I recently stumbled across Sorceren’s blog, mostly concerning D&D and adventures as a new, out of the foil wrap Dungeon Master. Doing so made me think back about my first few times behind the DM screen and even before then my first few times at the table rolling dice. With such in mind I thought I would put together a kit list, useful items players and Dms should consider bringing to every game.
First let’s take on the shorter list, the Player Kit. Items are descending from most integral to least
Writing Utensils & Note/Scrap Paper
Dice & Back Up
Grubs & Suds
1+ Game Accessory
Character Sheet: Easily the most necessary thing to bring to any game for players. Without a character sheet it is nearly impossible to play. There are the few exceptions where someone has the character so well memorized they can play deceptively well without a character sheet, but it is a rare circumstance. Bring your character sheet, nothing derails a game session before it starts like a missing character sheet.
There are two general options for the character sheet, digital or traditional. Playing on a laptop or tablet can be a natural feel for many younger players in the hobby. Navigating the character sheet is simple and note taking can be done right next to the sheet in a text document. Rules questions can be answered quickly online during play. The downside is a laptop or tablet is prone to players getting distracted easily by all the other good bits of tablets and laptops. It is frustrating to have someone’s turn come up in the middle of a game and realize they haven’t been paying attention since the end of their last turn. The traditional paper character sheet is a limiting but it is utilitarian and it keeps players focused on the table before them. If you are prone to losing interest and distraction I suggest a paper character sheet. By covering them in a plastic sheet protector you can also mark directly on them with erasable markers while keeping the actual sheet intact. I have played both ways and I prefer a paper sheet in a sheet protector. Perhaps in a later entry I will go over my approach to character sheet layout.
Writing Utensils & Note/Scrap Paper: Don’t be the person who always needs to bum a pencil at the beginning of each session. I keep a small cloth bag (sunglasses bag) I found on sale at a store and keep it stuffed full of writing supplies. I have pencils, pens, dry-erase markers, wet-erase markers, and the odd highlighter just in case. Find a rogue writing utensil around the home or office, stuff it in the bag. For paper any sort of bound paper will work. Spiral notebooks, legal pads and composition books work well. If you play multiple games check out a five subject bound spiral and you can keep all your campaign notes in one place and not bring the wrong notes to the wrong game. I also suggest dating each game session’s entry. It makes it much easier to refer to previous notes. If you are the recorder/secretary type and make copious notes offer to record a chronicle/summary of each game session and read it back at the beginning of the next session. This really helps continuity and gets people right back into the campaign each session. More importantly it’s one thing the DM/GM doesn’t have to do each play session. I picked up a small, magnetic whiteboard I can hold in one hand. I use it for recording combat information including HP, temporary effects, bonuses/penalties. I have a paper pad I use to bullet point list significant campaign info so its not covered in math and HP scribbles.
Dice & Back Up: Tabletop RPG people are weird about their dice. Everyone has their own rituals, superstitions, and quirks. A predominant one is not touching other people’s dice. Get your own set of seven dice. They are as cheap or as expensive as you would like per set. You need at least one full set of seven polyhedral dice to play most tabletop RPGs. Other systems may require multiple of a single dice type; multiple d6 sets are easy to find and pick up. Dice collecting is a sub-interest of many RPG-ers. Many have multiple sets and carry heavy dice bags swollen with their multi-sided bounty. Don’t be intimidated if you’re starting out, you accrue dice as time goes forward. I have played for many years and still have one of the smallest dice bags at the table. It’s all personal preference when it comes to dice. I do however suggest a back-up set. It happens, eventually you forget your dice. Have an emergency set in your car/bag just in case. For my personal use I carry two full sets of polyhedral dice in my dice bag. I add a few extra dice depending on the maximum dice a character needs to roll at one time. If I have a character who has a three weapon attack power and uses a d10 weapon I make sure to have 3d10 in my bag. I also carry a separate small dice bag with a basic seven dice set tucked away in my gaming gear for emergencies.
Containers: Organization is key. Normally I’m not a very organized person, but my game gear is neat and organized like a soldier’s kit. Spending a little time to organize your gaming gear will save you a lot of recurring headaches. You’re also much less likely to forget something at home. As you spend more time in the hobby you will gain more stuff and more accessories you will want to have with you each game. Beginners may need nothing more than the plastic container their dice come in, a character sheet and a pencil. If you play multiple characters you may want to add a folder, then a dice bag, then a backpack/satchel, etc. There is a lot of personal taste in this area. I personally have a spacious laptop bag with plenty of different pockets to organize my game gear. You can spend a lot of money on dice bags but my favorite is a simple, small, unbleached cotton bag originally used to ship elephant ear (plant) bulbs. Its stained, utilitarian look gives me a little immersion boost. I also own, and suggest checking out, clipboard storage box. Table surface is typically a premium. A clipboard lets me keep my notes off the table but still accessible. It also lets me store small items inside the clipboard’s base. Easily accessible but out of the way is the name of the game.
Grubs & Suds: Tabletop RPG sessions are long affairs. A typical session can run anywhere from 2-8+ hours with an average, comfortable session falling somewhere between 3-5 hours. You will probably get hungry and thirsty. Cheetos, Mountain Dew, and pizza are the tropes. I personally suggest water and hard candy. You will be doing quite a bit of talking and these help to keep your mouth and throat from getting dry. Each group is different but many encourage bringing something substantial with you to eat prior to starting. Sharing is generally encouraged with your snacks but not required. Food can also be used to bribe the DM/GM… sometimes.
PC Miniature: Not everyone plays with miniatures. Some systems don’t need miniatures but if you are playing a tactics heavy game like D&D 4e you will likely want miniatures. Don’t ask me why but when a person has their own personal PC miniature they seem more immersed in the character and game. It’s also a great excuse to purchase single miniatures and expand your miniatures collection with awesome uncommon and rare miniatures. There are many options for miniatures. Just remember that 1” game mats take into account 28mm scale miniatures.
1+ Game Accessory: Help your DM/GM out, be responsible for bringing one integral accessory to the game. This helps spread out the game supplies cost and is a great way to piecemeal together your own DM supplies. Accessories can be a gaming mat/tiles, sheet protectors, X-erase markers, miniatures, condition tokens, condition cards, rules compendium, sundry props, area-effect patterns, and more.