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Nerdarchy > At The Gaming Table  > A D&D Player Needs All the Stuff, a D&D DM Needs Even More Stuff!
D&D stuff

A D&D Player Needs All the Stuff, a D&D DM Needs Even More Stuff!

In this ArmorClass10.com-sponsored video Nate the Nerdarch and Nerdarhchists Dave and Ted approach the idea of bookkeeping for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons or any tabletop roleplaying game from several avenues. Pregame preparation, character maintenance and efficiency during play are some of the topics discussed.

The standout aspect for me is preparing for a game session by making sure you have all the materials you need. My group meets to play D&D or whatever game we get into at a local coffeeshop. There’s a private room we reserve in the back to while away the evening rolling funny-shaped dice and speaking with funny-sounding voices. Every session requires a mental checklist before heading out the door to account for all the necessary stuff. And then a double-check. And then a quick assessment of more stuff that might be needed.

D&D players have it easy

D&D stuffWhen I get to be a player in a D&D or other roleplaying game, it’s cruisin’ on Easy Street. Dice, pencil, notebook, character sheet, Player’s Handbook – that’s all. Packing Ye Olde Backpacke takes all of one minute. And that minute takes place right before I leave for the meeting.

Dice are never an issue. A big, satin-lined black velvet back resides comfortably in my bag almost permanently. The only times it emerges is during our play session, or on Mondays and Fridays. (When Nerdarchy’s live stream Marvel Super Heroes Roleplaying Game and Open Legend RPG-sponsored “Aether Skies: The Beginning of the End” take place.) Sure, there’s those nights spent whimsically rolling dice to elicit that soothing sound, too. We all do that, right?

In fact, bringing dice to a gaming session is never a problem for my group. I am the proud patron of a wrangled group of players new or returned to the roleplaying game hobby through gentle cajoling. All of them have caught the uncurable dice-virus. Every session one person or another shows off a new set. Even if someone – or all but one – forgot their dice, there’s plenty of dice. Next!

player stuffYou need pencils? I got pencils. A five-pack of generic mechanical pencils goes a long way. Another permanent bag occupant, these cheapie clickie pencils have gotten a lot of mileage, from Austin, Texas to Cleveland, Ohio. Thankfully, self-diagnosed OCD helps me maintain the collection. They may run out of lead, but they never get left behind with a borrower at the gaming table. There are two special mechanical pencils in their own pocket, as well. Those are mine, so don’t even think about asking to borrow them.

I love notebooks. Work on a project, campaign or longterm writing task of any sort begins officially and in earnest in the fresh, clean first pages of a new notebook. Or at least a new portion of an existing notebook that comes after the manila, pocketed divider.

There was a time when I’d invest in more stylish notebooks like those with leather covers, or the fancy $6 ones that don’t come apart and maybe have alluring designs. Moving around a lot and being the opposite of a packrat kicked that habit, though. Now I buy in bulk. A three pack of notebooks can last a while, especially when projects fizzle out or the meticulously hand-written start devolves into a sloppy nightmare of haphazard words and phrases scrawled nonsensically on the pages. That’s when you either tear those out and pretend it’s a new notebook or just mentally ignore those and start a new section. Suffice to say, there’s never a dearth of notebooks in my gaming gear.

D&D playerFinally, the character sheet. Who could forget their character sheet? If you’re the kind of player who forgets stuff, at least leave the character sheet with the Dungeon Master or Game Master. Dice, pencils, notebooks – these are forgivable to forget.

But your character sheet…that’s just plain wrong.

If you play in a single game, or have a special character deserving of a honored place in your roster, consider picking up something like an Ultra Pro Character Folio for that special fictional someone.

Multiple characters across several games or campaigns call out for one of those multi-section accordion folders. Those are a great way to keep character sheets and other game-related papers organized.

Again though, seriously, forgetting your character sheet? You wait all week to continue the adventures of that character! You wouldn’t want that character to forget their sword, now would you? Show some respect.

D&D DMs have a lot more stuff to worry about

I’m specifically focusing on D&D here for two reasons. The first is D&D factors into the majority of my tabletop gaming experience. The second is there’s generally just more stuff involved with a D&D session, again in my experience.


Totally classic D&D iconic image. [Art by Larry Elmore]

Recently I’ve enjoyed a bit of a break from DMing duties. Traditionally, dated back to the glorious 1980s, I am the DM. Getting a group together is typically my path to stride, which usually means running the games, too. If I want to play D&D it’s on me to make it happen. But I don’t mind a bit. I consider the DM a player as well, and the fun for me is bringing people together to create stories together and watching them have a great time.

As a DM, like in most things in my life, I am a procrastinator. Ol’ Last-Minute Doug, they call me. (No, they don’t. No one has ever called me that.) The adventure ideas might roll around in my noggin for days but any words-to-paper planning takes place on game day. Maybe the night before a little bit.

What’s in your bag of holding?

Remember that minute spent getting Ye Olde Backpacke ready before heading out the door? No such minute exists on DM day.

All those notebooks with hints of ideas and campaign reminders need to be organized. In some cases deciphered. Creature stat blocks must be flagged to avoid wasted time looking for reference material. Starburst or other non-melting wrapped candy needs to be purchased (I’m cheap so I don’t have miniatures). Player handouts require printing, whether a primer for ship-to-ship combat, a letter from an NPC or a map.

I am terrible at drawing maps. And also an aforementioned procrastinator. Thankfully there are excellent resources out there like Elven Tower or donjon where I can quickly find a map close enough to what I need or randomly create one that fits the bill.

The laptop and accessories gotta be packed. A computer doesn’t play a huge role in my DMing style, and I try to move away from relying on it more each session. But it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. That means the charger has to go – just in case. And why not the web cam, too. Perhaps my group will stream our game sessions sometime.

And the books! Players have it easy, one Player’s Handbook and they’re good to go. Many D&D players don’t even have their own Player’s Handbooks. The humanity! I’m happy to report all four other members of my gaming group have purchased their own copies of the Player’s Handbook at this point. And they did it through the Nerdarchy Amazon link, too! Aww, shucks guys. D&D players getting their own copies of the Player’s Handbook is something I enthusiastically and earnestly advocate, though. It’s important to support your hobbies by supporting the creators.

D&D stuff

The books, the books, the wonderful D&D books

A D&D DM can rarely get by with just one book, on the other hand. They too ought to have a Player’s Handbook. Along with that, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual. And what if your adventurers might potentially run into a banderhobb or neogi slavers? Better pack Volo’s Guide to Monsters. There’s always the possibility one or more players don’t make the session. What are you going to do then? Into the bag goes Kobold Press’ Book of Lairs and/or Tales from the Yawning Portal and/or something chosen from the Dungeon Master’s Guild out of paranoia five minutes before leaving to meet the group. And the DM’s screen.

That’s a lot of stuff! But we DMs do it out of love. Putting in the extra hustle and getting our cardio lugging all that stuff around helps makes sure we’re ready for anything and can do our best to provide a fun experience for our players.

When D&D isn’t on the menu for my player group, it seems like there’s a lot less stuff to prepare for transport. Most other RPGs we play stem from single-book games I tend to acquire through late-night Amazon or DriveThruRPG browsing. Incidentally, the most recent of these is Tales from the Loop, an Ennie-award nominee I’ve had my eye on for some time. After giving in to temptation, I am super stoked to run this game, possibly with some fellow Nerdarchy colleagues for a live stream.

Other stuff to consider

The nerds in the video bring up a lot of good points for organization at the gaming table. Before I wrap up one tidbit they remind me to make a point of implementing comes towards the end of the video. The suggestion is made to hold a brief session wrap-up after the adventure ends. Specifically the advice is to gather notes from the players that will be useful DM information for between session prep and for the DM to take all the stuff they didn’t use that session and organize it for later use. Both solid tips, and I would add one more to these two.

The DM could gain valuable insight by asking each player to give a quick recap or briefly discuss the standouts from the session. This is something I heard or read a while back but consistently forget to do. Getting this kind of feedback from a player can tell the DM a lot about what they felt was important, memorable or just plain cool. Every player at the gaming table has unique experiences and takeaways with D&D or any roleplaying game. Hearing what each person has to say about that experience gives GMs new ideas and inspires their imagination to craft the stories, adventures and campaigns right alongside the players. And that’s some awesome stuff.

Those are my thoughts on bookkeeping at the gaming table, inspired by the video. There’s tons more great content over at the Nerdarchy YouTube channel as well as here on the website. I’d love to hear your thoughts on organizational tasks related to playing and running D&D or your favorite roleplaying games in the comments below.

And until next time, stay nerdy!

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Doug Vehovec

Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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