Maintaining your working documents

When designing a game, how do you keep all your working documents in sync?

My process, right now which is far from perfect:

  • Use a google sheet to keep all the elements of game – playbooks, specifically, but maybe other elements.
  • Use a google doc to write the rules, especially moves and sensitizing elements. (Personally, I like to write a little fictional vignette to convey the intent of the game.)
  • Create another google sheet for character keeper for play testing.

Through the testing and design process, these source files go out of sync.

Important admission: I’m lazy and don’t like updating things in multiple places.

Important discovery: Google docs let you link files. If I format a Google Sheet correctly, I can paste it into a Google Doc, linked to the source. (My rulebook for The Pack is constructed this way.) So, if I update the Google Sheet of rules. and moves, these are reflected in the Google Doc.

In playtesting The Pack, I’m capturing ideas for updates in the Character Keeper, so now that file is itself a source of design information.

My hope is to link the Character Keeper to the Source file, so that updates sync everywhere.

What have you done to manage your design working documents?


I use Notion to manage all of my RPG documents — session plans, worldbuilding, solo play, etc. IMO, it’s a really powerful combination of document and database software — for instance, I can have a database of NPCs that my players will meet, and each entry can be a full doc describing that character’s history and context. You can really go wild designing document systems using it, or stay simple and just maintain a wiki-like structure. Plus, everything is in the cloud and syncs nicely. I recommend checking it out!


I primarily use a mixture of OneNote and Google Docs. I generally start with OneNote for rough ideas that are relatively short and then move to a Google Doc once I start laying down larger chunks of text. For my last couple of small projects I’ve skipped the Google Doc and gone straight into Affinity Publisher - I know a lot of people don’t like writing directly into layout but I find knowing the rough formatting constraints really helps my brain focus on the job at hand.


I second the use of Notion - it is everything I wanted from a note taking app and then some. Everything is structured and linkable. Structured data can be presented through different lenses, so the collection of long form descriptions of characters, locations, etc. can be automatically summarized and filtered. It’s amazing and the data size limitation for free accounts has been lifted a few months ago which made it even more of a no-brainer. :slight_smile:


Honestly, my files are kind of a mess, but that’s almost deliberate. It forces me to go back through and re-organize things now and again, especially before showing stuff to people, and it helps reset my brain, so that I can see stuff from a new angle. I do a lot of drafts of my creative work.

Currently I have…

  1. a readable quickstart guide, that I can share and people can read
  2. a ballooned, mismatched quickstart guide that I use for playtests when I’m there to explain
  3. Google docs full of notes for extra moves and mechanics not yet implemented
  4. A document where I’m practicing layout tricks
  5. A list of resources, like stock art I might use
  6. character sheets…

There’s a lot of stuff… I don’t think I’d recommend my method to others, but this is what works for me. I’m getting ready to reconsolidate and make a new readable presentable draft.

BTW, The Pack looks really cool! I laughed out loud when I got to the Cat.

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I’m pretty messy, too, but I generally keep most of my stuff in folders/subfolders in Google Drive, even for quick drafts and brainstorming. I’m constantly running across dozens of files with a line or two of a spark in them, just in case it catches and I come back to it one day. :slight_smile:

I try to do a lot of the organization and asset collecting in Evernote, and keep tabular data in Google Sheets—that’s really nice, because between the regular spreadsheet formulas and the scriptability with js, you can run some really nice simulations of your mechanics right in Sheets, skipping a few rounds of super broken playtesting. :slight_smile: I usually don’t import into InDesign or whatever until after everything’s pretty set, and even then, I use the space/shape constraints to help with a final editing pass.

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I have two git repos- one for a Zettelkasten that keeps all of my various notes, references, my sprint work (doing agile for my game workflow) and daily logs, and another that keeps the actual manuscript. I’ve just started doing this a few months ago and have noticed a marked increase in my productivity. I keep both of them in a workspace in Visual Studio Code so I have them at hand if I want to switch between them. If I find it necessary to work on the go, I can use a standard git client and text editor to work on the files.


@chuckdee, Is this the same ChuckDee as from rpggeek?

I wanted to use Notion, but I do the majority of my writing on my phone and Notion has a really frustrating bug that stops you moving the cursor between paragraphs on iOS.

I use Bear; but I’m not enamoured with it. I’m tempted to start using Git (i.e. Github) so that I can track versions and so on. But I don’t know if there are any good mobile apps for that approach.

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Yes, it is! I should have known there was some crossover.

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I’m Inkwan over there.

Ah! Good to see a familiar face!

Back to the topic at hand, one reason that I’ve chosen my method is that if you separate your working documents from your editing medium, you get immediate gains. I’ve used my git repo through several different online and offline editing tools and several different places for the repos themselves.

I tried using Evernote, Notion, Joplin, and several other editors that held all of the content, and the one thing that they had in common that eventually steered me away from them was the fact that I didn’t have the source in plain text under my control, so I was tied to their platform more or less. With my repos I’ve gone from Atom to Sublime Text to HackMD to Obsidian to Visual Studio Code, and I’ve not had to change the location or format of my files for any of those changes. It’s one of the reasons that I use WriteMonkey 2 and haven’t upgrade to 3 as of yet.

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