GM Thought Organizer

Do you have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of loose notes?  Are they floating around on old bill envelopes, post-its, scrap paper, and bathroom tissue?  If you are like me, or at least the me a year ago, you probably write down your inspirations and ideas on whatever is handy and nearby.  Crayon and a fast food cup?  Been there.  And now you can’t find that plot outline for the greatest story ever told because your husband or wife threw it out with the garbage.  Either that or it simply got sucked into that dimension where my missing G.I. Joes and the matches to about a half a dozen socks go.  Maybe it was the house gnome.  GRRRRRR!

But that was me approximately a year ago, before I discovered some wonderful software called FreeMind.  Whenever I get inspired, I fire up FreeMind (if it isn’t already running) and add some nodes to my “Story Ideas” mind map.  For those times I don’t want to be saddled with a computer, I ensure I have my pocket sized notebook on me.  I’ll jot the bits down and then enter them into FreeMind the next time I am at the computer.  Then I scratch out the idea and if the page is full I tear it out and throw it away.

I can hear the skeptics now.  I could do this in MS Office (or Open Office) and achieve the same thing.  Well, you could, but FreeMind allows you to map things, similar to flowcharting software.  The nodes are collapsible so you can view it on a micro or macro level.  You can even create custom icons for each node.  It is quick and easy to learn and best of all it is FREE.  Oh and for all you non-Windows users, it is written in Java so it should be cross platform.

You could also just keep on trucking in a notebook, but how often do you lose your computer… and it would be a pain in the ass to “backup” the written page.  This software is good for any type of brainstorming or project development.  In fact, I use it at work for software development.  It also has the additional feature of being able to export your mind map to HTML.  It saves its data in an XML format, so the code monkeys out there could take extra advantage of it.

GMs, DMs, and Storytellers everywhere should do themselves a favor and at least try this bit of programming genius.

Listening to: Deathstars – Synthetic Generation – Genocide

7 thoughts on “GM Thought Organizer

  1. I have noticed that program called NoteCase does the same trick. Well not actual mind-maps but trough other means. Today I use only that when we have a gaming session. There was an article about the subject at WoTC, but I cannot no longer find it =/ though.

    Anyway.. NoteCase let you create trees, so it’ll help you a lot to put everything under one file and gives ease for reference later on. I.e. I have my npc-characters sorted in Notecase and for example if I have session notes I can just hyperlink certain npcs from session notes to check the reference.

    I agree this FreeMind program is an excellent tool for creating campaigns and such. But maintaining one, NoteCase is the tool 🙂

    Here’s a screenshot:

  2. I’ve been using FreeMind to organize my campaign notes for about a year now. Coupled with the concept of the 5-room dungeon, which I apply to almost every session (even though I dislike actual dungeons), I find my productivity as a DM has multiplied. Which does not mean I churn out more material, but rather I invest less time on it, which is a highly valuable commodity.

  3. @Alex: I’ll have to swing by. I have a wiki that was set up on my home machine as a rules depot, but I haven’t made much use of it.

    @amatriain: I am glad to see other people have heard of FreeMind and find it useful too.

    @Chatty: OneNote looks cool, but its price tag doesn’t. I just can’t bring myself to purchase something when I can find a free product that can achieve close, if not the same, results.

  4. I have to second you on FreeMind. I’ve been using this for a few years and I think it is awesome! It’s lightweight and has easy access to it’s main functionality. You can type away and don’t even need a mouse to use it well! Between that and The Journal I’m quite content.

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