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Newbie DM - How do you track initiative, conditions your creatures HPs and everything?


Advice


Hello everyone,

I am a newbie DM, we just played some 4e before and are switching to Pathfinder.

I will be DMing Carrion Crown and wanted to ask for some basic questions.

Like how do you track Initiative, Conditions (of Monsters and PC) and also your Creatures in Combat in general?

Is there a proven layout on a sheet of paper. How to track initiative, the rounds, HP and condition? Or does everyone DM do his own thing?

Do you use paper or even an iPad?

Thank you
Markus


Paper or Excell work

initiative, because it can change (held actions and such), is complicated. My group uses a magnetic board with our char names on it and the NPCs. that way we can move them about during combat if needed.

Taldor

For tracking initiative, i use graph paper, and then i have everyone roll initiative, write their (including NPCs ally or enemy) names in order from highest to lowest and then mark an x in a square next to the name of a character who just performed his turn.

I am currently working on a sheet for tracking initiative, buffs and debuffs and abilities that need recharging.

As for HP i write the name of the character, and his hp under it, and whenever he is struck for damage, i subtract the number from the hp total, cross off the previous total and write the new one under it.

As for conditions, i usualy hold that kind of stuff in my head or write it by the character's name and the duration next to the condition.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I use this. I used to do the same kind of thing on scratch paper, but I'd always misplace it in the disorganized piles of paper I tend to accumulate when I DM. You can keep track of enemy HP in the note section on the left and track when conditions end using the round indicator across the top. The magnets make it easy to move around initiative order in the case of delaying or readying.


With a little work, and ordered deck of note cards can help you keep notes on each creature, and you can just cycle through the deck for initiative.

I use my own Maptool framework to track initiative, HP, and durations in Maptool. Using a tool like maptool has a bit of a learning curve but I will never go back.


Evil Lincoln wrote:

With a little work, and ordered deck of note cards can help you keep notes on each creature, and you can just cycle through the deck for initiative.

I use my own Maptool framework to track initiative, HP, and durations in Maptool. Using a tool like maptool has a bit of a learning curve but I will never go back.

I use my laptop as a DM screen and make notes using a notepad program.

If I don't have a laptop, I have a battlemap with erasable pens and jot notes in the corner.


I GM with a little cheap laptop (just one step up from a netbook). I used to track everything in a Notepad file there; I have since upgraded to using the GameMastery Combat Pad, available here at Paizo. I only use that for initiative order and status effects the characters can see, because I keep it out in the open. I still use Notepad for HP counts and other status effects; I also keep a running total of the CRs of encounters, so I don't forget any XP at the end of the session.


I draw the mini real quick and then keep it's hp under that.

I also do an initiative table, which you can find an example of if you look in my posts. Basically, I draw the table, and write everyone's init number where they sit. No erasing, and if they hold, cross that number out or erase it and replace it. Bam.

Really very simple once you get used to it.

Taldor

The Gamemaster Pad works pretty well.

My default I've settled on is that I have the vinyl battlemat out on the table. I'll write down the character names in a vague circle or square outline, corresponding to where the players are sitting at the table in relation to me. The space where I am at is the monster/NPCs.

When initiative comes up I just write their numbers down by their names, if a condition were to come up I'd mark that down also.

In terms of hitpoints, I'll keep track in that bit of the battlemat, or if I've prepped the stat blocks ahead of time I'll have little boxes for each creatures hit points and just cross them out as they lose them.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

GameMastery Combat Pad is my fav tool as well, (but use a small whiteboard - they are often magentic, to record the order with a box for delayed and readied actions if you don't have the ready cash).

HP I track on a pad, noting the CR of the encounter and the page number of the module (for identifying treasure). Weather and wind direction as well (helps when PC's have scent).

Pen and Paper is your friend.

Be as organised as you can and have the bestiary tabbed (post-it notes) at the pages you will need. if you have a random encounter table make sure you have the bestiary page references too).

Have any handouts ready to go, as they come up. Make sure you have read the module and especially maps - stairs are often fun. sometimes you really need to make sure you "know" how the map goes together.

Use grid paper to draw out a map of the castle/keep/dungeon/house - then remove post-its as the PC's "discover" a room. (it will keep things moving quickly).

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I use business cards. Name on the top, conditions etc. On the back and cycle through them for init with a scrap page for HP etc.


Gamemastery magnetic combat pad for initiatives! Ready and Delayed actions!

Pencil and Paper for hit points and conditions of creatures and npcs!

Tell the players what conditions they are subjected to and what penalties are associated with each one!

Dry wipe markers and a vinyl map grid.

Plus any special conditions that have a variable time I write on the side of the combat pad at what round it is removed and who it is on using a dry wipe marker.


I can't believe nobody has pointed you here yet. Kyle Olson created this sweet little tool, and it does just about everything a GM needs it to do. He also has a thread on these boards. Here's the latest post update.

I can't imagine GMing without this program.


divby0 wrote:

Hello everyone,

I am a newbie DM, we just played some 4e before and are switching to Pathfinder.

I will be DMing Carrion Crown and wanted to ask for some basic questions.

Like how do you track Initiative, Conditions (of Monsters and PC) and also your Creatures in Combat in general?

Is there a proven layout on a sheet of paper. How to track initiative, the rounds, HP and condition? Or does everyone DM do his own thing?

Do you use paper or even an iPad?

Thank you
Markus

Initiative: GameMastery Combat Pad (http://paizo.com/store/byCompany/o/openMindGames/v5748btpy8bkr)

Conditions on creature/PCs: Rubber bands on minis (green rubber band for positive effects, red for negative effects, yellow for other)


I use Hero Lab. It has a Tactical Console that holds every character and NPC. Since the program also handles applying conditions, adding spell effects, changing equipment, etc. I've found it to be a huge help.

Some folks complain about the price, but if you go with the base version and then add in whatever content you want to use (easy once you get the hang of it), you're only in for a $29.99 investment. Since it comes with a second license for free, I use one on my laptop to run the game while my wife has her character on her laptop. After seeing it, every player in my game has bought Hero Lab or is thinking about it...

They are working on a Mac version, which is supposed to be ready for iPad at roughly the same time. I'm looking forward to when they get their Android tablet version so I can run it on my Adam.

Grand Lodge

The game mastery pad is genius. It used it for several years before switching to Hero Lab, which I now use to manage everything. Works great once you get over the tool learning curve.


Another vote for Kyle Olson's Combat Manager. It was great and I am also a newbie DM as well. I thought it was great. I have Herolab as well, but haven't used it yet other than some basic character generation.


Been using a dry erase board for hit points and conditions, and note cards for initiative and other stats...but I recently picked up d20pro, and plan on using that the next time I can get time to play.

Andoran

We have a couple of sets of wet-erase markers that we use on the battle mat. There's almost always a corner or two unused by the battle that are perfect places to track damage taken, initiative, and conditions.


I track NPC HP on paper, the players track their own HP and for initiative, I write it direktly onto the battlemap, so everyone sees when it's his turn and can act fast then.

Grand Lodge

I guess I am just old school. I have started using the Game Mastery magnetic pad, but after 30+ years of playing I still stand by the best initiative tracker ever... an accountants ledger.

http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/ledger/8.5x11_cream-green_6x40.pdf

Works well for fixed initiative and our preferred method.. rolling init every round

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Gamemastery Combat Pad makes life oh so much easier.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have a magnetic dry-erase board with a permanent 1 inch grid on it. I use the top portion of it for drawing up the emmidiate combat area, and use letter/number magnets to represent the PCs/monsters in the melee. I use the lower portion of it to track initiative order and condition statuses (I simply write down the names and initiative scores next to them, then "toggle" a magnetic pellet next to their names as the round progresses).

Simple, yet very effective. I couldn't imagine playing without it.

Ultradan


I use d20pro. Takes a while to set-up, but is excellent. If it had a character creator instead of expecting people to already be using herolabs, than it would be even greater.


Stack of 3x5 cards. If I've thought ahead I'll have every character, all their saves and ACs, and a pre-rolled set of 5ish initiatives on them. My mooks get one of the 10 I roll in advance and go in the stack.

I'm out something like $8 a year for stacks of cards. Totally fair trade for me.


small notebook, list the creatures with hitpoints, subtract as necessary, write in conditions next to creature when they come up (actually I just write the minus/bonus and what it effects), off in the margin, I write in the characters initiative, leave enough room so when people delay you can cross it out and switch it up. I've been doing it this way for 15 or so years, and it seems to work, cheap and effective.

Andoran

Kyle Olsen's combat manager is incredible as a free (well, you will find that you want to donate, but that's beside the point) tool for exactly what you're describing.

Here's the link again.

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