As was foretold, we've added advertisements to the forums! If you have questions, or if you encounter any bugs, please visit this thread: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/240191/forum-advertisement-faq-and-reports-thread/
Options

Improving my D&D Game

Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry!Owl York CityRegistered User regular
edited October 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
So I'm running a D&D game for some friends and ultimately it's going pretty good, but there's some things I'd like to do to improve running the game for all involved. I only just recently bought a DM Screen to replace the two handbooks I'd stand opened up side by side, and while I haven't gotten to run a game with it I like it a lot.

First of all, a proper mat would be nice. I use Fat Dragon Games tiles and props when the set calls for them, but as of late I've been feeling the need for a gridded mat and I'm really liking the look of the Chessex ones. The ones produced by Crystal Caste look good, too. Does anyone have an opinion on either of them? I'd like to use the square grid on the one side to draw maps of irregular terrain that I can change on the fly, stuff like forests and outdoor encounters. I'm mostly set for dungeon crawling needs but the mat couldn't hurt for that either.

A tool to track initiative would be nice, too. The GameMastery Combat Pad looks good but they seem to be unavailable on every site I've been able to find that sells them, except for Paizo which sells them non-mint. Has anyone bought one of these that could attest to the quality of their less-than-perfect pads?

Those are the pressing things I'd like right now but if anyone has any suggestions for accessories that aren't ridiculously expensive I'd like to hear them. And if anyone knows of a store where I can buy Reaper miniatures in Toronto that'd be great, too.

Rear Admiral Choco on

Posts

  • Options
    tehmarkentehmarken BrooklynRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    One of the best things my friends and I did was buy a grid about the size of our table top (about a 3' by 3' one) and took it to a copy shop and got it laminated. Then go find some dry erase markers or grease pencils (grease pencils are the best) and a napkin; absolutely the best for drawing and reusing the map over and over.

    Legos also make great props; make some walls, rubble, obscure line of sight in some rooms (a pillar in a room with a monster behind it is a great visual; when they get past the pillar just be like "BAM!" and drop the monster and roll a surprise attack).
    You've also got lego trees, barrels, chests, weapons, and you can do traps using tile pieces and odds n ends.

    For an initiative tracker, we used the grease pencil and just wrote it in the margin of the grid. We also always did the monsters all together as one initiave to simplify things.

    tehmarken on
  • Options
    RaekreuRaekreu Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    tehmarken wrote: »
    One of the best things my friends and I did was buy a grid about the size of our table top (about a 3' by 3' one) and took it to a copy shop and got it laminated. Then go find some dry erase markers or grease pencils (grease pencils are the best) and a napkin; absolutely the best for drawing and reusing the map over and over.

    Legos also make great props; make some walls, rubble, obscure line of sight in some rooms (a pillar in a room with a monster behind it is a great visual; when they get past the pillar just be like "BAM!" and drop the monster and roll a surprise attack).
    You've also got lego trees, barrels, chests, weapons, and you can do traps using tile pieces and odds n ends.

    For an initiative tracker, we used the grease pencil and just wrote it in the margin of the grid. We also always did the monsters all together as one initiave to simplify things.

    You magnificent bastard! These are some of the finest ideas for streamlining d&d I've heard. And now I'm kicking myself for not thinking of them myself.

    Raekreu on
  • Options
    YodaTunaYodaTuna Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Some dude posted this in Critical Failures a few weeks ago and it's super cool(but expensive).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8fTkXQ1tY0

    Alternatively you could get microsoft surface :)

    YodaTuna on
  • Options
    tehmarkentehmarken BrooklynRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Another thing to do just for the hell of it is using magnets. Get some small magnets (like flat fridge magnets) and glue minis on top of them. Then build up some kind of walls for your tabletop (I always go back to legos, but some cheap lumber works veyr well if you like using a saw and such). Take another magent, and have some fun putting monsters on the walls for great surprise attacks :)

    You can also use them for the players and go through the table (if you have a thin table that isn't metal), and do things like sliding/pushing traps. It gives a very nice experience for the players being pushed around by the environments without obscuring it with hands.

    One last thing that can be done with legos: Monsters busting through walls. Lego bricks flying into minis adds a lot of fun to the game :)
    Meta-tip: Alcohol can make every D&D game better by loosening up the players for better RPing. Rewarding a little more experience for RPing is also a fun incentive. Players interjecting character reactions and one-liners can make a good game GREAT.

    tehmarken on
  • Options
    Unexpected MonkeyUnexpected Monkey Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    As an alternative to battlemats, you might consider dry erase tiles like these. My group switched over to similar tiles a few years back, and we've found them to be more versatile then mats. Being able to scroll the map by cycling tiles for example.

    I think those non-mint GameMastery Combat Pads should be fine, since they say the damage is cosmetic. We've used one (purchased new) for a while now, and it's still working nicely. If you're not sure about it though, there's other ways to handle initive tracking. You might consider a small dry erase board, like this or this. Another simple alternative is using index cards. Set up a card for each player and for the monsters, arrange them in inititive order, and cycle thru them as play occurs. It also gives you a nice place to track notes.

    Unexpected Monkey on
  • Options
    Iron WeaselIron Weasel Dillon! You son of a bitch!Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    One of the most effective Initiative tracking tools I've seen so far was a small magnetic white board, with separate smaller magnets. The smaller magnets had little slots on them so you could feed pieces of paper in. We'd write down the name of each combatant on a magnet, then arrange them in order. We'd track status effects and such in the 'margin' next to each name. If someone changed initiatives (say by Delaying), it was as imple matter to slide their name to the new position quickly.

    Iron Weasel on
    Currently Playing:
    The Division, Warframe (XB1)
    GT: Tanith 6227
  • Options
    SipexSipex Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    One of the most effective Initiative tracking tools I've seen so far was a small magnetic white board, with separate smaller magnets. The smaller magnets had little slots on them so you could feed pieces of paper in. We'd write down the name of each combatant on a magnet, then arrange them in order. We'd track status effects and such in the 'margin' next to each name. If someone changed initiatives (say by Delaying), it was as imple matter to slide their name to the new position quickly.

    That would make it a pain to move status effects and total damage done around though, wouldn't it?

    Sipex on
  • Options
    ThawmusThawmus +Jackface Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Something my current DM does, is he has a tiny little whiteboard that you use on like a fridge, and he has tons and tons of differently-colored pop bottle rings. He just started collecting them one day, and was buying different kinds of soda, so that he could get different colors. Then he taped one of each color to his whiteboard, and writes the different status effect next to each one.

    Red = Bloodied,
    Black = Marked by Player A,
    Green = Marked by Player B,
    Orange = Taking fire damage each turn

    , etc.

    Then he just puts the rings around each figure when they have one of those effects.

    Thawmus on
    Twitch: Thawmus83
  • Options
    KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    We use paperclips to mark conditions. We use little paper things for monsters and put the paper clips directly on them and we use minis for PCs so we put the paper clips on our character sheets. We have the list of what color means what attached to the back of the DM screen (the side facing the players).

    Kistra on
    Animal Crossing: City Folk Lissa in Filmore 3179-9580-0076
  • Options
    SipexSipex Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Kistra wrote: »
    We use paperclips to mark conditions. We use little paper things for monsters and put the paper clips directly on them and we use minis for PCs so we put the paper clips on our character sheets. We have the list of what color means what attached to the back of the DM screen (the side facing the players).

    I like this, I think I'm stealing it.

    Sipex on
  • Options
    jedikuonjijedikuonji Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    So I'm running a D&D game for some friends and ultimately it's going pretty good, but there's some things I'd like to do to improve running the game for all involved. I only just recently bought a DM Screen to replace the two handbooks I'd stand opened up side by side, and while I haven't gotten to run a game with it I like it a lot.

    I would advise ditching the screen entirely, but I've never liked them.
    First of all, a proper mat would be nice. I use Fat Dragon Games tiles and props when the set calls for them, but as of late I've been feeling the need for a gridded mat and I'm really liking the look of the Chessex ones. The ones produced by Crystal Caste look good, too. Does anyone have an opinion on either of them? I'd like to use the square grid on the one side to draw maps of irregular terrain that I can change on the fly, stuff like forests and outdoor encounters. I'm mostly set for dungeon crawling needs but the mat couldn't hurt for that either.

    I was going to recommend the Paizo basic flip mat (link) but apparently it's "unavailable" right now for some reason. If you like random terrain maps, they have several different styles available as well. The maps are dry erase, fold up nicely, are easy to maintain, and durable. They are also inexpensive, which is a nice bonus.

    I always had issues with maintaining Cheesex mats and they usually ended up stained or marked up over time which made them look really bad.
    A tool to track initiative would be nice, too. The GameMastery Combat Pad looks good but they seem to be unavailable on every site I've been able to find that sells them, except for Paizo which sells them non-mint. Has anyone bought one of these that could attest to the quality of their less-than-perfect pads?

    I use index cards. Write the name of each player/character at the top of a card and use some generic ones for monsters (write the name of the critter on the card, cross it off when reused). Order them by initiative score and just cycle through them until it's over. If someone wants to delay you can just pull the card and reinsert it later.

    jedikuonji on
  • Options
    Reverend_ChaosReverend_Chaos Suit Up! Spokane WARegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    jedikuonji wrote: »
    I use index cards. Write the name of each player/character at the top of a card and use some generic ones for monsters (write the name of the critter on the card, cross it off when reused). Order them by initiative score and just cycle through them until it's over. If someone wants to delay you can just pull the card and reinsert it later.

    I also use index cards - I actually have the character and player names - so I can call out the character name when it's their turn - I also make up the cards for the monsters ahead of time with basic info like AC and HP and such (I also have this on the players cards)

    I use a small whiteboard with a magnetic sheet inside, so I can just slap the cards up and hold them with magnet - I write the initiative roll on the card in pencil, and if need be, I can rearange the cards quite easily, I can also write ongoing effects down.

    My buddies and I use a Chessex map, and it is really nice, a little pricey, and if you use dry erase markers, they stain permanently, and if you use the wet erase markers, they do slowly dye the map - ours is a light shade of green from having only a green wet erase marker for a long time.

    Another think that I will do to speed up combat is pre-roll the Initiative for all my bad guys before hand, and write it on their card - I usually do a group initiative for each "set" of monsters - so ranged guys will go on their own initiative, and melee on theirs, and the Main Boss will have his own etc.

    Reverend_Chaos on
    “Think of me like Yoda, but instead of being little and green I wear suits and I'm awesome. I'm your bro—I'm Broda!”
  • Options
    Niceguy MyeyeNiceguy Myeye Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    jedikuonji wrote: »
    I use index cards. Write the name of each player/character at the top of a card and use some generic ones for monsters (write the name of the critter on the card, cross it off when reused). Order them by initiative score and just cycle through them until it's over. If someone wants to delay you can just pull the card and reinsert it later.

    I was about to suggest the index card thing. If you don't have any index cards, you can just use playing cards instead and say bob = king of diamonds.

    Also, with status effects, we had different colored poker chips that would fit under the figurine bases, but in the grids. The poker chips naturally stack, so it worked kind of well if someone had multiple status effects. There were minor issues with chip size versus grid size, but I'm sure if you do enough hunting, you'll be able to find the perfect size chips. For larger sized monsters, just use a chip for each grid square.

    Niceguy Myeye on
  • Options
    GalahadGalahad Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Initiative cards are the best. You can also get separate stacks going if people start holding actions and such. Very easy to manage.

    I use the blank .pdf available here: http://www.thegamemechanics.com/products/initiativecards.asp

    I print them on cardstock and get a fair bit of mileage out of erase and reuse.

    If I'm being a well prepared DM I pre-roll initiative for all my critters, have all their sheets filled out, and in stacks by encounter ready to go. Just slide the players into the stack by initiative rolled. Having a quicky summary of character sheets sitting in front of me is nice too, and saves a lot of paper shuffling.

    Galahad on
  • Options
    RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    The soft leather maps are the best, keep the props minimalist IMO and imagine shit in your head

    Also, if you really want to improve your D+D game, keep a constant campaign and take turns running adventures. Nothing makes a better DM like playing with another one, and nothing makes a better player like being a DM. Your will to twink and otherwise make asshole characters dies when you try to manage one, and you start to get a feel of the right level of "oh shiiiiit" that your players should be feeling with experience on both sides of the screen.

    Robman on
  • Options
    jedikuonjijedikuonji Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Robman wrote: »
    keep the props minimalist IMO and imagine shit in your head

    This is also really good advice.

    jedikuonji on
  • Options
    Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry! Owl York CityRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I've got maybe $50-60 bucks to spend in total here, but ultimately there's a good amount of stuff I'll be picking up here. The coloured paper clips for conditions is one of the simpler ideas I like a lot.

    The initiative cards is a good one as well, but the combat pad is basically so that I can keep the order visible along with some notes about whatever they need to know and have the sliding magnets for delays or hidden shit being added to the mix. The magnetic whiteboard also sounds like a good idea, more or less the same thing, really. I may consider that instead.

    Ultimately I'd love a Chessex map, I'm just wondering how much I could expect customs to be plus the shipping. I haven't found any in the size I want in the stores around, but I might just shell out some extra and take home a bigger one, as it's definitely a simpler option with much less wait time. The markers slowly dying the map isn't a big deal to me, and I'm aware that using anything other than the one type of wet marker is basically death for the thing, so no worries there.

    Great advice, thank you!

    Rear Admiral Choco on
  • Options
    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Ultimately I'd love a Chessex map, I'm just wondering how much I could expect customs to be plus the shipping. I haven't found any in the size I want in the stores around, but I might just shell out some extra and take home a bigger one, as it's definitely a simpler option with much less wait time. The markers slowly dying the map isn't a big deal to me, and I'm aware that using anything other than the one type of wet marker is basically death for the thing, so no worries there.

    What size are you looking for? It was a few block walk to a gaming store to pick up a 3' x 4' megamat here in Winnipeg, I've never had trouble finding those mats in stock around town. They even had a mondomat there which was ridiculously huge. :lol:

    I've been using the megamat for years and years, it was barely stained. Someone finally did it in with a sharpie by accident a week ago and I just went and picked up a new one.

    Infidel on
    OrokosPA.png
  • Options
    RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    We used our battle mat for 3 years of weekly play - it took on a stained hue from the markers but was perfectly serviceable.

    Oh, other ways to improve your game - mix in some different RPGs every now and then. Cyberpunk 2020 is quick to pick up and play provided nobody plays a Netrunner. And brutal. Oh lord you'll appreciate how durable your D+D characters are after your first Cyberpunk fireight.

    Robman on
  • Options
    DarksierDarksier Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    jedikuonji wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    keep the props minimalist IMO and imagine shit in your head

    This is also really good advice.

    I'll agree there too. We play Warhammer Fantasy 2ed and we do not use props...occasionally I'll provide a quick sketch of the situation or a general use map, but we've drifted away from using battle mats. We found they become a major limiting factor for our gaming group. We pull out Fantasy Flight's Descent when we want to play on grids.

    Darksier on
  • Options
    Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry! Owl York CityRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Actually all the stores here in Toronto seem to have Megamats, but what I was looking for was the 26" by 23.5" since we don't have the biggest table. I figured it's not that big an issue though and we won't always be so limited, so I'm planning on grabbing one today.

    Rear Admiral Choco on
  • Options
    FiggyFiggy Fighter of the night man Champion of the sunRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Don't buy miniatures, or if you do, only buy them for your player characters. It gets fucking expensive if you start buying them for monsters. You may say you'll only get a few, but they add up over time until you've got a fucking shoe box full of these things.

    For monsters, I printed images onto heavy cardstock and cut them out into 1x2 "tiles." These then fit nicely into these things:

    istockphoto_953223_five_paper_clips.jpg

    The metal piece comes out easily enough if you like (or you can just leave it in) and the monster stands on the flat part of that clip with the metal either taken off or flipped upwards against the cardboard monster. I got a big box of those things for like $5.

    Since your monsters are also essentially flat cardboard, you can paper clip shit onto them to track status and what not.

    Figgy on
    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment
  • Options
    soxboxsoxbox Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I do paper monster minis also:
    soxbox wrote: »
    And finally, details on the paper minis I use:
    paperminis1.jpg

    paperminis2.jpg

    paperminis3.jpg

    (The terrain they're on is from the fat dragon ez dungeons expansion).

    Here's a word doc that I printed out some bandits from: http://soxbox.no-ip.org/random_crap/Bandits.doc

    I'm still figuring out the practicality of foam-based toothpick-flagged paper minis, but will post photos of that if i do.

    soxbox on
  • Options
    Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry! Owl York CityRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Figgy wrote: »
    Don't buy miniatures, or if you do, only buy them for your player characters. It gets fucking expensive if you start buying them for monsters. You may say you'll only get a few, but they add up over time until you've got a fucking shoe box full of these things.

    For monsters, I printed images onto heavy cardstock and cut them out into 1x2 "tiles." These then fit nicely into these things:

    istockphoto_953223_five_paper_clips.jpg

    The metal piece comes out easily enough if you like (or you can just leave it in) and the monster stands on the flat part of that clip with the metal either taken off or flipped upwards against the cardboard monster. I got a big box of those things for like $5.

    Since your monsters are also essentially flat cardboard, you can paper clip shit onto them to track status and what not.

    Shit, I love this idea.

    Right now I'm using my Warhammer miniatures as stand-ins for non-PCs and I do love the idea of having some great player miniatures but this is just awesome.

    Rear Admiral Choco on
  • Options
    DVGDVG No. 1 Honor Student Nether Institute, Evil AcademyRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Note cards make the best initiative tracking system. I use post it index cards, write the characters name on them and just jot down when they have a status effect. Stick 'em up on a wall and rearrange when necessary.

    DVG on
    Diablo 3 - DVG#1857
  • Options
    SipexSipex Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Figgy wrote: »
    Don't buy miniatures, or if you do, only buy them for your player characters. It gets fucking expensive if you start buying them for monsters. You may say you'll only get a few, but they add up over time until you've got a fucking shoe box full of these things.

    For monsters, I printed images onto heavy cardstock and cut them out into 1x2 "tiles." These then fit nicely into these things:

    istockphoto_953223_five_paper_clips.jpg

    The metal piece comes out easily enough if you like (or you can just leave it in) and the monster stands on the flat part of that clip with the metal either taken off or flipped upwards against the cardboard monster. I got a big box of those things for like $5.

    Since your monsters are also essentially flat cardboard, you can paper clip shit onto them to track status and what not.

    Shit, I love this idea.

    Right now I'm using my Warhammer miniatures as stand-ins for non-PCs and I do love the idea of having some great player miniatures but this is just awesome.

    +1 for this idea, meshes well with the paperclips

    Sipex on
  • Options
    razbunrazbun Registered User new member
    edited October 2010
    Darksier wrote: »
    jedikuonji wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    keep the props minimalist IMO and imagine shit in your head

    This is also really good advice.

    I'll agree there too. We play Warhammer Fantasy 2ed and we do not use props...occasionally I'll provide a quick sketch of the situation or a general use map, but we've drifted away from using battle mats. We found they become a major limiting factor for our gaming group. We pull out Fantasy Flight's Descent when we want to play on grids.

    Can you explain how exactly you play without maps? I've played 3 games of DnD so far (4ed) and We are starting a new campaign sunday in which i'll be dming. I understand the limitations tiles and minis put on the players imagination, but i don understand how you would handle combat without them! How does one handle movement, line of sight, flanking etc? DO you just proximate it descriptively?

    I have a tonload of tiles and minis and ill be laminating some papers for the sections where the tiles are too limiting. I also have a tonload of minis.

    razbun on
  • Options
    DarksierDarksier Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    razbun wrote: »
    Darksier wrote: »
    jedikuonji wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    keep the props minimalist IMO and imagine shit in your head

    This is also really good advice.

    I'll agree there too. We play Warhammer Fantasy 2ed and we do not use props...occasionally I'll provide a quick sketch of the situation or a general use map, but we've drifted away from using battle mats. We found they become a major limiting factor for our gaming group. We pull out Fantasy Flight's Descent when we want to play on grids.

    Can you explain how exactly you play without maps? I've played 3 games of DnD so far (4ed) and We are starting a new campaign sunday in which i'll be dming. I understand the limitations tiles and minis put on the players imagination, but i don understand how you would handle combat without them! How does one handle movement, line of sight, flanking etc? DO you just proximate it descriptively?

    I have a tonload of tiles and minis and ill be laminating some papers for the sections where the tiles are too limiting. I also have a tonload of minis.

    Umm its hard to explain, but I guess I use a grouping method in my head. For example if there's a melee taking place with 6 combatants, and two ranged guys firing away from different locations. I'd say that I have 3 groups on the battlefield. And these blobs are the only things I really need to keep track of - not the individuals. As for flanking, we just use the standard warhammer rule that states that if you are outnumbered...you are flanked (unless you have some terrain restriction like..in a tight hallway). For distance I measure using a number line system...Beastman A is at 30, Sam is at 50...so they are approximately 20 yards from each other. As for things like cover or LOS If they are in a forest...the cover bonus provided to the beastman's defense assumes that there are interferences with the LOS as it's weaving in and out of cover. If something is completely out of LOS I won't even mention it in the description they get each turn unless the player asks about it..."you do recall that the thief ducked behind the bar"

    What I also do that helps is when a player's turn comes up, I provide a couple lines of description from their POV. The player character POV description is something that is ignored in tac-map games. In a chaotic fight, a fighter may not realize that he is being surrounded and becomes separated from his companions. The player suddenly realizes that Johnny is missing from the description in the last two rounds, and "takes a quick look behind him" and notices that his fight has drifted away from his companions who are busy with their own combat. (the one group combat has split into two due to some special combat actions that the enemy performed). The players get a limited amount of questions they can ask me about their surroundings to represent the frantic pace of combat. Here is also a chance I can give characters who put xp into tactical skills (which are by most games rules generally underused) to allow more questions.

    It also depends on the system you are using. DnD4e is very unforgiving for going mapless as the system is built around the assumption of map use. Games like WFRP and WoD are focused more on a narrative approach, and provide map rules as an alternative. If you practice and become more used to playing without relying on tacmaps I'm sure you'll find a lot more freedom and enjoyment in it.

    Darksier on
  • Options
    ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The most valuable tool I have found as an ST or DM has been a pad of paper for when I get ideas. Every time a good story hook or idea hit me I never seemed to have anything to write it down.

    Comahawk on
Sign In or Register to comment.