The basic toolsThe Very first thing you will want before you go down the DM rabbit hole is to read the Lazy Dungeon Master from The Slyflourish Blog. This is an utterly fantastic work and should be something that is a part of the 5e DMG guide. You would do yourself a great disservice if you play or DM games and never read this. You can get both PDF's and or print copies.
Return of The Lazy Dungeon Master
The original book, The Lazy Dungeon Master
I've already mentioned this in a previous blog post here but it goes without saying that this is the main book I use to draft my ideas for game sessions. Unlike online solutions, forcing myself to put pen to paper greatly focuses what you are going to do in the next session. It also is small enough to fit behind your DM screen and you won't have to lug around a laptop or tablet.
Code and Quill Notebook
G2 pens in black and red
The best deal for getting into 5e specifically if you don't care about the starter set is to get the boxed set that has all three core books and the new version of the DM screen. The newer DM screen is much more usable than the first printing and this box set has all the errata from the last 5 years into print.
If you aren't going to just use theater of the mind picking up a battlemat and some wet erase pens is a must. A few tips on using the mat. 1 roll it out the night before if it is the first time using it and flatten it out. 2. Keep folks from putting their drinks or snacks on the table. 3. Keep some glass cleaner like windex on hand as well as a rag to wipe it down after each use.
Staedtler water based pens
One tip I received awhile back was to have something physical to give players especially for inspiration. If you are running any type of fantasy based game I found these coins from Norse Foundry to be the best of the bunch. They have a good heft and presence during the session. Norse Foundry has a great site as well with a ton of other choices if that one doesn't float your boat.
Index cards. For sure the most versatile item at the table. It is something you might have laying around the house if you are a student or have kids. They can be found literally everywhere and I highly suggest you use them. There are a few ways you can use them to speed up play and cut down on page flipping physical or digital.
The first of these is a basic initiative tracker. Each player and the DM gets a card. On the side that faces players write out their character name, and for you just put DM. On the back include their real name, the character name, AC, race/class, and passive wisdom perception score.
You can also use them for monster cards, especially if you are rolling on a wandering monster table this can give you a quick and easy reference instead of flipping back and forth in the book. If you have purchased any of the gale force nine spell cards you can paper clip them to each monster, further cutting down the time needed.
The last way I found to be really useful was an NPC cheat sheet. Columns in this order, name, occupation, distinguishing feature, motivation. Keep it to one word. Number each row and roll the appropriate dice or pick from a list. To help you remember draw a line from one row to another hitting each column.
Despite all these physical tools it is good to have some digital ones as well. The ones that I've used the most are the following.
1. Google Drive - I know there are alternatives but this is my go to for uploading and tracking my growing collection of PDF's.
2. The Tiny Scanner App. If you have anything you have written or drawn in your code and quill notebook you can use this app to scan it and produce a PDF very quickly.
3. Homebrewery Natural Crit. A fantastic site that allows you to use HTML and CSS to make your content int he same style as the 5e aesthetic. I've used this primarily for player handouts to make them look better.
MinisBEWARE! Once you go down the miniature path your transition to full neck beard will be complete. I was lucky enough to be encouraged by my wife to actually start painting minis. I can tell you that even just painting one for each session really made the players excited to see how my own talent progressed but also what type of cool character this person was.
There are several cheaper options I've seen online. Using old cheap magic cards and cutting or punching them out, free papercraft minis printed on cardstock from resources online. One of the cheap options I've used to make some cheap tokens is to take old bottlecaps and painters tape. Draw a chevron on the tape to indicate the front and back of the mini. Just make sure you wash them first. Nothing worse than beer/soda funk!
The easy way to get started in mini painting my opinion is to buy the Reaper learn to paint bones kit. Reaper makes minis with a type of plastic that can be dropped and manhandled at the table and don't break. Some people don't like the sculpts and they aren't the "official" Whiz Kid minis. But the build quality is far superior. They also run several kickstarters if you want to buy in bulk. Their site has a great selection, go check it out. If that doesn't float your boat and you want more detailed resin models, check out ebay for warhammer model lots. You can glue together several models (kit bashing) and make your own unique allies and enemies.
Don't worry too much about brush selection when you first start. Everyone's minis are hot trash when they first paint. Use the brushes in the starter set above and if you blow through them Citadel or these Army Painter guys will work just fine.
Ok so you've got the brushes and paints and some minis. But now you need to hold them in some way so you don't smear the paint. The quick and dirty way is to use an old cork from a wine bottle or pill bottle and dump some sticky tack on top. Anything that you can hold it with, even a piece of scrapwood is fine. If you want a fancy handle I would go with the Citadel brand. I've used it many times and it has worked out great. Just beware if you have a Heroforge mini you can end up bending the square plastic bases due to the pressure of the springs.
There are tons of tutorials online and a quick browse of the many youtube channels will give you a glut of information. The two I've found to be the most helpful and easy to digest are
Tabletop Minions and, Miniac
Also, Sam Lenz has a great style and laid back attitude that makes his online tutorials on Tabletop Minions easy to follow. You can also check out his blog here.
Audio ambiancePrevious blog post here has you covered.
InspirationIf you need some inspiration / audio or video content to nerd out on I'd suggest the following channels and sites.
Web DM, two dudes talking about D&D, rules and classes, lore and more.
Gauntlet RPG podcast, great reviews of mostly OSR style modules and ways to run games from two veterans.
WASD 20 for rules help and map making
Thanks for reading! Comment below if you have any suggestions on things to add to this list.