What!? You mean to tell me that there are creator gods in Handbook-World? And I’m them? I’m not sure I can handle this kind of responsibility….

Theological complications aside, I think that we can all sympathize with the pressed-for-time deities of today’s comic. No matter how much you care about your character, your campaign, or the internal consistency of your fantasy world, the demands of real life have a way of stealing your time. That’s why it pays to have a ready-to-go method in place for session prep. I got mine from no less a designer than DM to the stars Chris Perkins.

It was just a few years out of college, and I was saddled to a desk job with little responsibility and loads of downtime. In order to keep from going mad, I found myself scouring the internet of 2011 for something to do. And even though my main gaming fix at the time was M:tG rather than D&D, I decided to try reading through the other content coming out of Wizards of the Coast. That’s how I discovered Perkins’s series of articles, The Dungeon Master Experience. That’s what first got me into RPGs, and Perkins’s work will forever hold a special place in my geeky game-designer heart. The archive of articles is long-since gone, but you can still find a PDF of the highlights. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the series was all about coming up with ways to be a better DM, relying on Perkins’s personal campaign world of Iomandra as a lens. I like to think that I’m writing the same sort of content myself these days, even if it’s nowhere near as good.

That whole PDF  is worth a read-through, but the bit I want to talk about today is the article on page 92, “Event Horizon.” I’ve got a copy saved to my Google Docs, and I still use it as the template to prep all my sessions. Writing out the “episode synopsis” is a great way to organize my thoughts. The short form of the “events” section helps to crystallize the major story-beats without going into obnoxious amounts of detail. The conventions of “other roleplaying notes” and “event x” help to keep things fluid, while the logical step by step of combat planning (minis → stat block → battle map) keep the practical side of session prep in sight.

That’s my version of “how to plan a session,” but I’d love to hear yours! So often GMs get bogged down in the specifics of the craft (Dungeon design! Plot twists! Story arcs!) that we forget to consider our broader process. That’s what I’d like to talk about today. How do you go about preparing for a game session? Do you “overprep” or fly by the seat of your pants? Sound off with your process down in the comments!


ARE YOU AN IMPATIENT GAMER? If so, you should check out the “Henchman” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. For just one buck a month, you can get each and every Handbook of Heroes comic a day earlier than the rest of your party members. That’s bragging rights right there!