I love adding cool stuff from books I’ve bought and from blogs and online articles into my game. But when you buy as many D&D and TTRPG books and PDFs as I do, it can be hard to keep up with what you’ve got, let alone read, or make use of everything. Things like Bundles of Holding and Humble Bundles make this even harder.
I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve done to try and make the most of my collection in this blog post. Here are my (very nerdy) top tips:
– Create a new downloads folder for new PDFs and/or make a new arrivals/TBR pile/shelf for new physical books. That way I don’t forget what I’ve bought – I don’t file it away or shelve it until I’ve at least had a good look through it.
– Set up a campaign notebook for each game you are running – this can be a physical notebook or binder, a notebook in Evernote or other app, or a folder on your computer. I like using Evernote for my D&D notes as it has a good search, and you can tag notes with whatever keywords you like to make it easier to find things (e.g. monsters, magic items, session notes etc).
– Set up a “spark file”. Invented by Steven Johnson, this is a single file where you write down all your random ideas. Then, every three to four months, you review the whole file and see if any cool new connections come to mind that you can use in your game. I put all sorts of stuff in mine, from interesting one-liners I’ve seen on Twitter from other designers, to cool things that I’ve seen in the latest D&D hardcover.
Here’s an example:
– Make notes when you read a new book – jot down any ideas that come to you for your campaign, take screenshots or photos of cool spells, monster stat blocks, magic items, tables or encounters, and add them to your spark file or campaign notebook, or paste them into a Word doc.
– When you’ve finished reading a PDF, rename the file to match the book’s title before filing it away to make it more easily searchable. I also use the coloured tags on a Mac to highlight particularly useful PDFs I want to go back to – I know Mike Shea/SlyFlourish does this too.
Set up a logical filing structure for your PDFs. I’ve got 92 Gb (!) of PDFs, maps and other files so having a decent system helps me find what I’m looking for most of the time. This is probably WAY more detailed than most people need but here’s how I’ve set up my folders:
– Save one page PDFs and screenshots directly into Evernote or your campaign notebook and give them a tag if you can to make it easier to find them later. That way you don’t clutter up your folders with lots of tiny documents.
– Keep your physical books organized so you can find what you need. If you can, have a comfy chair nearby so you can take down a book or two you’ve not looked at for a while – maybe one from an older edition – and see what catches your eye.
Those are my suggestions. I’d love to hear how you make the most of your TTRPG books and organise your campaign notes. Let me know in the comments!
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4 thoughts on “Making the Most of Your TTRPG Collection”
Currently I have my books arranged in the following tiers
– active campaign tools (Strix, Tome of Beasts, Volos). These are in the bag I carry to and fro gaming.
– regular references. These are arms reach of the work space.
– latent inspiration. These are more long term storage, but at least once a month I’ll browse the titles to see if they shake loose an idea.
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Yep, I like to have the books I refer to constantly to hand. The photo at the top of this post shows all my Kobold Press books which are on a shelf just above this computer 🙂
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One technique I started with Dungeon Magazine in the DDI days: I would read an issue and if something was really good, I would add a reference to a master file of “Adventures I need to run.” That way, whenever I wanted to run something, or be inspired, I could quickly find the adventures that had made a big impression on me.
I use that technique today with pdf files. Adventures, rules, etc. I make a note of the must-use-someday in a file so I can find them later.
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When I first subscribed to Dungeon in the 3e days (Paizo did a really good value UK subscription), I wrote all the adventures I liked the look of in a Moleskine notebook, with a page for each level. I need to see if I still have it….
Those notebooks were the beginning of the spark file idea I talked about in this post.