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Tips & Tricks: Managing Your Character Sheets, or How to Keep a Handle on Your Multiple Personalties

August 12, 2010

4e Character Sheet

4e Character Sheet

If you are like me, you have a half-dozen or more character sheets you need to keep track of. If you play LFR, you also have tracking sheets and certs to manage. There might also be session journals, character sketches, maps, or other game related notes.

That can equal a big stack of loose paper to deal with.

Papers get lost. They get torn. Bob the Barbarian’s LFR certs are somehow mixed in with Randy Ranger’s paperwork. A couple of sheets have blurry eraser marks filling the Hit Points box. Everything is dog-eared and shabby.

I have a few tips and tricks that can help you get a handle on all those sheets and papers. I admit to blatantly stealing these ideas from my fellow players at Anthem Games Wednesday Night LFR; Thanks guys!

STEP 1: Get a 1″ 3-ring binder.

This doesn’t have to be some expensive fancy-schmancy $10.00 binder. You can pick up a sturdy one for a few bucks at any office supply store, Wal-Mart, or almost anywhere. You can even get them in all sorts of colors, though black and white are the most common.

1 Inch 3-Ring Binder
1″ 3-Ring Binder

I suggest getting ones with pockets on either flap to hold any loose sheets of paper you may acquire until you can find them a proper home. Make sure the rings open and close easily and fit together smoothly. This avoids the inserts catching on the gaps in the ring closures, which can be very annoying. (I like a product called Avery Durable Binder with EZ-Turn Rings … costs about $3.00 at Staples.)

STEP 2: Get a pack of clear or semi-clear 3-hole sheet protectors.

The protectors serve to keep your sheets protected (duh!), organized, and has a really cool side effect …

You can use dry-erase markers to write on the plastic sheet protector and not on your actual character sheet!

This works great for tracking your hit points, temporary buffs or penalties, marking off used encounter or daily powers, keeping notes, or a dozen other things I’m sure you can come up with. When you no longer need the info, simply wipe it off with a paper towel, dry-erase eraser, or (if you’re not too picky) your finger. (Wet-erase works too, but is typically messier due to the need for water to erase things, but is a little more smudge-proof.)

Again, you do not need to get the most expensive, or fancy sheet protectors. As long as they are clear and transparent, with 3-holes along one edge, you should be golden. You will probably find these very near the binders in whatever store you go to pick these up. No need to look for the heavyweight plastics, lightweights work fine and often provide a more transparent view of the protected sheets. You do want to have a good binding around the 3-holed edge, however, as the protectors will be seeing a lot of flipping.

Plastic/Vinyl Sheet Protectors
Plastic/Vinyl Sheet Protectors

You will find some are top loaders, others load on the 3-holed side. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Top-loaders make it easy to place or remove papers in them while the protector is secured in the binder. However there is a little more risk of papers slipping out of both the protector and binder, though this is rare. Side-loaders mostly avoid the slippage issue at the cost of needing to remove the protector from the binder to add or remove a sheet. Overall I prefer top-loading sheet protectors.

You want to make sure the plastics/vinyl used are acid-free. The product should state that somewhere on the packaging. This helps eliminate the ink on your papers from being lifted onto the plastic. Most sheet protectors are pretty good about not doing this, but better safe than sorry. Again, Avery makes many types of quality sheet protectors for a reasonable price, but go with what you can find and afford.

STEP 3: Print your character sheets and slide them into the protectors, and clip the protectors into the binder.

Sounds simple. And obvious. But you have some options you may not have thought of when doing so.

The most basic option is to print your character sheets one side to a page. This is great, and most players I see do it this way. If you do, just place two sheets back-to-back in the protector so you have a page showing on each side.  You can even print the sheets double-sided, though it does take a n extra little bit of work.

A trick I like to do is to print multiple sheets on one page, double-sided. This way I can get four sheets on one. True, it makes the print smaller to read, but if you have a decent printer (and avoid using draft printing)  it is legible. You may have to squint for a few powers, though. The option for doing so is most often in your printer options, preferences, or advanced settings, and is usually found on your print dialogue box. Your printer reference manual or help should have information how to do this, as it varies by printer and manufacturer.

Double Page Printing - Front & Back

Double Page Printing - Front & Back

Another “trick” I use is to print on 110# card stock. The card stock holds the ink better with less bleed-through, and is opaque enough you rarely see the information from the reverse  side ghosting through. The real benefit, however, is the sturdiness of the card stock. I often find gaming tables can be a bit cramped, and I may not have enough room to put my character sheet on the table. No problem! The card stock is strong enough I can do all my dry-erase writing on it without a secondary hard surface. (And it also works great as a hand fan for those hot and stuffy game sessions!)

Even if you create your characters by hand, not print them, you can use the above techniques to save wear and tear.

(I will have a small tutorial next week on how to use the Character Builder to modify your character sheet layouts and help get the most out of what info you want!)

STEP 4: Place your tracking sheets, certs, background information, group journal, sketches, whatever in another protector (or two). Clip these in behind the character they belong to.

Viola! You are now organized with an easily indexed binder of your favorite (or nefarious) characters and their attendant accouterments all in a small, easy to transport package! Some minimal upkeep is required to place the correct protectors with the proper character. But even should you get a little disorganized, everything is still collected in the protectors and not scattered, loose-leaf, across your backpack, rule books, and desktops.

STEP 5: Okay, this is not so much a step as another trick you can use to help organize things … get a 3-ring soft-sided pencil case.

You know the ones. You probably had one in your old Trapper-Keeper back in high school.Yup, that’s what I’m talking about.

3-Ring Pencil Case (GET CANVAS!!!)
3-Ring Pencil Case (GET CANVAS!!!)

I suggest a canvas one over pure plastic due to the malleability and sturdiness of canvas vs. plastic. Why, you ask?

To carry your dice, a few minis, dry-erase markers, and other goodies you might want without needing a separate box or bag to tote them around! That’s right, slip those items right into the pencil case (you did get canvas, right?), clip it into the binder, and you are good to go.

That’s all there is to it. Easy, eh?

If you have any Tips or Tricks on how to manage your character sheets and related papers, or  if you have questions on anything I’ve suggested above, please leave a comment!

Happy Gaming!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2010 10:47 pm

    Hi there, I dont know if I am writing in a proper board but I have got a problem with activation, link i receive in email is not working…

    • August 31, 2010 1:00 am

      I am not sure what you are referring to. Activation link?

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