How many times have found yourself realizing that it’s game night and you are not even close to being prepared? So, you start scrambling to get as many things ready in a short time: minis, tiles/maps, & most importantly, having to read through the adventure, scouring through pages and pages of information with no time to research jotting down bits an pieces hoping to retain enough information to make tonight’s game at the very least mildly entertaining. It’s stressful isn’t it?
For all those English majors you already know the verb “prepare” comes from the Latin word: praeparāre which means “to make ready beforehand, to put in proper condition or readiness, or to put things or oneself in readiness”.
Just how important is this for your adventure? What steps do you need to take when preparing for your adventure? and How will this benefit you and your players?
So, just how important is preparing for your adventure? In a word: Very! Your players expect it; you owe it to them to be prepared enough so that their gaming experience is well met, enjoyable, challenging, and of course fun. Like you, they have taken time out of their lives, and in most cases their ‘busy lives’, filled with family obligations, work, and/or school. They look to you for a bit of fun and relaxation. If you are not prepared, you are doing them a great disservice.
Additionally, the very success of your campaign itself relies upon it! You want to make sure that the effort and time you have allocated has not gone to waste. Believe it or not, your game is cohesive and cooperative entity filled with interchanges of encouragement and a lifetime of fond memories. I can still remember one-shot games AD&D games from my childhood because we worked together and the DM was prepared enough to ensure it’s success.
If you have the privilege of running an adventure event at a store or larger venue, that much so is it expected of you to be prepared.
How to Prepare
Most pre-printed adventures have a section entitled: “Preparing the Adventure”. It states the following:
• Make sure to have a copy of the most current version of the D&D basic rules or the Player’s Handbook TM.
• Read through the adventure, taking notes of anything you’d like to highlight or remind yourself while running the adventure, such as a way you’d like to portray an NPC or a tactic you’d like to use in a combat.
• Get familiar with the monster statistics in the Appendix.
• Gather together any resources you’d like to use to aid you in Dungeon Mastering, such as note cards, a DM screen, miniatures, battle maps, etc.
• If you know the composition of the group beforehand, you can make adjustments as noted throughout the adventure.
It would be in everyone’s best interest to follow those steps as much as possible. They are just a swell guideline to go by.
Know the Rules
Next, have a copy of the latest rules. You need to ensure you know what is allowed and what isn’t, what has changed and what has stayed the same. In addition, for D&D Adventurers League games make sure you know the rules for running such an adventure.
Image courtesy of Lauren Bilanko
Know the Adventure
Then read through the adventure completely learning all the little nuances about certain events that happen, secrets, treasure, etc. Nothing says “ill prepared” than not knowing the adventure; it has happened to me on several occasions and I learned my lesson the hard way. It’s embarrassing to have the players know more about the adventure than you do. Gah! Just thinking about it now makes me want to purposely set off a spiked-pit trap and fall in..ouch! On second thought, I’ll just keep writing.
Know the Monsters
Additionally, familiarize yourself with the Monster stats. This is important because, like not knowing the adventure, you won’t be able to properly challenge your players. They might find the session or battle is too easy or in some cases too difficult and then they become bored and/or discouraged.
Know your Players
You must know your players, especially if they are regulars at your home or other games. Adjust your strategy accordingly and be prepared to deal with any issues that may stall or bog the game down. Just the other night during my home game, the players started arguing with one another. They all couldn’t agree whether to take on the mission that was placed before them by a very unscrupulous character, or to just simply rid Faerun of this loathsome character. They knew she was evil and her intent was impure, but they couldn’t decide on a course of action. Their arguing went on for far too long, I had to intervene. You need to be prepared for just an occurrence that may take the game into a direction you didn’t plan and you need to be able to control the situation. Being prepared will assist you in this aspect.
Gather your resources: any miniatures you will need, maps/tiles, props, your trusty DM Screen, etc. When I have put just a little extra time and effort into preparing my games, the results are amazing and my players leave completely satisfied. Just to see the look of pleasure on their faces with tangible items and special effects is priceless.
Again, if you are like me, your daily calendar is filled. Family, a job (or 3), unexpected issues, etc. Where do you find the time to fit it all in on top of playing and preparing your games? Honesty, I don’t have a clear answer for you; each person’s circumstance is different. I am fortunate enough that I have a gamer wife, so she understands. I always make time for my family even including them in playing D&D. In fact, they just rolled up their very first AL legal characters…actually their very first D&D charters ever! But more than that, I just find the time. So, it’s up to you to find the time, but never at the cost of something more important, like family or a career.
Review before your Session
If you are preparing for your home campaign, think about what you want to accomplish this session. Remember where the party left off, what’s next for them. Read through any material you may need to, to re-familiarize yourself with what’s about to take place. Then, gather your resources (See above).
Being prepared leaves you with a sense of being in control, you’ll be able to pride in your work, and you will feel accomplished. At the end of it all you will walk away, knowing you created something extraordinary! Your players can gain the most benefit. They are there to have fun, they each want to share in the story or excitement. They too will feel accomplished, they’ll want to be back to see what happens next, they’ll appreciate you and the time & effort put in. Most of all, they’ll have fun!
If running at a store or a convention, new players will gather as word spreads, the community grows stronger, and the store gains recognition. All of this interchange of encouragement simply because you were prepared. So whatever you’re running, home campaign, store event, or at a convention preparation is essential. It is key to a successful adventure experience. As a chef prepares his food for his customers, let’s make our adventure sessions just as delicious, savoury, and well seasoned. Yum!