The Lazy Dungeon Master’s Checklist
The steps it takes to prepare a typical game session can be boiled down into a simple checklist:
- Review the characters
- Create a strong start
- Outline potential scenes
- Define secrets and clues
- Develop fantastic locations
- Outline important NPCs
- Choose relevant monsters
- Select magic item rewards
Review the characters
The first thing you need to do is write down the names, backgrounds, motivations, and desires of the characters. Use these notes to prime your brain and tie the characters to the rest of your game.
Create a strong start
Set the stage by asking yourself, what’s happening, what’s the point, and where’s the action? We are looking for an event, hook, and closest action in one, maybe two, sentences. When in doubt, start with combat.
Outline potential scenes
Write down a short list of scenes that might occur in your game. Only write down as much as you need to prime your brain. These scenes are not in any specific order and may not even occur.
Define secrets and clues
Write down ten secrets and clues the characters might discover during your game. These secrets and clues bring your campaign to life and reveal small pieces of the story or history of the world. They should be abstract enough to allow you to improvise their discovery during the game.
Develop fantastic locations
Develop one or two locations that the characters might discover for every hour of play you expect to have. These locations need to have an evocative name, three fantastic aspects, and be described using age and size. It is also a good idea to tie some of these locations to the backgrounds of the characters.
Outline important NPCs
Prepare a few NPCs that the characters might discover and will drive the game session and the adventure. Improvise others during the game. NPC outlines should be brief and include a name, connection to the adventure, and a character archetype.
Choose relevant monsters
Make a list of monsters the characters might encounter that make sense for the story, situation, and location of your game. Don’t tie these monsters to any specific location or situation. Instead, improvise encounters based on the story and situation during the game. For boss fights, remember to account for character capabilities without negating those capabilities.
Select magic item rewards
Players love magic items! Regularly ask the players what kinds of items they’d like to discover. Use that information to make a list of magic items that the characters might discover during your game. When it fits the story, drop an item into the game. You can also drop in random magic items for some variability. You can tie magic items to the story by connecting them to quests, secrets, or clues.
The Lazy Dungeon Master’s Checklist should easily fit on a single page. Here is a markdown template for your next session!
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## The Strong Start Description of your strong start. ## Potential Scenes - Description of your scene. - ## Secrets and Clues - Description of a secret or clue. - - - - - - - - - ## Fantastic Locations **Location**: aspect, aspect, aspect **Location**: aspect, aspect, aspect **Location**: aspect, aspect, aspect ## NPCs **Name.** Description/Connection. *Character* from *X*. **Name.** Description/Connection. *Character* from *X*. **Name.** Description/Connection. *Character* from *X*. ## Monsters - Name - ## Magic Items - Name/Description -