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Mulsiphix
12-01-2007, 11:31 AM
I've never DM'ed before nor have I ever played in a real game. I'm just wondering what kind of materials you use when DM'ing (tools, resources, books, binders, etc...). What steps do you take to track/chart the games progress. Do you plan the entire session out ahead of time or do you generally wing it with a couple pieces of paper? I'm very interested in hearing what strategies and methods DM's employ for their gaming sessions. Feedback of any sort would be most appreciated :D

Digital Arcanist
12-01-2007, 12:10 PM
As for planning, I am on the extreme side of the balance. I plan everything out down to probable NPC responses. I'll let some of the others answer any planning questions unless you are like me.

As for tools, make sure you have enough dice. One d6 is usually not enough so grab a handful of them. It is kinda sad to listen to the DM roll the same die 5 or 6 times because he has only one and needs 4. Other resources I suggest are Initiative cards listing initiative, AC, and key skill modifiers for each player. I use these to create the initiative during combat, track AC so I can just roll instead of asking each time. I keep skill modifiers like listen, hide, and such so that I can roll for the players behind my screen without alerting them to anything about to happen. Often times, especially with experienced players, you can skew their actions by saying things like, "Okay everyone roll Spot now."

I would also keep all books needed on hand or copies of the relative sections for reference. I make my players responsible for bringing printouts or the books for any non-core material they are using in their characters.

Since I plan out every minute detail I know all the stats for my cities but if you don't then you will probably need the random generator tables from the DMG in order for you PC's to purchase goods. I would never let my players just buy anything they want because realistically not every town/city is going to have the same merchandise for sale or services for purchase. Letting them buy whatever they want in every town will often come back to bite you.

I imagine you have some mats and token or miniatures already so I won't go into that but make sure you draw out the dungeons ahead of time and kno w your traps. A dungeon is a potentially hazardous place and you really don't want to "wing it" right into a player death.

I'm sure everyone else can fill in anything I might have missed.:D

Xaels Greyshadow
12-01-2007, 01:10 PM
I like to use the Campaign Tracker from Goodman Games. It works for me. I recently found a resource to generate NPC's of all base races and classes by level with the ability to print out. Develope a handful of NPC's. Commoners, shopkeepers, innkeepers, villians and heroes. I like to wing it a little and let PC's explore the world at their will and expense. My creative side is a little lacking, so I make up for it by having a fairly large collection of published material that I can attempt to plot hook PC's to during travel or upon arriving at a location. D&D is a break from reality and I try to be flexible with rules and comprimise to keep a game fluid. Rather play and have fun then spend a large amout of time arguing the text of a rule with a self proclaimed rules lawyer about "How the 5 foot step" really works or some finite minutea that is not FUN. Develope a system that works for you above all. Use a PDA, laptop, notebook what ever works for you to track your campaign and players. Inititive tracking cards or chart. I have designed stuff with another DM friend of mine and had it laminated at little out of pocket expense. The internet is a vast and fairly friendly resource at your disposal. Above all, play and have fun.

Maelstrom
12-01-2007, 04:14 PM
I like the idea of putting skills on initiative cards, DigArc.

For me, I have a binder full of printouts and campaign information. I've made myself some different sheets for NPCs/monsters based on their importance to the campaign and detail involved. One is a two per page deal with all you need for monster information that the players will encounter. A bigger page is one sided and holds much of the info on character sheets, this for bosses and the like.

My binder also has campaign details, broken into sections such as NPCs, story, town, and quick encounters (for those times when your players do something wacky or you have some spare time at the end of a session). Much of this is handwritten on graph paper, to easily add maps.

I definately don't go into as much detail as some of you guys, because if I find I have too much info I'm spending too much time looking stuff up.

As far as gaming tools, you can't beat minis and D&D Tiles, and its nice to have a big battlemat. Lately I've been putting detail tiles on top of the battle mat to make it look better and still be able to have a very large battlefield for those big fights. Saves on how much I have to draw and erase too.

Wish I had a laptop... that would definately take me into the next century.

Edit: Just looked up Campaign Tracker. Looks pretty nice!

Drohem
12-01-2007, 05:27 PM
If your group is combat-orientated or tactically inclined, then a battlemap is a must have for your group. They're around $30 USD, and extremely helpful in combat senarios.

Xaels Greyshadow
12-01-2007, 08:00 PM
Go to local paper supplies or school supplies shop and pick up large section of fairly heavy paper to length you want. Kind of like butcher paper, usually about 3 feet across and long as you want. You can seam 2 lengths together to make extra wide after laminating. Cheap yardstick for measuring off 1 inch marks. Good package of black ink pens and long section of straight aluminum or plexi for drawing lines. Lay out paper on smooth flat surface and measure and mark your 1 inch marks. Line out your grid cleanly. Take back to paper supply or office supply and have laminated with a good medium to heavy weight lamination. Trim edges and if your seaming 2 pieces, line up carefully and put some small pieces of blue painters masking tape to hold in place while you turn over and seam from the back, unmarked side. Use china markers or wax pencils, everyone has an opinion as to what works best for marking map. Vis-a-vis pens and 409 for cleaning? Mini's for ingame, but if you are on a budget you can get good fantasy game markers from the internet I'm sure, if not, I got a good set for my BD last year from The Hitpointe. www.hitpointe.com (http://www.hitpointe.com). Good luck and happy gaming.

More resources:

http://www.d20srd.org/index.htm

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/index.php They have free stuff

http://www.rpg.net/

http://www.dndadventure.com/dnda_player_resources.html

http://www.aarg.net/~minam/npc2.cgi NPC Generator

http://www.andargor.com/ Awesome stuff here DL of the SRD

Mulsiphix
12-01-2007, 08:02 PM
Looks like everybody is generally well prepared with lots of information available. I was hoping, once again still not having played the game as those Holiday chores have been murder on my free time, that there would be DM's who had no problem "winging" a great deal of their campaigns. I fear DM'ing will be manila or fruitless if I have every little detail planned out and people come over to pretty much be lead through the story. I was wondering just how much unpredictability and "winging it" could be thrown into your average game. Then again I guess in any kind of real campaign such practices are doomed to sooner or later trip you up or leave you in a position that you don't remember information that a player is either requesting or is required to continue the storyline without contradicting yourself/previous events.

ronpyatt
12-01-2007, 08:10 PM
Actually, most of the time, I don't usually prepare. Lately, I don't even bring dice, and all my pens and paper stay in the box. I get an idea in my head just before the game, I drop a clue, and I let the players come up with ideas for the adventure based on their response.

I love to wing it.

Mulsiphix
12-01-2007, 08:20 PM
But how do you handle enemy encounters? Enemies have to have stats that you base the dice rolls off of right?

Xaels Greyshadow
12-01-2007, 08:29 PM
See my reply below and don't become frusterated. You can wing it all the way providing you have players that just want to play and have fun and are not all that concerned with deep stories, and tons of microcosmic information. Just start with an idea and go from there. develope your game and find a balance. Put in what you can and explain to your players whats going on both IRL and in game. If it's not good enough for them, and this is only me and my opinion, but, you don't need them. You will find players that are flexible and will find balance to meet everyones gaming needs, and above all, YOUR the DM. Your the final decision maker and lord master on high. Don't power trip, it's just the way it is. I have had problematic players, found a major diety they definately could not defeat, and SPANKED them or outright KILLED them off. It's simple. Good luck.

Drohem
12-01-2007, 10:05 PM
I 'wing it' a lot of the time. I like to let the flow of the game dictate how it will go sometimes.

Of course, I have a concept or idea of the adventure and how I want it to go or fit into my storyline. I prepare the critical NPCs for combat and the main encounters for the most part.

However, as we all know, players never, never do what you want or have planned for your storyline. They love to screw-up the GM's grandiose plans and plots. So, I have pretty much given up trying to 'force' or move the players to my desired goals, and let the flow of the session re-direct my storyline concepts.

Now, I'm not saying that I completely let my campaign or storylines go out the window or meander willy-nilly all over the place. I am merely more fluid or loose with how my storyline or campaign develops.

Also, I no longer have to have every single minute detail of every NPC or encounter detailed in advance anymore. I just make up skill checks or attack bonuses for NPCs now. I guesstimate what their total modifiers are based upon their level and what I think their attributes levels might be.

This have been a learning curve for me as a GM. When I was a younger GM, I needed to have everything detailed in advance. I would try to maneuver or guide the players back onto the course that I had planned. This didn't work of course because the players felt like they were being railroaded or shoehorned into a cookie cutter adventure.

So, now if they deviate a little, I roll with it. If they completely go off the map, then I use little hints or tools to try to bring back into the storyline loosely.

Grimwell
12-01-2007, 10:14 PM
Low Tech Preparation

I make extensive use of 3 x 5 index cards. The ones with the lines on them. The small size (compared to paper) forces you to core down to the things you absolutely need.
For generic monsters that I know are going to be encountered (like a goblin), I will write out my version of a stat block for that creature. I put the most used combat statistics where they are easiest to see (HP, AC, Init mod, attacks, etc.).
As others noted above, I will make a card for each player and note down their most used stats as well. I also use these cards to list things that the players don't know about their character ("Bob's sword is cursed") so it's right there when I'm thinking of the character.
I also make cards for notable NPC's (monster leaders, etc.). Even townsfolk that you don't anticipate combat with, I'll put down a card for personality traits and wants/needs.
I also put major plot elements on cards, so I have quick reminders of the global things.From there I either wing it if I didn't have time to prepare, or I have all the detail in the world (maps, pages of writing, whatever). I am more of a 'seat of my pants' DM when it comes to game day. I will think quite a bit about an upcoming game session, and write down all sorts of things and work them out until I'm happy with them, but when it's game time I don't GM by flipping through my notes, I am lucky enough to have most of it just trapped in my head so I start to just roll with it and let the players do whatever they want as I respond.

For me, that's the big draw in D&D, giving players the ability to do anything they want (or at least try). I will often have huge plans and ideas, but I'll throw them out the window immediately if the players go in a different direction. That's their job! ;)

High Tech Preparation
The only program I've ever used consistently is DM's Familiar (http://www.paladinpgm.com/dmf/). I swear by it when I can because it is flexible enough to respond to crazy player ideas. Even at a minimal point of use, it's very helpful if you just keep your PC records up to date and wing it with everything else.

There is a demo version available at the program's website, and it's worth the cost to pay for the full version if you like it. The keystone to the program for me is that it's flexible and is as detailed as you need. You can input your entire campaign world into the database and reference specific parts of it in seconds, or just use it's libraries to pull exactly what you need when you need it.

Far less books are needed with DMF.

Mandatory Preparation
I don't run games without having Coke, Beer, and bottled water in the fridge. A man has to have standards after all. :)

ronpyatt
12-01-2007, 11:51 PM
But how do you handle enemy encounters? Enemies have to have stats that you base the dice rolls off of right?

Good question. I know my world intimately, and if I need a monster, the stats don't have to be perfect, but I just play them out in my head.

My players don't argue with me about monsters because the action is happening so fast during the encounters that if I happen to miss anything it gets glossed over for fear of their character's death. I'm lucky that my players are after the story, not the mechanics.

Digital Arcanist
12-02-2007, 12:24 AM
You can make the grid thing that Xaels described or go to your local fabric store and get a clear grid in the one-inch size used for quilt making. I lay it over home-made maps a lot or you can just use it with markers. It works with dry-erase pens just fine. Mine cost like 10 bucks and I got it from Jo-Ann's Fabric which is a national chain store.

Moritz
12-03-2007, 11:03 AM
DMG, PHB, MM1. A piece of paper, usually in a note pad to keep up with XP that the party gains and to write down NPC names whom I come up with as I'm DM'ing. Dice, battle map, miniatures, vis-a-vis markers, a pencil that works. Sometimes a module that I'm going to use for the maps or some random map from my collection.

And then I'm ready.

DrAwkward
12-03-2007, 12:11 PM
I fear DM'ing will be manila or fruitless if I have every little detail planned out and people come over to pretty much be lead through the story.

My players always suprise me. Thats one of the joys of DMing, for me. You can plan as much as you like, but you'll always end up winging something. I plan plot, clues, locales, and NPC motives, and let the rest take care of itself.

Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to prepare - I don't know of anything that I've written up that I didn't end up using somewhere. Except for monsters - writing out an enemy too far in advance is a collosal waste of time.

DM Materials (oldschool style):
1 vinyl mat with 1-inch squares, of at least 3' x 4'
1 set of wet-erase markers. Throw out the red one.
4 full sets of dice.
Monster tokens*
1 set of core books.
Paper and pencils.

* I prefer monster tokens that are slightly less that 1-inch square, 2-inch square, 3-inch square, and 4-inch square. (majority should be 1-inch) that you can write on with wet-erase markers. If one of my vinyl mats dies, I cut out squares from the parts that are still good, and glue them on to cut wood. Laminated card-stock works good too, especially if you can have one side numbered or lettered under the laminate, and the other plain white.

DM materials (how I roll lately)
DSL
PC
- Maptool (free!)
- Token Tool (free!)
- Online SRD (free!)
- The Gimp (free!)
- Dungeon Crafter III (free!)
- TeamSpeak (free!)
- Playing D&D without having to smell other gamers (priceless!)

There are a couple good threads lately discussing campaign/adventure ideas. They should also give you an idea of about how much preparation we put into the overall story.

Farcaster
12-03-2007, 01:07 PM
a battlemap is a must have for ... around $30 USD

Gah, I didn't remember them being that expensive. I'm pretty sure we got one for our group for somewhere around $15. Definitely, though, a battlemat is going to help a lot if you are doing a lot of combat encounters.

One thing I might add is that if you have a printer, it is fairly easy to make your own monster counters -- in case, like me, you're not in to spending gobs of money on miniatures. What I usually do is pull pictures from the "art gallerys (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4arch/ag)" for the various Monster Manuals. If you have enough tech savvy, you can resize (and sometimes crop) the images and print them to the right size for the battlemat, i.e. medium = 1 inch squared, large = 2 inc squared, etc.


I was wondering just how much unpredictability and "winging it" could be thrown into your average game.

This is more a question of DM comfort. I've run games where I came up with the idea watching a commercial on TV ten minutes before the game, and they have turned out to be fantastic games. I've also tried to wing it when I really don't have a solid idea, and ended up sweating through it the entire game. Generally, if you are just stepping into the DM chair for the first time, my recommendation would be to try to write down the detail for your major scenes, have your maps ready, and your critters fully referenced.

DM'ing is a lot more frantic than playing. Whilest as a player you may have down time to look through your manuals during another player's turn, as the DM you'll pretty much always be in the lime light. So keep that in mind when you're planning your session. The more you have ready and at your fingertips, the easier it will be. Later on, as you become more comfortable in the chair, you'll also find it easier to improvise on the spot.

Another trap that I have seen new DMs fall into is that they plan out very linear adventures. As a result, when the PCs fail to do what they expected, they flounder. In my games, I plan out my encounters more modularly, so that I can adapt the encounter to fit the path the characters chose to follow. If you provide multiple hooks that ultimately lead to the same place, you're more far more likely to get a nibble. At the same time you will give the players the sense that they are living in a vibrant, living and breathing world that responds to their choices instead of a maze where only one linear path leads anywhere.

Grinnen Baeritt
12-03-2007, 03:41 PM
The only bit of "kit" that I use is a bunch of business card holders. I give one to each player so that they can fill out two business cards with thier character names. They put one on. (I'm really bad remembering names so this helps me and the players stay in charcter)

The other has a velcro strip on the back, this I use to record initiative on a board which is visable to all. They roll for initative, give me the card and I place it on the board with the highest initative on the top. Any monsters are then added after initiatives have been declared, in the correct place.

Digital Arcanist
12-03-2007, 05:56 PM
In the first few sessions I also like to have my players wear name tags so I can remember their names. It is especially helpful if I've just met them before. I've often spent months calling a person by their character name because I never learned their given name.

PhishStyx
12-04-2007, 12:14 AM
Looks like everybody is generally well prepared with lots of information available.

Generally, I come prepped with several pre-done characters that I can refer to. Some serve multiple purposes and even make re-appearances dressed up in new costumes.

More discuss of the same topic is here:
http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3894


I was hoping, once again still not having played the game as those Holiday chores have been murder on my free time, that there would be DM's who had no problem "winging" a great deal of their campaigns.

I've seen GM's with barely a plot at all run incredible games, and others do no prep but have flat games because they can't think on their feet. I suggest that more prep is better until you learn what you need to do ahead of time and what you don't. It's sort of like cooking in a way. Some things you can make ahead and refrigerate, and other dishes you have to serve hot off the griddle.

On the other hand, if you have every moment pre-thought and scripted, you do run the risk of your game seeming dry.

Mulsiphix
12-04-2007, 08:53 AM
I can't even begin to tell you guys how happy I am that I came across this site. So much useful information. Thank you all very much for taking the time to respond in such great detail. Your feedback is sincerely appreciated. I should finally have most of my Holiday preparation, shopping, and plans taken care of by this weekend. I'll finally be able to crack open Ptolus and Dungeon Mastering For Dummies ^_^

Moritz
12-04-2007, 10:13 AM
In the first few sessions I also like to have my players wear name tags so I can remember their names. It is especially helpful if I've just met them before. I've often spent months calling a person by their character name because I never learned their given name.

Hah, I did that last session. Of my current 5 players, three have N names. And I was really messing it up.

Inquisitor Tremayne
12-04-2007, 04:23 PM
I primarily GM for Star Wars. I haven't DM'd in a long time but here is what I use.

For Star Wars:

Away from the table:

Every Star Wars source possible! Movies, books, comics, minis, source books, wookieepedia, Star Wars Databank, toys, everything. Other Sci-Fi movies too!

At the Table:

SW Saga Edition Core rule book
Galactic Campaign Guide (RCR) - By far THE BEST GM book I have ever held. Even compared to the DMG from any version.
Geonosis and the Outer Rim Territories (RCR) - handy to have because you never know where the PCs are going to jump to.
Coruscant and the Core Worlds (RCR) - same reason as above.
3 battle mats - I use 3 for different levels of a structure or "dungeon".
Miniatures - mostly all Star Wars minis but I have been known to use ALIENS minis too!
Dice of course!
The All important GM Screen
A Binder - I keep all my campaign notes, house rules, PC info, Enemies, Allies, adventures (past, present, and future), adventure note sheets, and initiative chart neatly organized in one handy binder. Its a life saver!
A Folder for all the important things like extra character sheets, fold up maps, and printed web enhancements and what-not.
My trusty mechanical pencil and eraser! Never leave home without it!


For D&D

Away from the table:

Every D&D book I own I generally use as source material. As well as other novels, the LoTR movies and novels of course!

At the table:

DMG - Nuff said!
Players Handbook - again Nuff Said!
DMG II - handy on occasion.
Any relevant campaign setting books - FR or Eberron
DM Screen
Another trusty binder - see above.
Monster Manual I and II - I have no need for MMs III - whatever number they are on now.
Battle mat
Minis - I still have all my pewter minis I never bought a single box of D&D minis. Thats how long its been since I have DM'd a game!


Thats about it for D&D. I haven't run a D&D game in a long time so I stopped collecting the books. There is a lot of 3.5 stuff I am missing so I am out of the loop on what good books for a DM would be.

How that helps.

PhishStyx
12-04-2007, 04:38 PM
Usually, I have all my relevant books. For WitchCraft (no, it isn't D20), that means the WC & Armageddon core books, Abomination Codex, Mystery Codex, Book of Hod, the Rosicrucian book, and possibly an AFMBE book depending on what's happening in the game that night.

Of course, I also generally bring the usual paper, pencils, dice, and occasionally my laptop. Battlemats need not apply.

Digital Arcanist
12-04-2007, 07:43 PM
Honestly, only D&D and Champions require a battlemat. The systems put so much importance on character location that you have to know where everyone is for spells, feats, and abilities to work properly.

The other systems can get away with a drawing of the rooms on a piece of paper and maybe an 'X' here or there to say "You are here."

rabkala
12-04-2007, 08:40 PM
In the first few sessions I also like to have my players wear name tags so I can remember their names. It is especially helpful if I've just met them before. I've often spent months calling a person by their character name because I never learned their given name.

I have considered it in the past (especially when running an open game), but never did it. I never wanted to seem like a complete nerd or absentminded twit. I have also called people by their character names many times. Sometimes little nicknames got stuck to people for various deeds or misdeeds that were more memorable than their name. I once had a player threaten to quit because everyone called him 'asshat Magee' for three months straight. Maybe name tags aren't such a bad idea. ;)

Mulsiphix
12-04-2007, 09:25 PM
Asshat Magree? Thats just wrong lol

PhishStyx
12-04-2007, 10:27 PM
Honestly, only D&D and Champions require a battlemat. The systems put so much importance on character location that you have to know where everyone is for spells, feats, and abilities to work properly.

Sounds like a wargame, no thanks.


The other systems can get away with a drawing of the rooms on a piece of paper and maybe an 'X' here or there to say "You are here."

I don't do much of that unless the combat is particularly complex either.

Moritz
12-05-2007, 08:13 AM
DM Screen

I've all but stopped using the DM Screen. For the most part, the players are at least 3 feet away from me. And if they see what I roll, then cool, they don't think I'm cheating. Monsters are pretty standard in the MM and everything else is in my head.

DrAwkward
12-05-2007, 10:25 AM
Sounds like a wargame, no thanks.

Yeah - and that's not even the "Miniatures" version.

To be fair, they did get rid of facing :p

Inquisitor Tremayne
12-05-2007, 10:30 AM
Sounds like a wargame, no thanks.


Sounds like but isn't.

I equate it more with Chess than a war game. Chess using complex rules and super cool minis!

There is still tons of role playing that can occur in combat rounds while using a battle mat. In fact I encourage it in my games for players to describe their actions instead of; I shoot, I roll, I hit, I deal damage. Some players pick up on it some don't.


I find it to be very handy also because the players can visualize what their characters look like, what the bad guys look like, and what the environment is like. Plus I am not a very good descriptive GM, not good with words, so it helps me a lot to just draw it (I'm an artist after all) and say, "That's what you see!"

PhishStyx
12-05-2007, 11:35 AM
Sounds like but isn't.


Ok, thanks anyway.

Olothfaern
12-05-2007, 11:53 AM
...for me is a note book.

I mostly use my (relatively good) memory of the rules for standard information, so I end up running a lot of off the cuff stuff. The problem is remembering what name you gave NPC X the next week. With a notebook, campaigns write themselves and once you've gone through a few levels, there's enough data to actually start making plot arcs that are based on your players thus negating the need to shoehorn them into some plot.

I do all my writing pre-campaign, I''m an anti-minutiae DM. I write the story from the deity/planar/world point of view so I know what is going on on a large scale. Once your players give you enough info about their characters from adventuring, it becomes obvious where they'll fit into someone's plans which gives you your classic party with a patron dynamic, then you're off to the races.

I also like the battle mat, I think tactics are a good part of an adventurer's arsenal; good tactics will allow you to survive in encounters that are way over your head that you've managed to stumble into, and it fosters team based maneuvering on the party's part. The drama of the rogue trying to make the tumble check to get into that flanking position is pretty much a staple; as is the meatshield warrior charging and hacking his way through obstacles and enemies to get to his mage ally who has found himself inexplicably in melee.

Mulsiphix
12-05-2007, 09:02 PM
This being my first time out I'll be using the Ptolus (http://www.ptolus.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?ptolus) campaign setting. It is defined enough to allow me to get by doing little homework but open enough to allow me to map out every last detail if I so desire. I think it will be a great place to start learning and a wonderful place to really expand my ever growing DM skills. Once I'm finish with it I'll probably create a universe/world from scratch. Hell I'll probably be doing that during Ptolus anyway. But I really like the "know the world and setting well enough and you should be prepared for anything" philosophy that many here, and over at the D&D board, seem to live by. Once again guys, thank you ^_^

Thriondel Half-Elven
12-18-2007, 10:33 PM
when i dm i have all three core rule books and all my forgotten realms books. my binder with all my campaign info: plots, character info, villians, etc. and the notebook with the current adventure in it. i like to have minitures and more than enough dice to go around. a lot of scratch paper and graph paper.

in my adventure info i usually like to go down to every possible outcome for every PC action that i can think of. and the PC's usually do the only thing i didn't think of. which makes for a fun twist.

Dimthar
12-26-2007, 07:39 PM
I've all but stopped using the DM Screen. For the most part, the players are at least 3 feet away from me. And if they see what I roll, then cool, they don't think I'm cheating. Monsters are pretty standard in the MM and everything else is in my head.

3 Feet!? Sounds awkward, I would really like to see a picture of you guys playing. Does that means you have your own stash of Munchies?

Xaels Greyshadow
12-27-2007, 11:17 PM
3 Feet!? Sounds awkward, I would really like to see a picture of you guys playing. Does that means you have your own stash of Munchies?

We sit comfortably. I'm not worried about what's being rolled as I don't feel like I'm going to be cheated out of something or miss anything. Big table, nice map, lots and lots of mini's. Good lighting and friendly fun ambience. I like the way Moritz runs his table and our game flows at a nice pace. Can't wait till the new year gets by so we can adventure on. I think last time I was about 3 feet away and had a clear view of the map and the ability to move, or have my mini moved for me. I think a large, roomy table is a key element for success. IMOO, players that feel like they have to see every roll the DM makes may have some security issues, and that works both ways though as I have had DM's be overly secretive and quickly came to realize they were on a TPK mission for some sick satisfaction.

Mulsiphix
12-28-2007, 01:05 AM
I would imagine the same insecurity for rolls would also be apparent in a heavy house ruled game. Is DM cheating a common thing?

Digital Arcanist
12-28-2007, 01:12 AM
A DM doesn't cheat!!! If you come across a DM who just wants to win then he isn't a DM but an over-grown bully with dice. You should get up and leave and take your ball with you.

Mulsiphix
12-28-2007, 01:18 AM
I figured as much. Any DM out to kill his players or fudge rolls in order to punish his players, just isn't worth playing with. Fudging must be used for the betterment of D&D kind! :D

Maelstrom
12-30-2007, 02:51 PM
As mentioned in another thread (the one about PC death), I run my adventures by the edge, where players barely survive the end of major encounters. In those cases, if I rolled openly and there is a bad luck streak for the players, the entire party would be dead. Not much fun there.

And sometimes, there is something to be said for allowing the monsters to hit when they normally wouldn't just to add more dramatic tension to the game.

So I've got to disagree with the prevailing opinion... I admit that as a DM I cheat. I don't do it to get at players though, I do it in a way that *usually* aids the players, and in the exceptions it is to add to the fun of the game. Besides, a DM really can't cheat... you are there as a storyteller, not as a unbiased judge.

Mulsiphix
12-30-2007, 03:33 PM
I never really considered the possibility of fudging a roll that results in a player taking damage, or even death, in order to enhance the campaign. Once again my lack of experience shines through. Before this recent replies to this thread, and the entire player killing thread, I never once considered a players death as being a good thing. I always thought it would be the kind of thing where you feel all of your effort has been wasted and you lose everything you quested and worked so hard to obtain. Then again as a previous video game junkie I could only understand it from such a point of view. It was always me against them and after long sessions of leveling or losing massive XP (Final Fantasy Online) I was heart broken when it was all for nothing. Thank you for opening my eyes :D

tesral
01-05-2008, 03:07 AM
You cannot plan out an entire session. You make what you hope are plans. I keep my books handy, the key to what I would like to see happen and be prepared to use only your imagination.

Bloodwyrm
01-05-2008, 04:10 AM
I Use Dm Handbook 3.5 Players Handbooks 1+2 and Monster Manuals 1-4. I Also Have A Notebook Filled With NPC Information, Campaingn Information, PC Info, Map Infom And Other Little Details Of My Campaigns. Lots And Lots Of Dice Usually 2d4 6d6 2d8 2d10 2d12 2d20 1d100 per player. I Also Have A Laptop Full Of Usefull D&D Information.

Malruhn
01-06-2008, 02:51 PM
I always have the core three, then whatever else I may need for that session.

Though I also started to bring along an extra book as a distractor... Incarnum, the Book of Fiends, Giantwrack, whatever. It was all to keep players wondering.

And it was funny to see how spell lists changed depending upon which book was brought!! ;)

Mulsiphix
01-06-2008, 11:12 PM
Thats not a bad idea. Did you ever get any players that whined because you toted that Book Of Fiends around but never used any from it?

Malruhn
01-07-2008, 06:49 AM
I would always smile enigmatically and say, "How are you so sure that I didn't??"

Players are more fun when they worry... ;)

rabkala
01-07-2008, 08:47 AM
Back in 1e when the Fiend Folio came out, I could worry the group every time I reached for it. In unison, "Oh no, the Fiend Folio!" I had several players that studied the stats of all the monsters to get an edge, new monsters were far more scary. It is best to play with the monsters to keep the PC's guessing and not using meta-gaming knowledge.

Similarly, never let a player know that you are using a premade adventure. While I don't think I ever ran a module/adventure exactly as written, you could run into cheating players. I once had a player run out and get the boxed set of Undermountain and try to cheat. Not that long ago, a guy who I know at the local game shop told me of a player who came in to buy a newer module that I had been carrying around. I tend to drastically change things in modules or in this case, I had no intention of using it for this group. WoTC should give me a medal for all the supplements and accessories that I have spurred players into buying. :)

upidstay
01-07-2008, 09:35 AM
I would use a 3' square piece of plexi glass as my battle map. Just kep paper with a grid on it taped to the bottom. Dry erase marker, and many years of accumulating miniatures. I reently started using some of the mini-click game setting peices as props. Dungeon tiles work well too. I have a mess of them I've accumulated over the years. Lots of times I just draw on the glass, giving a rough layout of the encounter area.

I used to use the index cards, alot, but I found them getting to out of order. Now I use them for spells or magic items. I keep a legal pad or a note book with all pertinent info on it. As far aw winging it goes, I like to use my "Rule of 5's". Any quickie encounter I need, I set any needed stats in order of 5. Easy critters have 5hp, you need a 5 (natural) to hit them, etc. Or, I just make it up, and base encounter difficulty on the current state of th players. That shopkeeper may in fact be just a doddering old man, or he could be a semi-retired 18th level sorcerer with a taste for fried thief.

Mulsiphix
01-07-2008, 09:43 AM
WoTC should give me a medal for all the supplements and accessories that I have spurred players into buying. :)In that way 3.5 has yet another edge. So many modules were produced for it that it would be ridiculously difficult for anybody to be prepared for everything.

InfoStorm
01-07-2008, 11:41 AM
Materials I use are in two staged for DM'ing.

Planning Phase: A bookshelf of books, computer, reference PDF's or other programs, map program, my e-mail, phone, & a ton of immagination. By books I don't just mean D&D manuals, but just about any read books is a good sorce of material for designing adventures. I use a lot of Crystal Keep pdf files for quick references when I'm not at the home office, and designing adventures over lunch. For map programs, mostly It's just a simple Paint program to out line my maps, though with some of the new tools out, and finally getting a real printer at home, I've started upgrading to other programs. I list my e-mail because I write a lote of unused plots in the office during lunch, and e-mail them to myself. Useful if I need something on short notice. And my phone, because I occationally call an old college friend or two to bounce idead off of, cause 1/2 the time when I get writer's block, talking about things sparks new ideas.

Gaming phase: all I use are 3-5 books for occational reference (PHB, DMG, MM1, & 1-2 other various books), a pile of dice, & the print outs of the adventure. Lately we've been using some dungeon tiles that my wife bought me and a pile of unpainted fig's I've had for 15 years that I found when cleaning a little while back. I don't use much at the real game, focusing more of the adventure than anything else.

tesral
01-07-2008, 04:21 PM
One thing I do is everything I need is in the module. I can DM with nothing but the Key in hand. If a spell I need a description for is in the key so is the description, likewise monsters magic items anything. I don't want to use reference books during play. I believe that detracts from the feel of the game. I want it to look like everything is off the top of my head.

Mulsiphix
01-07-2008, 05:08 PM
Key? Key like a DM Screen or note card? Referencing any medium is no different than sifting through a module, albeit a glance is much faster than actually searching.

tesral
01-07-2008, 10:39 PM
Key? Key like a DM Screen or note card? Referencing any medium is no different than sifting through a module, albeit a glance is much faster than actually searching.
OK back in the day the written thing that had the dungeon description on it was the key. Today called a module. I call CDs albums as well. I'm OLD!

Everything I need is in the module. I can grab a module from my drawer and my dice and go.

Another tool I have I think is cool is a comb binder. I use those plastic combs like most people use three ring binders I take pocket portfolios, plastic ones now preferred and slice the spine off. I get a bound book with pockets in the covers.

Cover of the Abba Sanctuary Key:
http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/SS_Modeler/key1.jpg

Inside, first page and the (still) hand made maps in the pocket.
http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/SS_Modeler/key2.jpg

Mulsiphix
01-08-2008, 02:22 AM
Absolutely delicious. I've been looking into using the comb binding too. I can't stand binders becuase they don't fold well. Even the ones that do fold are usually obtrusive as I have to get the giant rings for the massive load of stuff I put in it.

tesral
01-08-2008, 02:27 AM
The front end cost can be high. The binders themselves run from about $130 and up, but they last forever. I have had mine for well over a decade.It gets plenty of use.

Mulsiphix
01-08-2008, 02:32 AM
$130?! That is insane. No wonder I haven't seen any in local stores. Where do you even pick up something like that? Would a Kinkos or Office Max have it? I was hoping you could just buy some kind of kit full of the comb binding and a special hole puncher that put in all the holes needed, then bind it myself. Wow that is expensive :(

Bloodwyrm
01-08-2008, 03:54 PM
I Just got a binder for all my notebook stuff i paid $0 cause i am in college and they gave em out for free!

tesral
01-08-2008, 05:05 PM
$130?! That is insane. No wonder I haven't seen any in local stores. Where do you even pick up something like that? Would a Kinkos or Office Max have it? I was hoping you could just buy some kind of kit full of the comb binding and a special hole puncher that put in all the holes needed, then bind it myself. Wow that is expensive :(

Stapes, Office Max, or Office Depot. The "binder" is the hole punch and it opens the comb so the pages can be inserted. They come in automatic and manual models.

Yes the front end cost is high, but you will never buy another one. They are solid as a rock machines that last a lifetime.

Mine is an Ibico 5/8 inch model (It will open a 5/8th comb). It will also close metal combs (which I have never used.) It can punch 12 sheets of paper at a go putting in the 18 rectangular holes along the side.

I have made books for all my players, made the general use spells books and bound modules. I did a run of training manuals for Michigan National Bank. I bind the newsletters for the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club, and for the Downriver Commodore Club. One year I bound the calenders for The Detroit Archers Club. I have gotten my money's worth out of the thing.

Mulsiphix
01-08-2008, 06:25 PM
I didn't realize the $130 was for the machine itself. I thought you paid $130 for a single binder. That isn't too shabby considering its durability and usefulness. I will definitely have to take a look next time I am out running errands. Thanks for the tip tesral ;)

HaeshkaManju
09-07-2010, 12:10 PM
Sorry to resurrect a dead thread, but, I figured I would add in my two cents.

As far as planning -- I have various ideas -- for those on a time budget:

When I want to make an ADVENTURE.

I use note cards and a "DM Screen" -- but, not one I put in front of me.

The note cards -- 1 for each room of your dungeon, 1 for each monster TYPE (example -- not one for EACH goblin with a pike.. instead 1 card for "goblin pikemen".), 1 for each primary villain, and finally 1 for each 'bizarre' spell/item/whatever.

Room Cards have:
"Entrance Description"
"Exit Descriptions"
"Interior Descriptions"
"Potential Loot"
"Monsters in the room at any given time"
finally "potential for bizarre actions"

bizarre actions are for rooms with 'weird stuff' such as being covered in a web - affecting movement,.. or if I know the party has some sort of swashbuckling character -- I will make note of barrels or other objects which can be used in the midst of combat.

These note cards are all for quick reference.

Only villain cards are detailed.

Now -- why notecards instead of a map? WAY simple -- (Yes, you can use notecards for ENCOUNTERS instead of rooms)

players WILL NEVER do what you think they will do. What seems logical to you (because you know the whole dungeon) will NOT be logical to anyone but you.

If you THINK a player will take a left.. and you HOPE that they do -- because it is key to your plot train/hammer.. the cards come in handy.

Say -- that you need to make a character get 'lost' or cut off the character's access to a previous room. All you do -- is make sure you do not actually include a specific map.

You draw your map on your battlemat as you go. Then you draw out each card's description... as YOU WANT IT TO APPEAR.

Example -- You want room #2 to be encountered second well simple.. even if room one has three exits.. no matter which door they choose -- it will mysteriously be room 2.

The players have no way of knowing this (don't tell them)

Next thing -- don't bring books.

Now, this may be more difficult at extremely high levels of casters -- but, for the most part.. you should not need your books.

Note any spells your villains may cast on note cards.
Note any magic items that are floating around on note cards.
Entitle the cards exactly what they are!!!
This will avoid endless flipping.

Now -- there are DM screens out on the internet for around 10 to 20 dollars. They have nifty sleeves.

Make yourself a DM screen -- with all the rules for attacks of opportunity, height/elevation, cover, action times, etc... all on those sheets -- hit PRINT on your computer.. and voila... you have a handy dandy reference sheet that you can set to the side and reference only if need be.

NEVER bother to look in a book. If you realize you forgot a rule... and can't quite remember how to put the process together -- make this choice

"is this a stat based issue?" (meaning more about a character's potential)
"or is this a skill/level based issue?" (meaning more about a character's actual prowess.)

If the first -- make it a STAT roll.
If the second -- make it a SKILL check.

too easy -- this solves all your problems of having to review a rule. Players don't like your call? either have them quickly quote you the rule -- or stand by the decision and study the rule in the future and add it to your handy dandy reference sheet.