When you are a player, you probably don’t need much material to be able to participate in a roleplaying game. You need a pen, some paper and a couple of dice and you’re pretty much set. In most cases you don’t need any books, miniatures, etc. because the GM provides these things. But when you are a GM you often have whole bookshelves filled with rulebooks, campaign settings, supplement, miniatures and many more thing, you may or may not need in your game.
Now imagine you want to travel and take some of your gaming stuff with you. Most players can travel light, their stuff probably fits into a pencil case, small bag or pouch. When the GM travels he probably needs a moving truck, if he wants to bring most of his gaming materials along. 😉
I don’t own a car, so when I don’t run games at my place I have to lug all the books I need around in my backpack. I think that is one reason why I tend to prefer rules-light systems nowadays. When I was still running D&D 3.5 I needed at least my campaign notes, some paper, pens, my dice and three to five full-sized hardcover books. And we all know how heavy paper is. When I left the house with my gaming materials it looked like I was moving or at least going on an extended vacation. I sometimes felt even Nodwick has less weight to lug around. 😀
What can GMs do to travel more lightly?
Pick a rules-light game
A game like Savage Worlds or perhaps one of the retro-clones works perfectly here. You just need your dice, your notes and a single book. When you run a Savage Worlds campaign you sometimes need a second book, but that’s it.
Another perfect game for the travelling GM is Tunnels & Trolls. The boxed set for the 7.5 Edition is small enough that you could probably carry it around wherever you go. Or have a look at Microlite20. It doesn’t get smaller and lighter than that!
Get a netbook
Netbooks are light-weight and surprisingly powerful for their size and prize. You can carry around vast libraries of RPG products in PDF format, your notes, music, and more without breaking a sweat. Some people prefer to have their rules in print but bring the netbook as some kind of fancy GM screen. And a netbook and a single hardcover book are still much easier to carry than all the D&D corebooks plus two campaign books.
Rely on your friends’ books
That’s of course the easiest way. When you are a GM and want to run at someone else’s place, make sure someone else brings the books. Then you just need to pack your personal notes and your dice. But this also has some serious drawbacks. You are screwed when the person who should have brought the rules can’t come or has forgot the books. So this is probably the worst solution.
These days I usually ask my friends to come over to my place when I run a game. It’s just easier that way. I have all my books, dice, miniatures, music, etc. at my disposal and I don’t have to decide what I can’t use today because it doesn’t fit into my backpack anymore. And when I plan to run a game elsewhere I make sure it’s a game I can easily carry along. I think T&T could become one of my new favorite games in that regard, since all I need fits neatly into the small box.
By the way, recently we played on the train. We didn’t manage to finish the game on time before we had to catch a train, so we played through the rest of the adventure on the train. We couldn’t roll the dice so the GM and the players had to rely on Rock-Scissors-Paper for task resolution. But if you don’t mind throwing all the rules out of the windows, this actually works perfectly. Just make sure you don’t frighten the innocent bystanders. 😉
This post is my second contribution to this month’s blog carnival hosted by The Game Traveler. I have to admit I am really curious about what the other RPG bloggers have written on “Gamers Traveling”. In my post I’ve focused on how to travel lightly as a GM. But I am sure other people might have written about how they see their travels through the gaming lens or how foreign cultures they experienced first-hand in their travels influenced their gaming hobby.
P.S.: The quote in the title is from the 2001 movie ”The Fellowship of the Ring”. The complete quote is as follows: “We will not abandon Merry and Pippin to torment and death. Not while we have strength left. Leave all that can be spared behind. We travel light. Let’s hunt some Orc.”
I'm definitely a big fan of the netbook solution. Though, for what it's worth, I find using the netbook for character creation to be a serious pain. Really only an issue for your first session as a group, but possibly a point.
Another option that I used in the distant and hazy past is to make liberal use of a photocopier and create your own rulebook with a 3-ring binder. Or, specifically, create a binder for the session, with copies of the rules, monsters, etc. in it. I originally got this idea from the 2e Monstrous Compendium. I never managed to get it to really click, but it worked okay. As a caveat here, though, this kind of planning can make the session run super-slick, but only if the characters stay on the rails. If they surprise you, you may find yourself flailing.
.-= Lugh´s last blog ..Time goes by so fast…. =-.
Well, I can truly say I feel your pain! When I played AD&D 2nd edition I carried about 5 to 6 books that fit on my backpack. I was younger and my back was in better shape so I did not mind. When D&D 3.5 came about I started with a similar amount of books, but ended up carrying a plastic trunk (yes a TRUNK) filled with books, and some extra stuff to be able to reference all the books I needed. It was a nightmare. I ended up just using the 3 basic books and requiring players ot have the book if they wanted to use any feat or ability form other books.
These days I play at home so the concern is not that bad. When we start playing somewhere else again I may need to reconsider. But computers and iPods make Gamemastering on the move SO much easier!
Michael, thanks for an aspect I was not expecting for your blog post!
This is one of the reasons why, of late, I have been drawn more and more towards small-book complete game systems. Give me PTA, Savage Worlds, S7S, Shadow of Yesterday. Even Burning Wheel is far more portable than 3.5/4e. Coupled with my desire to just play and not spend hours on technical game minutia, it's the portability that rocks. I mean, for the same idea I just purchased a netbook to compliment my laptop!
.-= Daniel M. Perez´s last blog ..Ierne: The Raid =-.
You're welcome! You know, I am always good for a surprise. 😉
And hey, if you feel like going for the trifecta, I wanna hear more of this gaming in the train. Having taken some long routes during my trips to Europe, that's one time when a short-but-sweet game could certainly be had.
.-= Daniel M. Perez´s last blog ..Ierne: The Raid =-.
Hmm, there's not much to tell about the game on the train. And the game we played was mainly narrative and investigative after all, so there wasn't that much need of rules. And so the GM decided to use Rock-Paper-Scissors for task resolution. If the player wins, the action was successful, if the GM wins, you failed. It was as easy as that.
Rock-scissors-paper. That's great. I'm trying to DM for my two kids, and that sounds like a great solution to gaming in the car on road trips.
But, how does that work with combat resolution? Specifically dealing damage. Or did that come up on your train trip.
We didn't fight, so that was no issue. Hmm, perhaps someone should create a kids-friendly game that uses Rock-scissors-paper for task resolution.
You mean like what Newbie DM did?
.-= Daniel M. Perez´s last blog ..Ierne: The Raid =-.
For lightweight gaming, I don't think anyone can beat SHERPA (from the same guy who did FUDGE). It was designed to be played _while_ hiking. Not "when you come to a rest area", but "_WHILE_ _HIKING_". All you need is a clear plastic case to put your d6's in to (so you can shake it to roll them), and probably a 3×5 card for each character/NPC.
Depending on the FUDGE mechanics you're playing with, it's only a little heavier than SHERPA. You can even make a FUDGEy version of SHERPA.
Castle Falkenstein isn't a big stretch from FUDGE either. You may end up with a little more, or a little less, depending on things. Though, CF is a bit genre specific. I've seen people apply the game mechanics to other genres though (there was a space mini's game that someone wanted to play as an RPG, so he took various CF mechanics, replaced the cards with FUDGE dice, and then used the mini's game as the setting material).
If everyone knows the mechanics, Hero can be pretty decent for it. Even though more recent versions of the games have a HUGE tome, it's mostly reference material and examples. Only 1 person needs to bring a copy of it. During play, almost everything you actually need is actually written on your character sheet (a consequence of having to build every power/gadget/etc. from scratch).
And, of course, d6 and mini-6 probably offer a similar degree of "almost everything you really need is already on your character sheet", with a few exceptions. You'd probably do a little more looking things up in the d6 rules than you would with Hero … but with mini-6, there's not a whole lot to look up 🙂
I usually use a rules-light game, but what annoys me is that at home I use multiple winamp instances for all the music of the game. And I can't carry that (speakers of my eeepc are not enough).
Two are used for basic ambience music and ambience sound effects (rain over scary music, that way it can actually stop raining without ruining the music.
Sometimes I do have a third with even more ambience effects (thunders, for example)
Also I have some more energic ambience music for combats on a fourth instance. And lastly, a fifth with various sound effects like doors, dogs barking, whatever I need that plays only once…
I bought some bead cases and a rolling bead case bag for my books and minis.
The bead cases have moveable compartments so you can resize them for hold groups of minis or single large monsters. The "bag" was sized for the cases (holds three plus an extra shelf). It is the perfect size for standard RPG books, has exterior pockets, and has a top compartment for "work in progress".
This meta-case has wheels and a handle, like luggage. Now I have enough space to bring two cases of minis, notebooks with adventures or characters and dice/pencils/wet-erase markers. Only thing that does not fit is a game mat.
This flew as an item of luggage to Gencon two years ago. It was perfect for a short week of running and playing games in Indianapolis.
Take a look in Jo-Anne's sometime.
I've gotta agree with Mr. Perez. Savage Worlds is the way to go if you want to travel light. Especially with their Explorer's Edition of books. With a set of dice, the Core Rules and the Necessary Evil book, you've got an entire superhero RPG you could transport in a flat-rate envelope.