2% Campaign Prep is Awesome

I love gaming, and I love GMing. GMing, sadly, is a time-consuming hobby. Beyond actually running game night, GMing requires a decent amount of preparation. Sometimes getting ready for the game can take longer than the session itself! That’s not ideal as, like you I expect, I’m a busy chap. Luckily, I’ve recently been testing a new plan to crush my GM prep woes and make my campaign more awesome.


During previous campaigns, I’ve always scheduled campaign prep for Monday night. I’d try to sit down and spend a couple of hours getting ready for game night. Inevitably, I’d fail to get as much done as I’d like. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even get started—family and/or work often muscling into my prep time. Clearly, that tactic wasn’t exactly a storming success.

Coupled with this, my new campaign—Adventures in Shadow—is a megadungeon sandbox affair set in Gloamhold’s benighted depths and the surrounding Duchy of Ashlar. The players can literally go anywhere, and I must be ready for almost anything. Clearly, my old way of campaign prep wasn’t going to work. I needed to do something different, or the campaign would die in a morass of half-arsed, ill-thought out encounters, generic cobbled-together adventures and cancelled sessions.

Little, But Often

I recently blogged about how I have discovered the terrifying power of “little, but often.” As you might recall, I’ve started writing 500 design words every weekday in my quest to write 131,000 design words by the end of 2019. It turns out for me carving out about 30 minutes every weekday to write is relatively simple. This approach also keeps you fresh as there are no all-day design slogs to get through. At the time of writing (early May 2019) I’ve already crushed my yearly target and written 133,497 design words! Clearly—for me—the tactic works.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to employ a similar (deadly) weapon in my ongoing battle to be prepared for game night. However, instead of shooting for a certain daily word count I’m scheduling 30 minutes every weekday to work on my campaign. (That’s roughly 2% of the day). In my bullet journal, I have it listed as “Campaign 30”.

I’m not shooting for a certain daily word count, as designing and running a campaign requires diverse work. Maps must be prepared (badly, in my case), character notes maintained, plots plotted, strange creatures such as zombie mimics created and so on. Focusing on time instead of mere word count gives me the flexibility to work on what needs attention.

Spending 30 minutes a day on my campaign means I rack up 150 minutes a week (or two and a half hours) of prep. time. I find that’s pretty doable, and if I manage to carve out time at the weekend, my total goes up a whole hour (behold, my maths).

The other handy thing about “little, but often” is that if I happen to miss one Campaign 30, it’s not a complete disaster in the same way as failing to do any prep that week.

I randomly picked 30 minutes as my daily target, but you could choose any length of time. For example, 15 minutes is roughly 1% of the day. If you love GMing, it should be relatively easy to carve out 1% of the day to work on something you enjoy.

If you are struggling to get ready for your game, I highly recommend you have a crack at implementing a similar system. Pick an amount of time you can commit to daily and go for it!

What Do You Think?

Is this madness? Do you do something similar? Let me know, in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

14 thoughts on “2% Campaign Prep is Awesome”

  1. Excellent strategy!

    This would work well for any regular requirement to “produce” something – work, study or play.

    Think I’ll put it to the test myself…

    Thanks, Creighton!

  2. I use this method every day. 5min. to 1hr. Whatever time the day provides. I use Google Docs, Word, Evernote, WordPress and recently learning to use and include in some capacity World Anvil & Scabard to my final product.

  3. Well this is fantastic advice. I’ve heard about this method with regard to other kinds of tasks / work and I really need to give it a serious try. Thanks for sharing this, Creighton. Quite helpful, as usual!

  4. Hey, I wake up at 5am. Then I do around 30 minutes of yoga. After that I have roughly 90 minutes left to check my emails, do some learning for business, create stuff for my ongoing campaign and read. I like to generate habits like that. They get me in a calm state and give me confidence.
    For me there is no excuse like holidays or weekends. All the days are like that. When I’m sick I only wake up later when I’m really in bad shape.

  5. I do this myself, taking about a half hour in the morning after I wake up for one campaign, then a half hour when I get home from work for the other campaign. And hope I get a block of time on the weekend!

    It’s much easier to find a tiny block of time that would likely be frittered away doing something not productive anyways than it is to find a large block of time.

  6. Holy smokes! Such a simple concept and literately a sledgehammer smack on the head.
    Thanks and happy gaming,

  7. For me, I think my only commitment is to spend about 30 minutes ahead of a game session, to make sure I’m ready to run it. It’s easy to plan stuff weeks in advance and forget to do what you need for today’s game. Proper focused prep shouldn’t need more than 30 minutes – if I’m drawing out battlemaps or painting minis, that’s extra. Some rolls on the encounter tables, or reading the adventure & underlining important bits, that’s what matters. Also, naming likely NPCs is good!

    1. While I think I clearly need more prep time than you, I totally agree with you on naming NPCs. I hate having to come up with those on the fly!

  8. It’s utter madness but very effective madness. I want to implement this for both my campaign (as needed as we only meet once a month) and for my blog. Thanks for the advice!

  9. Ever since a Costa opened close to my workplace, I’ve been adopting a similar approach. Since I do the company IT, getting out of the Office for an hour is vital to my sense of well-being!! And the Costa provides free wireless connectivity, too. It’s great to unwind with food, good coffee, and a laptop to release my imagination and creativity !!

    1. I do the same, but I’m lucky enough to live very close to a beach with an excellent cafe that does epic bacon and fried egg sandwiches!

  10. I need 15 minutes to start my brain… I managed to get rid of preparing stuff than can be easily improvised during game. I have one A5 sheet, one or two maps and my goal is to fit everything I need on this card. I also highly recommend Sly Flourish “Lazy Dungeon Master”, there are plenty of tips to choose from.

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