Being a GM means that you are the rock of your gaming group. It's a hard job and a time consuming one. A recent poll we conducted with our audience shows that 46% of GMs spend more than three hours per week preparing for game night and within that, a sobering 9% of GMs spend 8+ hours preparing for game night. Even here at HHP, our resident forever-GM Joseph Carro reports that he spends 16-20 hours per week preparing for game night. For many of us, being a GM is akin to working a part time job, unpaid mind you. To help you run in-person game sessions smoother, better organized, and with some added flair, here is our top five list for must-have accessories.
*These are all products that we recommend because we believe in them. None of these companies have sponsored us, though one is obviously self-promotion.
#5 - Condition Rings
I can't even tell you how many times I've forgotten about a mage who was concentrating on a spell or a fighter who had a level of exhaustion I'd forgotten to account for. I've used these rings for in person games several times now (only got them recently) but I've found them to be super helpful. The set linked above includes rings for 24 different conditions and even includes a set of dice, some dry erase markers, and a spell template to help visualize the area of effect for common spells.
#4 - Dungeon Tiles
I've been using these Dungeon Tiles for 5+ years now and they are so much fun. They are dry erasable, they pack up easily, and you can connect them into any shape you want. I used these tiles for just about every combat encounter I ran when I GMed Out of the Abyss in 2020, and I also used these tiles for a large chunk of playtesting for Sandbox Adventures. Terrain and full-color battlemaps are a lot of fun, but I think these tiles are a fantastic bridge between running encounters with miniatures while still leaning on many of the tenets from the Theater-of-the-Mind approach to RPGs.
#3 - 3D Printer
If you've been interested in 3D printing but haven't taken the plunge, now might be the time. Printers have dropped dramatically in price. The Elegoo printer above, a brand of resin printers I would highly recommend, is currently available for $175 if you have a PRIME membership. You can print two dozen medium-size miniatures in the time it takes to watch one of the extended cut Lord of the Rings movies, and for a cost of materials around 8-20 cents per miniature. Larger miniatures, like a Frost Giant, cost about $3 to print. The beauty of 3D printers is that you can set them to print at night while your sleeping and wake up to a batch of brand new minis that just need to be rinsed and cured. You can print minis for the encounters you expect to run and then your players will be in awe. Just don't ask for tips on painting, I literally have bins of unpainted minis.
If you do get into 3D printing, I would recommend checking out sculpts from EC3D. His miniatures are beautiful and many of them - especially the set from the Beasts and Baddies Kickstarter - can be printed directly on the print bed, removing the need to add supports. This dramatically lowers the technical know-how needed to start 3D printing minis.
Hey, how are you?! Have you heard about these nifty little magnets made for making custom hex maps right at your table? (If you think this is shameless self-promotion, you have a finely-tuned spider sense, my friend.) Our core set of magnets, the Wilderness Region set, includes 116 tiles to make custom maps for your fantasy campaign. The tiles are dry erasable, scratch resistant, stick to any metal whiteboard, and are made right here in the USA.
My favorite way to introduce place to hexcrawl-style campaigns is to start their shiny-new characters in a small village and have them explore. I set the whiteboard up on an easel and I build the map in real time as the party moves around. It's a really immersive way to show overland travel and really helps to capture that sense of awe and discovery in exploring uncharted lands.
I went to GenCon in 2019 and got one of these customizable GM screens from Role 4 Initiative at their booth in the vender hall. Four years later, nicked by countless dents and scratches, this is officially my most used GM accessory for in person games. Even when playing online, I will sometimes use this GM screen to help stay organized. I typically keep campaign notes in two of the three panels and save the third one for notes important to that night's game session. The elastic bands are also handy but I more frequently use sticky notes which adhere perfectly to the screen. This one here is usually $40 plus $10 shipping to the US. You can find cheaper ones including this one from DriveThruRPG but I would spring for the Role 4 Initiative one if you can since I can personally vouch for its rugged durability.
What is your all-time favorite GM tool for in-person game night? Please let me know in the comments below!