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 a gaming convention and is updated from previous versions based on newly released games over the past few years. 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.
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.
Of all of them, however, Fate Accelerated is probably the most con-friendly game we can get. Not only is it portable but it is one of the few systems we can run that lets people build interesting unique characters instead of pregens and still have time for a game. Our own Dungeons of Fate was built for this very specific purpose.
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 Pathfinder Dry Erase Flip Map is one of the most useful accessories you can bring, even if you're not playing a game requiring a grid. It has the grid if you need it but it works perfectly well for small drawings of areas or rooms or strange symbols. It's also a great way to track initiative, damage, Fate-style area aspects or anything else you want to draw in front of the players. A couple of good dry-erase markers are a must if you're bringing a flip mat.
Here's a more complete list of all the items you want to stick in your GM walk-away bag:
If you happen to be running D&D 5th Edition, here are some other things you might consider bringing:
You don't have to have miniatures to run a D&D game, but if you'd rather track combat on a grid, here are a few more things you might want to bring:
iPads and other tablet computers 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. You can even get away with one of the bigger smartphones. 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).
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.
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