D&D 5E DM Prepared one page of notes.

GameOgre

Adventurer
I played in a great game of D&D 5E yesterday with a DM who walked up to the table with the three core books and one page of notes. That's it. He ran a game for seven hours off one page of notes and we had a blast. He did look up a lot of monsters out of the book(we sure didn't mind or anything) and he wrote down notes on a second sheet of paper stuff that he needed to remember later.

After the game(it was a one off) I asked if I could see his prep notes and he handed it over.

It was filled with ideas and traps and monster/room descriptions(just enough to jar his memory of what he had planned I guess) a doodle map(encounters listed as easy/normal/hard/deadly), seven different one line adventure ideas(in case we didn't follow his plan) a word puzzle, a joke, the lyrics to Wild Boys,a short list of npc's,a short list of shops, a doodle of a bridge that collapsed into a cage and notes on our past games(like remember Barbie has a assassin still looking for her and Jammor is still haunted by the dead god).

That's it. He said he spent about 45 minutes total preparing for a game though did admit that mostly he works out the specifics of a encounter during play. His notes say orcs/hard and so he just figures out how many orcs equal a hard encounter on the fly.


Normally I DM and spend hours and hours getting prepared and even at times let my laziness prevent me from running a game(we could play tomorrow night but heck if I feel like spending three hours tonight getting ready, instead lets go see a movie).

I really want to adopt this style of DMing. It's amazing to me.
 

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edhel

Explorer
I don't usually bother with session notes unless I have something special in mind (like a cool cursed magic item from Ravenloft). Before I run a campaign I figure out the main conflict in the campaign, the antagonists, their resources etc. I (among other people) wrote about this in another thread: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...ing-Dungeons-HELP/page2&p=6356202#post6356202

That said, I often have my DM notebook next to me. It's basically a scrapbook filled with tables for npc traits, good bits from different books (e.g. Pathfinder GM guide, AEG's Ultimate Toolbox, Vornheim). It's there to help me improvise, and that could/should be your goal while prepping. I often have nothing specific in my mind when I start a session but I know "what's happening". Player characters get into a conflict of interest with whatever is going on and it all grows organically there.
 
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He ran a game for seven hours off one page of notes and we had a blast.

I really want to adopt this style of DMing. It's amazing to me.

That is precisely how I've been GMing since about 2004. Except I don't use a piece of paper. Typically its 2-3 flash cards, front and back, flagged in the upper left corner for their content. In my head I carry the primary fronts of antagonism for the PCs, prior continuity/backstory, and where we are right now. On the table (and in my head) are the PC sheets so if I need to look at something on them, I do. The cards are reserved for:

- Pithy, provocative scene openers that hook into the thematic meat of one or more of the characters.

- A few, pretty nebulous at the outset, complications that have the opportunity to snowball and that I think might be cool to introduce if the situation calls for it.

- 3-4 syllables for surnames that I can mix and match as required for the session's new NPCs. Same thing for towns/ruins/adventuring sites except words instead of syllables.

- Monster themes/hazards and numbers/DCs (the math) related to current PC level.

We'll have a pretty low resolution map on the table that we sort out and fill in as we go. No GM screen. Everything is out on the table.

Its extremely liberating from a mental overhead perspective and I've found my mental engagement with each session and each session's dynamism and pacing is markedly improved. And I've removed 100 % of the creep of GM fatigue. It no longer exists.
 

I switch back and forth... one week I might have no notes, and just run with some ideas, other times I have a comp not book with 30-40 pages and a map... each level of prep is a different tool
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
Not to take anything away from your obviously skilled DM, but it's very easy to run a session like this as long as the session takes a certain form, usually the "get from A to B"-type adventure.

It's very hard (or at least, it is for me) to run more complicated sessions where the players' actions intersect with multiple NPC's and ongoing story-threads. If you don't prepare properly, your NPC's become mushy and bland, you start contradicting their previous behaviour or motives, and carefully-shepherded world-building can suddenly fall flat on its face. Aversion to those outcomes can cause over-preparation as well, something I'm often guilty of as well!
 

fuindordm

Adventurer
Maybe he spent 45 minutes writing up the sheet, but probably hours and hours thinking about the mood he wanted to create, how to structure the encounters, the plot, the NPC personalities, and so forth.
I also often only have a page or two of notes, but they're there to reference the bits in my head. It takes me usually a couple of weeks to think up a scenario in enough detail that I feel ready to run it.
In fact, I find it MORE difficult to run an adventure from a published module because all the interconnections between NPCs and monsters and encounters are not in my head but stuck on the paper.
 

Imaro

Legend
There was an article during the 4e run of Dungeon/Dragon ... Dragon 426 called "The Improviser's Cheat Sheet". I found it pretty interesting and while I don't use the exact form in the article now... it's what I started out using as a basis for good game improv notes. Admittedly I don't use this alone as I run a sandbox where I usually know what my player's plans are from the past week and if necessary can flesh those out in greater detail, but when they do something unexpected it's pretty handy to have.

On another note, a few things I worry about with using this type of prep exclusively is depth of setting (I feel like something tends to get lost in my descriptions/mood/feel when I'm going solely off of improvisation), and consistency (it's maintainable but now instead of pre-prep I'm doing post prep so I don't forget anything especially in a campaign as opposed to a one shot).
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
... the lyrics to Wild Boys....
Um, what?

duran-duran-wild-boys-burroughs.gif


[sblock]The wild boys are calling
On their way back from the fire
In august moon's surrender to
A dust cloud on the rise
Wild boys fallen far from glory
Reckless and so hungered
On the razors edge you trail
Because there's murder by the roadside
In a sore afraid new world

They tried to break us,
Looks like they'll try again

Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way
Wild boys never close your eyes
Wild boys always shine

You got sirens for a welcome
There's bloodstain for your pain
And your telephone been ringing while
You're dancing in the rain
Wild boys wonder where is glory
Where is all you angels
Now the figureheads have fell
And lovers war with arrows over
Secrets they could tell

They tried to tame you
Looks like they'll try again

Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way
Wild boys never close your eyes
Wild boys always shine
[/sblock]
 

halfling rogue

Explorer
I played in a great game of D&D 5E yesterday with a DM who walked up to the table with the three core books and one page of notes. That's it. He ran a game for seven hours off one page of notes and we had a blast. He did look up a lot of monsters out of the book(we sure didn't mind or anything) and he wrote down notes on a second sheet of paper stuff that he needed to remember later.

After the game(it was a one off) I asked if I could see his prep notes and he handed it over.

It was filled with ideas and traps and monster/room descriptions(just enough to jar his memory of what he had planned I guess) a doodle map(encounters listed as easy/normal/hard/deadly), seven different one line adventure ideas(in case we didn't follow his plan) a word puzzle, a joke, the lyrics to Wild Boys,a short list of npc's,a short list of shops, a doodle of a bridge that collapsed into a cage and notes on our past games(like remember Barbie has a assassin still looking for her and Jammor is still haunted by the dead god).

That's it. He said he spent about 45 minutes total preparing for a game though did admit that mostly he works out the specifics of a encounter during play. His notes say orcs/hard and so he just figures out how many orcs equal a hard encounter on the fly.


Normally I DM and spend hours and hours getting prepared and even at times let my laziness prevent me from running a game(we could play tomorrow night but heck if I feel like spending three hours tonight getting ready, instead lets go see a movie).

I really want to adopt this style of DMing. It's amazing to me.

cool! could you upload a pic of the page?

When I ran my first session I used the Lost Mine adventure and drew up a one page note sheet. On it had all the monster stats I figured they'd fight and a few options in case something went awry.
 

delericho

Legend
Blimey, I don't think I would ever risk doing that with D&D! (But then, I've barely run 5e, so maybe... hopefully... it's different.)

But the best game I've run in recent years was a Hunter: the Vigil one shot I ran with a single page of notes (that was a list of NPC names plus a node diagram) that I scribbled out in about 20 minutes. Didn't run for 7 hours, though!
 

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