The Practical DM: Masterplan
A while back I put out a call soliciting feedback from DM’s regarding how they went about organizing their campaigns. It seemed that a lot of folks use non-RPG specific tools like Google Docs or keep it old school and use plain old notebooks.
I’m kind of an organization freak, though. In college, I took notes in paragraph form because summaries just didn’t cut it for me. I like specialized tools designed specifically for a very narrow set of tasks, which is why I was very surprised to stumble upon Masterplan.
Masterplan is a tool for creating, organizing, and actually running D&D 4E games. It’s not a virtual tabletop, but a DM’s toolbox that allows the DM to write up an adventure by laying down plot points complete with maps, encounters, NPCs/monsters, traps, treasure, and skill challenges. These points are linked together, flow-chart style, to provide an easy way to navigate the adventure during the play session. While it’s not a virtual tabletop, it does have a “player view” which can be displayed on a secondary monitor/TV/projector for players in the room to see.
The app itself is pretty daunting on the surface because it can do so much. The core of it centers around setting up plot points and connecting them to form a coherent roadmap. Each plot point encapsulates DM and player specific text, encounter maps, skill challenges, treasure parcels, and trap information; in essence, it’s a “scene” in the adventure. During the play session, the DM is presented with a nicely formatted output of the plot point along the side of the app. Once a point is set up, there’s no need to click into the editing view to get at the info.
If you’re a DM looking for something to give your campaigns structure in design, you can stop there. If you want to go totally nuts and micromanage every aspect of your campaign, you can create monsters, import player character sheets, and if you have access to tilesets for building maps, you can actually make them available to the app, and build your dungeons within Masterplan. When everything is ready, you can use the app to track initiative, token locations on the encounter map, and damage and status effects.
Overall, the app isn’t as sexy as Fantasy Grounds II, which is designed for playing games over the Internet, but while FG can be used to organize a campaign for use offline and in person, that’s not it’s stregth. Masterplan seems to be tailor made for the overly organized DM to get his or her act together, at whatever level he or she feels necessary to write and execute a custom campaign.
The app is free, but donations are accepted. The author is currently looking at creating a “Masterplan RT” version, which is mocked-up on the app’s Facebook page, and has a very distinct Windows 8 RT look and feel to it. Having something like this on a tablet would be insanely awesome, and an invaluable tool for any DM looking for a specialized tool for campaign organization.
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