It turns out one of the best gaming aids I’ve ever seen is a free community-driven project that captures the spirit of what makes this game so fun, and provides you with the perfect distraction while you figure out what you’re going to do now that your players have done that.
Let’s talk about what makes a gaming aid great. Although in order to do that, first we need to talk about what a gaming aid is–essentially it’s anything that adds to the experience of playing the game without being the game itself. Some make your gameplay easier: these are the DM screens and Character sheets and spell cards–anything that makes it easier to outright play the game; some change the way you play the game: these are your battlemats, critical hit/miss decks, and the like; but then every now and then you find something that makes you think about the game differently.
Some of these are gaming aids that fit neatly into one of the other categories. DM screens are an indispensable, iconic part of the game, and not just because they give you a single quick reference of the rule–they add that extra separation between DM and Player. They help ground the game, setting up a nebulous ‘other’ space. Once the DM screen comes out, the atmosphere changes. That little bit of separation helps create the divide between the characters of the game, and the fluid omnipresence that is the DM–which can help nudge people into the game just that much more. And all this because you wanted to hide your notes so that nobody in the party sees that your Dungeon map is just a McDonald’s Floorplan, only instead of a play area, there’s a 60 foot chasm that overlooks a yawning portal into the abyss.
Which brings us to these Loading Screen Tips. Designed by reddit user CountedCrow and built with the support of the tabletop community in general, these represent the distilled wisdom of gamers, brought to you in a form that emulates the video games that D&D inspired–in the form of tips on a ‘loading screen’ with the idea being that any time your players pull something on you and you need to wing it (or even just when you’re taking a break to get snacks or before the game has started) you can run these either on your favorite screen, because there’s a powerpoint presentation, or you can just print a few choice ones up and start cycling through them in print.
And it’s so charming. It’s perfect–these tips run the gamut from helpful to humorous, sometimes both at once. You’ll find rules reminders in here that any player or DM could use, even the most veteran of us won’t have all of these in memory. Reading through these there were a number of moments that made me step back and think, “oh right that‘s how that works.” Or someone had taken some weird idiosyncrasy of the game and explained it in a way that makes it easy to remember
There are so many of these, and they’re all perfect. With one aid you can set the tone for your game–give it that cheeky saunter that makes D&D work so well. Use the humor of this to help set the stage or cleanse the palate for the next part of your adventure.
These play incredibly well with the pacing of most of the game, giving players and DMs something they can check in with before getting started–again, it sets up that threshold where the game is ‘loading’ and can help focus everyone. Or you might collectively enjoy getting sidetracked by these.
Because behind every one of these bits of wisdom is another gamer. Reading through these you’ll realize that on the other end of this little bit of text you’ve just read is another person who’s been where you are–who’s made the same mistakes, finds the same things funny–and it reminds you that you’re connected to this community of other weirdos who sit around and play pretend.
And that is the greatest thing about this project. It’s for you, by folks just like you. And me. And all of us who pick up a d20 and try and learn a little something about courage. You can find the full file linked below, and be sure and check out the post on reddit–it’s not everyday something like this comes along.