2021 Has not been the greatest year for most people, myself included. And while I’m glad to see December leave and 2022 take the stage I have one more post for the year. Not the original post I planned for December due to scheduling, but a post I think you’ll still find useful. This time we’re looking at the 20 D&D Essential Accessories for DMs & Players. I’ve gone through compiling what I think are some of the most essential accessories to having a great time playing D&D from both sides of the DM screen and ranked them in order from least to most essential. First, let’s start with the Top 20 Essential D&D Accessories for DMs.
#20 Sundry Decks and Improvisers
We’re starting it off with some of the DM resources like critical hit/fail decks, NPC/Item decks, Story Forge cards and other little improvisers like hit location dice, weather dice, and Rory’s Story Cubes. I own a few of these little decks and improvisers. In my experience they’re real novelties. Most DMs use them a few times after getting them and then they’re banished to the bottom of the DM supplies. Especially the critical hit/fail decks as they don’t translate across editions and systems well. To make these useful as a DM you really need to go out of your way to include their use. Fun, but limited in usefulness.
#19 Combat Tiers & Flight Stands
You run D&D long enough and things start flying. Often I talk about how important it is to include the Z-axis in your game as a DM, especially to add (pun intended) a new dimension to combat encounters. And if you’re playing on a grid with miniatures, this is the best way to illustrate elevation. They’re way better than stacking d6 under a miniature. But, they’re only useful if you run a grid-based game in meatspace. So, if you’re running online or run primarily theater of the mind, they’re not that useful.
#18 Spell Templates
It was 2008, fourth edition was just out and I had locked in a new gaming group to take the dive into the latest edition of D&D after a long hiatus from RPGs. For those of you unfamiliar with fourth edition, it is primarily a grid-based combat game, there’s no getting around it. Moreover even martial player characters have access to are of effect abilities. So, being able to quickly see where AoE abilities and spells affected the map was very important to the game running smoothly. My friend worked in a repair shop and took some wire coathangers and turned them into burst and blast templates with perfect angles. Absolute gamechanger. Today, you can buy spell templates with ease and they’re still great for visualizing how spells impact gridded combat.
#17 Other RPG Rulebooks
Regardless of your system of choice as a DM, GM, Keeper, or Storyteller, it’s always good to broaden your perspective on how other games approach RPGs. Whether it’s stealing fronts from Dungeon World, Icons from 13th Age, or degrees of succes/failure from Star Wars, immersing yourself in more of the hobby can help you create homebrew that will make your game the best possible. Who knows, you may even find you like another system better than what you’re playing now. RPG books are a great gift idea for your DM, just make sure it’s not something they already have!
#16 Mapping Supplies
Grid playing DMs are always on the lookout for ways to improve their table. Chessex Battle Mats, Paizo Flip-Mats, Grid Paper, Modular Tiles/Walls, or even Ultimate Dungeon Terrain (UDT) for those between the grid and theater of the mind, there are a lot of options for displaying combat at the table. Even better is that some of these can be used together. Sketching out battle maps on grid paper during prep, then using a flip-mat with some dungeon tiles on top and modular walls can all help to create a better table experience. Evem theater of the mind DMs can benefit from tools like UDT or index cards for FATE’s scene aspects.
Yeah, I think miniatures are a more essential accessory for DMs than a battle mat. Miniatures represent monsters and player characters and are useful even without a grid under their feet. As a DM, I can still show spatial relations, illustrate marching or initiative order, and use things like condition tokens to visually note what’s going on in the game world. Plus, it’s just nice to have the miniature in front of my players so I can easily remember who’s playing which character. The type of miniatures is based on how you use them. While 3d miniatures are great, they’re a pain to store and travel. Flat miniatures in stands aren’t as nice to look at, but they’re way easier for DMs on the road.
I don’t have the space to DM at my home so I’m always a travel DM. I carry a box of “PC” 3d miniatures and a box of flat monster miniatures. Best of both worlds and it’s easy to tell from every angle if a creature is a PC or a monster. I do want to give a special mention to those hard-to-find miniatures. As a DM, it’s helpful to add some villagers, NPCs, and decor to your miniature collection. Being able to plop down things like a campfire, stack of crates, or hostage is really nice, even if you’re not doing gridded combat.
#14 Concentration, Condition, and Inspiration Tracking Aides
We have a ton to manage behind the screen to ensure our games are fun and run smoothly. I think after the first month or two after fifth edition’s release I completely forgot about the inspiration mechanic. I have the same issue with PF2’s hero points. Which is not a problem I remember having with 4e’s action points and I don’t have with Savage World’s bennies. Part of that is because the game tells you to use a physical token to represent bennies that GMs and players will pass back and forth.
So I think an essential D&D accessory for any DM is having cards or tokens to track concentration, conditions, and inspiration. For me personally, condition cards were a gamechanger. No, “wait what’s restrained again?” When a PC gets restrained by a roper I just put the card down in front of them to remind them to save at the end of their turn. The card also explains what the condition does so no need to crack open the PHB. Honestly, the fact Conditions are listed on the cover interior of most RPG core books is an egregious oversight in my eyes. But, whenever the player saves the condition, drops concentration, or uses their inspiration, they just hand back the token/card.
#13 Table Topper
Most in-person D&D games happen at a kitchen or dining room table. Usually that’s also the nicest table in the host’s home. Assuming you’re the DM hosting the game at your home, the people who live with you will be happier if you do what you can to protect their nice furniture. The D&D players I know can be rough on furniture. A table topper can help protect that nice kitchen or dining room table against dents, scratches, and spills. It may be more of life/marital essential than a DM essential, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Of course if you primarily run games online, you may find something similar useful for your computer desk or wherever you play.
#12 Quick & Easy Board/Card Game
Every group has the one player that’s always running late. One of my favorite DM essential accessories is a simple board or card game. I don’t want people to start watching TV, YouTube, or sticking their heads in their phones. It just takes longer to herd the cats and get them into D&D once the last player shows up. Games like BANG! dice, Fluxx, Munchkin, and Zombie Dice are compact, quick to setup/putaway, and sre easy to put down in the middle of a game. It’s a DM must for me and one of these games is always in my game bag. Anything I can use to keep players sitting at the table and ready to play D&D.
#11 Dungeon Master Timer
A big part of being a successful Dungeon Master is controlling the pace and tension of your game. Timers can help you ratchet up the tension in dramatic, stressful moments. Generally, players can take as much time as they need to discuss, make a decision, and choose a course of action. A timer creates tension by forcing your players to speed up their discussions, decisions, and actions into a few minutes or even seconds. Chess clocks, phone timers, and egg timers work well, but the best dramatic effect is the iconic hourglass. Watching time literally pass as sands through the hourglass makes the tension extra visceral. It’s a helpful accessory for any Dungeon Master.
#10 Initiative Trackers
Tracking initiative is one of my least favorite parts of running D&D. I think partially because there are a lot of other games that I feel handle who goes when better than D&D’s individual initiative system as written. And for me personally, it’s the first thing I throw at the players to keep track of on their side of the screen. Still, there are circumstance where you don’t want players to know or be in charge of the initiative. Luckliy, there are a lot of initiative tracking solutions out there. From initiative tents you put on top of your DM screen to magnetic dry erase boards. Any solution for initiative that is faster than going one by one around the table to record scores and then shuffling them into the right order makes the game faster, and that’s a win in my book.
#9 Geomorph Playing Cards
I’m a sucker for utilitarian items that have more than one use, they make things easier and they save space. One of my most recent discoveries as a GM, these cards are awesome. First, it’s a standard deck of playing cards which is great. First, because it fills the spot of #12 on my list by knowing a few fast and easy card games. Second, Savage Worlds uses a deck of playing cards for initiative. Third, each card is a dungeon geomorph so if I need to come up with some dungeon inspiration quick I can just draw a hand of cards and lay them out. And if that wasn’t enough, each card also provides random die results for d20, d6, and d100 rolls. Obviously it’s not perfect in that aspect, if you need a sneaky die result without alerting your players, it’s nice to have on hand.
#8 Dice & Dice Accessories
Most RPG DMs and players love buying and collecting new dice. I know friends who can’t visit a Friendly Local Game Store and NOT buy dice, partially because they love dice and also because they want to support their FLGS. That said, I personally am not a dice collector. I think I’ve bought one set of dice in the past… five years? Still, even I believe there is time and reason for owning extra dice. For instance, many DMs have separate sets of DM dice and player dice. You don’t use your player dice when you DM and vice versa. I also agree with most DMs that it’s worthwhile to have some house “ugly dice.” These are the dice for the player who inevitably forgets their dice. I also keep some cheap extra pencils and scratch paper for players too. They’re useful for players who forget, but it also makes them want to bring and use their better quality D&D supplies.
As a travel DM I’m hardly immune to forgetting my dice, or I used to be. Now I have a separate container of Desk or DM Prep dice so I never need to pull the dice out of my game bag at home. I even have a set I keep in my desk at work in case I want to work on some D&D stuff during my lunch break. I highly recommend this approach if your a DM that needs to travel with their dice or is just prone to misplacing your dice.
Another dice related essential D&D accessory for DMs is a dice tray or dice tower. For Christmas one year I bought a dice tower for one of my players because he just had a hard time keeping dice on the table when he rolled. Gave hime a dice tower, which he loved, and the problem solved itself. DM real estate comes at a premium so it’s nice to have an enclosed area to corral your dice and things like a dice tower make it much easier when you need to roll a high volume of attack, save, or damage dice.
Dice trays and dice towers come in all shapes, materials, and construction. If you’re a traveling DM you’ll definitely want something that packs flat like a magnetic dice tower or dice tray with snaps to lay flat. If you’re a DM that hosts your games in person you can have a larger and more elaborate setup like the Box of Doom from Dimension 20.
#7 Cash & Gift Cards
Wait, what? Look, cash and gift cards are just a useful thing to keep on hand. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been in a game session and people decide to order food unplanned and then want to divvy up the cost or need to tip the delivery driver. Plus, sometimes a person cancels at the last minute or we finish early and decide to head over to our FLGS, the movies, or GameStop. Whether it’s pitching in for gas or food, or just an unexpected purchase at a store it’s a good idea to some walking around money.
Also, if your a DM it means someone is likely to try and buy you an RPG-themed gift at some point. The problem is your players and especially someone outside the hobby probably has no idea what you actually want or need as a DM. Cash and gift cards are your best friend. It may feel a little weird as an adult to make a birthday or Christmas wishlist of hobby junk, but for the people in your life who don’t believe cash is a valid gift (really it is, unlike some unused gift cards I’ve had for a decade), they can be assured they’re getting your something you will actually enjoy. It can be helpful to tell them what you’ll use the cash/gift card purchasing, like subscription services. Your DM giftee may want to update their subscription on D&D Beyond, Hero Lab, something like Syrinscape for music and SFX, or their preferred Virtual Tabletop service. Cash and gift cards really are a D&D essential accessory for any Dungeon Master.
#6 Quality Audio
There are few things more distracting and frustrating than poor audio. And, audio is a great way to enhance your D&D game. Thus, quality audio is an essential accessory for Dungeon Masters. Start by investing in a quality bluetooth speaker. I originally picked up a bluetooth speaker for work and it’s transitioned into use at the gaming table. Bluetooth makes it easy to connect to a laptop, tablet, or phone and play background mood music and sound effects for your game. Though it takes some extra management effort during the game and I don’t always use it, adding in some quality audio can raise your DM presentation up a full letter grade.
But, what if you mainly run games online? A bluetooth speaker isn’t going to be that helpful. However, playing online means it’s even more important to have crisp audio. That means investing in a good USB microphone or a quality headset with microphone. The preference is really up to you. Often a standalone microphone will provide better quality audio, but it also takes up space wherever you play. Meanwhile a good headset provides a microphone that won’t pick up too much background noise and can help to isolate background noise on your end so it’s easier to stay focused on what your players are saying. I personally have a nice, wireless headset with active noise canceling that does a fantastic job of keeping my head in the game and reducing the amount of background noise for my players.
#5 Markers, Whiteboards, and Index Cards
I mean, these are about as obvious an essential D&D accessory for Dungeon Masters as it gets. Having a fistful of quality markers ensures you’re always ready to draw a map, jot down initiative, and tally monster HP. There’s a lot of love for index cards in the D&D community, due in no small part to SlyFlourish’s Mike Shea. I’ve used them, even now in the current game I’m running, but they’re not a favorite tool for me personally. I much prefer a dry-erase whiteboard for most of the same functions. There is however a strange middle ground, dry erase cards. I like these a lot for things like scene aspects in FATE, and I never have to worry about running out of index cards, just erase and reuse.
For me a handheld whiteboard is indispensable. In addition to combat tracking uses, I also use the whiteboard to complement theater of the mind. If there’s a particularly strange room or esoteric object my players are having trouble visualizing I can sketch it out and show them, which really helps ensure we’re all operating on the same understanding.
#4 A Dungeon Master Reference Library
You’ll notice there is a 13-spot difference between a DM’s reference library and other RPG core books. While I do think it’s essential to broaden your perspective as a DM through other RPGs, the fact is the most important game is the one you’re running right now. A DM needs a bookshelf or harddrive with reference material to help you plan, prep, and play better now. Of course the fifth edition D&D core books should all be included: the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and Player’s Handbook.
You may also want to pick up some of the official supplements for 5e, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Tasha’s, Fizban’s, etc. If you’re looking to add something to that DM wishlist mentioned above, supplemental books are a good idea. It’s much easier for your players to buy a supplemental book together for you, which they’ll all have access to during character creation rather than buying it alone.
Other parts of the DM reference library include third-party monster books. Ideally, you would like for these to be 5e-compatiable or compatible with whatever RPG you’re running. However, don’t dismiss a great book full of new and strange monsters to confound your players just because it’s not compatible. Most monster concepts can be translated into your game of choice with a little elbow grease and comparative analysis to similar creatures within the ruleset. Being able to add custom monsters your players have never seen, goes a long way.
Avoid the big, hardbound published adventures. They’re a big investment, they’re a pain to keep on the rails and still be fun, and you can only run them once per group. For my money, I fill my reference library with adventure anthologies (Candlekeep, Dungeon Delve, Salt Marsh, Yawning Portal, etc.). For the same cost of a big adventure path I can get half a dozen or more smaller, varied adventures that are much easier to drop into a custom campaign. In the same vein, I also keep some of the best one-page dungeons, Adventurers League modules, and one-shot adventures in my library. Everything in my library is focused on making my next session great. When the PCs are traveling to the coast in the next session I want to be able to flip through some quick encounter and adventure ideas that I can use to beef up that next session.
Other books to look for are DM helper books. For new DMs a book like, “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing,” can help you start playing your monsters smart and tactfully. If you have players who routinely curbstomp your balanced combat encounters, it can be a real help. For more experienced DMs, DM helpers are the books that help you get outside the box, essential accessories that focus on improving your Dungeon Master craft. For me it can be roll tables like the Dungeon Dozen and the Dungeon Alphabet.
Other books slot into place as supplemental Dungeon Master’s Guides. Mike Shea’s Lazy Dungeon Master and Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master for instance. And useful tomes like X-treme Dungeon Mastery. Like many DMs, my reference library is also filled with hundreds of pages of my own handcrafted DM-advice learned over the years and one-off roll tables and useful resources gleaned across the internet.
#3 DM Binder & Contents
The DM reference libary is prep toolbox, it’s for use between sessions when you’re prepping the next session, adventure, or campaign. The DM Binder is a Dungeon Master’s duct tape, chicken wire, and super glue. It’s your D&D everyday carry essential accessory. Each DM’s binder is a little different. It’s the distilled reference of your DM library into the most useful parts that come up most often. And, it includes the most important notes about your ongoing campaign and the setting. The DM Binder is also where you typically keep the outline for the current adventure and your session notes.
Going into more detail on this essential D&D accessory is difficult, because it should be a personal reflection of every DM. It’s inclusion should follow WebDM’s sage advice, “prepare anything you’re not comfortable improvising.” If you suck at improvising names, include a list of names. Prep some ready-to-go combat encounters if you struggle with combats on the fly. If you have players that like to jump the plothook and go off the rails, maybe include a couple of one-page adventures you can throw down in front of them. The DM Binder is about creating your own personal DM multi-tool so you can make small fixes to keep the game running.
#2 Custom DM Screen or Quick Reference
I don’t think any DM would accuse D&D 5e of creating the perfect DM screen. In fact, there are many official variations of the DM screen produced by Wizard of the Coast, including a complete overhaul to the original, general DM screen. And, not every DM believes in playing with a DM screen. I often don’t. And when you’re playing online, the DM doesn’t need a screen. But, every DM does have a necessity for a quick reference. This information is what I want on a custom DM screen or at least in front of me, next to my notes in sheet protectors. Your DM quick reference is the third distillation of critical reference material from your DM library and your DM binder. For me it includes things like definitions for 5e’s conditions, how to improvise DCs and damage. It includes how grappling, cover, and stealth works, plus what actions a creature can take on its turn. It also includes the prices for common goods and services.
A good quick reference should cover the situations and questions that come up most commonly at the table. That way you’re not flipping through your DM binder or stopping the game to crack an official rulebook. You can get the one I’ve created on DriveThruRPG, it’s PWYW. It’s divided into facing pages per D&D tier so when you move from combat to exploration, you only need to flip one page to find all the related reference material you need.
#1 Notetaking and Recording Tools
That’s right, at the number one spot we have notetaking and recording tools. Finding a notetaking solution that works for you as a DM makes everything else so much easier. And that doesn’t necessarily mean really expensive tools either. I have nice, hard- and leatherbound journals I barely use. I feel bad making a bunch of messy notes in them and crossing stuff out. Truthfully I use a pretty cheap gel pen model I like and a standard memo pad. Why? because it feels good to write, doesn’t take up much space, and I’m not worried about screwing up a cheap memo pad. Plus, when I’m done with the notes I can rip them out and toss them.
I transfer the handwritten notes I need to keep to my PC and keep them organized in tabs and autosaved using Notepad++. Again, it’s a super simple plain text program with fewer distractions than most notetaking or word processing applications. I use Notepad++ and similar programs when writing for work and fun. I also included recording tools, because taking notes during a session is hard. There’s a lot to focus on at the table and it’s easy to miss or forget something a player said during the session. Having a nice, omnidirectional microphone that you can set on the game table and record your sessions is great for the DM’s that struggle with notetaking. Instead you can start the session audio playback while you prep for the next session. That way you can make sure you don’t miss anything in your prep.
Top 20 D&D Essential Accessories for Players
Dungeon Masters aren’t the only ones who want and enjoy accessories to increase the excitement and fun of their D&D sessions. Below I’ve outlined my 20 favorite accessories for D&D players, perfect for enhancing your D&D experience.
#20 Spell Caster Reference
One of the things I do when creating a spell caster in D&D or Pathfinder is create spell cards for their known spells or most-likely to prepare spells. The best and worst part of playing a spell caster is the amount of options of what you can do to overcome a challenge, especially the many options available during combat. It’s why spell casters consistently take the longest turns in D&D combat, especially at higher levels.
Spells references come in all sorts of options. You can write them out yourself by hand, or print a cribbed description of them with page references for the gritty specifics. There are official physical decks of spell cards you can purchase per class and supplemental books. There are also digital options such as D&D Beyond or one of many phone apps that allow your to create and store decks of spell reference cards. No matter which method works best for you, there’s no doubt that creating a spell caster reference will save you time at the table as your friends watch you look up yet another spell in your stack of books.
#19 Resource Tracker
For better or for worse, D&D and Pathfinder at their cores are still game systems about resource management. Most character have things they can do a set number of times per day/rest. For some people, scratch paper is all you need to keep this in order… until you lose it. Having a dedicated method of tracking your character’s resources is not only a good way to ensure you’re tracking everything correctly it provides a nice tactile interaction that’s more engrossing than making tick marks on scratch paper or covering your character sheet.
How you track your resources is up to you. Etsy has elaborate hit point, spell slot, and ammunition tracker widgets. But, you could also opt for a mobile app or simply creating a dedicated sheet in a sheet protector that you can complement with an erasable marker. The important part is doing your part to be a good player and having a reliable way to track all your character’s resources during and between sessions.
#18 D&D Beyond Subscription
The nice thing about D&D Beyond is you can do every part of the game inside the ecosystem. You can look up spells fast, keep consistent track of resources between sessions, even roll your favorite digital dice. So if you’re the type of player who appreciates a zero worry solution to playing D&D, the subscription is awesome.
On the downside you have to pay a higher monthly subscription for unlimited characters and still, you need to purchase the supplemental books to access their content within D&D Beyond. As more supplements are released for 5e and the options for characters are spread across more and more books it’s a more useful service for character creation.
Unfortunately I think the business model of having to buy content that’s already present in my subscription but blocked off is too much like video game on-disc DLC. But, for the right digital-focused player D&D Beyond is an essential accessory for getting the most enjoyment from your D&D games.
#17 Awesome Dice Container
Awesome dice make you want to play D&D and they need a home that matches their level of awesomeness. In the past decade, the artisanal D&D products scene has witnessed an explosion. If you can think it, there’s probably someone on Etsy selling it. Dice bags, boxes, cases, and vaults can be found in a dizzying array of material, size, and construction.
Part of the fun and expressing your love for D&D is creating your own personalized kit of game accessories. Graduate from the Crown Royal bag. Your dice home should be more than just a container, it should have some special meaning to you. My dice bag is an unremarkable, cloth bag. But, it reminds me of my young passion for D&D. The bag was used to ship garden plant bulbs, but when I saw it I had to grab it and use it as the bag for my dice. The rough, unbleached cloth and drawstring just felt like adventure. When I have it in my hands it always feels like stepping back through time.
So, give your dice an awesome cloth, wood, or metal home that will please them so they can roll more natural 20s. However, if you’re looking to buy a dice bag as a D&D-themed gift for someone else. Make sure they don’t already have a dice bag or dice container they already love.
#16 Hero Vault
A hero vault is the natural evolution of the dice vault. After all, dice are pretty resilient by design. The biggest threat to them is forgetfulness, or unfortunately theft for expensive sets. But, how do you keep the rest of your D&D accessories safe? The D&D accessory most likely to be made unusable is the miniature. A hero vault helps keep the necessary bits of your D&D player ephemera together. Most offer places to hold dice, a miniature, writing implement, even ways to keep track of your resources. Others have built-in dice towers.
It’s one area of D&D where you can spend as much money as you would like to get the rarest, nicest, and most personalized D&D accessories you could ever want.
#15 Player Character Miniature
Look, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Call of Cthulhu are games. Whatever your personal favorite flavor of tabletop RPG is, it’s a game we play with our friends and family. So If we’re playing a game of make-believe already, it’s not too strange that we might also want to play with some nice toys. For a lot of Dungeon Masters and D&D players, miniatures are almost as big of a collecting habit as dice. Depending on the rules and style of your game, they might not just be optional, miniatures can be an essential accessory to play the game.
Besides, we like toys and it’s nice to have a miniature as a visual representation of your character. That can mean picking an approximate representation from a plastic tub full of miniatures or going the Hero Forge route and created a customized, near perfect reflection of what your player character looks like in your mind. I know plenty of players who love it, but I’m always too paranoid that the moment I buy a fancy, customized mini my player character will inevitably die or the campaign will fold.
For my personal taste, more is… more. I like sifting through my collection of miniatures to find the one that best fits my character. Unfortunately, custom miniatures aren’t very useful for an always online D&D game. Instead, the essential accessory for digital only players is to commission some nice player character art. Have a customized token or icon you can use in your online game is impactful and fun. You can even update the character art as the campaign goes on as a visual record of your player character and their journey.
#14 Live to Tell the Tale
Live to Tell the Tale is the D&D player’s version of Keith Ammann’s more well-known book, “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing.” Both books focus on helping you improve your D&D craft, primarily when it comes to being more effective in combat encounters. I’ll admit up front, these books are not for me. I find the information contained within useful, but also information I already know as both a player and a Dungeon Master. That’s not to say the book isn’t worthwhile, far from it.
For players new to D&D, who can often find themselves in a situation going “I don’t know what to do,” this book is an absolute essential accessory for D&D or your preferred RPG. Because the fourth edition of D&D was so tactics heavy, they made an official player strategy guide. You can find that here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/154499/Players-Strategy-Guide-4e. While the specific information isn’t relevant to 5e, the broad strokes of being a better player remain the same. It’s an interesting read if you’re looking for ways to become a better player.
#13 Dice Tray/Tower
You may have noticed a growing trend in the recommendations of essential accessories for D&D players. First, it’s nice to have nice tools to enjoy your hobby. The second, that it’s even nicer to have a nice home for your essential accessories. You don’t want to take your awesome dice container and roll it on the table like some sort of peasant, do you? At all costs you want to avoid tainting your math shapes with spilled Mountain Dew and Cheetos dust. Instead you want to toss them into a custom-made dice tower made of fine wood, or perhaps the soft green velvet of a dice tray.
Dice trays and towers are nice because they keep your dice confined to a small area, which is useful when you need to make fireball damage roll, or five attack rolls with advantage on your turn. A dice tray or dice tower is an absolutely essential accessory if you’re one of those players who can’t seem to keep dice on the table when they roll. Dice floundering off the table every once in a while is common, but I’ve played with some people where it happens half the time they roll.
A dice tower or dice tray is also a great defense against players with grubby fingers. Because he often rolled his dice off the table, I played with another person who had a tendency to snipe his neighbors’ dice to make a roll. A couple of rounds later and the player’s neighbor is looking for their d20 to realize he was unconsciously collecting dice from the player’s around the table. As a player you have to protect your dice, lock them up in a tower.
#12 Drink Mat
There are we civilized folk who use coasters and those who live like animals putting their sweaty Mountain Dew on every water damageable spot they can find. Whether you play D&D at someone’s home, a game store, or somewhere else, there’s a chance that there won’t be a sufficient amount of coasters for everyone around the table.
That’s why I have a fabric drink mat. Unlike hard coasters, it absorbs the condensation from a cold drink. It’s also larger than a standard coaster so if a drink spills, the fabric will absorb the liquid before it proceeds to ruin character sheets, notebooks, or even worse, your host’s dining room table. After a spill, you just wash the absorbent drink mat and it’s good to go. For me it’s an essential accessory for the D&D player on the go. I find it especially useful because I can use it to roll my favorite heavy metal dice without ruining the aforementioned dining room table.
If you’re crafty with a sewing machine or know someone who is, creating a themed drink mat with D&D-inspired fabrics is a very cool gift. I really like this dungeon geomorph fabric.
#11 Custom D&D Drinking Vessel
Well, what good is a drink mat without a drink to place upon said mat? This idea of a special mug, cup, or glass just for D&D may sound ridiculous on a list of essential accessories for a D&D player. However, I’d say it’s the sensory, tactile accessories of playing D&D that helps enrich the experience. I like to roll real dice, I like a paper character sheet, and taking notes by hand. Not because I’m boo technology, but because those analog means engage and enrich my D&D experience at the table.
Having a special drinking vessel for D&D is like a sports bottle, when I have it in my hand and I drink out of it, it keeps me reminded of what I’m doing. And, D&D-themed drink ware is very easy to find with a wide variety. You can get something cheap, something expensive, D&D drink ware that’s fragile or thick, kid-proof plastic. So whether you’re having a stout ale or more fizzy Dew from the Mountains, having a specific D&D drinking vessel is a fun accessory for players of all ages.
#10 D&D Playmat
This is one of the crossovers from WoTC’s Magic the Gathering I actually like. The playmate has been an essential accessory for Magic players and assorted card-flippers for decades, right behind their card sleeves and deck boxes. Maybe at your work or on your desk at home, you may have a pad of some sort. Maybe it’s the classic green felt pad or leather? I like my wooden desk’s surface, but it’s not very comfortable or practical to write on with a pen.
But, a nice pad really elevates the experience, especially at D&D. It softens the sound of dice, scribbling, setting down your phone; all which help you and your group stay focused on the game. And, like many of the essential accessories we’ve touched on so far, it’s about having a personal style and flair when you come to the table. There are officially licensed D&D playmats featuring some of the iconic art of 5e, but there also plenty of cool materials, colors, patterns, and designs to make any player happy.
#9 More Dice for D&D
Now you may be thinking, what could possible me a more essential accessory for a D&D player than more dice? I know, I know, we’ll get to that soon enough. The truth is that dice are more of a necessity than an essential accessory. While you can play D&D with just one set of seven polyhedral dice, it’s not very practical to roll one die at a time for every PC and NPC’s action? That would easily make a 3-hour session of D&D into a 5-hour snore-fest of waiting.
But, as an essential accessory it’s great to get at least two 7-dice sets for every D&D player. Some diemakers (including official D&D 5e dice) now sell 11-dice sets with 4d6 and 2d20 to reflect the dice usage in fifth edition. The nice thing about dice as an accessory is that they get players excited. When we buy a new set of dice it makes us want to play D&D. Some players even buy a new set of dice for each new character they create.
One word of warning for those looking to buy a friend or family member dice, be careful. Players are often particular about the type of dice sets they like and while it’s unlikely you’ll buy a duplicate of what they already own, your gift may end up on a shelf gathering dust if it doesn’t fit the player’s dice style. One thing I’ve done with success in the past is buy a pound-of-dice and then share it with the group, going around the table so everyone can pick a set they like.
You wanted to know what’s a more essential accessory for a D&D player than more dice? I believe a good journal or notebook to track resources and keep session notes is one of the greatest accessories a player can have. Any notebook or journal that makes a player excited to crack it open and take notes is a big win in my book. From the DM’s perspective, anything I can do to get my players to pay more attention and keep their stories straight between sessions is a boon.
Now, when it comes to nice journals and notebooks there are two types of people. Those who use their notebook as intended and those who are too afraid to foul up a nice journal with their scribbling and strikethroughs. Me personally, I’m the latter. I own a few nice notebooks and journals, hard and leather-bound volumes that to this day are mostly empty despite owning them for over a decade.
I quickly learned that the most valuable, the most useful kind of notebook is the one you’ll use. For me, that’s standard, top-bound memo and note pads. I destroy those with notes and I never feel bad about scribbling, doodling, or making a mistake because I can replace them with a new stack for a pittance. As a DM and a player a journal or notebook you’ll use is an absolutely essential accessory.
#7 D&D Bag
A great bag is the foundation to any D&D player’s kit. It’s an essential D&D accessory in a few different ways. First, it informs people of your D&D/TTRPG style. Second, it keeps all your D&D kit together and organized. And lastly, because it informs how many and what type of D&D essential accessories you can take with you on the go.
The type of bag a person chooses to use tells you a lot about them. Do they have an expensive, thematic D&D bag? It it covered with pins from their favorite hobbies and conventions they’ve visited? Even the bag’s size can tell you about what sort of player they are. For example, a small bag shows off a minimalist appeal like these DM kits from Kelsey at The Arcane Library and Mike Mearls.
Don’t be that player that doesn’t show up prepared to play. You know the player that always shows up missing one thing or another from notes and pencils to even their dice or character sheet. The D&D bag is an essential accessory because after the game you put everything back in the bag, then next session you have everything in once place without a problem. Even for the messy and less-organized player, having a bag of holding for all your D&D needs is extremely useful.
As mentioned above, choosing the essential D&D bag accessory for you is about what you want and need to bring with you to games. Even if you primarily play at your home or online, having a consolidated, easy to access place for your D&D player kit is a good idea. And D&D bag is a catch-all descriptor in this instance. I know multiple players that just use a binder with organizer bags or a document box to keep all their gaming stuff together, no bag necessary. I’ve also seen players with rolling carts to hold their books, laptop, miniatures, dice, and more. It’s about your D&D needs and your D&D style.
For me, I use a plain and rugged laptop satchel. It’s bulletproof so I can toss it around, it has compartments in the large pocket to separate notes and books. I can even bring a tablet or laptop if needed. It’s side pockets make it easy to grab writing utensils and dice, and it’s got a nice mesh pocket where I can stow a canned or bottled beverage. It’s a hand-me-down that has some sentimental attachment. To me it’s an absolute accessory, it’s feel and weight is synonymous to me with playing D&D.
#6 Character Binder/Folio/Notebook
Few things in life are guaranteed, but if you play D&D for a bit you’re guaranteed to start accruing characters. Campaigns start and fall apart, take breaks, do a series of one-shots, or have a high fatality rate necessitating backup characters. And if you really enjoy tabletop roleplaying games you’ll find yourself playing in multiple games and with multiple groups. You need a way to keep that organized.
Previously we talked about a good bag as an essential accessory for any D&D player. The majority of other accessories in this listing are things that go inside that bag and a character binder, folio, or notebook is one of the most important. A three-ring binder was one of the first D&D essential accessory purchases I made to support my RPG habit. It was an orange cream color and I dropped quick reference material into the front and back plastic inserts of the binder.
Inside the binder were my many character sheets and their session history as I was primarily playing on official organized play at the time. I needed characters of all different classes and levels to ensure I could fill an open table’s spot. I added a three-ring bag for pencils and markers. I also added plastic sheet protectors to stop pages from accidentally ripping and falling out. Plus, I could use wet-erase markers on the pages so I didn’t need to ruin my character sheets with eraser marks.
Eventually I began to cover the notebook with stickers, but it was a cheap binder and months of jumbling around in my bag going to organized play events took its toll. I eventually replaced it with a more durable binder. What you put in a character binder is up to you, but here are some things to consider including:
* Character Sheet(s)
* Backup sheet in case you lose a page or it gets damaged from an errant Mountain Dew
* Perhaps a backup character in the case of death
* Quick references for the rules systems you play
* Relevant Character Info
* Ability/Feat Descriptions
* Companion, Pet, and Inventory Sheet
* Magic Item Descriptions
* Spell Descriptions
* Blank paper for scratch paper and notes
* Secured pencil bag with pens, pencils, and markers
* Plastic sheet protectors
Many years later I needed to carry around fewer characters so I replaced the idea of a character binder entirely with another essential accessory higher up on this list. But, in some circumstances it would be worth having both. Keep reading to see how I replaced my character binder.
#5 Quick Reference
D&D has a lot of rules, tables, conditions, and minutiae that comes up not often enough to be memorized, but often enough that you probably know where to look it up in the PHB. Things like the cost of adventuring, the difference between grappled and restrained, or what is the bonus for creature’s in cover versus ranged attacks. Regular readers will know I’m not a fan of lugging around physical books to games. I like RPG books, but most of them aren’t really created with being a good reference book as a primary concern.
Good example was when D&D forgot to put the monsters by CR table in the Monster Manual for fifth edition and then tried to convince us they did it on purpose to put it in the DMG. Because it’s very useful to need a single table in one book to appropriately use the other book… which originally came out BEFORE the DMG. I feel it’s a good, real-world example of most RPG books failing to be the reference material they’re supposed to be. After all, the core books are called a HANDBOOK, MANUAL, and GUIDE.
Instead I always make a hardcopy printout of a quick reference for whatever system I’m playing/running. It will answer 80% or more of the common questions that come up in play that I don’t have memorized. As a player it’s helpful because I don’t need to look up conditions my spells impart, and remind me of the things I can do on my turn outside of cast a spell or swing a sword.
For instance, the Help action. I played a very fun PC built around good defense and the Help action. I’m naturally drawn to support role characters because they offer more choices in play than I hit it with a stick or I hit it with a fireball. Or remembering that sticking the Poison condition on a creature gives them disadvantage on checks AND attacks. That’s why the quick reference is an essential accessory for D&D players & DMs.
#4 Snacks, Candy, and Drinks
You know, D&D is a long game. The average RPG session floats between three and five hours. Or, you could be like me and like to find groups who want to play for 5 – 12 hours. You’re going to need some Cheetos and Mountain Dew, real gamer fuel to keep you alert sustained through the session.
Food and drink have been essential accessories for D&D since the very beginning. The first games in dank basements and around kitchen tables were stacked with chips, candy, and pops. Today, many groups look down on players who don’t bring something to share with the group. This is an attitude I never really understood. I showed up for a game not a snack potluck.
I think every player should bring some form of snack, candy, or drink for themselves to enjoy during a game session. If you want to bring stuff to share or want to pitch in on pizza together, more power to you, just keep the communication open. The amount of times I showed up to a game expecting us to break to eat a meal and not, or eat before and then the group decides to get food together is frankly staggering.
I try to keep it a little more healthy on my own D&D snacks and drinks these days. I like water and some pretzels, peanuts, maybe some jerky. Sometimes we’ll add in a couple beers or some whisky. And if it’s really late or really early I’ll go with a nice black coffee. My only advice for your snack and beverage D&D essentials is to keep it shelf stable. You don’t really want to keep something that needs to be refrigerated, frozen, or heated up in the microwave. And never, never ever, FISH. Yes, I’ve played with that guy, the microwaves fish in the break room guy. Gross.
#3 Good Writing Instruments + Case
Note taking, if you’re a good player who cares about their D&D campaign you do it. We talked about journals and notebooks earlier but as a D&D essential accessory, easy access to a good pen or pencil is a necessity. Whether you’re scribbling down HP, tracking spell slots, marking off ammunition, or remembering key information about the adventure and NPCs, you should be writing things down each and every session.
Here’s a stinger of a lesson for the DMs out there. Make it the players responsibility to remember the goal of their adventure and what payment they agreed upon with the quest giver. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a quest giver to try and short some low level adventurers on the terms of the agreement they made three weeks ago in game.
That means you need something to do the writing with, a good pen, pencil, or marker. Like with your choice of journal or notebook, having a pen or pencil that feels good to write with will encourage you to take more and better notes. And depending on the type of notetaker you are, you may want a highlighter or sticky note flags. Pencils are one of the most commonly forgotten items by players in D&D groups. You may show up with your character sheet and dice, but no way to keep notes or make changes to your character.
It may feel a little elementary school, but a nice pencil case is a good investment. I used to have one of the $.99 plastic ones with grommets that you could stick into kmy 3-ring character binder. I’d make sure to have 2-3 pencils, dry/wet erase markers, and an eraser so I never had to fear running out of ink or pencil lead, or not have an eraser.
Today I have a fancier leather wrap, similar to a tool wrap/roll. It’s one of my D&D essential accessories that just gets me in the mood to play. When I take it out, undo the leather thong, and roll it out in front of me to grab a pencil or pen I feel like a rogue opening his thieves tools.
#2 D&D Clipboard
I had been playing D&D and other TTRPGs for a while before I was introduced to the humble clipboard and it became one of my essential accessories as a player. I joined a group after I had moved cities. I didn’t know anyone at the table, total group of strangers. We sit down in the FLGS and this DM busts out a clipboard with his prep notes. I thought, cool, having a clipboard means you can keep scribbling notes without taking up precious table space.
But we started playing and then the DM stood up. He walked over to me and stood next to me, then asked me to roll a check. It’s a small thing, but it blew my mind as a player. The DM sat, stood, and ambled around the table metaphorically going where the action was in the game, ensuring each player got one-on-one attention. Not long after I traded out my player binder for a storage clipboard. Notes, character sheet, pencils, PHB, dice, and even a miniature all in one spot.
The storage clipboard has been an essential accessory because I also like to go in between sitting and standing during long D&D sessions. I can even bring the game with me if players are on the move. For example, I used to play with some people who would take smoke breaks. With clipboards we didn’t need to stop playing when they wanted to smoke.
The storage clipboard essentially frees your D&D game from the table it’s been schackled to since the game’s inception. You can play on a comfy couch, standing, even outdoors with ease. It’s the perfect essential accessory for playing D&D on a camping trip. Need to make a roll? Just roll your dice inside the storage clipboard. It’s an absolute game changer.
#1 Player Character Crib Sheet
I don’t like playing RPGs with books as a DM or player. They take up space, they’re heavy, cumbersome to use, and get damaged traveling. As a player I don’t need to carry around hundreds of pages of core books and supplements for the 12 pages I may need to reference for my character.
Few things are as frustrating for a DM and other players is a player who doesn’t know their character. The player that consistently on their turn doesn’t know what they’re going to do, or doesn’t know how their character works, or casts a spell without knowing the range, relevant saving throw, or what the condition it imparts does. These players grind the cadence of a session to a snail’s pace.
For example, I played with one player weekly for many years who almost exclusively played rogues. He would not remember how sneak attack or thieves tools worked by what I can only assume is willful ignorance at that point. And that’s a mechanically simple system. Some systems are built to make this just a gigantic pain, I’m looking at your Pathfinder 2.
Even low level PCs in Pathfinder 2 makes a bunch of choices essentially turning each character into a wall comprised of ability/feat bricks. To keep it straight I began making bespoke crib sheets as essential accessories for my characters, organized by the play pillar (Combat, Exploration, Social, Down Time) for easy reference.
Each section includes abilities, feats, and items that would be relevant. And because of the way Pathfinder 2 is structured that funnels characters towards a specific sequence of actions in combat I even created the standard “plays” for PC combat turns. Then I added a sheet with all spells known or the most common/useful spells for prepared castes.
In my experience, combining the two D&D essential accessories, a standard quick reference sheet and a bespoke player character crib sheet, means I don’t need to bring any books with me to a game and can play 99% of the time without needing to slow the game down by looking something up in a book.
That’s why from my perspective, a player character crib sheet is the #1 most essential accessory for D&D players, and players of all tabletop RPGs. Knowing the capabilities of your specific player character is the easiest way to improve a D&D game. When an entire group of players knows their characters sessions a faster and more fun for everyone.
40 D&D Essential Accessories for DMs & Players
Thanks for coming back and taking the time to read the 20 D&D Essential Accessories for players. This one was really a labor of love where I wanted to share my experience and the tools and tricks that have worked well for me and my friends over the years, both as a DM and a player. I would however be remiss without mentioning the D&D’s secret, #0 Most Essential Accessory for DMs and Players.
The Most Essential D&D Accessory for Dungeon Masters & Players
Three words: A Good Attitude. Tabletop RPGs are a communal game and it is so easy for one person to ruin an entire night’s or even group’s fun. In recent years the community has talked a lot about the social contract of running and playing RPGs. If you’re in a bad mood, too tired, or totally unprepared for the session, please cancel.
It’s OK, life happens. We’ll continue without you, run a one-shot side story, or just play board games. If you’re not in a position to infuse positive energy to the game table to help you and your friends have more fun, it’s better to cancel than inject negative energy into the game. That also goes for things that happen in the game. Everyone’s dice go cold sometimes and you can try to make that as fun as possible or grumble about it in the corner.
Sometimes we’re not in the right headspace for D&D, and you may feel obligated, especially as the DM, to force a session. One off misses happen. It’s also important to manage burnout for your DM. Ask to take a week off, have someone else step in and run a one-shot so you can play, or do a boardgame night.
If one missed session turns into a habit of misses, there’s probably a larger issue and maybe it’s time to hand over the reins to someone else while you try to identify the issue.
Well, that’s all for me this time. I hope you enjoyed this one and found maybe one or two accessories to add to your RPG experience. If you liked it, please share it on social media, Reddit, and your preferred RPG forum. Until next time you can find me on Twitter, I’m trying to do better about posting! And if you want to support the blog with a few dollars you can buy me a Ko-Fi or pick up one of my PWYW titles on Drive-Thru RPG.
Top 20 D&D Essential Accessories for Players Coming Soon
Well, that’s it for now. I’m really sprinting down to the line and it’s a been slapdash. I’ll be back to clean it up! Thank you for your patience. There’s actually a whole second part to this blog with the 20 player essential accessories. December has been very difficult, from the busiest month of the year at work, a family medical emergency, and myself feeling under the weather (unrelated to the medical emergency and not COVID). Still, I wanted to make sure this could get up before the turn of the year if at all possible. I plan to update this post in the coming week with the player accessories, so make sure to check back!