Oh here he is! Finally, let’s get this show on the road! Yeah, I want to stab some monsters already! Well, uh, actually I have an announcement.
Holy crap, he can talk! Wait, does he have speaking written on hischaracter sheet? I’m not going to be a warlock anymore.
I’m to roll up a new character and be adruid.
Now, you do realize that druids don’t wearblack, don’t you? Yeah, druids wear green.
That’s a good point.
How’s this? That’s pretty good, but you’re still missinga little something.
Okay, how about this? Hey now, that’s—that’s my personal logo! You—you can’t use that! Sure he can.
And he won’t be needing this any more either.
You’re all a bunch of thieves! I quit! Welcome to the DM Lair.
I’m Luke Hart, and I’ve been a dungeonmaster since high school.
On this channel I give practical dungeon masteradvice that you can implement at your table.
Today in the Lair, we’ll be talking abouttwo prepare a D&D game, but before we jump in, I want to let all my patrons and membersknow that I’m doing another one-shot giveaway where four of you will get to play a sessionof D&D with me as your dungeon master.
There’s a link down in the description whereyou can sign up.
And if you’re not currently a patron ormember but want to get in on the giveaway (and receive access to lots of other perks), you can become one by visiting my Patreon page (link below) or by clicking that shinyJOIN button down below this video.
I’ll leave the giveaway open for a coupleweeks to give folks a chance to sign up.
Anyway, on to how to prepare a D&D game.
What I’m going to do is discuss 10 gameelements that are important to prepare before your game starts.
These are the things that are going to allowyou to roll into your session ready to run an awesome game for your players and not fallon your face like a newb.
Not that falling on your face like a newbis bad or anything.
I mean, it’s not like your players are goingto mock you ruthlessly until you run home crying or anything.
Your players will never remind you of thetime you forgot to give your Big Bad a name and just called him Tim – okay, let’sjust move on, shall we? Oh, and I’d like to quickly dispel the notionthat preparing for your game equates to railroading your players.
Railroading is when there is only one solutionto a problem, and no matter what else your players try, it fails.
And the players are ultimately driven to dothe one thing the dungeon master decided was the “correct” solution.
As long as you’re giving your players theability to solve adventures their own way, you’re not railroading.
You’re just preparing for your game so youdon’t look like a moron who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
And for what it’s worth, I’ve been thatmoron plenty of times, and now I’m trying to spare you that experience.
Here is the Golden Rule of game preparation:Prepare only what you don’t want to have to improvise at the game table.
If you can improvise it, consider not preppingit at all.
You should know yourself.
You should know what you are good at and whatyou are bad at.
Prepare the things you suck at, or that aremore difficult to come up with on the fly.
Spend your time getting that stuff figuredout and squared away.
The stuff that comes easy to you, and youcan just pull out and plop down with zero prep, don’t worry about that crap.
And now I’m going to give you MY LIST ofthe things I find most important to prepare before a game session.
Your list may be different, but I think theseare all important considerations at the very least.
This is in a rough list of priority, meaningthat if I’m short on time, I might do the ones listed first, and then forgo with therest.
Oh, and if you have any questions about thistopic or anything else dungeon master or D&D related, I have live streams here on YouTubeevery Friday at 6 pm Eastern US time.
The first couple hours all I do is answerquestions, so swing on by.
#1 – MapsYeah, I am not going to improvise a map on the fly.
No stinking way.
I need to have a map of the dungeon to runan adventure—unless, of course, I want my dungeon to be a lame series of unimaginativerooms and corridors.
Here’s a quick tip for busy DM’s, too:steal stuff from the internet.
If you need a map in a pinch, you are buta Google search away from what you need.
In fact, even most of my homebrew dungeonmaps start out with me doing searches online for inspiration.
Don’t reinvent the wheel; steal other peoples’wheels! Now that’s a message I can support! #2 – EncountersYeah, so I think it naturally follows that if I need a map of the dungeon, I need toknow what’s in that dungeon.
Specifically, I want to have all my encountersdesigned with the challenge rating calculated for the level of my players’ characters.
That’s not really something I want to throwtogether.
If you want to learn more about D&D encounterbuilding, check out my Encounter Building playlist by clicking this card right here.
#3 – The Adventure SituationThis is what most people would probably call the storyline of the adventure, but the termstoryline is rather misleading.
Remember, as a dungeon master, you are NOTcreating the story.
You are creating a situation that sets upan adventure, and then how your players react to that situation determines the completestory.
Anyway, personal pet peeve aside, you probablywant to know what the heck the adventure is even about before your game session begins.
In fact, I don’t know why this is numberthree in my list.
It should really be number 1.
At any rate, yeah, make sure you figure thisout.
Dungeon Master, sir, could you remindme why we came to this dungeon? Was it to squeeze fluffy animals? Uh, I, uh – well, why do you want to havecome to this dungeon? Holy, crap, what an idiot! #4 – Main NPCsThis one is pretty straightforward.
Know who the main NPCs are they players willcome across in the adventure.
Give them names – preferably ones you canpronounce – a basic physical description, and the role they play in the adventure.
If they are a villain, you also want to knowwhat motivates them and their methods – that is, how do they go about being villainous? Do they have minions? Are they master manipulators? Knowing this basic information about a badguy will help you roleplay them and react to your players’ actions during the adventure.
#5 – Plot HooksAll of your preparation for a game is for naught if your players ignore the adventureand go off and do something different.
Now, ideally, you’ll already know your playerswant to do a thing before you prepare for it.
And – and you’ll know that because you’llask them before you go off and prepare a thing.
But getting them to commit to an adventurein the first place will require a plot hook.
A plot hook is the thing that entices yourplayers to go on the adventure.
There are two important elements to the plothook: First, you need to clearly present the problem to your players.
Second, you need to provide your players withmotivation for resolving the problem.
For instance, the mayor’s daughter has beenkidnapped, and town is willing to reward her rescuers with ten Vorpal Clubs of UltimateDestruction.
#6 – LootI feel like dolling out treasure and rewards is a pretty important consideration in thegame, and it’s something I like to give a little thought to.
Now, I’m on record as saying I usually justroll on random treasure tables, but that doesn’t mean I don’t tweak the results to make surethe loot, especially magic items, are a good fit for my game.
And here’s a pro tip for dungeon masterswith players whose memories resemble mashed potatoes: Make handouts for your magic itemsthat list the game mechanics for handy reference.
This does two things.
First, it reminds your players that they evenhave the magic item – because no player ever has suddenly found a magic item writtenon their sheet that they forgot they even had.
Second, it explains how the magic item works– because no dungeon master ever has explained how a magic item works only to have a playerask how it works two game sessions later.
#7 – TrapsI don’t usually put lots of traps in my games, but when I do have them, I want themto be cool and memorable.
That means I need to put some thought intothem.
And that means I’m not just going to wingthem during a game.
And if you want to watch some videos withtips on building awesome traps for your D&D game, check out my trap building playlistin the card right here.
#8 – PuzzlesOkay, I suck at puzzles.
I hate puzzles.
I don’t like making them.
However, many of my players don’t feel thesame way, so I do try to include them in my games from time to time.
And, when I do, that means I need to preparethem ahead of time – and usually steal ideas for them off the internet.
#9 – Custom CreaturesYou know, I’m actually pretty good at making quick changes to creatures on the fly duringthe game—usually to make them even nastier—but when I’m making a true homebrew creature, I’m going to do that crap before the game.
#10 – HandoutsSo, if you find a way to create handouts on the fly during a game session—one that doesn’tinvolve hastily scribbling something on a scrap of paper—you let me know.
In the meantime, you gotta do that stuff beforethe game.
Especially if you do your handouts like Ido mine.
I like to use script-like fonts on specialparchment paper.
And then I use small pewter bracelet charmsto make impressions in hot wax on the paper.
This makes it look like a real-life lettersealed with wax.
I have a video about creating player handoutsin this card up here, and I’ll put a link to the list of supplies I use down in thedescription.
And if you’d like to see examples of theadventures I create that show many of these things in action, I have lots of free D&Dadventures available over on my site, thedmlair.
Link in the description.
Let me know what you find to be the most importantthing to prepare before a game session, and which things you're good at and can improviseeasily.
Next week we’ll be talking about how touse a D&D faction favor system.
But until then click here to learn how tocreate a D&D adventure.
And until then, let’s play D&D!.