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Every round someone is getting dazed, marked, bloodied, quarried, cursed, blinded, slowed, penalized, buffed, stunned, or taking ongoing damage... the list goes on.

At paragon tier with a six-player party it's starting to get overwhelming to keep track of all the different statuses both as a DM and as a player. We're forgetting to make saves and mistakenly ignoring statuses just because they were imposed so long ago (a full round can take up to 30 minutes sometimes). I can only imagine how much more chaotic it will get as we progress.

What strategies are there to keep track of all this information visually, so that all players can clearly see and remember what's going on?

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Check out…. – yhw42 Mar 24 '11 at 20:27
My answer would be to use status cards which detail the effects, much like Tales of the Arabian Nights, but I'm not sure if such a thing exists for 4e, and if it doesn't, whether it could be produced under the GSL. – migo Mar 24 '11 at 20:41

14 Answers 14

up vote 14 down vote accepted

See my answer to What is a good combat tracker for D&D 4th Edition? for several common techniques.

We use stack-able 1" tokens (I cut them with a laser cutter), hand-cut translucent folders for non-mobile area effects, and pipe-cleaners for smaller, mobile effects like stances.

Auras and Status Pipe Cleaners are mobile

Another clever thing I've seen is all paper (download them at By Decree of the Czar)

Paper Conditions

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As a non-4e player, what's a "derp"? – Pulsehead May 2 '11 at 14:02
That is a photo of a character's initiative card, complete with conditions. The charcter's name is "Derp". – F. Randall Farmer May 3 '11 at 5:53
The link to the Czar blog doesn't seem to work anymore. – Pureferret Dec 11 '11 at 9:26

My group handles this with Styrofoam squares and colored pins. You can use either random Styrofoam packaging materials or dinner plates to cut up into squares for creatures of medium size, large size, etc.

Define whatever color coding you like. For us,

Red    = Bloodied
Green  = Cursed
Blue   = Marked
Orange = Quarried

enter image description here

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Awesome visual effect! :) – Erik Burigo Apr 1 '11 at 13:10
+1, indeed very awesome! But how do you handle the "problem" that most standard minis and grid are already scaled to 1 inch? The piece you show in the photo seems to be larger than 1"x1", and multiple of these close to each other may make the battlemat a mess. – user660 Apr 1 '11 at 20:02
@Baelnorn They are actually 1"x1". We don't have any space issues even with a pack of 6-8 critters all adjacent to one another. – dpatchery Apr 2 '11 at 3:10
Good to know. :) Thanks for the info, on the picture they looked bigger. – user660 Apr 2 '11 at 6:07

We use status rings. Basically, hang a coloured ring onto the model affected by the status. Coloured rings can be purchased (curtain rings!), or just collected from drink bottles (the rings used to seal lids).

We have a generally-agreed-on colour scheme - red for bloodied, black for stunned or immob'd, gray for dazed, blue or yellow for marked, white for slowed, bright green for ongoing damage, gold for cursed.

This is essentially the same system as the magnetic dots from Alea Tools, but on a smaller budget. If you have spare cash, the Alea Tools system is also very good, with the added benefit of not having to keep the rings attached to models as you move them. The downside of the Alea Tools is having to put magnets on all minis used - not an issue for players, but a bit harder for a GM.

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+1 for the penny-pinching drink bottle ring idea! Love it! – dpatchery Mar 25 '11 at 11:52

The Combat tracker link listed in yhw42 is a good place to start, but I feel that it is missing one thing.

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

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I'm using a Gamemastery Combat Pad to keep combats organized when I DM. To organize conditions and the like I write down the imposed condition or status next to the creature's entry in the pad's sidebar and strike it out when it's gone.

I've left my pad at a friend's house so I can't post a photo of it, but it generally looks like this: picture describing how I track conditions on monsters in combat

The players are responsible for tracking conditions and effects affecting their characters themselves, so the burden is not put solely on the DM's shoulders.

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Check out InitiativeBoard for iPad - tracks Initiative as well as statuses/conditions, and is modeled after a magnetic board.

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Welcome to the site, fcs. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 1 '12 at 13:59

A good combat tracker is one thing that can help, as @yhw42 has mentioned in comments.

Another common means of tracking statuses are tags, pogs, rings, or other items that you can place on, under, or near a creature's miniature to identify that it has a status effect on it.

A way to track things at the table, but off the battlemap, is to do so on your initiative board. You're probably already tracking initiative with pencil and paper, but I recommend switching to a good-sized dry-erase board. (Or use an empty corner of your wet-erase mat, if you have one.) This way you can track and update initiative, and annotate each creature's initiative line with their status effects. Keep this up-to-date, and within easy view of the currently-active player.

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As GM I list effects next to each enemy's HP. When an effect is removed I cross it off. At the end of each enemy's turn I scan the effects to see if any require a save.

I trust my players to handle their own status effects. They do something similar, though some prefer to use a note card for each sheet. That said, I run a very collaborative game and rarely have to play referee. For players who did need a referee making sure they didn't neglect their penalties, I'd tag each mini. We use colored paper clips to denote marking. I'd do something similar for other effects.

Other effects are the responsibility of whomever put the effect into place. If someone throws up a buff for extra damage, nobody writes it down but the buffer makes sure to ask if people included the buff. What I like about this option is it gives people things to do when it isn't their turn. I have a tactical warlord who does this and he's busier on his allies' turns than on his own.

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Mentioned this one in the related thread, but its worth mentioning for completeness sake here.

Our group uses mini M&M chocolate candies with the D&D essentials monster tokens. We keep a bowl at the table and when a character imposes an effect they choose a color and place that color candy on the effected target. They are equally handing for marking zones. It can be a bit confusing when there are multiple status effects on a token or there are half a dozen different colors out, but its usually easily resolved.

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A very sweet way for recording status :) – Erik Burigo Apr 1 '11 at 15:32
@Erik indeed. The biggest issue we have is in inadvertent mark consumption.... – wax eagle Apr 1 '11 at 15:39

Our DM tracks ongoing-effects on monsters on the same sheet he uses for initiative and their health points. If a player gets an ongoing-effect the DM writes the effect on a post-it note and gives it to the player who puts it in front of him. When the effect expires, or the player saves the post-it is returned to the DM (who then might hand it to another player if that player gets the same effect).

When a player or NPC is bloodied we put a red felt square underneath its miniature. We do the same thing for marks and curses. Every player basically takes a color and gets some felt in that color from a hobby store and cuts 1 inch squares from that to use. My warlock uses a few pieces of purple felt and ours fighters use yellow and blue.

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Felt is actually a brilliant idea. Neat. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 30 '11 at 13:38

I use a magnetic whiteboard as a combination initiative/status tracker.

new D&D combat tracking technology

I can move the cards up and down in order of initiative, putting the monsters where they belong. I use whiteboard marker to mark combatants bloodied, dazed, stunned, etc. These are easy to mark and easy to clear, and since I scribble in English, nobody has to remember colors, and it's very fast. (No manipulating the mini, mini-base magnets, pins, etc.)

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First of all, search the web for any of the many sets of D&D condition cards. Hand these out to your players for convenient reminders of the conditions in effect. We have ours mounted on stand-up triangles so everyone can easily see who's affected by what.

(As has already been suggested, keeping track of status on your initiative chart is also a good idea, as it's bound to remind you at the right time.)

I like Alea Tools magnetic markers for keeping track of conditions, but a cheaper alternative is easily possible with stacking poker chips or other plastic discs. Just agree a colour code and stack them under the miniatures. Some people prefer to put plastic rings around the miniature instead of counters under it.

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We use a combination of things... First we use magnetic markers and such to mark our miniatures. We use red for bloodied... etc..each person has their own color for marked or quarried...

We also use a magnetic white board similar to the one listed above to list turn order and so the GM can track conditions and status of players and NPCS and monsters...

Works really well...

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Poker chips! Put them under the miniatures. Cheap to get and with different colors.

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Welcome to the site, Gatuno. Could you amplify and expand this answer? You may also want to read the FAQ. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 26 '12 at 20:01
Aren't poker chips often too large for 1-inch square grids? You'd have trouble as soon as figures become adjacent. – ioanwigmore Jun 29 '12 at 14:52
@ioanwigmore You can get "mini" poker chips fairly easily! A quick search found these 7/8" poker chips in 10 colours that might do the job well. I'm just not sure if 7/8" might be too small and make the minis unstable. Gatuna, have you used poker chips yourself? What kind did you use, and how well did they work? – SevenSidedDie Jul 5 '12 at 18:11

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