When You Prep an Adventure Site, What Do YOU Prep?

When You Prep an Adventure Site, What Do YOU Prep?

When You Prep an Adventure Site, What Do YOU Prep?

Deep Six Delver’s thread about on-the-fly dungeons got me thinking about what my ideal level of prep is for a “dungeon” (i.e. a site-based location). I’m curious what other folks find most useful and most comfortable.

Let’s assume it’s NOT the first session. You’ve gotten to know your players and their characters. Your world has gotten some flesh on its bones. The characters want things, and they have announced that they want to go to Dungeon XYZ, because Reasons. You’ve got time to prep between sessions.

What do YOU want to have in front of you (or least clearly in mind) when you sit down to play? What makes YOU uncomfortable if you start play without it?

BTW, I don’t give two owlbear pellets about what the game text says you should have or do. I want to know what YOU WANT TO HAVE as prep. If that’s Fronts and monster stats and custom moves, cool! If that’s a couple mental notes, sweet. No judgement. No _should_s. What is YOUR preferred prep like?

16 thoughts on “When You Prep an Adventure Site, What Do YOU Prep?”

  1. I guess I’ll go first. Mostly copied from that previous thread.

    My personal sweet spot for prep is:

    * A map with very little keying or description, like a a Dyson or Monkeyblood map, maybe with some words or details noted in the margins.

    * What the dungeon is or was: a crypt, a prison, a keep, a vault, the sewers beneath the city, etc. The map (if I’m using someone else’s) will almost always imply this.

    * Some sense of history: who built it, how long ago, what was their shtick, and what (if anything) has caused it to fall into ruin or disuse. The level of detail here depends entirely on where we are in the campaign and the world building. For the first session, I might have absolutely nothing except some questions to ask.

    * Some ideas about who’s currently occupying it and/or active within it… old spirits long ago imprisoned, bandits or goblins infesting the ruins, dire bats hanging out in the entrance, etc. Again, at the beginning of the game, I might not have anything other than questions for this.

    * Something like grim portents/impending doom, though often much less formal and conceived more like “If __, then __” or “When __, then __” or “In __ days/hours/min, __”. Something to add time pressure and/or momentum to the dungeon.

  2. I prep Sorcerer style “bangs” and Dungeon Starter style “impressions”. That’s almost entirely it. Sometimes I have stat blocks on hand, but they’re mostly ad libbed.

  3. Jeremy Strandberg Some things are easy for me to ad lib, like descriptions and NPC reactions but I have trouble with more dense pellets of stuff like:

    * interesting magical items

    * battlefield/dungeon features with potential energy

    * worldbuilding cultural elements and their implications. Like.. a death cult that believes it is heresy to be aware of anything that has died. How might that affect how they conduct raids? (Idk)

  4. Aaron Griffin, seems to me that grim portents work a lot like bangs in Sorcerer, only they explicitly snowball. Once I made that connection, the bangs portents I wrote were a lot richer and more useful in play.

  5. Deep Six Delver hmm my problem with portents is attaching it to a “Danger” and sometimes I just don’t know why “goblins jump out of the rafters” yet

  6. I’m experimenting with a series of progressively more detailed levels – see mhuthulan.wordpress.com – Low-prep dungeons — a larval proposal

    My eventual plan is that the levels will be of optimally increasing comfort for me. Don’t think I’m there yet.

    Edit: If I had to say “at what point in this progression am I comfortable”, I’d probably say that it was Level 3. Although note that I don’t say what detail of keying I’d expect there, other than to point people at Zak Smith’s “one more idea” method (http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/one-more-idea-method.html?zx=cb0a04e592c9b8c5).

  7. I find that players always take longer than I’d expect when planning, so I like to plan super super light. I like to be put on the spot; not depending on something I wrote 5 days ago. My prep then becomes a skeleton like this:

    1)Threshold: crumbled archway

    2)Main corridor: Jhoria, needs to find her family

    3)Damaged bridge, screams from family, ranged attack from dogmen

    4) fluff room: tome of dead sun

    5) ritual cavern with family. Boss fight

    6) hook to next adventure

    I find many other details lead to either wasted time on my end or I become too focused on implementing my plan, instead of rolling with my players.

  8. A rough map. Can even just be a flowchart showing all the ins and outs of the rooms and what each room should be (i.e. “Kitchen”)

    A rough idea on how/why it was built and its character.

    Cool monster encounter/for the main area.

    Any magic items, etc. that players might find.

    Any moves that make it more interesting.

    A list of ideas I may or may not use during the exploration.

  9. A lot of my prep is focused on the monsters. Sometimes I’ll throw in a “hazard” as well. But I reeeally don’t like being caught without a (somewhat) decently fleshed out monster, so I always have some on hand just in case. This either means picking one out of one of the monster manuals to creating one for myself that fits the tone of the current area. Lots of monster moves are a plus.

    Sometimes that’ll dovetail into a magic item but I find myself lacking a lot in that department. For some reason I constantly forget about “loot” and my players kind of do too… I only recently started rolling the treasure tables from perilous wilds and even have some gaudy physical coins for the main group I’m running to try and remind us WHY YES WE DO HAVE CASH TO SPEND. In our case people seem to just want to play their characters as seen on the sheet (not a bad thing) and XP is functioning as an awesome reward in it’s own right.

    As with nearly everything else it’s probably the DM’s fault, (I.E. not enough cool things to do with money!) I’ll have to sit down and figure out some awesome things to buy one of these days.

    I’ve also been experimenting with the perilous depths tables before hand (tried it a few times in play but it sucks up a lot of time). It’s nice to get some ideas for rooms going in.

  10. > A lot of my prep is focused on the monsters.

    For D&D, I prep my monsters on 4 in x 6in index cards that I slip into those small flexible photo protectors. That way, if the players never encounter it in the room where I had planned, I can always throw it at them in another place later.

  11. I don’t really do dungeons all that often. So my prep tends to be a bullet point list of some possible ‘people, places, things, events’. Each bullet point is maybe 1 or 2 sentences. I tend to read the recap that I wrote of the last adventure. Most nights, i’m looking at 15-20 mins prep.

    That doesn’t include the musings in the car or shower thinking of fun ways to push some cool scenes onto the situation.

    There are exceptions. The beginnings of games, that 2nd session, might be an hour or two of prep time. For a recent game, I had made two relationship maps of important npcs in a highly political setting. Those two relationship maps were referred and reference for the rest of the campaign. So work time well invested.

  12. I do a few things. The first is I try to have a selection of monsters and characters at the ready to toss into the “dungeon” or whatever situation they are in. I take more of a world building perspective so these creatures are more attached to the setting than the specific place.

    Then I like to come up with a paragraph summary of various locations that describe the dilemma, situation, or obstacles standing in the players way.

    And if I can I draw an abstract image of the area, or locations within the area.

    That first bit can completely take over for the last two if you do enough of it. Having a “deck” of characters and locations on theme with your overall story makes improvisational questing easy and natural.

    But usually I compromise and steal from pre made material or select from various “event” style encounters that directly tie in the over all story to the current situation.

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