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D&D Tuesday Tips – Laser Power

Written by Expy - Published on February 26, 2008

D&D Tuesday Tips For DMs (DNDTTFDM) 02-26-08

Deadlines are awesome!

They give me the motivation to do what I need to do – usually in a short amount of time because I’ll wait until the last minute before doing anything. Although self-imposed deadlines are never quite as motivating they still work.

And they can work for your D&D game planning too.

Less prep time, better game

The key to efficient game planning is to allow yourself a very short time to complete all your tasks – ideally it should be short enough that it seems impossible.

Let’s look at 2 possible game planning sessions:

  • #1: I need to prepare a dungeon crawl and the villain’s next moves.
  • #2: I have 45 minutes to get a dungeon together and prepare the villain’s next moves.

The former opens the door for time wasting and procrastination.

The latter forces you to think about what’s important to prepare, what you want to achieve in your next game, and what’s the most efficient way to get things done.

Laser Powered game-planning

An upcoming deadline will make you determined, efficient, and focused. You can accomplish more in less time by focusing on a single well-defined objective.  Focus and concentration are the difference makers. Would you rather be a laser or a flashlight?

Want to reduce your prep time?

Check out these resources:

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

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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11 Responses to “D&D Tuesday Tips – Laser Power”
  1. The DM says:

    Thanks for these, Yax. I’ve actually been using them for a while now.

    I think it’s human nature, for some of us, to put things off until the last minute. But, at least in my case, some of my best work comes when I’m under a deadline.

    Having said all of that, ongoing campaigns are different, for me. In an ideal world, I’m 2 sessions ahead of the current one, in terms of prep. For me, laser prep is best served when I’m running a one-shot, off-the-cuff, last minute sort of game, not my regular campaign.

    Great advice!

  2. Ben says:

    I actually find that when I get really busy and have almost no time to prepare a D&D session, that I go in winging it. I have my general campaign outline, I know basically what should be happening, and I have found that some of our best sessions come from things I haven’t planned.

    The characters really are the best story writers.

  3. Roleplay says:

    For many of us, our best work is done in the last few minutes before the deadline.

  4. Jason says:

    I agree entirely with Ben’s comment above. Two of the best game nights that I ever DMed were totally off-the-cuff, seat of the pants “wing it” nights.

    As long as the framework of the campaign is in place, there is going to be a certain amount of flexibility anyway, just in adapting to what the players come up with. The better players in our group have sometimes gone so far off the plan that I laid out that I’ve had to make some fundamental changes on the fly, and when that’s happened it’s always been fun… though sometimes a bit stressful from my perspective as DM.

    In turn, one of the least fun campaigns I was part of was one in which the DM spent hours and hours creating maps and encounters for the party each night, but the players absolutely had to stick to the map. While we appreciated all the work he was putting into it, his inability to adapt to our ideas and tactics really made the game more tedious than exciting.

  5. Yax says:

    One thing I don’t like to improvise – or I’m bad at it – is a dungeon crawl. I need some prep time for that.

  6. Jason says:

    Yeah, there’s almost no way around it in a dungeon crawl. I’ve had campaigns where I figured it would take X amount of time to complete one part of a dungeon, and the players either get on a rolling streak and just race through things or figure out an incredibly innovative solution that shaved 3 hours of potential gameplay right off. I hate just throwing monsters at them to round out a full night of play, so I try to have a spare puzzle or NPC encounter on hand just in case.

    Then again, I’ve had parties that took 90 minutes to decide how to open a door, so sometimes it works in the DMs favor.

    Sometimes it’s unavoidable to resort to borrowing something practically straight out of a book (e.g. Book of Challenges)or similar to something seen online. At that point, you almost have to hope that the players (who in my group have almost all DMed at one point or another) haven’t seen it before or will play it as their character would, i.e. the fighter with INT 8 isn’t going to solve the invisible cryptogram written in draconic.

  7. RPG Ike says:

    For me, last-minute, high-stress planning is when I make mistakes, so I try to avoid it. It’s the same for me at work, and elsewhere. I focus better when under stress, but the finished product is generally thrown-together, like when your in-laws are coming to visit in five minutes and the entire house needs to be cleaned up; sure, it looks okay, but let’s hope nobody checks under the rugs. ;)

    I leave the little details that improve the game but aren’t absolutely necessary, like a custom-created magic swan boat cutout, for the last hour before a session. The meat of my sessions are created a session in advance, like the DM.

    Different DMing styles call for different prep techniques.

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