Handouts!

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I just started playing and my job is DM.  So I wanted to know what fellow DMs did for handouts - I think they add a lot to the immersion factor, so I love using them in all my games.  Also, I want to know what players like when it comes to handouts.  Thanks!

I'll start with my past experiences.  On my first adventure, the characters started in a hotel, and one of the characters went completely nuts and tried to break into everything, so she got a skeleton key for the hotel.

For a game that didn't happen (tried to set up a game at my local game shop, no one showed up - try, try again!), the characters were sent by a secretly evil Elven king to wipe out an orc tribe.  In the encounter against the orcs, there was a secret tunnel underneath the ground (used the Ruins of War dungeon tiles - sometime I'll post a picture of the map), where you find a letter from an orc to his family revealing the true motives of the Elf king.  I wrote the letter in English, used an English-to-orc online translator, and used a symbol font to print it out.  I also printed out the English copy in case one of the players spoke Giant.  If none of them did, I either would have improvised something or never revealed the king's evilness.  Probably better that the session didn't happen, or that would've been a rough spot.

For my next adventure, there's a little transluscent plastic marble-like-thing that kinda looks like there's flame inside it.  I think I might make it some sort of gem that enchants any weapon/magic implement it's placed inside.  Maybe I'll make it something more powerful and build an entire quest around the party acquiring it.

So, what are your experiences with handouts?
I give out letters and maps. Sometimes they're aged, sometimes printed on "fancy" parchment, etc. I had a bunch of fancy parchment-like printer paper left over from some other project, so it works well for scrolls from nobles or something. Otherwise, I distress accordingly using paint or a stovetop. (Carefully holding white paper over an electric range stove will brown it. Just have to keep it moving so it doesn't burn or get silly spiral cook marks. Ta-da, an old-looking letter. Alternatively, carefully burn away edges with a lighter to get a burnt-letter look. Just don't do it inside.)

My group's first adventure was the Slaying Stone, so I brought an actual stone to hand them.

In your orc letter case, you could've used any symbols without having to use a translater. If they won't know the difference, just find some kind of runic or hieroglyph font and mash the keyboard a bit. Wink
I'm a really crafty person, so I like making handouts and the like. 
I give out letters and maps. Sometimes they're aged, sometimes printed on "fancy" parchment, etc. I had a bunch of fancy parchment-like printer paper left over from some other project, so it works well for scrolls from nobles or something. Otherwise, I distress accordingly using paint or a stovetop. (Carefully holding white paper over an electric range stove will brown it. Just have to keep it moving so it doesn't burn or get silly spiral cook marks. Ta-da, an old-looking letter. Alternatively, carefully burn away edges with a lighter to get a burnt-letter look. Just don't do it inside.)

My group's first adventure was the Slaying Stone, so I brought an actual stone to hand them.

In your orc letter case, you could've used any symbols without having to use a translater. If they won't know the difference, just find some kind of runic or hieroglyph font and mash the keyboard a bit.
I'm a really crafty person, so I like making handouts and the like. 

I thought the translator was classier - but you're probably right.  Thanks for the tips!
At our first session I gave each player their map, showing what part of the world their character was familiar with. This was based on a backstory they wrote.

In towns, when the party splits for rumor checks, I sometimes print up rumors on slips of paper and let them 'pick a card'. They always tell the rest of the party what they learn right away, but it's fun to pick a card.

When they loot fallen enemies or ransack abandoned camps, I will hand them journal pages to decipher. Story hooks and answers to "why was that dark elf trying to kill me?" sort of questions.

I also give them books (folded pieces of paper). They only get to look at the cover until their character commits to several in-game hours reading. Then they can open the book for either clues or an Intelligence check to see if they gain a skill. 

If you want to incorporate puzzles, a simple cypher is easy to include. Grab a runic font off the web. Hand them a couple of printouts (engravings they see, pages from tomes, etc.) Include some with Common and the cypher and they'll noodle it out.
Same as above. Maps, letters, clues, and riddles.

Wanted posters are pretty popular. Sometimes the party wants to go the the Magistrate and check on the bounty posters.

 
I have not considered these concepts... I am loving this!
I once created a handout that was meant to be a cylinder, with draconic runes on it.
I downloaded the 4e Draconic font, typed up the message in english, then converted to Draconic.  

The letters meant virtually nothing when you see them inscribed, but if you rolled it acorss some mud, then paper, you'd get a stamp-like impression with the message written out.  
That was in-game, the actual hand out was just a piece of paper I could roll up that had the message on it in code.
One of the palyers spent time trying to decipher it as a player, so I gave him hints with character knowledge.  At one point, he succeeded his knowledge check, I had him fumble the cylinder and it rolled into the mud so more of the message could be read.   

I think I'll plan on including more handoutsin future sessions.  This really reminded me of how much the players like it.

Has anyone ever tried runnign a simple logic puzzle in-game?  With hints available as knowledge checks?  I did once, one player caught on and figured it out quick, the others were completely stymied and probably woudn't have figured it out as players, even thoughtheir characters might have.  If we didn't have the logical player,  I would have just given them enough clues to fill in the board and get the answer easily.
Has anyone ever tried runnign a simple logic puzzle in-game?  With hints available as knowledge checks?  I did once, one player caught on and figured it out quick, the others were completely stymied and probably woudn't have figured it out as players, even thoughtheir characters might have.  If we didn't have the logical player,  I would have just given them enough clues to fill in the board and get the answer easily.

The important thing is that, even if the characters fail the one scene, the whole story doesn't stop becasue of it.

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
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If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Personaly I tend to hand out quickly written messages on a pice of paper. My most famous up to now was in an Eberron game the note read. "These guys rock!" Captain Carl. Other times when I need a fancy object well I downloaded all the images from the adventurers vault books, and print out as needed for treasure. It makes it both managable and helps the players visualise what they get.


I have made hand written notes, but I'm a dyslectic so my proofreading skills are a bit off...


But I do like the idea of handing out rumors and other info on notes. As well as some of the sugestions for hidden messages. 
Some good ideas here guys.  Players like props.