Behind the Screen: Three DM Tools I love and why…

2008 February 25
by Dante

Today I felt it necessary to trot out the magical tools of my fevered trade. Working with a co-DM, we rely heavily on online chat as an invisible communication medium between myself (who is running the session) and my co-DM (who is in charge of major plot arcs).

As a result, my wireless network is a constant allowing me to dredge the heady depths of the Internet to augment my campaign running abilities much like bionics augmented American Hero Steve Austin so many years ago.

#1. A good die roller.

I like rolling physical dice as much as the next guy, but unfortunately we play a rather close set with six of us gathered around a few card tables or a dinner table. This makes peeking at errant DM dice readily possible, and so I resort to Wizard’s own online Dungeons & Dragons Dice Roller.

It is cheap (as in free), effective, and has a pretty slick interface that doesn’t require a lot of clicks or typing to get the job done.

#2. A good NPC generator.

I can’t count the number of times that a player in our group (usually Vanir) walks up to a random townsperson and asks what their name is. That’s usually where I grunt unhappily and fire up Jamis Buck’s NPC Generator 2.

It does a pretty fair job of generating a good stat block, however my only real complaint is that it doesn’t generate level appropriate gear so you’re stuck fudging some average gear for a given character level. It is great for the aforementioned “around town” character generation on the quick though!

#3. A good town generator.

We have been working in a large campaign that has required a lot of travel across great distances. As a result, I am often asked where the next small town is for the purposes of rest, recovery, or diversion.

For circumstances where I don’t need a detailed map, I turn to MythWeaver’s online town generator. Its cool because it gives you the options to select a good level of detail for the town, and then generates a population distribution as well. This makes for a bit more detail than your general population count, and guides the mind to some constructive quickie plot threads as the players interact with the scene. It has gotten me out of a pinch on more than one occasion.

The list goes on and on…

These are but a few of my staple online resources. I will continue to divest my hoard on you as time goes on, gentle reader, but for now I’d love to hear what some of your favored DM tools are if you are similarly inclined!

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Vanir permalink
    February 25, 2008

    That’s not entirely accurate. I don’t ask names.

    I ask if the townsperson is hot.

  2. thanuir permalink
    February 25, 2008

    I like Abulafia (, which is a wiki-based random generator thingy. I use it before session and write things down, mind. No computers when gaming. It is cool in that everyone can make a new generator there and the syntax is easy.

  3. Granger44 permalink
    February 25, 2008

    Despite an annual tradition of buying a new set of dice, I mostly use the DiceTool from The biggest feature is the tabs that you can use for say different groups of monsters as a DM or to collect the typical dice rolls from different games as a player.

  4. The Evil DM permalink
    February 25, 2008

    I use powerpoint.
    online battlemats like )one games puts out, i use those for backgrounds. then I get icons of objects from forums like dundjinni and tokens of the characters and monsters and do up battle sets that way.

  5. John permalink
    February 25, 2008

    I use Turnwatcher (initiative is rolled qucikly for everyone), online SRD, tiddlywiki(DM campaign, and encounter notes), chatzilla( chatting with the drow who infiltrated the party…), and occasionally a projector.

    We play around a 4×8 table, and there are usually 6 PC laptops (of the 9 players) running Heroforge 6.x, which does a decent job of applying buffs.

  6. The DM permalink
    February 25, 2008

    I love the co-DM setup you’re describing. My buddy Randy and I ran a co-DM campaign for several months, and chat never occurred to us as an option. I love it!

    The NPC generator is awesome, too. I’ve also got a printout I made a decade ago of random names to use for NPCs. It was twenty pages or something, and I cross out a name when I use it. I’m down to the last couple of pages, though, so I’m going to have to either start erasing or go back to the well.

    And, Vanir – dude – you crack me up.

  7. Chuck permalink
    March 9, 2008

    I’m probably a bit biased, since I wrote it, but I think my Virtual Dice Tray can hold its own with anything out there (and I dare say it’s way better than that thing on the Wizards site)

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