Gaming Advice: How to Build Your Perfect Gaming Kit

For a game that takes almost completely in my imagination, I find I need a surprisingly large amount of paraphernalia to play.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


As I’m the kind of chap that likes to be organised, I’ve tinkered with my gamer’s kit for years now. I’ve seen too many people, for example, forget their character sheet and derail an entire session. I’m not going to be “that guy.”

That’s why I’ve created a “gamer’s kit” which comprises everything I need to have a great  game. So what do I have in my gaming kit? Well that depends on if I’m playing or GMing.


When I’m playing, I normally have the following things with me:

  • Dice: I had a player who used to always turn up without any dice. It drove me insane. Dice are integral to the game and assuming you can just borrow someone else’s is presumptuous and/orrude. People can get funny about other people touching their dice. Bring your own.
  • Character Sheet: I always ensure my character sheet is up to date before the session. If I’m close to levelling, I also bring along a pre-levelled version to save game time. Watching people level their characters is less than thrilling.
  • Rulebooks: I normally just store these on my iPad mini. It takes up no space at the table and the various search functions are so handy.
  • Spare Paper, Pencils etc.: Being able to take notes, record damage, ongoing spell effects and so on is handy. You should never be without paper and pencils. I’m also a huge fan of post it notes. You can attach them to virtually anything and they are very easy to see. I carry a variety of sized notes in my kit.
  • Character Figure: I can’t paint to save my life, but over the years I’ve built up a nice collections of very well painted figures. It’s cool to have a decent character figure on the table.
  • Snacks & Drinks: Gaming is thirsty work and I always bring snacks with me to keep my energy levels up.


When I’m running a game (which is normally now my Borderland of Adventure campaign), with the exception of a character sheet and character figure, I carry many of the same things I use to play. However, being the GM means I’ve got to bring more stuff:

  • The Adventure: It is unlikely the session will be a roaring success without the actual module. Of all the things in my GM’s kit it is the most vital. Without it, the session will probably fail to go ahead.
  • Spare Encounters: You can’t plan for every eventuality so it’s good to have a couple of prepared encounters you can drop into the session when you need to think, if the PCs are going the wrong way or you just want to pad things out a bit.
  • GM Screen: I’ve talked about GM screens before; sufficed to say I think these are a vital piece of a GM’s kit.
  • Winging It Books: I like books that enable me to add dungeon features, NPCs, richly detailed treasure and so on quickly and easily to a game. They make me look awesomely prepared when in fact I’m frantically winging it! Many Raging Swan Press releases fall into this category and are a direct result of a need I suddenly discovered I had during a game.
  • Campaign Folder: This contains my campaign notes which include details of prominent NPCs, places the PCs have been before, the PCs’ backgrounds, copies of previous adventures and so on. This can get pretty hefty, but some of my players have the irritating habit of asking questions about events that occurred weeks or months ago.
  • Sorted Monster Figures: Rummaging through a gigantic pile of minis to find the right one is a pain. Pre-sorting minis means the game doesn’t grind to a halt while I look for that perfect figure I’ve got lying around somewhere.
  • Battle Mat: A battle mat is very handy for combats. It’s less handy if you can’t actually clean it in-between battles. That’s why along with pens, I always bring tissues and cleaning spray.

Help Fellow Gamers!

Do you carry anything else with you to a session that you find jolly useful? Tell me what extra stuff you bring to games in the comments below and help your fellow gamers be ready for anything!

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

32 thoughts on “Gaming Advice: How to Build Your Perfect Gaming Kit”

  1. I get the idea of “winging it books” and would modify that to say “random tables.” As a GM I have collected or created numerous random tables over the years from dozens of sources: the old 1e DMG, various splatbooks and of course the EXCELLENT resources of RSP (that’s right; I’m a fan). I often find I don’t need whole books or even PDFs, but rather just the tables themselves in handy quick reference form.

    Something I’ve found invaluable in my GM’s Kit too is props, handouts and NPC cards. Having simple, handy references for my players is great to jog their memory. If we’re off on a long adventure together I don’t want to have to re-draw the map constantly so having a shared handout of said map for the players to mark up or add to is very handy.

    1. I love a nice handout. Once the PCs can actually hold something in their hand they immediately take note of it.

      (And thanks for the nice words about RSP – as you may know, I like random tables!)

  2. As a player, I prefer to have a duotang/folder to specifically carry my character sheets in. Not only does it keep them relatively nice, but then they have a proper “home” and I’m not going to miss my bright orange folder. (I have had loose papers – ie char sheets – not make it into my sack.)

    I guess this next part is up to DM preference, but one of the things I had collected in my player’s kit shortly before our 3.5e group disbanded was the Magic Item Compendium. Did not collect the spellbook compendium, but the DM had it. I really feel the two together should be made available to the party… of course I was the sorcerer with grand plans of Stone Golems and Pseudodragon familiars, so having all the pretty things and all the neatest spells to shop for was kind of important to me 😛

    ::shrugs:: I think encouraging the party to have goals of fancy stuff is a good one, meaning they need to sort of know about these things…. hence the need to have said references on hand.

    1. I’m a stationary nut, so I totally know what you mean about having a nice folder to carry your character in! If only one of my group would have a go at GMing, I’d have a great excuse to go stationary shopping!

  3. If your planning on summoning anything have the stats to hand, nothing worse than summoning a wolf and having to thumb through the monsters looking for stats mid encounter.

    As a general rule I never summon anything u don’t have Pre prepared stats for. I recall a 3.5 Druid master of many forms I had once years ago, the character sheet ran to over 70 pages!!

  4. As a player in 3.x / PF, definitely break down on paper your different attack methods and what the numbers are. So you have your separate breakdowns for things like Normal attack, Power attack,
    Vital Strike, etc. One current player has a barbarian, and then extends a column for these with rage adjustments. If you frequently get bull’s strength cast on your PC, then save time and include that as well.

    Agree with Mark on props as DM, especially with player handouts. We’ve had some adventures spanning months, and players tend to forget things over time or forget what their shorthand notes mean when looking at them down the road. Of course, I make sure to throw a few red herring handouts now and then so that the handing of a note doesn’t signal “this is critically important” to the players.

  5. I’m running Kingmaker, and have to keep a whole book ahead of the players instead of just a few steps, so I have pages upon pages of notes for myself. I carry a blue document case with heavy clips to each session to hold my markers, post-it notes (best way to handle Perception checks, etc), and tokens. I made Bestiary Box-style pawns of everything the PCs are likely to encounter, including enough to max out the random encounter table. Of course, I’m not smart enough to keep the pawns sorted. 😛

    I also bought an address book for the group to keep track of NPCs. It’s a silly little thing, but it’s already proved useful.

  6. Props. Sometimes, a game works best when you can hand players something instead of describing it, Sime examples: Maps the players can use. The insignia they found on the body of the suspiciously ean mercenary. The contract the devils gave the party when they agreed to do something to gain a boon. The partial treasure map they found rolled up and stuffed into the skull of an Owlbear at the bottom of the last dungeon. Name tags and MBDs for the Troubleshooters in my Paranoia XP game.

    Music and/or sound effects I use these infrequently, but they are great for setting the mood. Because some of the party have a quirky sense of humor, these sounds almost always include the battle victory sound from one of the final Fantasy games.

    1. I’d forgotten props! I love giving my players physical handouts. It makes the situation seem so much more real to them – and they often realise that something is important when you physically put it in their hands. It’s a great “GM signpost” that they should concentrate!

      1. interestingly enough, it’s also a way to obscure details that would be meta-obvious to the players. (i.e. you describe the ink pot on the table in detail, which focuses them on it.)

  7. Having just the right miniature for every monster gets real expensive. Instead I bring an assortment of Starburst candies. They are the right size for the battlemap, and the players get to eat what they kill. I tend to save the strawberry flavored ones for the BBEG, since they are the most popular in my group.

  8. Why would you ostracize a player just because he forgot to bring his dice or didn’t even own any? Sure, ideally s/he’d bring books, a pen, paper, dice, etc. but realistically many of us fall short of this ideal. It’s out of line to treat this as anything more than a minor burden.

    1. I wouldn’t ostracise a player if on occasion they forgot to bring stuff. That would be insane. If, however, the person is perennially late, always forgets their stuff and so on I question their commitment to the game (and to the other people around the table). At the end of the day, we all take time out of our busy schedules to play and being on time, being organised enough to bring what you need to bring and not disrupt the session shows respect for the other participants.

  9. Aww man, I was hoping for some advice on how to CONTAIN all this great stuff. I’ve yet to find a container that conveniently holds and organizes my stuff. Maybe I should design one… there might be some money in this.

  10. I hear ya on the dice. I’m happy to say that the people I play with come with everything they need. being a DM happy to say the player sheets are well in order. my rule is if you don’t have it on your sheet…you don’t have it

  11. Most of this is for GMing, but it includes my player stuff.

    Dice (6s, polyhedral and Fate plus extra for forgetful players)
    Dice tray
    Surface Tablet with:
    Rule Books
    Published scenarios to steal from
    And all the rest
    EpicTable program for miracasting maps and other visuals to a TV or monitor
    Hero Designer character generation for Hero System
    Google Drive
    Maps and Floorplans in PNG files

    GM Screen
    Notebook with:
    Character Sheets in Sheet Protectors
    Hand Written Notes
    Hard Copies of NPCs in Sheet Protectors
    Hand Outs
    Pregenerated Initiative Sheet in Sheet Protector
    Any Charts that don’t fit in the GM Screen
    Extra Paper
    Laser Pointers (for use on the TV screen on which I display EpicTable. Bought at $1 each from Dollar Tree)
    Wet Erase Pens (with a few paper towels for erasing)
    HDMI cord or Miracast Adapter as needed
    Portable Hard Drive or USB Drive as needed
    I carry everything for my players because one will forget something every time.

  12. In addition to the items listed, I carry:

    1. an assortment of colored index cards. I fold these in half and hang them on the screen to keep track of initiative and character combat stats.

    2. Laser pointer for pointing out things on the battle may without having to get up.

    3. Telescoping back scratcher, for moving minis on the battle mat without getting up.

    4. Sheets of parchment paper, cut in quarters and laminated, for passing notes to players.

    5. Dry erase markets for writing on the battle mats and the notes from #4.

    6. Extra pencils and one set dice for players.

  13. Included in the spare paper and post it notes are graph paper (indoor /underground adventures) and hex paper (outdoor adventures). A good map makes things easier for your friends when you want to remember where you have been or have some reason to back tracking to safe spot.

  14. I keep a huge gridded sheet (I made a huge excel spreadsheet with 3mm gridlines and printed it on A3), with all the PCs key stats printed on the right (attributes, melee bonus, weapons, spells, consumable items, AC, HP in a grid to tick off, key skills and saving throws), and add monsters they are likely to encounter on the left. Lots of space remaining to quickly draw up checkboxes to tick off hitpoints of unexpected NPCs.

    1. Thanks for this, Andy. I do something similar, but not to the same extent as you! I just keep a list of skills, notable abilities and magic items so I can be aware of what they might use in any given situation. Do you find you use everything on the grid?

  15. iPad Pro 12.9

    Campaign Logger software with my campaign log and my generators (many of which have built with Raging Swan tables. links to evocative pictures in pinterest that I have pregathered.

    My quick reference charts for most useful tables.

    Preprinted encounters from Mythras Encounter Generator.

    Rules quick reference inter linked web page.

    Mythras Encounter Generator

    My Evernote with all the books and background material

    Mini whiteboard and pen for that.

    poker chips for action point markers.

    Small cards where you can write secret messages for players.

    Table sized map of the campaign area. Half table sized map of the local area. Other maps as needed.

    lots of dice.

    Physical rulebooks…

  16. Here are some of the things in my kit. Everything MUST fit in my bag or it is out.

    + Red Oxx Gator Carry On Bag – PERFECT size, nice pockets, and RUGGED.
    + Contigo Water Bottle – One that does not drip.
    + Noteboard – A pocket sized dry erase board with squares and hexes on one side and white on the other.
    + Crayola White Board Crayons – Work AMAZING on the Noteboard.
    + Laminated Numbered Chits – Work for any genre and tiny.
    + Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen – Landscape screen with replaceable inserts.
    + Plastic Sheet Protectors – Insert monsters then use the crayons. 😉
    + Supermarket Baby Names Book – I have one that is like 3″ x 4″. Awesome.

    Those are some things that do not match your list. 🙂

  17. Well, normally I would agree with this listing for the players kit as that is how I prefer to play (though, honestly, we only started using mini’s in the last couple years having started playing when there wasn’t such a thing to use).

    Lately though, folks are using DnD Beyond and Fantasy Grounds to run everything. So now honestly all I have to bring to the game session is a laptop. No dice, no character sheet, no mini’s, no pens and pencils or notepads… Fantasy Grounds does everything for you other than move the character on the map. It rolls the dice, determines damage, tracks movement (as above) and who is in range of what, does the ‘fog of war’ on the map so you only see what your character can see, has digital copies of all the applicable books for you to read through, counts spell slots and on and on. Honestly, if folks could type faster with a better vocabulary, I’d being playing it online from my house in my underwear via Fantasy Grounds. I’d never have to leave home or shower or wear clothes again.

    Which, honestly, is NOT why I play. I play to socialize, for the unique experience each game brings. I want to roll the dice, use a pencil, look something up in the book, mark on my sheet how many spells I have left, how much coin we picked up. I want to hear the vivid and detailed descriptions of the landscape and the battle scene and the treasure we found.

    My gaming group however prefers the tech perspective, so we’re all laptops and MS Surface tablets now. The gaming area has three separate screens setup, 2 large TV’s for the players and one for the GM, so we can all see the maps and such via Fantasy Grounds (GM screen is so he can see what the players see without having to crank his around like an owl). We also see some aspects of that on our individual computers, but limited screen sizes means you have to close some windows to see others whereas the large TV’s can everything all at once. Yes it works and I get how it’s nice to have the tech do the work and all, but I can get that same kind of experience via DnD Online if that is all I’m looking for.

    I long for the old days where you had folks in comfy chairs looking at each other instead of screens, with books and papers and dice and snacks, using their stats and skills and imaginations while trying to save the world from whichever super-evil being has shown up this week. THAT for me is gaming. And that is where kits like those listed in the article above come in handy.

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