Let’s face it. GM’s need to be organized. When dealing with organization, one should look to the business field… as an efficient business is a more profitable business. Many business practices are models for efficiency.
The Tickler File is a business organization tool. It is useful for students or people who have responsibilities. The original article is by David Allen @ original url http://www.davidco.com/tips_tools/tip17.html . The same basic principal can be used for GMs to manage their games.
The tickler file is an organizational tool which can be used to simplify the tracking of session-related items and to manage work flow. It works well as an adjunct to your GM binder and session notes.
Session is useful for running the game, with the world revolving around the interaction of the players. It is useful for GM’s who have a very fluid flow of time in their games (i.e. GMs who are prone to sweeping narrations of time).
Date is useful for running a game where historical events (or just events) will occur around the characters with or without their “being there”. It is also good for game systems that required “hours of study” to be measured to determine advancement. The date orientation is great for epic and historical campaigns.
How It’s Set Up
There are two ways to set this up, one is for your world calender the other is by session. I recommend by session, but I will explain how to do both.
Determine how many times a month your group meets 1 or 4 or what ever. You will create one file folder (legal or letter) labeled 1 to X. Then there will be 12 monthly files.
Determine the number of days in your month and create that many file folders. Then create one monthly file for each month of your game year.
The session or daily files are in the front, beginning with the files. The Monthly files are behind them.
If done correctly, this will create a rotating calender of sorts.
You should take the current session notes out for their use, then place the current folder behind the last session folder. So if this is the second session (of four) this month, you first folder should be #3 (followed by #4, #1, #2 with (1 and 2 being from information of the next month)
You will need to keep rotating the files until you get to the current game date, placing each one behind the last of the month and pulling info to the from the next month into the date. So if “today” is the 22nd of the month (and the month has 36), the first file should be 23 (running to the 36th and info from the 1-22 from the next month should be there).
The session file (or all the days in between the last now and the current now in the campaign) becomes your “In file”... things you need to review before your next session.
Note: In the same way, when the next month file reaches the front (on “October 31” the “November” file will be the next one, with the daily files behind it), it will be emptied into the in-basket and re-filed at the back of the monthlies, to represent November a year from now.
This is a “perpetual” file - at any time it has files for the month and the next twelve months.
How It’s Used
Notes on Events that should be occurring, plotlines currently running, scenes to insert, NPCs you might want to bring up, and notes on places that should be visited should be placed in the appropriate session or date. These become the file bits.
If you want to be reminded to handle something in the future, but don’t want or need to think about it until then, it can be “tickled” to show up on the session or month you’d like to see it again.
If it references future events (or special notes) copies of the future event or special notes can be inserted OR references to the future events, GM note page, or what ever can be listed.
The advantage of using file folders is the ability to store the whole sheets or copies of articles or text directly into the file.
Some Sample Uses
1. Historical Events: Events that occur to show verisimilitude of the world.
2. Planning for the scenes/ adventures in the campaign. With notes on the various plot lines running, so you can pull what ever scenes/ events/ and plotlines you need. No more forgetting plotlines.
3. Reminders of various NPCs/ Organizations/ etc that you want to keep current in the minds of your players. You see a notification, you can weave the npc or the organization into the current session… just to keep it fresh int he minds of the players. If you can’t you just file it for sometime in the future.
4. Reminders to do regular activities, such as: get updated copies of character sheets, check experience, archive your GM binder, review all current plotlines, and so on.
5. If using session: you can put notification of conventions or new releases you want to bring up or go get.
6. Review “maybe” actions. For instance, you may get a new plot line running for something one of your characters, but cant decide about it right now. Tickle the plotline in your file to show up later, when you might be clearer about it (or for when you think you can more afford it!)
7. Follow up on delegated actions. Did you ask your players to do something, like write up their tribe or some aspect of your world? Find out how far along they are.
8. Ensure periodic enjoyment from inspirational writings, jokes, or whatever you’d like to see again. In general, use it for everything that inspires you to say “I’d like to be reminded of that again” but you don’t have a place to put it.
9. Reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
In order for this system to work…
1. Keep it updated every game session. If you let it slide and forget to empty the file every day, then you won’t trust the system to handle important data. You’ll then have to manage those things some other way, and the tickler file will turn out to be more of a nuisance than a help.
If you leave town (or don’t access the file on the weekend) then you must keep it reviewed ahead of those days. Some people prefer to have secretaries or assistants maintain this file for them.
2. Don’t store data or documents here which you or others may need access before the date filed. Tickle a copy, or a note saying “pull the X file” when you want to see the material again.