DM "Flowchart"

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As I am new to DM-hood, I am always worried that I'm going to forget a step during and between each of the players' turns. How do you guys keep track of all the steps and information?
I'd like to offer insight, but I'm not quite sure what you mean by "steps". Like, condition tickers and immediate action usage?
Yes. I was essentially looking for things like who needs to do a save, moving all your monsters, and the ilk, and I realize that for a lot of things you just have to rely on the players. I've never run a game for a group bigger than two, and it was a bit overwhelming even then. I play in a local hobby shops weekly Pathfinder game and I make a point to study how the DM handles situations, but it seems like a lot to keep track of.
It can be a lot to keep track of at first. It's one of those unavoidable aspects to many tabletop games. It becomes easier with practice, but it's not something you have to go at alone either. Some DMs put one of the players in charge of noting down conditions and the like for them so they can worry about other things. Then they can check that as needed for a quick reminded You could try that so as to lessen your work load until you're at a place where you're comfortable enough to try and add more to your own plate. It's also helpful to not try and keep it all in your head if you can help it. A spiral notebook and a pencil suffice for tracking, and it's easier with something like a laptop computer. People with smart phones could probably find a condition tracker app of some kind too. It's mostly about how you go about doing the work that really makes it less or more in the long run.

Hope this helps. Happy Gaming
Thanks for the help! I always feel like I should take care of all the number-crunching, and it probably would help to do some delegating. 
I print bad guys on individual sheets and make notes directly on the sheets, like current hitpoints, penalties, if they've used an ability, etc. I can also then group them based on encounters, so I might have three manilla file folders at the table, each one for a different encounter.

We put initiative order on a big white board everyone can see, so the whole room knows who goes when. All of my bad guys use the same initiative, unless there are say two groups who are opposed with the heroes in between.
You definitely need to make the players responsible for a good deal of this stuff. Things like making saves, conditions affecting them, etc. are all their responsibility. If you have cheating players who won't "remember" that they're granting combat advantage, well, get better players.

Honestly, with all the stuff a DM has to do, there's even more you can farm out to the players. Have a trap that fires every other round? Ask a player to keep track of it (after the trap has emerged, so it doesn't ruin the surprise the first time). Sometimes you can even get a player to manage initiative for you. 
I generally have the player at my right handle the initiative. Another thing that we do a lot is forego tracking intiative all together. We still roll, but whoever got the highest, we simply start with that person and go clokcwise ot counter-clockwise around the table, DM included. That way, it's one less thing we have to track and everyone knows when their turn is coming up. I leave it up to the person going first which direction around the table we're going to go.

As far as tracking everything else... Colored poker chips work well. They generally fit nicely underneath the minis and the color coding makes it's easy to see who's effected by what at a glance. You and your players can establish what colors represent what, but generally red is bloodied.

If worse comes to worse and everyone is caught up in the action of the encounter and you forget a few things, who cares. If you were so caught up in having fun around the table that you forgot an ongoing effect, then that's a good sign in my opinion. It means you're doing your job as a DM and making the game fun! The rules are guidelines, not rules.

Happy gaming.


First, have the players help you.

For conditions, we use little plastic rings off of bottles and jugs, each with a tiny sticker on them.  The stickers were simply a couple of pages of envelope labels I printed different colored words on like Marked1, Marked2, Cold, Fire, Poison, Immob, Restr, Quarry1, etc.   These sit in a jar on the table, and are dropped over the miniature when needed.

For initiative and turns, use a visual aid.   Some use little cards, we use a dry-erase board with two different colored markers, one for the PCs and one for the monsters.   We also use the same initiative for each monster type; so all goblin cutters go at the same time, all goblin warriors at the same time, etc.   Once initiative is determined, PC or monster name is written down in turn order.   This is placed on the table where all (including the DM) can see it.

I usually have the most difficulty reaching the map, being behind the screen and all.   So my players take care of all of this, placing and removing tracking markers, writing down initiative, etc.   I select where my monsters move and what they do, but they phsically move them for me most of the time.   With 5 or 6 sets of hands, it goes pretty quick once the group gets the hang of it.
My method:

Get a sheet of lined binder paper. On every other line write the names of the combatants in initiative order. Highest initiative first. Second highest two lines down, and so on. On the lines with the names, write damage dealt. On lines between, write conditions.


If you have multiples of the same monster, each gets it's own line, labeled owlbear A, owlbear B, owlbear C, etc. Minions don't need their own lines.
There's one, sure-fire method not to worry about skipping a step is... not to worry about it.

Really. All in all, any detail, or even series of details makes little difference if they're missed. It's not like glitches in a computer game. You're not a computer. Don't try to be.

The game works fine even with major mistakes. There are people playing now, and having a blast, and you wouldn't recognize them as playing with the same rules, for all the "mistakes they make."

People complain about combat being slow. Part of this is because they are trying to get every detail right. Things get counted and recounted, added and readded, and then the dice are rolled and it's a clear hit or miss regardless of all the figuring. Someone's turn is stopped half-way through to recall something else that was missed last turn and try to get it back on track, leading to more things getting "missed" in the process. Keep moving forward, and don't worry about "fixing" things.

Of course, inevitably, some error will have a life-or-death impact on a scene. Someone realizes that the monster that just killed a PC should itself have died before making its attack. If the player has an issue with it, and it's caught quickly, revise the scene as best you can in the coolest way you can, and move on.

If you're not sure of something, make a ruling in the players' favor and keep playing. Err on the side of the players, unless they specifically ask you not to. But they can't ask you not to err at all, because you and they are going to.

You're not a machine, you're a human. Play to your strengths as a human, and don't worry about making mistakes.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

As I am new to DM-hood, I am always worried that I'm going to forget a step during and between each of the players' turns. How do you guys keep track of all the steps and information?


There are some innitiative tracking tools available --

Some people line index cards with creature's names on them as a way to keep track, and note status effects there.

Also there are initiative/status/hp tracking applications for android/iOS phones and tablets. Also web based ones that work on any platform, including laptops.

Web based:
donjon.bin.sh/d20/initiative/

Android based:
Combat assistant
DM Minion


There are more than that I'm sure. Spreadsheet programs work well.
I have always - for close to 20 years, I'm embarrassed to say - tracked initiative in the same fashion: in vertical columns: players in clockwise order starting on my left, followed by npcs/companions/henchmen as a group, followed by monsters As a group, followed by bosses.  The method you use is far less important than your adherence to it.  

Whatever works for you, keep doing it.
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
I sort of figured as much, and after running a couple of small games, I do see that fun trumps rule nitpicking everytime, and I now try to make the players' happiness/fun coefficient as high as I can. Thanks for the advice!  Smile
There's one, sure-fire method not to worry about skipping a step is... not to worry about it.

Really. All in all, any detail, or even series of details makes little difference if they're missed. It's not like glitches in a computer game. You're not a computer. Don't try to be.

The game works fine even with major mistakes. There are people playing now, and having a blast, and you wouldn't recognize them as playing with the same rules, for all the "mistakes they make."

People complain about combat being slow. Part of this is because they are trying to get every detail right. Things get counted and recounted, added and readded, and then the dice are rolled and it's a clear hit or miss regardless of all the figuring. Someone's turn is stopped half-way through to recall something else that was missed last turn and try to get it back on track, leading to more things getting "missed" in the process. Keep moving forward, and don't worry about "fixing" things.

Of course, inevitably, some error will have a life-or-death impact on a scene. Someone realizes that the monster that just killed a PC should itself have died before making its attack. If the player has an issue with it, and it's caught quickly, revise the scene as best you can in the coolest way you can, and move on.

If you're not sure of something, make a ruling in the players' favor and keep playing. Err on the side of the players, unless they specifically ask you not to. But they can't ask you not to err at all, because you and they are going to.

You're not a machine, you're a human. Play to your strengths as a human, and don't worry about making mistakes.



I've read quite a few of Centauri's posts, and I dig the way this guy views the game.  He's absolutely right here.  As DM's, we tend to get caught up in the rules, numbers, die rolls, skill check DC's, hit points, etc., that we completely forget that we are playing an extremely SUBJECTIVE game.  Try not worrying about the numbers.  I mean seriously, forget all the die rolls, modifiers, DC's and initiative orders for one session and see how it turns out.  Once you've done that, decide which numbers (if any) you want to keep track of during the next session.  

The best tip I can give you is this:  If you're having fun, you're doing it right.

Good luck!
I am with Centauri on this one - don't sweat the details.  And even "major mistakes" are not that big a deal.  You may even find that one of your "mistakes" is preferable...that's how many house rules come into being .

That being said, I agree with those who have said - let the players help.  They need to keep track of their own stuff.  They need to be aware of their own place in combat order.  They need to know what effects they have on them.  They need to know which mini is theirs and where it is situated on the "battlefield."

I tend to use a small whiteboard with magnetic name tags with each character's name (not the player's name) to track initiative and monster HP.  Another DM I play with uses a section of the battlemat for initiative and uses a pad and pencil for monster HP and effects.

 

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