Thursday, October 03, 2013

30 Days of GameMastering: Day 2!

Today is Day 2 in Lindevi's 30 Days of GameMastering challenge, so let's go ahead and get into it:
What are your favorite GMing tools or accessories?
I'm actually going to try to stay away from specific products here, as Lindevi has actually covered several of my favorites--I actually turned her on to the GM screen in question, which I've used for all of my demo games in the past 5 years.  Instead, I'm going to favor a few common items that every gamer should have in their arsenal.  Truth be told, a trip to your local office supply store is almost as good as shopping at a game store, when it comes to organizational aids!

One color for Players.
One color for the GM!
First up, everyone needs a good wet-erase battlemat.  Even if you're not using it for tactical encounters, having a battlemat down lets you scratch down notes and important NPC names, draw a quick map for player reference, and even keep track of initiative.  GamingPaper is a good replacement for this, but I find that a good battlemat makes for a great investment that doesn't cost too much.

Second, pick up a few packs of post-it notes.  Leave one pack out for your players in the center of the table and a second pack behind your GM screen.  Use these whenever you have to deliver information to a specific player and you don't want to leave the table.  Plus, this encourages your players to write notes to both you and to one another.  Such skulduggery works especially well in espionage-style games or games where players have conflicting motivations.  While you're at it, make sure that you get two separate colors:  one for the GM and one for the players.  That way, it's easy to tell from a glance who's communicating!

A great addition to any GMing arsenal!
Next, look at picking up a good poker set.  With so many games now using bennies or Fate Points or the like, a poker set provides an easy way to transport a ton of chips.  Plus, most poker sets also come with a five-pack of six-sided dice (who doesn't need those!) and a good pack of playing cards.  When in doubt, you can always use the cards for quick decisions:  red card or black card; face card or number; choice of suit, etc.  Even if your game isn't necessarily casino-inspired, it makes for a great tool!

Finally, keep a blank notebook behind your GM screen.  It's often difficult to keep track of names, locations, and other important information.  Dedicate a page or two to writing down NPCs' names and a basic bit of information on those characters:  race, class, title, motivations.  If you're more laptop or tablet-oriented, an Excel spreadsheet can actually go a long way towards keeping your campaign organized!


  1. My favorite GM tool is a Fate die (one of the d6s with two sides labeled with a +, two with a –, and two with a blank). When the players ask you something you are unprepared to answer, just roll the die. For instance, if they ask "Is there a window in the room?" you roll the die. Responses are "yes" for the +, "sort of/maybe/not quite" for the blank, or "no" for the –.

    If you get the blank result, that generally means it's not quite what the players are looking for or there is some obstacle to overcome. Perhaps there is a window, but it's too small to fit through, or it is very high up.

  2. Good choice! I really need to invest in some Fate dice, for ICONS at the very least...

    I still prefer the deck of cards for most games, though. It's easy divvy into multiple choices and nearly everyone has one on hand.