A Beginner’s guide to Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games Part 3- Getting ready to play your first game : Building A Player’s Kit

beginner header3

I was going to delve into creating your character right away, I actually have the article written, but during my weekly Dungeons and Dragons Encounters and Pathfinder Society meet ups I started noticing something very interesting with new players who were looking to join. They had no equipment or at the very least ill- equipped to play, and these weren’t just newcomer’s to the game either, but people that have played before and understood the game. Because of not being prepared, these people inadvertently caused a lot of headaches for the DM’s and other players, because of the time it took to set these people up so they could play the game, which took time away from every one else was ready to play. So what I want to do is set you off on the right foot and make your playing experience much more enjoyable as well by giving you tips to create what I call a Players Kit.

No this is not how to create your player's kit. Although it would be nice. I did enter the code to see if i could get more stuff and nothing happened :-( Guess I am going to still have to skimp by with my gaming equipment.

Just Kidding!!! No this is not how to create your player’s kit. Although it would be nice. I did enter the code to see if I could get more stuff and nothing happened 😦 Guess I am going to still have to skimp by with my gaming equipment.

    The next post will be the character creation article but I do also want to make a quick note about characters before we proceed to building your players kit. If you are a new player to roleplaying games or even to the game system, I highly recommend for you to start out with a pre generated character. Most games and campaigns will come with a stock pre generated character for you to play. Try several pre generated characters and see how they fit to your playing style.Take notes about what worked and and what you could do to modify your character in the near future. That way you will have a better understanding of what kind of character fits you. In the past couple of weeks of observation, I have seen far too many new players try and tackle character creation at a 4 to 5 hour group meeting, within less than an hour to create the character so they could play.Meanwhile everybody else is anxious to play, which creates is a lot of frustration for all parties and takes away from the gaming experience. I will tell you now it takes time and a lot of thought to create a character, and it can be very difficult, think of it as you are trying to be J R.R Tolkien and do your taxes at the same time. It is a very personalized and intimate experience, as you are bringing a hero to life. This is a process that you just cant rush as you will see in my next post. So my best suggestion for you is, unless there is a character creation workshop at your meeting, don’t come empty handed and try to create a character right on the spot. Use a pre generated character until you get the feel of the game. This is especially true if you are a beginner, as you are going to have enough to learn with just the game mechanics alone. You will feel much better off and have a more enjoyable experience instead of more frustration and being over whelmed and this I guarantee through experience and observation.

Dungeons and Dragons laminated pre-generated character sheet for Murder In Balder's Gate campaign setting, great for using a washable felt with.

Dungeons and Dragons laminated pre-generated character sheet for Murder In Balder’s Gate campaign setting, great for using a washable felt with.

Ok, with that out of the way lets get you set up with what I call a player’s Kit. This kit can be modified to any pen and paper roleplaying system and not that expensive. I even set Karen up with one, as she is completely new to pen and paper games and just started playing Dungeons and Dragons 4e. I wanted to see if the player’s kit worked for her and it did. Plus it took away a lot of frustration for her as a newcomer to Roleplaying Games.( “All in the name or research” I say, plus as Karen is a complete beginner, she is going through all the pit falls and learning curves you are going through so we can call it Playtest Certified).

Now I am hoping that you took my advice in the last post and managed to save some of your hard earned treasure while you got the essentials, as you might still need to dip into it to get your player’s kit complete, no worries though this won’t break the bank and with a little ingenuity you could probably save a bit more. What I also found out is that the players kit will not only get you completely set up for your first game as a player but will be your main kit for all upcoming campaigns, with only the slightest modifications.

So now I present to you the Player’s Kit.

IMG_0634 Here is a photo of my own players kit. This is what I take to Dungeons and Dragons Encounters and with only the slightest modification to the Pathfinder Society or my Legend of the Five Rings meet up. I will now give you a break down of what the kit in tales.

  • 3 ring binder (medium Size): this is an essential item, you can use it to store all your character sheets, characters, Maps, Info pertaining to the game like photocopied power sheets and tables.
  • Plastic binder inserts (sleeves)for you to insert your papers: I totally love these things for my character sheets and maps. When you have greasy hands and you need to read you character sheet or you are worried about clumsy Ned spilling something on your good player map, these things are a godsend (like +2 magic armor). I usually purchase about 2 packs of ten just to be on the safe side. Make sure they are the slide in ones from the top and are already 3 hole punched. See my Pic above for an example as my character sheet is in one.
  • Dividers for your binder: This makes organizing so much easier especially if you are using only one binder for several different campaigns. I recommend getting the type of dividers that you can insert the paper tabs into the plastic overlays as you will be constantly rewriting your tabs out.
  • Spiral notebook with squared graph paper inside, 80 pages minimum: This is an excellent tool for mapping dungeons and battle maps,especially when you are exploring new dungeons. You can totally scale things to the game when you consider one square is equal to the size of your character as a player.  All the old school DM’s used to use these books for mapping out their campaigns, I know I did, as this was recommended in the original 1e Dungeon Master’s guide. This is also a DM essential for creating your own maps as a DM. here is a few examples for you.

Undercity1mapdungeon-037colourDMXP_057Dungeon_Hidden Shrinealumni_mapB1map

  • Spiral notebook lined 3 subject 200 to 300 pages: Mandatory for writing notes, and information to your character and the campaign you are playing in. Here is an example of how I use mine,IMG_0647 I try to use it as a journal come table style, with tables and ongoing character information on the front and notes on the back about the campaign. This is also so I don’t keep writing on my character sheets every five minuets and have to keep erasing it, which totally kills you character sheet. I would like to note that this notebook is set up for 4e but you can change the information to suit your game and characters needs. Here is a list of my categories that I use in a table format. Current hit points (+,-,temp), Healing surges (2nd wind, used, left), Coin Recovered (gold, silver, copper, –), Items found , Powers / Magic (type, power used, available, recharged), Weapon ammo/ throwable weapon (weapon type, ammo amount, recovered), XP gained, and on the backside notes. I also like to date and label the campaign and the character played just like a journal entry. Try different styles and see what is right for you.
  • Dice: make sure that you have enough dice on hand, and the correct set of die for the system you are playing. here is once again a visual representation of what the different dice are, (this is a complete die set for a D20 system.diceA good recommendation is to have several sets of die, the more the merrier. I run with about 5 D20 die sets, but could still use more.
  • Dice Bag or Box: You need something to store all those dice in when you go to your games. I prefer dice bags because they are a bit softer and easier on the dice but some people swear by the dice boxes. A Tupperware container will work in a pinch. Also check out on line at some of the really cool home made dice bags and dice bag patterns from cloth to crocheted to make your own dice bag. If you really want to personalize your kit, you can really go hard-core by trying to make your own chain-mail dice bag.

How to make dice bag (with patterns)

How to make a chainmail dice bag (video)

How to make a chainmail dice bag E-how another way here

Another cloth dice bag site 

More cloth dice bag patterns here and here

  • Extra character: It happens you rolling craps all night and than you make a big mistake by jumping into the fray with low hit points and a bad ass monster, or you are trying this new character and it is no way fitting you and poof your character gets 86’ed. Now you still have over 3 hours to kill so instead of holding up the game (see above) you pull out you extra character and start again. you see  Roleplaying games are like all team sports, you need a reserve player waiting on the bench in case the star player (your character) gets taken out. That way you aren’t holding up the game.
  • Extra Character Sheets: The DM throws a curve ball and you need to create a new character to adapt to his campaign setting, or Ned spills grape soda all over you good character making it almost unusable, and you are in the middle of a game. For those reasons alone you need those character sheets. Also in case one of you buddies’ characters gets pummeled and he doesn’t have a back up character or any sheets. Lend him your sheets and send him here to this site after the game, so he will be set up and thankful for what you did for him.

Here is a link to legend of the Five Rings Character Sheets

Here is a link to GURPS Character Sheets

Here is a link to Wizards of the coast official Dungeons and Dragons character sheets

Here is a link to some really good character Sheets for Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder

  • Player’s manual(s’) for your specific game: If you look at my picture again you will notice that I have both the Player’s Handbook and the Player’s Handbook 3. The reason being is that I play a monk character and most of the information relevant to my character is in the Player Handbook 3. I also need the players handbook because there is also a lot of information relevant to my character but also the basic rules for gameplay. Karen on the other hand plays a dwarven cleric so she only need the Players Handbook because all the information for her character is in that one book. If I am playing Pathfinder I would take along my Pathfinder core manual and the Pathfinder Society field guide, If I am playing Legend of the Five rings 2e (second edition) I would take the player’s guide. Or if I was playing GURPS cyberpunk I would take not only the GURPS basic character manual but GURPS cyberpunk as well so I have all the information pertaining to my character. If you researched correctly you will know what manuals you should take to make your game a lot easier, and don’t rely on others to have the manuals for you, because they might really need their manual for themselves or like me are a bit touchy about their books. Another interesting note is that manual(s’) will be the only item you need to swap out of your players kit (maybe dice as well if you keep yours sets separate “I don’t for ease of use but that is me”) to switch to a different game system everything else can stay as is.

dungeons-and-dragons-players-handbookPlayers Handbook 3250px-Pathfinder_RPG_coverPlayer's_Guide_2nd_EditionGURPS_Charactersgurps

  • School pencil case filled with 2 pencils, pencil sharpener, a good eraser (art), calculator, glue stick: All you basic writing essentials for a good games without having to worry about searching for something to use to write down you information with.
  • Game marker or Miniature: Some Role playing games you don’t need any form of marker, but most pen and paper roleplaying games now days that have  some form of combat and dungeon exploration rely  heavily on battle grids and maps. (Especially Dungeons and Dragons 4e) and for that reason you are going to need some form of game token to show your placement on the board.There are many forms of miniatures from the circle game token to the stand up paper miniature to the plastic resin and lead cast paintable figurines. IMG_0652I took a picture of three different types of game markers that Karen has used for her dwarf cleric, the most recent being the metal miniature which she really wants to paint. You can make your own paper miniatures with just a graphics manipulation program like GIMP to get you started until you feel like you want to delve into metal miniatures, as I found that collecting them and painting them can be quite addictive. What is interesting is that most avid players I know are into painting miniatures. There is a whole hobby devoted to building and painting miniatures all into it self and some of the miniatures are like beautiful pieces of artwork and cost about as much when finished. But believe me when you pull out that realistic painted Red Dragon or Halfling rouge for your fellow player characters, you are sure to get some ahhhh’s. There is tons of books and websites for creating and painting miniatures. I have added a few links below for you to view. I will also be doing a more in-depth post on miniatures later on.So if you want to take your game to another level or show your artistic side design and paint your own miniature it will be well worth it, and take your gaming experience to another level.

Here is a tutorial on how to paint miniature figurines

Here is another one as well

Here is a video tutorial on how to paint miniatures

 Here is another good site for painting miniatures

  • Bag, backpack or carrying case: buy one specifically for your player’s kit so you aren’t using either your school bag or work bag. That way you won’t be losing anything by constantly moving things in and out of the bag and everything has it’s own place in the bag for easy access. Having your own player’s kit bad is also good because, you can come home and just grab and go instead of having to sort through everything looking for you placed your miniature or your dice bag.

Here is also some optional pieces to add to your kit if you like, they aren’t as necessary but sure come in handy when you need them.

  • Laptop or tablet: Like I said in the last chapter of the beginner’s guide to roleplaying games, laptops and tablets are a newer more efficient way of carrying your manuals around than a bag full of books. Two other added bonuses to having a laptop or tablet are. The first is Character generators, which I will go into more detail in the next chapter. At Encounters, if it is a character development workshop I usually bring my laptop with me, so not only do I have my character generator on hand but I can also pull up a PDF of a manual I need to for easy access for character creation. Another reason for a laptop well worth an investment is the ability for note taking and table making  by using a word processor and spreadsheets program. Plus if you have a graphics manipulation program  like GIMP you can make your own custom character sheets, maps tables you name it.
  • Printer: A must have for printing out your own sheets, maps and cards if you are using a laptop.
  • Pencil crayons: for coloring and highlighting Maps, character sheets and index cards. You don’t need to go Picasso and get the 100+ color set, I find a nice 24 or 36 colors to be just to my liking.
  • Washable pen and white board: mostly for DM’s who want to keep track of the turn order, but players can use them to to mark down things happening in the game. I even seen laminated character sheets that allowed you to write on them with washable ink so you can keep track of your HP and power points during a game (see the pre-generated character sheet above)
  • Blank lined Index cards with a card box: This Idea came from Karen while she was struggling to read the powers on her character sheet for her 4e Dungeon and Dragons character. Index cards are great for keeping track of powers, spells magic items, monsters and other tables and trivia. I even know of one person who used index cards to create his own dungeon tiles by cutting up some of the cards into squares and shapes that are to scale and putting some of the index cards together with the grid to scale as an overlay, then finishing them off drawing and coloring them in to create his own beautiful set at a much lower cost. (Talk about artistic thinking, +2 I believe to Wisdom modifier or is that the intelligence modifier). Here is a photo of a couple of Karen’s power cards for Dungeons and Dragons 4e to show you what index cards can be used for.


  • For Dummies Reference: No this is not for dummies and no you will not be a dummy for using it. If you are playing GURPS, Vampire the Requiem or Dungeons and Dragons and you are a beginner I highly recommend these easy to use reference guides. When I started getting back into playing Dungeons and Dragons, The Dungeons for Dummies guide was a godsend. It is perfect for explaining character creation, game mechanics and strategy to the beginner and seasoned players alike. I got Karen reading the Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies right now so she can understand game play better. I still use the Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies as a good reference to help me in creating a first level character. My only complaint is why oh why did they not have these books when I was a youth, mind you it probably would have been one more stone in the book bag of bricks that I had to lug around on the bus.10860-1 dungeons-and-dragons-for-dummiesGURPSForDummies

Well this pretty much completes the Player’s kit as you can see it is pretty universal if you just change out a few things, having this kit will make you feel like a more confidant gamer especially with having everything at hand. And if you have any suggestions on what you would like to add to the kit please feel free to drop us a line and let us know.We hope to see you next post which will be really soon about character creation.

Happy Questing




Posted on August 24, 2013, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You can also use wet erase markers right on the sheet protectors with a damp paper towel to keep track of HP, power points, conditions, etc right on the sheet. A steno pad sized whiteboard costs about $4 US, and I use it all the time as a player and DM/GM.

    For power cards check out this site http://www.dnditalia.it/pcc. You can make your own custom power cards for D&D 4e that look good. Then just drop the 3×3 sheets in a plastic sheet cover or cut them up and slide them in individual plastic card covers.

    Also, pens and pencils. It’s ridiculous how many people forget these. I have a separate cloth bag that holds all my dry/wet erase markers, pencils, and pens. All in one spot and I always know where they are.

    What sort of bag do you use to carry your supplies?

  2. Very cool. I once used my rucksack but found it was a little tall and stuff always ended up bending the corners of my spirals and such. I switched to a large laptop bag and it has worked out well for me. I can keep things in separate pockets easily organized and its fatter rather than taller so no stacking.

    About 6 months back I did a look at some kits, one with recommendations for players and another for DM/GMs.

    Player: http://redraggedfiend.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/the-kit-player/
    DM/GM: http://redraggedfiend.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/the-kit-dm/

  3. A nice article, without realizing it I’ve been doing this for a while.

    I use a laptop bag, one pocket for players handbooks, another for character sheets and paper ( i usually have the info on my characters abilities printed out and with the character sheet). Pencils, dice, notepad and small whiteboard go in the front along with a tape measure (sometimes I war game ) and usually 3 or 4 figures.

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