The one thing you want to avoid when you’re running a game outside your own space is to be too heavy. I’ve run games where I took a camping backpack, a rucksack and a map case filled with playing mats. One day, waiting for the bus, trying to move a small South American village’s worth of gear, I thought: There has got to be a better way to do this. What follows isn’t necessarily smart, but it is something that I’ve done and I found works for me. Use it at your own peril!
Do not underestimate the power of the clipboard to keep your notes/sheets away from the players and simultaneously collated in the same place. Amazon has some really cheap ones, and if you’re feeling a bit wilder, you can always get one of those that have a clipboard on top of a box, maximizing the number of papers you can have on you. The biggest one I have can easily accommodate a corebook.
More and more, I’m using my Mac for games. I can have my text files, Youtube and Apps (see below) ready to go at all times. My only issue with it is that, at some tables, it simply eats away too much space. So plan ahead if you’re using it. You don’t want to have to stop half way in because the corebook is under the laptop, and then you need to move the minis to put the laptop on the other side, and now where has that goblin model gone….? (You see what I mean.)
3) Plastic Boxes
I LOVE plastic boxes. For props, for models, for pencils, for paper, for everything. I am very disorganised AND methodical in my chaos, so to be able to box stuff makes my life a whole lot easier. You might need to pad some with kitchen paper/foam if your transporting fragile stuff, but it’s still better than any other option I’ve come across.
Obviously this requires a laptop or tablet. Youtube has thousands of videos useful for providing ambiance. Some actually say ‘RPG dungeon/cave/castle/spaceship/ocean vessel’. I’ve used them in the past for my Faith game. When the players entered the abandoned space wreck, I played ‘Abandoned space station’. That changed the mood completely. Now it was ON.
This app is designed for RPG’s, and there are two variants, Sci Fi and Fantasy. Although the app itself is free, each sound stream needs to be paid for (typically a couple of dollars). That said, each stream has about 8 different components that can be adjusted to taste. Believe me, ‘Futuristic Market’ replicated the feel of Blade Runner to the nearest decimal place. You could even add/remove the sounds of rain, hovercars, footsteps, even mecha walking past! (I make no money from Syrinscape, I’ve just used it in the past and really liked it.)
PDF’s are a two-edged sword. Although you can easily have a 500-page corebook on a tablet, I still find it awkward to scroll through for a minute or two to find the right page, and Cthulhu help you if you need to cross reference anything. I really like how easy it makes transport, but I really dislike the difficulties when a players asks for a particular stat or creature, and that’s pretty much your next 10 minutes. This is usually the point when the action just slowly grinds to a standstill.
6) Sticky Notes
Ah the humble, small, yellow, glue-stripped piece of paper. Where would the modern GM be without them? I use them primarily to make notes in the corebook, write down names of things/NPC’s that were suggested by the players, or to pass a message to one of the players without the others seeing. I have tried to plan whole games on them, and then gluing them to a bigger sheet, but the probability that one or more will just drop off is quite high, and you KNOW that it would have something essential on it.
A possible compromise between the size of the laptop and its awkwardness around a busy gaming table. Possibly the ideal venue for PDF’s (see above) and having all the advantages and disadvantages of both. I like it for soundtracks (see above), but use sparingly when it comes to PDF’s.
So these are some resources that have helped me in the past. What have you tried that has made you GM life easier?
Rui is a Portuguese scientist that, after ten years doing strange things in labs, decided to become a teacher. Then, three years ago, like he was bit by a radioactive D20, RPG’s came into his life, and he’s now juggling teaching, playing and GMing quite happily. He lives in the UK with his partner Joana, an ungodly number of potted plants, 4 to 5 RPG’s at various stages of completion (and across as many rule systems), and maps, cursed idols, evil necklaces, and any other props he can get his hands on. He’s been writing for HLG for a few months, and is one of the resident vloggers. He can be reached at @Atomic_RPG.
Picture Reference: https://makezine.com/2015/12/08/how-to-build-a-high-end-gaming-table-for-as-little-as-150/
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.