Being a Game Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM) (whichever term you fancy the most) one of the challenges I’ve encounter the most with my players is how to keep track of all the things they have with them. Many players and GMs choose to use technology to their advantage using a wide array of computer programs or applications in their PCs or mobile devices for managing their equipment but for more traditionalist players or masters things get a bit more complicated. The reasons for not using this new technology that is available for tabletop RPGs can span from economic problems to some kind of pet peeves. Whatever the reasons might there’s always an unchanging element that I have found: there’s always a pen or pencil and a piece of paper involved in the game hence the title which are known this tabletop RPGs, pencil and paper games. I tend to mix technology with more traditional methods when organizing my players, their character and myself.
When I’m mastering a campaign I don’t allow computers in the table except for mine. The reasoning I have for this is that no matter which religion you practice temptation is always a factor in daily life of human beings. The wide range of new social media sites players might choose to enter during the game to check their Facebook, twitter and others instead of paying attention to the game. It is sad, I think, for GMs that players choose to not pay attention for something that takes a lot of time to prep. Not only social media sites affects but Google and Bing are other common enemies if you choose to use riddles because they might find the answer for them online. So to put it in a shorter manner: they might want to cheat the system.
You might be asking yourselves the following question: Why and for what do you use a computer? Answer: I don’t have the books. It’s not my fault. The player which had the books and that used to play my sessions moved out of the country, he was also my first GM and the one that thought me the D20 System. I learned a lot of basic rules for the game but I found a web site that has helped me move around as a GM in terms of rules, character creation and monster selection for my session, it’s a really good site and I’ve never found a better site that helps you more with a game than this one http://www.d20pfsrd.com/ . I would spend the money on the book as soon I have some money to spare but in the meantime I will be using that site since everything it’s easy to find, without going to an index and then turning pages.
Anyways, getting back to topic, for the only things I let my players use technology is for their character creation because sometimes doing that by hand, especially when looking for feats, can be a bit annoying. For that I recommend a combination of the last site I mentioned in this post and this character generator: http://www.trovetokens.com/pathfinder.html . I used them as well if I want to build custom NPCs for my players to fight with. The other piece of technology I let use on the table, but I’m very cautious about it, are tablets because they don’t occupy as much space as a laptop, and while they aren’t using it I tell my players to put them facedown. I allow cellphones because while we play there’s a world outside ours where players have a live and if they have to leave because of an emergency I don’t want to hold them back, the catch is that they must have their cellphone in silence/vibrate mode.
If you would like to have a detailed view or knowledge of what the characters of your players have I do not recommend the default Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons character sheets because most of the time they can be a bit uninformative and unorganized for this matter. The example I am going to give right now is based on the Pathfinder sheet because it’s game I’ve been playing the most lately. The basic pathfinder sheet is a two page character info which covers the basics from abilities, skills, spell levels, feats, special abilities, equipment, language, weapons and all of that traditional good stuff. But when I was playing a campaign it pissed me of because I had to keep other papers around to keep track of stuff I was given (yeah, I can write in the back of the character sheet but I don’t have a small hand writing). Well, I was looking for another character sheet that could keep track of more stuff when I stumbled with the website www.pathfinderdb.com and they few character sheets they have on. In this site I found a character sheet called Necero’s Character sheet. I like this character sheet so much I’m getting emotionally attached to it (lol). It has basically everything like space for managing your companion or familiars HP and abilities. It has a space for the spells you can have and a table to keep track of all of them. It has a table for the equipment you are wearing, another for magic items, another for normal items, another for containers and bag of holdings. All the feats are moved to the front page of the character sheet, the armor and shield, spell resistance, spell failure, and has a table even for weapon proficiencies so you don’t forget that. Now your players and you as a GM don’t have an excuse to forget what each player have or not find it in a sea of annotations.
Instead of doing annotation on loose leaf paper or printing paper I recommend to my players to bring a notebook (something I do myself). The advantage of using a notebook over loose papers is that it’s all in one place and it’s all organized. If you use loose papers make sure to place them all in an envelope so you don’t lose them. In the notebook or papers date the sessions played and use custom names for each session so you can keep track what happened when. The advantage this gives you is because then you can use this recorded facts for applying them to the storytelling of the campaign. Yes you could do all of this in a computer and everything will be cleaner but I prefer the method of writing with my bare hands because I consider it a faster way.
For maps, symbols, logos and explaining rooms in dungeons or wherever I use paper.
For ending this I would like to say that I don’t play the premade settings for this kind of games, except for the starter of D&D v3.5 and to tell you the truth for the moment of time that I played that I really wasn’t all that into this games so I never learned how to really play it back then but when I was learning the game because my GM told me that we didn’t need to play what the companies gave us to play and that we could make our own custom setting s I really started enjoying the game more and more. Ever since I liked the home brew stuff like traps for annoying rouges, custom legendary or normal weapons, items and all of that good stuff. This has been my first official blog post. May your d20 always crit.