• Justin Handlin

RPG Game Prep and Over Prep

Episode 69: Game Preparation and Over Preparation

Crit Academy is joined Michael, host of the RPG Academy. We go into details of what goings into a good Dungeons and Dragons Game Master preparation and how to avoid the pitfalls of over prepping for your stories and campaigns.

Game Prep Talking Points:

  • Always Outline and bullet points - not a book

  • Homebrew or published adventure?

  • Published - Read the adventure in advance if possible

  • Flip through the adventure. Keeping in mind the length of time you’re going to play in a game session, figure out how likely it is that your players will play each encounter. Prioritize them as: definite, maybe, or unlikely.

  • Homebrew - Know what the quest objectives are in advance

  • Document - a few likely encounters the prioritize them

  • Have a notecard with important NPC’s

  • For an encounter that focuses more on interaction, make notes about the relevant NPCs in the encounter, their motivations and goals.

  • Pick a quirk for each important NPC to help the character stand out in the players’ minds, focus on something that’s easy to play.

  • Starting location - Put important decisions near the end of a session “Where do you want to head next?” is always a great start.

  • Can allow you to focus more on that area - not trying to flesh out 3 areas

  • Monsters

  • Try to have monster stat blocks ready in advance

  • Print them out if you have a scanner or D&D beyond

  • Alternatively can put the blocks on index cards

  • Roll Monster initiatives in advance

  • Document special skills or tactics you want to make sure you use

  • If you spell to have the enemies cast spells write them out in advance.

  • Advance rolls - Make 10 D20 rolls and record them - Then just run down the list as you need a value - saves lots of time

Over Prep: Going to very DM to DM

  • Accept you can’t prep for everything!

  • The nature of DnD means the players have a lot of freedom(unless you railroad)

  • This creates a challenge when prepping

  • They won't always take your hooks.

  • Investing too much time can lead to personal anger if the players bypass it altogether.

  • Being too meticulous

  • Focusing on too many small things

  • Worrying about every possible outcome of player actions

  • You don’t need maps for everything

  • Map of city or village

  • Map for expected encounter locations

  • Don’t need to draw out every single hallway

  • I use a module method

  • 3 planned encounters - get 3 area maps

  • Fill in bullet points of area features for each encounter

Unearthed Tips and Tricks! (We bring you new and creative content for you to bring on your next adventure)

Character Concept: Let the gods decide!

Our character loves to leave many big decisions up to the fates. When posed with an important choice, our character flips a coin to determine the action he is going to take. Deciding that fate knows what’s best for him than she does.

She was raised to believe that each person has a destiny planned for them by the gods. And as such, was raised believing why should she

Great for a chaotic character

Monster Variant: Displacer Pack Lord

Origin: Displacer Beast


Howling Rally. The displacer beast may use a bonus action to unleash a howling roar to bolster the combat resolve of one of its allies. It chooses a friendly creature that can see and hear it. That creature gains temporary hit points equal to 5(1d6 +1).

Tentacle Slam. If the pack lord successfully hits a creature with both tentacle attacks, that target must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Teleporting Tentacles. Moves target when it hits.

Encounter: From Patron Gabe Kleinert

  1. Insert Coin

  2. The party is traveling through a dungeon, where a door that they need to pass through is blocked by a strange arcane device. The device is a giant slab of stone, with a square metal plate mounted at shoulder level, and a lever sticking out below the plate. Below the lever is a small slot, roughly the size of a coin (gold or platinum, your choice).

  3. To get past the device, a party member must insert an appropriate coin into the slot. The metal plate begins to glow, and so does the party member! Suddenly, they vanish from the dungeon. To them, they find themselves in a giant glowing maze, where tiny orbs of light are floating in mid-air in every hallway. And as they explore the maze, giant spectral figures begin to show up and chase them down every hall, never stopping until the player has collected each and every orb of light in the entire maze. To the rest of the party, however, they see their ally disappear, only to appear on the metal plate, which begins to glow in a representation of the maze. The player in the maze cannot see or hear anything his allies say or do.

  4. If the player in the maze gets caught by one of the chasing ghosts, they are whisked away and put into stasis until the challenge is overcome. Meanwhile, another party member can insert another coin, but then they will get whisked away into the maze and must pick up where the other player left off.

  5. Once all of the orbs of light are collected, the device disappears and all party members who were trapped inside appear back in the dungeon unharmed (possibly including adventurers who attempted the maze in the past but failed).

Magic Item: Listener: Steven Kern

Cerebral Scarab Circlet

This silver and ebony circlet has an ebony statuette on it that is carved in the likeness of a scarab beetle.

You can use an action to speak the command word, the scarab then crawls onto a creature that is within 5ft of you. The statuette chatters and clicks to life the creature must succeed a DC 14 Strength saving throw or the scarab bores partially into the creature's skull assuming it has one for 3(1d4) piercing damage.

Once attached the creature must succeed a DC 15 Intelligence saving throw. On a failed saving throw the target creates a telepathic link between itself and the wearer of the circlet. The link persists as long as the creatures are on the same plane of existence.

Until the scarab is removed, the wearer of the circlet and the target can instantaneously share words, images, sounds, and other sensory messages with one another through the link. The wearer can control the flow of information, while the target cannot.

If the statuette is removed from the skull by force, it self destructs casting fireball centered on the target creature. If this damage kills the creature, its head explodes.

Dungeon Master Tip:

  • Give each location an interesting quirk!

  • A village may have a temple bell ring every day at noon.

  • The port town has an enormous statue of the local hero fending off a monstrous fish.

  • A landlocked area may have a geyser in the center that erupts a few times a day.

  • Little tidbits like these can easily draw in the players and make each village feel unique. Even if you don’t fully flesh them out as they pass through.

Player Tip: The Nature of Black Market Value

Displacer Beast Eyes-A displacer beast's eyes glow with an awful' malevolence that persists even in death.

Gorgon eye could be sold to make potions of petrification

Purple wurm venom or carrion crawler fang for making dangerous poisons.

If you have any feedback, unearthed tips and tricks, or topics you would like us to discuss, please send them to us. You can email them to us at critacademy@gmail.com or find us on Twitter and Facebook @critacademy.

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