How do -you- prep?

I’m reading “Return of the Lazy DM”, and I’m getting a lot of value from it, partly from the actual process itself, but partly from the idea that one should have a patterned, ritual-like prep sequence.

The DM part is mildly emphasised, too. It’s clearly meant to generalise from D&D outwards. So what I’m looking for is more unique to this sort of community, and to each individual:

What steps do you, in particular, take to prep for a game?


Depends on the game. Right now, we’re playing Blades In the Dark, and my prep routine has mostly settled into:

  • write notes on a few potential locations/NPCs for the upcoming score
  • jot down some ideas for advancing character plots
  • cook up a few ideas for advancing factions and future score opportunities
  • read back over a game feature or two that are likely to be important in the coming session

I try to keep the planning relatively loose, and the prep down to a half hour or so.

For UVG, which is the last game we played, I tend to be a little more deliberate in plotting narrative arcs, and focus a great deal on canvassing the locations the party is likely to visit in a session. UVG’s a bit harder to run, though, and I’m still working on figuring out the best approach to it.

I do a lot of my prep up front usually in the form of reading a bunch of dungeons, making a hexmap and encounter tables. Then the week to week prep tends to be pretty light.

I think this works best when running big sandboxes and less so when running more story oriented games.

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So I’ve just been running a single megadungeon campaign for the past year or so. This is how my session prep goes for normal sessions. It’s a little different if they ended the last session in town and I need to handle downtime actions, clocks/fronts, etc. (I have a week pass in-game each time the party returns to town.)

First, I take notes on the previous session (I should really do this right after a session, but I usually procrastinate until right before the next session):

  1. Copy my pencil session notes from play into a permanent chronicle file.
  2. Update my notes for the areas they went through
  3. Update my notes for factions and NPCs the party was interacting with, in case attitudes have changed
  4. Stat up any spells, magic items or special stuff the party found during the session (I’m running NGR and the dungeon is written for AD&D)

Then I look up what’s in the areas around the party and figure out if I need to convert any monsters or prepare any factions nearby.

By this point in the campaign, I’ve got a file of converted monsters so I don’t usually need to do too much of that unless they’re going somewhere new.


I prep AFTER :slight_smile: (which might be a future blog post of mine.)

Ambience. Think in major terms about what setting/place I want the players to explore.
Factions. Figure out the competing factions.
Troupe. Note down NPCs and their personal goals.
Encounters. What dangers will the characters encounter.
Rooms. Populate the rooms and find/draw a map.

Most of these I accumulate from various modules I have. Faction from one book, NPCs from a second book and a map from the web for example. This all takes about a day of jotting down in the notebook when I have time to prep for a 2 hour session.


I haven’t been doing it long enough to have a ritual, but I’m starting to notice a pattern

-Take a short module like a one page dungeon
-Write or convert stats for Electric Bastionland
-Change spells/magic items into oddities and traps into something interactive

Recently I started giving intelligent monsters names.

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