Monday, August 5, 2013

Tools of the Trade

The things I use for my favorite past time.

 I've always found it fascinating to discover how different people go about doing the exact same things. A meal can be something yanked from a paper sack and casually wolfed out of hand while driving to work; it can just as well be something intensely formal with multiple courses, damask tablecloths, too many forks, and a great deal ceremony. There are many, many ways to accomplish the same task. 

In the past year of looking through rpg blogs, it's been interesting to see how other people play these games and what they use to do so. As an added bonus, I've gleaned a number of useful tricks, tools, and insights to make my games better. Hopefully you've found my ramblings equitably worthwhile. 

In that vein, what follows is a simple list of the things I use to run/play rpgs and a look at how/why I use them.

5 x 8 Index Cards - I love my index cards. The 5 x 8 size is perfect for encouraging brevity while still giving me plenty of room to bloviate via pen if the mood strikes. Important NPCs and Locations typically get their own Card. I try to always keep a list of common names appropriate to the setting on a handy card when I run a game. Sans that list I tend to accidentally give NPCs names that all start with the same letter (weird, huh?). I've got a straight through printer so I can print custom character sheets and other things onto index cards as I please.
Index Card Notebook - I've taken to carrying a small notebook composed of several index cards folded and stapled together. It's really been quite invaluable; whenever an idea strikes, I have only to draw the notebook from my back pocket and lock the idea into permanency via ink. This impromptu recording device is actually sturdy enough to withstand the pressures and heat of my ass. Additionally it divides itself into two sections while leaving one both lined and unlined pages. Hende! 
Half-Sized Binder - My half-sized binder binder fits neatly into my gaming file box (see below) and has color coded pockets to organise my many index cards. Plus I stock it with half-sized graph paper that can easily be glued to the back of a Location index card. Yay! Organization! 
(In theory I am quite organized. In reality I'm just a bit sloppier than this list may imply).
Graph Paper Notebook - Whenever I've got a map that's just too big for 1/2 sized graph paper, full sized (8 x11) graph paper comes to the rescue. The much abused tome of dungeons, maps, blank pages, and half-assed session  notes has served me ably for many a year.

Google Docs, One Note, and/or Custom Printouts - I use a fairly random combination of MS One Note and Google Docs to create the bulleted lists from which I actually run my games. These session controllers, for lack of a better term, are essentially lists of things that will happen and things that might happen  in the general arena in which the campaign takes place. I also use some publishing software to create custom player handouts and forms to help me run larger, more complicated fights.
Fancy, Custom, Poorly Repaired Super-Clipboard -
"What's the trouble with clipboards?... " 
"Not Enough Clips!" 
"Well that problem has been solved for the low, low price of DIY..." 
Basically, I took a regular clipboard and glued some plastic clips* onto it: one on the opposite side of the normal clip and two on either side of the bottom. Four places to clip some shit to this board! Two NPC Cards on the front with the session controller held behind them and two Location Cards on the back with world map behind those? Yeah Super-Clipboard can do that! or whatever combination of up to six or so elements is the most useful.
I also promptly broke the clipboard shortly after I made it so there's a fair bit of duck-tape involved too.


*I used some inexpensive little clips designed to hold pictures up on cubicle walls.
Dice Boxes - True to form in the punk-rock, DIY spirit, my wife and I both have customised our dice boxes. Mine is cigar-box sized with a sliding lid. A little india ink, some copper spray paint, and a crude stencil were all it took to make me happy. My wife's far more bad-ass (and glittery) coffin-shaped "bonebox" took a bit more doing. I elected to forgo the felt and wrap my dice in a jacquard-patterned handkerchief (like jewels hidden in a boot).

File Box - Finally, it's a simple explanation. I use a slimline file box with some hanging folders to hold character sheets, handouts, session controllers (as if the GM can control a session), and gaming books (or my kindle) leaving enough room left to cram in all the rest of the crap I mentioned above. 

End of List

I hope that this has been helpful, illuminating, or at least entertaining. 

Until my next esoteric rambling, may you roll max crits in times of need and find not d4s with your feet!