Eventually every GM ends up running a commercial adventure, but sometimes preparing a module can be daunting. Following these tips will make your prep quicker and easier as well as making game play smoother.
Almost every GM on the planet has – at one time or another – run a module they did not write themselves. Doing so is undoubtedly a timesaver as everything – the map, the plot, the stat blocks and so on – is done for you. Sometimes, though, preparing a module can be intimidating. Perhaps it’s really big or you just don’t have a lot of time. Following these tips will help you prepare modules better and quicker than before.
- Selective Reading: Read the Adventure Background, Synopsis and Conclusion first. These give you a quick overview of the module, its background and expected conclusion. Having this information committed to memory reduces page flipping and confusion when preparing the rest of the module.
- Introduction and Final Encounter: Knowing how it starts and how it is meant to end enables a better understanding of the rest of the text. Having a really good understanding of these conditions enables you to ad lib where necessary during game play because you know where the players started and where you need to get them.
- Break The Module Down: Personally, I can’t read a module from cover to cover – I just find it colossally boring. While I look forward to learning about a villain’s touch AC or the combat benefits of hiding behind a pillar I can only take so much before giving up. Thus, instead, I break the module down into easily manageable sections. To do this, I look at the map and work out where the players are likely to go first. This is particularly easy to do in a dungeon. Once I’ve worked this out, I prepare these sections first. Using this tactic, I generally like to stay a session or two ahead of the players. This also makes it very easy to quickly refreshing my knowledge of the module before the next session as I am not trying to read everything again.
- Gather Supplies: No doubt, you’ll need additional materials to run the module well. You might need miniatures for the PCs’ opponents or to prepare maps. Some modules don’t always contain all the stat blocks you need (or they only print them once). Physically gathering all these additional materials into one place facilitates the session and reduces the time you are looking through a gigantic box of figures for the right miniature.
- Change Stuff: Any GM worth his Special GM T-Shirt should alter and change a module as he sees fit. Doing so enhances game play by making the module a better fit for his campaign and players. Don’t feel guilty doing this – it’s a GM’s right!
- Use A Highlighter: Highlighting important parts of the text can be incredibly useful. Be sparing with this technique – after all, if everything is highlighted, nothing is highlighted. But for important facts – perhaps clues, visual cues or hidden treasures – highlighting the relevant text is essential. You can even use different colour highlighters for different things. For example, you could use yellow for additional read aloud notes, blue for hidden things the PCs can find and so on.
- Make Copious Notes: Most modules have loads of white space around the margins. You can use this to make notes, add in rules page references and so on.
I also find certain tools (beyond dice, miniatures and so on) extremely useful when preparing a module. My top two are:
- Post It Notes: For notes you have to move around, use post it notes. They come in a huge variety of colours, shapes and sizes and can be easily moved from page to page.
- Glue & Paper: When I’m preparing a module, I normally set the printer to only print on one side of the paper. This gives me a gigantic amount of space in which to make notes and so on. One of the things I hate about some commercial modules is they don’t always include all the relevant stat blocks (or only print them once, simply providing a page reference if the monster appears more than once). To combat page flipping and a vast pile of open books behind my GM’s screen, I print extra copies of the relevant stat blocks and physically glue them onto the empty page facing the encounter in which they appear.
Help Fellow GMs!
Do you have any other module preparing tips? Why not share them in the comments below and help your fellow GMs prepare faster and better.