Whether you play Dungeons & Dragons, a Cypher System game (like the one on our own show, Callisto 6), or any any other RPG, your character probably has a pack filled with a loadout of essential items for their adventure. It makes sense: if you’re voluntarily leaving on a quest in any universe, you’d (hopefully) pack appropriately.
I’m of the opinion that RPG players themselves should also have individual kits to help them as they adventure on game night, and fill those kits with useful items. Here are the 3 essentials a prepared roleplayer should have on hand for gaming night, whether they’re going to a friend’s house, a gaming store, a convention or gaming at home.
A Notebook/Binder of Paper & Pen/Pencil
Here’s a secret about many game masters: they like it when you write stuff down, but they’re less enthusiastic when you make notes of the game on your phone. Yes, I know that technology is amazing, and you can do all sorts of things like keep stats, inventories, and rules on that portable supercomputer, but from their perspective, taking notes about the game and crushing candy on your mobile device looks pretty much the same, so it’s hard for them to tell if you’re present and engaged.
Using a pen and paper is a fantastic way to get into your GM’s good graces, but using these tools can make you a better player. Here’s what you should be writing down:
- Anything with a proper name. People, places, and important things (as in, objects of importance with special names) should all be noted. Don’t fret too much about spelling generally (unless your GM spells the name out for you specifically) – phonetical spelling will ensure your pronunciation is more-or-less correct and GM knows who you’re talking about when you pull that name out of the hat two months later. Like we learned from the fable of Rumpelstiltskin, the true name of things give you power over those things. So know the names of the things in your world as well as your GM does.
- The relationships between named things. This is a story, after all, and knowing how things relate to each other is how you’ll know why things are important. A guy named “Pierre” is just a guy with a name until you find out he’s the head of a secret organization of thieves called “The Covetous Hawk”. Understanding the relationship between those named things will help you understand them, and help your characters navigate in their worlds.
- Combat information. Combat instances are chaotic, and having a semblance of understanding of what’s happening in the fight can really help you make the best decisions despite the speed at which the fight is happening around you. If there’s a combat order (like an initiative order), track that. If damage is dealt, track how much has been dealt to your allies and to your enemies (and if the type of damage might matter, track that too.) Even if you’re playing out combats mind’s eye-style, having an idea of the geography of the combat, and knowing the general relational positions of enemies, allies, and important terrain features can help you make better decisions in a clutch moment.
The Essentials For Play: Dice
There are a number of essential items that a player needs to play the game – their character sheet, access to the rules (either your own, supplied by another player or GM), but there’s one thing I still find people show up to the table without that simply baffles me: dice. A player should have their own dice.
Nothing can kill the momentum and immersion of a combat scene faster than a player needing to scavenge other people’s dice to roll an attack or damage roll. Dice are the most affordable way to communicate to the people you share a table with on game night that you’re serious about the game and playing with them. There’s really no excuse for you to not have your own set of dice, and with the plethora of choice, you can find dice to your taste.
Disclosure: this article is sponsored by Oakie Doakie Dice, who are the same people behind Ultimate Guard. They’re available at your friendly local game store, come in a number of colors in styles, including solid, translucent, speckled, marble, glow-in-the-dark and metal in RPG sets and 12 and 16mm sets of D6s. A fraction of styles and colors are featured in the gallery below. Learn more by visiting OakieDoakieDice.com or ask for them out at your friendly local gaming store.
Items for Self-Care
RPG sessions are often long-haul experiences, lasting hours and can be both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Having a self-care kit filled with items that can help you weather the experience of gaming is important. Things to include in your kit for self-care are:
- Water – we need it to live, so fill a water bottle and stay hydrated.
- Healthy snacks – grab some portable and easy to eat sources of protein (consider nuts, but meat-based proteins like jerky can do in a pinch). These will help you feel full so you can sate and stave off a grumbly tummy. Also feel free to stash some whole fruits to give you a natural sugar pick me up (apples, bananas, and oranges are perpetually available and are easily packed). Try to avoid processed sugars and carbs; you tend to suffer a crash from insulin after you load up on refined sugars or take in a lot of carbs, and getting sleepy at the table isn’t great. If you’re playing at a public venue — like a gaming store or convention space — be thoughtful about their outside food policies.
- Cough drops – there’s a lot of talking that happens during an RPG session, and these drops can provide real relief, particularly if you, your GM or a fellow player takes on a particularly strenuous voice for their character.
- Hand sanitizer, painkillers, facial tissue & wet wipes – these are just handy items to have in everyday life. Like a Featherfall spell, you might not always feel like you need it every session, but when you need it it’s just good to be prepared.
What’s the handiest item in your RPG bag? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Teri Litorco, Oakie Doakie Dice
This post is sponsored.