I want to take some time each week to talk about some things that help me out in my gaming and planning sessions, as well as things that help overall with being a DM for Dungeons & Dragons.

I have a large group in my Curse of Strahd campaign. Right now, in the “Story So Far” posts, you’ll see there’s only four players – but that will change as I publish more each week (we’re actually ahead in the timeline of where the posts are taking place). Currently, I have six active players – which is kind of the maximum some DMs will take. I hesitate at adding more, as much as I would like to.

This is mainly because of the time each game takes. We’re scheduled for 3 hours on Sunday evenings (I do have work in the morning, after all), but almost always go over a bit. Especially if there’s combat. Combat always takes a long time, as anyone familiar with D&D will confirm, and that’s doubly true if you have a large group.

So I’m always looking for ways to expedite the experience without “rushing” and robbing the players of having a good time. One thing I can do is help them keep track of the Initiative Order, so they’re not always wondering when their turn is, especially early on in combat.

I found these DM Screen Hanging Combat Cards, made by Adam Scaramella, on the outstanding resource The Dungeon Masters Guild. I highly recommend them, as they’re extremely useful for more than simply showing Initiative order to the players. You can see them in use in my picture on this post.

Here’s a closer look at version 1 and version 2 of the product.

ccardsv1-snip                 ccards-snip

As you can see, a LOT of really useful information that’s found on the players’ character sheets, but not necessarily something directly in front of you, the DM, at all times. Sure, there are ways to do that, maybe incorporate it into your DM Screen itself. But I like this system a lot.

On V1 I used the “Faction” field to put down the characters’ alignments, as that’s sometimes important in the Curse of Strahd campaign. I LOVE having their Spell DCs at a glance, along with AC, Passive Perception, and Max HP stats.

The updated card eliminates the Ability Score mods, which is fine. Those are somewhat helpful to me, in certain cases, but I think I like the idea of the Unique Benefits box, as well as whether or not the character is wielding a magic weapon (definitely helpful versus certain monsters).

I have a lot of newer D&D players, and so they do not always remember all of the special feats that they have that can help them in a pinch, or with certain Skill checks, so having something like the Unique Benefits box allows me to help them if they don’t think to look for anything. Plus, these cards help them with Initiative tracking, so that they know when their turn will be, and can be prepared to help speed combat along.

Another EXTREMELY helpful thing I found on the DMs Guild for use with the Curse of Strahd campaign was this guide to the campaign book, by Sean McGovern. I have found invaluable tips and suggested modifications to the story and events in this guide, and have incorporated several of them into my campaign. This guy is really smart and very clever. I wish I had this before I started the campaign. Luckily, I found it not long after we started.

And that’s just the tip of what I’ve found useful on the DMs Guild. I’m still finding things, including an easier-to-read, auto-fillable character sheet creator, and new character classes and backgrounds.

If you’re a DM, and looking for resources, definitely start at the Dungeon Masters Guild.

Until next time – Well Met!