Last Updated on May 8, 2023
Whether you’re struggling to find the perfect way to say “thank you” to your forever DM at the end of a long campaign or a very confused parent who wants to be supportive while they wait and see if this whole “pretending to be wizards” thing is a phase like law school turned out to be, this is the guide for you.
How To Buy Stuff For People With Hobbies
I think the best gift you can give your friends is to get “into something,” thus rendering every birthday, Christmas, Arbor Day, or other important points on the festive calendar stress-free occasions. No one needs to worry about what to get you when you have a “thing.” They just get you something to do with that thing. Easy.
My friend Eilish, for example, is really “into” obscure essays about fascism by George Orwell and Winnie the Pooh. My own father loves three things in this world: my mother, cycling, and smoked salmon (probably in that order, with my sister and I coming in a distant 4th). I have been trying to get my wife into a hobby for some years now, and I think I’ve finally cracked it with film photography.
Life is easy when people have the common decency to have a hobby. I never have to stress about what to buy the people I love ever again (as long as George Orwell doesn’t stop writing new essays condemning the Francoist regime… aw nuts) because, as long as I buy them something tangentially related to their personal hobby horse, I’m a good friend/son/husband, and I don’t have to panic about present shopping until the next Arbor Day rolls around.
Though we dungeon masters tend to wear our hobbies pretty proudly on our sleeve tattoos, roleplaying games are still such a niche hobby that buying D&D-related gifts and accessories can be a challenge, even when you’re a player or DM yourself.
So, to help make things easier, here are 6 great D&D (or TTRPG in general) accessories that I’ve received as gifts or bought for myself to help brighten your dungeon master’s special day.
Now, I’m aware that there are quite literally hundreds of thousands of D&D-related accessories out there on places like Etsy, and a lot of accessories guides tend to lean toward mugs saying stuff like “CRIT OUT OF LUCK” and overpriced upcycled glassware full of cheap red dice sold as “health potions.” If you’re into that, more power to you, but I would rather run barefoot over a Nakatomi Plaza full of d4s than read another one of those articles, so I’m sure as hell not going to write one. Anyway.
Here we go.
1. A Good Bag
When I play D&D in person, I rarely do it at my own house — lest I shatter the carefully constructed illusion that I’m not a total dweeb for my wife. I can say with confidence and painful experience that hauling the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and probably Curse of Strahd to every session along with a dungeon master’s screen, a laptop, half a dozen notebooks, and enough dice to reenact the collapsing skull wall scene from Return of the King without an adequate receptacle is just asking for trouble. And, by trouble, I mean back pain.
That’s why having a solid bag that you can fill indiscriminately with all the minis, terrain, snacks, dice, and other D&D essentials as your Cheeto-dusted heart desires but won’t turn your lower back into a battlefield on the walk to your buddy’s house is essential.
Now, it’s important to fit your choice of backpack to your style. Are you a grab-and-go DM, ready to run an eight-hour session with nothing but your phone, a single slim rulebook, and maybe a pocketful of dice? Or do you travel bent double beneath the weight of terrain, hand-painted minis, and metal dice?
Most DMs fall somewhere in the middle, so let’s try and find a few bags to cover the broad spectrum.
The ultra-minimalists can probably already fit everything they need to carry for a session in their pockets anyway, but if you’re in need of an easy carry day bag that you can fill with a few dice and a notebook if necessary (and also works for everyday use), I actually have to recommend either the crossbody bag or fanny pack from Long Weekend Gear.
Yes, it’s a camera bag, but they’re really well made, look great, and work perfectly for dice, notebooks, etc.
Courtesy of Long Weekend
The DM on the go needs to bring a bit more, including a laptop, a rulebook or two, and probably a few dice but not enough to require any super-specialist gear. That’s why a regular day bag (I like the added waterproofing and aesthetic of something like EIKEN’s canvas backpacks) is probably going to be all you need.
The middle ground DM uses maps, battlemats, and probably a few miniatures. They also like to make sure they have a hard copy of the rulebook for players to use and enough dice to get new players on their way to being real nasty dice goblins. A nice medium-volume Herschel duffel bag or maybe the Weekender from Line of Trade (that you can still sling comfortably over a shoulder) is probably the way to go.
The hermit crab built the perfect gaming setup, and by the gods they’re going to make sure everyone experiences it. Something like the Trunab bag lets you carry a frankly obscene amount of RPG gear without totally ruining your future posture.
2. Gaming Paper (and Pens)
If you want an easy secret Santa gift to elevate a more tactically mined dungeon master’s game, try grabbing some map paper from gamingpaper.com. They have huge rolls of squared-off battlemap paper, stranger stuff like isometric paper for DMs who like to get really weird, and even paper “tiles” you can clip together and untether again.
If you’re feeling thrifty, most standard wrapping paper comes with 1″ by 1″ squares on the back that works just as well.
If you’re feeling like you haven’t spent enough money, good pigment liner pens for map making, art, and note taking are a great extra gift. I use either Sakura or Staedler.
3. Artisan Dice
Give your DM the last set of dice they’ll ever need… until they need another pair of course. There are some incredible artisan dice-making studios out there with options for dice made from metal, stone, glass, and gems, but my favorite (I own four sets at this point, including some absolutely gorgeous hand-painted ones that look like Hokusai’s great wave) is Everything Dice.
Courtesy of Everything Dice
4. Regular Dice
Alternatively, if you don’t want to shell out for quality, there’s always quantity. Chessex has been making all sorts of really solid-quality gaming dice for decades, and if you want to bring a smile of childish joy to your DM’s face, check out their Pound-O-Dice.
This one is a little more personal, as I can’t necessarily recommend which miniatures to buy your DM. It depends on the games you play, the campaign, and what’s going on in it. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that if you buy your DM an awesome monster mini, there is a 1,000% chance your party will end up fighting it at some point, so make sure you aren’t digging your own graves.
If you want more generic minis (cool undead, slimy adventurers, an amazing setpiece that mimics the cover of the original AD&D player’s handbook), I wholeheartedly recommend Otherworld Miniatures. I own a whole pile of their stuff, and it’s all gorgeous, hand-sculpted, retro-gaming bliss.
If you want something a little more personal, try Hero Forge, a site for generating and printing your own customized characters.
6. Commissioned Art
Lastly, this is a big one, but nothing commemorates the end of a successful (or, at the very least, memorable) campaign like custom art showing your party together doing what they do best.
There’s an innumerable amount of artists out there to choose from, so picking someone whose style (not to mention prices) matches your needs can be a bit of work, but having something beautiful and custom-made for you all to have (I also heartily recommend turning the art into T-shirts as well with lists of cities you went to down the back like a band tour) and cherish forever is a pretty sick gift.
Courtesy of oxiente-art
That’s everything I can think of when it comes to an outstanding gift/accessory for your dungeon master. Until next time, happy adventuring, folks.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.