How long does it take to generally take to set a campaign up

My question here is for all the DM's out there that create their campaigns from scratch using the current edition that is available. How long do you usually take to get a campaign ready for your players. my players are rushing me to finish the campaign that i have started and I have not been able to get as far on it as i have wanted to be at his point. I do work 40 hours a week and have children so it is understandable that i haven't been able to get further on the campaign than i have at this point. I want to get a bit further with it but at the same time i need to spend time with my family especially my kids that i only get to see every other weekend. Please all dm's out there with kids in your lives please help me to find a good balance point because one of my players is my wife and she is getting very impatient with all of this.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I don't have kids, but in general I've found that 8 hours a week of "campaign work" tends to be about the right about of time to flesh out what's going to happen in next week's session. And this is under the assumption you already have the general setting for the campaign built.

Also: tell your players to sit their butts down and take a chill pill. Wife included.
 

pogre

Adventurer
Four kids here, although we are quickly heading to empty nest. I like to work on campaigns a long time - so I am the wrong person to ask.

However, if I had a few players biting at the bit I would start immediately with some published stuff. Grab a couple of adventures off DM guild, keep the background stuff vague and just run the game. A campaign is just a bunch of connected adventures anyway.

You care about internal world consistency, history of your campaign location, geographic concerns, overall politics of the world, and world political considerations, BUT, your players do not care about any of this stuff. Really, not at all. They just want to play.

Don't sweat the campaign background and just run the game. Make your wife happy - "If mama ain't happy, nobody is happy!" ;)
 

Inchoroi

Explorer
My normal suggestion for this is 3-4 hours of prep work per 1 hour of session. However, this is a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of thing, because I spent over a year preparing my current campaign.

I do not suggest doing that.

Four kids here, although we are quickly heading to empty nest. I like to work on campaigns a long time - so I am the wrong person to ask.
However, if I had a few players biting at the bit I would start immediately with some published stuff. Grab a couple of adventures off DM guild, keep the background stuff vague and just run the game. A campaign is just a bunch of connected adventures anyway.

You care about internal world consistency, history of your campaign location, geographic concerns, overall politics of the world, and world political considerations, BUT, your players do not care about any of this stuff. Really, not at all. They just want to play.

Don't sweat the campaign background and just run the game. Make your wife happy - "If mama ain't happy, nobody is happy!" ;)


I would caveat that there are times when you'll have a player or players who get lots of enjoyment out of the little details, so it helps also to know your players quite well. If you need those details, they can be easily stolen from the many dozens of campaign settings that are out there.
 
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HJFudge

Visitor
I do not have children, but I think that a 'from scratch' campaign setting should take around 12-20 hours to be ready to run, and with just 4 hours a week of further fleshing out as they go as well as preparing for the you can have a top notch campaign.

However, giving you simply that time frame without at least pointing you towards methods and tools for being able to put something together within that time frame is...kinda useless. I would suggest that you begin by listing 5-7 Major Powers/Players in your world, and how they relate to each other. Has any gone through major changes in the recent past? Has their relations with another nation wildly swung in one direction or another? Then start placing those powers on a simple sketched map, and then give some really brief thought into the surrounding locales of each power.

Then, place a few parts of your world which have no 'major powers', some wilderness or wasteland or something. Add some secrets/histories to those places. Again, you don't need depth at this point, you need just seeds of ideas here. Rough outlines.

Add more powers and areas to taste. Through this process you probably have gotten some neat ideas for interesting interactions between the powers...some thoughts of ways an adventuring party would Hook into these should be given. The last bit you need to focus on is a 'starting locale'...do the same process but on a micro scale. Who are the major players and powers in the local area? Instead of nations or kingdoms or gods, it should probably be individuals and small groups. What are some areas nearby that no one has influence over? What sort of secrets lie there? Note where there is potential conflict between the local powers. Think of ways that an adventuring party might be drawn into their shenanigans.

Again, this won't take terribly long...though it might the first time around. The trick is not to let yourself dive down any rabbit holes and start listing the entire 10,000 year lineage of the King of the Fancy Elves or something. With practice, you can have a world set and ready to go in a weekend. The first time will take longer, around 20 hours.

Good luck!
 

Odysseus

Explorer
I spent maybe 4 to 6 hours on my last campaign.
Have a look at sly flourish's lazy DM. He has a lot of good advice for DM like us.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
You can (and many do) spend hours and hours prepping. I used to. Probably 10 hours for every session. But, that's not needed and I don't spend nearly that amount of time any more.

Help yourself out by being less specific in your prep. With some experience, and change in expectations, you can get down to a hour of less prep for a full gaming session. It's about improvisation and having generalized tools/assets that you are familiar enough to use at a moments notice.

And, remember the one key rule; the players don't know. They don't know what the map should look like. They don't know what's supposed to happen next. They don't know what's behind the door. Because they are ignorant, you can make up (almost) anything on the fly.

Read these;
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots
http://slyflourish.com/lazydm/
https://geekdad.com/2016/02/easy-dungeon-master-preparation/

And then take a look this this other post of mine, lots of links to various things that can help. https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?36014-GM-Advice
 
I want it basically set in old Norse era and i intend on having Loki behind the whole works as a wizard that hired the players to recover the mask of Loki from some "thieves" in reality Loki is trying to get the mask back for his own purposes to try to take control over all of midgar. I was thinking of throwing in Thor and Odin as well to give it more of a family squabble that Loki was so keen on providing according to the old Norse legends in that aspect.
 
I want it basically set in old Norse era and i intend on having Loki behind the whole works as a wizard that hired the players to recover the mask of Loki from some "thieves" in reality Loki is trying to get the mask back for his own purposes to try to take control over all of midgar. I was thinking of throwing in Thor and Odin as well to give it more of a family squabble that Loki was so keen on providing according to the old Norse legends in that aspect.
 
Although I don't have kids I do have a job and a wife and other hobbies so I do understand the sort of time-pressures you might be encountering.

For my current campaign I reused stuff from a previous campaign (that my current players weren't part of), designed the overall 'arc' of what I wanted to do and then modified some pre-written modules to get the players started. That probably took about 20 hours to assemble.

Additionally I drew the world map and detailed some areas that I wanted the group to know more about. I built a game world wiki to answer questions on specifics and wrote up a "player's intro" document. That was probably another 20 hours.

I now spend about 4 hours a week (usually one evening a week) working on the next session and game-world design. We play once a fortnight for about 5 hours so this seems pretty reasonable to me.

You can totally overdo campaign creation (and I have done in the past when I had a load more spare time) but mostly your players wont care as long as your games are fun. I hope this helps and good luck with you campaign!
 

Rabbitbait

Explorer
4 young kids here, full time work and evening work once or twice a week. I only use official published adventures now, and roll20 for maps and so remote people can play too. I read the book thoroughly, then get players to roll characters. I find hooks for each character for personal stuff in the adventures and then I'm good to go. From there it's just a couple of hours revision before each session.

The thing that takes me the longest is actually unnecessary - I keep a journal of the adventure.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I spent maybe 4 to 6 hours on my last campaign.
Have a look at sly flourish's lazy DM. He has a lot of good advice for DM like us.
This. Especially if you’ve got all the time commitments of real life. You can start a campaign small. One town, a few details about the kingdom, the immediate threat the party needs to worry about.

Then over time, add in your big bad, your bigger worldbuilding, those little nuances. And if a player asks you a world question thst you are just not ready to answer...then tell them “I’ll get the answer in our next session”. It’s that easy.
 

aco175

Adventurer
Exactly. Start small, like two towns at ends of a road and a forest between them. Make a few NPCs that the group will run into and a list of several names that you can use when needed. Make a few rumors that the PCs will hear in the bar and let them choose one. Have a roadside encounter ready to fill time. This is around 2-3 hours of work depending on if you make maps for the towns.

Most players do not care much about your world. They want to play and be entertained a bit and roll some dice.

Your description about the norse things sounds like it could be fun, but watch out about involving gods in your game. The PCs need to be the focus and main event without gods getting involved that much.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm going to echo the others here. If you're feeling the time pinch, it might be a great idea just to buy a "campaign in a box" sort of module. One of the WotC adventure path offerings or something off the DM's Guild. Something you can basically just run from the book.

And, while that's going on, you've bought yourself lots of breathing room for time to spend prepping your next campaign.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
My question here is for all the DM's out there that create their campaigns from scratch using the current edition that is available. How long do you usually take to get a campaign ready for your players. my players are rushing me to finish the campaign that i have started and I have not been able to get as far on it as i have wanted to be at his point. I do work 40 hours a week and have children so it is understandable that i haven't been able to get further on the campaign than i have at this point. I want to get a bit further with it but at the same time i need to spend time with my family especially my kids that i only get to see every other weekend. Please all dm's out there with kids in your lives please help me to find a good balance point because one of my players is my wife and she is getting very impatient with all of this.
A lot of people seem to be answering "how long to get a session ready", so I'll answer that as well.

To get a homebrew campaign ready to hold a session 0 with the players is probably 8 hours over multiple weeks. I come up with some interesting stories that we could explore, put together the rough idea of a setting that specifically supports that*, flesh out broad-strokes-only some of the setting - enough to be evocative and give the players both some hooks and some support, but no details. And let that marinate in my brain, jotting down notes every once in a while.

The we'll do a session 0, I'd introduce ideas, they'll hash back and forth what catches them, we'll do characters. At that point I've got a lot better idea about what interests the players, so I know what to focus on for the short term.

At that point I'm heading towards session prep, but the campaign part still has work - and will for the length of the campaign. I need to jot down some ideas about individual character arcs, enough that I can toss out some hooks during the next few sessions and see if the players find them interesting. I need to work out some medium term points so I can lay foreshadowing and make sure to tie it in early so it looks like I have everything planned out.

Hint: I don't. Nothing is true until it hits the table, and that includes all of my plots and plans. They get updated based on player interest, on what the party does (and what threads they don't do), and what I picture as a big finish could end up being a road-bump along the way - or even not in the game at all. Last campaign I had a high elf conspiracy, and over time it came out from the players that they thought it went all the way to the top, and a player bringing in a replacement character (for a martyr that saved others) working into his backstory a pretty bad thing that the elf queen had used the new PC to do, and suddenly this was a much bigger deal. And I reinterpreted some details that had only come partially out, about the elves honoring a defense pact against the incoming orken horde, and twisted it some, and voila!, new major plot arc that was consistent with everything that happened before but not something I pre-planned at all.

Anyway, after session 0 I do 6-8 hours of prep over the course of a week. So say 16 hours total over course of a month on the campaign itself: homebrew setting in broad strokes, some plots, ideas for character arcs.

In terms of a session, I like to throw multiple hooks at parties and see what they want to deal with. So I usually spend time hashing out several different directions enough that I can run any of them (and they usually find another option anyway), plus I detail out what I explicitly expect them to have to deal with - NPCs, encounters, rewards, etc. Say 2-3 hours for a 3 hour session. And half an hour afterwards to write up a recap and make notes from the session.

Note, this is what drove me away from D&D 3.x - prep times got ridiculous. Last campaign I ran was 13th Age which is like D&D but they sell legal PDFs - made encounter prep much nicer when I could cut-n-paste things.

When the party is going someplace new I take extra time to put into my notes things like local color to bring up, some chance encounters and such, a bunch of NPC names - prep I've found to help me describe and improv. I also take the broad strokes of the original document and flesh it out with more details. I don't go overboard on details, instead I have prepped a bunch of details I can fit into anything. To give an example, I won't prep out a bunch of shops with proprietors. I will have a list of generic shops by settlement size, sprinkle in a few unique ones, and come up with 2-3 proprietors that I can quickly adapt to whatever need I have. If they go through them, I can always work out a few more by next session. It's like a magician's force - next 3 of the 20 establishments you go through will be one of these three NPCs, edited on the fly for the specific establishment. Instead of having 20 NPCs pre-done.

I'd say ends up being 4-6 hours every few months.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I happen to be prepping a new campaign right now, though the order was slightly different because it's family that I'm teaching the game to. They all came up with character ideas first, and from that I have a bunch of ideas of what they are looking for that I need to weave together.

Anyway, my campaign notes doc has the following headings:

Player Interests (broken down by each player, and notes about overlap)
Some Story Arcs those player interests suggest. For this particualr one it's strongly sea, with among the PCs a triton paladin and a sea-shanty singing bard who was dragooned into a pirate crew.

Recurring Elements - things I want to show up a lot that will flavor the campaign. Such as the multiple pirate gangs identified by color. And eldritch elemental water evils.

Locations - some cool places that I can build around later, but I want to make sure that the word gets out early they exist.

Sightings - more color, things I want them to see. Ghost ship, The Cathedral of Lights - a teleporting lighthouse that is the home of an exiled water deity that warns of dangers. That sort of thing. Stuff I can weave into any story when I need to change the pacing or invoke a sense of wonder.

Foes - a cheat sheet of common foes for the seas. Plus some details like a Dragon Prow that breathes lightning.

Then I have a short Location document for the players, one double sided sheet. Broad strokes, no more then a few sentences each. Hooks, evocative, places they can get something. Oh, and the Triton has a different sheet with underwater locations instead.
 
If you are working from scratch, it's usually going to take a lot of time, possibly more time than you're willing to commit with you're time constraints.

I suggest to start using a pre-made adventure. That really cuts down on the amount of time you need to prepare, with the bulk of the work preparing the necessary statblocks so you aren't page-flipping through the Monster Manual.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I don't have kids, but in general I've found that 8 hours a week of "campaign work" tends to be about the right about of time to flesh out what's going to happen in next week's session. And this is under the assumption you already have the general setting for the campaign built.
Holy cow, that's way more prep than I would ever put in. It's 2-3 hours per session for me. I sketch out what's going on with the plot, whip up some encounters and obstacles, and wing the rest.

As far as prepping the campaign/setting in the first place... I don't know, maybe 10-15 hours total, spread over a few weeks. Also, I don't do campaigns back-to-back. When I wrap up a campaign, I hand off the DM screen to someone else to run the next one. Thus, when I'm prepping a new campaign, I've had a nice long break from DMing, and I also have plenty of time to work out my ideas while the other guy is wrapping up.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
For my current campaign (now heading into its' 6th session) I'm going to guess: About a week.
But these hours, mostly of thought vs any actual writing, were spread out over a few months.
 

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