Like a lot of gamers, I’m sort of hell to buy presents for. Everyone’s first instinct is to get me a game or some sort of gaming accessory. Which is delightful if they are fellow gamers, as they usually have some idea of what I enjoy and what items I might need or want. If they aren’t, it can end in my smiling my way through unwrapping Monopoly: Twilight Edition (I don’t think it exists, but give them time) and promising we’ll play sometime soon.
So if you’re a non-gamer buying something for your gaming friends or family, or even a fellow gamer who wants to do something a little different this holiday season, I have some ideas for you. While not directly nerdy in and of themselves, all these suggestions are certainly nerd adjacent, useful to anyone in the tabletop hobby.
Mugs and Glassware – Nerds drink things! It makes sense, then, to buy them things from which to drink. A bit of web searching will lead you to very nerdy mugs and glassware, with pictures, logos, or quotes suitable to your nerd’s favourite game. But you don’t need to go full nerdy, it can be enough to gift them some particularly useful beverage container. Have a friend who is a busy GM on the go? Buy them a really good quality travel mug for their hot/cold beverage of choice while on the move. Does your board gaming friend not drink at the table for fear of spilling on their games? There are any number of wide-bottomed or non-spill glasses and mugs available, so they don’t have to camel their way through your next Pandemic: Legacy session. I was always complaining that game mastering is thirsty work, so a friend bought me a 32-oz covered thermos mug into which I could put ice and about 3-4 cans of my favourite fizzy beverage. It is now my container of choice for those long gaming sessions.
Journals – TTRPG players take notes. TTRPG game masters take notes. We love getting cool journals and notebooks to keep those notes. You may think that, if we love taking notes so much, we may already have enough journals and this is a poor gift. You would be wrong. Like dice, no gamer can have enough journals. We will hoard them like a dragon hoards gold, and they are more comfortable to sleep on. Journals come in a wide variety of styles and price points, so you are always going to find something your gamer friend will love that fits your budget. And if you are craft-inclined, you can dress up a relatively inexpensive journal with a custom cover, or even find a YouTube bookbinding video and make one from scratch. Pair that with a nice pen or two, and your friend will be over the moon!
Office Supplies – This is more for the game masters than the players, but helping you game master out by bulk buying them materials they use for your game sessions is a great gift. And it’s something you can organize with the members of your game, and do as a fabulous group gift. Nothing says thank-you to your GM quite like a big stack of 1” square flip charts with coloured markers for all their map-making needs, or some good quality binders with dividers to keep all their campaign notes organized. And if you aren’t sure what exactly to get them, all office supply stores have gift cards. While I don’t normally suggest them, in this case it won’t go to waste.
Home Decor – In the age of Etsy and Thinkgeek, it is possible to find home decor items to suit any flavour of nerd, and tabletop gaming is no exception. If it can be crafted, you can find a gaming version of it. Clocks, pillows, blankets, table clothes, lamps, decorative containers…the list is endless. This is another area in which the crafty among you will excel, making the perfect custom gift. Like the idea, but can’t think of anything specific and don’t feel you’re that crafty? Fine, here’s a simple gift you can make quickly, easily, and at little expense. Go to your local craft store and pick up a plain wooden box (they will have several kinds, pick the one that speaks to you) and some Mod Podge (get the kind for decoupage. Ask a clerk for help.). Either print some appropriately nerdy art from the internet, or find books and magazines you can tear pages from. Follow the basic steps in this video, and turn that box into a nerdy decorative item. Your friend will love it, you’ve learned a crafty new skill, and the only downside is you having to fight the urge to decoupage everything.
Con Pass – Have a local gaming con you know your friend will love? Pick them up a pass when you get yours and let them know you both have plans that weekend. Not only does this gift get you both gaming, but it helps support your local gaming community. Better yet, make arrangements to volunteer together at your local gaming convention, whether that’s running a game or helping out in other ways. It costs you nothing but time, and if you know your friend has wanted to but been stalling, this is a great low-pressure way to get them out there.
Prep a One-Shot – This is the perfect gift for the busy GM in your group. Prep a one-shot adventure you can run on a moment’s notice. The next time your GM is looking a little worn down, or mentions they might want to take a break, bust it out. This doesn’t have to be a surprise gift, either. You can get them a nice card, and craft up a voucher (extra glittery for the win!) good for One Game Session. That way your busy GM friend might avoid GM burnout a little better, knowing they have a session in their pocket they don’t have to prep.
These are just a few ideas for nerdy gifts your gaming friends will love, a little outside the usual run of games and dice. What ideas do you have for nerd adjacent gifts? Drop them in the comments section!