Logging the Grind

Does anyone else here keep formatted notes when they run the game? I do, and some of the other GMs I know do as well. I’ve noticed we all have our own system, and some have advantages and disadvantages. I’m curious about what different systems of notation might be out there.

Here’s mine:

I have a small MUJI notebook specifically for grind logs. At the top of the session I write the date, the players who participated, who delivered the prologue, and sometimes the adventure name and how many sessions it has been.

Then I have the following column headers:

# – Character – Skill -------- Ob – Light – P/F/√ – Note -----------

The grind turn, which I don’t number more than one or two lines in advance. If the action is a spell I will write “S” in this column, if it’s an instinct I write capital “I”. When the Grind hits, I circle the number, be it 4, 8, 16, etc.

The name of the character who took the test.

The skill that was tested.

The obstacle. If it’s a versus test, I write “v” and the number of successes I rolled.

Light tracking column. Sometimes I will write T for torch, C for candle, L for lantern, then draw a vertical line down through subsequent tests to track when it expires. This gets a bit fiddly with spells and prayers but it works well for parties who carry enough light to keep everyone in the bright.

I sometimes use another method when the party is very large, or if some characters end up in Dim or Dark lighting. I write the first letter of each character’s name in a circle based on their seat at the game table. Then I circle those in Bright light for the turn, and I cross out those in darkness.

Pass, Fail, Checks. If the test is passed, I will write a P, if it fails I write an F. If it was a saving throw, like against a trap, with multiple characters rolling on the same turn, I write something like P3 F1. Then I make a check mark for each check that was earned.

Here I write one or two words to help remind me what went on, and what happened as a result. For example, if the party was climbing a cliff and the rest of the log tells me it was a failed dungeoneer test, all I need to write is “Cliff Exhausted” and I know that this was probably a conditional success.

It may seem like a lot of work, but with four years of practice I can reliably make these logs in varying states of stress and sobriety. They’re immensely useful when players are delivering the prologue, when people suddenly remember they forgot to log advancement, or when I’m writing up actual plays after the fact. Also, they’re fun to look back through when you’ve really forgotten what happened, and they make a great basis for actual data when you’re designing new rules.

Do you do anything like this? Any tips and tricks? Features I’m missing? :mage:


I keep a test log, both as a player and GM. I usually just note skill and player name, with an asterisk if the test is free. Key outcomes get added to the right.

I’ll box camp and town, and note at the end of the session what turn we’re on or other important details.

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I was keeping track in a small notebook, but now that I have a cheap laptop I’d probably use Google docs instead. Since I use them for everything else.

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As I play in Roll20, the chat log keeps these notes for me.

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I do roughly the same as you, Mordreth, though I haven’t kept track of light level previously.

I like to use little cash ledger notebooks for this, since they’re finely ruled with columns.

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I primarily play in roll 20 which keeps a log of the rolls for me and use a macro which tracks the skill used, the Ob, and allows players to enter a description of what the roll is for.

I find the logs useful for a lot of the reasons you mentioned and also use them designing and prepping for the next session and look for things like the types, Obs, and numbers of tests made.

I forgot my primary use of this as a GM: checking in on spotlight time for each player.

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Do you bother noting number of dice rolled in tests?

How do you log conflicts? Just as a turn and a note on the outcome? Do you note conflict-type and dispos?

Do you log weather-type?

Nah, I usually just note the Obs. Between that and the Pass/Fail column, that’s all I really need to know. When the players start tapping traits, wises and nature the number of dice can change pretty quickly.

I just note the turn, the level of compromise, and a note for the outcome. Unfortunately this leaves virtually no record of what happened in the conflict. This never bothered me until I started trying to write actual plays… now I’m just recording audio for sessions.

I haven’t used formal weather mechanics much at all. When I use weather it’s usually as a twist, so that record would be in the log.

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