Monday, November 18, 2019

The Tools I Use As An Aspirational GM

In an effort to recapture some of the writing prowess I've lost to laziness and inactivity, I took on a fun projects to stimulate my mind: playing the part of GM in a D&D game. I initially envisioned creating a complete custom world and campaign for the experience in order to flesh out some portions of my story which still need some work.

However, in the end, I felt that utilizing some pre-written material would be a better introduction. I think this was a good call, though it has been possibly more expensive (needing to purchase the adventure books). What was initially very confusing has become more of a natural exercise now, with the assistance of a few important tools. I think this process is definitely possible with simple pen and paper, but these tools have been essential to my experience. Before I get into that, though, let me take a moment to describe what I bring to the RPG Tabletop as a GM:

1. Custom Items. I spent a fairly large amount of time creating custom items aimed both at campaign usefulness and at unique awesomeness. I started with the creations of others (Swordmaster Gauntlets, Close Shave, etc.)
but then moved into customization (Elven Chain)
and now into concept execution. I've been very happy with my creations to date, which are not as many as it may have just sounded like I was indicating:

2. Gameplay Cards. I really enjoy the process of creating custom cards. I have translated this passion to character cards, player cards and item cards (as seen above). Each of my players current receives a hand-crafted playing card for each of the items they acquire. Our tabletop is littered with custom playing cards representative of important NPCs and enemies. Each person at the table is also gifted a custom Tarot-size card for their in-game character. I am looking to expand this to D&D Beyond homebrew entries as well, though I am unsure how I can share these with my players as a free tier user (might be impossible).

3, Maps. I think just about every GM will present their players with maps of some type. I have vacillated over which iteration of this is best for my group, but along the way I think I've had some pretty exceptional (if labor-intensive) concepts. I am still resolving the best approach, but it seems every main map costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $10. I typically have these printed at Staples and then glue them to posterboard.

4. Side Quests. I do spend a great deal of time writing interesting side quests and story-lines for the main campaign. My goal is tie all of these threads into the main storyline while also bringing an overarching narrative into play that will connect the various individual adventures within a universal narrative. Some of these side quests have even evolved into the main story thread for the group.

Things I do not bring to the RPG Tabletop as a GM:
- Encounter Maps. I'd love to map individual rooms for use with miniatures in order to spice up the combat system and help players more easily conceptualize their actions and alternatives. Currently, it is a solely verbal affair.
- Miniatures. I think D&D miniatures are wonderful. I'd love to see our tabletop littered with these. However, from my position these represent a significant monetary investment. I am already spending quite a bit more money than intended on this hobby and I currently cannot justify expanding that.
- Commemorative Dice/Custom Trinkets. This type of ephemera can range from garbage to cherished sentiment. I think it is a very interesting future investment to consider. Currently, like miniatures, I just don't have the means to pursue this sort of thing.
- Documentation. I think tracking the story and adventure of the group exercise is possibly the most meaningful and essential of the missed opportunities I am aware of. However, I haven't had the focused time necessary to piece something like this together. I truly hope that in the future I will be able to provide this for my players, but right now it is too big a mountain to climb.

The tools I use to make the magic happen:
- Staples print-on-demand services. For maps and cards, Staples has been essential.
- GameMaster (Android Version). This is the campaign/encounter builder and tracker I use to store all of my notes and to run the combat scenarios for my players. I am not sure how I would have done this without such a useful app.
- D&D Beyond. This is an absolutely wonderful resource for building character sheets and managing your D&D content. I have frequently been torn between purchasing source books as printed versions or on D&D Beyond. Personally, I have resolved to buy all my sourcebooks and rulesets at D&D Beyond while keeping all of my adventures to print versions. Either way, the website is a great tool for GM and player alike.
- Card Maker Supplies. These are the items I consider essential to the creation of high-quality playing cards. I would happily consider different types of paper some day when I have the funds to branch out a bit.
> - Southworth Cotten Linen Cover Stock 65lb.
> - Photoshop CS2
> - Staples print-on-demand services
> - Rolling Pin
> - Super 77
> - Rotary Trimmer Backup: [ Fiskars SureCut Paper Trimmer ]
> - Hobby Knife
> - Cutting Mat
> - Hero Arts Intense Black Stamp Pad
          ColorBox Silver Stamp Pad
          ColorBox Gold Stamp Pad
> - Deft Wood Gloss Spray

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