Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Screen From Beyond Time and Space

Even though I'm looking forward to the new Referee's screen from the LotFP Hardcover Referee Book campaign, I'm a little afraid that I might not use it.

I've been slowly relying on my laptop more and more.  Aside from having quick access to the hundreds of PDFs I own, I've been working on the ULTIMATE REFEREE SCREEN.

I'm using OpenOffice Calc to create a spreadsheet.  It started off as basically a way to keep track of LotFP compatible modules, including hooks, appropriate PC level, and where I've placed it in the campaign world.

I was already using Google Maps as a way to keep track of locations in the campaign world (using the Early Modern Era real world).  Of course, I also have access to links and other generators that I might need.  All players have a link to a player version of this google map that only includes things they know about based on rumors or discovery.  This way they can plan where they want to go next.

I soon added another tab to my spreadsheet that includes 1000 seafaring encounters. (Note: these are all entirely cut and pasted from other blogs.)

Recently, I realized that I wasn't using monsters from all these cool monster books I've gotten (Lusus Naturae and Fire on the Velvet Horizon, for example).  So, as I read through them, I enter notes on the spreadsheet.  What really makes this useful is being able to sort alphabetically, by book, or by "tags."  I can quickly find a monster that would be in a city, in a swamp, or will be wandering almost anywhere.  I can throw out a few clues to the players and while they reflect and discuss, pull out the book and re-read the full entry.

This is when I started to realize that I could get rid of my binder altogether and started putting everything in this spreadsheet.  Next is my NPC screen.  It has various charts for NPC creation, the reaction table, and hyperlinks to PDFs that I can reference for random NPCs or snag a name.

Next up is the combat screen.  It includes weapons, body hit chart for critical hits, actions that can be taken during combat, etc.

I've added the critical/fumble charts from Green Devil Face #5, items, etc., and next will be working on adding my settlement generator.  One of the great things about this system is that as people post cool stuff on G+, I can just look it over quickly, then hyperlink it in my screen for use later on. 

I've also created a document that includes info about each PC, ordered in the way they usually sit around the table, known NPCs, and important things for me to keep track of. (I found I was forgetting this stuff b/c it was scrawled on notes all over the place or scattered throughout my journal.)

Note that we had three PC deaths last week, so some data is missing!

I do still play with my moleskin journal to track what's happening from session to session, and I also always have the print copy of whatever module I'm running.  But, it's much easier to manage things having just those, instead of two other binders packed with shit that I always forget about anyway.

I'm interested in hearing suggestions and great ideas for other ways to better use a laptop while at the table.  


  1. If you're using a spreadsheet with random dice results, why not go whole hog and make those dice results =choose( random()*6, cell1, cell2, cell3, cell4, etc) so no dice needed, just hit f9 (refresh rolls) and viola, complete NPC, instantaneously. I've been using spreadsheets for character creation since 97, and they make awesome NPCs too. make check boxes for settable values, i.e. I want an Elven spellslinger level 4, after adventure, or gelfling huntress, level 7, down on her luck, 3rd level bartender, .. after playing dwarf fortress I started adding random, likes, dislikes, previous experiences:

    1. I will definitely need to look into this! I remember doing randomization when I used Excel a while back, but now that I've switched to OpenOffice Calc, I have to relearn everything.

  2. That is quite impressive. I can't imagine collecting that much data and organizing it. You should share the file, minus your campaign/player-specific stuff. I'm sure a lot of people would love to have such a comprehensive resource for LotFP!

  3. I would also like to share it someday - it still needs some work, and I would have to get permission from the monster books that I've included in case the creators are uncomfortable with the amount of info I provide about each monster. But, I will share some version of it at some point!

  4. Just started following you blog! Excellent stuff! I've been personally moving away from paper notes and GM screens for the past couple of years. Since I picked up a cheap Chromebook I find myself using Google Docs more and more than any meat-space notes, for the same exact reasons you talk about above. Definitely stealing the spreadsheet idea to compile the copious number of random tables I've collected in by Bookmarks folder.