View Full Version : Gamemastering Utilities and Helpers

Gamemaster Pro
3 March 2002, 11:53 AM
What do you guys use at the table for assistance in running your game smoother, as counters, and for charts, etc.?

I'm curious to know what other GMs use. I personally use a grid that I've laminated, with dry erase markers. This makes map making easy, combat flows smoother because you erase, and don't have to keep track of where counters are. I also use poker chips as reward-type items. White poker chips are worth 10 XP, Blue - 25, Red - 50. I give these out to people for good/clever roleplaying, kills, and other things at the table.

Another item I use is my trusty GM Binder :) I keep al my house rules, internet print outs, ettera, web enhancements, and etc. in there. I also keep my groups character sheets in there, extra starchip/racing sheets, and my own adventure notes.

I think that about sums up what I use at the table. What about you guys?

3 March 2002, 12:44 PM
I also use the poker chips, tho the rewards are a little higher.

One thing I've found invaluable is a document with all of the character's stat-blocks. Nazgul's character generator program can generate the stat-blocks, and I copy them into one unified document - this lets me make rolls in secret, such as Spot, Listen or Sense Motive.

3 March 2002, 04:45 PM
What are my GM tools?

Well pen & paper are the obvious. Always scibbling, and I need something to lean on, and that is always my trusty old D&D Monster Manual (although I've never played D&D).

Other dice, not just D6. I use the D10, D12, D20 etc. for creating random results.

Most of my combat is in the head. The players have actually said that they prefer to visualise the combat for themselves rather than move counters around a board.

2nd & 3rd GM screens for the tables. I also like to keep the booklet from the 3rd screen handy as it has plenty of the regular vehicle stats ready to hand.

3 March 2002, 06:35 PM
to appease the old 40k'er in all of us we use 40k miniatures as combat tokens and tend to rely on placement order with spare dice indicating npc characters.

for utility i keep a notepad handy where i track initiative order and i have the handy GM BINDER O' DOOM where i keep all relevant game material and notes. for single adventure i tend towards document envelopes and manilla folders to keep stuff organized.

i have a second binder full of floorplan descriptions item placement and various other assorted pieces of equipment (like what i get off the internet and what we homebrew).

at home i have an old 486 that i use to store all information and character stuff (background, events, etc) and to keep track of events in the game, NPC stats on excel and anything i have on hardcopy has been transferred to the database. nice to have ten years of roleplaying stuff in one spot that takes up no more space than a personal computer (as opposed to the fifteen packing boxes i used to have in my garage).

also i use dry erase markers and old acetate sheets for keeping track of vitality and wound points.

3 March 2002, 08:00 PM
I use of course Pen and Paper, dice of all shapes and sizes, a binder full of internet stuff, NPC stats, house rules, and notes, a GM screen and a laptop with key player stats (defense, XP, race, save bonuses, attack bonuses) and currently in use NPC stats. Also a few SW Gamer magazines for species stats and deckplans.

4 March 2002, 03:05 AM
I have my om binder full of the relevent pages of the rule books that I want to reference frequently (You can make copies and hole punch them or do what I do, cut up the books 8o and then get some of the page protectors from your favorite office store) That way I always have what I'm looking for around. I also make up several sets of generic characters (similar to the archtypes presented in the sourcebooks but more personalized to what my game needs).
Well actually I have two binders, one is the above abomination and then other is my sourcebook.

4 March 2002, 08:26 PM
I keep a summary page listing all the party members and their most important stats. I also use this page to keep track or other items of interest relating to the characters...damage, xp awards, hero points, etc.

I have spreadsheets which I have various npc's and ships and vehicles listed. I print out what I need for play ahead of time.

For tabletop, we use dry erase boards, with micro machines and other stuff.

I have a running xp and treasure log, and print it as necessary. Most of the players have computer (excel) based character sheets. I print out some maps...most of the stuff is just done by hand.


Emperor Xanderich II
8 March 2002, 01:09 AM
When it's my turn to GM, the players can always tell, as there's reems of paper spewn about the floor, with me frantically trying to find the player handouts (which I probably hadn't yet printed) amongst them.

We use computer game boxes to roll our dice in, and I use my AD&D dungeon masters screen.

There is a piece of paper next to the hifi with the track listings on it, and if I want to use the computer (eg I used one of the cut-secens from X-Wing Alliance to show the fleet jumping to hyperspace), then it remains on with the monitor off till the time comes.

We've never really bothered with figures, or a table for that matter, though we do draw occasional maps.

Oh, and we turn off the phone in my room!!

8 March 2002, 06:40 AM
When I run Star Wars, I keep a number of things handy:

<LI>Two CDs burned from my Star Wars soundtrack collection: one "low gear" and one "high gear." I keep the cases on top the CD player so I can find the musical selection I need quietly and without fuss.

<LI>Index cards with relevant Force skills, complete with tables, printed on them. There are a lot of Force skills used in my games, and nothing vexes me more than having to flip through the rulebook to find Whup-Ass Table 12 or what have you. I keep these cards to myself and hand them out to players when they use the relevant skills.

<LI>A "communal dice box." Many of my players either haven't invested in dice, or frequently forget to bring them. I keep a big box of spare dice in the middle of the play area for people to pull from as needed.

<LI>A "communal pencil box" for these same purposes.

<LI>Extra clipboards. Someone always forgets theirs.

<LI>I sometimes use a white-board and dry erase markers, though more often I'll just grab some scratch paper and scrawl a quick map on it.

<LI>Toy blasters and lightsabers, for those occasions when the players really want to act out what they're doing -- and also to "shoot" players who are getting out of line. :)

9 March 2002, 09:13 AM
when i Gm ive got a few standbys that always make an appearance :

my bottomless "crown royal " bag of dice . you never know who will forget dice.

a yellow legal-sized notepad for various scribbles and NPC on the fly if you will.

my ROTJ lunch box full of star wars lego figures for plotting battle movement and such.

of course my binder which some of my players have dubbed " the evil binder" it has all my NPC's , stats story arc summaries and all the various leafletts a GM picks up over time.

and a CD player with the soundtracks to all the SW movies , indiana jones , aliens , and NIN " the fragile" currently ( the fragile inspired the campaign) .

9 March 2002, 07:01 PM
* my brain
* pen and paper ;) (+ extra ones)
* most of the books we got

well, if we still had the star wars figures (dont know what to call them ;) but the same as with 40K but with Star Wars instead) we would probably use them instead, but using A4 papers with 5x5MM squares is enough to draw up where the action is and how it folds.

Reverend Strone
9 March 2002, 07:16 PM
Here's my bundle of tricks for a typical game session-

* I use a quick reference folder which has easy to grab stats for all my PCs and NPCs aswell as any equipment or vehicles that are likely to feature in the game.

* Dry erase markers and a whiteboard gridded gaming surface that I can quickly draw relevant terrain or building floorplans upon.

* A large stash of cardboard illustrated gaming pieces with colour images of all the characters, vehicles and creatures on them, each mounted on Games workshop miniature stands for use in tracking relative positions. Of these, I have one A box with all the pieces I know I'll be needing this session and another B box with a whole bunch of characters and critters handy incase things go differently than I expect.

* I have a bunch of flip file folders for quick reference of weaponry, skills, feats, equipment, vehicles, creatures etc, all categorised by type (as others have said, it's a pain having to think "gee, now what page was that on? or in which SW Gamer mag did i see the stats for that gun?").

* Pens and paper.

* I generally have a bunch of illustrations or photographs showing locations, vehicles or characters that I use during the game to show where they are or what they see.

* Where appropriate, a large scale overhead map of the area the characters are in featuring what they know of the area.

* A similar version of the above map, but corrected for GM eyes only with what actually exists in the said area.

* Soundtrack CDs all cued up and ready to roll at the appropriate times.

* Okay- you guys are going to love this one- At the beginning of each campaign chapter (1 out of every 3 or 4 game sessions) I begin the game by playing the SW opening titles theme and have typed out a scrolling intro text relevant to the day's adventure setting (ala 'It was a dark time for the rebellion...). while the music plays and my players roll around on the floor laughing, I drag the scrolling text gradually away from them and then as the music floats into the movie specific minute or so immediately after the regular SW fanfare, I describe the camera POV as it drifts down to whatever planet they're on or ship thundering overhead, finally settling as the music finishes on the characters as they begin the adventure. It just sets the scene so nicely and gets everyone thinking Star Wars. I tell you, they laugh when I do it, but every single one of my players always remarks later on in private "hey that was ####ing cool man".

* Finally, a ton of food and drink. You've got to feed the team well to have them functioning at their peak. Often if things aren't going totally smoothly, or if the group isn't meshing as well as I'd like, I crack open a bottle of wine. Unless you've tried it, you probably don't realize how instantaneously this has the effect of relaxing and taking the edge off the group. It can really smoothe a gaming session. Of course, you don't want the players drunk, but a single glass seems to do very well. I wouldn't advocate much more than a glass or two. Drunk players are tedious in the extreme.

9 March 2002, 07:28 PM
accessories ... not needed that much anymore since we're into starwars enough, have read enough books and seen the movies so many times that we almost can quote it backwards ;) ..

since me and my players got enough imagination something brief will usually be enough (unless we go somewhere new, but weve been through the galaxy back and fourth a couple of times, even all duros would be surprised), + a quick drawn map if there is action to be expected.