I'm getting ready for my Risus Henchmen-for-Hire campaign. I have a few pages of notes, and I'm getting ready to stat out some NPCs (which, in Risus, takes all of a couple minutes per PC, if you've got a good grasp on what they are when you pull out that "character sheet" (3" x 5" card). But I've got a dilemma. Should I go paper or electronic for my notes?
I grew up in the halcyon days of the original, white-box D&D, and so carried around a loose-leaf notebook full of maps and one-line dungeon keys in that notebook. (I also carried around a grocery bag with all my Judges' Guild products and issues of The Dragon and White Dwarf, back when WD covered D&D). IIRC, I did a lot of GMing on the fly. In college, I learned some BASIC computer programming by typing in some crude character generators, so I could create reams of NPCs on the fly. But most of what I put down on paper didn't have anything to do with plot; we didn't keep campaign logs, and I kept what few notes I needed in that binder.
But now I'm getting back into GMing, and I have some other options. Besides my 15.4" laptop, I also have a 10" netbook. I don't think I'd be comfortable using the larger one at a game table -- too big, for the space at the table -- but the netbook opens up the possibility. I am concerned, though, that using a computer at the table might be distracting, but I'm still interested in trying it out. (Though I have seen a really good GM use one at a one-shot game last year, without seeming to be distracted at all.)
I have a couple of programs that I'm trying out. Both of these programs have a lot in common: they're good at organizing all kinds of notes, from handouts to maps to NPC stats to maps. They can both be installed on a flash drive (and I splurged for a 64 gig Patriot drive, so I can put a lot of notes on there).
The first is Microsoft OneNote, which is an information organizer that handles all kinds of files (txt, Word, PDF, graphics, sound, etc.). There's a thread about using it for gaming on EnWorld , and I was fortunate enough to have a copy of it on my Microsoft Office disk.
The second program is NBOS Software's The Keep 1.0, which is written specifically for gamers. Instead of tabbed entries, as OneNote uses, it has a tree-style organization system. It can handle most of the file types that OneNote can, but it also has a few features that gamers can appreciate: an automatic dice roller, a campaign logger, and the ability to tie into NBOS other gaing products, such as Fractal Mapper, Inspiration Pad, Character Sheet Designer, Screenmonkey, etc.
I haven't used either of these programs during a game yet, but I think I might go with The Keep. I suspect that the tie-in with the other NBOS programs will be too much for me to resist, although I don't think I'll use the dice roller at all. That's OK, because I can hide it, which frees up more room for display (which is important on a 10" screen).
What do the readers think about digital GM tools? What's your gaming style? Let the comments flow freely, like the blood of your enemies.