By Chad Lorenz
When I sit down to DM a session, I will prepare my notes ahead of time. I’m old (school?) so I still write them out with a pencil and paper, but if you are a sane person and have joined this century then a tablet or phone would do just as well.
The first thing I usually jot down is a list of NPC names I might need for any scenes tonight. Even if you have that 140-page campaign book, there are still NPCs lurking in the shadows your group WILL FIND!! Trust me, that stable boy that means nothing to you will become a talking point for your group for some reason or another.
After jotting down some random NPC names, I will make sure I have quick access to the major NPC notes. I’ve found that having them on note cards set aside ahead of time with key points highlighted comes in handy. I’m lucky in that I’m blessed with an amazing Oracle for our games, who puts together summaries of our sessions after every game. (points at Amber).
If I think there will be a fight for the evening, the next thing I do is record the stats for all of my bad guys ahead of time and put that sheet somewhere I can get to easily. I usually have their key abilities highlighted and the amount of times the enemy can use them, because you know you want to use them the maximum amount, amirite??
If you have any traps in mind make sure you have everything written down. I also recommend typing up any riddles ahead of time so they are ready to be handed to the PC’s. Nothing kills momentum like having to stop to jot things down or send text messages midgame.
Last, but definitely not least, make sure that you have already pre-rolled the treasure for the encounter. Another thing that kills the momentum of a game is for you to have to roll up a ton of treasure.
Great, you killed the Ancient Wyrm!! Now sit here for 20 minutes while I roll…..
It’s way more fun for you and for the players if you can just hand them a sheet with a ton of loot on it. It’s also really satisfying to watch your group either fight for the sheet or crowd around it as close as possible. I highly suggest writing or typing in small print for maximum enjoyment.
Just remember no matter how many notes you write, it’s important to not become too attached to what you believe will happen. Players have free will in RP games and that freedom is highly important for fun. So make those notes and be ready to use them, it just might not be in the way you planned!
Thank you for reading!! If you have any input please feel free to add comments below!! I’m also available to answer questions either on Twitter or in the comments. Who knows, maybe your question will become my next article!