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A Shopping List for a Brand New Dungeon Master

When the DM of my regular Wednesday night D&D 5e Adventure’s League game announced that he would be gone for 2 weeks, we faced a dilemma. The rest of the table was all fairly new to the world of D&D and none of them were ready to start running a game, even for a couple of weeks. While they do have a ton of potential, I was the one with the most experience so I stepped up.

And, like any good nerd taking a deep delve into a hobby, it was time to go shopping. So here is my shopping list as a new DM getting back in the game after a long break. I share it with you all but I am also looking for other ideas.

A Dungeon Master Shopping List

First and foremost, if you don’t already have them, you need 2 key books to be a solid DM: the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. They are somewhat self explanatory but allow me to explain anyway.

  • The DM’s Guide is a great study in how to manage and run a game.
  • The Monster Manual is the first collection of monsters, critters and bad guys for the fifth edition.

Having them around as a reference work really helps. (I will say, it is imminently frustrating that I can’t pay Wizards of the Coast a fair price and get a copy of these digitally to save myself some lugging around weight. Other less idealistic DMs might be tempted to download one of the readily available PDFs of the books, but, I, good sirs, am Lawful Good.)

Next up, I knew that we would need some great visual representation of the game. We had come to rely on our DMs expansive set of miniatures and maps. Our game would suffer if I didn’t have a great answer for that. And while it would have been easy enough to use dice or other tokens, I made the investment in some Pathfinder Pawns.

Pathfinder Pawns are a series of miniatures that are printed heavy cardboard and have bases. In a box, you get between 200-300 different characters. So with 2 boxes bought, I had enough to do the encounters I needed and give every character except our Dragonborn friend a pretty good representation.

As for the map, I went with the Chessex map and got the longer version. We are usually playing on two 8 foot tables smashed together and because we have space for the longer map, it lets me draw multiple maps on the board before we have to erase.

And it is worth it to buy the wet erase markers that Amazon will recommend alongside of the map when you go to purchase it.

In terms of other tools, I already owned Hero Lab, as I used it to create and run my characters as a PC. I know that Hero Lab has some fantastic abilities to run encounters via certain modes for DMs but the guys around my table don’t have it yet and I haven’t had time to look through the tutorial videos about it yet. I suspect that I will eventually be using Hero Lab but for now, I am running everything off of an old school Encounter Sheet.

Finally, my vacationing DM in an effort to make it easy for me pointed me to 3 encounters to run during his absence. Both are Adventure’s League encounters from season 3 and I have run 2 of the 3 we will be doing. They have been fun to read through and set up play and I downloaded them from the DMs Guild.

A D&D Shopping LIst

The second adventure went off the rail because we have a character who is strictly in it for Hack and Slash when the adventure called for some roguery and espionage. Also, because of the AL rule where you can change your character in any way up until 5th level, it has made the adventures a little bit difficult to plan for. While I could be a jerk and lock people down into what they are playing next week at the end of the adventure, we are learning to adapt on the fly.  All in all, it has been fun and I won’t mind being the pinch hitter for our awesome DM.

So, you experienced DMs out there, what did I miss? Is there a better way to manage encounters than simply pen and paper? I’d appreciate any help you can lend! Here is a direct link to our Facebook page so you can weigh in.

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