Gaming Advice: Are You Ready for the Session?

Turning up unprepared to a game session is the adult version of saying, “The dog ate my homework.”

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Have you ever turned up to a gaming session unprepared? Whether you are a player or the GM, being unprepared can impact everyone’s enjoyment of the game (including your own).

For example, I once had a GM who’d repeatedly utter the immortal phrase, “I’ve had no time to prepare” at the start of every gaming session. In another campaign, a certain player would perpetually turn up late and blame his wife for delaying him or moving his gaming stuff. Neither behaviour was particularly conducive to a fun night.

Being prepared is good. Being unprepared is bad.

Advantages of Being Prepared

There are several advantages to being prepared for the game:

  • You get more fun, productive game time.
  • You don’t waste time.
  • You don’t become the object of your friends’ ire.
  • You don’t look like an idiot.

Being a Prepared Player

As a player, being prepared means being able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do you have your character?
  • Do you understand your character? (This is particularly relevant if you have just gained access to new spells or abilities).
  • Do you have your rulebooks?
  • Do you have dice, pen, pencil and scrap paper?
  • Do you have a character figure?
  • Have you got snacks and drinks?
  • Have you completed any adjustments to your character required for play? (Have you levelled up, purchased relevant equipment and so on?)
  • Have you read any handouts or session summaries prepared by the GM?

Being a Prepared GM

An unprepared GM is even more devastating to a session than an unprepared player. A prepared GM should be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do you have dice, pen, paper, pencil and scrap paper?
  • Do you have mapping paper, a battle mat (and a way to clean it) and the relevant pens?
  • Do you have your rulebooks, campaign supplements and so on?
  • Do you have supplemental information handy in case the party does something unpredictable?
  • Do you have the adventure?
  • Have you sufficiently prepared the adventure?
  • Have you sorted out any required monster figures?

Top Tip!

If you have problems making sure you are prepared for gaming sessions, consider putting together a gaming kit containing everything you need in a handy bag or box. Just pick it up, and go!

Help Your Fellow Gamers

Do you have any more handy hints or tips to help your fellow gamers prepared for the game? If you do, share them in the comments below and help us all get more out of gaming.

Published by


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.

6 thoughts on “Gaming Advice: Are You Ready for the Session?”

  1. This is a really good, straight forward article about being prepared to game. Thanks! It’s nice to have a quick list to run down to make sure you are ready to play, because if you are a player or GM, nobody wants to wait on you.

    I’ve found that the level of preparedness varies greatly between whatever system you are playing. We play which has a focus on making the “grunt work” of the game as minimal as possible. I have had players that would never GM other RPGs say they want to GM the Fyxt RPG because it is so easy. If you are new, old school, or just looking for something you don’t have to put as much work into, check it out.

    It’s good practice to be prepared, no matter the game or the role. You are sure to have more fun yourself, and those you are playing with will have more fun. And isn’t that the point of playing?

    1. It’s the three Ps of gaming in action: Plan, Prepare, Prosper. I’m not sure where I picked that up from, but it’s tremendously and abundantly true (at least for me–I hate gaming unprepared!)

  2. Man, that last one for the GM, having the figures sorted, has made such a difference in my getting a session off the ground. I also have started setting up all the stat blocks for the monsters ahead of time and then printing them off on little cards, so each session has its own little deck of cards ready to go! Super useful in keeping me from flipping through books or on the computer. I rarely even need my PDFs or paper files now. Really keeps things rolling.

  3. Because my players always do something unpredictable, I simply outline a few options they can deal with (“Are you going to look for the lair left behind by the dragon or search out the source of the endless giant bugs?”), print out pages with the stat blocks for each critter and/or NPC (plus a couple to add on the fly if needed), and work out the treasure in advance. We do Theater of the Mind with minimal mapping and no figures, so that’s all I really need. I rarely use published adventures because I always wind up rewriting them from scratch anyway.

  4. As a GM, I use a 1lb salad container for the adventure with zip lock bags for the minis for each encounter. I also tend to pre-draw maps and have 8×12 panels cut from cereal boxes that I cover the maps with. I just pull back the cardboard to reveal the board (sort of a fog of war effect). Lastly, I photograph the board if we quit mid-session so it is fast to recreate.

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