I've been using the D&D 4e combat tracker for awhile now and I thought it would be handy if I came up with a short video tutorial on how to use some of the features. I'd like to apologize in advance on two fronts. First, I'm a programmer, not a media professional, so I'm not the most polished speaker. In addition, my main Windows machine is a great little netbook, but running the combat tracker, adventure tools and the screencast software all at the same time made some of the graphics run a bit slow. That said, I hope you find the information useful.
Some Great Features
Adding Player Characters to the Library
Adding NPCs to the Library
Adding Library Items to an Encounter
Starting an Encounter
This triggers a popup with the UI for adding an effect. You can select a previously defined effect or call it whatever you wish. In addition, you can set the duration, source and target. When you are done, click on the Save button.
- Windows XP or later
- .NET Framework 3.5 or later (if you have Character Builder or Monster Builder installed, you have this).
My husband recently bought me an HP Mini 311 as a Christmas gift. I'd been wanting a netbook for quite awhile, especially since my laptop hard drive is pretty full and I didn't have a dedicated Windows machine. Besides a 15" MacBook Pro is a bit large for our gaming table and having a digital copy of my gaming notes will improve my DMing experience. After a fair bit of research and a few anxious moments, I decided on a HP Mini 311. The reasons I purchased it are pretty simple:
- Larger display for a netbook at 11.6" on the diagonal.
- NVIDIA ION Graphic Card
- Decent size hard drive and ram (I got the 1025NR with 250GB hard drive and 2GB RAM
- Pretty nice screen resolution at 1366x768
- Windows 7
- Decent battery life (I got at least 4 hours of constant use and pretty bright screen while at Starbucks the other day)
- Decent size keyboard (92% of full)
I've been using the machine since Tuesday, and I have to admit I'm quite happy with it. One of the minor annoyances was quite easy to deal with. The touch pad can be quite sensitive, especially when tapping is turned on, so I turned off the touch pad tap capabilities. The other annoyances just have to do with getting used to Windows after a long voluntary absence. As for playing D&D with the machine, I believe this is going to make running games much easier. I already have the WoTC Character Builder and Adventure Tools installed as well as a number of other tools such as Softrope. Obsidian Portal, Dungeon Mastering Tools and D&D Minion are all bookmarked and ready to go. I can use them and Google wave and docs on any machine to prep my game and access it all easily on the mini during the game. And I'm pretty confident that the machine will handle most of what I throw at it given I play WoW on it as well.
Overall I think netbooks in general and this one in particular are going to become more and more prevalent at the gaming table. I'm excited to see where this all goes.
Spell Book is a handy quick reference for all the spells you'll need for your game, organized by name, class and level. You can also save your favorite spells to your personalized spell book to find more easily during your game.
- Swords & Wizardry
- Labyrinth Lord
- Original D&D
First, I need to admit that I don't play any of the games this app is aimed at. However, I'm an avid iPhone user and feel that I still have some insight to give. The current application offers cleric (levels 1-7) and wizard (levels 1-9) spells. It's pretty easy to find the spells you want, either by class and level or alphabetically. Once you find the spells you want, you can "save" them which adds them to the My Spells listing. A few features that I think would be pretty nice to have are:
- The ability to have multiple spell profiles (set up by character).
- The ability to save custom spells.
Overall, I think it's a nice reference for players.
When you first visit D&D Minion, the screen is pretty blank. For those who don't want to log in using a Google login, the options are pretty sparse. You can add and remove PCs and NPCs, set initiative order and conditions, pick random PCs and NPCs and roll a d20. Entering the initiative on the left reorders the entire list and right clicking under the status column allows you to set the current conditions. Great stuff all around, but not earth shattering.
However, once you login, you can see how useful this application really is. Logged in users can create campaigns and encounters, permanently saving the PC and NPC groupings. When you sign in, the PCs for your currently active campaign will automatically appear and you can add NPCs by using the Actions > Add from encounter menu option.
There are definitely some things about it that weren't obvious to me out of the box, such as right clicking on different areas bringing up menus. For instance, I didn't get right away that I could edit saved characters by right clicking on them. Those are little things and a quick screen cast or screen shots could help with that. I also wish it could easily work with my Dungeon Mastering Tools account.
A number of my players really love these card protectors. They cut out the cards provided as part of the character sheet from the Wizards of the Coast character generator and place them inside these protective sleeves. The colors allow them to easily distinguish between the at-will, encounter, daily and item power cards and a little scotch tape allows them to write on the protectors with pencil. Here are the colors my players tend to use and how the color code them. They use green for at-will powers, black for daily powers, red for encounter powers, and gold for item cards.
Dungeon Mastering Tools
I used this for the first time last night. Created by the great folks over at Dungeon Mastering, this set of DM tools allows you to quickly create and organize your monsters, hazards, magic items, encounters and other bits of your game. For my game, it was great having that information all in one place. In full-screen mode for the encounters, I can rearrange the stat blocks in initiative order and I didn't have to keep track of a bunch of little pieces of paper. Another really nice feature is that it's possible to copy the information from these tools into Obsidian Portal.
While I plan on using the tool in the future, there are a couple of downsides. The fullscreen mode doesn't save your changes if you have to close the browser or move to another page. It would be great if it could do that so I could have most of it set up before the game and just quickly reorder things once my players roll initiative. Additionally, it would be great if it could keep track of the monster hit points for me too. I had to grab a sheet of paper to keep track of that.
I've never been a huge fan of the GIMP, but then again I find PhotoShop pretty hard to use as well (I'm a developer not a designer). However, it's pretty hard to beat free and the map drawing tutorial on NewbieDM has me itching to try it. Besides drawing maps, GIMP can help you with a number of your graphics needs, including creating your own tokens, creating fancy handouts and tweaking old maps.
Some GIMP Tutorials
Open Design Adopt-A-Soldier Program
Yesterday was Veteran's Day here in the U.S. and while we have our veterans and soldiers on our minds, I wanted to share a really nice program with you. The Adopt-A-Soldier Program allows sponsors to purchase a Kobold Quarterly subscription for an active member of the military. The recipient will receive a four-issue subscription (pdf + print) as well as a free copy of New Gods of Mankind, from Dark Skull Studios. Role-playing games are popular among those who serve our country and I think this is a great way to show them that we care.
GameMastery Combat Pad
I already added this item to the Christmas list I sent my parents (by the way, Google Wave is pretty neat for stuff like that). The GameMastery Combat Pad is a great tool for dungeon masters as it helps easy track initiative order and notes during combat. The board itself is a wet and dry erasable board with a steel core so magnets will stick right to it. It comes with 8 player magnets (blue), 8 monster magnets (black), 4 non-player character magnets (green), and 2 each of the round arrow, turn arrow and next turn magnets. There is also a magnet booster pack available. Along with this tool, I also asked for small colored magnet markers thinking they would probably be useful for monitoring conditions and the like in addition to the magnets we use on the game table. One of the reviewers on the Paizo site showed how he used double-sided tape to attach the pad to a $2 Target picture frame so it could stand up on its own and everyone at the table can see it. He also explained that he uses magnetic tape to create personalized magnets for each of his player characters.
GameMastery Flip-Mat Basic
I've owned two of these flip-mats for a few months now and I love them. Unlike my larger battlemat, there are no worries about which markers I use or how quickly I can clean it off. I've had a map drawn on one of these for months and it came off easily. The only downsides of these versus my Chessex battlemat is that they aren't quite as big and they aren't quite as flat. However, I think their strong points more than make up for that. They fold down to 8 x 10 inches and are easily transportable. For DMs who travel to the game location, this means that the map can be drawn before you arrive and placed out on the table. A number of different marker types can be used, including dry erase, wet erase and permanent marker. In addition, I find them much easier to store than my Chessex mat.
Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles
This is more along the lines of my Geek Toys (Or things I want to work into my game) post. This set of wooden puzzles are meant to be solved sequentially, although it's possible to solve them in any order. There will be a total of seven of them, with each of them are based around great moments in science and history. From the description, I believe hints are provided. Some players are really good at role playing or and some are good at tactics, but the game can be a bit light on ways to engage puzzle solvers. Successfully completing one of these puzzles might help unlock a big secret or plot point and hints could be obtained through skill challenges.
- Davinci's Secret - The Clue
Break the codes which will help recover the Secret Scroll that is entombed within DaVinci's greatest mystery, unearthing the clues to Puzzle 2...'The Equation'.
- The Equation
Establish a base by arranging the wooden puzzle pieces within the boundaries. Follow by engaging a piece of DaVinci's Secret to decipher the scientist's formulas which must precede Puzzle 3... 'Legend of the King'.
- 3. Legend of the King
With fragments bestowed by 'The Equation', join the quest to liberate the legendary scroll which in turn will extricate the guide to exploring Puzzle 4...'The Enigmatic Temple'.
- The Enigmatic Temple
According to "Legend", there is but one way to explore this sacred site. Sequestered within the temple walls are blueprints needed to interpret the mystic 'Pillars of Atlantis'.
- Pillars of Atlantis
Divide and align these fallen pillars for guidance towards 'Carta Blanca'. Plans to rebuild are at hand, yet no part of 'The Enigmatic Temple™' can reconstruct the entity.
- Carta Blanca
Map your points carefully to expose 'Carta Blanca's mysterious hidden clues as these determining details will sustain you on your final approach to uncovering the greatest mystery of all - 'Secrets of the Pyramid'.
- Secrets of the Pyramid
Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Burst and Blast Templates
One of the guys in my gaming group, @TheMikeKatz, bought these burst and blast templates and they are pretty useful. They help us to easily know if a particular target is within reach and we can leave the burst squares on the table to signify areas affected by lingering spells. The same company also makes condition tile sets to help track conditions but we don't own these and I'm not sure how they work in actual game play. Having the color tie to the player rather than the condition helps with the issue of remembering who exactly caused the condition and makes it easier to say things like, "Hey, it's the end of your turn, do any of these conditions go away?"
Yes, they are expensive. But even more importantly, they are freaking awesome. The envy of many a DM, Dwarven Forge sets help answer simple questions like, are there any candles in the room, where exactly are those pits of lava, and are there any girls there? These sets aren't for everyone as some people would rather be limited by their imagination instead of the amount of money they have and whether or not the piece they want is available. But for the rest of us, we either already own them or continue to drool. Mike Shea, @SlyFlourish, has some great tips for incorporating them into your games. And if you haven't seen Gabe's post on using mirrors and lasers, you need to check it out now. We'll still be here when you get back.
Ok, this last one isn't quite fair as it's only really available to Google Wave users, but it's still awesome and I just had to gush about it. Daniel Clery, @exedore6, created a Google Wave gadget that allows one to create a virtual battlemap. More details on Fighty are available via the Save vs. Geek blog but these sorts of hacks are exactly why I love my industry so much.