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I'm a relatively new player, and have been trying to learn and follow as much of the mechanics as possible. Compounding on this, is my (in)ability to be able to find anything on a character sheet (or sheets) at a moments notice, when I'm not already looking at the relevant stat/skill/feat etc. As you can probably imagine, tense moments are getting watered down whilst I attempt to look up the relevant information to perform some action.

At the moment, we're playing about once every 5-6 weeks, which works fine except I usually forget most things in between. We've had 5 nights over the course of around 7 months. I'm almost there with combat mechanics, mainly because I spent time reading and running through combat scenarios; its when my GM asks for, say, my Armour Class or my Reflex or a particular skill, etc., that I spend a while looking for it.

I've changed to a sheet which lays things out better, and compresses most of the relevant info to one page, so I've been getting better at finding the info, but I'm still not great.

Is there a guide or set of instructions for getting to know your character sheet? Something that I could follow for 5 minutes or so a day so I can rote learn the layout and improve my lookup time?

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Don't use the character sheet. Take advantage of modern printers to provide a clear hierarchy on more paper to make for faster lookup. More information density actually increases lookup time. A larger sheet with better headers will reduce lookup time relative to a dense sheet.

First, there's no limit to space. While photocopied pages have limits as to space, we live in a computer mediated age. Unpack your character sheet onto multiple pages. Make each page relate to itself with a clear header. Copy and paste rules that you frequently will want to refer to onto the page itself. Include sections of the character sheet on each page as a mnemonic.

In my classes, however, one of the test preparation strategies that I recommend is the creation of a cheat sheet by hand. While transcribing this into a computer form is commonly done for legibility, the act of writing, I have observed, helps my students remember, if only because it takes more time.

Make cheat sheets for every aspect of your character. Highlight the cheat sheet with many different colours, and colour your character sheet (and expanded character sheet) with the same colours. This is to create an easy-to-check correlation, i.e. blue parts of character sheet = check blue parts of cheat sheet.

Between colour indexing, clear headers on your expanded sheets, a page full of "key-value pairs" for frequent numerical lookups by name, and a hand-written cheat sheet to internalise the mechanics of your character, you won't need to rote-memorize your character sheet: you'll understand it instead.

If you absolutely need to rote-memorize, use Anki, as it is a highly recommended flash-card content memorization app. Take portions of your character sheet and put them on flash cards. Then, the correct answer is the label of the category of the character sheet. It's effective because:

It’s like flashcards, except that it uses spaced repetition to remind you of your cards at the optimal time so that you retain the information. There are loads of publicly available decks that can help you learn stuff. You can also make your own decks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - Whilst certainly helpful info, I have found that I personally learn better/easier through repetition (rote learning). I'm already having enough problems finding info with 3-4 sheets (3 sheets of character info plus a 'cheat-sheet' for what my spells can do + some other newbie info like a glossary of terms etc). I also agree that writing over typing helps with memorisation, and I already print blank sheets with just some tabular formatting and fill them out by hand with highlighting to help with that. Having said all that, again whilst helpful, it wasn't quite what I need, thanks :) \$\endgroup\$ – Robotnik Mar 16 '15 at 7:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the edit. I'm trying out Anki now, and will let you know in a couple of weeks how I went :) \$\endgroup\$ – Robotnik Mar 19 '15 at 1:07
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Make a second character sheet with the exact same layout of your normal sheet, but none of the text. (So just a bunch of boxes on a piece of paper)

Next, write in one or two words inside each box what it contains on the real character sheet (ie, a box that simply contains "ABILITIES" in large text). Place this over the real character sheet.

Start by learning all of the boxes. After looking over the layout for a while, you should get a basic understanding of roughly where to find basic information like your ability scores, feats, spells, etc.

Then, to start learning things in-depth, everytime you feel you understand everything, take a pair of scissors and cut out one of big boxes to show the real character sheet underneath. This gives you something to focus on learning. Once you have a pretty good idea of how the box works, cut out the next one. Keep going until the first sheet of paper is empty and by then you should have a pretty clear idea of how the sheet works.

(If the sheet is more than one page, or if you are otherwise find it messy to keep the sheets on top of each other, get some of those clear organising folder thingies that you place both sheets into, so they stay on top of each other)

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The best thing to look at for five minutes per day would be the character sheet itself. By going weeks between sessions you completely forget the sheet each time, and need to relearn it each time.

Try looking at your existing character sheet for five minutes each day, paying attention to where things are and what they mean. Think about how you'd look up the stats for a roll your character needs to make sometimes. You could even try making a few rolls, to physically connect the character sheet information to process of using dice.

As you use this information regularly, it will make it into your long-term memory and you eventually won't have to work at remembering it.

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To be honest, you could just drill it, by practicing over and over again. But that won't necessarily give you a great understanding of the skills and stats. What I personally find quite useful is running through made-up scenarios to myself. "Let's see, I'm trying to climb a tree... what should I roll? Maybe Dexterity...yep, and then Athletics... cool." And then make the roll. It will also help you to remember your character's stats, and what they can be used for. And that can also help you to learn what your powers do. For example, if in your scenario you're fighting some trolls, and you're a wizard, you might do Burning Hands on them (because they really don't like fire). It will help you work out a) how to roll for Initiative, b) how much damage you do, and c) little tricks and quirks that can help you maximise your character's abilities in this regard. Hope that helps!

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Use a custom sheet!

Try to think of the things PCs do in broad terms: Fighting and Exploring.

Make an "Explore the Dungeon"-sheet. Fill it with things other characters would notice about your character like age, gender, race, height, weight, a picture, traits, senses (darkvision), languages and so forth. The skill block is needed in explore mode, too. Now you have a visual reminder of the character you want to embody, as well as your talents. Leave room for feats and spells that apply in those situations and the initiative score.

Make a "Fight the Dragon"-sheet with two rows (for landscape layout) or two columns (for portrait layout). One is your attack row, listing your movement modes and senses (again for convenience), minor actions and attack options (Power Attack belongs here and so does Burning Hands.). If you're primarily ranged, list ranged attacks first. If melee focused, list melee first. The other row is your defenses row use the following items in this order: AC and NADs, resistances/damage reduction/temporary hit points, hit points/wounds, regeneration/poison/disease/status effects. The goal here is to create a "flow chart": Am I hit? If so, on to the next. How much of the hit can be ignored? Apply the rest to my current total. Add/remove statuses as needed.

Make a "Take his stuff"-sheet list treasure, equipment, XP, feats and stuff. This page is some sort of backup in the case you ever get confused about values on the other pages this one allows you to rebuild your character. It should contain every decision necessary to allow that.

Lastly include a free form page about your party, the campaign, certain NPCs...

This layout groups actions together rather than numbers. When meeting someone new, you see each other (senses, appearance, knowledge(arcana/planes)...), try to communicate (languages), have a social encounter (diplomacy/intimidate/insight/...) and if push comes to shove you roll initiative and turn to the combat page.

Also, you are a grace to roleplayers and I wish everyone was as committed as you seem to be.

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