Updated: Feb 27
Finally, schedules have matched up. The date has been set. Everyone knows what time to show up, kids (if any) are going to be with caretakers, work or school is all taken care of so you are free, and everyone has agreed on roughly how long the session is going to be, fantastic! Then the question hits you, it’s my first game what should I bring!? Well, let’s go over what you should be packing.
Obviously the first one is you, preferable on time!
We all know traffic or something last minute can pop up and so most groups are willing to be flexible on how late you can show up. After all, there is usually anywhere from 1-2 hours of catching up and general B.S.ing that goes on before games as everything is set up. But showing up on time or possibly even a bit early (if allowed) is great as you will be able to catch up with your friends and if needed ask any questions about rules, your character, get stuff around the table set up, etc. So always strive to be there on time!
Four Questions for you to ask.
Now that’s out of the way to determine what you really need you first need to answer a few questions. Are you meeting in person or online? If in-person, who is going to be there and where are you meeting at? Are you a paper and pencil type of person or do you prefer digital? What would you be bringing the stuff you are going to take in? These four questions should be what you quickly run through your mind before you actually head on over to the meet spot before the game.
Are you meeting in person or online?
A few years ago this wouldn’t be such a big question but with everything going on in the world and the rise of roleplaying in general it is now top of the list. If you’re meeting in-person, you are going to have to transport everything, so you generally want to keep your loads at a comfortable weight. Don’t be afraid to make multiple trips in and out of your car if you need! It’s really hard to get good roles with dead arms. I recommend a nice mid-to-large size backpack to be your go-to storage device for traveling. As we go further into the questions we will talk more about what to put in the backpack.
If you are going to be online things are somewhat easier. Hopefully, your group is already set on what you need for streaming like if you need a webcam or not, what service that’s going to be used the host the session, and that you are set with a good room to be in that doesn’t have too much echo. Preferably the room you pick will already have all your roleplaying stuff so that you can easily grab it if need it but if not just move it on over.
If in-person, who is going to be there and where are you meeting at?
This is the biggest one you need to answer as this is what will determine a lot of what you need to bring. Mainly how many books, dice, minis (if your group is using them), and note-taking equipment. If you are going to meet at the local gaming shop, do they lend out books or minis? The nice thing with this location is if you are lacking on something hey it’s right there to buy. Check out my article What do you need to start a table-top roleplay game? to find out more on what you need to start a game in general.
If you are going to meet at another location like a member’s house who’s house is it? Is it the DM’s who’s been going at it for a few years? Then you might not need to bring too much. Since they probably have almost everything you need. Is it a just starting DM or another player’s house? Well, then you probably should bring some more stuff.
As an extra, you should bring some snacks, drinks, or money that can be pooled for those! More often than not the host of the residence is super nice and provides those, but you should be a good guest and chip in as well. No one likes it when everyone just takes and takes. Doesn’t have to be much, like a six-pack of soda, one of those bags that has multiple small packs of chips, or even a couple of dollars to give to the host who bought the stuff. If everyone brought a little or put in a bit of money that the group would be well fed and hydrated for the whole session!
Are you a paper and pencil type of person or do you prefer digital?
This one is nice and simple, but you may change your mind after a couple of sessions. If you are a digital person congrats your load is nice and light. Bring your preferred device, just make sure it has everything you need (books, character sheet, note-taking spot, etc.), your charger/battery backup, dice, and minis if being used. Nice and small.
If you are a paper and pencil well then, you’re in for a bit more bulk. I recommend buying a clipboard or binder to keep all your papers in order. Be sure to bring plenty of paper, pens/pencils, and erasers. Try to keep it lighter by only bringing the books you may need. Unless you want to be the one bringing the entire library. Make sure there is room for your dice and minis!
What would you be bringing the stuff you are going to take in?
Everyone has their preferred storage device. Some like backpacks others like chests, workout bags, boxes, or even toolboxes! Whatever you choose, one idea to keep in mind is that you can also use this to store away your stuff. For example, I will use a backpack and if I am playing games regularly, I will keep all the stuff I need in that backpack in between sessions. Nice and easy to pick up at any time and get going. My father on the other hand has devised a system of stackable toolboxes that have the awesome ability to roll around he uses to hold all the things he needs to run multiple types of games as he generally runs two different games with two different groups a weekend or even more!
So what does this all really look like?
We have talked all about the high-level questions to consider. But you are probably now looking for a more practical example of all this that you can use to help base your pack on, right? Well, here is a couple for you! All fit in a nice medium-to-large backpack
Cal’s Player Game Bag:
Clipboard to write on (generally the table gets pretty full so it can be hard to write)
Binder of Characters (I tend to store all of them in one binder, so I just pull out the one I need)
Bag of Dice
Paper (just a small stack of whatever size I happened to grab)
Multiple pencils (I tend to use regular but mechanical are also good)
Small Pencil Sharpener
Eraser (not the ones just the pencils)
Books I need (unless I am the DM just need the player’s guide and any extra I need for my character like a Spellbook or Expansion book that has more of my character traits)
Something to not distracting to fidget with (I usually just doodle but grab something small that is not obnoxious for you to fidget with if you need to keep your hands busy).
Mini’s (Don’t usually use those much but there is plenty of room for a couple.)
Cal’s DM Game Bag:
Clipboard to write on
Binder of Characters (One of my characters may need to be used as an NPC for a game or may need to be used to fill the role of a missing player)
Bag of Dice
Small Pencil Sharpener
Books I need
Printed out documents (world notes, maps, etc. generally in a small folder)
Something to not distracting to fidget with (Generally don’t need it as the DM but there just in case. May even loan it to someone who does need it.)
Mini’s (Don’t usually use these in my games but there is plenty of room for a couple if the group decides we do want to use some for that game.)
A Player or DM Digital Bag Example:
Bag of Dice
Small Note Pad (Sticky notes are good too. Just for the small number of times you do need to write something down for a bit)
Something to not distracting to fidget with
What are you going to bring?
The awesome aspect of all this is once you get your first pack set up you are good to go for the future with just minor adjustments. You’ve seen my pack and now have the four questions you need to answer to plan your own. So, what are you going to bring? Are you strictly online so you don’t have to worry about it? What’s your storage/transport method for your stuff? Let me know in the comments and maybe we can make even a better pack together!