My On-The-Road DMing Kit

Between conventions and store games I do a decent amount of my DMing on the road, and over the years I’ve built up a kit-list that helps me strikes a balance between ease of transport and running a fully-featured game.

This came in handy last weekend, when a sudden change to my diary meant I could hop on the train to Birmingham, UK, and run a couple D&D 5E games at a small one-day convention known as Spaghetti ConJunction. The show went well and my DMing kit did everything I wanted.

When it came time to unpack all the gear, I thought that some folks may be interested to see what I stuff into the bag and lug across town every time I DM.

The Backpack

First of all, one of the most important parts of setting up my kit is ensuring that it can all fit in my backpack. It’s a cheap, reliable Amazon Basics bag that meets all my requirements, namely:

  • Laptop/tablet compartment
  • Bottle holder
  • Small front compartment

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The Human Element

Or, the practical stuff I need to live and not be a gross, sweaty monster in a small room with my players.

These are the things that live in that front pocket and bottle holder. They have nothing to do with running an RPG, but play vital roles in keeping my electronics running and my body reasonably presentable. Many conventions and stores can get hot and sticky, so a decent deodorant is vital. And if I have a water bottle I’ll usually stick to tap water rather than blowing cash on over-priced drinks.

From right to left we have:

  • Water bottle
  • Deodorant
  • Sharpie
  • Charger base
  • USB Micro B cable (for Kindle Fire tablet)
  • Lightning cable (for iPhone)

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Little Boxes / On the Hillside

These are all the little things that just help a game run a little smoother. None of them are particularly vital in most cases, but they’re nice to have.

The box of 2cm cubes is my constant companion when running adventures using a grid. Most of the time they stand in for monsters (one for small creatures, two stacked up for medium, a two-by-two square for large, etc) but they also pull double-duty as trees, rocks and tables.

While the monsters are all represented by cubes, the heroes get to choose from a stack of Pathfinder Pawns. Their little box is divided up into four sections, breaking down the heroic-looking characters by gender and whether they look more martial or arcane. It’s not an exact science, but most players seem to be able to pick out a likely pawn within a minute or so.

From right to left we have:

  • Box of 2cm cubes
  • Whiteboard/dry-erase markers
  • Box of heroic-looking Pathfinder pawns
  • Eraser with more markers
  • Big bag of polyhedral dice sets
  • DMing kit

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Okay, including a DMing kit within another DMing kit might be cheating. Allow me to break it down a little further by cracking the kitbox open and showing you what’s inside.

From right to left, we have:

  • Laser pointer (rarely used, but handy at big tables when we’re using grids)
  • Poker chips and tokens for marking inspiration, etc
  • Pathfinder Pawn bases, both medium/small and large
  • Big stack of d6’s (for when the wizard takes half an hour to roll fireball damage)
  • Poly sets (for the DM to use/hand out to anyone who needs extra dice)
  • Golf pencils
  • Erasers & sharpener

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The Big Guns

The final collection of things wedged into my DMing backpack are the big, bulky items that I need to run games.

Most of these should be pretty obvious, but I want to call out the Loke Big Book of Battle Mats in particular. It’s a really neat idea that you can read all about in a review here, and has made running grid-based combat much, much simpler.

The Kindle Fire is a recent addition to the kit, but being able to load up adventures and notes in PDF form and crack it out at the table is very much welcome. It’s also pretty good for entertainment on the train ride home.

From right to left:

  • Clipboards with stats, pre-gen characters and other notes for individual games.
  • Dice tray from DnDice
  • D&D 5E Player’s Handbook
  • Kindle Fire 10
  • Loke Big Book of Battle Mats

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Do you have a similar kit that you use on the road? Is there anything you think I’m missing?

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