New to the world of pen and paper role playing games? Not sure what items you’ll need for your first campaign? To assist your quest for tools, this article will guide you on how to search for items that will fit you as a gamer.
As a fellow newbie gamer, I understand the nervous flutters one feels as they frantically search for the right tools for their game.
Before you start storming the castle that is your nearest game shop, it’s best you do a little research first. Even the simplest search sites like Google will give you links to information on your game and what items you will need. In addition many gamer forums, such as RPGnet, offer experienced and new gamers helpful advice and tips on a variety of role-playing games.
Remember not all games have the same tool requirements. There are some games that only need d6s (six-sided dice for the uninitiated among us) while others may require a full set. It’s best to gather as much information as possible on the game you decide to play before you begin.
1) Choice of Game
Choosing a game can be a tricky decision for a new player. There is a large variety to choose from. The best advice I can give is that you should pick the game that best suits your interest.
If you love space battles and galactic fighting, then search for science fiction themed games like Star Trek, Traveler or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. Escapist Magazine contains a great forum discussion on science fiction RPGs available and the gamers’ own personal reviews.RPG Geek is also a good resource to find a game suited for your genre of taste. Of course, there are also the popular choices of games out there like Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, and Dungeons and Dragons.
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. I am a huge fan of fantasy realms, but I still enjoyed my first campaign of zombie slaying and survival in Outbreak: Undead.
What games or themes do you find yourself showing an interest in? For veteran gamers, what games would you recommend new players try?
Once you have decided on a game, it’s best to find a group to join or start your own. Try asking around at your local game shops. Some may host weekly nights for a campaign or know customers who have expressed a similar interest in the game. You can even use Craigslist to start or join a group.
One good source you can use is the RPGnet site. You can browse through the locations until you find one in your area. The site keeps an updated gamer’s bulletin of people hoping to recruit players for their campaigns. You can also use the Meetup site for either RPG games or Table Top.
You can also ask your friends if they would be interested in participating. Chances are they might want to join up on the campaign too. Once you have your group you can look to players or the DM as a resource when you need help. It is OK to admit your low level of experience or non-existent experience. Those same gamers were like you at some point and in most cases they would be more than happy to give out hints, suggestions, or good locations to get your campaign necessities.
The more knowledge you glean from advanced players, the faster you can level your own expertise.
3) Core Rulebooks
When starting any game you need to understand the rules. You can purchase the game’s core/rulebooks at a game shop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or eBay. RPG Geek also keeps an updated list of links to purchase game core books at various locations.
Be aware though that there are a lot of books out there associated with the games. Pathfinder has literally dozens of rule books, game guides, and campaign adventures. Before you spend two hundred dollars on an order of books however, I recommend you stick to buying only the core book for now. Thankfully you don’t have to buy all the books connected to the game. Some are useful and helpful, yes, but it depends on the individual GM and the campaign your group decides on. This way, if you decide the game is not for you, you won’t be stuck with a pile of books you don’t want and feel you wasted your money.
4) Dice and its accessories
You don’t want to buy just any dice; you want to get dice you’ll enjoy playing with. Most gaming shops provide a nice collection of dice sets and accessories to choose from, but not everything. If you are like me, you probably prefer to have some flexibility in dice choices.
Here are a few places you can check out for dice, dice bags and cups, and other dice accessories:
The site offers color themed dice in sets of twelve or thirty six d6s, ten d10s, or a seven-die set of multiple sizes. You can also buy a single die in a size you need rather than a whole set. Additionally, Chessex also offers tiny dice bags, dice cups, dice boots, figure boxes, and game tokens.
Based in Poland, the Q-Workshop specializes in creating custom designed dice sets for gamers of all types. The site has many beautifully designed sets such as Elven, Dwarven, Celtic, Forest, Dragon, Cthulhu, Japanese, and more. The company can custom make a dice based on your submitted design. Customers can also purchase specially designed dice cups and bags.
Known for its fun nerdy products of all stripes, ThinkGeek also offers a few great dice accessories to choose from. They offer three Bag of Holding types (regular, leather, and dragonscale) for all your gaming tools not to mention a chainmail dice bag.
Many craft designers use this site to sell their specially designed wares. If you are looking for a unique bag design to hold your dice and other game tools, this site is great to use. Just type in “dice bags” in your search box and many choices will pop up.
What dice bags do you prefer using? Do you have a favorite place to go for your dice needs? What dice designs do you like the most?
Miniatures or tokens can be great tools to use for a campaign but are optional in most games. You’ll want to ask your GM about whether she requires these tools.
Miniatures are tiny figurines that represent your character on the map. In the past, many figures were made with lead, but current figures are often made from plastic or some other metal.
Game stores sell a nice variety of them, both painted and unpainted. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also pick up paints at your store and try your hand at your own color schemes.
Tokens are a nice replacement for miniatures in that they are small, light and easy to stack. Many gamers just use any spare coins or small toys/markers for their token.
A few good places to check out are:
Wizards of the Coast
Noble Knight Games
The most important tool to have for gaming is your character sheet. Creating a character can be a challenge for gamers and the sheet assists you in keeping track of him or her.
The sheet lists your character’s physical traits, skills, experience, health, item inventory and more. Most games have their own unique character sheet system. You can find the sheets in core books and scan them, or in some cases, you can print them right off the internet.
Hero Lab by Lone Wolf Development is a computer-based character generator. They have the official license for many games including Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, and more. In fact we use the Hero Lab software here at Saving Throw! While the software will do a lot of the calculations for you and make sure your character is complete, it doesn’t beat working that info out yourself at least once!
RPG Sheets offers free character sheets for a large variety of games, but you’ll still need to fill these out by hand. But hey, that’s part of the fun!
Play aids are not necessary but can be useful for games. Items such as battle mats or game tiles are used to help players keep track of where they are and the game’s progress. They can be found on Amazon, Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, or you can even create your own. Other helpful aids for gaming are laptops/phones (for those who like instant access to game rules or non-paper character sheets), calculators, pens, papers, GM screens, or music.
What play aids would you consider using for your first game?
If there are any items not mentioned in this article or game tools you have trouble looking for, feel free to discuss it here. If you cannot find them, I will personally search for them. It’s what I do.
Photos courtesy of Nomadic Lass, 8one6, Cory Doctorow, Carsten Tolkmit, Sean Ellis, Thomas Dippel, and Michael Fienen via Flickr.