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Old 08-08-2018, 10:21 AM   #1
guymc
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default GM Screen Alternatives

As a spin-off from the GM Screen discussion thread elsewhere, what sort of alternatives to putting data on a GM screen exist, what data is appropriate for these, and how can they be used. I'm opening this up for discussion, but this is not necessarily about things just for the Kickstarter package.

The idea of a GM screen is to put frequently used game rules and data in a place where it is easier and faster to access than consulting the book. So off the top we can eliminate things that are just as easy to look up in the book (few), and things used so infrequently that looking them up on occasion is no burden. (Or can we? It seems to me that the opinion has been offered more than once that the obscure table referenced infrequently that is nonetheless essential when the subject matter comes up is exactly what some people DO want to have available.

Are there more appropriate ways to offer players and gamemasters information than putting it all on a screen? Here are some ways I know to supplement a GM screen or present things not appropriate or useful on the screen. What info would be best with what methods? Are there other methods that have worked for you?

PULLOUTS: Longer tables and lists and multiple pieces that go together can be provided as separate pullout pages to be consulted by players or GM. If provided in PDF format, copies can easily be printed for everyone who wants or needs one. This might be especially good for things that are used heavily by everyone at once at one time and then infrequently used thereafter. (Character Generation materials might fit this category, as may Tables of Weapons and Equipment).

STANDUP CHARTS: This is -- as far as I know -- something I came up with myself for my own campaigns, mostly for players. I don't think I've ever seen them actually provided in a game box. If you recall the little three-sided advertisements for desserts, drinks, specials etc. on restaurant tables, folded from a single piece of card stock, you have the idea. Charts, tables and rule segments can be printed on these, and they can be put out on the table either all the time or just when players are performing the appropriate activities.

These are very good for information that all pertains to one activity that isn't done all the time. This is a way to present things that don't necessarily have to hang in front of your face on a GM/player screen. They are more durable than a handout, and more accessible than a GM screen because they can be picked up and brought closer to look at them. One of these can be handed around as needed, and put aside when no one is using it. An example of something I might use this for in TFT is mounted movement and combat charts and rules, going out on the table when the characters take to horse for a significant amount of time.

CARDS: Where there are a lot of selections that might appear on a big table or list, but you are only likely to be concerned immediately with the few selections you actually have at hand, cards are a nice way to provide info. Just hand the appropriate card to the player, for him to keep as long as it is pertinent.

I like and use cards a lot, myself. They are great for introducing what the players would immediately see and know about a new NPC, or even a new location, organization, etc. I like them for giving to a player to gather all the info about a weapon or piece of equipment they have (or to provide the pertinent info about each Spell or Talent a character possesses. Pregenerated characters on cards is nice for short combat games (and we used them at Gen Con, as you saw). The GM can also use these behind the screen when he needs a quick opponent, NPC or monster.

Cards can also double as indicators. For example, if you have a card for each piece of specific equipment you carry, you can place the ones you have visible and easily readied on the table face up in front of you, and ones that might be concealed, packed away, or left behind at the inn in face-down piles until you retrieve them.

For TFT this is especially nice if you have a layout for your character that lets you set your ready weapon/shield and the armor you are carrying in a prominent spot to mark that. If you have cards for armor and weapons, it is easy to quickly calculate your adjDX if the adjustments are on the cards.
My own players have always liked cards because it gives them something tangible to hold (and lose, when necessary). Getting a new card with an item, talent, spell, etc. is like getting a present. If an items is lost, sold or broken, the card is given back to the GM.

New cards can be created for enchanted items and special possessions. (And not just for weapons, armor and magic items. A card for your horse, example, encourages you to think of it as more than a taxicab.) Special items that have associated adjustments and rules can have those printed right on the card. New sets can be made when there are a number of new things added to the game, And, of course, cards can be illustrated!

************

What other ways can you think of to present information in a way that is more useful and/or acceptable than having it only in the rulebook? What information works best with what method? Are you willing to pay for game aids like these, whether that be in a higher price for the basic game that comes with them or as an add-on? Do you prefer physical products over just having PDFs of these game aids to print out on your own?
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Old 08-08-2018, 12:05 PM   #2
Skarg
 
Join Date: May 2015
Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

Well, I mainly just memorize 90% of the system. ;-)

I also almost never use a screen with tables, partly because I don't have one, don't need one, and the published ones never have the things I'd want on them.

I can see using a screen if I had one I liked. I would use the TFT one if I had it.

So I may not be the right person to refer to as the audience for the new TFT screen, but what I do use may be useful for the other reference materials.

What I do do is make my own reference sheets and keep those handy. What I actually use is mostly several folders with 8.5" x 11" paper sheets with whatever on them, including those reference sheets.

I think it makes sense to put the things for character development & creation on separate reference sheets rather than facing players during play.

The things that help me in play are the things that come up during action situations which I have not memorized and might be tempted to look up or get wrong. e.g. I would suggest:

* list of situational DX modifiers (include various two-weapon attack situations)
* effects of multi-hex figures on engagement / push / trampling
* effects of injury on high-ST figures
* crit hit/miss/double/triple numbers for 4d, 5d 6d etc rolls
* effects of different body positions/postures (including kneeling from Aimed Shots rule, might want to ADD sitting for RP purposes)
* height advantage effects
* dead body & common broken ground effects
* darkness effects (& torch & lantern & light spell effects)
* encumbrance table / effects
* initiative roll modifiers (don't forget the "if you're fleeing, you can move first" one)
* aimed shot & dagger marksmanship penalties & effects (hopefully improved)
* crippling hit table (hopefully improved)
* clubs & bare hand weapon damage table (hopefully improved)
* HTH initiation, details, pinning, striking into HTH (hopefully improved)
* mounted/flying combat summary or mods & rolls, panic table
* summary of how to do climbing & swimming & jumping
* long-range attack penalties
* time needed for various actions (physicking, resting, burning down a door...)
* distance sound travels & is muffled by doors
* the travel rules/roles for getting lost, exposure/starvation/dehydration damage, etc.
* peculiar weapons summaries (hopefully improved)
* fine weapon break chances
* molotail/gunpowder/fire rule reminders
* animal DX mods & other rules (min IQ to see illusions, -2DX animals attacked by fire & won't initiate HTH, etc)
* gestures required by wizards based on IQ vs spell IQ
* time / resources / teachers required to learn spells & talents by various means
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Old 08-08-2018, 12:33 PM   #3
Skarg
 
Join Date: May 2015
Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

I like your (Guy's) idea for cards or standups or sheets that cover certain situations. Natural choices for TFT could be:

HTH
swimming / boating / drowning / resuscitating
climbing / falling / height advantage
darkness / blindness / invisibility / illumination
mounted combat
flying combat
overland travel
labyrinth scale time / movement / light / sound
rest, healing, recovery
reaction rolls & social situations

The cards for items thing can be fun. I've done that... but it also adds to the physical clutter, you start needing envelopes for players, want lots of cards for mundane common items (or else have to deal with some things not having cards), figure out what happens if someone misplaces a card or whatever.

I sometimes drew my TFT PC's equipment and noted any wear & tear (one character notched his crossbow for kills... I drew those on).
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Old 08-08-2018, 01:42 PM   #4
JLV
 
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Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

The only problem with cards for items (especially magical or enchanted ones) is that they tend to drive the GM down a certain specified path. It you get a pretty card for a specific magic item, that virtually guarantees that magical item will pop up in the game, even it if were otherwise wildly inappropriate for that GM's actual campaign. It's like having the Hammer of Thor appear in your game, even though you're playing a campaign set in Middle Earth.

Plus, I find that cards like that (unless you publish millions of them a la Magic: The Gathering), tend to starkly limit choices and GM imagination. Mind you, this is all anecdotal information from observing a fairly limited number of campaigns over the years (maybe a max of 20, of which 10 were my own, so only about 10 run by others, and only a couple of which used cards in this way).

Cards for generic items, swords, shields, horses, wagons, whatever, are less of a problem that way; though as someone else observed, you might potentially need a ton of them as the campaign goes on. Plus they tend to eliminate individual variations (horses are not all produced by a cookie-cutter stamping press, after all). So design of the cards would be very crucial for those kinds of issues.

Cards for things like Spells, on the other hand, might be very useful, since they ARE produced by a cookie cutter stamping press...

I like the stand up "drinks/dessert menu" idea. I think that could be very useful, especially for the normally less frequently used, but nonetheless relatively complex rules sets (water, movement on and in, breathing, drowning, swimming, etc., or, as you suggest, mounted combat rules) kinds of situation. Something like that would be an enormous aid to play.

The more I think about the GM screen, the more I think that info on the player side should be limited to nearly universal and frequently consulted info (Armor/weapon tables, and equipment and costs tables, for example) printed as large as conveniently possible, with the remaining panel(s) taken up by art or something. It's hard for players to see it sometimes, particularly if the GM is establishing "atmosphere" with darkened lighting and the like, and should be confined to things that they need to periodically consult during the game itself. The pullouts (one for quick character design would be a nice touch, btw), or standup tri-fold menus would be better ways to convey other necessary information to them.

Sorry for the wall of text, but you asked... ;-)
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Old 08-08-2018, 01:48 PM   #5
Shostak
 
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Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

I think cards make a lot of sense for spells. Players can hold the cards their characters know as spells, so there is less flipping around in the rulebook. Having two decks (or more) would be very useful for new Wizard players, especially, since it would speed up character creation and referencing spell details.
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Old 08-08-2018, 02:35 PM   #6
Groknard
 
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Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

Guy, I don't know where I found this Melee Quick Reference Sheet, probably 7 or 8 years ago, but I've found it very useful to have at the table:

http://robertsaintjohn.com/TFT/Melee_Quickref.pdf

David Miller has this Weapons/Armor list on one sheet and is also very useful, both as a reference to the GM, and as a "shopping list" for players as they're creating their characters:

http://www.meleewizards.com/Images/melee_weapons.pdf

It's hard to know where to draw the line as to what is best for a screen as opposed to handouts, but I think a player would find some of this more useful as a sheet (printed from PDF should be fine) than on the player side of a screen.

I also love the idea of cards. In my ideal world, players could have cards for everything: a character card, cards for weapons and armor, cards for spells, and cards for items acquired. But I also know much of the old guard would prefer to keep everything on a sheet. And short of making a lot of dry erase cards or multiples of many, it would be a big expensive project outside the scope of this game right now. But if ever there was an RPG that could have done away with the character sheet approach to playing and used cards instead, TFT would be one, IMO.
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Old 08-08-2018, 02:46 PM   #7
Jim Kane
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Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

Restaurant-style *Table Tents* for the Players - especially new players - would certainly solve many vision issues, and clear some valuable real-estate for you on the GM screen. Obviously the cost-benefit and feasibility will be the driver here; otherwise, I think it is a concept worth looking into.

JK

Last edited by Jim Kane; 08-08-2018 at 02:47 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 08-08-2018, 02:48 PM   #8
JLV
 
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Location: Far northern California
Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

In my case it's not so much "Old Guardism" as it is a desire to avoid having too many parts that can easily go missing and gum up the works in the process. Adding several hundred cards (because, let's face it, that's what we'd all wind up doing) simply increases the risk of potentially catastrophic failure... ;-)

Dice, and even counters, I can replace easily enough. Cards are a whole different matter.
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Old 08-08-2018, 04:44 PM   #9
ak_aramis
 
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Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

The most useful tables for me in the past:

Talents sorted by IQ
Talents sorted by Name
Talents sorted by slot cost
Spells sorted by name
Spells sorted by IQ

It helps if there's a sentence fragment for what they do.
For example, 1d talents "-1d on ___", Veteran "+1 natural AV", new followers "4/IQ to add follower."
etc.
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Old 08-08-2018, 05:26 PM   #10
Kirk
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Default Re: GM Screen Alternatives

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarg View Post

* list of situational DX modifiers (include various two-weapon attack situations)
* effects of multi-hex figures on engagement / push / trampling
* effects of injury on high-ST figures
* crit hit/miss/double/triple numbers for 4d, 5d 6d etc rolls
* effects of different body positions/postures (including kneeling from Aimed Shots rule, might want to ADD sitting for RP purposes)
* height advantage effects
* dead body & common broken ground effects
* darkness effects (& torch & lantern & light spell effects)
* encumbrance table / effects
* initiative roll modifiers (don't forget the "if you're fleeing, you can move first" one)
* aimed shot & dagger marksmanship penalties & effects (hopefully improved)
* crippling hit table (hopefully improved)
* clubs & bare hand weapon damage table (hopefully improved)
* HTH initiation, details, pinning, striking into HTH (hopefully improved)
* mounted/flying combat summary or mods & rolls, panic table
* summary of how to do climbing & swimming & jumping
* long-range attack penalties
* time needed for various actions (physicking, resting, burning down a door...)
* distance sound travels & is muffled by doors
* the travel rules/roles for getting lost, exposure/starvation/dehydration damage, etc.
* peculiar weapons summaries (hopefully improved)
* fine weapon break chances
* molotail/gunpowder/fire rule reminders
* animal DX mods & other rules (min IQ to see illusions, -2DX animals attacked by fire & won't initiate HTH, etc)
* gestures required by wizards based on IQ vs spell IQ
* time / resources / teachers required to learn spells & talents by various means
This is a good practical discussion and this list hits a lot of what I would want, as well, on a GM screen, with Times New Roman font, dark against light background, appropriately sized for distance for the Players (I'm not moving my screen) and the GM on the other side.

In the past I have used index cards to write up NPCs that I can quickly pull and mark with pencil hits, etc. then erase after the adventure. I've made small pieces that are items extra special, like an elven blade or The One Ring, to emphasize the importance of it. I've used pinto beans for basic rations on long journeys, and navy beans as Lembas.

I think being able to travel relatively lightly with TFT is important, but having some stand-up drinks and dessert style devices for the Players might be a good idea. Cards for spells and talents that could be referenced, say a set of each, might speed play or avoid cheap printouts and copies of the Talents and Spells that we now use that get bent and wrinkled and destroyed rather quickly.

The visceral paper and pencil aspect of TFT needs to remain, though, so I would avoid any technological dependence that will disenfranchise those that don't want it or can't afford it, tie the game to current tech which will be as outdated as 8 track tapes in about 3 months time, and distracts from play. I ban phones, computers, and other gizmos from the play area in my games, if someone wants to be a Phombie, they need to do it somewhere else.

Everyone needs to see the play area, though, and everyone needs to reach and manipulate their figures, so we want to ensure there isn't too much clutter about the table that causes inadvertent beer bottle spillage from all of the upright stuff on the table. :)
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