Game Starts In One Hour And You Aren’t Ready

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on August 12, 2009

Let’s face it we’re all busy. Real life has the annoying habit of being, well real. We need to deal with it and as a Dungeon Master sometimes that means our prep time for our weekly D&D sessions has to take a back seat. So what do you do when work, school, family, video games or any number of other things distract you from preparing your gaming session?

There are a number of solutions and while I won’t promise to cover anywhere near all of them, here are some options for smashing a game together on short notice.

Fake It

The best of us do it. When push comes to shove a good DM will just fake it. If you’ve been DMing for a long time this is significantly easier to do than if you’ve just jumped into the DM hot seat. Pull on previous experience, encounters, maps, you name it. Add some new names to the locales and you’ve got a gaming session put together. Remember that the best DMs are lazy DMs so don’t sweat it too much.

Dungeon Delve

Depending on where you are in your campaign you can always drop a Dungeon Delve of the appropriate level in and just run that for the evening. Your players might not even notice the difference (mine haven’t).

Be Prepared

I know it’s the Boy Scout motto, but it’s got some real juice to it. If you’re running a long-term campaign, then most likely you know what is supposed to happen anyway even if you haven’t plotted out the actual encounters. If this is the case then please refer back up to Fake It.

Know When to Call It

If you play with a regular group of players don’t be afraid to announce that you’ll be playing something else that night. Better not to play then put in a lack-luster effort that sours the mood of the campaign. There is nothing wrong with playing Munchkin, Illuminati, Guitar Hero or Rock Band in lieu of your regular game. Just don’t make a habit of it. Of course if you do want to make a habit of it, then schedule it for a different night.

What are your strategies for dealing with last minute game prep? Do you fake it or curl up into a ball and cry like an elf? We want to hear what you do when your proverbial DM back is up against the wall and the clock is ticking.

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1 Ian August 12, 2009 at 11:54 am

We’ve started playing 3-Dragon Ante when things aren’t ready. We’ve used it in some of our games too for some interesting story points.
.-= Ian´s last blog ..Groz levels =-.

2 Wimwick August 12, 2009 at 7:10 pm

@ Ian
While I’ve heard of 3-Dragon Ante I’ve never played. Do you happen to have a link to the rules?

3 Wyatt August 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Maid: RPG is my game of choice when things aren’t ready. Characters are rolled in like 8 minutes (2 or 3 minutes with the 1d4chan Maid: RPG character generator) and we can play the comedy escapades of a bunch of maids trying to please the unpleasable Master in a mansion IN SPACE. (Or some other randomly generated idea brought by the game’s many, many tables.)
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..30 Cultural Quirks In Spirits of Eden =-.

4 Icosahedrophilia August 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Thanks for a great post. The best thing I’ve found is to reduce my expectations for what kind of prep I need. I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t need fully-written boxed text, or full paragraphs—or even complete sentences—describing the scene, results of the PCs’ actions, etc. A bullet list or mind map for each encounter, or an event flowchart, or a dungeon map with minimal notes, is about all the “fluff” that I actually need to write out. Then I can spend my precious prep time on generating any necessary stat blocks, pulling the necessary minis or props, and getting ready to roll.

I don’t think the rules for Three-Dragon Ante are published online anywhere (legitimately); they’re on a little pamphlet inside the box.
.-= Icosahedrophilia´s last blog ..Icosahedrophilia Podcast, Episode 21: Feed the Dead, Part 2 =-.

5 Skavv April 24, 2010 at 4:58 am

The wikipedia article for Three-Dragon Ante… enjoy Wimwick.
.-= Skavv´s last blog ..Reading Along the Lines =-.

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