Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

As my players go up levels there are more and more variables in combat. I need help. What solutions exist out there and what makes them good?

share|improve this question

12 Answers 12

up vote 13 down vote accepted

A clever, if ugly, version of status indicators used at my first DnD Encounters session cap rings I found a photo of the technique at Soda Cap Rings for Status

I also found this - which includes a tray-style approach: Status Tray

And a mini's approach: Status Chitst

UPDATE: I used a laser cutter to create some of my own status "chips" and area-of-effect indicators:

share|improve this answer
I have access to a laser cutter, so I was thinking of cutting stackable status disks to sit under the figures. I could put notches or something in them so the stay locked together. Has anyone tried something like this? – F. Randall Farmer Oct 24 '10 at 16:01
You could spray paint coins, I have used coins as bases in the past. – David Allan Finch Oct 25 '10 at 8:35
Poker chips would stack just as well. It might be easier to cut those down to size than to make your own notches. – valadil Oct 25 '10 at 20:28
+1 @valadil - getting them out now... I used to own a big bag of these 7/8" multicolor chips: - I forgot about those! – F. Randall Farmer Oct 27 '10 at 0:30
Has anyone tried rubber bands? They come in lots of colors and sizes... – F. Randall Farmer Oct 27 '10 at 0:37

This is how we handle status effects:

Since we use token for things on the battlemat (and not minis), we use a set of small colored beads to put on the tokens:

   Red: bloodied
 Green: ongoing poison
Yellow: dazed 
  Pink: marked by the paladin
Orange: cursed by the warlock
   ...: and so on...

We've played with it long enough that the color code is understandable at a glance.

The benefit is that it is trivial to add/remove. It's a simple visual cue. And it helps telegraph the status of all combatants on the battlefield.

One thing we have yet to figure out well is to distinguish between "save ends" and "end of next turn". Also, the tokens only fit about 4 or 5 beads before you need to stack them and the ones we have don't stack very well (i.e. easy to topple).

share|improve this answer
Do you have a photo of this? How do you keep the beads from falling off when you move the tokens? – F. Randall Farmer Oct 24 '10 at 16:02
@FRandall: No, sorry. I don't have a photo. The tokens are flat and 1"x1". The beads are leftover from some old craft project of my DM and have a flat side. Moving the token is fine. The errant d20 across the battlemap can cause problems though. :) – yhw42 Oct 24 '10 at 16:11

I find inCombat quite handy, because it seamlessly integrates with iplay4e and the compendium.

share|improve this answer

I'm a big fan of masterplan

In addition to combat tracking, it allows you to build out full encounters, adventures and campaigns.

share|improve this answer

Having access to graphics software, my immediate response was to design a printable paper version that I then laminated. I went through a few different concepts as they have a big disadvantage when you need to stack multiple effects.

I'm really happy with my current design and it seems to be working really well. The trick was to have each token be slightly smaller than the 1" tile and have a tab that extends out past the central square.

Probably easier to understand if you look at cover of the pdf:

For my own game I do custom markers for each of the powers as well, showing duration as well as the owner and the power name. Not managed to get them into a distributable form yet though.

share|improve this answer

My gaming group has been going for a few months using D&D essentials kits with tokens instead of minis, we use mini m&m candies for status effects and marks etc. They are handy and offer a nice snack option as well :)

Our DM also uses inCombat and it is very handy for computing HP and keeping track of initiative.

share|improve this answer

This answer is a repeat from another question but has a bearing here too:

Dark Platypus produces a line of products that we use at our table which pretty much handles all of your concerns and works very fast. See their products here

They have a magnet grid mat that is pre-printed with one inch squares and can handle magnet objects, dungeon tiles and dry-erase markers. To go with this is their set of magnet flag posts (they look like miniature lamp posts). they are magnetic on the bottom and on the top, so they stick the board and stay put. They come with a large set pf status fags that you attach to mini-magnets. Once this is done you can just stack them on the posts and easily see what is going on right on the battle filed. You do not have to pick up or handle the minis to change these condition flags. Each post has a number on it so can be used to track initiative too.

For my money this is the best. the price is not too bad and the mat is very rugged and will last as long as you take care of it. I purchased 3 set of the posts with different colored numbers, 2 mats and a bunch of the magnet bendy walls, and have never looked back. The bendy walls are great too.

I assign two players at the table to alternate keeping the flags up to date. Works fantastic that way and off loads a large amount of work from me, the DM.

share|improve this answer

I've been using for some time. It gets updated fairly frequently, it's a standalone combat tracker that tracks things like statuses, saves, and recharge rolls along with the initiative for the combat.

share|improve this answer

I recommend Masterplan for running combat in 4e; you can use it so that it handles the tokens on the map, or just the damage / conditions / saving throws / recharges.

share|improve this answer

If you're open to using a laptop at your table, check out Apprentice RPG. It's a 4e tool designed to make planning and executing combat and skill challenges easier on the DM. Unlike Masterplan, it's browser-based and thus cross-platform.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to RPG.SE! Looks like a really cool tool. The one thing we do ask is that you do disclose your relationship to products that you are associated with. – wax eagle Jul 17 '12 at 12:38
Sure thing, thanks for clarifying. ApprenticeRPG is a free tool that I developed and maintain myself; it's been available for about 2 years now, has just over 500 users, and has been continually used to run my own games. – Corey Jul 18 '12 at 4:26

I usually have each player note down who is marked by her and I take notes about ongoing effects. Just a list in initiative order.

share|improve this answer works really well if you have access to a projector or a separate screen that the players can see. You can create monsters and establish them in the program's database simply by copy/pasting the stats from the online compendium. You can then create encounters by using those database monsters. Load encounters and party members to start combat. The program tracks initiative, which it can roll automatically for everyone, damage and effects. Damage is very easy to apply to creatures, effects (particularly end conditions) a bit trickier.

The program has a lot of functionality, so the learning curve is a bit steep. If you want to use it, you should play with it for a while first to learn how it works.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.