Updated: Feb 27
Depending on who you ask there are a lot of answers to this question. Many would ask what type of game you are running. D&D, Rifts, Exalted, BattleTech, homebrew, etc? Some would say you need a large room, dice, lots of books, some minis, etc. While others who like to be a pain in the butt would say just some dice, paper, and a pencil. There isn't a wrong answer here but, these are the basics I consider you need to be able to start any game right.
Everyone knows that you can't have a game without players but, you may be surprised at the number you need to have fun. The sweet spot for a good game night would be 5-7 people, that's one DM and 4-6 players. This amount gives everyone enough space to give their ideas, dialogue, and actions without stepping over one another and makes it easier for the DM to keep track of all the aspects needed to run the campaign smoothly.
Truth be told you can have a lot of fun running a game with just you and one person. However, I have found that the fewer players you have the more they have to be willing to have a more narrative game versus one that has more fights. After all, the fewer players there are, the fewer characters the smaller and quicker the fights tend to end up.
Once you start getting above 6 players and it becomes much more difficult to let everyone have a turn as well as it makes it harder for the DM to best manage the difficulty of the game. If you are going to have a very large group I would recommend having them split into two groups and (if schedules allow) run two games but have a day where both groups meet up group up to do big objectives.
#2: A place to meet
This can be almost anywhere or even online! But in my opinion meeting physically somewhere is better. Local game shops (if one is available and open) often have spaces where you can rent (often without a fee) a large table for your group to play. If your group has someone with a big enough residence that would be willing to host is the best way to go! Just remember to treat the place right and bring some kind of snacks or be ready to chip in if you partake of food and drinks. No one wants to play with someone who only takes and never puts in themselves.
Schedules are what determines if your game is going to live or die. I consider a quick game to be 2 hours but generally, a great session is 3-6 hours with the sweet spot to be about 4 hours. This gives a group of 5 about an hour of catching up and general chit chat, a couple (1-2) of hours of dialogue game. and one good fight (usually takes about 1-2 hours depending on the difficulty).
When I would run a game the group would discuss schedules and determine what day and time would work best. Group chats are amazing for this. However, keep some flexibility in your game nights as sometimes life does happen and a person(s) cannot show up. Above all though, if you are going to be part of a group do your best to be consistent in showing up. And be open if you are going to miss or have to drop out entirely. The sooner you can let the group know you are going to have to miss the better.
One of the most important things any player needs. But you don't need a whole lot of them (though more can be better). Here are the basics amout of each that should let you get through any game for basically any type of RPG your group is running. Plus they are cheap and you can get some awesome designs if you want to spend the money.
20 sided die: 1
10 sided die: 2
(I would recommend getting one that is doubled numbered ie: 00, 10, 20, etc. makes telling percentage rolls much easier)
12 sided die: 1
8 sided die: 2-3
6 sided die: 3-4
4 sided die: 1
(With the 10, 8, and 6 sided die you can get away with just 1 if that is all you can get, just means more rolling!)
If you are in a real pinch financially you can get away with digital dice, but keep in mind those are not a real random result.
#5: Paper and Pencil (Not just for your character sheet)
Seems pretty obvious here but, you would be surprised how many people just show up with their character sheet. How are you supposed to remember a hint, task, or goal if you don't note it down? Especially if it is a game that is going to run for multiple sessions. Don't count that your host/meeting spot will have enough for everyone. So keep a couple of sheets of paper with your charater sheet (the one below also comes with some note pages so I got your back there!).
6) Character sheet
Everyone's main game system has its own version of the character sheet so there are many to choose from. Some are better than others but just pick the one you like the most or match your game the best. Here is a general one that was created by my father many years ago that I have adjusted a bit so that it can cover more types of games and be a more all-in-one resource for you. Feel free to print out, adjust it, and use it as you would like. But remember you don't have to have an official one! Simpling righting it down on a plain piece of paper is more than good enough.
For most game systems you can run a pretty basic game with just their version of the player's guide. But if you can I would recommend having the players guide, a monster book (if that system has one), and a DM guide. With just those three you have enough to run an infinite amount of games! Of course, the more books you have the more options you get to include in your group's stories.
#8 Enjoy your game!
If you have all these then you are set for a great game! Additional books, minis, dioramas, screens, etc. is all just extra gravy that makes it that much better. Don't forget to come back and let me know how your first few games went!