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Organize RPG PDFs and Other Digital Stuff

by Mike on 8 May 2023

One effective way to organize digital RPG material is by making a directory structure of "RPGs", game system, publisher (if needed), and product type (if needed). For example

/RPGs/5e/Sly Flourish/lazy_dms_companion.pdf

Skip the publisher if there's only one publisher for the system.

/RPGs/Shadowdark/Shadowdark_RPG_V1.pdf

How do You Do It?

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.

"RPGs", System, Publisher, Product Type

Create a set of directories starting with "RPGs", followed by game system, publisher, product type, and product.

and here are some examples:

You don't have to include a publisher subdirectory unless many different companies write for one system. For me, that's just 5e. 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 (2,700 PDFs for me right now) and simple enough to 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.

Use Your Desktop Search

Sorting through directories and files in a directory isn't ideal when we already know what we want. Instead, both Macs and PCs have desktop search built in. I'm on a Mac so I use Spotlight and Finder for search. It never worked well until I learned a few tricks.

Take the time to learn and customize your desktop search tool.

For example, you'll want to:

On a Mac you can also search in the Finder to search within a directory or nested subdirectories. Learn how to filter by file type, narrow within a directory, and even search on the contents of the files. You can even save your search if you find yourself doing it a lot.

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 Overdo It

Don't build too rigid or too difficult a system to store your digital files. If it's too hard to file something, you're not going to use it. Keep a flexible system and learn the tools you have on hand to find what you need when you need it.

More Sly Flourish Stuff

This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Designing Interactive Monuments and Prepping Scarlet Citadel Session 23.

Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

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:

Patreon Questions and Answers

Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patreons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

RPG Tips

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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