The Notepad – My Most Important Tool

icon for notepad

icon for notepad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we play a lot of different games here at Fandible. We have 17 different games on the site right now, and I know there’s at least one new game that hasn’t made it up on the site yet. These games have run the gamut of extremely rules-light (see: Dread “I want to do something!” “Alright, pull a Jenga block”) to “crunchy” (Everything Warhammer). Settings range from pure fantasy to pulpy history to space opera.

My memory isn’t the greatest when it comes down to remembering the nitty gritty of rules most of the time. In college when we would play year-long Vampire: the Masquerade campaigns I would still have to double check the book for the difference between the first and second levels of Dominate (my favorite power). If I can’t keep track of the mechanics for one system, how do I keep them all straight for the nearly-twenty games Fandible has in its rotation?

The simple answer: I don’t.

I’ll admit, in the early days of our group, I would hope that my memory would hold out for another session and I wouldn’t have to double or triple check the bonuses of semi-auto burst vs. full-auto in Warhammer. Maybe someone would use that ability before I had to, and I could just mimic them! But what to do when I roll amazingly for initiative and have to go first? “Um, guys? What’s the bonus for this again…?”

So to save everyone a little time, and some embarrassment for myself, I decided that there really isn’t anything to be ashamed of in taking notes. Some people have a mind for rules and strategy and tactics, and I’ve had to come to accept that I’m just not one of those people. So every game, I now make sure I have a small note pad and/or some notecards with me. My Rogue Trader character sheet now has an index card paper clipped to it with a brief note on every single one of my talents skills, so I can tell at a glance if any given one is going to be applicable in a situation.

I’m also the first one Billy has to turn to when he starts passing notes to the GM (Billy is always the one passing notes), because I’m the one with all the paper.

In any given game, my notes on what exactly all these weird powers do has become a lifesaver – sometimes literally for my characters. In some of our long-running games, I have to rely on those notes less and less, but in part I’ve begun to memorize them simply because they’re in front of me so often. I review my skills before combat starts so I can plan ahead and be ready to riff off of what the other players are doing, an inevitably end up at least skimming over things that won’t be of use immediately, but I can keep in mind for later. Do that enough times and the details stick in my head better than they would if I was just blowing past the name of the skill over and over again. And for brand new games, well, at least there’s one less person fighting over the book and frantically looking up combat maneuvers in the heat of battle.


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About the Author
A city girl with midwestern roots, Angela has been on the internet for far too long. A geek of many stripes, when Angela isn't pretending to be a different person every weekend she can be found reading, writing (that novel will come out some day!), or preparing for her eventual life as a crazy cat woman. Angela also blogs about gaming at the blog Gaming as Women http:///www.gamingaswomen.com

1 comment on “The Notepad – My Most Important Tool

  1. Hexeter says:

    I learn all of my Game Systems strictly on the fly, I get the basic information down. I generally follow the random character creation options just to see what silliness I might have to Roleplay through and then I go from there. I am ‘that guy’ at the table who is listening to everyone play while thumbing randomly back and forth through the book and letting little snippets sink in to me. Usually after a few sessions I am can competently tell you where to find any given Rule..but I’ll have no idea what it does. In that way I am very “Learn by doing”.

    Fortunately our GM is very much like you all, “When in doubt..fudge it” and then look the rule up for next time. I think that’s something of the reason I love to listen to you all. More GMs should take this to heart. Best weapon in a GMs arsenal: Fudge

    True fact

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