Jul 27, 2009

DM Tools - Post-It Notes and Note Cards

As someone who runs a lot of pre-made modules, some of my best DM tools are Post-it Notes and Note Cards.

The best things about the Post-It notes "stickies" are that they come is all different shapes and sizes. They also come in all different colors, but I'm too lazy to come up with any kind of color-code system. In the modules I'm running, I use the small stickies to remind me of key information I might need during a session. If a certain piece of terrain has a unique effect or associated DC to cross, I'll write up a small note with the DC and/or effect. This makes it a lot easier than having the re-read a paragraph in the middle of the game to get all the details (monsters and traps are usually easy to find in a glance, but sometimes even these too need a little reminder).

Larger notes can be for listing out a creature or NPC battle plan (round one: fireball. round two: silence on the mage, etc), or I'll rewrite the "read aloud" text. I may need to change something for my specific campaign setting or campaign idea, but just as much I rewrite text so that it sounds more natural to me.

Also, I sometimes use the really large stickies to block out large sections of the module. In a recent module, I did a lot of changing around for various reasons, and dropped a number of the original encounters. When I did that, I just covered up the encounter number so I wouldn't get distracted during the session.

My other favorite DM tool for prepping a module is note cards, but not just any note card. A little while ago I stumbled on 4x6 index cards at my local Staples with a grid on the front instead of lines. These cards are a great size for drawing an encounter area (room, crossroad, campfire) and listing key info like location of monsters, traps, treasure, and even monster hps if there's room. Additionally, I can attach a sticky with the "read aloud" text (as I talked about above) to start off the encounter and run combat right off the card.

For me, when I run my own adventures, I don't need as many reminders since all the ins and outs of the module are in my head (and the paper is just an outline of locations and events), but when I'm running pre-made adventures, my stickies and note cards are invaluable tools for helping me make the module mine.

If you have other "tricks" or tools to running your games, please leave a comment, I'm always looking for new ideas.