by Mike on 8 May 2023
One effective way to organize digital RPG material is by making a directory structure of "RPGs", then by system, followed by publisher (if needed), and finally, by product. It should look something like this:
Skip the publisher if there's only one publisher for the system.
Often on the Sly Flourish Patreon I get asked how best to store digital materials — mostly PDFs of RPG products. I didn't have a very effective system so I put up a YouTube post on the topic to find out what systems others use to store digital files.
Many don't have an organized process, which can work just fine if you have a good desktop search (see below). A few mentioned the directory structure above and, after switching to it, I love it.
Create a set of directories starting with "RPGs", followed by game system, publisher, and product.
Here's an example:
and here are some examples:
You don't have to include a publisher subdirectory unless many different companies write for one system. This is only 5e for me. I also have a /RPGs/5e/DM's Guild/ directory holding all my single-publication DM's Guild products. Both my /RPGs/ directory and /RPGs/5e/ directories have "Independent Publisher" directories with PDFs of publishers who only produced a single product.
This system is flexible enough to hold lots of products and simple enough to help you find what you want when you want it.
One organizational trick is to sort directories by "last opened". You're more likely to look for the same files often and sorting by last opened means the files you need are often at the top.
I spent a few hours reorganizing my PDFs this way and love it, but it probably wasn't worth it. How come?
Because we can use our desktop search.
Sorting through piles of files in a directory isn't ideal when we already know what we want. Instead, both Macs and PCs have a desktop search built in. I'm on a Mac so I use Spotlight for search. It never worked particularly well until I spent the time to learn some tricks for it.
It's definitely worth the time to learn how to customize the search tool of your computer. For example, you'll want to:
Spending a few minutes learning how to customize and use your desktop search tool saves a lot of time when hunting down RPG PDFs. It's worth the time to learn how.
Don't spend too much time worrying about PDF organization. You can waste a lot of time renaming files, moving them around, and organizing stuff that really doesn't need to be organized. Keep your system simple. Keep it flexible. Focus your time on preparing and running awesome games for your friends.
Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:
Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patreons. Here are last week's questions and answers:
Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's tips:
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