• What do I need? – First Tabletop Session

    by  • August 16, 2013 • Essays • 1 Comment

    It’s your first tabletop session! You’ve picked a game and you’re ready to get your friends together to play. But, wait – what kind of supplies do you need to play a tabletop game?

    Here’s a quick guide to the basic tools for tabletop play. Some of it is dependent on the game, so make sure to look in the introduction to your game to see if there are unique requirements. With this list, you should be set to play most games from the outset!


    Writing Instruments

    It’s always good to have some pencils on hand – and good erasers! Some players prefer mechanical pencils, others prefer woodcase. Having some of both can solve that problem. Some players want to have felt-tipped pens to write on cards, and for some games, you may want dry-erase markers to write on hex maps – more on that below!


    Paper and Writing or Drawing Surfaces

    One of the most valuable tools at a gaming table is index cards! You can find them in any office supply store and most department stores. They are great to write notes on, good for writing aspects on for games like FATE, or even for games like Fiasco to write relationships and needs on.

    It can be useful to have a notepad and graph paper handy. Graph paper can be used in a pinch for drawing maps or for helping set up tactical advantages. You may also want to consider investing in dry-erasable hex maps if you are playing a game with miniatures or just like to have a visual representation for the locations you’re playing in.


    Dice and Cards

    Not all tabletop games use dice, but many do! There are a few basic types of dice. A d6 is a six-sided die and many games use them in dice pools (collections of dice to be rolled together). There are also other polyhedral dice (multiple-sided dice) like d20 (twenty-sided), d10 (ten-sided), d8 (eight-sided), and so forth. It’s good to have a collection of dice available for each player, or a communal dice pool. Most games will indicate what type of dice you will need. You may also want to have cups on hand for rolling large pools of dice.

    Some games use playing cards for creating characters or playing out scenes. You can easily find a set of playing cards online or in most hobby or toy stores. If you end up not using them for your game, they’re always great for a quick pickup game of poker!



    Tokens are fun and useful! A lot of games will use tokens for points to spend in return for extra dice, turn counters, initiative trackers, and other similar uses. Themed tokens are great – glass pieces shaped like gems for treasure or resource tokens, poker chips for wild West themed games, and some players even use shell casings or smooth stones. Because so many games use tokens, it’s good to have them on hand.


    Snacks and Drinks

    Depending on how long you are playing, you may want to have snacks and drinks on hand. Most tabletop sessions run for a couple of hours, so having water, juice or soda, chips, and/or fresh vegetables available keeps people alert and involved. Make sure to check to see if any of your players have allergies – you don’t want an emergency interrupting your play. Even though you may be hosting, it’s normally a good idea to have everyone pitch in and bring something along. You can even get adventurous and have themed snacks – just look up foods related to the time period or setting you’re playing in and have at!


    Surfaces, Environment, and Seating

    It’s important to have a good, comfortable space for players. Make sure that you have a table large enough for the whole group, and seats for everyone. Trying to play in an area that is well-lit and can be environmentally controlled (with air conditioning or heating) is important, too. If your players are comfortable playing in more comfortable seatings like couches, make sure to have a hard surface for them to roll dice on if they need to – you can have a central low table, or just let people use individual trays or clipboards.


    Last, bring along a good attitude and enthusiasm for the game. It can be intimidating to learn new rules and try out a game for the first time, but it can really be worth it if you have fun and spend good time with your friends. Be careful, though – just like potato chips, it’s hard to stop after just one!




    I'm a 25 year old admin assistant from around Pittsburgh, PA. I am married, work and attend college concurrently, and have been tabletop gaming for about 8 years. I blog (very, very periodically), and write unpublished short stories. I play tabletop RPGs, board games, and both casual and RPG video games. I live for the social part of gaming, but do enjoy a good explosion, and am learning the ropes of creating worlds in which people can play.


    One Response to What do I need? – First Tabletop Session

    1. avatar
      August 23, 2013 at 17:27

      Another thing that can help is a clear timeline/start-up procedure (when people will show up, time for explanation/rules discussion, time for recap from the previous game, character background discussion, etc), scheduled breaks, and a definite time to stop. I can play a game all day, but I know that’s exhausting for some players (like my partner) and it seems to really help to have a defined period for the game. And a schedule helps so much for keeping things on track and making sure everyone’s on the same page and let’s people plan accordingly.

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