Every year I go to at least one, if not two tabletop gaming centric conventions. A gaming convention is very different from the sort of convention where you are walking from panel to panel or browsing a merch hall for hours. Instead, gaming conventions will have you sitting for two to six hours at a time, with maybe an hour between sessions to plan food, drink, and a god stretch of the legs. My “go bag” that I bring around the convention floor is my lifeline for the event, and a lot of thought goes into what I pack in it. As I’m getting set up for SCARAB this weekend, I thought I’d give you some insight into what I am packing to help with your next con experience.
What to consider:
- Paper and writing implements. Different GMs have different resources. As such, you want to be prepared with your own pens, pencils, erasers, and paper. Frankly, I like a small stash of graphing paper, as this is great for stats blocks or other improv character sheets, yet also works well for any sort of notetaking you might need to do. I love Pilot’s Frixion pens as well as they are a good quality erasable ink pen that works well for editing character sheets.
- Water. Hydrate or suffer, peeps. You are going to be doing a lot of talking and shouting to be heard. Keep that voice of yours in good shape.
- Caffeine. Mid-session, you won’t have time to get up and find coffee. If you are a caffeine lover, consider grabbing a small caffeine source like an energy drink or a small iced espresso can to stick in your bag.
- Snacks. Filling snacks, energizing snacks, salty snacks… Listen, you’re a grumpy player when you are hungry. Make sure your mood isn’t impacted. Try to avoid common allergens like peanut products as a courtesy to others, and maybe bring enough to share. That grump at your table may have skipped lunch to keep playing.
- Hand Sanitizer. Con Crud is a real thing. Clean your hands after handling communal board games or materials. Enough said.
- MEDS! Pain killers for aches, Pepto or Tums for stomach issues, sore throat drops for when your voice is giving out, whatever prescriptions you might need… Bring just enough to keep yourself going through the rest of your session.
- Your ID. If you’re the sort to ditch your full wallet for events, make sure you have your ID with you. It could be important should anything happen to your con badge.
- Dice. I am superstitious about dice, I will admit. Who knows what bad luck is on the communal dice pool at the table? Bringing your own dice will let you know all karma is your own, as well as letting your show off your favorite set. Dice are not just a tool, they’re a fashion statement!
- Cash. There are multiple benefits to having cash on hand for a convention. For one, you can set yourself a budget and force yourself to stick to it more easily if you only use cash. On top of that, cash is great for quickly handing to others if someone is doing a food or coffee run for the table.
- A copy of your convention schedule. Do not rely on digital schedules, especially if you signed up for games in advance! Bring a paper copy of your schedule you can refer to quickly when needed. The digital version may be more up to date on last minute changes, but the paper version will be the perfect backup.
- Battery packs/charger for your phone! Until you have been to a convention a few times, reliably finding an available outlet for your phone can be tricky. Make sure you bring a backup battery if you expect to be using your phone a lot at the convention.
- Bonus points: small dice tray. Over exuberant dice rollers, be courteous to your fellow players and invest in a dice tray of some sort to roll in. Personally, I found some collapsing “trinket keepers” at Target that work wonderfully. Not the most durable of things, but the sides snap and unsnap so you can store it flat in your bag without concern.
If you plan on playing D&D Adventurer’s League, Pathfinder, Starfinder, etc:
- A league legal character! I’ve gone up to league tables before to use one of the pregens they have there for a campaign. Sometimes, though, it is nice to plan ahead. If you have some ideas in mind for potential characters to play, make the character in advance! Go look up the rules for a league legal character and work out your concept in advance. Make sure you communicate to your DM when you reach the table that you’d like to use a character you made and go over your character sheet with them to be sure it is actually legal and ok to play.
If you are going to be running a game:
- Your game supplies… and digital backups. Ok, this is a given… but check multiple times that you have every part of a game you are running before you leave. I also advise popping all digital copies of files you can onto a flash drive or an online storage location so you can emergency print anything that goes missing on site. Most hotels have a business center you can use to get your materials printed last minute.
- Extra paper, pens, dice… You may have prepped for con, but not everyone remembers everything they may need. Bring extras of everything!
What bag you bring is important
Maybe you want a backpack you can easily put a notebook into. Maybe you want a smaller bag which can be tucked securely under your char and won’t weigh too much. What bag you choose for your con experience will change how you pack considerably. Usually if I am running a game, I will use a bigger bag like a backpack to hold all my supplies. Other days I will bring a smaller bag. My go bag for SCARAB this year is actually a fabric bag intended to hold fishing tackle boxes, but I find it the right size for a notebook, a water bottle, some food… whatever else I might need. Bonus, the bag is neon orange, making it easy to spot and recognize at a glance.
Consider your proximity to your room/car
You don’t need to have everything in this list on hand on the con floor. Usually you’ll be in easy range of a hotel room or a car that can act as your external supply cache. If you are taking public transit or have a long walk to get to your belongings, though, you may want to have more on hand at the convention.
Do not over plan so much that you do not have fun!
Your con experience is will not be ruined if you forget one or two things. Honestly, gaming conventions are a great space because players support each other and back each other up if they are missing something like a pen or paper or whatnot. Bring what you are comfortable carrying and just focus on having a good time.