Tabletop Roleplaying Game Player Aides
Recently, I have been having a ton of fun getting into the 2d20 Conan RPG from Modiphius. I have started the game and am both learning how to play and teaching my family at the same time—my lovely and patient wife, my almost 18-year-old daughter, my soon to be 11-year-old daughter, and my 12-year-old son. This is a great group of players. They put up with me while I learn, and they show up if they are at all able to. That second part, of course, is because the game is held right here at the dining room table. A captive (aka hostage) audience is always a good one.
I am doing everything I can to both reward my players and make the game easier for them. Here’s a DM/GM Pro Tip: Making the game easier for your players makes the game easier for you. That’s something I have learned over almost three decades of playing roleplaying games. I have learned a lot of ways to do this over the years as well, and what follows is the culmination of some of those ideas.
Keeping Things Organized
One of the key themes you will see with the gaming aides in this article is organization. This is very important. In a roleplaying game—especially a new one and one with mechanics like Conan Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of—organization it is important. There are a lot of things to reference with this system. In that respect, it is no different than Pathfinder, Hero System, or a lot of other RPGs.
A lot of players and GMs have found notecards useful for different things in different games over the years. There are even games that players pride themselves on being able to fit an entire character on a single notecard—or, even half of one. Notecards can be used to pass notes, write down important information, and more. With this setup, I found these smaller index card holders at a local store. I thought they were neat. Now, as the GM, I promise I will need more notecards, so I will be using a full size index card box. I remember these things being a lot cheaper than they are now. I didn’t want to buy each of my players their own. I have run into problems with organization when storing players’ cards alongside my own before. Giving players their own cards to hold onto in a folder or something has led to lost and disorganized cards as well. So, these smaller boxes should do the trick.
At first, in the store, I noticed these boxes had miniature dividers with them as well. I wasn’t quite sure I was going to use them—probably throw them away, I figured. I got home and went to take the first batch out, however, and this slip with printable tags for the dividers came out. That gave me an idea.
Notice that I am using a variety of index cards. My eyesight has always been a bit of an issue. Not too long ago, I found that high contrast of dark ink on neon/fluorescent colored paper was less stressful for my eyes. My wife found these neon index cards on clearance and couldn’t resist picking them up for me. Now, I have the white ones as well, and that gives me five different colors of index cards. This is perfect.
Notecards as Game Combat Cards
I also have five dividers for the mini-index card boxes. This allows me to separate and organize important things for the players. In learning Modiphius’s Conan RPG, this works out well.
There are Talents. Talents are special abilities players get from their backgrounds and from their skills. If you were playing Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, these would be Feats.
Momentum is a universal game resource and the players are just learning how they can spend these points. Writing those out for easy reference will make it easy for the players. This is also a good place for them to be able to reference any additional uses for Momentum we come up with as we get more familiar with the rules.
I also made a section for Equipment. As with most fantasy RPGs, there is the possibility of unique loot. In Conan, these are minor wonders or alchemical contraptions. However, as I mention in an article introducing some homebrew weapons for Conan, weapons and armor also have qualities. I can use this area to note what those qualities are and how they work. This will also work if new qualities are introduced over time.
Finally, if they end up with equipment that doesn’t fit on their sheet or is something stored, it could go here as well. There are also Fortune points that players can spend to assist their characters during the game. Note: I wrote Fate instead of Fortune on the first one I did here—something left over from another roleplaying game.
I’ll put cards here for how players can spend their points. All of these notecards at this point can essentially be used like other games use combat cards. The last type of index card I make room for are notes. Players can write anything they feel is important down here, but also use this to pass notes between themselves or back and forth with me, the GM.
Another neat thing I found is that—at least for now—players’ Fortune points can be stored in these boxes. That way, they have the same amount when they return to the table next week.
More RPG Prep Ideas from Another DM/GM
The Players Handbook
Roleplaying games are known for creating players handbooks. I have developed a players handbook specifically for our campaign here. This binder serves several purposes. Previously—and usually—I let my players keep their own character sheets. You know what happens? They get lost. They get wrinkled and ripped. They have things spilled on them. In some cases (not with this group) they come back changed from what they were previously—extra points, skills, gear, etc. This time, I am going to have all the character sheets in one place. Players can still have their own copy if they want, but these will be the master copies. If you look, I also put those character sheets in plastic sheet protectors. This way they don’t get torn on the binder rings. This also makes it easier for them to be pulled in and out and safer on the table when it comes to game time. There will be snacks and drinks and we’re human and mistakes happen.
I also put blank notebook paper in here. Players can make notes, drawings, and more on this. I have already put a few pages with notes from the original character creation steps in the inside pocket. We might be ready to get rid of these, but I need to check with the players later. I also put Postit notes in the inside pocket, which players can use for notes, to mark a passage in the game book, leave a note on top of another, all sorts of things. I also used some blank printer paper and a Sharpie to put a title on the binder binding (that doesn’t seem like the right word) so I can spot it easily on the shelf. The front cover is a placeholder with a title for now. I will end up making something better in Photoshop once we get further in the game.
A few other things to note about the binder is I found this on clearance, like I do a lot of my supplies. School Supply Season is my Christmas Season when it comes to shopping. I buy too much stuff every year, but I always find a use for it…sooner or later. All year round, I bargain hunt for office supplies. Keep that in mind. You would be surprised what you can find on sale and putting stuff like this together doesn’t have to be too costly.
One thing I do spend too much on is writing utensils. Pens, pencils, markers, etc. I want to make sure they are going to get the job done and going to last. Cheap pencils break too easily. Cheap pens run out of ink too quickly. Cheap markers have virtually no ink in them. I don’t want these problems coming up, especially at my gaming table. Also, keep in mind, different pens, pencils, and markers are designed for different tasks. I have a wide selection for doing different things. I make sure my players have good tools to work with. I even found these neat dry erase clipboards which can be cool for players drafting out something quickly or writing down a short-term note.
Speaking of players having the proper tools that won’t fail them at the game table: dice! There are full sets of dice and my players all have a few of their own. It’s good to have extra. In a dice pool game like Conan Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of, you definitely want several of each type of dice you will be using. Make sure players have these and have their own. Also, be sure to have plenty on hand to roll for yourself and to share as needed.
I also picked up these small wooden bowls at a thrift store. One even has a lid. They were cheap--like a buck each. The reason for this was twofold. One, I have a player who happens to slam their dice down, sending them sliding across and off the table. With these, their rolls can be contained. I also have a player with tiny hands. She can more easily roll pools of time using the bowl with a list as a dice roller.