The Alphastream Gaming Blog
Table Name Tents are one of my favorite DM tools, right up there with Initiative Tents. (See Table Tents for PCs and Tracking Initiative.) Here’s why you want them and how to create them really quickly.
Recall: Every game should use table name tents. They provide a quick reminder to the game master and players about the characters everyone is playing. It’s really hard to remember six character names, even after a few sessions! It’s also hard to remember their species/race, or what they should be known for.
Better Roleplaying: It’s easier to speak in character when you can see everyone’s character name. The additional information on the card also helps everyone remember the most important aspects that should be used in roleplaying. When we can see that Paige is an elven bard, and she used to be a pirate, we can more easily ask her what she thinks about the ship we are about to board, or ask her what she knows about this port town we just entered.
Tactics and Speed: When combined with initiative tents, we know when the rogue will be going in combat, so we can set them up for an easy sneak attack. Some DMs like to place AC or passive skills on the tent, so they can simply state what a character sees or whether an attack hits without asking for that information.
Campaign Specifics: If the campaign uses factions, houses, or similar systems, a small badge or image can let everyone see to which group each PC belongs.
One-Shots: Conventions especially benefit from name tents. If you run at conventions and use pregens, make a set of name tents so players can immediately jump into character and know who is playing which role.
Playing NPCs: It’s super-cool to jazz up a campaign by having the players play an NPC. Maybe it’s just a name tent for a single NPC a player will run in addition to their character. Or, maybe you shake up an existing game and have every player run an NPC for a session. It’s a really cool twist to a campaign.
Here is how to create tents super easily using any word processing program.
Note: I’m using Microsoft Word in these examples and I’m assuming basic knowledge of the tool. The steps below all use basic functionality, so sometimes I won’t go into every basic step (such as how to add bullets or change your page layout to landscape). Such information can be found in the Help menu or through an internet search.
Start up your favorite word processing program and set the page layout to Landscape. Now insert a table. I go for a 3×2 format, though you can do larger or smaller tents as well by having more or fewer columns.
It looks terrible now, but we can now add information in the bottom row. Add the character name and some facts you want. In this example, I’m using the Dwarven Wedding Party NPCs found in the Acquisitions Incorporated adventure, Orrery of the Wanderer. In the adventure, the players momentarily play these NPCs. Table Name Tents help everyone remember their new roles and what they should know about each other. (There are secrets about each PC, and I give those out to each player as a handout since the other players don’t know these secrets.)
You can use cool fonts and start spacing things out so it looks the way you want it to look. This bottom row will be one side of the tent (the tent is folded, like a sandwich board or upside-down “V”), so we are just getting that side right.
In this example, I’m creating three name tents at a time. I’ll then copy this to a second page to do another three.
Once you like the bottom row, you can optionally set the height of the first row (or all rows, same thing) to be the same as the height of the bottom row. In Word, you can highlight a row and right-click, choose Table Properties, and then see the row height. Choose “previous row” to then go to the first row and set it to the same height.
Now for the fun trick. See, the back of the tent should not be blank for two reasons. First, the player can benefit from seeing their own information. Second, when seated at a table players can’t always see the front of each tent. Sometimes they only see the back of the tent of a player sitting next to them. This lets everyone see the tent regardless of where they are sitting.
Some word processing programs let you flip text, so you could copy the text, paste it in the first row, and flip it. However, this can mess with the formatting and can be especially tricky with images and text. So, here’s the trick.
if you are using the Windows operating system, call up your Snipping Tool, or the Snip & Sketch tool (if you prefer that one). You can search in your operating system search toolbar if you don’t have the app showing, but every recent version of Windows has it.
If you aren’t in Windows, you can do a screen capture and use an editing program.
Okay, so get the Snipping Tool and capture the inside of just one cell.
The nice thing about the Snipping Tool is it captures the image and it’s also in your clipboard. Now, click on the empty cell above that table cell in Word, and paste. (You could optionally save the image and then insert it.)
Word makes the next step easy. See that round image at the top of the pasted object? If we click that and move our mouse, we can rotate the image.
Rotate it until it is upside down.
Repeat the process until the top row is done.
If you need more characters, you can copy and paste that table into a new page and repeat the whole process.
You can now print your tents, ideally on card stock so they don’t sag. Cut your tents, making sure to cut along the columns and not the row.
Now we just fold and we are done!
You can easily add images to jazz up your tents. Simply add the image in the first row, and include that in what you copy and paste. A quick image search will usually turn up great options.
Here is an example of tents I used for a Star Wars game using the Esper Genesis rules:
You can go full color, use cool fonts, and so on. Or you can just keep it simple. Either way, an easy but very powerful tool for your games!