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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

The Lunchtime Game Master's Toolkit

by Ken Newquist / September 21, 2010

 RPG Blog CarnivalWhen some co-workers and I decided to try our hand at a lunch-time role-playing campaign, I knew that game prep was going to be critical to making it work. But not the sort of game prep I normally did; this was all about the physical game prep.

We're playing The Day After Ragnarok using the Savage Worlds rules, and thanks to Ken Hite's numerous adventure generation tables, the scenarios practically write themselves. No, the part the essential part of making this campaign work was making sure I knew where my towel was.

Dice. Initiative cards. A battle map. Miniatures. I have all of this stuff in my game room ... but we're not playing there. We're in an under-ventilated, odd-smelling basement conference room whose only virtues are privacy, a table, and a dry erase board.

 The packed version of the Lunchtime Game Master's KitMy solution was to bring my game room with me ... or at least the pieces I needed. I dug out an old Batman lunchbox (which had held plastic HeroQuest miniatures during my Friday group's D&D days). I then gathered everything I'd need for the game:

  • Monsters/generic NPCs minis for the adventure
  • Character-specific minis for the PCs
  • A set of dice, with an extra d6 for the Wild Die
  • My Chessex Roman Numeral d12s, which I use as placeholders/counters
  • A stack of poker chips for bennies
  • Red gaming stones for wound tokens
  • Dry erase markers
  • My deck of over sized Savage Worlds playing cards
  • Index cards
  • A small spiral-bound notebook
  • Short pencils
  • A 3' tape measure

All of the dice, minis, chips and tokens went into ziplock bags, which in turn were packed into the lunchbox. So did the rest of the supplies, making it a dense little package, but one that has almost everything I need to run the game. The other essentials -- my Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition rule book, The Day After Ragnarok campaign guide and a small RPGA battle map -- go into my messenger bag. My game notes are either on the spiral-bound notebook or my laptop; both go in the messenger bag.

 The unpacked version of the Lunchtime Game Master's KitI can setup and breakdown the gaming kit in about five minutes, which is essential when you've only got 60 to play with. It's worked out well -- since I leave the kit at work, I never scramble for supplies and always arrive with everything I need. Hell, the hardest part of the game is actually remembering to bring my lunch.

There is some room for improvement. I'd like to add another set of dice to the kit to cover for players who might forget theirs and I want to write-up some index cards with PC stats on them. The battle map is a little awkward -- I have to roll it and then fold it in half to fit it in my messenger bag. I'm thinking of getting one of Paizo's Flip Maps instead, which fold down to a more convenient (and flat) 8x10 rectangle. I'd also like to upgrade the lunch box; Batman's cool, but The Empire Strikes back is so much cooler...

This article is part of the "Preparation - Everything or Nothing?" RPG Blog Carnival topic being hosted by Fame & Fortune.

Comments

I love lunchtime games. At a previous employer we tackled the World's Largest Dungeon.

Another item for your equipment list might be a camera. We had a hard end time because meeting rooms would be booked. So we'd take a snapshot of mid-combats for rapid setup next game to resume.

If I were to run a lunch game again, I'd be tempted to bring my home laptop and use virtual game table software. When lunch ends I'd just save and close. Instant resume next time.

Love the lunch pail!

Nice to see a travelling game kit broken down like that. I can see the benefit of having that kind of set up for demo games as well.

I can vouch for the index card system, I've used them for recurring NPCs in quite a few games and it works well - a Hipster PDA is a good addition to any GM's kit.

Thanks for your addition to the Carnival! :)

I can see how the World's Largest Dungeon could make a good lunch time game, especially if you could play a few times a week. I can also see how a digital camera would be essential to keeping track of the state of the map.

Everyone in the group (except for me) has a decent camera phone, and we use those if we need to get a snap shot of the map for the next game. If we didn't have those, a camera would definitely be a worthwhile addition.

I've thought about using an iPad as a virtual tabletop, but it's not quite big enough for that IMHO. If we had a data projector in the meeting room though, virtual game table software might be really helpful, especially if I had a bunch of pre-gen maps. Campaign Cartographer 3 has been unused for far too long. :)

I've never had a formal Hipster PDA in my GM Toolkit, but I can see how it would be handy for keeping track of campaign notes and such.

I primarily use index cards for tracking initiative (when we play Star Wars), creating character name tents, and posting conditional modifiers for all to see (by folding the card, writing the modifier in big text on one side, and then hanging it on my GM screen or laptop).

Thanks for hosting the Carnival!

Ditto on CC3. Add in Fractal Mapper 8.

For the iPad, I'd go virtual, as well. You are right at 1" scale being too unwieldy.

Our meeting rooms had projectors. I'd use virtual mapping with tokens on the iPad hooked up to a projector, and that'll give you unlimited battlemat space.

Even doing this with the iPad on the table would work, if you could handle lunchtime greasy fingers on your screen. :)

Do you have an iPad? Any fave apps?

I don't have an iPad, but one of the guys in my group does, and I have played around with one at work.

I think the single best app for gaming is the Goodreader (http://www.goodiware.com/goodreader.html) which is a third-party PDF reader. It lets you load PDFs via iTunes, and then sync them to the device. It then handles the display on the iPad, and it looks really, really sharp. The only negative was that they hadn't gotten the page flip mechanic down -- it relied on you to scroll the page up and down, rather than flipping left to right, but I know they were going to fix that.

I plan on getting an iPad as soon as a) I save up enough money for one and b) the 2nd rev is released, hopefully with integrated USB and a camera.

That's a nice setup. I really wish I had co-workers who played. I wish I had co-workers my age!

How do you like the The Day After Ragnarok campaign guide? I've been wanting to start a Savage Worlds game for the weeknights and never found a setting that was different from our weekend games that suited me. This however, seems like something my group would like. Thoughts on it?

Also, I see you're from Easton, PA. I live in Havertown, PA, not too far from you. My gaming group and I recently started our own podcast which you might find interesting as well... http://www.FlagonsAndDragons.com. Stop by and say hello!

-Carl

Thanks -- I'm glad to you liked it. My big advantage is that I work in IT at a college, so there's a lot of like-minded and like-aged folks around. That said, it took me 5 years to get the game together.

I love The Day After Ragnarok. It's a good mix of mythology, weirdness, and guns. Never forget the guns. :) If you're looking for a little Road Warrior, a little Conan, and a little Indiana Jones all mixed together, this is your game. Those elements also help differentiate it from your run-of-the-mill science fiction, fantasy and post-apocalyptic games.

I've got a full review here:

http://www.nuketown.com/games/reviews/the-day-after-ragnarok

As for the podcast -- cool! I've added it to iTunes, and I look forward to giving it a listen. It's always good to find another Pennsylvania podcast, especially when it's a game podcast.

Are you guys thinking about going to MEPACon? It's coming up in November, and the Blackrazors should have a sizable contingent there.

http://www.mepacon.com/

I'm running Ragnarok, Star Wars and Pathfinder there.

After reading the review, how can I not order that? I own systems and settings for all that, but not one system that has it all. It might be good incentive to actually run a Savage Worlds game here and there.

I might be able to get our Necromunda and Dark Heresy player to try something new.

As for MEPAcon, I'm considering coming. I'm going to chat with the organizers to see how they'd feel about us recording a bonus episode at the con and maybe promoting the con on our show.

If I do make it point to come, I'll definitely have to look you up.

Thanks again!

-Carl

You may need to wait a bit for the print version of Ragnarok for Savage Worlds. Apparently it's out of print right now, but according to the Atomic Overmind forums, they're working on that.

A MEPACon show would be cool, and definitely look me up if you end up going.