RPT#19: Never Forget Your Dice Again

What’s in your portable game master kit? Except for a few strategic digital replacements, my kit is the same as 17 years ago when I wrote the article below!

These days I have a game after hours at work. Replace “tote” with Crystal Castle Battlehive, and replace all the papers, binders, duo-tangs, and notes stuff with Campaign Logger, and you’d have my system for not forgetting to bring anything to a session.

Here’s Johnn’s system today:

My current GM kit

My current portable game master kit. D&D books, Moleskin notebook, dice, more dice, index cards for initiative, hit point counters, Sharpies for mapping, pens for penning, plastic minis for the PCs and cardboard minis for the mooks. There are two more pics at the end. (The pineapple is a lie.)

And here’s Johnn’s system before, from Roleplaying Tips #19:

Never Forget Your Dice Again

A while ago I showed up at a session without my dice. Oh, the shame. What kind of GM forgets his dice? …A GM who writes a roleplaying tips newsletter to boot!

In the past, I’ve forgotten many important things such as session notes and maps, pencils, GM screen, source books, and figures. Last year I vowed never to forget to bring a thing for a game session again. And to date, I’ve scored at least 95%. And 100% is just around the corner. Here’s how I’m doing it:

The Tote

I purchased a 40 litre tote box. The lid snaps on, which makes things more secure, and the tote is plastic so all my stuff is protected from the elements.

I chose this particular size because it’s deep enough to carry my hard covers standing up, big enough to carry a lot of books, binders, and boxes, and still small enough to get onto public transit or fit in my car trunk.

I’ve tried larger sizes of totes but they get too awkward and heavy when fully loaded.

Books, Papers, Magazine Holders

I pack in about 8 source books, modules, loose sheets and a GM screen in a pair of plastic magazine holders. The holders are a recent addition and I’m pleased with them. They keep all my books organized, they protect the cover corners during travel, and they let me unpack all of my books fast by just lifting out the two holders at once.

They are also terrific to use during play, as they become portable book shelves and I’m no longer fishing through piles of books and papers tracking down the volume I need.

Today I’m going back to the stationery store and buying two more magazine holders. I am game mastering two different game systems, which means a lot of book switching and packing. I’m now going to keep the game system books in their own designated holders so I can switch up for a game without fuss.

GM Binder, Notebook, Duo-Tang

Next into the tote goes my GM binder, spiral notebook, and reference duo-tang.

My GM binder contains a pile of interesting articles and reference materials I’ve gathered over the years such as random mundane treasure charts, a list of fantasy and monster names in case I get stuck, campaign world info, character questionnaires, etc. It also contains plastic card holders where I carry trading cards I use as player hand-outs.

The notebook I carry around wherever I go. It’s for my ideas, stories, and session plans. I use a spiral notebook because the front cover easily folds around to the back for easier writing and I also get the books that have been 3 hole punched so I can rip out filled pages and put them in my binder.

During sessions, I start with a clean page, record the date and session# at the top, and then just stream out notes during the session. I also use the pages for recording battle statistics and treasure values/item properties found. That way, after the session when I write my campaign journal, I have many clues and memory joggers to help — all in chronological game order.

The duo-tang is just a personal GM reference tool where I’ve put photocopies of critical charts and rules in plastic sheet holders for quick look-ups. Sort of a portable GM screen. I use a duo-tang because it’s lighter and more flexible than a binder. I use the plastic sheets so I can change charts and page order easily without having to take out all of the sheets from the back each time.

I’ve marked special areas in the binder, notebook, and duo-tang with Post-It Flags. I pen the subject on the flag (i.e. “names”, “world map”, “saving throw chart”, etc.) and stick it on the page. These will reduce your in-session page flipping and research time.

Index Cards

Next I put in the index card file box. I use index cards during sessions as handy references. On them I put character notes (their magic items, treasure items, skills, goals, personality descriptions).

I also write NPCs, monsters, special encounters, and campaign info on them.

The cards are great because I can clip them to my screen or binder, hand them privately to players, and file them away for future reference (using the Post-It Flags to create categories in the box: characters, campaign, NPCs).

Dice

On top of the card file box I put my box of dice. I’ve actually split my dice up into a couple of boxes and keep one box solely for the tote. I’ll never forget my dice again!

In the same box I put my pens, pencils, eraser, and over-size calculator. I carry extra pens and pencils for players who may need them.

More Books

Finally, I throw on top and around the sides smaller books (i.e. I carry around Latin and German dictionaries for reference), markers, figure mats and junk food.

Whew!

All this might seem a little overboard to you. I know my players laughed when I first showed up with a whole tote full of stuff. But I can’t tell you how satisfying it is having this system set-up and going. I don’t forget things any more. I don’t get rain on my books, and my books don’t get scratched and bruised like they used to in my knapsack. I don’t run around in a panic just before a session packing stuff up, thinking I’m forgetting something.

And, over time, I’ve built up great resources (i.e., the duo-tang and index cards) that really do help me a lot while GMing sessions.

This system won’t work for everybody. I know a GM who shows up to sessions with absolutely nothing and wings it without notes, books, or dice. But it might work for you. How do you currently organize your stuff? Let me know, I’m always looking for ways of improving.

I’m slowly migrating old Roleplaying Tips Newsletters into WordPress. The free archives on the site are a bit spotty and are missing issues. So, when time permits, I’m updating things.

I’m up to RPT#19 for migrating. And when I re-read this issue I had a good chuckle. Not much has changed. I’m still a stationery geek. I still use index cards, notebook for ideas while walking around, and a box for minis, pens, books, and dice.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a GM binder and duo-tangs though. I produced Campaign Logger because I was tired of page flipping, having information buried in notes, leaving notes at home, and not being able to instantly search and find stuff.

I know the GM binder is beloved by many. But for me, there’s no going back from digital. Give Campaign Logger a try and let me know if you agree.

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