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For my pathfinder game I write session updates after each session. I have previously asked about How to write exciting updates? This question is about the planning phase for writing these updates.

During game sessions I intend to take brief notes to document the session and make writing the updates easier. However I am often at a loss to know what to make a note of and regularly forget to do it. This makes writing my updates harder as I have no plan to work from.

When I am planning to write a creative re-telling of events what notes should I take during the event?

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Use an outline or old updates as a template

Basically, you're taking minutes. What happened, who did it, and the rough order it happened in (with some grouping by category).

Taking minutes from scratch is pretty difficult, especially if you're active in the session. So start with a framework.

The last update is a good jumping off point. If the characters are mostly the same and they're still on the same quest, a lot of what happens is going to be similar, even if the events are very different.

Here's your sample excerpt from your updates post:

Approaching Sandpoint

A villain thwarted, a new companion found and a scroll retrieved. A great deal had happened to the Friday Knights since they left Sandpoint. What would they be facing upon their return? Sandpoint would certainly be different than when last they saw it.

What to do first? They had debts to collect and an old wizard to speak to. Then where to? All their immediate plans were at an end. Only time would tell what lay ahead...

If you had that next to you as you played, you could simply add notes to the appropriate places. Maybe cross out "debts to collect." Because you didn't do any of that in this session. Then circle "old wizard" and point an arrow towards a few notes in the margin about the wizard and how that visit went. Make a note as well about what Sandpoint was like, or how close they are now, if they're not there yet.

After the gaming session ends, go over the papers and use the old update as a prompt for anything you forgot to write down.

It seems simple but I'm someone who simply can't take minutes of a meeting or I can't focus. But when I ran the meetings and used a copy of the old minutes (since we were planning a large event and we always had something to say about each section), I found it very easy to jot down a few details and had no problem being the minute taker.

Not having to write the topic was a lifesaver. Just a few extra words, but they make all the difference. It also helps you read the notes later, since the topics are typewritten.

I also used the agenda printout to take notes of anything that wasn't in the old minutes. Again, the prompts were very helpful. You may not have a meeting agenda but you certainly will have a list of things you expect might happen. They're right there in your update sample. Add in any extra things that might occur that session and print it up with the rest.

One of the most important parts is to type up your notes the same day or the day after. Don't let them sit too long or you'll forget things. You can make them creative or proofread them another day. But get the content down fast.

Do I really need to use paper? you might be asking. And yes, you probably do. It helps tremendously. If you don't already write your notes down on paper, give it a try. Being able to circle and cross out and use arrows minimizes how much writing you have to do and keeps things in order.

  • This is great and super useful. I hadn't really considered that it was basically minutes. I had thought of it more like a continuing episodic story. I will disagree on your paper point though. I have a touchscreen laptop + pen and use onenote for my note taking. That gives me the freeform benefits of paper with the backed up availability of the cloud that syncs between my devices. – linksassin Apr 16 '19 at 6:30
  • @linksassin If it works for you, then great. Can you markup an existing doc easily (as if you were using a pen on a printout)? Having a stylus that works on the screen might be a perfect sub for ballpoint and paper. – Cyn says make Monica whole Apr 16 '19 at 13:59
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    Similar enough that I'm not going to write a competing answer: when I was keeping this in-game journal, I kept notes on my character sheet, and printed out a new sheet for the next game if it was too messy. I kept notes from battles in a terse shorthand similar, probably, to what the GM was using to track things -- also plenty of circles and arrows and whatnot. Minutes, as Cyn said -- keep them on whatever starting points work for you, and don't assume it'll always be the same starting points. (That game journal got better, BTW; that's the start.) – Monica Cellio Apr 16 '19 at 20:12
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    @Cyn Yeah I have a stylus. I've found it super useful, as a best of both worlds approach. – linksassin Apr 17 '19 at 0:31

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