low-tech combat and character tracker
I see lots of people talk about using software on their laptops or smartphones for tracking combat in D&D. Mostly, people talk about tracking initiative. This always struck me as weird: I just write down everybody in order on a scrap of paper and throw it out later.
I have seen some tools that show you everyone’s defenses and hit points, and that’s good, but the programs I’ve seen generally stink. I was always happy with my scrap of paper with “Orc - 12” and so on. At the most recent game, though, I think I must’ve said, “What’s your reflex defense, again?” about two dozen times. I’ve been trying to find ways to avoid combat getting boring and repetitive, and eliminating that question seemed like a good way. I’m also rereading the chapters on the fundamentals in DMG and DMG2, and making quick references was encouraged there, too.
The web character builder prints out a little quick ref panel, but it had some things I didn’t want and was missing some things that I did. The last thing I wanted was having to deal with visual clutter while trying to speed up a complex combat. I figured it would be easy to make my own cards, and it was.
I used OmniGraffle to make a roughly 2” x 6” form, and printed it, two up, on 4x6 glossy photo stock that I had sitting around. After a few iterations, I was happy with the result. I bought a small magnetic whiteboard. I’m going to keep the character cards on the board and organize them by initiative. Monster notes can be scribbled onto a 3x5 card and put into the initiative order, too. The exposed whiteboard surface is useful for noting who is bloodied, stunned, or whatever else.
I’ve ordered new magnetic clips to hold the cards so that I can move them with one hand. I think this is going to be a nice improvement, and I look forward to finding out whether or not I’m right.