In my travels, I have found some must-have, essential gear that make my D&D sessions run smoothly and maximize my own enjoyment.
Last month, discussing power gaming kind of wore me out. So, this article on essential gear for DMs is a nice palette cleanser for everyone. Playing D&D is one of my favorite things to do. Being a DM is a lot of fun, and I’ve found that I have the right combination of storytelling, improvisation and vocal skills to give my players a heck of a good time. It is very fulfilling to hear my players say “that was awesome!”. In my travels, I have found some must-haves that make my sessions run smoothly and maximize my own enjoyment. As the holidays are upon us, these would make great gifts, or something to spend those holiday gift cards on (a few of these are also free!).
Here are some of my essential DM gear:
5E Spellbook App
Man, what a find. This app contains a fantastic quick reference for every 5th edition spell. Also, if you’re playing a spell caster you can make a custom spell list to quicken your searches even more. The app is free on Google Play, I believe it is 3 bucks on iOS for all you Apple cultists (just kidding, my home has quite a few Apple products).
Whiteboard and Dry Erase Markers
5th edition has done a lot to de-emphasize the need for mapping. 4th edition had too much of an emphasis so it was refreshing to have a little more freedom. However, minis are awesome and it’s always better to give the players as much to work with as possible. The better the scene is set, the better the players can visualize what’s happening. So, most of the time I use a simple whiteboard and colored markers. Most of the time a grid really isn’t needed, distances can be estimated.
Colored Rubber Bands
Stunned. Poisoned. Restrained. These are some of the status effects that can be placed on a PC or monster, and things can be forgotten or overlooked in a larger, more drawn out battle. As a helpful reminder, a simple colored rubber band plopped onto a mini can signify an effect is in play on that figure. Some Dms use plastic rings, I prefer the rubber bands as a large bag can run only a buck or two at the local dollar store.
Colored Rubber Bands: (Amazon)
When starting out, I’d say minis should be the last thing on your list. They can get pricey, but there are ways to cut down on the expense. First, you can use a simple chess set. Assign each player a different piece of one color. The enemies can be the other color. That can at least get you started. When you’re ready, you can head to your local gaming store and check out the Reaper Mini section. These unpainted minis are of great quality, and painting them can be a fun hobby all by itself. Ease into it, and every now and then buy that “perfect” mini you find online. If everyone in the group contributes you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll amass a huge collection.
Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Bones Kit (Amazon)
Prey for Smiley Bob
This is an old, somewhat obscure 4th edition module written by Chris Perkins (basically the head of D&D). It is easily converted to 5th edition, is short and a lot of fun. It makes for a perfect 1st session for a new group, it is my go-to “beginner’s” module. It’s out of print, but there are copies floating around the interwebs. In fact, I’ve found that while 4th edition had a major focus on combat and mapping that there are many very good modules with good stories. They can be found online and easily converted.
5E Tome of Beasts
Published by Kobold Press, this huge book of baddies contains a wealth of enemies for your players to fight. I find the creatures of a higher difficulty so if your players keep crushing the fights in your game, I suggest hitting them with a few of these unique opponents.
5E Tome of Beasts (Amazon)
Drive Thru RPG
For any DM, this website is a literal treasure trove of content. I’ve gotten lost in it’s mesmerizing gaze on more than one occasion. Modules, PC options, magic items and anything/everything you can imagine. Some of the content is “pay what you want”, I always give a fair amount as a thanks to the creator that is helping my with my game.
Drive Thru RPG (website)
Sometimes this particular piece of gear can get in the way, can cause a feeling of detachment between me and my players. However, it is important as rolling behind a screen allows me to fidget with the numbers a bit. If a PC is getting hammered on more than others, that crit I just rolled becomes a regular hit (or possibly a miss). The screen allows me to screw with them too, like roll a whole bunch of dice for that trap the Dwarf just triggered even though it’s only a little damage. OHHHH the faces they make when they hear the dice! I AM A VENGEFUL GOD!!!!!!
Dungeon Master’s Screen (Amazon)
So, check out some of my essential gear favs during these cold winter months. I hope they help you as they have helped me. Now, if these DAMNED D20s would just GET ON BOARD ALREADY!!!!!!!