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

Mepher

Explorer
My group was in the early stages (6 sessions) of a 2E campaign but due to low player count (4) we decided to return to 5E. We play every Sunday and we made this decision on Tuesday. That night I ordered Ghosts of Saltmarsh and it arrived Thursday. Friday I spent an hour or so reading through the Town of Salmarsh section and the Sinister Secret (1st adventure). Friday I picked up the Essentials Kit and skimmed over Dragon of Icespire Keep which is very non-linear, almost like a sandbox. Placing Saltmarsh in Forgotten Realms puts it near Phandalin so I will be combining both adventures, scaling the Icespire one as needed.

Today is session 0 and one of our 4 players is on a safari in Africa so I don't want to start them right into the adventure, so I am going to run a short level 1 encounter that will bring them from Waterdeep to Saltmarsh and set the stage. I probably spent about 2 hours working on that. I ran this group through Dragonheist and probably 60% of that campaign was homebrew content I added. Most of it is done on the fly depending on my player's actions. We did a lot of roleplay and they loved it. I expect that there will be quite a bit of that again. I have enough between making characters and this small encounter to fill our 5 hour session 0. In the next week I will spend a few hours rewriting the Town of Saltmarsh chapter changing details from Greyhawk setting to Forgotten Realms, 3D printing minis/terrain for the campaign, and just odd prep stuff. All told I think with less than 6 hours prep I have enough material right now for about 6 sessions (30 hours).

Now that said, I do have quite a bit of downtime at work and I frequently spend that reading all types of materials. While I am not counting that, it's most definitely part of my prep.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
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.
Spend $10 on DMs Guild to pick up this wonderful D&D sourcebook:

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook

Yes it was written for 2nd edition... but I'm pretty sure everything in there about running D&D in the historical northmen era will still be applicable for you using 5E rules. I haven't read it myself personally... but since its a Vikings sourcebook I'd be fairly confident it'd give you everything you need to run a campaign there. This will save you lots of time since everything you might need to know about Vikings will be written from a D&D gaming perspective and it'll be all in one place.
 

muppetmuppet

Explorer
I would suggest that once you have a basic idea of what type of world you want get the players started on making characters. They will come up with ideas for what they want and you can see how they mesh with your world idea. So I would go with 5 mins. Once you have some characters you can decide on some more things.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
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.
Maybe it's just me. I tend to have players who like to "go left" at any given opportunity and I like to be prepared for that.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Maybe it's just me. I tend to have players who like to "go left" at any given opportunity and I like to be prepared for that.
Mine do the same thing, but I've given up on being prepared for it. I just try to have enough raw material ready that I can throw something together on the fly. :)
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Mine do the same thing, but I've given up on being prepared for it. I just try to have enough raw material ready that I can throw something together on the fly. :)
My entirely "this is just a me thing" problem with doing things on the fly is that I have a terrible time remembering what I did after the session! If I've got a campaign going that ya know, has plots and stuff, that's pretty bad for next time.
 

Dausuul

Legend
My entirely "this is just a me thing" problem with doing things on the fly is that I have a terrible time remembering what I did after the session! If I've got a campaign going that ya know, has plots and stuff, that's pretty bad for next time.
Yeah, that can be a challenge. My solution is to take notes during the session and/or immediately after, so I remember what the situation is, who did what, and what weird twists I threw in off the cuff.

Basically, I trade prep time for extra work during the session itself.
 

aco175

Adventurer
Another idea is to take a regular adventure that is pre-made and convert it to a viking theme by changing location and names and such. I also would take the gods from Forgotten Realms or 3e and just convert the stats and such with norse gods. You can also find some good maps online for towns and dungeons and even kingdoms to make things easier.

Gather info, but plan for the players and their PCs. Some with have cool ideas on background and what their PC wants to encounter, while others show up and just go with whatever is there. Be prepared to change things and remember you only need to stay a week ahead of the group.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
It seems to me that once you have the broad strokes of the campaign world sketched in: what are the playable races/classes and what generally is the setting: hot/cold/temperate (helps when choosing monsters), what the major threat is (loki wanting some powerful item in your case) and where they start (where/how does the party come together), then you have enough to start rolling. You really don’t want the whole campaign figured out before you go. And really if you want less prep I’d avoid running a published campaign. I find those to be more work as their rigidity works against the actions of the players and you end up doing a bunch of patchwork to keep it somewhat connected. (and there’s the extra mental effort of trying to keep that other designers game plan/logic in your head!)

Start small with your finale in mind and grow the campaign towards it (and of course if the game wants to go in another direction you can easily conjure a new Big Bad for the finale.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
If you are talking about starting up a new campaign world, it can take either a LOT of time, or very little. As a busy DM, you might honestly be best picking up a 5E AP adventure and just running that. If you don't want to do so, you might want to just buy an old copy of one of the existing settings for D&D, but they will require a little updating.

Some DMs (especially old school DMs) tend to create a "top down" approach, where they design the cosmos, deities, and general world history before detailing out the starting location and 1st adventure. This creates some vibrant, detailed settings that are often used for multiple campaigns. The downside to this is that it usually takes months to prepare, depending on how detailed you want to get it. This is probably not a good choice for a family DM, unless you are a player currently and plan to DM the next campaign.

Ed Greenwood suggests using the "bottom up" approach. You detail out the starting location (village/town/city) and 1st adventure first. You only design a half-dozen deities that are worshiped in the area, along with a few power groups (nobles, merchants, thieves' guild, etc.). Give a little thought to the surrounding area, such as topography and potential adventures. Run a couple of adventures in the starting location, while dropping hints about the surrounding areas (from rumors and news from travelers). If the players seem interested, set up an adventure in that area, and start detailing it. The is a much faster method, and can be done in only a week or so, but the downside is that your players can ask for information you don't readily have, requiring you to make it up on the fly (or just admit to the players, and tell them later).
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Ed Greenwood suggests using the "bottom up" approach. You detail out the starting location (village/town/city) and 1st adventure first. You only design a half-dozen deities that are worshiped in the area, along with a few power groups (nobles, merchants, thieves' guild, etc.). Give a little thought to the surrounding area, such as topography and potential adventures. Run a couple of adventures in the starting location, while dropping hints about the surrounding areas (from rumors and news from travelers). If the players seem interested, set up an adventure in that area, and start detailing it. The is a much faster method, and can be done in only a week or so, but the downside is that your players can ask for information you don't readily have, requiring you to make it up on the fly (or just admit to the players, and tell them later).
This is what I did. Built the city I want to start in, brief over view of the surrounding area, and some local threats and what not.
 
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.
Mmm... I have the feeling my answer won't easily suit you.

The way I create campaigns nowadays is pretty random. I start from picking the first adventure, and build from there. I have long left behind the idea of top-down world building, although I have done it in 3e and I could just resume one of those few old fantasy worlds of mine if I want.

But now my favourite way of doing is bottom-up, with player characters starting locally and gradually discovering the world, which leaves me no pressure to design anything in advance, and things get picked up and added from the adventures themselves.

Those few lore things that are needed beforehand, such as which deities can the clerics choose, I can still have ready in no time by just picking an existing pantheon, or let the Cleric player choose any deity freely and leaving the rest up in the air.

So really my prep time before a totally new campaign goes into reading or writing the introductory adventure, which is normally a one-shot so it's pretty short, and making a few pregenerated PCs for beginners. I like starting with a one-shot because I always have some at the table who are new to the game, or the edition at least.

It can get harder later, when I decide to run a bigger module that needs to be read fully. I have lots of old adventures still unplayed so I avoid writing long ones myself, but I do normally need to convert them. Peak prep time is always before starting those, but often it is followed by sessions for which I have almost nothing to prep. In fact, most free time between sessions last year instead of "prep" I've spent in "prop", such as designing action/spell cards and building minis and terrain using Lego.
 

Bobble

Villager
Maybe it's just me. I tend to have players who like to "go left" at any given opportunity and I like to be prepared for that.
At the rate low level PCs move that should never be a problem for a good DM. As long as you know the area 30 miles around them no problem. 30 miles in typical medieval settings could take days to traverse. ALL kinds of trouble to keep them busy in one session.
 

Draegn

Explorer
If you are talking about starting up a new campaign world, it can take either a LOT of time, or very little. As a busy DM, you might honestly be best picking up a 5E AP adventure and just running that. If you don't want to do so, you might want to just buy an old copy of one of the existing settings for D&D, but they will require a little updating.

Some DMs (especially old school DMs) tend to create a "top down" approach, where they design the cosmos, deities, and general world history before detailing out the starting location and 1st adventure. This creates some vibrant, detailed settings that are often used for multiple campaigns. The downside to this is that it usually takes months to prepare, depending on how detailed you want to get it. This is probably not a good choice for a family DM, unless you are a player currently and plan to DM the next campaign.

Ed Greenwood suggests using the "bottom up" approach. You detail out the starting location (village/town/city) and 1st adventure first. You only design a half-dozen deities that are worshiped in the area, along with a few power groups (nobles, merchants, thieves' guild, etc.). Give a little thought to the surrounding area, such as topography and potential adventures. Run a couple of adventures in the starting location, while dropping hints about the surrounding areas (from rumors and news from travelers). If the players seem interested, set up an adventure in that area, and start detailing it. The is a much faster method, and can be done in only a week or so, but the downside is that your players can ask for information you don't readily have, requiring you to make it up on the fly (or just admit to the players, and tell them later).
I am in the middle of this. For my current campaign I took an old map of Europe. Doggerland, modified it somewhat, Iberia has been lengthened and broken into islands, then chose one area to start in, Luxembourg. This gave the players the world to look at and allowed me to make up rumors and "news".

For Luxembourg I created the main city, smaller towns and villages so there was a map of where to go. I created a few npcs that they would meet inside the "adventurer hall" and created more as needed. I run a sandbox but in the beginning I gave them quests they could choose to go on if they wanted to or not. When they finalized what they wanted their characters to do I designed plots to work towards those goals.

The rest of the middle parts filled themselves in as the players decided to expand upon their environs. For the most part however, my players have stayed within "Luxembourg".
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
At the rate low level PCs move that should never be a problem for a good DM. As long as you know the area 30 miles around them no problem. 30 miles in typical medieval settings could take days to traverse. ALL kinds of trouble to keep them busy in one session.
As someone who is not a fan of random encounters, 30 miles through terrain that is not explicitly dangerous is:
DM:"make some survival checks"
Party: *rolls, someone does well/poorly*
DM: Your travel time is increased/decreased by a day.
*repeat until they reach somewhere interesting*

I live in the American Midwest. You could easily travel 30 miles and never encounter another living thing of note. Sure, fantasy world has dragons and wandering monsters, but I really do to try to substitute them for some portion of the existing creature population.

If I include a fight, or a dungeon in an area it's there for a purpose. It's relevant to something in the world. A hint at things to come, a glimpse at things that were. It may not be immediately relevant (leading the party to ignore it due to lack of understanding) meaning they pass it up entirely.

I'd rather skip the "we wander through the hills for a week and fight a bunch of pointless trash" and go to "we wander through the hills for a week and arrive at our goal and get to do interesting stuff this session.
 

Bobble

Villager
As someone who is not a fan of random encounters, 30 miles through terrain that is not explicitly dangerous is:
DM:"make some survival checks"
Party: *rolls, someone does well/poorly*
DM: Your travel time is increased/decreased by a day.
*repeat until they reach somewhere interesting*
Try to find someone to give you DMing lessons if that is the limit of your repertoire
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
[MENTION=6996142]Christopher Bixby[/MENTION]

Jot down the three things you’d like to see come into play for the campaign. These can be a location or an object or a NPC, whatever you think may be interesting. Then, ask your players to do the same.

Take that list, and create a very loose sketch connecting several of the suggestions, but don’t connect them all, save some to be introduced later.

Use that sketch to get things going. Develop the rest through play. If you run into something you’re not sure of, or that hasn’t yet been fleshed out, lean on your players. What do you think they’ll like? Fill things in as you go. Don’t be afraid to use what the players have offered. Don’t be afraid to outright ask them to provide some details.

Before each session, jot down a list of bullet points of what you expect or want to happen, or what you think your players will want. Spend like 15 minutes on it. Maybe add a few possible branches to indicate alternate paths they may take.

I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with spending hours and hours on this stuff, but I also don’t think it’s necessary for a fun game. I just wanted to offer a slightly different bit of advice. Start with a sketch and then detail things as you go. Involve the players in creating the world as much as possible.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
It’s different for everyone, but I find that about one hour of prep work per hour of play time is a good general guideline. If your players are getting impatient, I would remind them that you are volunteering your free time to do eight extra of your free time a week to entertain them for four.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Try to find someone to give you DMing lessons if that is the limit of your repertoire

Hey, [MENTION=6999006]Bobble[/MENTION], flinging insults may go okay on other platforms, but it isn't acceptable around here. We expect you to treat your fellow posters with a modicum of respect that is missing in this post. Please bring your discourse up a notch or two.

If you have any questions, please take them to private message or e-mail with a member of the moderating staff. Thanks.
 

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