How do you keep track of X-per-day abilities?

SeeDerekEngineer 06/14/2018. 10 answers, 966 views
dnd-5e

A very common situation in the games I DM: my friends have all returned from a couple week break to restart our campaign. We sit down and review the character sheets and briefly discuss where we left off. Everything makes sense and is accounted for, except X-per-day abilities (ie, the Fighter's Action Surge, the Barbarian's Rage, etc.). "Did I use this? How many times? Did we rest yet?" Bah!

I'm a computer interface designer, so to me the 5e character sheet is terribly missing some location where players can emphasize items and abilities that have limited uses per day and how many uses they have done. Even just another column in the abilities section (though this gets cluttered so fast!).

How do others handle this problem of keeping track of these abilities. And yes, "Just write it down" occurred to me. What I am hoping for is something novel or home-brewed that hasn't crossed my mind.

P.S. I have the same problem with things like hit dice for short rests and other limited resources the characters have that aren't explicitly tracked on the character sheet.

10 Answers


Zachiel 06/14/2018.

Use card tokens

Every player who has an once-per-day ability writes the ability (and their name) on a card and keeps it. Whenever they use that ability, they put the card in a box.

Whenever they rest, they get their own cards back from the box.


NautArch 06/14/2018.

Write them down

I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but the simple solution is to write them down.

Just because there isn't a specific spot on a pre-gen character sheet doesn't mean you can't include it somewhere else on the sheet.

Make your own character sheet

As an alternative, if the pre-gens just don't fill all the recording needs, make up your own! You can use pre-gens as inspiration, or go bare-bones and just write down the pieces you particularly need or want. Laminated sheets and dry-erase pens can do wonderful things (but watch out for accidental erasures... and wet erase pen may be a better option).

Standardize

Based on your comments, it also sounds like creating a single sheet style that each person uses will make it easier for you and them to stay on the same page.


Rubiksmoose 06/14/2018.

I had the same issue

I know this is a variation on "write it down", but it is also something that has helped me (who also have a problem keeping track of fiddly bits) quite a bit with this exact issue.

What I did was simple, I am playing a bard with lots of feature with limited uses (anything that uses Inspiration Die for example as well as spell slots). I was having an issue keeping track of it all.

Customize your character sheet

I realized that just because someone else made the sheet didn't mean that I could not make it better.

So, I opened up the character sheet in a PDF editor and reorganized the layout a bit so that I had a small area for each of the relevant abilities. Then, I added little icons for my limited use features. When I use them, I cross them off (in pencil). When I rest (or they otherwise refresh) I erase the pencil marks. One of my friends even got his sheet laminated and uses a wet erase marker to do the same thing.

Simple, foolproof, and completely solved the problem for me.

Find a new character sheet that has the fields you want

Also, there are many different character sheets out there. If you don't want to (or can't) take the time to try to customize your own sheet to work better for you, then you can always search and hope someone has already made one that solves your issue. Many people design character sheets even for specific classes (I have found ones for Druid and Monks specifically and they were designed for their specific features).

More Purple More Better makes a great versatile digital character sheet that can be printed and has fields for all those abilities. Even sheets just for tracking limited-use abilities. It also works very well overall. And it can also be printed in a good-looking dead-tree version to take along to game night (if you don't like using electronic sheets).


Doc 06/14/2018.

Tokens

For keeping track in session (and even for between sessions) I used a token system with my players. I ran out to the dollar store and bought a bag of colored beads. Distribute to your players as needed. Red beads are how many rages you have left. Each color represents different level spell slots, etc. When you spend a slot, you give the bead to the DM. When you rest, your DM gives you the beads back. When you go home at the end of the session, you take your remaining beads with you along with your character sheet (throw them in a ziplock bag or keep them in your dice bag, whatever). The DM takes all the beads that players gave him home with them. (they can be stored in bulk/mixed between all players - since the only thing relevant is color, when players rest they just ask for x amount of y color beads).

Players can manage the beads without the DM getting involved, too - just have a bowl in the middle of the table that players toss their expended beads in. When they rest, they reach in to the bowl and pull out however many of each bead they need to reclaim. DM doesn't have to get involved at all other than to take them home at the end of the session.

The advantage here is that you don't have to worry about your paper wearing down. If you use a card or an alternative character sheet, you end up constantly erasing and re-writing your number as you spend and regain slots. Eventually, you'll end up wearing a hole straight through the paper; not to mention that things usually don't erase perfectly, leaving shadows of numbers previously written down, overlapping over and over, making it harder to read.

The beads are cheap and come in bulk, so no harm done if some get lost or w/e. I personally try to get the glass beads that are disk-shaped rather than spheres so that they can lay on the table without rolling away; but you can get more color variety (and larger bulk) if you buy plastic beads, and especially if you get the round ones.


Now, that being said, when it comes to longer extended breaks, I have to ask...

Does it matter?

Within a session, or when jumping between two sessions, yes it typically is a good idea to keep track of how many spells or rages or w/e you have left. But if you just took an extended break, does it really matter when you come back? I would posit that most of the time, it doesn't. If you have all of your rages available or only one left wont make a big impact unless you left off just before the final boss of a dungeon or something. If the DM knows that there's only one such encounter left, then it'd probably be best to just do said encounter before wrapping up for the night.

As a DM, I would typically just handwave it and say "lets just assume you all took a rest and are back to full". The vast majority of the time, it wont make a difference.


illustro 06/14/2018.

I make use of More Purple More Better's Character Record Sheet. It has a section in the middle of the front page specifically to track X per Y abilities.

This section allows you to specify how many times per period the ability can be used, and how many times you have used it.

It also has sections on the same front page for:

  • tracking hit dice (from multiple classes if necessary)
  • what actions/bonus actions/reactions your character has access to
  • how your various attacks work, with separate to hit, damage and damage type columns for each weapon
  • death save successes and failures, damage resistances, AC (with the full calculation beside it)
  • languages, tools
  • proficiencies
  • saving throws
  • senses
  • various sources of hit points
  • speed

Derek Stucki 06/14/2018.

Use D&D Beyond

Character sheets on D&D Beyond make tracking limited use abilities amazingly easy. You just pull up their website on your smartphone, tap a button, and it's tracked. Hit the short or long rest button and appropriate abilities are reset. Close the page, open it back up next session and you're ready to go.

But that site would make me buy stuff I already own paper copies of...

Not much, no. Everything on D&D Beyond can be purchased piecemeal, and everything from the Basic Rules or SRD is free. Let's say you want play a city watch lizardfolk drunken master rogue. To buy the books, you would have to buy the the PH, Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, Volo's Guide to Monsters, and Xanathar's Guide to Everything. That's almost $200 msrp. On D&D Beyond, rogue is free, and each background, subclass, or race is just $2. So, you're looking at $6 instead of almost $200. Seems like a great deal to me.


Kommissar 06/14/2018.

Keep a "Current Condition" sheet

Separate from the Character Sheet, encourage your players to keep a scrap of paper recording temporary conditions (current HP, current spell slots, current arrows, current gp total, conditions/modifiers of abilities).

Use the Character Sheet to track long term/permanent information about the character.

Keep this scrap of paper with the Character Sheet during breaks. The goal is to minimize the amount of erasure that occurs on the main Character Sheet, as that eventually wears it out and makes the whole thing less legible.

On a regular basis (e.g. when it gets a bit full or too messy), get a new piece of paper, copy over current conditions, and start over.


Shawn V. Wilson 06/14/2018.

Checklist Cards

Everyone make out a 3x5 card with all their abilities on it, each one followed by a number of boxes for the number of uses it has. Each time they use an ability, check off a box in pencil.

After a rest (or whenever these abilities are recharged), erase the checkmarks. Paper-clip the card to the character sheet.

Works good for spells too, if you don't have too many to write down.


Drew Major 06/14/2018.

My method? have a spell sheet that lists your x per day abilities. (instead of a list of 0 level spells, it headlines "rage") then put coins in the little space you normally list spells. Heads means usable, tails means not usable.

though i like the deck of cards idea.


Abigail 06/14/2018.

From your description, I gather that keeping track of used abilities during a sessions isn't a problem; it's remembering where everyone stood at the end of the previous session.

Here's a suggestion: at the end of the session, one a single sheet of paper, write down how many times each character may still use a particular ability that day (or, if that's easier, how many time she has already used that ability). Then use your phone to take a picture of the paper.

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