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Referee Control Panels for A Red & Pleasant Land

Something I've put together to make running A Red & Pleasant Land even easier. 

Open this Google Sheet: 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1knrL_HiPZ7YEnHZDNPLxriLBWnv06Oe2XWKwynK-m7g/edit?usp=sharing


Text by permission of Zak S

Select File -> Make a copy... (You need to make your own copy in order to run the macros.)

On the new copy, select Tools -> Macros -> Randomize Tables

Let the macro do its work as it re-randomizes the entries on the "Tables" sheet.

Go to the "NPC Panel d20" sheet. Print it. I recommend letter size, landscape, 0.25" margin on all sides, "fit to page", and don't show the gridlines.



Go to the "Encounter Panel d20" sheet. Print it as well.

You now have two letter sized sheets. Each is a "control panel" with a subset of 20 results from all of the relevant random tables for a specific use. Running an NPC? Everything you'd want is right there: name, appearance, quirk, adventure hooks they might give, all the tables the adventure hook might reference. Random encounter? That panel has results for every environment, vampire house, etc. and what the creature is doing. No page searching, no page flipping, it's all right there in front of you. Roll a d20 and just start picking information horizontally as needed.

Run a few sessions. Have fun being a speedy referee. Cross off entries as you use them. Use up the results. Go back to the Google Sheet.

Tools -> Macros -> Randomize Tables

Print out two new panels with a new subset of 20 results. Fresh and good to go for another few sessions. If you want to get fancy, you can delete results from the "Tables" sheet as you use them, and slowly start working through them all.

Not playing A Red & Pleasant Land? First of all, why not? It's great. You can get it here. But here's a blank template if you want to build a control panel from your own random tables:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aJMvUyKXe315SbIU5W2tZ6PGdH9dRFz8eX4LLS4ME3Q/edit?usp=sharing

(The macro will randomize everything through column AZ)

But why? 

Ben Milton's post about "control panel" page layout and Gavin Norman's response about applying it to B/X Essentials got me thinking about how to use it to run my game better. The idea is simple: for a given context (combat, travel, NPC interaction, etc.), have all of the relevant information on one spread or sheet of paper. Kind of like having a separate DM screen for each context. Try to completely eliminate the need to search for or turn to multiple pages in a book.

There's a running joke during my games that you can annoy the referee by asking for the name of every NPC encountered. Put down my copy of AR&PL, grab my copy of Vornheim, find the "City NPC" table, roll, write the result in my notebook, try to find where I was in AR&PL. What does the NPC want from the party? Flipping and rolling through a few more pages for the "Adventure Hook", "Event", and "Intelligent Encounter" tables.

The layout in A Red & Pleasant Land and Vornheim is great. Made with at-the-table use in mind: all results for any given table contained on a single page or spread, tables all at the back of the book in alphabetical order for easier lookup. And in the context of random tables, these "control panels" are really just the Vornheim idea of tables with multiple columns stretched to the limits of readable font sizes.

(My first version of this, I actually tried to include 100 results on the sheet. The fonts were tiny! Just dots on the paper. I decided 20 results would be more than enough for any single session and could be re-randomized later.)

So really nothing new, but for me at least, this has made running the game easier. It's eliminated even more page flips. The first session I used these, my players asked for every NPC's name, as usual. But I "disappointed" them by answering without delay. And since all the information for a given NPC or encounter is located in the same row, it cut down on the amount of notes I had to write mid-game. Jot a quick note on the sheet itself, and copy everything to a notebook after the game.

I'll probably do more tweaking of this. I would like to get the "Idiotic Voivodja Filibuster Conversation Openers" table (with additional entries) on the NPC panel. That table is really flavorful for the setting, but I feel like I don't use it enough because it's one more page to lookup. If I had easier access to legal size printing, I'd have more horizontal width to include more tables.

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