There are a range of DMs, from the ones that believe that games only need some books, papers, pencils, and dice, to those that love to have plenty of stuff at their gaming table. This article is for the latter.
This is a listing of accessories, primarily for your 4e game but many of these tools are useful for fans of any edition. I have divided the different accessories into different categories, though there’s a fair amount of overlap between them.Â Listed here are those produced by third parties, as you’re likely to already be aware of any official WotC solutions in these areas (though some of these compliment those offerings, like the character managers that work off of Character Builder files).
While previous editions of D&D had various conditions imposed upon characters (even if it was just something like, “you have been turned to stone”), 4e has gone a long way towards making a codified list of conditions and using them heavily in nearly every combat encounter. It can get out of hand trying to remember who is dazed and blinded- so these tools are here to help.
Alea Tools were one of the first ways used to track conditions for 4e, appearing in a 4e preview article 3 months before the game was even out. They are colored magnets designed to fit under the base of a standard medium sized D&D mini (with options for larger ones) in a variety of colors to represent different conditions- the most common being red for “bloodied.”
They’re easy to use and fun to play with, and make a really awesome noise when you drop them on a magnetic surface. On the minus side, they push each other around when next to each other (though I hear the new ones address this issue), you have to worry about keeping the polarities straight, and it isn’t always obvious what they represent (“is blue slowed or immobilized?”)
Dark Platypus Studios makes these tools which I first came across at Origins. They are flags that are stuck to the base of the mini, which then have flags attached (with magnets, so they stack easily) that clearly spell out what condition is on each creature. They also take up less space, but can be a little more fiddly to set up and deal with in play than other options.
Fiery Dragon Battlebox
Fiery Dragon Productions makes this boxed set, which encompasses a number of aids. Status tracking is accomplished by small flags in plastic stands. But the Battlebox doesn’t just contain materials to track statuses, it also contains counters for action points, daily magic item uses, bursts/blasts, PC counters, dungeon tiles, dry erase initiative tracker, and more! While not everything in the box is useful for every DM, there’s such a wealth of just raw useful stuff in here that it’s worth it.
Anyone who has seen Dragonfire’s booth at a convention has to admire these wood (and other materials) burnt objects. They make a line of tiles with the name of the condition on it in a variety of colors. They’re lightweight and easy to use, but don’t stack particularly well for when your boss dragon gets dazed, immobilized, and bloodied all at once.
They do carry a wide variety of other accessories too, including action points, death saves (in awesome skull shape), blast templates, and much more. Unlike many of the other accessories, anyone seeing you play with all these is liking to be impressed when you have wooden skulls sitting around your character.Â Plus they made the official Critical Hits flask, so I don’t know what higher endorsement I can give.
Litko’s 4e Tokens
Similar to the style of Dragonfire, but in pleasing translucent plastics. There are packs available for players, DMs, and miscellaneous conditions. Plus, you can get your own made if what they provide isn’t good enough. Eye-catching and affordable.
With At-Wills, Encounters, and Dailies to keep track of, power cards take each power out and gives you all the details, just like spell cards did in previous editions. Plus, you can fill in your calculated bonuses for speed of play. While this is something the character builder does for you, many players prefer to do their character by hand, or want to use powers that are not available in the Compendium.
Made by Wombat Cards
The Made By Wombat 4e Utility Pack contains 54 cards in a variety of blank at-will, encounter, daily, and item cards. According to the site, they are also pencil-erasable and coated, which makes them similar to the Paizo item cards, if you’re familiar with those. The Utility Pack also contains tokens and stickers for status tracking, making the $10 package a great deal.
Battlemaps and similar have been around for a while now, but there is still room for improvement when sketching out your dungeons, which is even more important in the combat map-centric battles of 4e. Below are options for displaying your dungeon.
An idea so simple you’ll be surprised it didn’t really exist already- rolls of paper with 1 inch grids printed on them, with a surface designed to take all the different types of pens that you’d use to draw your dungeon on (and not bleed through the other side).Trask over at LivingDice took the GamingPaper for a test run, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up. At $4 a roll (with discounts for buying multiple rolls) it’s a bargain for those who like to draw out their dungeons, and then save them for later.
Anyone who remembers Tact-Tiles will be immediately familiar with Battlegraph Boards, a system by whichÂ tiles with a grid on them are snapped together to form a map of any size, then the DM draws the map onto it using dry erase markers (and the grid is scored in to allow easier drawing of rectangular rooms). Check out Gnome Stew’s indepth review, and you can pick up a set of 4 for $25.
iPhone Apps & Accessories
Has there been a more geek friendly phone? While the potential of tabletop gaming has yet to be fully tapped, there are already a few apps and accessories for iPhone and iPod Touch users to compliment your 4e game. While none of them add anything unique to the game that you couldn’t get through other means, it does give you an RPG session in your pocket. Thanks to ENWorld’s list for filling in some that we may have missed- check them out for a list that includes more game systems.
iplay4e is a website that works in tandem with your Character Builder files and your iPhone/iPod Touch. Upload your character (via a computer) then access the site using your device. Everything about your character is formatted to fit your screen, with the different aspects placed in different tabs. But where it gets even cooler is that you can use it to track your HP/healing surges/etc., as well as click a little icon to roll an attack or skill, have it generate the number and add your bonus, and tell you the result. Not sure what the power does? You can click a question mark icon to have it pull up the power’s entry in the compendium. The whole thing is very slick, and the kind of thing I’ve wanted ever since I used PCGen in 3e and tried to get a converter to load on my Palm Pilot. While it doesn’t quite replace the awesome character sheets that Character Builder makes (that gives you all the details of the power), it’s still a very cool option for bringing your 4e character on the go. Oh, and it’s totally free to use.
i4e is an iPhone app available from the iTunes store for tracking your 4e character. i4e features an import feature for your character builder files, as well as options to input everything using the iPhone itself. After the import, you don’t need to connect to the internet to access your character files, meaning that you really will have your character wherever you go. You can track power usage, ongoing conditions, and all that other good stuff. Importing is still a work in progress, but everything is customizable in the app, unlike iplay4e and the character builder itself. Available for $4.99.
Available in both a standard ($0.99) and Redux ($4.99) versions, this is another way to enter and manage your character at the table. Instead of importing characters from character builder, you input characters into the app, and the app itself contains a database of races, powers, feats, etc. in such a way that all the information is there but you still need the books to generate. A good alternative for those that own the books but don’t do DDI.
iNit is an initiative tracker for the iPhone. By inputting all the combatants, it scrolls through each member in initiative order, and allows you to rearrange the order for delays and the like. It can also track the HP and ongoing conditions of each combatant. It’s available for $1.99 from the iTunes store, though the owner is soliciting feedback on ENWorld and giving out promotional codes.
From the publisher’s description: “This program is meant to organize an initiative order for a pen&paper roleplaying game. The program was written with Dungeons & Dragons 4e in mind but can be used for any roleplaying game where the initiative is based on descending numbers.
Its possible to add new combatants, remove combatants and -if wanted- keep track of the number of elapsed rounds since combat began. All these operations can be done dynamically. The name of the combatants can either be entered manually for each one or can be chosen from one of twelve buttons with predefined names.”
Available for $0.99.
From the publisher’s description: “This program is meant as an addition to the character sheet at the gaming table of D&D 4e. Its possible to manage HP, damage, action points, milestones, healing surges, xp, conditions and foremost usage and availability of powers. Characters can be entered manually but can also be loaded from Character Builder files oder summaries (Character Builder © Wizards of the Coast). The files can be loaded from the Internet or (as well as the summary texts) can be entered via copy&paste (iPhone OS version > 3.0 required)” Available for $0.99.
- Remembers the stats you need most often (PC & NPC)
- Allows a nearly unlimited number of characters
- Allows cloning (copying) for quick entry of multiple minions
- Lets you organize characters into combat groups (encounters)
- Lets you roll Initiative (adds to base Init) for each encounter
- Orders characters by Initiative in an encounter group
- Tracks the group’s turn number during combat
- Tracks each character’s turn number
- Tells you whose turn it is next by turn number and initiative
- Tracks who is Active (have not taken their turn) and Inactive (have taken their turn) for the current turn
- Lets you advance turns out of order (for holds)
- Lets you heal and damage
- Calculates healing surge amount per character
- Lets you enter notes for each character during combat
- Automatically tracks Bloodied for less than 50% health
- Automatically tracks Dying for less than 0 HP
- Lets you add effects (Blinded, Dazed, Deafened, Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Immobilized, Marked, Petrified, Prone, Restrained, Slowed, Stunned, Surprised, Unconscious)
Available for $2.99.
From the publisher’s description: “The CompendiumHelper is a simple tool to make accessing the Dungeons&Dragons Insider Compendium page a little easier. It’s possible to search for a specific text and the App displays all matching items grouped by their type (eg. Monster, Trap, Item, Feat). It will find the same things as the textfield on the homepage itself. Any item on the resulting list can be tapped and the Compendium entry for that object is shown.” A free app.
Scryer D&D Compendium Searcher
Quite simply, a mobile device optimized version of the D&D Compendium for ease in searching for monsters and items on the go. Not an app, just a webpage you load. Quite handy for when you really need to check out a monster while running.
Sometimes, your dice hate you. Either they just keep rolling 2’s when you attack with a daily power, or they hide themselves so you don’t have them with you’re getting ready to go to D&D. For those times, there’s MachDice, a dice roller with RPG players in mind. You can input any die types (or multiple dice), add modifiers, and roll ’em to get a total. Plus, using the motion-sensing capabilities of the iPhone, you can actually shake it to toss the dice around (or just hit the screen to roll in a more subtle fashion). Mach Dice sells for $0.99 in the iTunes store. There are plenty of other dice rollers around as well: Dragon Dice (also $0.99), Diceonomicon ($3.99), Quick Roll ($2.99) and Dice Bag (Free) but MachDice is the one I’ve liked the best.
As comptuer use planning becomes more prevalent for DMs and laptop use at the table becomes more common for both DMs and players, many electronic solutions are developed to fit these needs. While there are many software programs and websites that can easily be adapted for use in RPG use, there are ones that have been designed from the ground up with 4e players and DMs in mind. From tools to build encounters, manage campaigns, to help in running a character from a laptop instead of a character sheet, there are a variety of tools for everyone.
If you’re a fiend for creating your own monsters, items, powers, and more then sharing them, you’ll find the easiest way is theDungeonmastering Tools put on by the Ennie award winning Dungeonmastering.com. Easy to fill in templates that can then be exported to a campaign wiki (including Obsidian Portal, mentioned below). There’s both a free version and paid version, so you can try it out before signing up.
A suite of tools, both online and downloadable, is available at Asmor’s site. Digital Squire lets you manage your 4e character at the table, loading your character builder file. Encounter Planner lets you generate an encounter based on a few templates, as well as a random encounter generator. There’s a few scripts for giving out treasure as well. They’re all free, and Asmor is very responsive to feedback and knows his stuff about 4e.
Another way to manage playing your character at the table, GelWorks takes your character builder file and displays it to manage at the table, including handling area attacks with multiple attack rolls. The most interesting feature is using Microsoft Voice so that the program speaks out loud what you roll. Kind of cool, but could easily get annoying. It also a DM mode for handling initiative. This is a free download, for PCs only.
Obsidian Portal is a wiki designed from the ground up for RPGs, unlike other Wiki platforms. If you have campaign information to share with your players (or the world), then Obsidian Portal is a great place to put it all. Create lists of NPCs and PCs, update campaign logs, and perhaps the coolest feature of all: upload your campaign map into Google so you can zoom in and explore. I used it for my last 3.5 campaign and it worked great, and regretted not using it for my newest campaign (and may still switch my campaign over to it). They also have free and paid versions to try it for a campaign and see if it’s right for you.
Epic Words is another alternative for tracking your campaign, less focused on the wiki end and more focused on a variety of online campaign tools. For the paid version, they offer online file storage for any files you might need to run your campaign on the fly. Roleplaying Tips offers up a full review of the service.
Masterplan is, quite simply, one of the most fully featured programs for campaign/adventure management in 4e there is. Between adventure flowcharting, encounter building that can import monsters and traps from DDI to tell you how an adventure fits into your XP budget, skill challenge building, dungeon tile mapping… and much, much more. In fact, perhaps the only major complaint is that there’s so much going on available that it can take some work to get to the part you want. This is a problem you want most programs to have. I’d also love a native Mac version of course, but if you can install it, you owe it to yourself to at least check it out once.
Additions, Comments, Criticisms? Leave a comment here!