Weekly GMing – Prepping for Con Games

I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about prepping for the initro doctors games I ran for Baldman Games at GenCon. These are the set of games I ran for new(ish) players on Sunday.

The module consists of five, one to two hour adventures. Each of these “mini-adventures” consists of a very straightforward puzzle/battle/information gathering encounter. Some focused on one element more than others.

Each mini-adventure has its own set of monster stats and map after the section that walks through the parts of the encounter(s) and explains any traps, puzzles, and/combats with any accompanying box text.

So far so good. The author – Shawn Merwin – did a great job at making them distinctly different, providing a different feel for each mini-adventure while still incorporating all three of the pillars (combat, exploration, and investigation). And no, I’m not going into any more details on the adventures. There is still at least one more convention where they will be run.

From here it comes down to individual GM preference for prep. On Sunday of GenCon I got to see some different prep options from other DMs. Plenty of folks that ran multiple days had created mini-sized maps for each adventure, and I know that they had specific minis. Since I was also prepping or my own two adventures, I went a little on the “cheap” side.

I like to have stats for each monster on a 3×5 card. Rewriting stats and options focuses them in my mind and I can just put on them what I think is important. Things I include are passive perception, AC, HP, any skills, vision/perception abilities, attacks and damage, and ability modifiers. For maps, I used a small Chessex mat that fit the maps for most of encounters and freehand drew each encounter.

Probably the most important piece of prep is reading each mini-adventure at least three times. Once for impression, once for detail, and once for flavor. I always try and create my 3×5 cards and other prep before the last read through. That lets me have the detail in mind when I read for flavor.

Last step, and probably the least important is getting any minis. Hopefully I’ll have something close, but in reality anything will do. I also try and bring a variety of “PC” minis for the players. It’s always fun, even in a 90 minute adventure to identify with something on the map that is yours.

Running the adventures was great fun. Having good prep lets you focu more on the players and less on details.


Spoilers – a little late, but here’s the rundown on the last Tyranny of Dragons adventure.

The players took care of some businss and also got into some minor trouble preparing for the Second Council of Waterdeep.

Flint – the dwarven wizard – accompanied Maccath to a local chapter of the Arcane Brotherhood. He was welcomed warmly and was asked to become a member. Things were great until Squirrel arrived. He was trying to trade in his magic leather armor for something “better”. Unfortunately he was also carrying around the Black Dragon Mask. A magic item of that power caught the attention of the head of the chapter (Davenport?), and not in a good way. Squirell was asked to leave, and specifically asked to take it where it couldn’t be scried. The last time a dragon showed up at the Arcane Brotherhood it took a lot of valuable books which they have just gotten back.

Squirrel – the gnome warlock – never one to take direction (never), heads instead to the docks to inspect the stone tablets with information about Aurathator. He ends up sitting next to a very smelly and scratchy teamster named Bob, but happy enough to read tablets.

Meanwhile Flint learns that the Arcane Brotherhood is expecting to come to the Council the next day, a win for the PCs.

Swifti – the elf monk – meets with the Harpers and after relaying his story finds out that something is up with the Elven King, and that there has been a death among the council aides.

Sorrow – tiefling paladin – visits his foster father, Lord Isval, and finds out about Lady Silverhand and another death. Lady Siverhand has taken over for Lord Neverember as the Open Lord of Waterdeep. The prominent story is that he overextended himself and in time of crisis, the Lords turned to Lady Siverhand. The other death is the Lady’s husband, also a prominent wizard, who has died under unknown (suspicious) circumstances. This death is being covered up, as opposed to the aide who is being claimed as a suicide.

Mara – human cleric – makes her way to the Temple of Valkur, and planning begins on a rememberance ceremony at the docks for the lost sailors of the Frostskimmer (destroyed while helping the PCs). Included in the planning is a considerable payout to multiple parties and a promise to construct four new ships. Many hands appear to be in the pot for construction, and many thoughts towards a new “fleet”.

Sorrow, uses the resources of Lord Istval to gather the PCs together and have a late night meeting wth Lady Silverhand. She graciously accepts them in her sitting room. While discussions of using magic to talk to her departed husband are turned aside, she does consent to having the PCs speak with the deceased aide. She also asks the party for help with the Elven King. He has been very secretive and communicates mostly through his son.

Lastly, before the party retires, Squirrel decides to try and speak with the Devil that talked with him last time he was in Waterdeep. Keeping his sanity, he received information that the aide was likely killed by the Dragon Cult, by someone with the mysterious name of Bruce.

Next update is after GenCon


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