Browsing the blog archives for June, 2011

Masterplan

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Games, Tabletop, Technology

Sorry for the extended posting hiatus here, things have been busier than expected on the work front.

I’ve been meaning to write for about the past several weeks about a program that I recently discovered. The program is called Masterplan, and it’s a tool for Dungeon Masters of D&D games. There’s a lot of software out there on the internet designed for DMs, and I’ve tried a number of them.

But do I really need software to plan out my plot? No.

As a DM what I need is software that I can use to plan out a plot, create encounters, skill challenges, build maps, write descriptions, store information about NPCs, create treasure, and so on. The jump from doing one thing well to doing all the things DMs need to take into account is quite big and so there are very few programs that ever make the grade. Masterplan is the first piece of software that really seems to integrate well with my workflow as a DM to prepare for gaming sessions.

What’s so great about Masterplan? The key for me is the plot flowchart.

Masterplan Plot Flowchart

Inside Masterplan you can create a flowchart of events that happen in a plot. Whether it’s a scene change, a combat encounter, a skill challenge, what have you, you can enter it here as a plot point. The coolest bit is you aren’t forced into linear plot arrangements. If you want to, you can plan out what happens if the PCs take route B rather than route A, or ingratiate themselves with NPC Z instead of NPC Y.

For each plot point you can add a description, both notes to yourself as the DM and read-aloud text to be shared with the players. You can add a map for significant area features, a combat encounter, a skill challenge, treasure to be found in the area. And all of this is relatively straightforward to do and accomplish, requiring no especially deep knowledge of the program or the 4th Edition game session.

Since beginning use of Masterplan my D&D prep sessions went from, “I don’t know if I can keep committing this amount of time every week,” to about two hours total. Last week I spent roughly an hour writing up descriptions and dialogue notes for NPCs, then spent an hour in Masterplan developing the combat encounter my players would face. The encounter building itself is simple, I selected the monsters I wanted from a list of monsters I’ve imported into Masterplan and dragged them into the list of monsters for that area. For one monster I added a template, which automatically modified the creature in the predetermined ways. For another I increased the level slightly, which caused Masterplan to automatically update the monster’s experience value and defenses (unfortunately Masterplan doesn’t seem to automatically update the monsters’ attacks when levelling them up, or at least not consistently with all monsters).

I then exported the information about that plot point, printed it up, and had a nice little packet of information ready for the week’s game session.