bits, diy

Initiative Trackers

WP_20160109_13_19_45_Rich_LIThere are dozens of ideas floating out there suggesting how best to track initiative at the table. Some DM’s simply jot down a list in their notes. Some prefer to hang folded cards on their screens. There are templates for printing and small whiteboards for marking. Apparently there are dedicated online tools, web sites, programs and apps for this as well.

SlyFlourish writes on the topic as it pertains to his Lazy DM Method and DMDavid wrote one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. Standing on all of these giants, I made some iniative tracking cards for my games that bring a little flair to the table, help me delegate some work at the beginning of an encounter and make it easy to manage shifting iniative places as they happen.

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bits, diy, tools

Making the most of the Insider maps archive

Creating high-quality maps for our encounters seems to be an almost universal quest amongst DMs. Everybody has their favorite approach: from Chris Perkins’ Map Fu with the venerable wet-erase battlemat to published poster maps and Dungeon Tiles. Recently, Mike Shea released a short video in which he demonstrated the benefits of sandwiching your dungeon tiles between black toolbox liner and an acrylic sheet. I’ve been using the acrylic sheet for awhile now and can vouch for it’s awesomeness… more on that later.

But I don’t use Dungeon Tiles or poster maps… I’ve always wanted to, but the limited selection of settings and pieces always leaves me wanting more. In the past I’ve played with creating some of my own tiles but, after a lot of work, I had that same “locked in” feeling. What I needed was an almost infinite source of high-quality maps that I could tweak or re-purpose as needed.

Enter the D&D Insider Map Gallery

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bits, diy

More Character Sheets

I’m still playing with the idea of a simpler character sheet to run at the table. I realize that this is one of those decisions that is based purely on personal preference… cards work great for some people, the CB-generated sheets for others, power2ool.com, etc.. In this case, I was interested to see what would happen if I took the D&D Encounters character sheet format to an extreme… could I get a 6th level character on 2 sides of a single page. I built these sheets for 4 of the 5 players in my regular game (the Psion is very happy with his card sleeves).

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bits, diy

Blast & Burst Template

image

Back in November when I played 4e for the first time with my college doggz, our DM had a couple of measured squares of cardboard that proved really useful in visualizing blast and burst ranges. These simple aids came in surprisingly handy and so I recreated them with PowerPoint.

You’ll find a single slide with blast 3, 4, and 5 square templates. I printed these onto a label sheet which I then stuck to a nice piece of stiff cardboard. A bit of X-ACTO work and voila… squares.

Download Blast & Burst Template for Microsoft PowerPoint (56 KB)

bits, diy

Power Card Template

AtWillPowerAt Sarah Darkmagic’s suggestion, I picked up some card protectors for my players… green for at-will powers, black for daily powers, red for encounter powers, and gold for item cards. Very cool. These work great and make the cut-out, paper powers printed from the Character Builder feel more substantial… it’s a meaningful upgrade, sort of like the difference between cheap plastic poker chips and the weight of a nice clay piece.

At about the same time, I was prepping to give my party their first magic items – some consumable, plus a little armor, etc.. While I think you can print out cards for the published items right from the CB, I wanted an easy way to make custom cards (most of the magic items in my campaign will likely be somewhat custom to enhance their place in the story). This template is the result. The styling is based closely on one of the CB power cards… enjoy.

Download Power Card Template for Microsoft PowerPoint (73 KB)

bits, diy

Cheaper than Minis

Combat encounters in D&D 4e are much more tactical than games I’ve played in the past, relying heavily on combatant positions on the map. I’d love to draw from a rich collection of minis to help bring the game to life for my players, but I need to keep to a budget. In keeping with my approach for condition tokens, I decided to print off some 1” labels and stick them to 1” x 1/8” round wooden cutouts. I used the same technique to insert a tiny magnet in the center of each one.

MonsterTokens

Since these are for my personal use, I used images from D&D Insider and other Internet sources (Bing Image search is your friend) for the artwork. On monster tokens, I added a number to help differentiate individuals during play. Once the players invest some time in their character, I’m hoping that they eventually provide their own artwork (found or created) for their character’s token.

I think these tokens look great and I’m sure they’ll help my players picture the battle as it unfolds before them. As for ongoing effort, I’ll just need to use my label template to print off new tokens for new monster types when preparing each game. Over time, I suspect that many of the tokens will see a lot of reuse as well. I’m also thinking I can adapt my system for the tokens in the Monster Vault when I get my hands on that.

First game on Wednesday night! I can’t wait.