Our new D&D 5e campaign is now officially underway with two sessions under our belts. I’ve enjoyed running these sessions immensely. Pulling together the game has been largely stress free and not too labour intensive, ever since I told myself to not stress about about it so much and to do less prep. Funny that.
I’m running a setting that is a blend of loads of different bits and pieces. I do have a map, without too much detail, of the region. I have a background, which takes about a minute to explain. And I have a scenario, which is pulled from a few different sources. What I do is grab a published adventure that is broadly in line with what I fancy running, whether by geography (it’s based in a swamp/desert/planes/city) or by plot, or even level. Then I sit down and write notes on it, just like when I used to revise from textbooks back in school. Often this means copying out the maps and annotating them then adding in a few stats from the MM to get me by.
Then I bring those notes to the game and run solely from them.
The temptation to bring the original module and scour that at the table is huge, but im resisting. It’s means I have to improvise more, but I do have a decent skeleton to build on. Example time! The party are travelling through a swamp. My encounter table has loads of stuff on it. I roll up some benign lizardfolk, and make an encounter. Cool, Next I get a couple of Giant Frogs, and they easily devour the party and I have to save them with fiat and an NPC. So far so good. But I’m already thinking about something more three dimensional and start pulling together a few threads.
How about 1d8 Stirges, 1 troll and a sunken ship?
That’s three encounters which i blend together in front of the guys. The ship is rolled over and broken in the foggy swamp (miles from the coast – mystery!). It’s breached in many places. The party rogue wades/swims/scouts it out. Hears a low rough humming which he makes out as a sea shanty. I’ve literally just decided the troll in the ship is a bit piratical. The troll rummages about in the hold while the rogue watches. He disturbs a nest of stirges that flap about and fly at top speed out of the ship and across the water – straight into the rogue. The party fight off the bloodsuckers and press forward to investigate. I have the troll emerge from the hold. The party try a couple of shots, but the paladin is the first to break.
Now we have a chase! I knock up 6 party success boxes and three troll success boxes on my notes. First to fill theirs gets what they want, which is either escape or a tasty adventurer meal. We roll skills, and narrate the chase.
All good clean wet fun for all.
Could have planned all that stuff out. Could have made maps, minis and special chase rules. Didn’t. Worked anyway.