I thought it would be neat to have a page on my site where DM’s can share pictures and notes on their binders. I see a good binder as an essential part of the DM’s toolbox, and the thought came to me that it would be a fairly valuable resource if DM’s shared with each other what’s in their binders, showed each other their handouts, or just post good pictures so that newbie DM’s could get an idea of how to go about making their own and filling it with essential stuff.
A popular article here at newbiedm.com is one I wrote some time ago on DM’s binders, so consider this an extension of that post.
You can mail pictures and writeups of your binders to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to this page. Please keep your emails and pictures to a reasonable size, as there’s no automated way to do this.
I look forward to seeing your submissions. And keep in mind, this isn’t limited to any edition or particular game, I want to see a variety of stuff here!
Our first entry comes from Michael Beacom, and here’s what he shares:
Here’s what is ALWAYS present in mine.
1. .05mm Mechanical pencil for taking notes
2. Preprinted combat maps for any encounters I expect to happen.
3. Laminated grid paper for encounters that may happen that I did NOT expect (The wet erase markers are in my DM bag, not the binder)
4. Pre-Printed overworld maps
5. Any magic item handouts I’ve got hidden in the world or want to give out for that night.
6. My Condition and status cards that I hand out to people who are unfamiliar with how 4E conditions work.
7. My awesome cards which is a reward system for great RP and interesting combat actions etc.
8. Published adventure module
9. Legal pad with notes from previous game nights and skill challenge bullet points for any upcoming skill challenges
10. Combat tracker for Players and MonstersMichael’s binder before…
Sean Tidy writes:
Currently my DM ‘Binder’ is an iPad and small notebook. Just about any tablet will be able to do what I’ve outlined below. It took me awhile to warm up to the idea and find the right tools, but I do believe this is the future of GM tools. The notebook is mainly for brainstorming plots, NPCs and encounters. I find that pen and paper are great for quick notes and jotting down ideas. I regularly flip through them to remind myself of some idea I had weeks or even months ago. The iPad is what goes with me to gaming sessions and often it is all I need to bring beyond mini’s and a playing surface.
The notebook ideas are then fleshed out using Evernote on my PC and iPad. Evernote is a note taking and synching application. In my case it is installed on my iphone, ipad, PC and laptop. This allows me make updates or check notes anywhere. I use it in conjunction with the DDI Compendium, Monster Builder and the Win 7 Snipping Tool to cut out stat blocks and paste them into my notes, no formatting required. I’ve also snipped the stats and skill cards that come with the DDI Character Builder tool and paste them into my notes for easy reference of PC information.
The iPad has also been adept at replacing various DM tools such as the DM screen, initiative tracking, dice, and physical books. I took a picture of each section of the DM Screen and loaded the pictures onto the iPad. I can now reference important information quickly and easily without having to reach over the screen. I use the free Initiative Tracker app by lvl99games for tracking init and status effects. And while rolling physical dice is still preferred, there is no denying the efficiency boost from pre-programming To Hit rolls and Damage expressions for large encounters. It really speeds up the DM side of combat, freeing up more time for thinking tactically.
While I still have physical books, I definately don’t want to have to lug them around with me every time I head out to game. Game rules and adventures in PDF format are fantastic on the iPad (and Android tablets I’ve seen) and referring to them during a game is very easy when they are searchable and have good bookmarking.
Finally, Since it often takes two lunch sessions to finish a combat encounter using a tablet or mobile device with a camera to take pictures of dungeon tile layouts, or the current status of an encounter is very handy. I can synch or snip those pictures right into my notes for next session.
So this is what currently works for me and my game. I’m always on the lookout for new tools, apps and tips to make my DMing life easier. If I find something particularly useful, I’ll mention it at twitter.com/DieMacher.
Hans Cummings wrote in with his stuff:
These are from my days DMing AD&D 2nd edition. The one on the left has all the notes from my homebrew world. You can see the calendar I worked up and some brief handwritten timelines. The second binder was more general information with printouts of house & optional rules in use, and photocopies of useful Dragon magazine articles for quick reference like spell reagent prices. There are also spell effect templates, character sheets, and blank paper.
Andrew Gatlin wrote in to show us his stuff:
Hey Newbie, I wanted to give you a look at my “binder”. One disclaimer: I’ve only run 2 sessions, so this setup is in flux. So far it’s worked really well for me. The only thing I have that is similar to a binder is a little 2 pocket folder. This is where I keep any papers that I may need. Basically, my printed adventure, maps, and any handouts for my players.
Also, you’ll see some small Post-It flags that I use for condition markers. They work really well with the Monster Vault style tokens. I don’t have any minis, so I’m not sure how the flags would work with them.
That’s pretty much it for hardcopy items other than source books.
My notes all stay in Evernote. I have it installed on every computing device I own that it’s available for. It’s really convenient on my iPod, because it lets me capture ideas as soon as they hit me. I keep 2 D&D related notebooks, one for general D&D notes, and one specifically related to my campaign.
Finally, to run combat I use an awesome program I found called inCombat 4e. It allows you to import files from both the Character Builder and the offline Monster Builder. Once you import those files it will auto-populate names, defenses, initative modifiers, etc. Also, for imported monsters it will pull in the full stat block. That gives you all attacks, traits, auras. It keeps me from have to flip around a bunch of pages to look up a monster’s attack. You can auto roll initative for all you monsters, and inCombat will keep track of turns, rounds, status, effects. Pretty much anything you can think of. For me inCombat is indispensible. Here’s a look at a basic setup. It gives you a good look at a monster’s stat block.
Jim Moreno wrote in with his simple DM’s binder:
Greetings, Newbie DM!
My current binder is the incredible, the fantastic, the wondrous,
WonderFILE Portable Workstation, as seen on TV!
Found it at a local Wal-Mart for about $15, and it’s been a groovy
asset. Better than the Trapper Keeper I used as my DM binder back in
I have in mine:
1. DM Guides
2. Players Handbooks
3. Monster Manual
3. Current adventure module
4. Folder of NPCs, maps, extra graph paper and such
6. DM screen
9. Pens, pencils, markers
10. D&D Fortune Cards
11. AoE templates