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What We Haul to Games, and How We Haul It There

Over in the bubbling cauldron of scum and villainy that is our Suggestion Pot [1], Gnome Stew reader Razjah asked this fun question (thanks, Razjah!) on the heels of John’s awe-inspiring improv GMing toolkit article [2]:

I think it would be great to see an article about transporting rpg supplies. Something that compared the tradition methods of moving books, pens, paper, minis, props, etc. with other methods.

I would love to see the other gnomes talk about what they use to get to where they game. I know a great solution for transporting is to game in oneโ€™s home, but I live at college and that isnโ€™t always an option.

We decided to metagnome this one, so we bounced it around our mailing list and got responses from several gnomes. Here’s what we drag to our games, and how we drag it there.


I am the hub of my gaming group as well, but when I have taken my gear on the road, I rely on my laptop loaded with PDFs, a poster mailing tube, with my battlemat, or now a roll of Gaming Paper. I have some craft boxes that hold my counters (minis too big, counters I can print as many as I need and carry more in less space). The rest of my gear: Notebook, dice, rolling tray, pens, and such, all go into my backpack.


When I got back into gaming, all of my books and materials were in a rolling TV cart like this one [3], but on sale. Full-sized gaming books fit inside the bottom; minis and what-nots on the shelf, and the top was a ‘GM’s Table.’ It was handy because I could roll it out for the game, but roll it back for the rest of the week. The combination of WotC’s D&D 3.5 publishing schedule and my ‘collector gene’ quickly outgrew the cart, although it continued to hold the frequently-used books and materials.

When I ran games at someone else’s house, I tried a few approaches with wildly varying results; the best was to take an extra half-hour and cut away what I didn’t absolutely need (key word). Minis and books were selected based on the evening’s plans, and props had to have a very high ‘cool factor’ in order to be included. Everything but dinner and the gaming mat fit into a rolling backpack.

Miniatures are stored in an Akro-Mils 5905 Large Storage Case [4] (14.375″ x 9.5″ x 2.5″, up to 18 compartments). They’re segregated by Humans, Player Races, Humanoids, Supernatural, and Critters. Here’s the inside of the Supernaturals case (undead and demons).

Large and Huge minis are in some boxes I picked up at the Container Store, but frankly, anything will work. I don’t bring the entire collection to the table; the session’s minis are hidden in dice bags, segregated by encounter.

Now that I generally game at home, things are admittedly easier. But since the downstairs living room table is the gaming table, and the upstairs office is where all the game swag is located, I maximize my efficiency by taking as few trips as possible. This is my normal load for a game. Left side, from the top: Half-sized notepad, Savage Worlds books, Player Toolkit. Right side: Minis in a dice bag, large blast templates (a/k/a 6″ macrame rings), and Litko flight markers [5] in my very beautiful Dwarven Sweatshoppe dice tray [6], atop a cigar box/pencil case. All are perched on the GM’s Toolkit, which is on a set of Tact-Tiles.

The GM Toolkit is a Plano 3750 Pro Latch Stowaway [7] (14″ x 9″ x 2″, up to 27 compartments). The first picture is inaccurate; the second one with the Stren fishing line is it. Contents: Pens and pencils. A hit location die and a pizza box holder-offer/elevation marker. 2″ squares to mark fog, smoke, critters, whatever. Litko’s cool Torch Bearer Markers [8]. Dice. The green chips are Bennies. The brass rings are burst templates (fireball!). The red and green plastic cases hold index cards. The red one is 1.5″ thick, and holds two decks of the Savage Worlds Action Deck (oversized playing cards for initiative). The green one is 1″ thick, and holds up to 100 index cards, and is used for NPC character sheets. I’m eventually going to have to get a thicker one for NPCs… Savage Worlds NPC sheets [9], courtesy of yours truly.

The Player Toolkit is a Plano 3650 Pro Latch Stowaway [10] (11″ x 7″ x 1.8″, up to 21 compartments). Contents: 1″ stackable poker chips of varying colors. Red is Wounds; White is Shaken; everything else is whatever makes sense at the time… You’ll note that papers folded twice don’t quite fit in the large space, but a 3×5 card does. Glass beads for Mana (spell points). The players’ minis, torch bearer marker, and hit location die.

I’ve run a few games away from home, and luckily, I still have that rolling backpack. Pick the minis I want, grab the GM and Player Toolkits, and go. I usually take a laptop, but despite my techie history, I prefer to game without it. Go figure…


I game at fellow gnome Don Mappin’s house 99% of the time, so I’m rarely home using my own gaming space.

What I tote and what it gets toted in changes from game to game, but there are a few consistent elements: my GMing mascot [11], GenCon pencil case (with ample pen-and pencilage), Moleskine notebook [12], and ultimate dice bag [13] (with around 60-80 dice carefully selected to allow me to play just about any RPG).

For my current game, Star Trek, I’ve switched from a backpack to a crate so that I can easily see the spines of all my books during play. I’ve also gone digital for the first time [14], so my core GMing tool is my netbook (in a padded case with a wireless mouse and its charging cable).

As I’m GMing without a screen, I’ve also switched from my much-loved Dwarven Sweatshoppe dice tray [15] to a vintage cigar box I lined with felt. I need a way to hide rolls, and this does the trick nicely; I got the idea from Kurt. The box was around $15 on Etsy [16], and I added the felt lining myself.

For good measure, I also bring a working TNG “dustbuster” phaser, a pack of kleenex (allergies), and a little bottle of lotion (dry hands). Not in the box but especially important is my watch, which I use to pace the game; it’s much less distracting for everyone than using my cell phone.


I haven’t run a game anywhere but my own house in a decade. One of the advantages of being a married couple of gamers with a kid is that it makes your house the defacto meeting spot.

Prior to that, I used a schoolbag and traveled light.


I am constantly looking for better ways to organize my gaming gear so that it as portable as possible while still having all of the tools that I may need while running a session. A single backpack is all that I want to grab for game night or to carry with me while at a convention, and I want that backpack to be light.

At the core of my setup is my laptop. I never carry books around if I can help it. I prefer PDFs to printed copies anyhow, and I have several software tools installed to help me run my game with.

Next is a multi-pocket file folder. I keep character sheets, handouts, and other such items in here. It also carries a spiral notepad, and I keep some index cards (the ultimate GM’s tool) in its pockets. I also keep my folding laminated maps in here as well.

My tubes of mini dice, some Fudge dice, playing cards, mini poker chips, more index cards, timers, and pencils I keep in my hard-shell container clipboard. The clipboard had a calculator screwed on to the front of it, but I removed that since I did not need it and it made the clipboard an awkward fit for the backpack. When I am going to improvise a game using my version of the Fudge system this is all that I bring with me.

If I need miniatures I bring a box or two of tokens that I created myself using NewbieDM’s method [17] and my templates [18]. These really are awesome for running large combats with or for running convention games.

Finally there is my latest edition to the kit which is a felt lined dice cup with a locking lid. This dice cup is awesome, because I can hide rolls with it using Phil’s excellent tip [19], and by shaking the dice cup I immediately draw everyone’s attention to what I am doing. The sound of the GM rattling dice turns the players into Pavlov’s dogs (as a player I do the same thing when I hear those bones a shakin’). I usually throw more Fudge dice in here too.

Do I always bring all of this stuff with me? No. If I have time to prepare for the session and can leave gear behind I do, but I often run improvised pick-up games upon request for friends. When that happens I am glad that I have this GM’s kit ready to go. So if you see me at conventions with my backpack ask if I will run a game for you and your friends. If I have the time I will, because you know that I have the gear!


It so depends on the system.

For Spirit of the Century, I carry the book with a few index cards tucked in the back and a page or two of notes. Actually, for most of the games recently it’s been a messenger bag with pencils, dice, etc. in the outer pouch plus game book and binder in the inner pouch.


I tend to run “rules light games,” so I can usually get away with my laptop (with pdfs and files) and my dice. I also carry the main rulebook (or a couple) and a hardcopy of the adventure.

When I ran Pathfinder, another player shared the burden by bringing the battlemat, markers, and minis. I had the above setup as well as the Gamemastery Initiative Tracker. I also used the wireless internet to call up Hypertext d20 and the PRDs.

…and You!

So how about it — what do you haul to games, and how do you haul it there?

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "What We Haul to Games, and How We Haul It There"

#1 Comment By Animus On November 4, 2010 @ 5:14 am

I bought a rolling toolbox from Lowe’s to cart around my D&D books, markers, index cards and notebook. 90% of the time I game at a friend’s house so there’s no need for me to bring a battlemat or minis. When I do need both, I have a smaller toolbox with which to transport those.

#2 Comment By Hawkesong On November 4, 2010 @ 6:02 am

Since we game at a friend’s house I do have to bring a lot of my stuff with me. But we’re extremely close friends, and due also to an unfortunate situation with a book-snatcher in my own home, I finally brought all my books to my friend’s house instead of having them with me. I either have only the books I will need to build the next adventure with me at my house, or I use the computer versions of the books. I don’t like to do that during the game, because I’ve found that most of my group is much too easily distracted by computers in use at the table (me included).
What I tend to haul to games now is notebooks – multiple ones, because of the intense roleplay/note taking in my game. My heaviest game load is usually two of those free totes you can get from Books A Million, a large one and a small one. Small one carries whatever game books I am using that night; the bigger bag holds the 3 inch ring binder with all the compiled campaign notes, the 1 inch ring binder with current-session stuff, and another 1 inch ring binder that holds my on-the-fly NPCs and monsters.
My friend, because she is awesome, keeps a supply of pencils on hand and provides a dry-erase battle map. We all pitched in to buy a good quality folding table, so that her not-that-huge living room doesn’t have to be cluttered up with a table all week. Just two nights out of the week!
And for Christmas this year, I’m buying the group some rolls of Gaming Paper.

#3 Comment By Noumenon On November 4, 2010 @ 6:05 am

The poster mailing tube for maps is essential.

Kurt’s setup is mega awesome.

#4 Comment By Kenderama On November 4, 2010 @ 6:27 am

I keep all my PDF’s on my iPad in GoodReader for easy, non-back-strain portability.

Then I usually just have a notepad, a dicebag full of dice, a pencil, and character tokens. Makes it nice and ultralight.

#5 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 4, 2010 @ 9:03 am

I got a kick out of reading about the different approaches each of us takes.

Some of us are minimalists, while others like to be prepared for everything and anything, and some fall in the middle of the two. It is nice to see different approaches that your peers use.

#6 Comment By Vance On November 4, 2010 @ 9:50 am

For the group I GM, we meet at my house so I don’t have to carry anything around. I use a lot of paper terrain from FatDragonGames, and the 3D stuff can take up a lot of room. I also use a lot of paper minis, but they hardly take up any room at all.

But I’m a player in two other campaigns, and I have to travel for those. The GM’s are both good friends of mine, so they let me know what terrain they want me to bring to each session. I load up their requested stuff along with a folder for character sheets and notes into a corrugated plastic box from the post office. It’s very sturdy and just fits everything.

My dice, pencils, bag of minis, and index cards all go into a small lunchbox I “borrowed” from my son. I like the idea of turning a cigar box into a dice tray, though. I think I’ll try that next.

#7 Comment By drow On November 4, 2010 @ 9:59 am

2e; duffel bag filled with about 40 lbs of books, manuals, and tomes, and later a blueberry iBook.

3e; duffel bag filled with about 20 lbs of books, an iBook G4, and one or two snapware boxes of minis. the battlemap (a large whiteboard marked with a 1 inch grid) is too large to move, so it remains at the house we game at.

4e; shoulder bag filled with a few books and a MacBook. since i never really need them at home, the boxes of minis remain with the battlemat.

#8 Comment By evil On November 4, 2010 @ 10:36 am

it depends on where I’m gaming. If I’m gaming at home, all of my stuff (except for the hand-made gaming table) stays in a backpack. If I’m at a convention, then I’ll put everything into a small rubbermaid style box (about 2’x3’x3′). All of my clothes, cleaning supplies, and personal effects go into a backpack and then everything gets bungie corded to a collaspable dolly.

#9 Comment By John Arcadian On November 4, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

Kurt mentions the Akro-mils and Plano stuff, and I have to second that. My at home setup of minis is full of those things, carried in much the same style of boxes as I use for my improv game setup. You can find those types of boxes at craft stores and fishing gear stores. An odd aside, I took a new way home from work the other day to stop at a UPS location and passed by the Akro-Mils factory. It is right in my backyard, so I’m gonna go see if they have a direct store there. Those divided boxes are really incredible and worth the price.

#10 Comment By Kikatink On November 4, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

I carry a backpack with my laptap (filled with pdfs), deck of cards and an old red pencil box I got as a very yound kid (1970’s) after mailing in so many proof of purchases to Kelloggs (looked all over the internet for a picture and can’t find one)! Inside the pencil box are all the dice and, oddly enough, pencils I need. I also have a 3 notebooks in the backpack.

#11 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 4, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

[20] – Thanks! It’s taken a fair bit of practice to get everything together and organized. And I’m sure it’ll change again…

It really is interesting to see how everyone organizes their stuff.

#12 Comment By Razjah On November 4, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

Thanks for answering my request so quickly! I love this article!

As for how I currently move everything to the gaming location. I bring:
1) My backpack, full of stuff: Pathfidner Core, APG, Beastiary, Tome of Battle, Tome of Magic, my GM folder with all sorts of cheat sheet info for me, fake book “Fook” dice tray with my bag of dice in it.
2) A computer bag with computer and charger, the cooling mat doesn’t fit but is needed as the computer gets hot when it runs for hours on end.
3) Battlemat
4) Small gutted clarinet case that holds props (scrolls that are bobbins, potions that are timy little plastic containers, the quest itmes, a old leather dice bag full of “gold coins”, wet erase markers for the battlemat
5) Cardboard box of minis- I like the old Mage Knight minis because I got them for crazy cheap and I have a bunch to use.
6) Water Bottle- I get thirsty and don’t want to get up for a drink and put the game on pause

This is a lot and I hope to uise some of this for ways to cut down. I just wish I didn’t hate gaming with a laptop.

Thanks again gnomes!

#13 Comment By OnlineDM On November 4, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

I run games using MapTool on my laptop and a digital projector, and I designed the rig with portability in mind.

I use a roll-aboard suitcase which has a 30-pound bag of sand (to use as ballast for the projector stand), the projector, the laptop, an extension cord, an outlet splitter/surge protector, the power cords for the projector and laptop, the cord to connect the laptop to the projector, the remote control for the projector, the Rules Compendium and a small box with some dice, PC minis and rubber bands to mark the PC minis (in case the players don’t have their own). I also have a white cloth to spread on the table for the projected image. I pull that suitcase in one hand.

In the other hand, I carry the projector mount rig – a board that sits on the floor, a five-foot pole coming up from it, a shorter pole sticking out from that, another board on the end of that short pole, a projector mount and two screws for adjusting the angle of the projector.

I wouldn’t want to go on a five-mile hike with all of this, but walking from the parking lot and into a convention site, it’s been no problem at all. It helps if nice people open doors for me, of course, but I can do it on my own.

#14 Comment By BryanB On November 4, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

Some very cool people bought me a Bag of Holding for my birthday this year. I used it at Gen Con and it really does hold a lot of books, dice, and whatever else can be crammed in there. I certainly tested it’s maximum capacity while wandering the dealer’s exhibit hall. In fact, I think the capacity of the bag nearly exceeds my capability to carry the load over long distances. Very impressive indeed. ๐Ÿ˜€

Hey Martin, I can see that you are mixing some LUG fluff with your DEC Trek. The LUG Romulan boxed set is very cool. Too bad the LUG Klingon boxed set never made it out the door.

#15 Comment By Martin Ralya On November 4, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

[21] – Yep, I love both versions of the game and own almost all of the LUG line. I like that it’s still usable with Decipher Trek, and it’s come in handy already. ๐Ÿ™‚

#16 Comment By Martin Ralya On November 4, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

[22] – No problem! We all geeked out a bit writing this one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

#17 Comment By Scott Martin On November 5, 2010 @ 11:11 am

My answer was incomplete– sorry Martin! I mentioned that it varies depending on the system and quickly told you how lightly I travel when it’s a one book system like Spirit of the Century.

When I run 4e [more, when my wife runs 4e], we haul a cardboard box filled with hardbacks– the type of box that originally held a ream of paper. Into the box go 10+ hardbacks, 3 or 4 plastic organizer trays with minis, Tactiles, dry erase markers, pencils, both of our dice bags, and other random things. Let’s just say it’s not a light box.

#18 Comment By Katana_Geldar On November 7, 2010 @ 3:16 am

I try to take as little as possible to the games I run, for the simple reason that I have to get to the game by public transport. I bring my notes, the campaign if it’s in a book, my dice bag, tile sets, the miniatures I’ll need for the night and the monster manuals. One of my friends very gratefully brings the core books so I don’t have to lug them across town as well.

And Kurt, I bought those exact same bozes for my minis today. Shows how gamers think alike.