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What We Haul to Games, and How We Haul It There
Posted By Martin Ralya On November 4, 2010 @ 12:56 am In GMing Advice | 18 Comments
Over in the bubbling cauldron of scum and villainy that is our Suggestion Pot, Gnome Stew reader Razjah asked this fun question (thanks, Razjah!) on the heels of John’s awe-inspiring improv GMing toolkit article:
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 one’s home, but I live at college and that isn’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, 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 (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 in my very beautiful Dwarven Sweatshoppe dice tray, 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 (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. 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, courtesy of yours truly.
The Player Toolkit is a Plano 3650 Pro Latch Stowaway (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, GenCon pencil case (with ample pen-and pencilage), Moleskine notebook, and ultimate dice bag (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, 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 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, 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 and my templates. 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, 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.
So how about it — what do you haul to games, and how do you haul it there?
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