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View Full Version : Bookeeping: How to keep everything organized in the middle of that Big Fight Scene?



El_Jefe
2008-05-10, 07:39 AM
On my last session, an orc patrol of a dozen warriors try to ambush the party. The party detected them before hand (thanks to the good thinking of the party's ranger-who now lives in a "better place") and a furious melee followed.

As the DM, I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of everything once darkness/bane/doomspells started flying, and have been thinking of ways to keep track of everything since. I thought I ask and see all the DM's and players outhere could share their expertise on how to keep track of how many rounds left for the raging barbarian orc chieftain, and all the other spell effects going on.

bosssmiley
2008-05-10, 07:48 AM
Playing card-sized status effect cards might be handy ("Doom: -2 to..."). Just dish them out to whichever players have characters affected by them.

The rounds remaining thing might be a little trickier. I use one of paizo's magnetic initiative boards for combat sequences, but keeping track of the per-round countdowns for a bunch of status effects on anything up to a dozen characters is a little beyond what it was intended for. If cards are in use you could write up "inflicted in round 2, lasts 5 rounds" or w/e on the cards when you dish them out.

Status effects will be one thing that 4th Ed's online play capacity might be a substantial help with.

AslanCross
2008-05-10, 07:55 AM
Since I use my laptop for dming, I make extensive use of OneNote to keep a campaign log (as well as my other notes). I typically prepare tables containing all the pertinent info ahead of time, so that I can edit it in real time. OneNote thankfully autosaves with each edit, so even if my computer locks up at a bad time I can restart quickly.

JMobius
2008-05-10, 08:03 AM
I generally use Excel on my laptop for all of the above.

I've not DMed D&D for a very long time, and even then thankfully at low levels, because I'm not sure I could do the bookkeeping involved with higher level magic. I try to keep combats moving at a brisk pace to keep things interesting for players, and this has resulted in me missing bookkeeping updates even for systems with status effects as rare as in Star Wars d20.

El_Jefe
2008-05-10, 10:15 AM
Well, I don't bring my laptop to game session, it's to distracting, so I was hopping for some old pen and paper input.

I read from someone that he uses index cards to track initiative. I thought that was pretty smart.

Grommen
2008-05-10, 11:45 AM
I went computerized shortly after converting to 3rd edition.

One of my campaigns is done entirely online with people from Detroit to Atlanta. We run Battle Grounds virtual table top, Ventrilo, .pdf's, Excel, and a few other programs. I'm running up to 4 computers on 3 monitors (one of them is a 47" LCD TV) . My gaming room kinda resembles a NASA Shuttle launch on game day.

In person I use a spreadsheet to track initiative, HP's, AC, etc. It's far faster and organized than writing it all down. Combat takes so long anyway the faster the better for me. I have players complain that dice rollers are not true random numbers so they still role dice. I still do for attack and damage stuff but when it comes to a 20d6 fireball I'll just use the computer roller or flat average it.

As far as effects go. Most buffs will last the combat (assuming your not really low level and in way over your heads), so I don't really bother tracking them. it makes combat faster and you can get back to the story telling side of the game. If you have a shorter duration buff then you can keep track of that (Divine Might comes to mind I think it's really a short duration or something like that).

We have used flash cards to remind everyone of buffs in person. Just write down the effects and put them in the middle of the table. For the bad guys all their buffs are written down before the encounter and factored into the character sheet.

Lastly this version of D&D tosses around a lot of numbers. From time to time I've found it far easer to say, "The bad guys get +1 to attack, damage, and AC. BECAUSE I SAID SO!", than to take the time out to find the spell, name the effect, and calculate the bugger. It's your game after all. As long as you don't abuse the power nobody should care.

EvilElitest
2008-05-10, 11:53 AM
Normally i simply write down all the information on a board. with little notes for myself

Or memory
from
EE

Mark Hall
2008-05-10, 12:24 PM
1) One player (in our games, it's me) is the "Init B****". His job is to keep track of who goes next.

2) Someone keeps track of spells and effects. This doesn't need to be the DM, but a player can keep a note list of who is affected by what spells, remind people if they forget, and end effects when they should.

These two keep the DM able to focus on tactics and making rulings, rather than minutiae and administrivia.

mabriss lethe
2008-05-10, 01:47 PM
One of the things I've done is to basically treat a group of mooks as a single character. They have the same stats, basic assortment of gear, roll the same initiative...etc. Only important NPCs roll separately. Just don't go overboard with it. I've found that 4 or 5 is about as big of a mook squad as you want to handle this way.

wizknight
2008-05-10, 04:07 PM
I use 3x5 index cards to:

Store PC info such as HP/AC, search/spot/hide. When initiative is rolled I simply put the cards in the order of initiative inserting a card for the bad guys where appropriate.

For spells that have a short duration I tend to write down the name on an extra card that I jot encounter notes on. I may write "Cat's Grace" with as many little boxes as it should last. Then each time I hit the bottom of the init list I cross off one box.

A low tech solution for a game the increasingly seems to almost require spreadsheets to do the number crunching...

Inyssius Tor
2008-05-10, 04:17 PM
When I have to use multiple similar miniatures (say, a pack of four wolves), I use little dots of modelling clay to distinguish them; I'd have a stats card for "Wolf (Green)", one for "Wolf (Red)", and so on.

Of course, this is an entirely useless tip if your mind hasn't been completely dominated by Wizards, forcing you to shell out cash for whatever crazy moneymaking scheme they can dream up.

Triaxx
2008-05-10, 05:02 PM
A dry-erase board and permanent marker makes an easy 'paper' board that you can reuse. Permanent marker makes permanent cells, that won't erase when you get rid of temporary stats. One of those clear plastic sheets works well.

I've hijacked a bunch of Candy-Land and Shoots and Ladders figurines for enemies in a big fight. Works pretty well.

Epinephrine
2008-05-10, 05:11 PM
I use 3x5 index cards to:

Store PC info such as HP/AC, search/spot/hide. When initiative is rolled I simply put the cards in the order of initiative inserting a card for the bad guys where appropriate.


We also do this, and you can just stick in a card with the word "Rage" on it, and put a tick-mark on it each time it comes up. Same with any other effect - stick them in the initiative cycle. Makes it a lot more reliable, at least for those.

Keeping track of what effects are in play on the map? We use a write-on map with dry-erase markers (mark borders of Entangle, Cloudburst etc.), and we have a bunch of little tokens to put on players; Entangled folks tend to have their miniatures sitting in bottlecaps, Shaken foes are indicated with a piece of paper with an S on it, and so on. Between the index cards, slips of paper and the annotated battlemap we do ok. I think we need poker chips next, and I may cut some 1"x1"x1/8" bits of wood and paint them to represent the more common effects.

Kurald Galain
2008-05-10, 05:20 PM
Omit initiative entirely, and instead go through players clockwise. You'd be surprised at how much faster this is.

Lord_Kimboat
2008-05-10, 05:57 PM
Omit initiative entirely, and instead go through players clockwise. You'd be surprised at how much faster this is.

I agree it's faster but the guy who paid for improved initiative and has the 20 dex but happens to be sitting at the wrong end of the table isn't going to be your friend!!!

Most of the good ideas have already been included, but for the most part I just try to keep things moving. Don't worry too much about the details, as long as the combat seems relatively balanced, it doesn't matter that rage didn't last as long as it should have or someone saved from a spell that they shouldn't have. Just try to keep it fun.

valadil
2008-05-10, 06:17 PM
As much as I'm a computer geek I like to do all the DM book keeping by hand.

Each NPC gets a column. At the top of the column is the NPC's name and initial HP. Status effects accumulate above the NPC. I usually compile them together into one big bonus. Damage is dealt below the NPC's name. For any sort of counter i just use dice. If an enemy is hit by Tasha's Hideous Laughter for 7 rounds, I'll set a d8 to 7 and leave it on the NPC's name. I rarely have more than 2 such effects in play at a time, so I don't need to write down what each die is.

Initiative is just a big list. I start at the top and count down. I leave space between names in case players switch up the order. Mooks and mobs all go on the same initiative, named NPCs get their own (though a named NPC who leads mooks will have his followers move on his turn.)

Kurald Galain
2008-05-10, 06:27 PM
I agree it's faster but the guy who paid for improved initiative and has the 20 dex but happens to be sitting at the wrong end of the table isn't going to be your friend!!!

So you tell him in advance, of course. He can take some other feat, and 20 dex gives you plenty of other bonuses already. Using house rules is quite reasonable, but surprising people with them is not.

UserClone
2008-05-10, 08:14 PM
Lazy me, I just purchased this (http://www.ccgarmory.com/gacopad8.html). I'll let you guys know how it ends up working out, if you'd like.

EDIT: Here (http://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PZOOMS/PZOOMS1000_500.jpeg)'s a better picture.

Talic
2008-05-12, 01:48 AM
Player A(ssistant): Keeps track of initiative order.

Player B(ookie): Rules buff type player. Keeps track of spell durations on player spells.

DM: Keeps track of monster effects. I like Notecards for each monster. These cards include HP, AC(flat footed/touch/normal), Saves, Attacks, SLA's. Sometimes other pertinent information (like "cowardly", "suicidal", "knows useful information"). Below is space for status effects.

We use a battle grid and dry erase markers to draw down and dirty AoE effects on the map. This makes is easy for players to see what their characters do. In situations where the player doesn't see the entire effect, I draw in what they do see, and add as needed.

For this, I keep a seperate notecard for encounters with spell effects and center of area of effect.

Example:


Obscuring mist, D12/E13 intersection
Glitterdust, O6/P7
Solid fog, P6/Q7 intersect
Wall of force, from A1/B2 intersection to X13/Y14 intersection.

I generally write it more shorthand than that, but it allows me to calculate things quickly for encounters where pc's don't have the full information.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-05-12, 11:56 AM
WordPad .rtf files. I think I'm going to switch to .xls spreadsheets though.

It's easyriffic.

Chronicled
2008-05-12, 12:59 PM
Omit initiative entirely, and instead go through players clockwise. You'd be surprised at how much faster this is.

Alternatively, try having all the player's actions at the same time (http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/72/initiative-the-silent-killer/). I'm serious.

Roderick_BR
2008-05-12, 01:45 PM
One way is to print a spreadsheet, white everyone's names, Initiative, then keep counting 1 round for every "square" in it, adding effects and time left too.
Something like this

{table=head]Character|
Init.|R1|R2|R3|R4|R5|R6|R6|R7|R8|R9|R10
Joe|+1|Mage armor 10|Mage armor 9|||||||||
Bob|+0|/|/|||||||||
Moe|+4|/|/|||||||||
Poindexter|-1|/|/|||||||||
Orc1|+1|/|/|||||||||
Orc2|+0|Rage 6| Rage 5|||||||||
Orc3|+1|/|/|||||||||
Orc4|+1|Asleep 10|Asleep 9|||||||||[/table]

Just slash out every past round, and write down what effect is active, with countdown time. It is tiresome if the group is too big, but still gives you some control on what's going on.

valadil
2008-05-12, 01:57 PM
This isn't book keeping exactly but it does help keep combats organized.

My group has recently started using pipe cleaners for areas of effect. They make it much easier place that fireball just right so that the enemy all gets stuck in the edge of it. More importantly they let you leave persistent AoEs on the map without having to erase or ignore marker lines when the duration runs out (this was important in this game since my character didn't consider a combat a combat until he'd cast several greases, stinking clouds, and walls of force, preferably scultped).

Making shapes takes a while and is something that should be done in advance. I like to do it between combats. We have several 15' cones, 10' squares (did I mention I like sculpt?), 20' radius, and a couple spare pipe cleaners for walls.

Chronicled
2008-05-12, 03:33 PM
This isn't book keeping exactly but it does help keep combats organized.

My group has recently started using pipe cleaners for areas of effect. They make it much easier place that fireball just right so that the enemy all gets stuck in the edge of it. More importantly they let you leave persistent AoEs on the map without having to erase or ignore marker lines when the duration runs out (this was important in this game since my character didn't consider a combat a combat until he'd cast several greases, stinking clouds, and walls of force, preferably scultped).

Making shapes takes a while and is something that should be done in advance. I like to do it between combats. We have several 15' cones, 10' squares (did I mention I like sculpt?), 20' radius, and a couple spare pipe cleaners for walls.

I'll also vouch for the effectiveness of pipe cleaners for AoEs on maps.

Another minor trick I've found for those who are on a budget and would like a map is to use a chess/checkerboard. That's usually just enough squares to work. It also has the advantage of being pretty resistant to wear and tear, easily transportable, and (especially if you're using chess pieces for PCs/enemies) isn't immediately an indicator of playing D&D--depending on where you're playing, this can come in handy.

zaei
2008-05-13, 08:04 PM
I'll also vouch for the effectiveness of pipe cleaners for AoEs on maps.

Another minor trick I've found for those who are on a budget and would like a map is to use a chess/checkerboard. That's usually just enough squares to work. It also has the advantage of being pretty resistant to wear and tear, easily transportable, and (especially if you're using chess pieces for PCs/enemies) isn't immediately an indicator of playing D&D--depending on where you're playing, this can come in handy.

In that vein, I'll bet a cheap go board would be great for someone who needs a slightly larger map.

El_Jefe
2008-06-16, 09:08 PM
Just wanted to get back to this thread and say what worked best for my group was using a small whiteboard with dry erase markers and let one of the players be the one writting everything down. It is awesome!!! Seriously, whiteboard should come with the DMG!

THAC0
2008-06-16, 09:32 PM
We use magnetic init board - one player is responsible for it. Players keep track of the duration of any of their own spells - buffs or debuffs in whatever manner they prefer. Often they set up a die to a certain number and count it down every round. It's the player's job to remind the DM about any spells they have affecting the NPCs.

AoEs - pipecleaners, those metal shape thingies.

Dry erase markers work wonders.

ashmanonar
2008-06-16, 10:04 PM
Playing card-sized status effect cards might be handy ("Doom: -2 to..."). Just dish them out to whichever players have characters affected by them.

The rounds remaining thing might be a little trickier. I use one of paizo's magnetic initiative boards for combat sequences, but keeping track of the per-round countdowns for a bunch of status effects on anything up to a dozen characters is a little beyond what it was intended for. If cards are in use you could write up "inflicted in round 2, lasts 5 rounds" or w/e on the cards when you dish them out.

Status effects will be one thing that 4th Ed's online play capacity might be a substantial help with.

4th ed has removed multiple round status effects altogether. Spells either last until end of turn, end of next turn, or through the encounter (with most negative status effects, Save ends, and when it ends, it ends for the entire encounter.)

Mark Hall
2008-06-16, 10:33 PM
AoEs - pipecleaners, those metal shape thingies.


I love the idea of pipecleaners for AoE!