Keeping track of everything going on in combat can be a slog. The larger the combat, the more grueling that task becomes. A medium sized combat might have a ton of minis on the field at once and it really becomes a test of will for the DM to focus on maintaining the game state for the hour or so it will take to resolve combat. Initiative can be a bear on it’s own, but holding down status effects on top of that can get even trickier. So what’s a Dungeon Master to do?
Solve the problem with trackers of course.
Roll for Initiative (a lot), then Maintain it
One of the worst feelings you can have as a DM is that your only role is accounting. Your beautiful combat scenario might seem exciting for your players, but on your side you’re juggling a lot of numbers. The issues compound when you add more minis to the battlefield. Each new enemy or ally you put out increases the complexity of the game more than you might think. This all stems from the fact that Dungeons and Dragons is a dynamic game.
Not only does a mini represent the creature in question, it brings in a place in the turn order, a collection of stats, a variety of options for interaction, and potentially changes the options of the entities around it. It’s a lot to consider and is easily one of the main reasons some DMs get frazzled when players summon a boat load of creatures onto the playing field.
The best way to handle this is to offload some of this information. First and foremost you’ll want to handle initiative using an initiative tracker. An initiative tracker helps way more than you think. It’s not the turn order that is so complex, It’s the keeping track of where you are in the turn order while also tracking a million other little things. Sure in small combat scenarios you can manage, but this quickly becomes a nightmare when you get into medium and large sized encounters.
Lucky for us, we’ve partnered up with Wildbot3D who make amazing initiative trackers that can easily simplify this problem for you. These trackers are hanger style and designed to fit overtop of our DM screen. Each one is slotted with two windows to house labels for your trackers. Wildbot3D offers some easy to use print templates to help you get those filled out. The trackers are sturdy, elegant, and a real time saver for your game.
One of the things we like best about these trackers is the dual sided and large space areas for labels. For us, rather than fill the larger side with an image, we’ve prepared monster stat sheets to drop in for our various enemies. This not only keeps track of which monster is up next, but also what we need to know off hand to use them. You can use them in a similar fashion for your Players by dropping in notes on their max HP, AC, and passive perception. It makes these trackers super handy and saves you from flipping through character sheets in your game.
Our favorites right now are the black tracker, but they are also available in red or a pack with both. They’re wide enough to fit on top of any standard DM screen or laptop monitor, but not so wide that they rattle around. We’d personally love to see more colors in the future so we can pre-prep monster trackers and store them with the corresponding minis we use most often.
So now that we’ve got initiative handled, let’s see what else clutters up our minds when running combat and find more solutions.
Conditions and Combat
Status effects make combat much more interesting than it normally would be. We’ve all played super boring, straightforward combat encounters where players and enemies just take turns hitting each other until they die. We don’t advocate for boring encounters here at Master the Dungeon. We instead encourage you to spice up combat with conditions that make both players and enemies consider their options more carefully.
The one major downside to this is when both players and enemies start getting bogged down with statuses, it can be a lot for you to keep track of. To rectify this problem you need look no further than these amazing condition rings from Wildbot3D.
When Wildbot3D reached out to us about their product, we were overjoyed. It solves exactly the problem we’ve been talking about. States, conditions, and masses of minis all getting confused and mixed up. Sure, conditions add a lot to gameplay, but they can make your combat worse if you can’t accurately keep track of them. We’ve all bungled our fair share of overly complicated encounters, but that was mostly because we were trying to keep everything straight in our heads. Using condition rings solves this problem by offloading the mental task of updating notes or remembering which mini has what effect.
Wildbot3D’s condition markers make it simple to keep track of what statuses and effects go onto the field with easy to read, fully 3D rings you can place on or over your miniatures. For us, this replaced a lot of furiously scribbled notes that were hastily erased as we tried to keep the pace of the game going.
Wildbot3D’s Condition Ring set covers everything you need. It’s 77 pieces with every condition under the sun and includes duplicates for where you will need them most frequently. You can really tell these are developed by people who care about the game. In addition to being clear to see and easy to read, the rings have an incredibly intuitive color scheme that makes it easy to match effects and colors for quick glances across the battlefield.
One of the features we like the most about these is that the rings fit snugly over most standard mini-bases, which helps us immensely. For larger minis or baseless figures we simply loop the rings on top. We also love the ring for enlarged creatures, as it acts as a widened base that takes up space equivalent to the size change of the creature, which is fantastic for illustrating the change on the battle map.
Examples of Complex Combat with Status Effects
Let’s look at an example. Your party is in a larger combat facing off against 10 weaker enemies. They know that the action economy is not in their favor, as they’re only a party of four. Luckily for them, most of the party gets to go first.
On their first turn the party’s cleric decides to cast Bless on the other three party members and then moves to a defensive position in front of the party. Bless will last up to 10 rounds or until the cleric drops concentration. Each character’s mini gets one blessed status ring.
Next up the sorcerer wants to shift the action economy into favor for the party and casts Sleep on the enemy forces – this causes 4 enemies to fall unconscious, each affected mini getting a ring.
Then an enemy unit goes, drawing a bow and making a ranged attack on the sorcerer for a hit with a poisoned arrow. The sorcerer fails their save, but remembers they have advantage due to the ring showing they are blessed and rolls again. They still fail and you apply a poisoned ring to their mini.
Next up, your group’s bard decides 6 against 4 is still not a great deal for them and casts Enthrall. Since the party is in combat already, the enemy units get advantage on their save and only two fall prey to the charmed effect as the bard attempts to reason their way out of a sticky situation. Each charmed creature gets a charmed condition ring.
Now finally the group’s barbarian is up. They place the rage ring on their mini immediately and move in to undo the rest of the group’s hard work, waking up sleeping enemies and breaking charm, all at advantage because they are also blessed, easily noticed with their stacked condition rings.
As you can see, what would have been a nightmare to keep track of on paper is much more easily managed with the simple act of offloading some thinking into physical pieces. If you couple this with initiative trackers too your combat becomes much simpler; you can keep track of both the turn order and the common saves you need to pull from for your enemies and players alike.
Make Your Game Easier
Combat is complicated enough without you having to remember every little detail and take notes at a furious pace. The simple addition of condition rings and initiative trackers to your game make the whole experience cleaner, faster, and more enjoyable while serving a highly functional purpose. Wildbot3D’s condition rings and trackers are our current solutions of choice and we couldn’t be happier to work with a maker of such quality products. Don’t put yourself through so much mental stress for combat. Gear up and simplify your game today.
More About WildBot3D
Wildbot3D makes high quality 3D printed game accessories for TTRPGs. Their line of condition rings and initiative trackers are what excited us the most about them, but they also make a whole host of additional products ranging from dice trays to mini stands, scatter, and more. We’re huge fans of their products ourselves and look forward to seeing what new and fun things they continue to create to make our games better.