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D&D General What's the Most Valuable DM Prep Between Campaigns?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Let's say you likely have another D&D campaign starting "down the road"- it might be several weeks or months, but it is definitely coming as your current game winds down.

You don't know what the players will want to play, except that it's probably going to be D&D.

What would you do with this sabbatical time? Would you make small 5 room dungeons in preparation? Design campaign worlds? Random encounter tables? Maybe you would take time off from thinking about the game altogether and recharge?
I start working on what the players want. My players always have a hundred PC concepts each at any given time, so that is fairly easy.

And I am always talking about campaign ideas, so I can just kinda go “hey y’all wanna do Space Fantasy, Islands World, another Eberron game, or take a break from both D&D and Long campaigns and do a short The One Ring, maybe Blades In The Dark, something else?”

But campaign prep is basically my main hobby. I do it in some amount any time I have free time.
 

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This is a really good question! Especially if you plan on being collaborative in world-building with your players, then you don't want to do a lot of map-making or adventure design.

Here's what I think would be useful:

1) Reading lots of stories or books in the genre you will be playing in, to build up a toolbox of setting, adventure, and NPC ideas.

2) Collecting together possible house rules into a single document to present to players.

3) Creating structures that are setting-agnostic that you know will help you be a better GM.

4) Talking with the players about what they enjoyed about the last campaign.

For me, I do a lot of creative work testing out different campaign ideas ("What would the first three adventures in a Sky Pirates campaign look like? How would I do an Underdark campaign?").

I also play around with different ways to do travel, random encounters, and dungeon design.

Finally, I read a bunch of fantasy to get myself really pumped up and excited!
 

Larnievc

Explorer
Let's say you likely have another D&D campaign starting "down the road"- it might be several weeks or months, but it is definitely coming as your current game winds down.

You don't know what the players will want to play, except that it's probably going to be D&D.

What would you do with this sabbatical time? Would you make small 5 room dungeons in preparation? Design campaign worlds? Random encounter tables? Maybe you would take time off from thinking about the game altogether and recharge?
I’d start doing the story and start imagining how scenes play out. I’d have a mental story board of how the plot will play out.

Then I wing it.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In vague sequence with lots of overlap, this is what I did for my current campaign:

Top-to-bottom rules review and kitbash - what worked last time, what didn't, and what have I been holding back on so as not to disrupt the last campaign. This is ongoing, all I'd be doing here is tying together and finializing decisions I'd made during the last campaign.

Design the physical setting - maps, realms, cultures, and - most important - history. This is the long slow bit, and can easily eat up six months to a year* to do right.

Use the setting design and history as an ideas mine to figure out some story ideas - preferably lots of 'em - such that once play begins, if one or more of those ideas resonates with the players I can run it easily. At the same time, figure out a list of standalone adventure modules or ideas; not everything has to tie in to a Story. :)

Recruit players.

Drop the puck.

* - this might seem like a long time but when the setting is going to be asked to hold up over a 10+-year campaign, it's worth spending the time to do right.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I start by coming up with a general outline of location, factions and their goals, possible recent events and potential high level plot points.

Then I procrastinate until the last minute and just kind of make it up as I go along. :D
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I decide which campaign setting or which adventure path I wish to run, then read and re-read the material that comes with it several times over. This usually gives me a good indication of which parts of the D&D rules I wish to houserule, and I go through the time to create them (each path or setting usually has its own set of houserules to help emphasize its themes and whatnot.)

If I'm deciding to run in a pre-made setting, I'll usually hit up DMs Guild to see what adventures and/or character material other people have made for it, and purchase that which would be useful. I'd also then go through my big pile of modules and see which ones (if any) would work for what I am planning to run. Finally, if there are any specific PC ideas I wish to use / have to again emphasize the themes of the game... like for instance set character archetypes for the players to select from... I'll prep that list as well (and perhaps do another round of module hunting in case there are any out there that would seem important to any of the archetypes.

After that, I start hitting up my circle of players to see who might be interested in playing (with all the themes, settings, potential character archetypes established) and when the time is right, start the pre-game up with character creation.
 

not-so-newguy

Adventurer
Without a specific plan to be made, I think I would want to take a break from thinking of my own campaign and focus on others peoples' creations. Things like...

Lurk on enworld, jump down rabbit holes on the pandius site, peruse DrivethruRPG/DMs guild for cheap modules or supplements, read a book, see a play*, consume media entertainment, find another hobby, take a class, and maybe daydream about cool random d&d stuff of my own.
 

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