Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Organizing your gaming life (For the DM, mostly)

Congratulations, you’ve been elected Dungeon Master for your play group, and with this tremendous power and authority comes a lot of record keeping and paper shuffling responsibilities.  There are a ton of different ways to organize your thoughts and keep track of your notes, but we’ll pull back the curtain for how we do it personally for Adventurer’s League play.  Is this the only way to do it?  Not at all, but it’s the way we’ve found works best for us.  

You’re going to need a couple of things to get this party started right.  

A file tote (we prefer the ones that have built in rails for hanging files)
Hanging files (i would suggest between 24 and 36, you’ll see why below)
Labels (for everything)  

You can get your file tote from just about anywhere and with just about any quality level.  We like clearish plastic so we can see inside, but if you’ve clearly labelled things this shouldn’t be an issue.  If you are of the right height to make use of the ones that come with wheels, those are an excellent way to save strain on your back.  Properly packed, this is going to be a heavy box, so plan your movements accordingly.  

I divide my tote into roughly 3 sections, so let’s take a look at those sections (I promise someday i’ll take pictures)

Section 1:  Record keeping

This section has a lot of the day to day sheets that we use to play Dungeons and Dragons.  You’ll find the following things in clearly labelled hanging files
  • Pre-made character sheets (for people dropping in on Adventurer’s League for the first time)
  • Blank character sheets (for people who are rebuilding an old character or people who need to make a new character)
  • Blank Log Sheets (for people who’ve filled theirs up and are ready to continue the amazing adventures in Adventurer’s League)
  • Adventurer’s League Player’s Guide (at least three copies, but more can be helpful)
  • Scratch Paper (because everyone needs scratch paper for something)
  • Graph Paper (If i am not using a big mat to play the game on, i can use this to track everyone’s location from round to round)
  • Session Notes (If you take Session notes as a Dungeon Master, you should probably store them here so you can keep everything together.  If you don’t take session notes, you can keep the rewards section of adventures you run here.  I would add the name of the character you are applying them to so you can keep them separate).  

I would keep at least two or three copies of each of the pre-gens you regularly plan to make available.  A dozen blank character sheets and a dozen blank log sheets should get you by if you are running a single table for adventurer’s league.  If you are co-ordinating a larger event, increase the number of blanks at a 12 blanks to 1 table ratio.  Scratch Paper, Graph Paper, and session notes are entirely up to you, but make sure you’ve got enough to go around if players routinely borrow them.

Section 2: Adventure planning and storage
This section of your storage is going to be chock full of adventure.  If you’re running a pre-written campaign like Storm King’s Thunder or Curse of Strahd, you should store it here.  Each of the Adventurer’s League adventures can neatly fit in its own hanging folder.  In my tote you’ll find
  • Season 1 of the Adventurer’s League (in separate color coded hanging files with clear labels)
  • Season 2 of the Adventurer’s League (in separate color coded hanging files with clear labels)
  • Season 3 of the Adventurer’s League (in separate color coded hanging files with clear labels)
  • Season 4 of the Adventurer’s League (in separate color coded hanging files with clear labels)
  • The hanging files for Season 5 are there, waiting to be filled up.
  • An assortment of monster tokens that i can use for any of the adventures i am planning to run with the map.

This is my worst case scenario section, and i often have at least one of the other campaign books in here as well.  If you have planned ahead and know which season you are intending to run, you can omit the other seasons and save some space.  If you are the coordinator for a larger event, then i would suggest bringing multiple copies of whatever adventures you have planned for that event. (1 per table running the event)

If you’re running a specific campaign like curse of strahd, you can go ahead and pre-roll your random encounters for what you expect to occur for that night.  (Go ahead, and roll twice as many encounters as you expect the players to bump into).  This means you can record all the new treasure, experience points, and it lets you pack monster tokens for those scenes.  

Section 3: Tool Box city
This section contains everything else i usually need to run a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  In it you will find
  • Dice (Usually my multiple sets of pretty blue and silver dice and at least one set of loaners for the folks who haven’t gotten theirs yet)
  • A Dungeon Master’s Screen (I like having a thing to hide my notes and dice)
  • A map (if i am running one that day)  These are usually the Paizo Battlemats, but i do have a couple of different Chessex Maps that are dry erasable.  
  • Dry erase markers (for the maps)
  • Pencils (everybody needs a pencil)
  • My Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Monster Manual
  • Player’s Handbook
  • Sword Coast Adventure’s Guide

I use this section to keep all of my reference material close at hand so i know where everything i need is.  If you’re feeling super generous, bring an extra PHB and SCAG to loan out for players who don’t bring their own.  

Bear in mind this is a heavy box when it’s all put together, but it should contain everything you need to put on an Adventurer’s League night of adventure and fun.  If you think we missed anything, let us know.

Game on, Game Fans


  1. What do you use for monster tokens? I've been using a package of 1" round wooden alphabet circles from the craft store. It really helps me because my DM program will label more than one creature alphabetically or numerically. Having said that, it would be cool to be able to get a pictograph of the monsters if there was a cheap source. I don't have a lot of discretionary $$, so always looking for cheap solutions.

  2. Personally, I use Paizo's line of Pathfinder Pawns. For about $40 US, you get an assortment of 300 or so monsters of a variety of sizes. They offer a vast array of them, but they can get pricey if you're looking to collect the whole set.

    If you're looking for something that will increase the functionality of the circles you're all ready using, I suggest finding an online token generator that will let you print out flat circle monster pictures, and then use double sided tape. This let's you swap monsters in and out for the investment of some time, a little bit of tape, some paper and some ink