First, The Campaign
I’m a new DnD player, having started this year. I was drawn in by the Penny Arcade DnD Podcasts. I happened to have few friends that were willing to tolerate me creating a running a campaign.
I am a Dungeon Master.
Being a rookie I elected to begin with the setting and adventures in the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Of all the source books this one is probably my favorite, as it’s reasonably organized and has everything I need in it.
I also have the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and all the Player’s Handbooks. I have access to most any book as a PDF, but I don’t use them for much, mostly inspiration.
I have a subscription to Dungeons and Dragons Insider that I use almost exclusively for character management. In the beginning I let my players create their characters on my account, but most of them have since gotten their own accounts and taken over. The character builder itself is tolerable, but not everything it could be.
The star of my planning phase is easily Power2ool. When combined with the Compendium I can plan all the monsters and loot that I will need for my encounter. I make extensive use of the auto-leveling feature to adjust monsters to match the difficulty I need for my players. This is the type of tool that we all wish Wizards of the Coast would provide, yet it’s done for free by a volunteer.
I use a Chessex Battle Map and occasionally official dungeon tiles when setting up my maps. I use Expo Wet-Erase markers to draw things. I erase it with a rag and a spray bottle of water we use for ironing.
I print loot cards on cardstock with a color laser printer using Power2ool. The thick cardstock makes the item feel better than plain paper and helps the card to hold up longer as some items will be around for months.
Using the aforementioned map the players and monsters are represented by [wooden discs]. The players discs are decorated in permanent marker so that they are easily distinguishable and monster’s discs are denoted with letters A to Z. When I started I printed monster pictures and placed them into universal game stands. This got to be harder as there are only so many good illustrations out there, and I’m no artist.
Each disc has a magnet affixed to the bottom so that it’s useable with Alea Tools magnets. We use these for tracking various effects. The red bloodied magnets are the most helpful.
Things are more conventional from here on out. I picked up a bunch of cheap paper pads and pencils from an office supply store so that each player has plenty. We don’t use anything fancy for in-game tracking or die rolling. Initiative and hit-points are tracked on paper.
4th Edition Dungeon’s and Dragons seems to be very messy and confused from a documentation perspective. Even the official tools don’t do a very good job of tracking changes and rules. The combat is slow, the characters are overpowered in many ways and the tools are weak. That being said, I’m not of a mind to complain much because the beauty of Dungeons and Dragons is that we can fix any problems we have. House rules are a long-standing and important tradition.