Thursday, October 8, 2015

Setting up your Traveling GM Bag

Recently i've been on a bit of a personal quest. Not a quest to defeat any monsters and reap the riches that the princess in the highest tower of the tallest castle has to give to me. A quest to improve my Game Mastering. The First step I've wanted to take in doing this is to refine my Game Masters Kit. To give you a sense of an idea of what i currently have as a launching point, take a look at this picture:

This is my current Game Mastering setup. A laptop for quick reference and on the fly GMing (it's preloaded with PDF's of all the pathfinder books), a fish and tackle box which i use to store my modest collection of miniatures painted and not so much, my GM tools which include some cheap pencils, dry erase markers, pens, initiative tents, spare sheets of 3x5 notecards, a dck of cards, three different colors of jewel shaped tokens and my personal dice. In addition, i carry around a red folder which contains all of the characters i roll up for social interaction with my players, a collection of 1-2 sheet RPG rule sets for quick pickup games. "the lazy GM's" cheat sheet, a sketch pad, and my GM Screen of course.

The biggest Emphasis, for me, on my GM bag is being cost efficient with it. Everything except for the small laptop, has been extremely cheap and that's what i wanted to share with you today:

1. Miniatures
While my miniatures are mostly bones miniatures from reaper miniatures which span from 2-75 dollars per model. There are, however, cheaper options for the money tight Game master. A short trip to your local Walmart and you can find yourself buckets of 101 miniature models for 6 dollars a piece in the kids toys isle. These buckets come pre-themed based off the environment the animals grow in. Grabbing yourself a safari animal pack and a dinosaur animal pack will cover your bases for 99% of animal companions as well as give you over 200 models to incorporate into your games. this isn't just animals either. Each kit comes with fence pieces that are modular and are perfect for creating area of effect counters as well as a collection of rocks and trees for quick outdoor scene fabrication that is visually appealing to the player.

Just as an example, the Safari set comes with the following animals:
  • adult Kangaroo
  • baby Kangaroo
  • Elephant
  • Panther
  • Lion
  • Alligator/Crocodile
  • Gazelle/Elk
  • Pelican/large bird
  • Chimpanzee
  • Puma
  • Bear cub standing on hind legs
  • Gorilla
  • Giraffe
  • Coyote/Wolf
  • Spider Monkey/small Monkey
  • Rhinoceros
  • Horse
  • Bear
Not to mention that there's duplicates of most of not all of those.

2. Writing Utilities
When it comes to keeping notes, having an abundance of different writing surfaces and utensils is crucial. It's an axiom of Roleplaying Games, the players will never bring a pencil. As such you always need to bring extras for the whole class. While this might seem like an expensive endeavor it's really not. Here are a few options for cheap solutions:
  • Pencils - Local Dollar Store -8ct /$1
  • Small sketch pads - Local Dollar Store - 2-5/$1
  • Unruled 3x5 notecards - Local Dollar Store - 100-300/$1
  • Small composition books - Walmart - 3x80pg wide ruled/$0.89
  • Pens - local dollar store - 8ct / $1
  • dry erase markers - Walmart - 4ct /~$5
  • small journals - Walmart - 1 / $0.10
With prices as low as those, you can definitely afford to get yourself outfitted with what you need in a pinch and for cheap. With things like pencils, pens and paper for your players to take notes on, i've found the more tailored towards the opposite sex it is, the more likely they are to remember their own utensils next game. If you've got a room full of guys, carry spare notebooks with frilly hearts and fairies on them. The dollar store pencils are good enough to work, but not much else. Crappy erasers, poor design and weak lead make them ideal for your players.

3. Tokens and Trackers
When it comes to helping your players keep track of their vital stats for their characters and things like inspiration as used in D&D 5, it is important that you have fun and semi-quality looking tokens to keep the players enjoying the props, Tokens can be anything from poker chips to glass beads. Personally, i've found packages of different colored plastic princess cut gems at my local crafts store. 30 for $1-$3 is totally easy to swallow.

As for trackers, keeping the flow of battle moving is critical in games. Everyone knows the larger the battle, the slower it moves. The slower battle moves the harder it is for players to keep their attention on the game. Using some of those 3x5 notecards, you can cut them into thirds horizontally, and make mini tent cards. Label these with things like Player 1-10 or if you have a repeating group, label some with their actual character names. make generic "Monster 1" thru "Monster 12" tent cards. Use these on the top edge of whatever you use as a GM screen to keep track of initiative. Make half-sized tent cards (6:1 on the full 3x5's) and label them with status effects like fatigued, bleed, fire, etc. so when someone gets poison 3 for 3 rounds, you just write 3 rds on the tent card or drop 3 tent cards on that person, then remove 1 each round till they're gone.

4. Dice
Dice are the most important part of almost any RPG. As such, a GM should come well equipped with them. Look for gaming stores that have sales on their used dice and buy them in bulk for a nickel to a quarter a piece. If you have a band saw, a sander, and a local wood shop, you can go in and buy a bag of Maple pen blanks for like 3-5 bucks. With a little practice and patience, you can make your own dice, 5-6 to a blank. Paint the numbers on, or get a punch set from your local discount hardware store and hammer them in. D6's are the worlds easiest dice to make and you can produce them en masse then have your players just use those whenever they fail bring their own dice. every other side count is extremely difficult to make by hand, but at least you'll have your D6's covered for centuries.

All in all it's pretty cheap to equip your own GM bag, and it's equally rewarding as you'll find your job much more interactive and rewarding for having done it.

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