Over the years, I’ve used and experimented with a ton of different notebooks, pencils, pens, and erasers for gaming. I’m almost as much of a notebook and writing implement geek as I am a bag geek, and I enjoy the hunt for the perfect thing as much as I enjoy the satisfaction of finding something that comes close.
I’ve used the same pencil and eraser for about a year now, and they’re perfect for me in every way. I’ve used my current notebook for just over a year and a half, and ditto.
I’m a big Moleskine (paid link) fan, so for the past several years my gaming notebooks have always been Moleskines.
I’ve found that the hardcover ones don’t offer me much more durability (the softcovers are plenty tough), and what little they do offer comes at the expense of comfort while writing — they’re too stiff to lay flat easily. I also used to use smaller ones (easier to pack, right?), but they made my hands cramp because they didn’t give me enough room to write.
The extra large, ruled, softcover Moleskine notebook (paid link) solves both problems: It lays flat, making it easy to write in, and it’s large enough (7.5″x10″) to make taking notes a breeze.
For the money, Moleskine makes a durable, high-quality notebook. The bookmark is handy, as is the elastic closure. They feel good in-hand, and they’re a pleasure to write in. I don’t bother using a pen for gaming notes anymore, but when I did I sometimes found their paper a bit thin for that, depending on the pen.
(Yes, I have terrible handwriting. All-caps is the only way anyone can read my notes, including me.)
The pencil and eraser
After mocking one up in paper so I could confirm that it wouldn’t be too short, I splurged on a Kaweco Brass Sport pencil (paid link) with 0.7mm leads. I’m 6’0″, and it’s just the right length for my rather large hands. It doesn’t look like it’d be long enough, but my grip ignores the back third of most pencils/pens anyway, and that’s all that’s missing from the Sport.
Brass is one of my favorite metals, particularly for things I use often, in large part because it patinas. I’ve entirely failed to capture the patina in my photos, but it’s there and I think it’s lovely.
I love the styling, but it’s also functional in a minimalist way: It’s a comfortable pencil to use, even for long periods. It only holds two spare leads, which isn’t the end of the world (though I’d prefer more), and it doesn’t have an eraser.
Lacking an eraser doesn’t bother me, since I’m happy to use a separate, much longer-lasting, stick eraser — specifically, the rOtring Tikky eraser (paid link). Absolutely everything about this eraser is perfect, and it’s miles better than any other stick eraser I’ve used.
Before I switched to that pair, I used a Pentel Side FX 0.7mm pencil (paid link). I still swear by these as disposable options, and I keep this one in my gaming bag as a loaner/backup.
I’ve used it for so long that the lettering has rubbed off, because it’s the best pencil of its kind I’ve ever used. It holds a half-dozen leads in the body, the grip is comfortable, and the action is perfect.
The twist ring at the top controls the retractable eraser, and the button on the side advances the lead. Those are both a big deal, because crappy pencils don’t have a retractable eraser (whereas this one lasts for years), and the lead is advanced by pushing the eraser — often, in my experience, while erasing.
These are little things! But little things make the difference between the almost-right tool and the tool that’s perfect for you. These are perfect for me, and I highly recommend all of them.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.