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My pre-game ritual

Written by Expy - Published on September 22, 2007

Random thoughts

Recently 2 different readers told me that the articles they enjoyed the most on Dungeon Mastering were the very first ones I wrote (so much for getter better with practice): The first game, Before the second game, and The Second Game.  Some elements have been covered in more details by the Instant Campaign builder but you should check them out if you haven’t yet.

My pre-game ritual

I thought I’d share my morning pre-game routine on Dungeon Mastering (my friends and I almost always play in the morning).  Here’s how it goes:

I usually wake up and head straight for my computer.  I work on my game notes and make sure my scenes are locked for about 30 minutes.  Adding a few details and trying to see how the current game fits in the grand scheme of things.   This is when I do my planting and superstar tweaking.

Then I drive or take the bus to Peo’s place for the game.  I keep thinking about the upcoming game (driving) or read D&D sourcebooks (on the bus.)   I try reading in the car and it’s just too distracting.

On most gamedays some of the players and I have breakfast at the diner across the street.  Since Dungeons & Dragons is an excuse for my friends and I to all get together and hang out this is a crucial part of the “game”.

We let Nic take care of the tab, go back to Peo’s place and meet up with the other players.  More hanging out ensues as we set the battle map, get out the character binders, dice, and sometimes chip & salsa – which is surprisingly good even at 9:30am!

When everyone is almost ready I try to look busy.  I read my notes.  Scribble.  Mumble to myself.  Shuffle some paper. I don’t know why I do this but I usually do so for a minute or two.  Maybe it’s my way to say:

“Let’s get to business. GAME ON!”

What happens when I haven’t planned anything?

On the rare occasions in which I haven’t planned a single scene for the game – it’s happened twice in the last few years – I don’t scramble madly to get a game together.  I rely on my campaign setting, my NPC agendas, and the players roleplaying it out to get through the session and have fun.

I found out early in my DMing career that running a half prepared game is worse than running a completely improvised game.  I guess it’s harder to lead the characters somewhere than to let them go where they want.

What’s your pre-game routine?

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Written by Expy

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Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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8 Responses to “My pre-game ritual”
  1. Stûnibu says:

    well, most nights i would look over one of me PC’s sheets. I love them as much as their players do, im always wondering were their life could go. However b4 a game i still flick though them to remeber were we at. the night before a game i would also read though any quest that im planning to unfold durring a gaming sesion. Other than that, we usaly go 2 the bake house to get something for lunch (not fair for our friends to feed us every week or two!)

    then its game on!

  2. Phil says:

    Are you actually playing in Hawai? ‘Cuz if you are I’m furiously jealous just thinking about you reading a D&D book while having Waffles in a Hawaian Diner! Woo!

    You probably read it already but my personnal Prep posts can be found here:



  3. Yax says:

    I’m trying to find some time to squeeze a D&D game while my buddies are in town but there’s so much tourist stuff they want to do.

    I’ll have to play next month in Montreal.

  4. jill seal says:

    Don’t feel too bad about the compliments to your earlier posts. The main reason why they are my favourites at the moment is that they are the most immediately useful to me since I am about to start running a new campaign.

  5. Yax says:

    Good to hear that! I was doubting my self-learning capabilities.

  6. John says:

    This is my first time on the site (came to read the interview with Johnn), but it won’t be my last.

    I just had to say that the only thing I always do (aside from the standard reread my notes, set up the map, etc.) is a recap of what happened the last time. I started saying, “When we last left our intrepid heroes…” about the 2nd or third time we played, I think. I just said it because I liked the sound of it, and when else can you say that!

    And then, one day I didn’t say it. I hadn’t meant it to be a tradition or anything, so one day I just didn’t say it. I got a couple shocked looks from people, and one blurted out, “But…but….but…you didn’t say it!” Little did I know that it had become an important tradition to them, helping them make the transition from hanging out to playing!

  7. Yax says:

    That’s a great story! I like it. It adds an ongoing epic story feel to a game.

    I’ll try it.

  8. Stûnibu says:

    I do do a lil thing a bit like john, i sort of run though whats happned last game or sumtimes though out the whole campain (it can b a good way to remind them of wat u WANT them to be doing) its sort of in the style of a movie preveiw :P

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