Unfortunately, every so often a game can fall flat. It may be a lack of player engagement, a bad system or a poorly prepared GM. Back in July I wrote in to HappyJacks RPG (season 22 episode 8) with a pseudo-horror story of GM mediocrity. That experience inspired my essential rules for con game prep (a topic for a follow-up post) but the discussion on the podcast has also inspired a mini-game!
My tale of bad GMing culminated peaked with the fact that I had spent much of the game building dice towers, going so far as to purposefully buy extra dice during the lunch break. Dave from MonkeyFun Studios took it upon himself to create a simple dice game that could be played at the table without disrupting the rest of the group. That game is DICE the Stacking and the simple rules can be found on the MonkeyFun website.
You can find MonkeyFun studios full range of games, such as Spirit of ’77 and Bedlam Hall, on their website and at drivethruRPG.
When it comes to dice you get what you pay for, which is why high quality metal dice sets are expensive. I’ve been interested in buying a metal set for a while. The Easy Roller sets come highly recommended but once you factor in exchange rates and international shipping (US->UK) they just become prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately the UK is not without its own retailers of metal dice and so I recently decided to acquire one of their Metallic Dragon sets in a Copper Bone finish from DnDice. They come in at £25 (with free postage in the UK!) and are cast in zinc with an electroplated tarnished copper finish. The product speaks for itself – the dice are beautiful (not sure the same can be said of my photography) and well worth the money.
I went for the bone finish for the improved readability, which is apparent all the way from the d20 down to the d4 and nicely complements the solid feel of the dice. There is no way that you’ll mistake these for a cheap plastic set. While the d4 is relatively light (and very sharp!) the larger dice all have a nice weight to them and there’s that solid thunk you’d expect from a proper metal set. Fortunately the case, which includes a custom cut foam insert to hold the dice, also functions well as a miniature rolling tray so no need to worry about denting your gaming table. If you require something a little larger they also sell rolling mats and trays at reasonable prices.
My only issue with the set is really one of individual preference – that it comes with 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d% and 1d20. Personally I’ve only ever played in a single campaign it has been necessary to make percentile rolls and that can be accomplished by rolling a d10 twice. So for me the d% is superfluous and will mostly just get used as a second d10. Given that I’d have rather seen either a second d6 or second d20 in the set, as I’d use them more often. I understand though that the d% die is part of a standard set of dice and so can’t really fault DnDice for including it. While they don’t currently offer them I hope that in future it will be possible to order individual dice (and extra storage tins) to build a custom set though I can fully see myself buying a complete second set at some point. I just wish I could afford enough for some of the dice pool games I play.
27th) What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Character sheets, dice, 1 copy of the core rulebook. That’s really all I’d term as essential but if we’re expanding out then I’m going to cheat and point you towards a previous post where I detailed my gaming kit. At the centre of it is my All Rolled Up which is one of the best gaming purchases I’ve ever made. Plenty of space within it and ideal for storing the foldable whiteboard and a selection of dice.
As you’ve probably realised the various contributors to Nearly Enough Dice love gaming accessories and a number of the products we’ve reviewed for the podcast now form the core of what constitutes my gaming kit. With that in mind I thought I’d share my approach and invite the readers to chip in their suggestions or ideas.
The General Kit
At the core of any gaming kit is (IMHO) one thing, dice and like most gamers I have collected a considerable number over the years. When I’m playing, however, most of those dice are unused. In an attempt to streamline my kit I’ve, therefore, cut down the number I carry to 4 polyhedral sets which covers me most games and can be rapidly altered should I join a game that requires more of a particular type.
But what to carry them in? How about an All Rolled Up (ARU), which Liz reviewed recently for the podcast? Having just purchased the one pictured I can also now attest to both the quality of the product and the service (I ordered Monday afternoon and received it on the Thursday).
As well as dice my ARU stores a number of other important parts of my gaming kit. First up are pens, a basic component that people forget on a regular basis. Second is my noteboard, another recent purchase and which Liz reviewed for the podcast (and Mike put to good use for the War of the Dragons game). Although the noteboard really falls into the GM kit category it’s simply far too useful an item for me to leave out so it’s got a semi-permanent place in my ARU. Finally to round out my players kit is a selection of extra whiteboard markers in multiple colours, there just in case the noteboard gets used.
The GM Kit
The basis for my GMing kit is, unsurprisingly, that of my player kit but with some notable differences. First is more dice, because it’s apparently up to the GM to have spare in case players forget their own. If required I then add in my GM screen. I’ve tried multiple system specific screens but these days I default to the Savage Worlds Customisable Screen (see my review for more information). The ability to add to or alter the panels as required makes this screen indispensable, I find it particularly useful for tracking characters disadvantages so I have a ready list of hooks I can tap during the session.
Most of the other additions are system specific, poker chip tokens or a deck of cards are added as needed, stored in my ARU or dice bag in order to keep it all together.The final essential component of my GM kit is my moleskin notebook. Between games it lives in whatever bag I’m using that day so I can jot ideas down at a moments notice, which often turns out to be on the train during my commute to work. While I’ve tried digital approaches such as Evernote my approach to note taking is too haphazard for a digital approach, mostly due to my frequent use of multi-directional connections and non-sequitur notes.
The Online Kit
Obviously the vast majority of this kit is only of use when playing together as a group in a single location. Online gaming is, however, a growing market and probably accounts for half of the games I’ve played in the last year. Three websites really provide me with all I need on that front, Google Plus, Roll 20 and Obsidian Portal. Google Plus, combined with Roll 20 provides both the table around which players assemble and the tools such as dice roller, initiative tracker and battle map for playing on. The quality of the Google Plus video hangouts astounds me each and every time, sure lag is an occasional problem but thanks to it I’ve been able to join regular games with players spread throughout the globe. Between games Obsidian Portal serves as a centralised location to store notes and game progress in a convenient wiki format which is currently undergoing a redesign. While an extremely powerful tool I’ve found that the majority of use is by the GM and it predominantly falls into a planning tool and place to keep notes that can be revealed to players as they experience the world.
So there you have it, the basic kit that I make use of on a regular basis and a question for the listeners / readers, how do you do things? Am I over prepared or maybe missing out that one item you consider indispensable to gaming?
Disclaimer: This is not a product placement post, I purchased each of the items described here and none were received for the purpose of a review. I merely happen to think that they’re all awesome.