Friday Figures: Who Keeps the Sheets?

Here's one of these 4th-wall issues that no one ever thinks to talk about, but when it finally surfaces to consciousness, suddenly everyone realizes they have a militant opinion about. On last week's Wandering DMs show discussing Dave Arneson's early play mechanics, special guest DH Boggs pointed out that Arneson kept all the character sheets for a few different reasons. At the time I thought: "Why are we even mentioning this? Or wait, has no one ever discussed this as an issue before?". So I asked the question as a poll on the Facebook 1E AD&D group; who keeps the PC character sheets between sessions?

As you can see, the "Players" vote took an overwhelming win on this poll -- by a vote of 250 to 83 to 18 at last count. (So: 71% are saying the players take their sheets home). Among the many comments on the issue include observations such as, "I will always stand by the notion that a character is the intellectual property of the player.", "I don't play with people that I don't trust enough to keep their own sheets" (I think assuming the only reason for DM to keep sheets is as an anti-cheating measure), and even, "DMs that insist on keeping their players character sheets have serious mental issues."

Now, this is somewhat surprising, because all of the play groups with which I interact actually have the DM keep the sheets. I think I usually offer players to take the sheets, but no one ever takes me up on it. Maybe our community has just all fallen into this habit unwittingly. Arguments in favor of this in the thread include, "Character sheets belong to the campaign, not the player", and predominantly, "Everyone always forgets to bring their stuff that's why the GM keeps it in a folder". I'm not seeing any comments specifically about cheating but maybe there's one or two in there (and that would have been me in junior high school). One said, "I have been really surprised by New School players who want me to hang onto the character sheets".

Other options include some form of both parties keeping copies; maybe DM gets originals and players scans, or vice-versa. Some DMs keep various summary records while players take the real sheets. Some have a "current" sheet with one party, while an "older" sheet is taken by the other. And a few use technology like D&D Beyond for 5th edition where (I think) both DM and player can access it online. (One DM keeps data in a custom spreadsheet and prints out fresh paper copies each session.)

As a special bonus, Mr. Frank Mentzer joined the conversation, sharing that his players keep their sheets, while he keeps index-card summaries (color-coded by race). And in fact has kept all those records consistently going back to 1977 (making a separate post on FB sharing some photos of those stacks of cards). Thanks, Frank!

Don't forget: New Wandering DMs live chat this Sunday -- On incorporating horror in your D&D and other RPG games. Will we wear costumes? Tune in and share you spooky suggestions. Sunday 1 PM ET.


Friday Figures: Testing 5-foot Squares

A couple weeks back, a few different people (thank you!) sent me the link to the Dutch martial-arts HEMA group HVN's testing of combat with swords and daggers in current D&D-canonical 5-foot wide squares.

Very cool stuff, so glad they could share this with us. The main critique they have coming away from the test is that the squares are kind of a bit on the small side -- they find themselves standing mostly on the back end of the squares, and say that there isn't enough room to use the swords in thrusting style (so: cutting and hewing only).

And that's an interesting take, because my question for many years has mostly been whether the 5-foot size is maybe too large to be realistic. (Whenever I find myself on a tiled floor I look around and gauge whether 5 feet seems like a reasonable for combat space or not.) That's probably some bias resulting from Gygax's assertion that 3 fighting men per 10 feet should be the default (OD&D Vol-2 p. 12, AD&D 1E DMG p. 10). Really comforting to know that the 5-foot size is within the bounds of reasonability.

Videos on HVN's Imgur page here.

Don't forget: Live chat this Sunday on Wandering DMs: Paul & I have special guest D.H. Boggs, applied researcher in RPG history, on the show to discuss Blackmoor, Dave Arneson's play style, mechanics visible and hidden from players and other Twin Cities topics! 1 PM ET.