Weekly GMing – Quick Prep

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A missing GM. Unexpected kid|work|spouse|house|car events can cause your regularly scheduled GM to not be able to make it for a session. There are lots of options. Board game night. Cards. The dreaded just skip this session and come back next week. Or, someone can go on quick prep. Quick prep is what I call it when you have a shortened amount of time to run a game. It’s not the amount of time that makes it quick prep, its how much less time than you normally have.

I have a couple strategies depending on the type of adventure that I’m running when this happens to me.

Pre-made Adventures or Modules:

  • Hopefully I’ve already been reading ahead, and can at least get things started.
  • Many modules include a variety of drop-in encounters. These work great to eat time.

Homegrown:

  • Time to bring back that recurring villain – already stated out from past adventures.
  • A benefactor comes to the party with a proposal. Something that needs discussion before action.

These are fine and will do in a pinch, but there are two things sure to please the players.

  1. Level up. Nothing makes players happier than new abilities for their characters. I admit this is a cheat, but it works like a charm.
  2.  Pull something from a players backstory, or better yet ask them what they are interested in exploring. This doesn’t work quite as well with a module, but could help invest the PCs in the pre-set story.

As you can probably guess, this was my situation this week (more than a little self imposed – honestly). Fortunately, I was able to use both the level up and drop-in encounter strategy to keep the play going.

Below are this weeks spoilers. Even with quick prep, we got a lot done.

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Spoilers!

Triumphant after driving off the dragon, the PCs slowly gather again in the iceberg and realize  how well the Great White Death has lived up to his name. The crew of the Frostskimmer is dead, their ship destroyed. On the top of the iceberg, the ice hunters are also dead frozen into a group in the middle of their destroyed camp. Only the Druid is missing, but she is found at the bottom of a tunnel frozen solid as a warning to any that would enter the dragons lair.

Survivors include Maccath, caught as she tried to run, and half frozen in Aurathator’s lair. The ice toads retreated to their living quarters, hiding from the dragons wrath and fearful without their leader Marflub. Lastly, the remaining trolls and goblins fled to a far corner of the lair. However, nothing could save them from the fires of the wizard.

Determined to not only rescue Maccath, but take all the dragons treasure, the PCs spend some time collecting wealth. The greatest treasure is the ship (at least for the cleric) frozen into a chamber in the iceberg. Still unable to sail it home, they summon the Giants and their floating ice castle. Always happy to help take treasure from a dragon, they gleefully load the ship with, Maccath, all the books and tablets of the toads and return to Waterdeep.

With time on their hands, the PCs also explored some newfound abilities. The cleric, worrying over the deaths caused by the dragon, decides to raise some of the leaders. The Druid of the ice hunters is not happy with the party and the trust she placed in them. After returning to life, she scorns any help and leaves the iceberg on her own. The captain of the Frostskimmer also retreats from contact with the PCs, but accepts the ride back to Waterdeep. Lastly, Marflub is happy to be alive, but sad that his group must leave the dragon they have studied for so long. He agrees to accompany Maccath to the Arcane Brotherhood and interpret the tablets detailing decades of study of the dragon.
Arriving back at Waterdeep, the castle is greeted with a little less panic. The PCs are greeted immediately by representatives of the council and the church with the intention of wishing them away for questioning. Maccath is especially welcome for any knowledge she may have of the Draakhorn.
During the walk through the city, the group is attacked by purple robed fighters and wizards of the Cult of the Dragon. Making no effort to disguise their intentions, they try and kill the party members. Unfortunately underestimating the strength of the group they are almost immediately dispatched. One of the assassins gets away, but the rest are either captured or killed.
The ordeal seems to have affected the monk most of all. He has taken on a new name of “Ice Hammer”, and seems even more overconfident than before. Only his closest companions notice a slight twitch around mentions of dragons. After a brief respite from the dreams of apocalypse and destruction, the cleric is now awakened nearly every night by visions of a sky filled with dragons, and the countryside in ruins.
Months of constant missions and danger seem to be taking their toll. But now the Second Council of Waterdeep brings news, and no rest for heroes…
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