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Thread: Dungeon Mastering: What Materials Do You Use When DMing?

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    Dungeon Mastering: What Materials Do You Use When DMing?

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    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

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    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.
    Last edited by Digital Arcanist; 12-01-2007 at 12:13 PM.

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    DM Stuff

    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.
    Check for traps always. Move silently all the time and know when to run regardless of what the rest of the party is doing.



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    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!
    Last edited by Maelstrom; 12-01-2007 at 04:17 PM.

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    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.

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    Do it yourself Battlemap

    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. 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
    Last edited by Xaels Greyshadow; 12-01-2007 at 08:21 PM. Reason: I'm old and forgetfull
    Check for traps always. Move silently all the time and know when to run regardless of what the rest of the party is doing.



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    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.

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    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.

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    But how do you handle enemy encounters? Enemies have to have stats that you base the dice rolls off of right?

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    Late posting

    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.
    Check for traps always. Move silently all the time and know when to run regardless of what the rest of the party is doing.



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    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.

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    Low Tech Preparation
    1. 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.
    2. 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.).
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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. 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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mulsiphix View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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