If you are getting started being a Dungeon Master for Dungeons & Dragons, there are a heap of basic office supplies that will make your life way easier. These items are cheap and readily available, so there’s really no reason to not get them. This list is by no means all-inclusive or exhaustive, but it should give you some ideas on where to start.
This list assumes you are playing in person using a physical medium (that is using a game mat and handouts). Of course, every Dungeon Master is different and organizes themselves differently, so feel free to pick and choose what works for you.
The list of essential dungeons and dragons office supplies that I would never DM without is:
Mechanic Pencils + Erasers
You’ll want mechanical pencils with good erasers, so you don’t have to deal with the mess of sharpening. You can use these to write out notes in your notebook as you play, to write on index cards, and also to draw out maps.
You’ll also likely want to have a bunch of spare cheap mechanical pencils for your players. Even if your players are meant to bring their own pencils, they will inevitably forget and it’s very convenient to have a bunch of cheapies spare.
A notebook comes in useful when you’re writing down things as they happen ad-hoc in the game. Things like details of NPCs you make up along the way, locations, or items your players have found. The size of the notebook doesn’t matter too much, a lot of DMs like moleskin notebooks because they feel nice, but just make sure it fits into your backpack comfortably.
3 Ring Binder
A 3 ring binder plus some plastic pockets, subject dividers, and notebook paper to put in there. I like to use the dividers to have separate sections for player character information, adventure preparation, overarching plots, NPCs, printed item cards to hand out, and session notes. A stapler or paper clips is also often good for keeping things together when you take them out of the folder.
If you don’t have a DM screen, an additional binder with some cheat sheets clipped onto it is also a great alternative and likely much cheaper than an official DM screen.
These are good for a bunch of things, writing down items to give to players, writing down player names and hanging over your screen for initiative, and giving players handouts such as notes of pictures. Some DMs even use them to write down monster stat blocks or notes about their locations for easy reference.
Graph paper is useful for drawing maps. Sometimes I spend time online creating a great map using one of the map-making tools that we recommend, but often when I’m pressed for time I like to have graph paper that I quickly sketch a map on before the game.
Whiteboard and whiteboard marker
A small whiteboard and whiteboard market are useful to write down things happening in the game such as initiative rolls or monster HP during battle. It saves on a lot of paper that would otherwise be used for transient information.
If you have a dry-erase battle mat these can also double up as markers that you use on your erasable battle mat, but if you have a wet-erase map you’ll want to make sure to get appropriate wet-erase markers, and not get them confused because the whiteboard markers will stain your mat.
I like to use post-it notes to bookmark particular things in my sourcebooks, rules I refer to often, monsters I’m using for this game, etc. Having a few different colors lets me color code my bookmarks as well.
I also use these to stick notes that I want handy to the DM screen. Sometimes this is a particular rule, player stats such as passive perception, or names of NPCs that I’ve used.
Printer and paper
I use a printer the most for D&D. There are so many things you can print – maps, grid paper, paper miniatures, spell books, magic item cards, initiative cards, character sheets, adventures. See our article on the best D&D printables for my favorites.
I also often grab a piece of paper to use to cover up maps that I’ve drawn on my battle mat, that way I can pre-draw a map but the players can’t see what is coming until they explore the area.
Office Supplies for Paper Miniatures
When I make D&D tokens or paper miniatures there are a few additional things I like to have
- Binder clips – I like to use them as a base for paper miniatures, I find they are better than the printed out paper bases
- Scissors – to cut out the tokens or paper miniatures
- 1″ hole-punch – if I’m making a bunch of tokens, this speeds things up significantly
- Laminator – this is a nice to have, but miniatures are definitely usable without, or you can use the poor man’s laminate and cover them in sticky tape.
Not everything here is necessary to run a good game of D&D, but it does definitely make your life easier.
I’d say the absolute essentials are pencils + erasers and some paper (preferably with some character sheets printed out as well). The binder, a notebook, and some index cards are also super useful.
The rest of the items are really nice to have. Especially having a printer will come in really handy as you can then make a lot of things that are convenient to have when DMing.
Hope this has helped you out with what to pick up next time you are at your local office supply store.