This article is part 1 of the “Start A Campaign… Now!“ series.
- Start A Campaign – Part 1: The first game
- Start A Campaign – Part 2: Before the second game
- Start A Campaign – Part 3: The second game
- Start A Campaign – Part 4: How to prepare a great game in 30 minutes or less
During the second game of a new campaign, I try to focus on two things:
- Taking notes
- Enforcing the game rules that are really important to me (usually one or two)
Improvisation and note taking
I like to keep my players guessing and feeling that they can do whatever they want and go wherever they want. I have my game all planned out. I have a few backup plans. But I’ll still be making up a considerable amount of information as the game goes along.
I keep a list of random names of people and places (the dungeon generator I mentioned in my previous post is great for that). By looking up names in my notes instead of just thinking them up, the players feel like I’m prepared for anything. Over the years, my players have learned to know my DM tricks but they still pay attention and try to remember to seemingly insignificant non-player characters because I write down who they met and I bring them back in the story a few games later.
To be able to bring them back, I need to take notes. I take a lot of notes during the game, mostly when players are discussing in-character. I also like to take a break midway through a game and write down what has happened so far. I do the same at the end of the game. My players usually leave their character sheets with me, so I also have their notes.
I don’t care much about rules, as long as everyone is having fun. But I sometimes decide to change some rule or add one. My favorite addition to the rulebook is that the players are not allowed to just declare their attack action during a round of combat. They have to describe it. It makes encounter much more interesting. It can take a while before everyone gets used to it though. I usually also implement a co-rule that states that no negative attack or damage roll modifier will be applied as a result of going for fancier or riskier action instead of the usual “I attack”. I’ve been witness to many great fighting since the inception of that rule.
The second is the perfect time to start enforcing a rule that players aren’t used to.