Ask the readers: Tools of the trade, RPG book transportation!


I’m on the last leg of my current Mutants & Masterminds Dawn of a New Age campaign. It’s gone on longer than I planned and we are having a blast, I am really pleased with the campaign and once we finish I plan on doing a retrospective for the blog. But the campaign has a few months to go, so this is not the post mortem.

However, I am planning to return to my Pathfinder Swashbuckling campaign and unlike Mutants & Masterminds where combats are abstract and narrative and I get along with just two books and dice. For Pathfinder I bring along a few more books, and I use maps and miniatures, and I have all the cool goodies I got at Gen Con, Paizo GameMastery cards… Well you get the picture, I need a cart. So as I begin to plan for the eventual return to my campaign I need to do some planning.

We used to play at my house so I had all my books and minis at hand. That setup was ideal, but we can’t play here right now. We have a sweet place at a friend’s house/office, that we call “The Lair”. My Colossal Red Dragon is already there, so I’m pretty sure I could leave some of my minis there. Other groups play there during the week so there are markers and erasable boards, and I think I’ll leave some of the goodies I have there, within reason, the place IS used for something else than gaming!

I’ll be bringing my laptop along, these days I don’t GM without it. It has its own case and I do ALL my note taking there, so that’s covered.  What I need to do is find a tool to transport my books!

I’ve tried all sorts of options. Lugging around two backpacks, leaving books where we play, a trunk with all my D&D 3rd edition books that I pulled in a cart (I kid you not!). So what are my options? I’ve thought about a book bag with wheels, a wheeled computer case, the Bag of Holding Messenger Case (with a great review here!). Ideally it will hold my big core Pathfinder books, some mini cases, my dice, maps…

What do you use? How do you transport your books? Looking forward to your suggestions…

20 thoughts on “Ask the readers: Tools of the trade, RPG book transportation!”

  1. Just… don’t. Use a rules light system OR play at home. If you can handle all that crappy logistics AND concentrate on DMing, do it, but I’ve tried and failed (never the right mini and/or book at hand). Or, if you’ve got you’re laptop anyway maybe use e-books exclusively. I never tried that, but I use a PC at home because I loathe all that books… and Pathfinder = Combat Manager by Kyle Olson. There is nothing better.

    1. I actually tried him to use rules-light systems before, but his players love the crunchy stuff. There’s nothing we can do.
      But if he needs to lug around all those heavy hardcover books I can wholeheartedly recommend ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding. I got mine in 2010 and aside from some minor issue with one of the zippers it’s still in great condition and I am always amazed how much you can cram into that bag.

    2. The thing is my players like crunch, so going rules light is unlikely.

      The group is too big to play at home right now, its 8 people with me, we simply needed a bigger space.

      I get all the the Pathfinder books in PDF as well as the physical book, and the Reference Document is awesome, since I already use my laptop all the time it may be the way to go.

      Thanks for the commnet…

  2. I used to lug around a whole bunch of books, but then I converted to using a laptop/tablet. And since Pathfinder has PDF versions for many (if not all) of their books, you’d be all set.

    1. I got them on PDF, however there are some books, the core (rule book, bestiary, ultimate book), that get a lot of use during the game that I would love to have handy… Decisions, decisions!

  3. a) only carry things that you own uniquely — rely upon the host and other players to have the common things. Yes, you might need to have more than one core rule book at the table, so rely upon multiple players to bring them. You as the GM are not a librarian for everyone to mooch off of. You’re just as much “one of the group”, so spread out the book burden across that group.

    b) convert/re-buy as much as you can to PDF and/or ebook, letting you add copious bookmarks and mark-up notes as a bonus. And you can still own the physical copy (at home) for the pleasure of leafing through it. You might even end up being able to ditch the laptop for a tablet (esp. if you can borrow a bluetooth keyboard at your host’s location), lightening your load a bit that way, as well.

    c) you don’t need to carry an entire rulebook for 1 or 2 pages of creature/magic-item/etc.. Not even for the books you can’t find in PDF/ebook. All-in-One printers allow you do just photocopy the pages you need for this session, and then scribble your notes on the margins or back-side of that. That’s probably a good 80% of book-bloat right there — carrying 100’s of pages of books when you’ll probably only need 10-20% of them. While it is a little wasteful on the paper, that’s what recycling is for. Though, you may find that you’ll re-use some of those pages a bit, so wait til the campaign is over before you do so.

    d) you could always get a small/medium wheeled suitcase (the kind with a telescoping handle), and maybe construct some form of book-case inside it. That gives you some amount of structure and portability. Then you can even put your smaller book-bag on top of that (hugging the telescoping handle) as you’re walking it along.

    If you’re willing to spend a bit of cash, Maxpedition makes some good durable bags with lots of modularity and pockets. I use them for my gadget bags. And they DO make 1 of those rolling suitcases (but not with internal shelves, sorry). And they make a couple bags that will slide over its handle, seamlessly. With tons of pockets and organizers for dice, pens, etc. If you go down the “buy a special suitcase” for it, I highly recommend looking at their products (and feel free to contact me for brainstorming about their products). But, like I said, they’re a bit expensive. IMO, they’re also worth it.

    1. Thanks, that’s some good advice. the host and some of the other players have the books so we just might split the book around. Option D is also good… Love the Maxpedition bags, I did not know them, thanks for the heads up!

    1. That’s typically my set up, I use a combination of online and PDF, but the players use the book all the time. And I do love using the Bestiaries in book form.

  4. Back when my Dad and I took all our books to conventions with us we both used wheely-cases. I have two, a beat up ballistics nylon one I used at school to carry textbooks, and a nice leather one I used at conventions for gaming books. He has a red one that he still uses, though we have both moved away from carrying so much stuff.

    His looks like, roughly:**/fyVMtP8A but they come in all shapes and sizes. I can give you more details on the three we own if you are interested.

  5. In the distant past we had a room that was exclusively for games in my friends basement. We rarely played anywhere else. There were no distractions other than doritos and mountain dew.

    Now I have a duffel bag that carries everything for one game and a small backpack for our other game. The Duffel bag is quite heavy so it tends to be moved only when absolutely necessary.

    If you need a lot of space, a hockey duffel might work. For books and miniatures, maybe a mobile tool chest would work. They normally have trays to hold small items and then a large cavity for larger items. Probably on the heavy side of the options though.

    1. I already store my obscene amount of minis in mobile tool chests, I should take pictures of those. (Yeah I have two wheeled tool boxes of D&D minis, a small hand carried one for Heroclix, and other assorted modern minis, and a trunk of Star Wars minis, including the ships.)

  6. What I find works best is I have a normal backpack, and a file box ( With Pathfinder, your core books are heavy hard covers, while your supplements are softcover, thinner books. I toss the softcovers, my maps, character sheets, notes, and decks into the File box, and then my hardcovers and my bead case ( full of miniatures and counters goes into the backpack. Toss on your backpack, carry the box with one hand, and it leaves your other hand to carry lunch, open doors, pick your nose, etc.

    Standard backpack on sale at JCPenney’s for $40, File Box was $15 at WalMart, and the Bead Case I got at a craft store for $7, I think.

    1. Already have a combination of all those things, I used the exact same craft boxes for my minis, and backpack and file boxes form work, I may just be able to re-purpose…

  7. With both Pathfinder and M&M, I’ve found that the combination hard-cover/electronic method worked best for me. Usually that means a laptop with the support PDFs and then hard cover versions of the core books. When last I played M&M I would use support PDFs for prep but then only bring the Pocket Player’s Guide and the Pocket Ultimate Power with me to the table.

  8. I came across this on Google so I thought I would add my two cents: Don’t feel pressured to use digital if you don’t want to. I have found that its much slower to use, even with references. I actually ban the use of electronics as no one EVER has their spells ready and I am constantly waiting for people to find what they want to do on their turn. They are good for references but books are the best way to go. Typically players only need the main player’s book to do anything…everything else should already be on their character sheets to begin with. Leveling is different and they can do that on their on time between sessions.

    1. sammo21 thanks for dropping by and reading the post… Since I wrote the post we’ve had some changes in the group composition. I have one player who runs his whole character off his tablet, he’s very tech savvy and actually is always on top. Two player are trying to use digital tools, one more efficiently than the other BUT funny enough I’ve found we have LESS distractions from tech devices recently. Don’t really have an explanation other than at high level play they need to be on top of the action to know what to do…

      Again thanks for reading!

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