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#28: Keeping Track

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue.

One further bit of evidence that I’m still relatively new at refereeing is that I really struggle to keep track of the logistics of an ongoing campaign. I’m a librarian so you’d think it would come as second nature but what with making things up on the spur of the moment (and thus not having them written down anywhere), trying to get the players to do some of the record keeping (such as purchases) and my own skill level of Disorganization-3, it’s a recipe for scraps of paper, Post-Its, odd emails, various Google Keep notes and scribbles in odd places that I can never find again.

When you factor in now trying to run two ongoing campaigns, still tending to over prepare with notes and dragging along Traveller books I absolutely need for a session, and then players giving me their character sheets etc to look after between sessions, you can see why I’m vaguely amazed that we ever manage to get through a session at all. It’s not surprising that I’ve handed out referee maps to players, overwhelmed them with handouts, or still not nailed down the actual name or spelling of an off-camera NPC we’ve referred to multiple times.

I’ve tried different solutions. All paper – I quite like this as I’m a tactile sort of person and generally a piece of paper can only be in one place and can be annotated nicely. (I made the mistake of annotating the cabins of the March Harrier with their occupants on the plastic wallet the deck plan was stored in. But it rubbed off too easily!)

I did try a bespoke piece of software but unfortunately it was still in beta testing so there were some issues, plus I hate having to sit with a laptop live at the pub table. Mainly because I’d have to keep pausing to type in the relevant data. But I might give it a try when it the software settles down.

Google Keep, I mentioned above, is fast becoming a favourite as it works really well for short items like an NPC picture, world map, or whatever. I often have these bits in electronic form and better yet I can tag something as both for The Traveller Adventure campaign and also the lunchtime off-the-cuff sessions. My tablet is easy enough to hand to players to view and it doesn’t feel as intrusive as a laptop.

I’m very grateful to J who has taken to producing short write-ups of our sessions immediately afterwards. That’s been invaluable.

The actual mechanism, however, is probably of secondary importance to just having better practices and habits. Keeping things in one place rather than three or four, accepting that I don’t actually need my entire Traveller collection to hand during play, trusting that players don’t mind a pause in my attention, making notes immediately after rather than leaving it a day or two. The snag is that this is where refereeing butts up against real-life habits.