Cloud storage is a wonderful thing. The convenience of having important files and documents available at your fingertips on any internet-connected device cannot be understated. I use it in my professional life as a contractor, and I’ve recently started making use of it as a Dungeon Master, to better prepare and manage my D&D campaigns.
For Curse of Strahd, I’ve created a folder on my Google drive for the campaign, itself. Within this, I have a second folder for Player information which has been shared with my players. There’s a subfolder beneath that for character sheets, for those who prefer digital over paper, and another for handouts. I have screen captured the handouts from Curse of Strahd (PDF download available for download by DMs here), and saved each as an image file to one of the private subfolders under the Curse of Strahd folder. As the party acquires these in game, I copy the image to the shared folder so that they can refer to them. I’ve also saved images online to use as representational images of some of the adventure sites. For imagination-challenged players, these can be great aides for getting them “into the game”.
For managing the game, itself, I’ve turned to both Google Docs and Google Sheets. I keep important player character information in a sheet I also use for initiative tracking.
At the start of combat, I enter everyone’s initiative in column A and then sort Z to A using the filter. This puts everyone in the correct order so I can call out whose turn it is, and who is next to act. I track character and enemy damage in column E. As enemies are downed, their row is deleted, and the sheet resorted. Between combats, I refer to columns K and L which are the characters’ passive Perception and passive Intuition scores to determine if they notice something in passing. Column J, HD Left, tracks how many hit dice the party has expended during short rests for healing, useful in allowing me to scale the difficulty of random encounters if the PCs are near the end of their adventuring day, or have plenty of “juice in the tank”.
The other sheet I use took a bit of setup time on my part, but speeds things up considerably during a session. It’s a list of each enemy found in the adventure with full stats for running an encounter with them. The amount of time saved in looking up a stat block in the Monster Manual, not to mention table space saved in not having to have the book open is huge. I can also quickly and easily copy/paste the monster’s name, AC, and HP over to the initiative sheet when that monster is encountered.
It took me about an hour and a half to enter all of the monster stats for the random encounters, monsters in the Death House intro adventure, village of Barovia, Tser Pool encampment, and the next few areas the party is likely to visit. Since several monsters are reused throughout the adventure, it will take less than half of that to prepare for future sessions.
Beyond this, I have several Google docs, one for each chapter of the adventure, which indicate changes I’ve made from the base text. Keeping the current area’s doc up in another tab of my browser gives me a handy references to remind me of things I’ve customized.
Curse of Strahd, like many adventures, has a good-sized cast of recurring NPCs. My next goal is to devise a Google sheet to allow me to track the characters’ interactions with these individuals. Did the party bard fail a persuasion check in a spectacular way, provoking a given NPCs annoyance, or was the ranger’s flirtations with the young maiden successful, sparking some puppy-love that could have her chasing after the party when they head to the castle? Something simple with the character’s name, pertinent social skill modifiers, key motivations and personality traits, and enough free space for entering notes should suffice.