I’m prepping my first in person game!


I’m planning my first ever in person campaign, which will start this month! Thanks to the recommendation from some folks in a Facebook group I’m in I’m going to run Castles & Crusades 1! It’s an interesting take on older school Dungeons & Dragons play, and I’m interested to see how the system plays in person.

There is one particular problem, however, which I needed to overcome to make running an in person campaign work.

I hate paper.

It’s not really paper that I hate, it’s being surrounded by clutter which I need to use 2 Having lots of bits around my workspace tends to make me fidgety, and more often than not I tend to end up tossing things around. This is one reason while I’ll never use minis to run a game, it would not end well.

I’m planning on using a Virtual Table Top 3 to run my maps, however, and that’s going to cut down from some of the clutter inherent with running a table top role playing game. I can use the VTT to track both hit points and combat initiative, for example, and these are two tasks involve a lot of erasing and rewriting. Having them digitized makes my life easier.

But I wanted to know if I could cut down even more on my clutter.

So few nights ago I opened up my virtual table top, FoundryVTT, and created a new world using a system called “Simple World Builder.” This is set up for games which don’t have integrated systems designed for FoundryVTT 4, but still want some of the benefits of using a VTT. As my Castles & Crusades table is going to be played in person, using real dice, I don’t need to set up a complex system. I just need to display some basic info.

I went into the night thinking all I really needed to do was to create the world and go. Since players are going to be using their own character sheets, after all, why would I need to have more than that?

And then I thought of all the information I’ll need to have handy for players, monsters, and NPCs. For Castles & Crusades At a minimum I’ll need to know a player’s ability scores and modifiers, their class and level, their fantasy race, and which of their abilities are considered “primary.” I’ll also need to have an easy way to see what spells the players are using, or other abilities they might implement during play. These are all things which tend to be done with paper, which I hate.

So I created templates for PCs, NPCs, and Creatures 5 inside Simple World Builder which allow me to enter the information I need whenever an actor 6 is engaged in some sort of task or conflict. The sheets aren’t exhaustive, though implementing the full character sheet wouldn’t be hard if I want to, they just have the basics. I’ve got scans of the paper sheets on my iPad if I need more, but with the basic information in my VTT the information is right there in front of me. Since I’ve playing online this is a setup I’m used to, which makes the transition to online play a tad easier.

A simple character sheet for “Sir Ni” (not his actual name. It shows the 6 core stats, the class, level, hit points, armor class, and bonuses.
My PC template.

In addition to the actor templates, I also created a templates for spells. This way I can create entries containing the information for the spells a character has prepared for the day, which will save me from flipping through the rulebook every time a caster decides to show off. FoundryVTT has a module called “GM Screen” which allows for multiple tabs, and I’ve created a tab for each caster where I’ll store their prepared spells for quick reference 7.

Showing the spells for Arno in the GM Screen Module
The GM Screen Module with spells added

With this set up all the actor info I need at hand, and there is zero clutter. That’s a huge win for me.

But this doesn’t mean I’m going to have no paper! Last month I picked up my first physical GM Screen and purchased a set of CK notes 8. So I’ll have all my static information on the GM screen, and my dynamic information stored on FoundryVTT. Oh, and I’ll have my iPad there so I can keep track of lore and in-game events I want to revisit later. The image below is what my setup will look like, minus the iPad.

A Macbook, dice tray, and four panel screen with game notes on the inside.
My CK setup, minus the iPad I’ll be using for notes and lore.

It’s going to be wild.

  1. The game’s name is, cringey. It’s a nod to the wargaming group Gary Gygax was in when D&D was being invented and has nothing to do with role playing the Crusades. 

  2. Clutter which I don’t have to utilize, and can be pushed out of my workspace, can be erased from my mind and is fine. Yes, I’m weird. 

  3. VTT, for short. 

  4. And integrated system will do things like handle dice rolls, calculate bonuses, track resources, and manage inventory. 

  5. That’s “Player Characters”, “Non-Player Characters”, and “Everything Else.” 

  6. Each of the types of characters is called an “actor” in FoundryVTT. 

  7. I really need to do this for my D&D Fifth Edition table, as well. 

  8. OK, here’s the thing. When D&D first came out the person running the game was called the “referee,” because that’s what they were called in wargaming. Wargaming referees weren’t part of the game, however, they were only there to adjudicate disputes and make sure things were fair. So the name didn’t really fit the new style of play D&D was creating. Early players began using the term “Dungeon Master,” or DM, and this has become the official Dungeons & Dragons term. Other games tended to go with the generic term “Game Master,” or GM to differentiate (and for legal reasons). Castles & Crusades uses “Castle Keeper,” or CK, to refer to the person running the game. Why? Because when people in the know, geeks and nerds who are really into the hobby, hear the term they’ll know what game is being played. The world is a strange place and people are odd.