Cool Tools: D&D 4e Combat Tracker

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.

Video Tutorial

View larger video

Some Great Features

Adding Player Characters to the Library

The first thing we want to do is add some players and npcs to the combat tracker's library. To do this, open up the library by clicking on Library > Open Statblock Library or hit the F8 key.

Now that we are in the library, let's add some player characters from Character Builder Files. Click on the CB Load button.

That will open a file browser window. Select the Character Builder file(s) you would like to add and click on the Open button.

The Character Builder files are now loaded into the library, along with all of the player stats, powers, feats and equipment.

Next, llet's add the players to the battle list. You do this by selecting the characters from the library you would like to add and clicking on the Add button.

This is what it will look like once the characters have been added to the battle list.

Adding NPCs to the Library

The easiest way to add NPCs to the combat tracker is to paste the rich text from the Adventure Tools program. Right click on the monster in the Monster Selection window and select Copy as Rich Text.

Then go back to the combat tracker program and in the library window, click on the Paste button. You might have to click on a small down arrow next to the CB Load button.

At this point, the NPC will appear in the library. You can add it to the battle list just like you would add a player character.

Adding Library Items to an Encounter

Once you have all the creatures you need in your battle list, close the library window. Your creatures will now appear as part of an encounter.

Starting an Encounter

When the time comes, you can start an encounter by click on Encounter > Roll Initiative or hitting the F6 key.

Many players like to roll their own initiative. No worries, click on the player name > Initiative and adjust the number accordingly.

Running Combat

During combat, you can adjust the hit points of a creature by clicking on the creature name > Damage/Healing.

In addition to keeping track of hit points, you can keep track of effects and conditions. To add an effect, click on the Add button next to the word Effects.

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.

The effects will show up when you click on the character's name until the effect is no longer in play.


  • Windows XP or later
  • .NET Framework 3.5 or later (if you have Character Builder or Monster Builder installed, you have this).

Podcast Playlist: Icosahedrophilia

I have to admit, the main reason I decided to start playing D&D is the podcast done by WotC, Penny Arcade, PvP and Wil Wheaton. They didn't take themselves too seriously and had a ton of fun. When I professed this love on twitter, some kind users pointed me to the Icosahedrophilia podcast put out by Chris Heard. Like the other series, this one also features real game play. This might seem boring to some, but I've always been drawn to story telling so I find it incredibly interesting.

What's even better is that Chris takes some time at the end of the episode to explain some of the tools he used preparing and running the game as well as explaining mistakes he's made and the such. Also, usually he'll let us know when the players decide to take the game in a direction he didn't expect and how he then adjusted the story to line up with player expectations. For those looking to create a podcast of their own, Chris sometimes talks about the equipment he uses to produce the podcast.

Story Lines

More information about the Stormhaven campaign, including character descriptions and the names of the players, can be found on the campaign summary page.

There are a few other interesting things on the website that you might be interested in. Chris released his own initiative tracker, FightCard. The program is meant to run through a web browser, but since it runs directly from your hard drive, you don't need an internet connection to use it. In addition to the initiative tracker, Chris has a D&D 4E style guide, a dungeon tiles index, and a list of music tracks for game background music.

Chris can be found on Twitter at @d20philia.

First Glance: Shrouded Agendas for D&D 4E: The Purifiers

Recently, I purchased the Gamers Helping Haiti bundle from DriveThruRPG.com. Over the next few months, my plan is to look a the titles that compose this bundle and write up the bits I find interesting. Since I play and DM 4e currently, I decided to take a look at the title, Shrouded Agendas for D&D 4E: The Purifiers. Published by One Bad Egg, this title is part of their Worldseeds line, setting ideas that the company doesn't intend to fully flesh out on their own.

Description from RPGNow.com

The Shroud has changed the world in many ways, some profound, but others more subtle. This is the story of how the Shroud changed a man’s beliefs without changing his body. A man named Wilhelm ark-Trasser found himself on a quest that led him into the dark heart of the Shroudlands. There he faced the toughest challenge of all: remaining true to his principles in the face of adversity. The Shroud changed him, and he changed the world. Will the Shroud change you?

In general, I really like the idea behind the Worldseeds. I know that One Bad Egg was sold to Highmoon Media in October, but I hope that more people and companies do similar products. My players don't like playing modules, but don't seem to mind cleverly, or not so cleverly, disguised mini-modules or other pre-written content. Beyond the general idea, there are a number of individual features I particularly like about this title. First, they have details for a yearly tournament called The Contest of the Ark, in the format of a skill challenge. For DMs who have been looking for ways to add interesting non-combat, role-playing opportunities, this is a great tool. Likewise, the article adds a new disease, Shroudrot. While DMs might not want to use this particular disease manifestation, the disease description and mechanics are well thought out and detailed, and would provide a great springboard for development of new diseases. I also really enjoyed the NPCs and adventure hooks provided. The NPCs had a fair amount of backstory and information on their motivations and the adventure hooks work well here or as story ideas on their own. Overall, I found it pretty well written and I'll probably using bits and pieces very soon.
If you like the Worldseed for the Shroud, you might also be interested in the other titles in the series.

History Podcasts: Lars Brownworth, the Byzantine Rulers, and Norman Centuries

I'm sure some of you have already heard of Lars Brownworth and his podcast series, but since I'm relatively new, I thought I would share. Lars produced his first podcast series, 12 Byzantine Rulers, while teaching high school history and political science at the Stony Brook School. That series evolved into a book deal with Crown Publishing and the release of his book, Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization. My husband just finished the series this weekend, and I have to admit I am quite impressed with the parts I heard.

Over course of seventeen episodes, Lars spotlights 12 Byzantine rulers in chronological order, while filling in some of the important details between. He details the history of the empire from its first great emperor, Diocletian, to its last, Constantine XI. However, this is no dry recitation of facts and dates, but rather an exploration of the hows and whys of armies, families, political intrigue and diplomacy. Over the course of this podcast series, a lot of our lost history comes to life. Some of the best parts include his description of what it must have been like to the Crusaders from Europe when they first saw the walls and city life of Constantinople. The largest cities they had seen paled in comparison to the city before them and the technologies in the city must have seen quite impressive. Even today, we forget that running water, central heating and air conditioning are not modern inventions only.

In terms of gaming, many of the stories from the empire are great fodder for the enterprising GM. The shared history and experience of this area with the West, including paganism and Christianity, means that while exotic, there is a shared cultural literacy. In addition, a fair amount of the technology from the earlier Roman and Greek civilizations lived on in this place and the ingenuity of the populace created even further wonder. Quite a few opponents feared the legendary Greek Fire, and with good reason, as it could continue to burn, even on water. The Hagia Sopia, the largest cathedral for 1,000 years, and it influenced architecture for even longer. These are just two examples among many that can be used to give a different sort of flair to any game than the traditional Western European Dark and Middle Ages.

However, if the latter is more your style, Lars is producing a series on Norman history, focusing not only on the French and English groups but the Italian ones as well. The few I've heard are just as good as the ones on the Byzantine empire and can be found on the Norman Centuries Podcast website

Gamers Helping Haiti: DriveThruRPG

I know I'm a bit late to the party, but better late than never. DriveThruRPG is running a special promotion. For $20, you get a coupon providing you with over $1000 in RPG titles. A complete list of of titles can be found here. The money goes to Doctors without Borders. If $20 is too much, you can also donate $5 or $10. You won't get the bundle but they will match the donations. More information on those types of donations can be found here. So far, they've raised more than $50,000 in donations. With 12 pages of products, there should be something for everyone. @DaveTheGame mentioned a few standouts in his article on Critical-Hits.com.

Full Press Release

Gamers Help Haiti! DriveThruRPG Offers a Mega-Bundle to Spur Donations

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DriveThruRPG announced a major incentive to the roleplaying gamer community today to incite donations to aid in rescue and recovery in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Called the "Gamers Helping Haiti Bundle," the product includes over a hundred products totaling over $1000.00 in retail value. For a simple donation of $20 - all of which goes to Doctors Without Borders to support their post-earthquake Haiti relief efforts - RPG fans can have this once-in-a-lifetime collection of gaming products.

DriveThruRPG already had opportunities to donate up and running within a day of the disaster. When publishers began asking how they could support the cause, the bundle was created to be an all-inclusive shared effort. Those who donated at the lesser levels won't be left out, however; gamers who have already donated $5 or $10 will be receiving a special coupon code that lets them pay the difference from their initial donation to get the bundle.

"We are humbled by the generosity of both our customers and our publishers," said Sean Patrick Fannon, Marketing and Communications Manager for DriveThruRPG, "all of whom have stepped up at this time of terrible tragedy to offer aid to a desperate people. We are also very proud to facilitate these collective efforts, providing the necessary tools and technology to bring it all together."

More than tools and tech, though, DriveThruRPG is really putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak. "We have always believed in the power of giving and sharing to make the world a better place," said Steve Wieck, President and co-owner of the site. "To that end, we are matching funds with everyone who's making a straight donation at the $5 and $10 level."

There is no set date for terminating the donation efforts, though the bundle will only be available until the end of January.

Anyone wishing more information about this effort, or about DriveThruRPG overall, should contact Sean Patrick Fannon at sean@onebookshelf.com.

Arete: Experience the Greek epic

Arete (pronounced are-E-tay) is a new role playing game from Expy Games based on greek mythology. The designer is Nick DiPetrillo, @DMingNicholas. Nick also wrote Zombie Murder Mystery, Sailing Stormy Waters, and many articles on the Dungeon Mastering blog.

Designed to be Greek

However, that description alone doesn't really do it justice. This product doesn't use the bolt-on approach similar games have used, instead it was designed from the ground up to be a focused on Greek mythology. The game design focused on four principles for creating a Greek feel:

  1. Greek heroes are defined by the size of their actions, not the morality.
  2. Combat in Greek epics is fast, visceral and bloody.
  3. Gods play a constant role in the lives of heroic figures, for better or worse.
  4. Greeks have a unique culture, including elements like blood guilt, guest friendship and proper ritual.

Players are Story-Tellers Too

In addition to designing the game specifically for greek mythology, Nick sought to create a game focused on more cooperative story telling. In fact, players attempt to win narration rights during conflicts. This means that players are given a lot of story telling opportunities. For instance, the player not only indicates that he wants to fib but also gets to create what that lie might be. This can help DMs who are short on time as well as help make the game as exciting for the DM as it is for the players since the DM will never know how the story is going to go. This cooperative element of the game is driven by four more design principles.

  1. The story should be driven by the players and goals of their characters.
  2. The players and game master establish the premise of the game together. From that point on it is the role of the game master to be reactionary to the players and introduce complication to their goals.
  3. Players should compete for glory but not seek to undermine or defeat each other. The characters are all working towards the game goal, they just want to be the most impressive in attaining it.
  4. Even failure should be fun, sending the story in an unexpected direction.

What You Get

When you purchase Arete, you will be able to download a zip file. Once unzipped, you will have 3 pdfs: a character sheet and two versions of the game information, one with artwork and a printer friendly version. The game information itself consists of the following bits:

Table of Contents
- The Making of a Greek Hero?
Conflict Resolution
- The Essence of Arete
- Types of Conflict
- Narration Rights
Character Generation
- Overview
- Abilities
- Traits
- Magic Items
- Goals and Boons
Combat, Injury and Death
- Combat
- Wounds, Recovery and Death
The Culture of Arete
- Ariestea
- Blood Guilt
- Divine Favor
- Gender
Running Arete
- Role of the GM
- Campaign Building
- Setting Obstacles and Scores
Allies and Enemies
- Bestiary
- The Gods

In addition to the 40+ pages of Arete content, people who purchase the book will get lifetime updates, customer support via forums, email or toll-free phone number, and, if you don't like it, there is a 90 day money-back guarantee.

The Company

I haven't had the chance to play this game, but I have purchased other items from Dungeon Mastering and I've contacted Yax (@dmyax) before. I've found Yax to be a great guy and very easy to deal with. Recently I purchased the Dungeon Mastering Tools and realized after that there was a deal that I had missed. I contacted him and I was reimbursed the money I would have saved.

Quick Note and Excerpt

Being female, I often worry about how genders are treated in role-playing games, particularly historically-based ones. Nick dedicates a section of the rules to discussing his use of masculine pronouns in discussing Greek heroes and also gives suggestions one female heroes players might want to use. Finally, he states that if any of the social restrictions in the game would hinder enjoyment, the players should feel free to get rid of those portions of the game. This is often a thorny subject so I'm glad he decided to take it head on.

An excerpt of the first chapter can be found on the Arete game info page.

Spell Book iPhone App by Robertson Games

Basic Information

Stuart Robertson, @robertsongames, released a new iPhone app, Spell Book. More information can be found on his website, Robertson Games

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.

Game Systems

  • Swords & Wizardry
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Original D&D


Title ScreenTitle ScreenMy SpellsMy SpellsIndividual SpellIndividual SpellSpells By Class and LevelSpells By Class and LevelSpell CategoriesSpell Categories

Initial Impressions

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.

D&D Minion - Combat Initiative and Conditions Tracker

@newbiedm recently tweeted about a great new combat initiative and conditions tracker built using Google Apps called D&D Minion. I've been wanting one of these myself so I dug right in.

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.

View larger video

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.

View larger video

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.

Blogs I Love: Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog

This week's post actually includes two blogs, all done by the same person, Michael Shorten a.k.a. @chgowiz. Michael has been playing tabletop RPGs since 1979, when he bought the boxed Basic set. As his personal blog states, he enjoys sharing the fun of original D&D, one game at a time. In addition to his blogs, he is involved in two campaigns, writes reviews on Game Cryer, is an active user of twitter and provides a number of RPG resources on his personal blog. Besides RPGs, Michael is a former amateur stock car driver and he has served in the US Army and US Air Force. While I don't always agree with him, I always enjoy getting his point of view, especially since it tends to involve being creative and doing what seems right, not necessarily what the books say.

Recent Posts

Chicago RPG Examiner's Articles

Recent Posts

Swords & Wizardry

Michael is a big fan of the Swords & Wizardry game by Mythmere Games. As described on their website, S&W is a "retro-clone" of the original version Gary Gygax published in 1974. The makers of the game create products that support free-form roleplaying games, those where there is a light framework of rules instead of a compendium of rules that attempt to cover every situation. With its lighter rules, the goal of the game is to encourage imagination.

Podcast Playlist: Fear the Boot

Fear the Boot (FtB) is a podcast, blog and forum site for discussing tabletop role-playing games. The podcast is released on a weekly basis and is generally about an hour to an hour and a half long. While some of the hosts vary between episodes, they all are pretty opinionated in differing ways but know how to have a civil discussion in the meantime. In addition to their podcast episodes, they have a great blog. I particularly enjoyed the post, NCIS as a model for an adventuring group.

Current Cast

Recent Topics

More Information

Website: http://www.feartheboot.com
Forums: http://www.feartheboot.com/ftb/index.php/forum
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_The_Boot

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

Resources for FAQs



Syndicate content