters. The average map in this folder is 65Mb in size.
After the adventure has been played, these get moved into the Locations folder, just as happened with the display versions. Once everything has been gathered in the Locations folder, they will usually get put into a subfolder which is then moved into a campaign-level folder.
Monsters & NPCs [folder]
If I have to make decisions on something or someone’s behalf in the course of the adventure, information about it belongs in this folder. That includes everything from AIs to Giant Ant-eaters to Zulu Chiefs, and anything in between.
After the adventure, any relevant illustrations get moved from the “Pix” folder and renamed. Again, the idea is to have everything needed to reuse an NPC or monster in the one place. After they are gathered here, they may well get moved to a campaign-level folder.
Monsters & NPCs [documents within folder]
Every monster or NPC gets a document of his own. Physical description, personality, affiliations, encounters with PCs, apparent status after that encounter, actual status after the encounter, characterization notes, stats, equipment – anything of relevance gets compiled here.
After the adventure, any illustrations used get moved into here from the “Pix” folder and renamed appropriately. They then get compiled into separate subfolders and moved into a campaign-level folder, ready for future reference.
Original Pix [folder]
Typically, especially for more modern campaigns, a lot of photographic reference will get downloaded. Not all of it will be used. This is where the unsorted downloads get stored. Subfolders are used as necessary to keep these organized.
As the adventure gets written, these get renamed to whatever the subject is supposed to be and moved into the Pix folder. Once the adventure writing is complete, anything left gets moved into a clip art folder ready for consideration the next time I need an illustration of that sort.
Sometimes, a picture will need to be edited in some way to be useful, or to be exactly what I want. The number of times I’ve had to paint out telephone lines and air conditioners for the pulp campaign is astonishing, for example. Another example has been used to illustrate this article: We wanted a character to drive a Red Cord-2R – it matched the NPCs character. But we could only find a good picture of a yellow one – so I changed the color to what we wanted. Note the wheels, which were not changed from the original color. The original, unmodified picture stays in a subfolder as a fallback in case the changes go horribly wrong – it happened once or twice in the case of the example. (Note that I don’t spend a lot of time on these – usually 5-10 minutes or so per picture, sometimes less, very rarely more). The goal is “good enough” not “perfect”.
As the adventure gets written, illustrations and maps get placed into this folder and given an incrementing two- or three-digit reference number to keep them in sequence. Part of the writing of the adventure is telling me, as GM, when to display the picture. The images are named according to the subject (if that hasn’t been done already). When pictures get moved out of this folder into others (as described earlier), the numeric prefix gets removed so that a new one can be used if and when that location or NPC next occurs in an adventure.
The goal is to keep the images, as closely as possible, in the order that we think they will be needed.
By way of example, here is a list of the illustrations that go with the current adventure in the Adventurer’s Club campaign, “Worse Than The Disease”:
Directory of H:\RPG – The Adventurer’s Club\19. Worse Than The Disease\- Pix
001 map01 Adventurer’s Club to The Elms, RI.jpg
002 The Elms from the fence.jpg
003 Behind The Elms.jpg
004 The Elms – Tropical Garden.jpg
005 The Elms – Summer Garden.jpg
006 The Elms front view.jpg
007 The Elms front view closeup.jpg
008 Martin, the Butler.jpg
009 The Elms Stairs.jpg
010 The Elms – Ballroom.jpg
011 The Elms – Dining Room.jpg
012 Edward Julius Berwind.jpg
013 Mrs Edward Berwind.jpg
014 The Elms – The Living Room at Christmas.jpg
015 Xavier Berwind.jpg
016 Dr Blake.jpg
017 St John’s Catholic Mission, NYC.jpg
018 Harbormaster’s Office.jpg
019 The Adventurer’s Club Library.jpg
020 Juneau – urban shape.jpg
022 Mount Juneau.jpg
023 Juneau & Mountain.jpg
024 Juneau Looking East 1887.jpg
025 Sentinal Island, Juneau.jpg
026 Juneau – Street.jpg
027 Juneau Streets In Winter.jpg
028 Juneau – Church.jpg
029 Juneau – Laundry.jpg
030 Juneau – Store.jpg
031 Juneau – Hospital, staff posing.jpg
032 Juneau – St Nicholas Orthodox Russian Church.jpg
033 Juneau – Hotel.jpg
034 John Weir Troy, Governor of Alaska.jpg
036 Gerald Mackay.jpg
037 Duncan Christiansson.jpg
038 Map 02 Overall Small.jpg
039 Dawn Day 2.jpg
040 Juneau looking north.jpg
041 Looking back at Juneau.jpg
042 Alaskan Coast north of Juneau.jpg
042 Map 03.jpg
043 The Coastal Valley.jpg
044 Map 04.jpg
045 Aitlan Provincial Park.jpg
046 Map 05.jpg
047 Tagish Lake from the South.jpg
047 The practice creek.jpg
048 The difficult creek.jpg
049 Map 06.jpg
050 Dawn over Lake Tagish.jpg
051 The river channel between lakes.JPG
052 Caribou on frozen river edge.jpg
052a frozen banks.jpg
053 Map 07.jpg
054 the wide creek.jpg
055 The narrow pass.jpg
056 The Deep River.jpg
057 ferry to whiteghorse.jpg
058 Whitehorse evening.jpg
059 Whitehorse Inn.jpg
060 Whitehorse Inn Interior.jpg
061 Innkeeper, Whitehorse Inn.jpg
062 Patron 01.jpg
063 Patron 02.jpg
064 Patron 03.jpg
065 Patron 04.jpg
066 Patron 05.jpg
067 Patron 06.jpg
068 Patron 07.jpg
069 Patron 08.jpg
070 Buckshot Peters’ 3-barrel shotgun.jpg
071 Patron 09.jpg
072 Patron 10.jpg
073 Patron 11.jpg
074 Patron 12.jpg
075 Log Bridge.jpg
076 Morning Whitehorse Pre-Dawn.jpg
077 Map 08.jpg
078 Lake Laberge.jpg
079 Bear Growling.jpg
080 Map 09.jpg
081 frozen lake.jpg
082 deep snow over valleys.jpg
083 Map 10.jpg
084 Frozen Waterfall.jpg
085 Deep Valley.jpg
087 Dawn Day 5.jpg
088 Alongside the river.jpg
088 The small mountain.jpg
089 Map 11.jpg
090 Frenchman’s Laket.jpg
091 White Bison.jpg
092 Whte Panther.jpg
093 The Pass.jpg
094 The deeper snow.jpg
095 Skirting Frozen Pond.jpg
096 Map 12.jpg
097 Towhata Lake.jpg
098 Northern Lights.jpg
099 Polar Bear At Night.jpg
100 Dawn Day 6.jpg
101 region closeup 1.jpg
103 Amaryllis in Snow.jpg
104 The Alvei Now .jpg
105 The Alvei as it was.jpg
106 Family Of Captain.jpg
108 IMG_2476 closeup.jpg
110 Pink wildflowers.jpg
111 claim post.JPG
114 Chief’s House.jpg
119 shamans cabin.jpg
120 Wall Mask.jpg
121 Blanket On Wall.jpg
122 Threatening Sunset.jpg
123 blizzard begins.jpg
124 Village map1.jpg
125 Village in blizzard.jpg
126 Blizzard at Dawn.jpg
127 Blizzard by day.jpg
128 sunset day 8.jpg
129 Tongarrk Form 1.jpg
130 Another threatening Dawn.jpg
131 the hunt.jpg
132 Tongarrk Form 2.jpg
133 Carolyn Nakoma.jpg
134 Evelyn Dyani.jpg
135 Tongarrk form 3.jpg
137 Tongarrk Form 4.jpg
138 Fresh Tracks.jpg
139 Alvei Deck Plans with Damage.jpg
140 Tongarrk Form 5 (white-wolf-tiger hybrid).JPG
141 summer in winter.jpg
142 Tongarrk Spirit Form.jpg
143 Tongarrk Form 5a.JPG
144 Tongarrk Form 6.jpg
145 Totem In Spirit.jpg
146 the halftrack.jpg
147 location of the flowers.jpg
149 return of the snow.jpg
Blizzard Duration Chart.jpg
Overall Map with alternate routes.jpg
This admittedly goes further than most adventures – we worked hard to really give the players the feeling of being in the frozen wilds of the Yukon Territories in the 1930s, and their feedback has told us that we succeeded. They “felt” the presence of cold and snow, something that’s easy to do in mid-winter – but it’s currently mid-spring in Australia, and it was a warm winter. We also wanted to mark time (and the developing Blizzard) with a carefully-chosen progression of Dawn images since they were up against a tight deadline in-game. Plus we have a shape-changing monster/villain, the Tongarrk. All of which adds up to that list being three times the usual size; but it illustrates the principle. In the early part of the adventure, you have the maps, separated by the things the PCs encounter while travelling on the map; it’s all pretty much in order.
Villain(s) [Folders, by name of Villain]
This folder or folders contains all the vital information about villains from the adventure, in exactly the same format as that for other NPCs. But villains often have other information in separate documents – current plans, for example, and ambitions, and bases, and they are more likely to have an illustration depicting them. Unlike the NPCs, illustrations get copied out of here into the Pix folder.
In fact, unless this is the villain’s first in-campaign appearance, what’s here isn’t a folder at all – it’s a shortcut to the villain’s subfolder in the campaign-level organization. This is because a villain is more likely to reappear on a future occasion, and there’s too great a chance of ending up with multiple conflicting versions if you do anything else; practicality demands that these be kept as a central resource.
That’s the end of the subfolder-level structure. What’s left are documents in the top level of the adventure folder. Of these, the most important is the adventure itself. I write these using a .rtf format document because it’s quick and easy. When the writing is complete, I’ll open it in Word and spell-check it, adjust the page formatting, insert page numbers into a footer, and so on, and save this ready-to-print version in a .doc format.
Because the software that I have on the laptop messes up this formatting, and because it doesn’t have all the fonts installed that I use, the next step is to covert the .doc into a .pdf. That permits me to refer to it on the laptop, and (more importantly at times) to search within it. I use PDFCreator from pdfforge because it’s free and works very well for small PDFs (the only time I had a problem with it was the 300-page Assassin’s Amulet; for anything up to about 64 pages, it works perfectly).
To run the adventure, I’ll usually use a hardcopy of the PDF, so that I can make notes and indicate where the players got up to. The purpose of the PDF is to provide an exact electronic copy that can be searched to help me find things that have gone astray in the printed copy.
Character Notes [document]
The other almost ubiquitous document is one containing notes to the PCs (or, on rare occasions, to the players). When one character gets the chance to see or know something the others don’t because of background, unique abilities, or skills, this gives them the opportunity to roleplay the discovery, and gives them a head-start on figuring out what it means – something that’s appropriate to someone with expertise in the relevant field.
A typical note from the current adventure reads:
Worse Than The Disease Note #6: Eliza: It is illegal to kill Elk at this time of year. It is illegal to kill elk and not harvest the meat. Only poachers with no regard for the law would do either.
All the notes will be in this one document, regardless of who they are addressed to, so that they can be printed and separated as they are distributed. There are a couple of details worth calling to your attention: All the notes indicate which adventure they come from, so that if one turns up loose at a future point, there is a reminder of the note’s context. All the notes are numbered. The note indicates who it is to be given to. The note content is generally short and to the point. It may point the player to supplementary material in the Adventure Reference folder (this one doesn’t, again typically). And, in the adventure write-up, at the appropriate point, it will instruct the GMs to give Eliza (in this case) note #6, possibly after a successful skill check or other action.
GM Notes [document]
We GMs need reminders of things as well. This is where they go – if needed. So that they can be easily added to at the game table using the laptop, they are usually a plaintext document, avoiding any risk of format conflict or complications.
Treasures & Rewards – GM’s List [document]
Only present in fantasy campaigns, this gives full information on everything the PCs are to get. It is a plaintext document so that I can add experience points if, for some reason, these are not to be handed out immediately – the Zenith-3, Warcry, and Adventurer’s Club campaigns only give experience at the end of an adventure. These are printed so I can take notes, especially concerning the disposition of any booty, or who it has been taken to for appraisal.
Treasures & Rewards – Player’s List [document]
Again, only present in fantasy campaigns, this is an edited version of the GMs list that adds additional descriptions and redacts information about item abilities and values (other than in very general terms). These are to be provided as hardcopy to the players. As with the notes, there will be an encounter number to go with each set of entries on the list.
All sorts of other things can be needed in the course of an adventure. For the next adventure in the Pulp Campaign, for example, we have a couple of MI6 reports, and lists of personnel from a couple of Embassies. In the Zenith-3 campaign, Memoranda from various government agencies are a regular feature. There have been times where I’ve had to produce “newspapers” – sure, we could have simple quoted the headlines, but it doesn’t have the same impact.
Most of these are done as PDFs for the same reasons listed earlier. On rare occasions, they won’t even be printed, but available only for electronic display.
Another key document that will sometimes be present is a “Player Wish List” – these are magical goodies that they want me to place as treasure in the game – though they only tend to appear when I deem it appropriate to give the PC a special reward.
“- To Printx1″, “- To Printx2″, and “- To PrintxN”
Three folders that I maintain as blanks at the root level of the drive and copy (empty) as needed are the above trio. Anything that gets placed in the first one is to get printed once, which generally means its for GM use only. The adventure itself falls into this category.
Anything placed in the second folder is to be printed twice – and that usually means one copy is to be available to one or more players while the GM retains the other as an official backup/reference copy. Finally, the last one means one copy to each player, plus a backup retained by the GM.
Directory structures are intended to make it easier to find what you are looking for, when you need it. A haphazard structure interferes with that objective, and there are some tricks that can be employed with a more systematic and dynamic structure that actually boost workflow over the longer term. While I might occasionally have trouble putting my finger on a particular document, just like anyone else, the structure and processes that I have evolved make this a very uncommon problem, leaving me free to get maximum efficiency out of my prep time.