Running Sheets – Something new I have been trying

In the past year or so I have been increasingly introducing a “running sheet” into my game.  A running sheet is a concept that was probably initialised in an industry somewhere and is a list of procedures, normally organised into a timeline (or as the fancy definitions say, temporal order).  

One of my earlier running sheets

I had started doing this toward the end of last year as I was running my Traveller Merchant’s Rising campaign as the end of that campaign became a lot less unplanned and needed some designing.  This allowed me a little bit of free-form around the way I was designing and my first running sheets were very reminiscent of flow charts with a lot less timing material attached to them.  These first versions actually worked their way from mere image designs that prompted me to move the plot to what I wanted into much more stylised documents that had much more detail in them.

I furthered my use in running sheets as I started my work for my Classic Traveller campaign of this year called Burning Planets.  I did this because I changed the style of running the game from the previous year.  Last year was an ad-lib styled weekly to fortnightly game of traders trying to make a living.  We had loads of games last year and this year I wanted to focus my effort a lot more into six powerful installments of well planned one shots that make a campaign through their combination.

I decided that I would treat these games like a convention game and so my running sheet became all important to me.  I have run three of these games and I have fit two of them into the 3-4 hour time schedule that I planned for due to these running sheets.  I have found that the way that I am running my game has become more disciplined and focused than I have ever been.

The success of these games that I was designing was keeping me very pleased with the use of these running sheets and I soon started to use them in the modules and Adventure Path’s that I run.  Prior to this I would read the module and then re-read the sections I thought I was going to cover in a session so it was fresh.  I may have noted one or two things in my notes but largely I was running  purely from my memory of the read through and I found afterward I was missing some of the smaller detail.

The run sheet from last Monday nights game of
Reign of Winter Pathfinder Adventure Path

So this year I have altered paths and as I am rereading the material in my pre-game read through I am also opening a notebook and detailing a running sheet.  This task may seem tiresome to some but I have found that the read through and writing material onto the running sheet has already reduced a lot of “missed” material incidents.  It also gives me an idea and a goal of where I want to be at the end of the night.  

I still always put a little too much on the running sheet so if the players surprise me and the timing I assume is over that I am not left floundering for the game.  Some times when I build these sheets I do not even need to refer to them because the actual building of the sheet has ingrained what I need into my head.  It is very nice to have it when you need it.

I am not going to go into too much detail as to what I put in the sheet because I think what each person needs is their own style.  You know where you miss things so it is good to focus in those areas.  I miss a lot of skill rolls some times so I tend to pre-roll results and enter them in the running sheet.  Top of the above sheet you will find where I did that.

I really think that these running sheets are a fantastic idea.  Once you have gotten a handle on the whole GMing thing give them a go.  If you are going to run a con game they are almost essential due to the time limits you have to hit.  Let me know in the comments if you use a similar or system or let me know how you get along if you give it a try.  Keep rolling 🙂

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