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Video Gnoments, Episode IV: The GM’s Kit

In this episode I talk about what I am including in my GMโ€™s kit for Gen Con 2011. I also refer to Kurt Schneiderโ€™s Index Cards for Prep [1] articles, as well as my own Three of My Favorite Items for GMing [2] article.

What do you have in your GMโ€™s kit? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

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18 Comments To "Video Gnoments, Episode IV: The GM’s Kit"

#1 Comment By Razjah On July 28, 2011 @ 12:59 am

For a while my GMing kit was a gutted clarinet case that I rescued from the garbage when my sister replaced her case with a better one. I ripped out all the foam and put in my sets of props: bobbins for scrolls, little plastic bottles for potions, and old leather dice bag with some clearance chains (cut up) and coins from Michael’s in it, a couple ancient books that I picked up for free (at least one in a script no one could read, I think it is Aramaic), and a plastic sandwich bag full of foam sheets cut to circles that fit under my mage knight and similar sized minis for tokens, markers, and the like. The last part is my red GM folder with paper protectors. The folder had cheat sheets, house rules, common monsters, BBEG info, maps and whatever else I needed at hand. The last part of my GM kit is a fake book from, I think, Pier 1. This holds my dice for playing, spare sets for players, and tons of dice for GMing. I keep a lot of them in the bag and only take out enough to cover what I expect to need for a session plus an extra one or two for common dice (d20, d8, and d6). This all fits easily in a backpack and the clarinet case can be carried if I have a bunch of books.

I am changing systems and the way I run my games so my kit is undergoing some change. A wheeling scrapbooking bag with a large divider and several velcro attachable clear bags is going to get some use this fall semester. The bag can hold a bunch of books and minis sorted by encounter plus a thread box of minis for the players to use for their characters. I am using index cards for the setting, enemies, allies, and other things and a composition notebook for dirt cheap to take session notes in. The notes will be moved to index cards during prep. I will probably be bringing Eureka to all my sessions now that I can carry it on wheels and will probably bring Masks as soon as I get a copy. I currently have a dowel rod but I need to cut it down.

#2 Comment By Razjah On July 28, 2011 @ 1:01 am

I forgot to add this. Awesome gnomenet! I love hearing about how other players pack, travel, use props, and what gear they use for gaming. I really like the versatility of your kit. When you have established games do you use more specific things?

#3 Comment By Quieo On July 28, 2011 @ 3:44 am

I normally use a reduced version of the kit that patrick mentioned although I will probably be expanding it somewhat now. One difference is that I use a collection of pogs and tazos I found in a charity shop instead of poker chips. They have decorations such as sleeping creatures for unconcious, someone looking ill for poison etc. I find they are very useful and no one forgets what they mean.

#4 Comment By Noumenon On July 28, 2011 @ 5:47 am

Very good choice for the pull frame or whatever it’s called. I’m just not driven to click on a picture of a guy at a whiteboard, but with the text “great suggestion Bravemaximus” I’m driven to click and see what it was.

Having watched it (first time you got me to click on one), you’ve got a lot of good tips! The pacing, sound quality, all works for me. I’ll definitely click next time you post a video. Interesting about all your storytelling props, none of that pipe-lighting, curtain-peeking stuff is part of my repertoire at all. Maybe you should have your laptop record you while you GM something at Gen Con (I know, it would take too much editing).

#5 Comment By Tsenn On July 28, 2011 @ 6:13 am

Poker chips, dice, tarot deck and two interpretation books for inspiration, the Book of the Law as an utterly random inclusion, and a dinky calculator. Rulebook depending on game. Plus pencils and paper, of course. The whole thing goes in a ratty old backpack that gets kicked out of sight at the first opportunity.

#6 Comment By shadowacid On July 28, 2011 @ 7:00 am

My GM kit is my dic and extra dice ( just incase), plenty of pencils,some chips or beads, and a binder with my reference charts, adventure notes ( usually for couple sessions ahead ( since you never know what will happen in game) and extra characters in case anyone shows up unexpectedly

#7 Comment By psychopez On July 28, 2011 @ 7:28 am

I used to have an old electrician’s case that I first carried all my non-model Warhammer stuff to and from the store, but then got repurposed into lugging books, pencils, Battlegraph boards, dry erase markers, 1-inch wooden disks, pop bottle rings, the usual.

Now a days all my games are played on virtual tables, so my GM kit is my PC, Google Image Search, and the tools at RPTools.net

#8 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 28, 2011 @ 9:09 am

My ears are burning. Did he really say “lay off the alcohol while Gming?”
Good advice in convention setting. But elsewhere ….?

#9 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 28, 2011 @ 9:45 am

What adhesive do you use to mount the dry-erase board to the clipboard? So very cool, even for everyday use.

#10 Comment By Bravemaximus On July 28, 2011 @ 11:11 am

I’m glad I could be helpful! If you haven’t tried the collapsible back-scratcher/fork idea, you really should. It is a remarkably useful tool. I first brought it out as a gag, but it turned easy to use and handy to have around. The only thing I would add to your GM kit might be a calculator, because I find it very hard to keep track of a ton of numbers in my head, especially in a row. It speeds up the game, I find.

#11 Comment By CalebTGordan On July 28, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

I have a catalog case that I put my kit into. A catalog case is much like a briefcase, but opens up from the top and has a very simple storage area. I have two of them, and both are used to store or transport game related stuff.

Because it opens from the top I can set it on the ground and leave it open. This way I can leave most of my stuff in it and not have to stack it on the table or under my chair.

I have the following in my case:
-A plastic box full of dice
-A plastic index card box full of index cards
-A small case full of pencils, pens, and markers
-Two or three card cases that I use for Critical Hit cards, Critical Fumble cards, Plot Twist cards, playing cards, or item cards (more on those in a bit)
-Flip Map
-Large envelopes that carry hand drawn maps, pieces of map, or my handouts.
-A smaller envelope to hold smaller pieces of paper I have drawn set pieces or spell templates on.
-About 100 pieces of the 8×11 gaming paper
-Scissors for the gaming paper
-A small case for miniatures that I need for the game.
-An extendable pointer.

That might seem like alot of stuff, but there is still room for about four or five gaming books. I tend to have only one or two books and five plastic folios I put together for my players.I also have room for my iPad, which has most of my books on it as well as a few gaming tools.

The cards I carry vary from game to game. I love Paizo’s Critical Hit and Fumble decks, and use them in my current game, but not every game will allow for them. The Plot Twist cards are something I recently picked up and I already love how they work. The item cards and NPC cards are good aids as well, but only for fantasy games. I have carried regular playing cards but I haven’t always found a frequent use for them.

One item that is not in my case but has been carried into games is a collapsible TV tray. Mine has a white top that works well with wet erase markers. The tray provides me an extra space to set things on so I don’t have a mountain of stuff in front of me. I also keep it in my car in case the group isn’t using a kitchen table for any given game.

I also have a laptop, but because I now use an iPad I haven’t been using it as much for gaming.

I used to carry a DM screen and magnetic initiative tracker board, but neither one saw much use. I do have a clipboard though, and I might have to add a whiteboard to it and add it to my kit.

#12 Comment By Svengaard On July 28, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

I really liked that extendable back-scratcher idea, so thanks to Patrick and BraveMaximus for that.

#13 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 28, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

First, thank you to everyone who commented! Lots of great ideas are springing up in my mind as I read about other people’s GM’s kits.

Now to single out a few comments while have a moment to spare. ๐Ÿ™‚

[3] – Anything specific to a system I would add to my kit for that particular game (such as Fudge dice), but otherwise I like to make sure that any tool that I add is multi-functional and can be used across all RPGs.

[4] – Thanks! You can find my previous Video Gnoments as well as ones made by my fellow gnomes here:


[6] – Yes. My advice for GMs at home is to avoid alcohol as well. I prefer that everyone in the groups save the booze for after the game. I’ve been in one too many games where a few beers became a few too many. ๐Ÿ™‚

[7] – I have been using the back scratcher without the back scratcher, and I really dig it! Thanks again!

#14 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 28, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

BTW – I was asked in person by a friend why I don’t use a tablet as part of my GM’s kit. The answer is that I do, because my laptop converts into one and I switch between both modes as needed. Tablets are great for GMs to use IMO.

Funny additional detail is that she then said “Oh! See how the iPad changed everything!” To which I responded “Considering that I have had this device since before the first generation of iPad was released, yes. It is amazing how it changed everything. Even the past.” ๐Ÿ™‚

And before the zealotry starts – I like the iPad. It is a great device. I just found it amusing that she believed that it was the first tablet ever invented.

#15 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On August 1, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

It’s not the first tablet, just the first one that mattered. :p I kid!

Love the video. As usual, great stuff.

#16 Comment By Patrick Benson On August 1, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

[8] – Actually, I would agree with that remark on some levels. To the consumer it did matter more than any other tablet device before it. For certain businesses and for technology in general it was the beginning of the consumer tablet market.

But this is Gizmodo, so let’s not get into it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

#17 Comment By Patrick Benson On August 1, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

[9] – “But this is” = “But this is not”

Speaking of technology, editing comments would be nice…


#18 Comment By Ampolitor On August 2, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

If you go to police supply stores you can get even thicker clipboards that hold a lot more, and have fold outs kinda like a GM’s screen. I use them fro work all of the time and they’re great.

C Clinch