DM Tip #7: Take Note
There is a lot of information that gets spilled out during a game, and it is near impossible to simply remember everything. You may have crafted what you believe to be every aspect of the adventure, trust me, there will be things you never intended that come up. The more notes you take, the more your future sessions will run smoothly and trigger memories from prior events for your players.
Some of the most basic things you will want to make note of are the people that the players meet. This works well if you have that prepared list of names I recommended in DM Tip #4. While having the name of the local tavern keeper or city guard is useful, it is even more beneficial if you take notes of how the interaction with the players went. Did they upset the barmaid? Were they kind to that beggar outside the castle? These seemingly small things can set up a lot of story later on, so if you keep good notes, it will make future adventures easier to plan.
Taking good notes will also give the larger world a more realistic feel when you can remember the names of rivers, roads, mountain ranges, and small villages that players have heard of before. I write down everything that isn’t already in my adventure prep notes. True, the players may never encounter that wandering druid beekeeper again, but then again, the world is yours and can be as fluid as you wish it to be.
Not everything you take down as notes will be useful to the players. If the players were rather loose with their gold, you can be sure the local thieves guild will take notice. It might not amount to anything right away, but perhaps the next time the adventurers come through town, the guild will be waiting for them. That beggar the players gave a few extra silver to might come into play in the same scenario, tipping off the players that there are thieves about and the adventurers are foremost in their minds.
I also take notes during combat. Who delivered the killing blow? Who hid in the shadows and let everyone else fight? Did anyone do anything particularly heroic? Many of these things can begin to build the reputation of the players. Heroes become known for their deeds, but only if someone remembers them.
It may seem like a lot of extra work, having to constantly be taking notes as if you were studying for a test. In a way, you are studying. You are doing extra work now to save yourself work later. You don’t need to get super detailed either in these notes, just a few words that should hopefully jog your memory of what transpired. You can always go back at the end of the session to flesh out your notes.
So keep that pen at the ready and make a world that your players will relish being a part of.