Frugal GM Essential GM Gear: Staedtler Non-Permanent Pens
I will not cover dice though, because I have mentioned before I'm a bit of a dice snob and that is one thing too many GMs and players hold precious. I might as well try to stoke an edition war.....nope, just not gonna happen.
An essential part of my GM bag for any game is a good set or two of Staedtler marking pens. You can sometimes find these at the office supply store, over with the overhead projectors and presentation supplies, but the best place to get them is a "good" art store. Not some run-of-the-mill big box arts & craft place, (although they may have some) but the kind of place art students would go to.
These pens simply rock. There are several sizes: Super-fine (0.4mm), Fine (0.6 mm), Medium (1.0 mm), and Broad (1.0-2.5 mm chisel tip). I use the heck out of the Medium, but keep a Fine set around for occasional use. The four-pack shown above is my go-to set and I pick up an extra black once in a while.
The black is more of an extremely dark purple, but you'd only notice that when cleaning up. These are water soluble, but I use rubbing alcohol because that seems to do an even better job on some of my game mats that really like to hold the ink. I've found the medium to be perfect for normal drawing on my battlemats and the fine pens are what I use if I'm jotting down notes that I need to be able to quick erase.
One small thing I really liked regarding these pens was that they were really easy to distinguish from each other. The cap and end of each pen is color-coded and the barrel itself is color coded. The non-permanent pends have a grey barrel and the permanent ones are black. Not as easy to distinguish is the tip size, which is indicated by a large letter near the bottom of the pen.
These pens retail for about $10 for a set, but I normally pick them up for about $6-7 at the art store. I've yet to actually have a pen run out as I'm more likely to lose it.....and I don't lose pens that often.