Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GM Wednesday - Travelling Light

Well it seems my post about "How Much Is Too Much" had a high popularity. It behooves me to continue the trend then, though I don't know how long I can keep talking about less things. But that does seem to be the formula with people who offer free advice.

Today let's talk about mobility. Most of my games are away, as in not at my house. As such I like to travel light where ever possible and especially for cons.

First up, take a look at your game system of choice because that is where the most weight is incurred. Games like Star Wars Saga or D&D have a lot of additional books and they are hardbacks. They're nice to own but a pain to carry. If you have them on pdf, good for you. If not, try to pare it down to two essential books you just can't do without.

Next let's talk luggage. Some people feel the need to tow their entire back-breaking collection for a single game. If that describes you, then you'll likely need or already be using one of these...

I use something like this for my Pathfinder stuff when I run Society games, but I'm only towing it from the car to the game shop and back. My load is large because it is also carrying snacks and drinks so I don't pay through the nose for it at the shop every weekend. 

I would never take this to con although I do "run into" a few people with them. My shins have the bruises to prove it, and that's why I despise these. When you have a ton of people milling about, trying to squeeze through to see tables or just get past, then those of you with these little low profile obstacles really come off as D-Bags. Every time I see someone with one who is browsing a table, their little tote is kicked back behind them right into the lane of foot traffic. Please, if you absolutely must use one for your game, be mindful and keep it out of everyone's way.

But let's say you have streamlined your kit. Well these are popular with the cool kids...

...and I am not one of them. Unless you can keep this load under 5 pounds, this bag is going to make your back hurt. It pulls your spine to one side and two full-sized hardbacks are going to make you suffer needlessly. Satchels only have two things going for them...
  1. They're "in".
  2. Easy access to your books due to the flap over closure.
To me, being cool is about never trying to be cool. Since the pros don't outweigh the cons on this bag, I don't bother with them.

Finally we have the ever popular backpack...

...which I recommend. Distribute that load between both shoulders and your less likely to need the magic fingers in your hotel bed at the end of the day (unless you... well I'll leave that to your judgement).

Most Backpacks have a zipper "clamshell" opening in the top and that frustrates me when I am trying to dig out a book. Go with a flap over (like what is pictured above) if you can and make sure the straps are padded for comfort. You make not look trendy, but your back will be happier.

So now it's time for weight saving.
  • Bring generic wet erase maps like Paizo's flip maps, 1-2 of them preferred, if your game of choice uses tactical combat.
  • Use tokens or figure flats instead of minis and only bring those that you know you will need. Leave the epic army at home.
  • Leave the bucket-o'-dice at home as well. You can make a ritual out of picking your travel dice, sacrifice a character sheet to the dice gods, whatever you feel will make them lucky. Just pare it down to the essentials.
  • Pens, pencils, and a small note book should suffice. I also carry a small sketchbook but that's because I Art.
  • Only those game books you absolutely need to run an adventure. Preferably, you have pdfs loaded into a tablet. If that's not an option, make note sheets from the supplement books of the rules you need for your adventure. Bring the notes and leave the book behind.
  • Make sure there is room for a medium soft drink bottle or water bottle as GMing is thirsty work. Don't load up a 2 liter or a six-pack. In fact if you need flavor in your water before you drink it, carry a bottle and a few of these. They are light weight and water is pretty easy to find. You can get single boxes of them at Walmart as the Amazon site sells them in bulk.
  • Your adventure, either as small notes or the booklet if it's a published piece. They don't usually weigh much.
  • A paper folder for your paperwork. Leave the 3 ring binder at home as it adds weight and bulk that you don't need.
  • And lastly, pre-generated characters. At cons you don't need to waste time as people try to make new characters for a game they are likely to only play once. Also, they'll likely need all of the books for character creation to tweak their character just right and you don't need to haul that load. Still, make sure that you make a variety of characters so the players have choices. Don't just make 4 characters because you have 4 slots open on your table.
And now you're good to go. Like I said, the type of game system you play is going to be the biggest factor in GM encumbrance. Trim the fat as much as possible. Save your back and save room for sweet swag. I'll post my GM's kit as an bonus post sometime this week.

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