Turns Out Writing These A Week Ahead Has Some Drawbacks

[I write all of these a week ahead of time and rarely have I felt so at-a-loss for how to shift this one to reflect the time between when I wrote this and when I edited it before it went up. For this post, I edited it on Friday and added a bunch of notes to reflect my mind frame a week later. All of those notes are in brackets like this one.]

In the first draft of this post, I wrote about feeling capable and like I’ll be able to manage everything I want to do this week without having to borrow from days later down the line or by sacrificing my well-being in the moment. I went on about it for a couple paragraphs before I realized that what I felt was “rested” and that what I was describing was just my first time in months starting the week without already being exhausted because a single weekend wasn’t enough recovery time from the stress of weeks past. As it turns out, this past weekend was exactly the recovery time I needed to finish resting up from the pair of stressful months I had (two months of days, not two months by the calendar) and now I finally feel ready for the week ahead. While it is possible that something stressful and exhausting could happen this week [which it totally did, since I write these a week ahead of time] since most of the stress and exhaustion of my past few months has been the unexpected nature of what has happened, I think I’ve finally gotten to a point where I have enough stored up resilience to bounce back from one bad thing [haha, NOPE].

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Sustainable Characters and Short D&D Campaigns

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been playing (as a player, not the Dungeon Master) in a Dungeons and Dragons game. It was conceptualized as a sort of “last stand” type adventure, with four characters taken after the moment of their deaths by some powerful, godly figure, to see how long they could last against various challenges. Restored to the peak of their power (20th level) and given only mundane, non-magical gear, they are thrown together with no warning or preparation time and bounced from one scenario and battle to another, with only two instant-use short rests to allow them to recover. It has been a lot of fun to play a powerful character with no need to manage magic items or a vision for the future beyond how to mechanically apply my abilities and limited recovery from one fight to another.

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Worldbuilding Is Only Done When The Campaign Is Over

I have created an entire Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting (multiple major and minor plots included) from nothing but a pile of unrelated notes that aren’t even from the same genre in about a week. It was an exhausting, draining, and incredibly focused week of non-stop effort, but I managed to get it all done. It helped that it was similar to some other ideas I’d been wanting to explore, so I managed to swing the perfect trifecta of “interested,” “excited,” and “well-rested” required for a feat like that. Most of the time, it takes me a bit longer than that to get a campaign off the ground, from concept to ready for the first session (Session 0), but it rarely takes more than a few weeks. That said, the settings are never done. There’s always more work to do, more research and development to continue to chip away at, and so many basic ideas that need to be fleshed out.

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Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns Can Last For Years Longer Than You Think They Would

As much as I love my big, ambitious Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I have so many fun ideas that I want to try out that I’m confident I’ll never do them all. Even with a campaign for every day of the week, I’d probably die before I ran out of ideas. It can be a little frustrating to know I’ll never get to even a quarter of them, because so many of them just seem so interesting and fun to explore. As someone who has been running a weekly game at the same time for the better part of a decade (at least over five years, maybe six? Or seven? It is about six and a half years if I’m doing my math right), I can tell you that even a weekly game can take a long time to play out since very few weekly Tabletop Roleplaying Game campaign actually happen every week.

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I Love Running Dungeons And Dragons Games

I ran the first session of a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. This was the game I was building while I wrote last month’s posts about how to do interesting worldbuilding for your Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and that resulted in me spending more time than usual reflecting on the place that TTRPGs have in my life. It went well, thanks to the efforts of myself and my players working to get everything ready and the world built for an engaging first session. It was a lot of fun to run for such a roleplaying-centric group! It’s not that my other groups aren’t interested in roleplaying, it’s just that they aren’t always super invested in roleplaying at the same time. Which is fair, you know? Not everyone plays Dungeons and Dragons so they can do a bunch of roleplaying. Many people play because they want to enjoy the mechanics and mix in some roleplaying between chances to roll dice. Some people just want to roll dice and do math. All of these are valid and acceptable reasons to play TTRPGs.

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I Love To Tinker With My D&D Campaign Settings

Lately, I’ve been enjoying making lots of documents for my Dungeons & Dragons games. I know I talk about “understanding can serve you better than knowing” a lot here, but there’s a point where you understand so much you start needing to record it all somewhere so you remember it later. Generally, I like to keep these documents to broad, general strokes without a lot of specifics so I can cleave to my principles as a DM, but it is very helpful to have all the specific, complex systems worked out ahead of time. For instance, in the domain of dread I’ve built for my weekly Sunday D&D, I have a list of the various tiers of effects the players can encounter, the ways various encounters tie into those tiers, how to switch between tiers, and how the world/the people in the world respond to their efforts written down. What I add whenever it comes up are the specific debilities tied to the tiers as my players encounter them. Those I do not have built out ahead of time since I don’t need a name until it’s happening and the name and specific effect should reflect the situation the player character has found themselves in.

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The Secret To My Success As A Game Master

In one of my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I recently leveled up my players and gave them access to some a few magic items each since the next adventure hook they chose was to explore an incredibly dangerous area that can cause magic to go haywire. In the time since that session, I’ve been working with some of them to select the items they want and ensure that they understand their new abilities or powers. It is fairly typical for this group, but it’s something I provide to any player who needs it because I have a fairly broad knowledge of the content and I know enough to find anything if I can’t remember it. It’s a useful skill to have as both a DM and player, and I feel like I’ve managed to present myself as a resource to other players and DMs alike without being overbearing.

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Making Interesting Characters for Tabletop Games

In the final entry of this week’s “Making Interesting Stuff for Tabletop Games” series, we’re going to talk through the process of what makes a character interesting. I’m going to continue to reference stuff from the past few posts, so read up about Interesting Worlds, Interesting Events, and What Makes Stuff Interesting if any part of today’s post is confusing (or, you know, if you’re interested in that stuff). If that’s too much for you to read, the main thing I’ll be referencing are the difference betweening knowing (being able to recite facts you have established) and understanding (being able to make decisions and answer questions for things you never anticipated). There’s a bunch of world building that I reference throughout the series, building further as I go through the posts, but most of it is fairly basic and shouldn’t be difficult to run with.

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Making Things Interesting for Tabletop Games

Today’s post is a bit more difficult. I know it might sound strange, given the general assertions of the last two posts, about creating interesting worlds and filling those worlds with interesting events (both of which are suggested reading for today’s post since I am using the same examples and techniques across all of them), but I can’t give you a sure-fire method of making something interesting. I do my best to make things interesting for my tabletop games, but I still fail with a frustrating degree of frequency. I’m good at pretending otherwise because I’m quick enough to cover for it by pivoting to what my players are indicating they’re actually interested in. There’s no real way to teach the ability to pivot on-the-fly other than experience and getting to know your audience, so all I can do is hope that the general rules and guiding principles I use for determining what is “interesting” will be enough to help you get started. Like most of the worldbuilding and GM prep I’ve talked about recently, if you keep your preparation focused on understanding things rather than knowing things, you can almost always find a place to recycle them if your original use doesn’t pan out.

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Filling Worlds With Interesting Events For Tabletop Games

Once you’ve created an interesting world for you tabletop game, the next step is to fill it with stuff that is either currently happening, about to happen, or has happened. You really only need one to have one built out, since the others tend to grow out of exploring one, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few different options of each kind so you can run the game your players are interested in playing. You could try to predict that ahead of time and build the precise number of interesting things you need in that direction to make the world feel lived-in, but it’s usually more fun if you have a bit of each. In my experience, it always feels rewarding when the players find ties to past events that get them excited to learn more about whatever situation they’re in, when players can tie current events to past events when they initially seemed unrelated, and everyone loves a bit of foreshadowing that pays out.

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