DM Tools Thread

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Here is the thread to post your DMs Tools.

Brayn's Magic Item Cards w/ Alternate Treasure Table (v 1.1):
IMAGE(http://dc310.4shared.com/img/DI63lfyl/0.8643599342386239/DDE_Season4_Magic_Item_Cards_v.pdf)


Please let me know of any errors or additions that are needed.

Thanks,

Bryan Blumklotz
Here is a link to the Standee thread by GnomishMagicMisshle:

community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...

Since he is maintaining his own thread I figured that folks would want to know where to go.
I'll add some from my previous threads:

Tracking Initiative with Initiative Tents
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This is a favorite of mine for speeding up play. As described here, take construction paper and cut into rectangles about 3" wide and 6" long. Fold in half and on one half write in large print a number. You want numbers 1-12 at a minimum, with 15 being a safe number of cards.

When initiative is rolled, ask for initiative in chunks. "Who is above 20?" "Above 15?" and so on. Each time, hand out the numbers in order, starting with 1. Include your monsters. The end result, shown below, is every PC and monster has a tent showing when they will go. This speeds up play, helps players know that their turn is coming up, and helps everyone have equal tactical footing.




Maps and Tiles
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The supplied maps work really well. The only down-side is really the presence of fold marks, which you can alleviate if the store can keep them unfolded (or rolled in a tube)  between sessions.

In addition, you could recreate them with Dungeon Tiles if you have them. I don't recommend using alternate tiles without your serious consideration, as authors often really look at room size and layout to match the  monsters.

It can be really cool to represent elevations and features. For elevations, craft stores usually have cheap 1" wooden square blocks you can use to represent high areas. If you have dungeon tiles, you can place the tile over them, to keep the same look. You can do the same thing with some features, such as putting blocks under a tile for a dresser or pillar. Pillars can also be found  in wood from craft stores. An example is show here:



It can be fun as a DM to add some  three-dimensional terrain. Naloomi's  workshop has really nice terrain (available painted or unpainted for  reasonable prices). The first picture I posted for initiative tents uses ruins from Naloomi. You can also find sites that provide paper 3-D elements (though these are time and ink intensive), cast mold plaster terrain, and even plastic pieces. Used here and there they can really make for interesting combats and help set the scene. My suggestion is to use a few pieces at a time so you become comfortable with using them without blowing your budget or making the combats too complicated.


Minis
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Feel free to post ideas on minis (with spoiler blocks).

There are many fine places to purchase miniatures. First, consider  supporting your local gaming store - they are hosting D&D  Encounters, they are local (support the local economy, be green), and  they will only be around if they make a profit. For hard-to-find minis  from older sets, there are various places to shop. This  site can be useful for comparing prices. This site is also useful.


PC/Monster Table Tents
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A table tent is a folded piece of  paper (looking like an old fashioned triangular camping tent) upon which you write information describing your PC. They are used by many RPGA living campaign players. They provide a quick capture of what the PC is and often contain a picture. You  can read more about how I use them here. An example Word PC tent  can be downloaded  here. You can find others online or use the ones that come with the kit (depending on the Encounters season).

One fun (though time-consuming) option is to create tents for NPCs and Monsters.  Search the galleries on DDI, and any other digital material (including image searches) for each monster. Paste them in Word, and under them write the name of the monster (if desired). I use two-column format for the page, so that one image is on one column. Then I add spaces so that the images and name are in the bottom half of the page. When you print, cut the page in half vertically so you have each image/name at the bottom of a long strip. Fold in half, and this makes a nice tent. A pro-tip is to also write the name on the top half (in recent versions of Word it is easy to take this second name and flip it upside-down. This way, when you fold the tent the players will see the image and name and you will see the name as well. If you leave a bit of space at the bottoms you can fold the tent over, making it sturdier. This works even better on a heavier weight paper or card stock.

This works well with tracking initiative. You can make tiny tents and place numbers on them (12 is about all you will ever need, but 15 is the safest). During combat, you can put these tiny initiative tents on top of the monster and PC tents. The nice part about this is that everyone knows when each creature will go. "That undead is going to go next, kill it!" And, as a DM, you also know when PCs will act. This puts everyone on equal footing, speeds up play, and enhances tactical play.

If you really want to speed up play, consider placing monster defenses on the monster tents. This is not a practice for everyone, but it means players can easily tell you if they hit or not. This works best if you can trust your players.


Handouts for Use at the Table
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This 4E D&D Combat Cheat Sheet is pretty good at providing useful information on just one page.

For altering encounters, it is really useful to know the expected values for monsters and the skill ranges for each level. It helps you adjust damage down or up on monster powers or add skill challenge steps. The SlyFlourish cheat sheet is great at capturing these standard values.

For new players I really like the Think Outside the Box power card. It really encourages them to try out different things and not just use powers.


On Scaling Down Encounters and Ensuring Fun
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The threads for previous Encounters seasons underscore that there are a lot of DMs out there that feel they must run what is in the adventure very literally. There are also more than a few DMs that want to run the combats as harder than they actually are written.

This is an introductory program. The authors and WotC have made it clear on the forums that the point is to be fun and to attract and retain players. DMs should make sure that they are making this fun and that any increase in challenge is actually desired by the players.

Here is an article that was sent by WotC to all stores running the second season of encounters. It specifically states that DMs are empowered to make changes in the name of fun.

There are a number of ways DMs can scale encounters, even on the fly. If during prep a DM sees that the encounter seems rough, or if the DM knows the table is low on resources, then one of these methods can be used to lower the difficulty. The exact method that works best will depend on personal style. Most DMs employ various methods depending on the situation.

Methods for adjusting the challenge level:
      

  • Before starting, think through what will play best. Will the party appreciate another hard fight? Will they enjoy a medium fight? Will they enjoy an easy fight? Depending on that answer, employ one or more of the following.

  • Treat the party as a "weak" party as listed in the adventure, removing a foe of the level of the fight. You can do this twice if the party is already a weak party (table of 4, for example) and also low on resources. Alternately, apply the scaling rules from the DMG to lower all the monsters by one level. This is done by applying a -1  to attacks and defenses to all monsters and removing 8 HPs from each monster.  (Technically, the HP value is based on role, but 8 is a good average).

  • Another way to reduce difficulty is to look at monster powers that might be overly strong. These tend to be powers that do multiple dice of damage or have strong effects (daze, stun). If the power recharges, increase the rate of recharge (make a tough power that recharges on 4-6 only recharge on 5-6). If the power is at-will but very strong, consider giving it a 3-6 or 4-6 recharge.

  • An alternate way to deal with strong monster powers that deal damage is to reduce the damage by one die. If a creature normally does 2d10+4 and that seems too brutal, bring it down to 2d8+4. You can instead remove the static modifier (2d10+4 becomes 2d10). Each has slightly different mathematical outcomes, which you can get a feel for over time or do the math on average, minimum, and maximum damage if desired. (2d10+4 is 6-24dmg, average of 15. 2d8+4 is 6-20, avg of 13. 2d10 is 2-20, avg of 11.)

  • If your players lost all their dailies or surges, consider using some method to refresh them. The equivalent of the DMG2's Energy Node terrain power (p59) can be fun. A free action  arcana check can identify that the square(s) will recharge an encounter power or 2 healing surges with a minor action - this can make a big difference. If your party is really hurt, it could even be used to recharge a daily... but make sure this is needed.

  • You can always be less efficient with monsters. Don't use the best power every time. Move to a dangerous position. Provoke OAs. Communicate what the monster will be doing next round via a challenge. These minor steps give the party the breathing room to get back into the fight.




Using Minions Effectively
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This blog by Chris Sims is a very good read on how to use minions well in your encounters. Because DDE DMs can alter encounters with minions, this guidance can be useful in determining how best to shape a session with minion so it will be fun for your players. It also provides guidance on the common feeling a DM can have that minions die too easily vs. how players often feel empowered by minions dying.


Understanding Disease as a Mechanic
A review of how disease work:
Certain monsters have diseases. As part of a power, they inflict disease. In a single combat you could easily have more than one disease and players could be infected by several diseases. Lycanthrope encounters are a great example.


A disease has no effect when it first affects you in a combat. This can be hard to understand from a reading of the DMG. Because of the way the  rules work, the disease is only a factor for later combats and never for  the combat where infection took place.

At the end of the combat where you were infected you make a saving throw and apply the Initial effects of the disease if you fail. This then affects the next combats/encounters.  

Once the party takes an extended rest, you check progression. Everyone makes an Endurance check (a PC can also make a Heal check to help one PC throughout the extended rest). Any disease has two DCs. The lower one  is the one you have to hit to stay at that level and not worsen. The  second DC is to improve. (Several MM1 and DMG1 diseases have received DC Errata).  It is very easy for diseases to see-saw back and forth over many extended rests. You might get worse on the first roll, then back to Initial, then back, etc. Eventually you either are cured or reach the Final State. Once you reach the Final State, there is generally no cure outside of a Cure Disease ritual.

Specifically to DDE, the encounter may have rules that override these general rules. Check the text of the encounter and use these rules if no exceptions are presented.


On the Nature of Posting on Forums and Helping DDE Develop:
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It is really easy to post scathing reviews of things we don't like. The sad truth is that such posts tend to do the following:


  • The people you are trying to reach will be defensive, instead of receptive

  • You portray the program as negative, discouraging others that have yet to try it from being involved

  • You encourage others to be negative instead of positive


The bottom line is that negative posts often accomplish little. Also, keep in mind that the RPG industry is a fragile one. The history of RPG companies is one of them losing a lot of money and struggling to find ways to create profit. The following articles may help provide perspective.


If you want to help something be better and bigger, be positive and help it grow. 


General DMing Threads
In addition to the above, here are some  useful threads for DMs.
Useful  Links for Dungeon Masters
A WotC group for trading ideas on Skill Challenges. You  can also share ideas relevant to D&D Encounters here.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Thanks alphastream! Great links.

Here is another, if you are learning the game or have newbies at the table, here are some awsome condition cards by Weem (photoshop master and cool D&D geek)...

www.theweem.com/2010/10/25/weems-updated...

These have been updated to the rules compendium changes...
Here are all the pre-gens as single page sheets:
www.4shared.com/file/dh9ixmc-/Season4_1-...

Also, Character Builder now has the pre-gens on the opening page, look for the first six images with the E image on them. Just click on them and it will import them to your save area.

Bryan Blumklotz
ArmyVetDM posted some fine initiative and condition tracking goodness:
community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons...

BTW, anyone with a tool can post up here.

Thanks,

Bryan Blumklotz
Ok, I finally got everything done. Because I interpret the module such that the jellies turn into medium creatures when they split, I've included four of those. If you want to do otherwise, you can print two sheets, cluster the four mediums together to make one creature, or grab some large monster tokens.

Once again, since the encounter is simplified to the point where it's pretty nonsensical to simpli/complexi-fy the fight as per the normal rules, I've opted to add/subtract about a fifth of their health since that's pretty simple and also translates well into something to put in the rest of the whitespace (whereas more creative ideas would require a whole new page or more, which you probably don't want if you're just like, "Hey! I want my standees! And I want my HP tracker! And I want them now!")

Also, because all the non-standee parts of the standee page are pretty much le horrible this week (and maybe also because you all are such cool kids), I've included a special suprise for everyone. You guys have been asking for it, so there you go. Pay no attention to the mossy yellow-green grass standing out against the bluish fields of Inverness (oh, and that whole fountain thing, too I guess. Yeah...) nor the lines and reflections you may see as a result of scanning textured tiles. All of this comes to you thanks to the wonderful people person over at PyMapper and its tileset creation feature, which unfortunately didn't want to play very nice until I managed to snatch his stuffed bunny rabbit and hold it hostage over a barrel fire.
Woot thanx GMM. That will help tonight.
Wielding a Bohemian Ear Spoon can be fun and informative.
Indeed, thank you very much GMM.
awesome!!, just what I was looking for.  Thank you Thank you

Ok, it seems as though Wizards has removed the "view full size" feature from the photo galleries (either that, or I'm too dumb to find it), so I'll have to post links to you all in this thread for each image.


  • Standees - contains zombie quantity four (4) and skeleton quantity ten (10)

  • Extras - contains HP tracker, extra zombie quantity one (1), and extra skeleton quantity nine (9)

  • Tracker - contains one (1) HP tracker


The first page should give you everything you need as long as your table will be able to burn through the minions quickly enough and you don't mind losing the tracker. The second has some extra zeds and skellies in case you're into that kind of thing, and I've put a tracker here due to lack of space on page 1. Finally, behind door number 3, we have a lone tracker for those who want one if they're only printing the first page.

For the skeletons, remember that they always act on an initiative count of 15 (beacause apparently I did not when I was putting the tracker together Embarassed).
Great work, thank you.

Removing the "view full size" link- Evil. 
You are the man! Errr... Gnome! 
Once again awesome work!!
Thank you, and great job as usual.  I just wanted to add though I prefered your new method of posting.  I liked being able to print the HP tracker seperately.  Normally I just load the standees into an image viewer, then cut and paste the HP tracker, but the seperate link made it easier and cleaner.
here my version of the forest map

www.4shared.com/photo/yS0S5MHM/Winter_fo...

Its not exact but it should do.

here's also my first standees for session 5

www.4shared.com/photo/goZoiyw6/encounter...
Alright, it looks like the "view full size" link is back, so go ahead and take a peek inside my gallery for the latest set of standees. I took some artistic liberty with Aldus this week (a cleric, let alone one who worships Moradin, in leather?! BAH!). Also, for all the hype the Abyssal Plague has been getting as this year's crazy awesome, world-spanning event, there sure isn't a whole lot of artwork floating around. Sure, there's a few pictures of not-so-humanoid things, but there really aren't too many depicting people hit by the plague. In all my travels, I found only two such figures: Dark Son Crystalshoulders and  Miss Scarlet Lightningface. Of the two, I opted for the latter, since the former was a bit too small and didn't really have clothes (or a face, for that matter). So, if your players ask why all the loggers seem dressed a wee bit inappropriately for such an occupation or why ALL of them are female, you can either tell them that they're the wives of the recently deceased foresters back at Inverness, who went off into the woods to deliver lunch–maybe even a picnic!–to their husbands or you can just handwave them off as lumberjacks.

Edit: I just put up an alternate set of standees just in case people wanted more options. The artwork is from the cover of Don Bassingthwaite's The Temple of Yellow Skulls and admittedly, the figure is a bit more monstrous than I'd imagine the foresters to be, but at least it has axes and is still closely related to the plague.
Darkraven - thanks for the poster map.  I made it into a PDF, in case anyone wants to print it out as 25 individual pages, then tape them together.

www.4shared.com/document/RumSToTJ/forest...
Sorry my bad, I did not even think about posting the poster version, I just did a 9 page version, its prints out pretty close to 1 inch squares -  put it together last night and put it in a poster sleeve so I could draw on it. It worked out pretty good in my session today.  I would really like to see a pic of your poster, it should be huge! If I can find a camera to use, I will post of pic of mine.

Here's my version


www.4shared.com/document/D0kx7Khh/winter...
My apologies for being late this week. Here they are.
I don't have my maps handy - is the battlemap on the bottom of page 29 in the box?  If not, does anyone have a PNG or JPG of the full-size image?
Yeah, it's on the same set of maps as last week's encounter, El Rico.
Alright, we have some standees for tomorrow. I've gone ahead and made things all complex on you. Just like the last few weeks, there's a separate HP tracker for those of you who have miniatures/alternate representations/M&Ms/etc. and just want colored rectangular boxes (I'll even throw in some numbers and lines and stuff for free!). Then, if you either have a bag of holding in real life or just want to save ink whilst wasting paper, there's a set with a tracker and three not-so-justicarian-looking Phantom Brigade Justicars. If you still have everything from last week, that and this should cover you with some room to spare (Yay, extra Armigers!). And for everyone else, there's a full page with all the goodies you need if keeping track of all those little bits of paper for more than an evening or finding something else to represent enemy combatants is too difficult (HEY! Where'd all my  Brigadiers [of various flavors] run off to?!?! They were just here).

It seems as though artwork depicting ghostly warriors is rather scarce (darn ghostbusters and their efficient ghost bustin'), and I've already burned through most of what I've found. But fear not! For I have a couple of surprises in store for you that I think you'll like (and there's enough fine art to last out the rest of the season {for ghosts, at least. We just sold out of everything else, sorry. And now that I think about it, you'll have to go south on I-367 for about 241.9 miles before you'll reach Pendwall; they should have some stocked at the local amateur's gallery there}).
For anyone looking for a little larger map to play on, if you dont mind putting it together.

www.4shared.com/document/zvr5uheT/2_3d.h...


here is a slightly different image of it

www.4shared.com/photo/9qZMHFFW/2_3.html

This week's standees and tracker are up.












Looking for leads on artwork for orcish spirits.
Ok, the stuff for 3-9 is ready. Since artwork for ghostly orcs is apparently pretty scarce, I've settled for a hobgoblin I painted blue because hey, if it's blue, that means it's a ghost. Mr. Gob also didn't appreciate me making him look like one of the Blue Man Group.
Ok, the stuff for 3-9 is ready. Since artwork for ghostly orcs is apparently pretty scarce, I've settled for a hobgoblin I painted blue because hey, if it's blue, that means it's a ghost. Mr. Gob also didn't appreciate me making him look like one of the Blue Man Group.

It's the Half Smurf template.
Duergar Zombies! Duergar Ghouls! Flaming Duergar Skeletons!
They're all right here, and just for you!
Come, we must make haste to the monastery!
My apologies for everything being so late this week.
No complaints from me.  You always do good work.
Check out 4etransmission for DM-ing tips & tricks, as well as sample characters, reviews, and other exciting features!
 


Okeedukie-a, der verger ere-a reedy fur yuoo ell a beet ierleeer thees veek. Zeere's three-a ooff iech type-a su yuoo cun peeck und chuuse-a vheech oones tu use-a besed oon yuoor gruoop's cumpuseeshun. Su gu oooot und hefe-a sume-a foon veet zeem!

Börk, börk, börk!


GMM, you grow sillier by the day.
GMM, You Rock!

Thanks for all your awesome helpful stuff this season! 

One question though, what level is the Swedish Chef Monster? 
The new standees are up! Since scalability is a bit of an issue in encounters such as this one, I've decided that I won't try and stifle your creativity. Go ahead and do whatever you want!
Although, if you still need some ideas, you can try any combination of scaling Actherimos' HP up/down by 20%, adding/subtracting minions, de-minionizing, having some ghost buddies show up if someone isn't asked to dance, and/or fiddling on with the roof (pg. 52).

And as for the Swedish Chef, Clayfun, he's a level 5 minion artillery.
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