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D&D General What are you prepping for your next D&D session? (+)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In the spirit of ongoing threads like, "HOW WAS YOUR LAST SESSION?" I wanted to start a new one where we share what we have prepped for our imminent D&D session as DM. Not what the big story arc is, not what the campaign is aiming toward (though that might provide context in brief), but literally what are your either planning for, planning around, or perhaps even not able to plan and have to be prepared to improvise a few different things.

You will note the (+) in the thread title. This thread will not be the place for the "how do you know what your players will do? Sounds like railroading!" type arguments. As a DM I prep for what I think is most likely and try to be ready for the unexpected. But generally, by the time it wraps up, the previous session gives a very strong sense of where the next session will go.

Unless of course you are prepping the session I am working on. For the last 8 or so sessions I have been running a long involved module, so while some prep and tweaking was necessary between sessions, mostly everything was in an established framework it was easy to work with or deviate from - but now everything is up in the air!

We're playing this Saturday, and having just completed my remix of N1 - Against the Cult of the Reptile God and achieving 6th level, they are a crossroads (both figuratively and literally). What will they do next? In what order? Where will they go? Will they tarry or will they hurry onward? Will they do something completely unexpected?

This is what I am planning on based on the previous session:
  • The PCs taking up a sidetrek they ignored in favor of the bigger threat that has since progressed in severity in their absence. This involves several possible encounters with trolls (including one very misunderstood fellow who just wants to sing and make friends), a girl fleeing into the swamp, and the jerkface knight her dad wants her to marry. [This could stretch out their stay in this area 1 to 3 more sessions!]
    • As such, I stated out a few different trolls, found a map for their lair, and stated out the knight and his men-at-arms.
  • Wrapping up the logistics of the village they saved, including touching base with NPCs, reuniting people they rescued with family, and dealing with a few loose ends (like the guy who summoned them to help the town is still missing). This may also involve the party getting a couple of followers in the form of the young woman who wants the party gnome to teach her to be a wizard, and an orphan boy who parents were made into zombies and sister was fed to monsters. There is also some potential political stuff they could get involved with if they want. [Should be able to advance time to do this fairly quickly in terms of session time depending on how they want to handle it]
  • Going back to their base. They left Saltmarsh in the process of buying an old noble's hunting lodge on the edge of the marshes to covert into a headquarters. Furthermore, the plot of the final enemy has advanced in their absence - but before that they need to establish their base and deal with a potential haunting/infestation!
    • This last point needs to be set up carefully because it is going to be focus of the rest of the campaign (I think) and leads to a big conclusion. It also involves their returning to find the town preparing for a possible battle/invasion and allies they made along the way in their earlier adventures returning to help out.
    • The "haunting" is a way to make their HQ feel more like their own by setting an adventure in it where they cleanse it and feel like they have done something to claim it (besides go into debt - which they also have). I am not worrying too much about prepping this yet because I figure even if we get that far it will be towards the end of the session and I can wing it to an appropriate cliffhanger.
    • That said, I need to finish the handdrawn battlemap of their lodge and surrounding area before they get back there (I will share a pic when I am done).
  • It is also totally possible they will want to immediately follow up on some of the hooks they caught wind of during this past adventure, in which case - most of the session will be travel, and I can just cook up some potential "random encounters" to tide us over until I have prepped one or more of those.


    So that's it for me for now. . . what are you prepping for your next session?
 

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In our modified West Marches style Curse of Strahd/Ravenloft campaign, I'm prepping for two possible courses of action for the party. I've moved the Wizard's tower, which contains one of the three special items revealed by the Tarokka deck that will help with battling Strahd, to a remote section of the map. Without getting into too much detail for... reasons @el-remmen... I'll just say that at least one of these two possible sessions will be necessary for a party to clear before the actual Wizard's tower session can occur. Of course, the player pool might want to check out some other hook, in which case I'll scramble to ready something else, but at least I'll have these ready for when a group finally does bite on the Wizard's tower quest.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I’m running a West Marches game. So a lot of my prep is front loaded. I have been reading Planegea and loving it so I’m adding in flairs and touches of primal fantasy to the land. I absolutely love the notion (from Planegea) of locations and natural things/cycles simply becoming divine and becoming local gods. Also these are petitioned for boons and favors and can be seen as a kind of magic store or temple. So reflavoring some things the PCs haven‘t heard about yet.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Gonna start a heavily modified Curse of Strahd sandbox game (which seem like popular themes in these first few posts) in mid-November. I’m prepping random encounter tables for the different regions of the map. I want each area to have a unique feel, and for different areas to be tuned to different level ranges.
 

aco175

Legend
I'm in the middle of the Essentials box set and are working on the 3rd set of quest-boards that the PCs can choose from. I basically take the box set 2 pages and expand some on the monsters and treasure and may add a trap or riddle and some NPC interaction. For example, the PCs could take the trade road towards the Dragon Barrow where they are to meet a centaur. I added a merchant with goods the PCs could buy from and rest with for the night and the centaur meeting is when he charges by shouting "Orcs are near, come on!", but in elven. The PCs can help him and fight the orcs or try to find the barrow themselves.

My group already completed the Woodland Manse quest ,but the centaur can point them that way as well as the directions to the barrow.

I am finding that the added things and missions I have from the players are making the final encounter with the dragon look easier than I think it should. I'm going to likely add some levels to it and a few other encounters when I am getting to that point. Although the players chose the other Dwarven Keep quest over finding the dragon-slaying sword, thinking that if they have the sword then the town will want them to attack the dragon. I may need the NPC adventuring party in town get the sword and the townsfolk rejoice for them instead.
 

Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
My 1e group has split into two groups - and Team Evil starts their first session apart from the regular group this weekend...

Each of the members owes a debt to either the Thieves' Guild or the Assassin's guild, so they are basically given a mission to break into a crypt on a Noble's estate to find evidence of Necromancy that can be used against the noble family in question.

We'll see if a group of evils (and one Chaotic Neutral) can come together! :D
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The party is deed inside a strange dungeon - the FOREBODING FROMAGERIE - They have made contact with Makko, the drowned wizard who nominally controls this facility.

Makko has created a portal to go to the moon. As we all know, the moon is made of cheese, and he wanted to experiment with moon cheese. He found it rather ... terrible tasting (it's chalky) but very good for making golems. However, cheese imps, who live on the moon, have found the portal and made a home inside the facility. Makko closed the portal but he has not destroyed them (he is studying them). The imps are trying to force the portal back open

Makko now believes that the moon cheese-imps are a great danger to the world, and wants to invade the moon to destroy it. The party is recruiting other factions in the dungeon so they can mount an assault on the moon.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Oh! I’m also preparing a player consent survey for sensitive themes in the campaign. I know most of the people who are going to be playing in the group well and feel like I could probably navigate their comfort levels pretty well without it, but I figure better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Also I have one newcomer joining the group, whom I don’t know as well, but I do know recently went through a divorce with an emotionally manipulative spouse, so I want to make extra sure that I know what her boundaries are since emotional manipulation is kind of Strahd’s whole deal.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Oh! I’m also preparing a player consent survey for sensitive themes in the campaign. I know most of the people who are going to be playing in the group well and feel like I could probably navigate their comfort levels pretty well without it, but I figure better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Also I have one newcomer joining the group, whom I don’t know as well, but I do know recently went through a divorce with an emotionally manipulative spouse, so I want to make extra sure that I know what her boundaries are since emotional manipulation is kind of Strahd’s whole deal.
PC: "Where do you want to go to dinner?"
Strahd: "I don't know, you pick."
PC: "..."
 

Stormonu

Legend
We just finished our Saltmarsh campaign (I ended it with the Final Enemy), so we’ll be doing one-shots for a bit.

For Halloween, I’m running an adventure in Falcovia, in Ravenloft. The 5th-level characters will escorting a work detail to a nearby farm to harvest the last crop and get it back to the capital before the next zombie moon (3 days away, it takes a day each way to reach the farm).

One of the plot twists I’m setting up is that when the PCs reach the farm, they will then play the workers they escorted, who get embroiled in a plot by the workers already there who are plotting an escape to a supposed safe haven known as Queen’s Vale.

Of course, I’m expecting the whole worker’s plan to go to hell - with a final confrontation between PCs, workers, the werewolf guards of the worker camp and the arrival of the tip of the zombie invasion…

Adventure notes, for the curious
Falkovia

Party is to escort a wagaon and their work crew to the settlement ____ . There they will collect the last of the harvest and return to the city for the oncoming seige in 3 days on the new moon. It will take 1 day to get to the settlement, 1 day of collecting harvest and 1 day to return.


ENCOUNTER 1 - Raiders
6 Bandits with 3 trained wolves, led by a bandit captain and his two shifters. They attempt to draw the PCs away from their charges so they can kidnap the workers and take them back to their lair. There are 10 slaves at the bandit's lair, under the watchful eye of an ex-captain of the guard.

ENCOUNTER 2 - Abandoned Wagon
An abandoned vardo on the side of the road. One dead horse lies nearby, half-gnawed to bone. The other horse is still tethered to the wagon and is a zombie. A body lies face down nearby, its face is missing (not torn off or mutilated, simply blank). The vardo has been ransacked; if the inside is investigated, there is a locked chest inside with a potion of healing, a bandana of luck and the knight card from a tarokka deck (turns into a knight if thrown down on the ground). Struck into the center of the vardo is a blood-stained silver long sword. The vardo is covered and provides better protection from attack, but is much heavier - it must either be drawn by the zombie horse or a team of 5 men of STR 12 or better.

If the party investigates the area, each PC makes a Perception check. The PC that rolls lowest (and below 15) is ambushed by a strahd zombie. One round later, a line of zombies appears at the forest's edge, but does not venture out into the light. If antagonized, one per PC rushes from the forest to fight. After three rounds, a hunting horn sounds and the remaineder turn and shamble back into the woods.

ENCOUNTER 3 - The Homestead
The party nears a burned out homestead. Only a few wooden beams and the stone chimney remains. There is a strong smell of bacon in the air, and a thin wisp of smoke comes from the chimney. As the party nears, they hear faint, muffled cries of a baby or child. Hidden behind the chimney is the wife. In the nearby woods is the father, a survivor armed with a wood axe. Hidden under the floorboards is the cellar, where the family stays and the couple's young child stays. There are also hand-crafted crates stored here to gather the harvest hidden nearby.

A passive Perception DC 15 (or searching) reveals an odd blue shade to the nearby green underbrush. Examination reveals it is a bean farm (String beans, lima beans, peas) with enough that it would take a work force of 20 pickers 4 hours to gather.

Characters have to decide to leave the family behind, take them with them as workers, and whether or not to take the child (an extra mouth too young to work).

After the party deals with the family, a pack of starving wolves, led by a dire wolf attack.

If the party decides to pick the harvest, a Hill giant zombie, four ghouls and a ghast attack the workforce, looking to destroy the harvest and kill the pickers.

ENCOUNTER 4 - The Crossing
The party arrives at the bridge an hour away from the settlement. The stone bridge is out, with the supports still in place, and a littering of large rocks nearby (looks like the bridge was deliberately collapses by a rear-guard action). Well-worn wagon tracks lead down the slope to the right of the bridge, and a muddy expanse on the far side, littered with broken wagon parts shows evidence that crossing attempts (not all of which were successful) occur here.

The party must secure the wagon to float it across, deciding who will be aboard and who will swim/wade across. It takes five successful DC 15 Strength checks to get the wagon across. Three failures means the wagon is swept against the rocks and crushed. Any failures indicate that either someone aboard the wagon or a box of supplies is damaged/lost.

Swimmers must make five DC 12 Athletics check to swim/wade across. Three failures indicate that the swimmer is swept away and dashed against rocks, taking 3d6 damage.

Hidden amid the wreckage on the far side is a pack of ghouls, waiting to ambush those who make it across. There are also zombies on the near side if the party arrives at night, who attack as the party investigates the area or as they start their crossing.

ENCOUNTER 5 - The Arrival
The party arrives at the settlement. The workers are tired, hungry and have been worked to exhaustion by the Sergeant-at-arms and his liuetenants, who appear well-fed. In truth, the Sergeant is a werewolf and his lieutenants are shifters under his thrall. He invites the characters to dinner, attempting to turn them to his cause. He intends to use the workers to load the harvest, then abandon them for the return back to the capital. He has been keeping two ghoul horses in the barn to pull the wagon, and will lead the party here and turn on them if they don't choose to go along with his plan.

ENCOUNTER 6 - The Dream
The party awakes the next morning to a scream. Running outside, they see the workers standing around, staring into the distance. A purplish-black wall surrounds the edge of the settlement, and as the morning fog clears it is apparent that the wall is shoulder-to-shoulder zombies, their hellish eyes glowing yellow as they stare at the living within the settlement. With a battlecry, one of the workers rushes forward, hoe in hand and plants it directly into the head of one of his coworkers. As the stunned worker falls, the entire wall of zombies takes a single step inward. A sudden, supernatural realization washes over all within - only a lone survivor will escape and their only chance is to slay everyone else. Full PVP engages, with the zombies taking one step closer each round. Slain PCs rise as zombies the next round (HP restored to full, can't use abilities that require concentration, when reduced to 0 hp again make a Constitution save DC 11/damage taken or destroyed).

When one PC is left alive or the first zombie PC is destroyed, the characters awaken to find it was a dream.

ENCOUNTER 7 - The Others
Switch to the Survivors. The foreman of the workers has put together a plan to escape the work camp and flee Paradise Valley, a place devoid of zombies and with laden orchards and gardens. The PC survivors are enlisted to aid implementing (or interfering) with the plan to escape.

Part I - the Map
Group one must sneak into the Sergeant's office and steal an old map of Falkovia, which shows the location of Paradise Valley. However, the Sergeant keeps his "favorite" zombie in the library, his sister, who will attack if disturbed, and who the Sergeant will severly punish if she is harmed.

Part II - the Keys
Group two must steal the keys to the main gate from the main lieutenant, make copies of them and forge a spare set in the blacksmith's camp. The keys must then be returned without being noticed.

Part III - the distraction
Group three must set fire to the fields in three different areas. They must 1) get brandy from Sergeant's store, steal matches from one of the guards (who smokes) and avoid the patrols to set up the fire bombs and set them to go off simultaneously via signal.

ENCOUNTER 8 - A brush with the horde
As the Survivors get outside the settlement, they find themselves amid the incoming zombie horde. The survivors must sneak, combat or otherwise get past three waves of zombies, and a subcommander who is a former Falkovian legionaire.

ENCOUNTER 9 - Against Authority
The survivors reconvene only to face the Sergeant and his lieutenants, who reveal themselves as werewolves. Just as the slaughter is about to begin, the party's PCs arrive to engage the sergeant. Deadly encounter, all gloves are off.

ENCOUNTER 10 - The Horde
The remaining survivors find the tunnel that leads to Paradise Valley, however, zombies surge from the underground entrance. The survivors are ambushed by ghouls and driven towards the horde. As they get near, they discover a disguised side tunnel across the river-like horde. They must battle their way through the zombie horde to the far side, scale the cliffs (with undead on their heels) and make it to the tunnel, where they find an ancient welcome carved in the doorway that welcomes to the passage to Paradise Valley - and to "please close the door behind you". Once inside, they must seal it shut.

ENCOUNTER 11 - The Passage to Paradise Valley
The survivors must navigate the dark passages (unlit, but the proper path is laced with candles to indicate the path). Eventually, they come to a vast chasm with a single rickety bridge across. They must cross the wind-swept chasm to reach the far side, which consists of a huge carved stone archway and stone doors. The doors are enscribed with a cacophany of names and are fakes, but no other exit is visible. However, there is a pool to one side, lit by a strange light from within. If characters swim to the underwater source, they find it is a long tunnel that leads to sunlight, but within its flooded depths are several drowned bodies. Characters must make five successful Athletic/Constitution checks to swim to the far side. The bodies are drowned ones, but they have been tied to the walls, and only attack to grab a character if they fail at one of the Athletic checks.

ENCOUNTER 12 - Paradise Valley
The characters reach Paradise Valley, where they find a green land with fruit-laden orchards and well-tended gardens. There are houses, but they are abandoned. No one seems to be here, but there are no zombies - the characters have made it!
 
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Faolyn

Hero
I'm being lazy, but I need to prep for a fight between the PCs and a couple of flameskulls and death's heads in a small, bounded area which is almost entirely shrouded in magical darkness.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
Running the final chapter of Rime of the Frostmaiden - (MINOR SPOILER) -


and the players have decided to try to assassinate an arcanoloth. So I think I'm going to think out a series of skill checks necessary for a party to get surprise on an enemy who knows they're here and doesn't have a reason to trust them.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Current location: a crappy little town in the middle of nowhere.
Current mission: putting the finishing touches on some scarecrows made of discarded laundry and agricultural waste, in preparation for the animation ritual to occur under the upcoming new moon.

Goal: Hopefully, these scarecrows will prove to be decent players, so I can get a game going.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This week: basically nothing: as the party have just finished a mission and are heading to town the coming session will almost certainly be nothing but treasury division, bookkeeping, training, and maybe item swapping/shopping.

The shopping piece will force the one bit of prep I'll have to do: use a spreadsheet to generate a short randomized list of what magic items are currently on the market in town. As doing this takes me maybe 30 seconds tops, I do it on the fly as and when requested rather than ahead of time.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am not running D&D at the moment, but I play...

So I am preparing battle tactics! I have realized that the flanking rule means that my rogue and the party paladin can do a weird kind of dance of death around a target, where we maximize getting advantage from flanking, and her ability to impose disadvantage with her protection fighting style.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I dream about prepping a session. My old table went their separate ways at the beginning of covid when our campaign ended, and I‘ve wanted to try and start something new but I don’t want to be online and I don’t want to open my house to strangers just yet (SC being on the worse end of vaccinations/infections).

So I sit and ponder what it would be like….
 

The city has been receiving creepy telegraph messages, as if the lines themselves were haunted. The party, as I expected, discovered that there was a succubus who had learned to turn into electricity while ethereal, which lets her travel down telegraph lines. And they, as I expected, gathered information to locate an old fort in the desert that has a telegraph station, which fits the profile of where the succubus would hide.

What I didn't expect was that the party would want to go to a local inventor's workshop to see if she had the materials to build a giant blessed leyden jar, with which they hope to trap the succubus. Leyden jar - Wikipedia

So now I need to think of an interesting way to involve that in the combat against the succubus.

Plus, since they already did a pretty good job thwomping her in their first encounter with the succubus, I need to come up with some interesting minions to defend her, to make their fight more interesting. Maybe just some charmed people who don't realize that one of the people working at their telegraph station is a shapeshifting demon.
 

JohnF

Explorer
I just did a 5e Session 0 - descriptive only - with five at-risk young people (4 girls, 1 boy) in the middle school where I coach teachers. Only one student has ever played D&D before.

I presented 5e races and classes reskinned to fit their Latin American and Chinese roots (e.g. duende instead of gnomes/dwarves, guajojo folk in place of aarakocra, huli jing replacing elves, sort of, etc.), and I asked them to describe the adventures that they would like to have.

So, I'll be prepping a few villages in a fantasy Latin American/Chinese area where the PCs - who all decided to all be reformed ne'er-do-wells - will, hopefully, be the local heroes of the region. Can't be too scary - by request - but they want tough challenges. So, I've got a little work to do this weekend, but it's really, really worth it!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I just did a 5e Session 0 - descriptive only - with five at-risk young people (4 girls, 1 boy) in the middle school where I coach teachers. Only one student has ever played D&D before.

I presented 5e races and classes reskinned to fit their Latin American and Chinese roots (e.g. duende instead of gnomes/dwarves, guajojo folk in place of aarakocra, huli jing replacing elves, sort of, etc.), and I asked them to describe the adventures that they would like to have.

So, I'll be prepping a few villages in a fantasy Latin American/Chinese area where the PCs - who all decided to all be reformed ne'er-do-wells - will, hopefully, be the local heroes of the region. Can't be too scary - by request - but they want tough challenges. So, I've got a little work to do this weekend, but it's really, really worth it!

That is fantastic! As a Latino kid who came up in some rough environments through middle school and for whom D&D was an escape and an alternative to risky behavior, you don't know how much this warms my heart.
 

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