Computers make D&D a whole lot smoother, but if you don’t want to pay through the nose every month for D&D Insider, you’ll have to do some preparation on your own. Here are a few must-have tools for DIY D&D digitizing.
If you’re splitting one set of rulebooks (or if you just don’t like having to flip back and forth between stuff you look at all the time), SnagIt lets you easily scan and screen-capture individual powers, magic items, rules, and maps from your books, so you can share what you need to with your players without giving away any secrets. The 4e rulebooks sometimes scatter important information across chapters (or even across books), so it helps to be able to grab a little of this and a little of that and compile them yourself without having to transcribe it all manually. This is even easier if you have electronic copies.
Dropbox makes it way easier to share character sheets, digital maps, and rule information between computers. Sometimes the game calls for sharing information with some players and not others, so Dropbox has customizable folder sharing—the DM can access all shared folders, and set up individual folders for each player (for character sheets, magic items, inventory, etc.), as well as a party folder for party inventory, active quest information, and quick rule reference.
Armed with nothing but your smartphone, the D&D Random Encounters 4e app for Android empowers a complete D&D experience. This app randomly generates encounters, including monsters, maps, and treasure, and is customizable based on your PCs’ party size, level, location, and how hard a fight you want to give them. This makes it easy to catch up a player who missed a session, or keep up your schedule if you didn’t have time to put together something of your own. Having a fresh, random encounter at your immediate disposal let you break the mold of official campaigns, and can be a good brain-stretcher as you and your players tell your story together (“what’s a pack of ghouls doing in the galley of this pirate ship?” etc.)
A Decent DIY Grid Map
Grid boards at hobby stores can be expensive, and digital options tend to be clunky, expensive, or both; but with a decent dry erase or glass whiteboard, a ruler, and a box cutter, it’s easy to make your own. Carefully carving out your own grid lets you customize the grid size, and naturally produces textured lines that let you draw straighter and cleaner. Be warned, though; cutting too deep will give the map a groove that will tear up your markers if you’re not careful.
(Editor’s Note: You can also check out Adventure Grids for a cheap alternative to drawing your own grids for maps at the table.)
If your players are constantly losing track of character sheets, hit points, effects, surges, etc., convince them to add D&D 4 Android to their phones and make everyone’s life a lot easier. This little app holds multiple complete character sheets, complete with detailed power information (there’s not much room to do that on the official paper character sheets), and automatically grays out the daily and encounter powers that you’ve already used.
If a simple random number generator isn’t good enough for you, try DiceShaker D&D – a fun little app that creates virtual dice with realistic physics on your phone or tablet. Shake or tip the device to roll all the dice on the screen, or flick each one individually. The DiceShaker even adds up the sum of your rolls to speed things up. Maybe it’s silly, but sometimes the feel of a real dice roll matters.
[Editor’s Note: Thank you Angela for offering to guest post!]
- Pathfinder Basic? from Reviews from R’lyeh (rlyehreviews.blogspot.com)
- Player agency and random encounters from The Seven-Sided Die (d7.pipemaze.com)
- Gamma World Character Sheet from Roving Band of Misfits (rovingbandofmisfits.com)
- Dead…and Back from A Character For Every Game (rpgcharacters.wordpress.com)
- Running A Game With New Players (dungeonsmaster.com)
- The GM’s Character Sheet: Dungeons and Dragons Next centric (zzarchov.blogspot.com)
- Twenty Questions from Places to Go, People to Be (peopletobe.blogspot.com)