Tracking Combat in D&D
by Mike on 7 March 2022
Octain, a Patron of Sly Flourish asks :
Reading: Tracking Combat in D&D
Can you help me better racetrack monsters in fight when there are more than 1. I have tried the dndbeyond fight tracker which works well with an meet with the like freak type but actually falls down when there are multiple types and multiple of them. I am asking about tracking monsters hit compass point and conditions and knowing which one is which on the conflict map .
When we ‘re running fight, there are basically five things DMs need to track :
- Initiative. Who goes when?
- Damage Tracking. How much damage has a creature taken?
- Conditions. Are any of the characters or monsters affected by a condition?
- Positioning. Where is everyone in relation to one another? Who’s standing next to who?
- Stat Blocks. What can the monsters do on their turns?
There are many ways, and many combinations of ways, to track these five things. Common methods have changed over the years and many DMs have their own prefer ways. It ‘s besides highly dependent on whether you ‘re playing in person or on-line although there are some overlaps .
I always recommend going back to the effect books to answer questions like this. Page 247 and 248 of the Dungeon Master ‘s Guide offers advice for tracking enterprise, wrong, conditions, and the put of monsters. It ‘s good advice .
You can besides track all of these things with barren or almost-free tools. A pencil and paper can handle about everything on this list except the stat pulley. still, some systems are better than others .
Some on-line tools, like Roll 20, Fantasy Grounds, and Foundry, racetrack everything in one system. many people use and love these systems. For some, they can be complicated to set up and slippery to run .
Below I offer some of my own favorite systems for tracking the five elements of battle .
The lowest technical school way to track enterprise is to write down the names of the monsters and characters in enterprise order on a piece of paper, a white board, index cards, or a digital notepad but it can get awkward. Some love to use fold-over camp cards over the top of their DM screen for monsters and characters. I ‘m a huge sports fan of Paul Ellison ‘s Easy Initiative Cards, a re-usable, bum, debauched, and flexible instrument to track first step in person. That method acting is my favorite .
There ‘s besides loads of digital tools to track first step. D & D Beyond ‘s Combat Tracker handles enterprise adenine well as monster stat blocks, and damage track .
For on-line play you can besides write down the names of the characters and monsters in a text editor program, Google Doc, or any other way you write down textbook on your calculator. I like to keep track of enterprise in a scratchpad section of the Lazy DM ‘s Campaign Notion Notebook. You can cut and paste names astir or down in first step ordering easily and paste the whole enterprise regulate into the text section of whatever joyride you ‘re using to talk to your players online like a D & D Game Discord Channel .
With this text-based approach you can track enterprise, damage, and conditions by just writing them down following to the name of the creature in your inaugural list .
Whatever tool you use, make initiative visible to the players so they know who goes when.
Tracking Damage and Conditions
Tracking a monster ‘s damage can be a comfortable as writing it down. I ‘m a big sports fan of using evocative in-world descriptions for individual monsters. Write those evocative names polish and how much damage they ‘ve taken .
here ‘s a flying point. alternatively of trying to subtract damage from a freak ‘s hit points, add damage up until it hits the monster’s hit points. For many people it ‘s far faster to add than subtract. I do n’t know why. thus do n’t try to subtract 12 damage from an ogre ‘s 51 hit points. alternatively, good add up from 0 until you hit 51 .
If you find yourself needing to track damage for a lot of monsters ( like more than twelve ), rather of worrying about the price of each monster, track damage done to the unharmed group. Every time the group takes enough wrong to kill one freak, remove that giant and reset the damage anticipate to zero. If the monster or monsters take enough damage to kill multiple members, remove multiple members. This way you do n’t have to track damage to each freak. This method acting scales well for dozens to even hundreds of monsters .
If you ‘re using a virtual tabletop like my favored Owlbear Rodeo and it does n’t have a clear way to track damage in the instrument, you can track the measure of wrong a animal has taken by typing the act in adjacent to the animal ‘s name on the nominal .
If you ‘re playing at home plate, it ‘s easiest to write down monsters and the damage they ‘ve taken on an index menu or patch of paper and flip it when you ‘re done. You can write down this damage right on the same list you use for inaugural .
For tracking conditions, most virtual tabletops have ways to put a colored person ring around a token to sign and remind you of a condition. You can besides write it down adjacent to a monster on an enterprise poster or wherever else you ‘re tracking hit points .
Monster Stat Blocks
I ‘m a fan of using freak books directly when you want to run a freak ‘s stat auction block. Keep the book on hand and bookmark the monster you plan to run with an index card ( exponent cards, if you have n’t guessed, are the power station tool of D & D ). I ‘m not a fan of copy, retyping, or printing out stat blocks. It may seem like you ‘re better organized but it takes a draw of clock time and can waste a batch of paper .
If you have on-line tools like D & D Beyond, you can use stat blocks right from the instrument. like with the early bigger virtual tabletops. other third party publishers produce amazing monster books in PDF. Taking shield shots of giant stat blocks from PDFs is fast and easily and you can paste them right into your digital campaign notebook like OneNote or Notion .
overall, though, it ‘s heavily to beat the public toilet of using the physical book on hired hand. That ‘s what it ‘s there for .
Showing fight put is a huge subject and has been one for about 50 years. I recommend using a numeral of different methods alternatively of focusing on barely one. alternatively of doing everything on a boastful gridded map with miniatures or on-line tokens or doing everything in arrant Theater of the Mind, keep a bunch of different methods in your toolbox. here are some articles offering a stove of choices :
Above all, ensure whatever method acting you use is easy to set up, comfortable to use, and does n’t get in the way of the fib. Use the simple tools and style you can to get the job done of representing the high gear action and fun of the narrative.
A Common Topic with a Myriad of Options
How to run battle in D & D is something every DM needs to know and for which about every DM prefers different solutions. Try out different things. Experiment. Find the tools you love. Be hard on them. Make indisputable they ‘re doing the caper you want them to do and are n’t getting in the means. Throw them out if they ‘re not doing the subcontract. Be leery of spending a set of money or a lot of time on any one solution or you ‘ll get caught up in the slump cost. Use the tools that help you best share your tales of high gamble with your group .
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