TTRPG Game Preparation Tips

Help for busy dungeon masters.

You’ve read the books, and now you’re ready to run a game, but you might be feeling a little overwhelmed, with so many possibilities ahead of you. Here are three quick tips to help get you oriented and to stay focused on the action that will be the most important for your players.

Do you have your own preparation tips? Let us know @SpielKnights.

1. Write a dramatic opener

Write down a sentence or two to outline how your session kicks off. First impressions stick, including your game sessions. Emphasize action. A fight is a great way to kick things off. Of course, not every session has to start with a fight. Perhaps it could be a city festival, a weather event, or some major scandal amongst the ruling class. A strong start will either affect your players immediately and get them involved, or it will inform them about the larger forces going on in your world.

2. What are the villains doing?

This is a very powerful technique to help an adventure almost write itself. Think about the schemes your villain has cooked up. What have they already done to make people’s lives miserable? What is getting in the way between accomplishing their goal? The answer to the second question is usually the characters. The heroes will typically appear in media res of the villain’s scheme, whether that be a pillaged village, a kidnapped prince, a poisoned well, or the outbreak of a war. Working backwards from the villain’s goal will help create the adventure thread to drop the players in.

3. Describe visual settings

Where are you sending your players next? It may be a dungeon, a place of interesting terrain, or perhaps a special room in a large castle. Now, with just a sentence or two for each, describe the important settings (or areas) the players will see during the session. Emphasize a visual description, so the players can get a feel for the environment where they have just arrived. Send your players to places that are big, visual, and exciting. They’re heroes, after all, and they go to exciting places.

You don’t need any more than a sentence or two to create your visual setting when preparing your adventure. A dungeon can have many pathways, but you don’t have to figure them all out. You can have a full dungeon experience just by describing the visual setting, having the players explore it, and running an encounter inside, like a monster fight or a meeting with an important NPC. A visual setting with only one or two encounters, plus arriving and leaving, is often enough to fill up a three-hour game session.

Our newest product, “One Hour TTRPG Prep” was successfully launched on Kickstarter as part of Zinequest.