How can I keep my D&D game organized?
September 6, 2008 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm launching a tabletop D&D game later this month, and it's my first time DMing what I'm hoping will be a long campaign. How can I keep things organized?

I've looked around, and the D&D software I've seen for Macs has seemed really... suboptimal. I know I can sorta muddle my way through learning how to track everything with Excel spreadsheets and Word docs, maybe even a private wiki. I guess I'm looking for everything from general tips and tricks to specific software recommendations. Windows-based software is OK, thanks to the joys of Parallels. Help me keep my players happy!
posted by daveqat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Fear the Boot is a podcast about tabletop gaming. The early episodes (in fact, most of the episodes) are about developing and running a game, from both the DM and player perspectives. It's not always about D&D specifically, but most of the advice is fairly generic.
posted by jedicus at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2008

My brother has a great book called Dungeon Master for Dummies. Even though my brother already knew most of how to be a DM, it helped him get some of the finer details worked out. It's pretty good for new and old DMs. It also has a random dungeon creator.
posted by Deflagro at 11:30 AM on September 6, 2008

This thread might give you some DMing advice.
posted by jozxyqk at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2008

I've used a TiddlyWiki in the past for this sort of thing with much success. I believe there's even a RPG-centric one... Yes: Ten Foot Wiki. Also, there's Obsidian Portal, but I've always seen that as geared toward a more collaborative effort with players contributing.
posted by ktrey at 12:32 PM on September 6, 2008

While using a computer to track a campaign is OK, please avoid bringing the machine to the table. I've tried using both a PC and a laptop as a "DM helper" and found them distracting and distancing from the players. Paper, pencil and other hands-on aids have always worked better for me and encourage spontaneity.

One program that I do take to the table is Mach Dice for my iPhone. It beats chasing a rogue die across the carpeting.
posted by SPrintF at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2008

Give extra experience points to players who help you keep track of stuff (but that might not work in a DM vs PC style game).
posted by maurice at 3:04 PM on September 6, 2008

Dude you need stacks of books, folders and maps. And one of those DM screens.
posted by Max Power at 5:42 PM on September 6, 2008

Just keep a copy of you player's sheets after each game. Don't depend on them to remember to bring them every game or they might get lost. I wouldn't bother much with fancy software. One of the things that makes a GM-run game different from any other is that as a human, you've got the versatility to do whatever the hell you think is appropriate. Occasionally this means keeping track of something you never thought you would need to keep track of before, and it's easy to get discouraged away from that sort of thing when you don't have a slot in the form for it. I second the notion that you should keep the computer away from the table. It's too easy to get distracted by futzing with it. Pencils work fine, but only use erasers to correct writos. If information changes, just cross it out (don't scribble it out, make sure it's still readable), and write the new info next to it. The sheet will get filled, but you can draw up or print out a new one for the next session. A small screen is good for keeping a few things hidden, but don't let it get big or dominate the table. Small pads of paper (sticky notes work well) and pencils for each of the players allows them to scribble out the occasional secret action and pass it to you on the sly.

On a slightly related note, giving experience or some other benefit for player behavior that makes your life easier or the game more pleasant is highly effective. I recently ran a game of Paranoia (first game I'd run since the early 90s), where that sort of thing is built into the game itself (tokens you pass out to players who do clever, in-character, or amusing things that they can use to modify die rolls). It made the whole thing much more fun.

Personally, the dice are my favorite part of the game, so I would never want to use a digital replacement. This is not a practical decision, merely an aesthetic one. I enjoy the tactile and audible experience. Also, you can really freak the players out after they make a decision by breathing through your teeth, dropping a handful of dice behind a screen, looking at them for a moment before shaking your head slowly, and then doing what you were going to do anyway.
posted by ErWenn at 8:33 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even though the DM has the power of god, don't abuse it. Stay away from extremes. Try to be more like a coach rather than a DM.
posted by docmccoy at 10:16 PM on September 6, 2008

oh yeah, and have fun!
posted by docmccoy at 10:17 PM on September 6, 2008

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