Excel is this Dungeon Master’s Friend

I probably have an above average comfort with Microsoft Excel, but I’m no expert.  While wrestling with how best to track initiative in my monthly game, I thought I’d try using Excel.  After a few sessions, I’ve made some adjustments, added a few things, and am happy with it overall.

Here is my standard template, and every participant in the battle gets one, except for minions.  They usually have to share.  The top half is for key information.  For the player characters I document defenses, passive perception and insight, character name and a note about the mini.  When battle begins, I’ll enter the initiative into the appropriate box.  I don’t track PC hit points.  If this were a monster, I would enter the damage as it is incurred, and Excel does the subtraction.  It’s important to note that when I set up those formulas, I didn’t tell the ‘bloodied’ and ‘surge value’ cells to round.  In standard math ‘16.5’ rounds up to 17, but, as we know, in Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, we always round down.

After all the initiative values are entered, I rearrange the tabs accordingly.  When a monster dies, I can either delete the tab or shuffle it off to the side.

Here is what it might look like during a battle.  The green tabs are the PCs, the black is a dead monster.  The Zain-kin Centurion has taken 12 points of damage, which happens to equal his surge value.  Trackless went first, then Anafos, then the Centurions etc…

Another advantage of using Excel is that I can insert other DMs helpers into some of the other tabs.

This tab helps me track my experience budget, so I can adjust to player absences or additions on the fly.  I often paste in images of information from the Monster Builder, especially if I’ve customized them for my game.

On a whole, I’ve had great success using Excel, but I only recommend it for those already familiar with the software, and to those who don’t have to pay for it.  How do you track your encounters?  Do you use index cards or other software?  What ideas for improving my system do you have?


1 Comment

Filed under 4e D&D, Advice/Tools, continuous improvement, Information management, Play, Tools

One response to “Excel is this Dungeon Master’s Friend

  1. Chris

    While I’m a Mac guy at heart, I use a PC laptop for my gaming (curse WOTC for not producing Mac versions of Character Builder and Adventure Tools), and I use DnD4e Combat Manager (http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/DnD4eCM) to track encounters. It imports PCs from Character Builder files, and imports monsters from Monster Builder (via RTF cut and paste — semi-clunky, but usable). It gives you full stat blocks, keeps track of effects, keeps track of power usage, auto-rolls saving throws and recharges, and, in general, has made my life much, much easier. You should check it out, especially if you have a DDI subscription.

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