For me it is neither of these. I usually felt this way when I botched encounters, simply because I was overwhelmed with having to remember all sorts of conditions that players had applied to my monsters.
Forgetting conditions on other players was also one of my headaches. My forgetting conditions such as these often ended what could have been some Epic fights in some sessions. Whether it is in 3.5e or 4th, I often forgot what went where and how.
Since then, I have learned to organize myself (properly I think and hope), to be able to run session with some form of fluidity and accuracy, to prevent monsters from going down too easily and from forgetting to apply the conditions on the players, giving them a little worry during battles.
I will share with you, some of the tools that I have acquired along the way that have helped me keep myself organized, ready to act and play. Take what you will from it. I love to share because so many have shared with me.
In 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, conditions are one of the major factors in outcome of an encounter. For example, a solo monster, who relies on mobility to attack players is pretty much nullified if he is plauged with conditions of the movement category. Sometimes we get many of these conditions placed upon one monster and without the proper management of the monster, some of these conditions can be forgotten, leading your monster to defeat before its time.
Here are some of the tools I use for my gameplay.
The coloured rings on the left are my condition markers. I made them with pipe cleaners. they are good in any situation. I can place them on minis, or rest them atop the tokens I place on the map.
I also have my writing instruments: at least 3 pencils, a pencil sharpener and an eraser, as well as a pen for good measure. I also carry many pieces of green and pink pieces of paper I use for initiative (see further down).
I carry tokens that I received from the D&D Encounters seasons. They are very handy with some of the large creatures, and medium creatures of varying colour (good for multiple enemies), and a whole whack of minions. I also carried special mini-counter markers that I received from Stuffer Shack's store. They are fantastic if you use minis; it keeps you from mistaking similar monsters and their remaining hit points.
This particular zip binder has a built in calculator which I like for XP calculation(especially with my 3.5e group.
2. Playing Space:
It is very straightforward. I have a DM screen, a pad to roll my dice and room for me to place some of the important paperwork I may need for the encounter.
I love to stand up when I am DMing. I am usually standing for the whole session and the clipboard allows me the freedom to walk around the table and help some of the players who are having difficulty during D&D Encounters session.
Standing up also prevents me from bending down to mark hp and conditions off as we go along. It also afford me the luxury of not having to look over the DM screen to survey the battlefield.
3. Tabletop and Initiative
I have tried many things for initiative, but I have found that my groups and I love this system(see photo above) the best. It is extremely easy to setup and to manage. I have in my toolbox two colours of paper; pink and green. I use the pink for the monsters and the green to write the PCs names.
Delaying and readying actions could not be easier; just move the card where you want to take your action.
Are there other things you would like to add to the list? Would any of these ideas help you in the future?
Drop me a line.