GM Walk-Away Kit

by Mike Shea on 12 August 2013

Note, this article updates the original February 2012 version.

When we GMs are off to a gaming convention, it can be pretty tough to bring only what we need and avoid filling a U-Haul with every sourcebook we might want to run. While we've covered the basics of survival for a gaming convention, today we're going to look specifically at some options for our extremely portable GM-focused RPG gaming kit. This kit is particularly tuned to help run a couple of games at Gencon and is updated from previous versions based on newly released games over 2013. With a major shift towards rules-light story-heavy games, we can pack a lot lighter than previous years and not mismanage our players' expectations.

Con-friendly Game Systems

There are many simple RPGs that pack up very well for a convention. Dungeon World, Fate Core, 13th Age, and the D&D Starter Set are all excellent con-friendly systems. None of them require fancy tabletop setups — you could go completely mini-less if you want. A nice dry-erase mat and some monster tokens can't hurt if you're running a more traditional D&D game.

Fate Accelerated Edition is an excellent con-friendly RPG. The hardcopy is slim, the system is simple, and you can flex it out to fit just about any genre in which you want to adventure. Grab a copy and stick it into your bag. It's worth the weight.

Accessories

There are some basic supplies you'll want to have on hand regardless of what system you plan to run. 3x5 cards are a must. They're perfect for initiative cards, DM notes, encounter effect cards, the X-Card, or even Fate Core or Fate Accelerated character sheets. Always bring extra dice, character sheets, and extra pencils. Assume players will come to the table with nothing at all.

The Detailed Kit

With some of the basic philosophies out of the way, let's take a look at the kit I plan to bring to Gencon 2013. I'm focusing on two game systems this year: Fate Core and the D&D Next playtest. Here are the details:

Use a Tablet

iPads have changed the landscape of tabletop RPGs. While we might have had to pack a suitcase full of sourcebooks, now we can load up on PDFs and bring all our favorite games on a single device. If the iPad Air isn't your bag, consider the Nexus 7 FHD, a fine alternative that can render full-page PDFs and still be (barely) legible in full screen. Since extra PDFs add no weight, feel free to fill it up. Ensure all your PDFs are locally stored, though. You won't know what sort of wifi setup you might find (or not find, for that matter).

A Slim Kit of Infinite Universes

These days, with rules-light systems and flexible table layouts, we can pack a whole lot of adventure into a small package. It's a great time to be a game master and a great time to run con games. Hope to see you at Gencon!

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy the Lazy Dungeon Master. You can also support this site by using these links to purchase the D&D Starter Set, Players Handbook, Monster Manual, or Dungeon Master's Guide. Send feedback to @slyflourish on Twitter or email mike@mikeshea.net.