Part 2: For Dungeon/Game Masters
There is so much that goes into world building, let alone running a game. Bullet journalling is an analog productivity method that seeks to find efficient and meaningful ways to capture information. If we take that same premise and use it to plan and run our sessions, we'll end up working smarter and not harder. Layouts (or spreads, in bullet journal terms) help immensely to achieve this goal. And the best part, is that we don't need multiple notebooks or sections to do both world building or session planning. All we need to do, is go to the next available page in our campaign notebook. Below is what I've found has worked for me.
(Also, keep reading to the bottom of this post for an extra Dungeon/Game Master note-taking tip!)
What's important to remember?
The first question that I ask myself whenever I am planning a session is: As a GM/DM, what is important for me to remember from this session? The obvious ones are:
Those will always remain at the top of my layout. However, as I try to ensure that I am working smarter and not harder, I remember that I would like an easy way to make sure that I capture milestones and events that will eventually result in XP, I also want to easily reference the scene from our last session (i.e. where did we leave off?), and finally, I want lots of room for random in-session notes. So, I incorporate those things into the layout. What's important to remember here is that no one style fits all. However, I do encourage you to find the common threads that you're always grasping to recall at each session and create a layout that makes sense to you.
It's like a TV show
Another tool that has become invaluable when it comes to planning my sessions is the Beat Chart, created by GM Hooly from The Forge: A Genesys RPG podcast. If you love TV shows, then you'll understand what I am talking about. The Beat Chart seeks to help game masters create an interesting and compelling gaming session that covers all the bases of what makes a session interesting and fun while still moving the story along. If you think about any one of your favourite TV shows, you'll generally find the following parts (also called story beats): A hook, an a cliff-hanger, a development, a second cliff-hanger, a second development, a climax, and a resolution. The Beat Chart allows game masters to create meaningful highs and lows in their gaming sessions. I like printing one and adding it to my session notes with some tape.
PS. I would highly recommend supporting The Forge: A Genesys RPG podcast on their patreon. Their content is always great!
Extra Dungeon/Game Master Tip: Write that down!
Having a dedicated space to write down random world-building ideas and cool stuff to throw at my players in the future is great! But, I don't want to have to keep a separate notebook where I do my brainstorming. Bullet journalling encourages us to use the next available page and to reference it on the Front Index. If we follow that method of note taking, it means that I can keep all of my world building info AND session planning notes in one spot. I will have answers at my fingertips, in case my players were to suddenly ask me about a secret organization or have questions about a particular pantheon that has only briefly been touched upon, but that I've already fleshed out in my world building notes. I don't normally use a layout for my random scribblings and ideas, but if I expand upon a key plot point that I want to ensure I remember later, I will make a special reference in the Front Index. For example, if I expand upon a key NPC's motivations and backstory, I will make a Front Index entry with their name and reference the page where I've written my notes about them.