#2: The Show Must Go On
Holidays can be tricky when trying to schedule events. Consistency is key in maintaining successful regular events, and this time of year turnout is always difficult to predict. I have found that even if one player shows up, it is still important to run something because canceling an event causes loss of momentum for future sessions. If Twenty Sided Store is open for business, the event is on!
This season for D&D Encounters we have three sessions that fall on the Eve of major holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Sure, there will be a lot of people out of town, but that also means that there might be a lot of visitors in town. I will need to prepare for both extremes. Those who depend on Encounters for their weekly D&D fix will show up, and I typically know ahead of time how many DMs will be out. I never want to cancel an event because we don’t have enough players or are under staffed. I want everyone who comes to be able to join in and participate.
When preparing for sessions that fall around the holidays, I think about how to do the following:
- Turn an ordinary event into a special event.
- Prepare something that can be run with one DM and any number of players.
- Provide something special for those who show up without getting too far ahead in the adventure for those who are absent.
If you have just finished Episode 3 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, the holidays could be a perfect time to introduce Episode 4 : On the Road, from the hard cover. At this point in the adventure the players must find out where all the treasure is going and for what purpose. They know that it is being carted north in caravans. If the players follow the Trade Way headed north, there are many opportunities for stops in all of the major cities along the Sword Coast. This could be a great opportunity to role-play Downtime or go shopping for some spell components.
For a special holiday session, you could try what I call Group RP, having all the players gather around one big table. Set up the scene by describing everyone sitting around a camp fire. Ask all the players to go around and describe what their character is doing and how they are contributing to making dinner for the night, who is tending to the fire, adding spices, this is a great way for some of the players to show off their backgrounds and skills, maybe give each player an opportunity to think about a story they want to tell. There are also great NPCs outlined in the module that the players are traveling with. You can give each player a handout with a description of one of the “Other Nonplayer Characters” (pg. 31-33 in HDQ) to role-play in this scene.
Whether you only have a couple of players or 20 players, the DM could have a few things prepared like a campfire story told by an NPC that seeds in lore or hearsay about the raids and other troubles the cultists have caused to the towns along the sword coast. Or maybe there is a conflict of interest among the caravan guards and a fight breaks out, players split off into two groups and each group makes contest rolls to see which side wins the fight.
The possibilities are endless. Share your ideas in the comments!
Next month I will discuss details behind the screen of Twenty Sided Store’s Team DM. I will discuss how we prepare week to week and share some examples of tools we have created. For now I will leave you with a few of your questions answered…
Dear Master Dungeon Master,
How do you handle multiple tables (in Encounters) moving at different paces, especially if players don’t end up at the same table week-to-week?
We maintain a consistent pace among all of the tables for the entire season by agreeing on where to begin and where to end each session. If there are decisions that the party needs to make about where to go or what to do next that could change the course of action for the following session, we gather all the players together in one large group (Group RP), have them discuss their options in character, and make a vote.
(Check out my next article. I will be going into great detail on this subject.)
How do you know how many tables of D&D is the right amount?
By running an event consistently (same day of the week, same time – either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly), you will be able to get a gauge by tracking the number of players you have each session. I have participants sign in on a sign up sheet at the start of the event. For Encounters, I also have players fill out a player tracker that tells me how many sessions in a season that player has attended. Each season I review these numbers and through experience I am able to gauge my attendance with more accuracy.
What to do when Wednesday is already a full day at the store, so they can’t run Encounters. Issue for players who want to play Encounters and Stores that want to show up in the WOTC Search engine (Event Locator).
We had this dilemma when we first started running D&D. We were running Magic Drafts on Wednesday and both the Magic and the D&D were growing. It was a big decision to move magic to another night, but we were getting 3-5 new players each week for D&D on Wednesday, who had never been to the store before, and who found us through the Wizards Event Locator. We had done zero advertising and felt that in the long run it was best to move Magic to another night and devote the space to D&D Encounters on Wednesday. Both events have grown to capacity and are doing really well.