by Mike Shea on 29 May 2017
Note, this article updates the original February 2012 version.
When we dungeon masters are off to a game away from home, it can be tough to bring only what we need. Today we're going to look specifically at some options for our portable DM kit.
If D&D is your primary system, the Starter Set is a wonderful package of stuff to stick in our DM kit. The two books have enough rules, monsters, and adventures to run hours and hours of games and the level 1 to 5 pregen characters are perfect to get players quickly up to speed. If you want to trust your electronics, you might skip bringing the books and just use D&D Beyond for rules, mnonsters, and adventures.
There are some basic supplies we'll always want to have on hand to run our D&D games. 3x5 cards are a must. They're perfect for initiative cards, DM notes, and all sorts of other things. Dice, blank or pregen character sheets, and extra pencils also help.
The Pathfinder Dry Erase Flip Map is one of the most useful accessories we can bring, even if we're primarily running theater of the mind. It has the grid if you need it but it works well for small drawings of areas or rooms or strange symbols. It's also a great way to track initiative, damage, area aspects or anything else you want to draw in front of the players. We'll want a couple of dry-erase markers as well.
A couple of DM Campaign Worksheets in our kit can help us track the characters in whatever games we happen to run.
Arcknight Games has a fantastic set of Flat Plastic Miniatures. These flat miniatures pack extremely well. We can pack a couple of hundred of them in a zip-loc bag. Business card holders let us sort and pack them up easily. Fold the business card holder in half down the center and throw a rubber band around it to keep them from falling out.
We might instead bring some generic tokens for monsters to make our kit even smaller and make it easier to set things up at the game.
Fantastic Adventures is a book I wrote that includes ten short adventures for level 1 to 5. Each adventure prints out on roughly three double-sided pieces of paper so they pack extremely light as well.
Here's a more complete list of all the items we might want to stick in our GM walk-away kit:
The beauty of this hobby of ours is how limitless it is. We could probably play D&D with nothing but a few 3x5 note cards and some dice if that's all we had. With the kit we've outlined here, we have all of the tools we need to run some great games and have a bunch of laughs with our friends. Enjoy!