3 Handy Extras For Your GM's Kit
by Creighton Broadhurst
May 19, 2019
I’m a big fan of working smart not hard, I’m also a big fan of being prepared. I am a prepper GM!
I’ve talked before about the normal stuff I keep behind my beloved GM screen and in my gaming kit. Along with these gaming basics, I also have several other things ready to go at a moment’s notice. To save space, some or all of these things–depending on the situation–might actually be lurking on my iPad*. Irrespective of whether they are in electronic or physical format, they’ve saved my skin more than once!
(*I’m not normally a fan of electronic devices at the table. While I love my shiny idevices, they can be tremendously distracting, but when space is at a premium nothing beats an iPad for storing all the things I might need at the table.)
1. Dressing Tables
It should come as no surprise I love dressing tables. I love how small details can bring a dungeon (or whatever) alive. Dungeon dressing helps with the players’ suspension of disbelief and can help build mood and verisimilitude.
Part of the reason I started writing the 20 Things articles was to inject more flavour into the adventure I was running at the time (Shards of Sin, part one of the Shattered Star adventure path). I tailored the tables to the events and locales the party were encountering—I don’t think they realised I was adding to the adventure—and added some extra flavour to the proceedings.
I always like to have a table or two behind my screen designed specifically for the locale at hand. Obviously, dungeon dressing designed for a skeleton-infested crypt is going to be different from that designed for a goblin tribe’s cave. The great thing about these tables is they never go out of date; if you don’t use it in one session or adventure you can keep it for the adventure, campaign or whatever.
2. Prepared Encounters
Sometimes, the players go “off-piste”. (Well, let’s be honest, my players are rarely actually “on-piste”.)
When this happens, I often throw a prepared random encounter at them. This gives me time to think and can even help me “run out the clock” so I can spend the time between sessions preparing the areas they are moving into. Frankly, I’d rather spend some time between sessions plotting handy random encounters than either ending the session early or running through a boring, bog-standard encounter.
Pathfinder’s mechanics are so complex that running a combat encounter off the cuff with anything but normal monsters pulled straight from the Bestiary can be tricky. Having a stock of prepared encounters lets me run an exciting, flavourful combat. Hopefully, if I do it right, the players never realise I’m just playing for time.
In my current Adventures in Shadow campaign, the PCs are spending more time in Ashlar’s various villages, towns and cities. Such places are rarely conducive to full—on combat encounters. That’s why I also have a prepared stock of detailed NPCs and non-combat encounters ready to go. Perhaps the PCs meet a street vendor with interesting rumours for sale or they spot a hither-to unvisited shop that piques their interest.
3. PC Notes
In much the same vein as the old Dungeon Masters Adventure Log, I like to have notes about the PCs behind the screen so I don’t keep having to ask questions like, “What’s you Perception modifier?” Having these notes, helps me run the session quickly and more efficiently. (It also helps me make checks for the PCs when they don’t realise they are making a check.) I don’t know how much time having the information behind my screen saves, but I’m sure it adds up to a couple of minutes or so over a four-hour gaming session. I’m a big fan of incremental gains and so saving just a few minutes every session can add up to a decent amount of time over a year of play.
What Do You Have Behind Your Screen?
So that’s just a few of the extra things I keep behind the screen to make my GMing life easier. What do you keep behind yours? Let me know, in the comments below.