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Month: October 2008

4e GMing Tools

As per request, quick summaries of the tools I’m using to GM D&D 4e:

First cool tool: the GameMastery Combat Pad Initiative Tracker. It’s a wet/dry erase board with a steel core and a bunch of magnets that you shuffle around to track initiative. It works very well; in the first session, I was pretty much able to run combats with the module and the tracker held in one hand. However, it’s got a lot of wasted space.

This last session I added the printableDM Encounter Manager to my toolbox. It’s nice; I tried the ones without the initiative trackers but I think I’m going to swap over. As noted, the GameMastery tracker is a bit clunky in that half the space is chewed up in ways that simply aren’t useful in combat. Holding two full page sheets in one hand is obviously a lot harder than holding one full page sheet; if I can track initiative easily on the Encounter Managers, that’s a win.

I think the right thing to do here is find a slim steel clipboard of some kind, clip the Encounter Managers to it, and use the GameMastery tracker magnets to track initiative. That gets me back to one sheet. Unfortunately, steel clipboards are hard to find.

The Wizards Dungeon Master’s Screen is very good. I just need a better place to put it, since I’ve been DMing standing up. I’ll figure that out with time.

Alea Tools is good magnets for tracking status effects on miniatures. I didn’t use them enough last session, but I will.

Jim Goings’ Condition Cards (scroll down a bit) are great easy reminders of which PCs are undergoing which conditions. Also it’s nicely intimidating to say “you’re weakened” and slap down the big indicators. There are a bunch of other nice tools on that page, btw — I particularly like Kiznit’s character sheets.

The Given Day

I want to do a big thoughtful post on Dennis Lehane’s newest novel, The Given Day, because hey, Lehane. Mystic River remains one of my favorite books ever. But…

I liked The Given Day a lot. It’s an easy read, it’s interesting history, and Lehane’s love for Boston shines through every page. I don’t, however, think it’s quite as significant a book as Lehane seems to think. It has to carry both the weight of Lehane’s discussion of race and class, which is great as always, and of historical information, which I think weighs the book down overly.

The book jacket makes excited note of how Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, and various other historical figures are characters. That was a bad sign. While Babe Ruth in particular was used really well as a framing viewpoint character, and I’d love to read Lehane’s Babe Ruth novel, I was not so interested in the game of admiring how Lehane worked the other historical figures into the narrative. Yay for gratuitous J. Edgar Hoover.

So that’s the summary. Good book, and I liked it as a historical, but as a tutorial on Boston history in 1919 it fell flat. I’d recommend in paperback rather than hardcover.

Regarding Oz

I mentioned last night that Oz was in the public domain, and that there was a thriving subculture of fans writing and publishing Oz books. I would not be me if I were unable to provide a link or two. Or three. I find this whole thing inexpressibly charming.

LFR Update

Unfortunately the local Living Forgotten Realm group’s plans to run bi-weekly Sunday games fell through, and I can’t make the regular weekday games. There’s a big weekend event coming up in a couple of weeks that’d get my puny level 1 cleric up a couple of levels, and thus perhaps enable him to play in the next tier of adventures — but I’d still have the same scheduling issue, so it’s not really worth it to burn a day on that.

Possibly at some juncture the Framingham group that was discussed will get underway. Until then I’ll get my 4e kicks from running the modules. Since I was so jazzed about LFR to start with, I figured I’d toss out the update.