Hey Game Fans, I’ve got a quick breakdown for helping you organize another critical element of planning to run your game. Time management. Time management is a bugbear that will sneak up on you and ruin your fun for the game you run. Time’s sneaky, and it likes to slip out when you’re not paying attention to it. Scenes take longer than planned, combats start in unusual circumstances, and your players just started a bar fight that you didn’t plan for. Time’s not going to wait around for you to figure out what you’re going to do. Fortunately, there are some shortcuts that you can use to maximize your time usage.
These tips assume you’re building your own encounters/adventures/campaigns, but can work with pre-printed adventures.
Tip 1: Map things out.
There are two really effective mapping strategies that you can use to your advantage when you plan out your encounters. The actual physical map of the encounter area is essential for you to lay out your monsters and set up interesting terrain features. If you’re playing with a battlemat or other map for the players to move figures around on, then prepare the basic area map of the encounter zone and make a copy. Jot your notes and the things players won’t have access to on your copy, and leave the play copy as a shell. There are a lot of interesting options you can put into your mapping, and what you make your map out of. If you’re using a playmat, we suggest that you use one that has a grid map (because D & D uses a grid, this will save you and your players a lot of time and trouble figuring out how movement works). A Dry erasable map allows you to draw in your own own encounter features.
Other options include 3D modular terrain like a Dwarven Forge, or large scale Grid Maps from Gaming Paper. Any of the three options will work getting you ready. Optimal time savings use Gaming Paper grid maps. This allows you to pre-draw maps and have them ready to go as the party moves into a new area. The other options may require re-arranging or redrawing maps on the fly.
That’s the physical map, the other map you’ll need is an encounter map. This is more of an outline that you’ve prepared for the encounter itself. Record all of the monsters you’re going to be using, the page number of their stats in the MM (If you’re building a word or .pdf file, you can drag and drop the monster into your outline.). Run down their optimal game plan for what they’re going to do in the first few rounds of combat. Leave slots in your outline for an initiative tracker for all the monsters and the players. What you’re doing is setting up a script that you can follow so you don’t have to put a lot of deep thinking into how the encounter starts. Your players are probably going to find new and interesting ways to mess with your plan, so be ready to roll with the punches.
The goal of this mapping is to give you a quick reference sheet for all of the things that you’ll need in any given combat encounter. That allows you to speed up play because you’re not having to draw out a map every twenty or thirty minutes, and you’ve got all of your statistics ready to go.
Tip 2: Bring lots of Dice.
Bring as many dice of a specific type that you’ll need to roll. If that Blue Dragon breathes for 12D12, having 12 12 sided dice is really handy. Being able to pick up all those dice and roll them in a batch is both satisfying and if you’re playing on a wooden table, loud. Extra dice also let you pass sets out to new players so they don’t have to borrow from other people. Remember, being able to roll all the dice at once will give you a bit of a time saving.
Tip 3: Collect some useful Data
Every character has some useful information that you can use to speed up the game. (We borrow this from Adventurer’s League). Knowing a character’s name, age, height, weight, hair and eye color, character class, background, Armor Class, and Passive perception score can save you a lot of time. You don’t have to ask the player to describe themselves to an NPC, and you can save yourself some time deciding whether they noticed something or not. If you have their Passive Perception, you allready know if they noticed the monster sneaking up on them, or found the lost door. Remember, the goal here is to allow players to focus on the story while you keep the mechanical side of the game running.
Tip 4: Prepare for Everything
We don’t literally mean everything, but we suggest you prepare for the encounters you’re running. We also suggest you plan for more encounters than you need. If you know you have a four hour session, and combat encounters usually take an hour or so from start to finish, Plan extra combat encounters. In that instance, i’d plan for six or seven different combat encounters, and insert them as you need to.
If you’re running an adventure that has random encounters, roll them ahead of time. If you know where the party is headed, the route they’re taking, and the time it should take, you know all of the particulars for when a random encounter could happen, so roll the thing. This lets you build the encounter map we talked about above without having to do it on the fly. This also lets you roll for treasure and calculate experience point awards ahead of time.
Tip 5: Pre-generate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you think that your players are going to do something like break into a house, start a fight at the local tavern, or attempt to woo the fair maidens, then you’re going to need a house, a tavern, and some maidens. You probably want a simple map for each encounter location that you’re going to have things happen in, and some personality notes for the NPCs that the party has to interact with. If you’ve got a file folder for taverns, temples, and locations you can plug and play as you need, you can make the game play that much faster. NPC files work the same way, even if it’s just a list of names with a quirk or two. You probably don’t need full statistics for most of the NPCs you run, so don’t worry about them.
We think that these five tips will help you get your time management skills together for prepping for your next D & D session. Next time we’ll cover a few more useful tips and tricks for time management.
Game On, Game Fans