D&D General DMs: Do you review notes right before playing?

Do you review notes right before playing?

  • Yes, always

    Votes: 32 46.4%
  • Usually

    Votes: 21 30.4%
  • Sometimes

    Votes: 11 15.9%
  • No, never

    Votes: 5 7.2%

Tonight is game time. So, I have my notes up and try to quickly browse through it to load some of it into the short-term memory. I.e. I'm reviewing it.

I am always a little upset if I am improvising not because I did not anticipate, but simply because I cannot find the right notes (I give myself a few seconds, and will wing it if I cannot find it - I hate stopping the game flow). Reviewing hopefully means I can find stuff quicker. Note that sometimes I need notes that were written months ago.

Do you guys review? And just curious, how long before the session do you write your material?

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I should... but I rarely get the chance. I "write" my material in my head all day (and often much of the night) every day of the week, on and off. I write it down whenever (if!) I get the chance.


Moderator Emeritus
I voted sometimes.

Sometimes I am writing and printing my notes right before a session starts, in which case the process of writing them (or updating them if they were originally written for a previous session but whatever they are detailing got delayed because of in or out of game hold ups) serves as reviewing them.

Other times I write them way ahead of time but don't need to make any changes, so I yeah I give them a quick look before the session. But the reality is, unless I am running a site-based adventure with numbered locations, I rarely look at my notes during the actual game. It is the writing/reviewing that does the trick for me. Sure, sometimes I forget something and kick myself afterwards, but rather do that than take too much time looking and reading during a session.


Usually I do my prep right before we play, so I don't need to review. But if the adventure stretches across two sessions then I'll do a quick review.


If I'm running something published or that I found on the web, I will.

If it's something of my own, It's pretty much in my head and may or may not make it into a note.


D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
I usually always review my notes before the begining of a session as we don't play every week and between them 2 weeks pass and lots of things has gone through my mind since then. I also do a review of what happened last session like TV shows "Previously on X"

All this helps me not miss notes or ideas i had for various aspects of my campaign and refresh everything in my DMspace.


Wat are these NOTES you speak of?

Seriously, I tend to write the adventures and have locations and stats keyed in already so review tends to be none. During the game, I may make a note of a NPC name or hook that the PCs are interested in, but tend to never go back unless it comes back up.


Mod Squad
Staff member
Do you guys review? And just curious, how long before the session do you write your material?

Yes, I review. I typically write weeks ahead of a session, and I write enough to cover several sessions if the players follow the more obvious lines of pursuit. If they go after not-so-obvious lines, I go back to writing again.

I also use a lot of published materials - the same pattern still holds - "prep" and "writing" are not really distinguishable.


I mostly run off of modules so I generally review things like NPC names and the expected areas and probable upcoming encounters before games, sometimes with plot and setting elements so I am more prepared to riff on the spot as things happen.

I usually read a module all the way through then review the immediately coming up stuff to refresh myself before individual games as they progress. I try to read the whole thing first, but I remember stuff like the Temple of Elemental Evil where I had only thoroughly gone through the Moathouse, Hommelette, and Nulb before using it in game. Since the party left the area before entering the Temple proper that worked out well for me.


I do, but my notes are usually akin to the fevered ramblings of a madman. Luckily my players also take notes, so I always start with a ‘recap’ wherein I nod sagely as they tell me what I should be doing.



It depends on what I am running, where the game is at, etc. Most of the stuff I'll remember without needing to review it, but there are definitely times I do need to review before playing!


Magic Wordsmith
I don't need notes. Much of the content is generated at the table as we're playing and we see where that goes. My prep is done usually about a year in advance of the campaign starting.


I review past notes before the game.

I also do my best to have as detailed notes for planned/expected upcoming activities. At least several days in advance, as it takes a day or two for ideas to properly cook in my brain. Helps that I'm generally running pre-prepared adventures and the like, but my own write-ups tend be as equally fleshed out or detailed. I consider myself somewhat poor at "winging it".


Always review the last game notes and the notes for the next session. But I don't study. I do it on Wednesday (15 minutes) and Friday (15 minutes) during the day before the game.

I usually prepare my adventures on Sunday for about 1 hour.


Yes but my notes have become more and more sparse over the years. For a dungeon game it's bullet points about what's in the room and a note about anything that might be foreshadowing something later so I don't forget about the linkage. For more character-oriented games its bullet point lists of what the bad guy's plot is, names and short descriptions of NPCs and their involvement in the plot, lists of locations and who is there, etc. Along with a review of the cyrptic notes I wrote to myself during the previous session so I know where to pick up.

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