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IcyChoc
2009-09-07, 11:22 PM
Hey everyone! I'm relatively new to running games (one session under my belt), so I'd appreciate a few suggestions here. Thanks for reading ... :smallwink:

My siblings and I are going on a trip in the nearish future, and we're going to be spending a lot of time doing nothing in airports, on trains, etc. We've decided to play D&D in that spare time (3.5e, if you're wondering), and the duties of a GM fall to me. Since we're going to be moving around a lot, and playing in public places, I'm obviously not going to be able to run things like I would on a tabletop. There are three main areas I'd like some advice in due to this situation:

1. GM's notes
When moving around a lot, what's the best way to transport your campaign notes? I have a laptop available, but I could use folders or exercise books. I have no personal preferences as I'm fairly adaptable (and I'm not used to anything since I've only run one module). What would be the most portable/easy to pack up? If I use the laptop, should the players have physical copies of their character sheets as well? (I'm guessing yes on the last one.) What resources is it best to have handy? I do have an electronic copy of the SRD if I need it. Should I make up a combat cheat sheet? (Actually, if there are any good 3.5 combat cheat sheets available already, I would appreciate it if someone could point me in the right direction. Google has not helped.)

2. Dice
It's a little impractical to be rolling dice in public. I'd prefer not to have to be ducking under seats and disturbing others to retrieve runaway d20s. (Not to mention the fact that I currently don't possess a set of dice - I'm planning to get some, but I'm not sure whether or not I'll be successful. I have no excuses to offer for the shameful negligence of not owning dice. :smallredface:) Does anyone have any suggestions as to ways of using dice quietly and unobtrusively in public? What about alternatives to dice if I can't get any? I could use a virtual dice roller on my laptop, but I feel that takes control away from the player.

3. Miniatures/Game Mat
I've been having some issues with these even with tabletop games. On the one hand, they give you a good visual representation of combat and make things like flanking and attacks of opportunity easier. On the other hand, they tend to make the game seem more like chess than roleplaying. My personal preferences aside, it's obviously difficult to use full minis and mat on a train. I do have a copy of MapTool which I can use on my laptop, but then the players can't easily see it. So should I dispense with mapping and mats entirely, use MapTool just for my reference, or use MapTool and have to constantly show the players what is going on?

Whew ... that was rather longer than I expected. Thanks for slogging through that and putting up with my newbie questions, guys!

RelentlessImp
2009-09-07, 11:32 PM
If you or any of your players have an iPhone, this link (http://dorkandbeans.com/best-apps-for-iphone-if-you-are-a-massive-dungeons-dragons-dork/) highlights some pretty neat on-the-go D&D apps available.

Otherwise, I suggest the following:

Graph Paper - for maps, combat grids, etc. It takes a little practice to get the dimensions proper, but it's less obtrusive than a full grid and more visible than MapTool on your laptop.

For notes, I'd highly suggest keeping them on your laptop - unless you'll have little opportunity to charge the battery. Otherwise, notebooks and papers.

Definitely everyone should have a physical copy of their character sheet.

As for dice, get a cup. Roll them in the cup, drop them down on a flat surface. It'll avoid the pesky problems of runaway dice, for the most part.

Chrono22
2009-09-07, 11:33 PM
1. I do 90% of my DMing homework before and after play, not during it. For game-related notes, I do two things:
Create a list of events I wish to include in the course of play.
Write down a rough description of what the players have done.

I then recap the session at the beginning of the next game... whether you use a laptop or a journal really depends on how many notes you are talking about taking.

2. Instead of rolling many dice to determine the outcomes of rolls, only use two d10's for a percentile result. For example, an 80 on the percentile roll would equal a 16. If you roll many for determining damage, take the average and adjust according to a percent roll (so, 10d6 damage = average of 35 damage. Flip a coin to determine whether the percentile adjustment is negative or positive. Subtract or add half of the % result of the average to the average).

3. Replace the grid with a small measuring tape. 1 inch = 5 feet. You can play on any surface- like, for example, a piece of paper. Pencil in objects, walls, and terrain features. Use simple tokens like coins or other pieces of paper as place markers for characters.

elliott20
2009-09-07, 11:34 PM
If your siblings also have their own laptop, they could bring one with a map tools loaded on it for miniature keeping purposes. If not, you could always just load it onto your comp and just let them see the screen when relevant. beyond just general positions, you really don't need to be spending TOO much time looking at it as a player.

for dice rolling, I recommend making that electronic as well if possible. you can either do it on the laptop, or if your siblings have a graphing calculator, you can always just write up a simple dice roller program for it. I'm sure you can find some simple equations that generate random numbers for the TI calculators.

For character sheets, I recommend that you do the following:

1. keep copies of them on your laptop as master copies in case they lose the main. Update these whenever you get time. I recommend using the HeroForge tool set. the tool set allows you to quickly manage and update sheets on the fly.
2. give them each a physical sheet that only gets changed when you guys need to stop playing. If you want, I'd keep those in a binder so it's all in one place.
3. for the rest of the time, use scratch paper to note down things that change constantly like hit points and wealth.

this way, they'll have a reference sheet, but also you can reduce the amount of abuse the sheets will experience over the course of travel. but in the case that they lose their sheet or the sheet gets too beaten up, you'll still have all the info somewhere you can copy.

Temet Nosce
2009-09-07, 11:40 PM
1. GM's notes
When moving around a lot, what's the best way to transport your campaign notes? I have a laptop available, but I could use folders or exercise books. I have no personal preferences as I'm fairly adaptable (and I'm not used to anything since I've only run one module). What would be the most portable/easy to pack up? If I use the laptop, should the players have physical copies of their character sheets as well? (I'm guessing yes on the last one.) What resources is it best to have handy? I do have an electronic copy of the SRD if I need it. Should I make up a combat cheat sheet? (Actually, if there are any good 3.5 combat cheat sheets available already, I would appreciate it if someone could point me in the right direction. Google has not helped.)

Laptop, laptop, a thousand times laptop. Even if you aren't traveling, having your text in searchable form on a single device will vastly simplify your life and adds a lot of convenience. The players admittedly should have copies of their own sheets but preferably they have laptops as well...

As far as resources, I keep my full D&D 3.5 book library in PDF form. It's ridiculously more convenient, with bookmarks, search-ability, and all those books in a tiny package.


2. Dice
It's a little impractical to be rolling dice in public. I'd prefer not to have to be ducking under seats and disturbing others to retrieve runaway d20s. (Not to mention the fact that I currently don't possess a set of dice - I'm planning to get some, but I'm not sure whether or not I'll be successful. I have no excuses to offer for the shameful negligence of not owning dice. :smallredface:) Does anyone have any suggestions as to ways of using dice quietly and unobtrusively in public? What about alternatives to dice if I can't get any? I could use a virtual dice roller on my laptop, but I feel that takes control away from the player.

Dicebot, online dice roller, etc. Just use the PC, and if you want to let your siblings roll just have them click the button (or use their own laptop).



3. Miniatures/Game Mat
I've been having some issues with these even with tabletop games. On the one hand, they give you a good visual representation of combat and make things like flanking and attacks of opportunity easier. On the other hand, they tend to make the game seem more like chess than roleplaying. My personal preferences aside, it's obviously difficult to use full minis and mat on a train. I do have a copy of MapTool which I can use on my laptop, but then the players can't easily see it. So should I dispense with mapping and mats entirely, use MapTool just for my reference, or use MapTool and have to constantly show the players what is going on?


Skip it. Miniatures just bog down 3.5 in my experience, they're unnecessary and bothersome. Just make sure to be clear about where things are in your descriptions, and you should be ok.

elliott20
2009-09-07, 11:50 PM
oh yeah, just echoing temet nosce's suggestion, if possible, try to get your library in PDF format. D&D books are heavy.

I would suggest that you bring graph paper and stuff JUST IN CASE, but primarily work off of maptools if possible.

IcyChoc
2009-09-08, 01:33 AM
Thanks, everyone! After reading what you've all posted here, and talking to my siblings about it, we've decided to go as digital as possible. MapTool, die rolling aps, and electronic character sheets (although they will have hard copies).

I would still prefer to use actual dice, but it's been vetoed due to the potential for disrupting other travellers. Oh well. I'm the only one with a laptop (and technically it isn't even mine) so I'll be controlling pretty much everything. As little will be committed to paper as possible.

Thanks again for the help, everyone; your opinions were really handy. :smallsmile:

oxinabox
2009-09-08, 02:08 AM
No No No, your doing it wrong.
(this is a quote i use often, I don't actully mean to sound so offensive).

Play without a grid, or minitures entirely, keep the relevent positions in your head, and don't worry abojut movement speed too much.
Sure, at firest you'll miss some AoO and flanking requires abit of thought.
(then again; Player: "I move to flank", DM: "Ok 5ft step no AoO")
But its worth learning to do even if you don't normally do it.

Personally i prefer to do it that way, as do alot of dms i know.
However at player request i switched back to the board for one campakign (they were relivly new players and were used to a board).
But some things are very hard with a board.
when it came a large skale battle, between players on two ships, and 40 NPC siolder, and a Kraken, (in 3 dimentions). i imediatly dropped the board, and ran it how the game should alway be run. with discription and imagination.

as for dice:
Go Out and Buy some.
unless you have a flgs, who is nice as sells 'em pain and cheap.
I suggest Newsagencies (you may have to ask, i found out they keot them in a old box under the counter - no one had bought any for years)
But the cheapest place i found was the education surpilies store.
Half the price of the Gaming store, and hte dice still were multicouloured.
(though not a pretty).

I have enough Dice now that i can provide for the players or roll all of the monsters in one round.
which is nice cos it means more time for the PCs to act (rather than watching me roll).

Now when travelling:
For d6's there is the travel yahzee roller, rolles 5d6's
Perfect for rogues and even better for wizards.

I suggest getting a jam jar for each player,
You put you damage dice and you d20 in it before you attack.
shake it, and put it upside down.
the dice will land on the flat lid, with the top visable.
actually penut butter jar would be better - flat plaasti lid.

Of course there is still the rattleing sounds.
Surely there is a auto roller app for the mobile phone?
If your in senior school, Progammable calculator

Try not to go the Electroic character sheet, it might become perminate.
When i joined a new group, i asked the dm it i could use a electroic sheet, and he was like, what that, and didn't play much attention when i explained, and then was like, no on paper. theis is a pen and paper rpg.
Then when play start 2 of the players were using them, and when the dm saw, he was like, cool that's handy, and now the table is full of laptops, and it takes the elegance out.
I beleive one the Dm should have a laptop at the table

sofawall
2009-09-08, 02:31 AM
i imediatly dropped the board, and ran it how the game should alway be run. with discription and imagination.

You know, in fights, I prefer a mat. That is also how the game is meant to be run, if you read the actual, you know, rules. But then I play D&D as part-roleplaying and part Wargame, it's just the style of my group.

IcyChoc
2009-09-08, 04:26 AM
I'll check out my local gaming store for dice, and try the jam jar method. We've definitely vetoed the dice in airports though, mostly due to noise. :smallfrown: I do have a calculator with a programmable random number generator; I think I'll bring that.

I think I'll rely on boards/mats as little as possible. As I implied in my first post, I think it interferes with the flow of the game and feels like you're playing chess or checkers. I definitely agree that it's more fun just imagining it. I'm actually considering houseruling attacks of opportunity out; I don't think I would be able to understand the rules if I read them twenty times. What do you guys think (about the attacks of opportunity)?

I understand the atmospheric benefits of playing without laptops (I play with pen and paper usually, since I'm big on tradition) but I'm gonna be in an airport. Or on a train. It's not like there's going to be much atmosphere in the first place. :smallwink:

Thanks for your help!

elliott20
2009-09-08, 04:33 AM
While a lot of people think laptops are detrimental to atmosphere, I say it's just a matter of effective usage.

Have a hard time describing the atmosphere of a particular area? pull out a picture that reminds you of it.

Don't know how to describe this monster that does it justice? Picture time!

Want to get them pumped for a fight? Drum music with a frantic beats to rescue!

Now, as for dice, well, I just love rolling dice myself. It's like, half of the fun.

The jar idea is fantastic, actually. I like that idea.

Yora
2009-09-08, 04:37 AM
Even if you do prefer to play on a grid, in situations like these I would go without one. And maybe even simplefy combat a lot. Just make an adventure with lots of talking and exploring and instead of rolling for skills assume everyone is always taking 10, or just decide as gm if something works on not.

oxinabox
2009-09-08, 06:32 AM
Opertunity attacks aren't that complex.
http://www.d20srd.org/srd/combat/attacksOfOpportunity.htm

Acting defensivly to avoid them is.
Casting defenicivly confuses one of my dms, but in my favor, and i reteach him the game often enough (taught him that Max dex from armour, doesn't apply to initive or skill checks last week,)
When casting in a threatened square you you have two options
Cast defensivly or don't:
Not casting defensivly:
You provoke an attack of optunity:
IF you get hit and take damage: make a concentration check DC 10 + points of damage taken + spell level, if you fail you don't cast the spell and you loose the spell. otherwise it happens.
Casting defensivly.
You do not provoke attack of opertunity (cos your splitting your focus, and not leaving yourself open)
you make a conmcentration check, DC 15+ spell lvl.
If you fail you loose the spell, and it doens't happen.

Normally casting defenvily is a good idea.
But for example: May warlcok has High Ac and Good Damage Reduction, most things are unlikely to hit him, or do significant damage if they do.
But warlocks have very few skill points, so maybe may Concentration isn't that great. so i would chose to provoke an attack of optunity, knowing that i was moreliky to succed that check then to succed at casting defensivly.
As compared to a wizard, AC Low, no DR, and being hit is likely to kill him.
And high int so huge number of skill points, so having concetration checks is easy, but dodging swordblows isn't.




You know, in fights, I prefer a mat. That is also how the game is meant to be run, if you read the actual, you know, rules. But then I play D&D as part-roleplaying and part Wargame, it's just the style of my group.
In 3.5 using a mat was some advise in a little sidebox.
Only in 4e did a square become the standard unit of distance.
In 3.5 they said little about how you should run the game, comopaired to 4e which has a lot of (good) advice


EDIT: lost track of what i was saying:
Anyway removing attacks of opertunity, leaves you with archers shooting at people from adacent squares, and wizards doing the same.
Also makes nonranged touch attacks more dangerous.

IcyChoc
2009-09-08, 11:39 PM
Oxinabox, I suppose you are right about the attacks of opportunity as far as ranged attacks from adjacent squares go. Although I am running a 17th century campaign setting without spellcasters, so only ranged attacks are a problem (and pistols can be shot at far closer range than longbows).

Hmm. Time to slog through that page in the SRD. Again.

Yora, you make a very good point. I'm already taking ten on all silent skill checks (spot, listen, fortitude saves for poisoned drinks etcetera), so I suppose that may be the next logical step. Although I think my sibs would be upset if I made it all GM's choice; they like to feel that they have some control over their destiny. Even if it's just an illusion and I'm really fudging the rolls from behind the screen. :smallwink:

Elliot20, you're right about the atmosphere. Laptops help with music, etcetera. I've never had a chance to use music in a campaign before, although I would certainly like to. One day, maybe. Should it be all instrumental? I have a feeling that lyrics would be distracting.

Thanks for the help, guys!

elliott20
2009-09-08, 11:43 PM
I would say that it should for the most part, remain instrumental and used sparingly. Music in general can be distracting if you ask me. Also, sometimes, a scene's length is hard to control when you have a song that definitively ends.

Now, for important encounters that you want to emphasize a mood? music is GREAT for that.

But again, it depends on whether or not the music is supplementary or is it the focal point. In most supplementary cases, after a while you can safely turn it off just to make sure people don't get annoyed.

but that's a whole different topic.

TheThan
2009-09-09, 12:16 AM
One thing I though would be great would be getting one of those tablet PCs. You know the ones with the touch screen that flips around and down.

With this you can do really cool things. You can keep all your notes on the hard drive. Itís easy to acquire digital copies of dnd books, so you wonít need to carry a bunch of books with you. You can use the touch screen for digital maps and digital dice rollers are easily attainable. With these you donít need to have papers and dice scattered around (which can be easily lost and might attract undue attention). When you need to refer to your notes just flip the screen around for a moment. Plus if you have WiFi, you have access to online sources. Not to mention youíre keeping all of your dnd stuff in one location, so things canít get lost. Just take it as carry on. A laptop will be a whole lot lighter than even a few dnd books.

Morandir Nailo
2009-09-09, 01:08 AM
Another idea, rules-wise, is to use Microlite20 (http://microlite20.net/) or some other "lite" version of D&D that is more easily portable. Even if you end up using a laptop, this way you'll have everything you need on a single page (3 pages if you download the "MM" and "DMG"). Or you can download the PocketMod version and fold it up so that the entire core set fits in a shirt pocket.

Beyond that, adapt the campaign structure to fit the time you have. Set up a series of independent, episodic mini-adventures that can each be played through in a few hours. Keep it simple and fun.

Using something like Microlite20, all the notes and stats you'd need could be put into a small notebook/journal. This way you don't need to worry about carrying around an expensive piece of electronics that will cause headaches every time you go through security, needs protection from thieves/breaking, and you won't have to rely on a power source.

That still leaves the problem of dice. One solution would be to find, if you can, a small felt-lined box to keep dice in; this could serve as a rolling tray. I bought a wallet a few months ago which came in just such a tin, and it works great.

So in the end, you could end up with a light D&D travel kit which looks like this:

http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b203/Morandir/100_2518.jpg

The tin holds dice and rulebook (the leather-covered thing there is my copy of M20), the journal keeps all your notes and maps, and the whole thing weighs considerably less (and takes up less space) than even a netbook.

...actually, now I'm tempted to do this. Microlite74 plus a graph-paper journal would be perfect for fast-paced dungeon crawling...

Mor

IcyChoc
2009-09-09, 04:10 AM
Wow. I never realised there were so many ways to make the game portable. Thanks for all of the suggestions; felt lined boxes sound like a good way to roll dice quietly. Hey, how about a felt-lined jam jar? :smalltongue:

Thanks for the tips on music. I figured it would have to be used pretty sparingly. Most people I play with would get really annoyed if it was too distracting.

Raum
2009-09-09, 07:43 AM
1. GM's notesI use a simple wiki (http://tiddlywiki.com/) for notes. I highly recommend it!


2. DiceGrab a die roller, ask them to make 100 rolls in advance and write them down, or go diceless. There are lots of options. Might be easier if you used something like Microlite d20 (http://www.tor.com.vhost.zerolag.com/index2.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=2203&print=true) while traveling.


3. Miniatures/Game MatSkip it. Just describe distances as Close / Short / Medium / Long range and use whatever makes sense.

Have a good trip!

IcyChoc
2009-09-10, 12:01 AM
Thanks! That wiki-thingy looks interesting; I may just check that out. :smallsmile: