Recipe for Exploration Encounters in Dungeons and Dragons

Recipe for Crafting Exploration Encounters in Dungeons and Dragons

I love to cook, but don’t always keep up with my recipes and the same was true for playing tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. However, in making my own adventures, week after week, my players leaned upon the edge of their seat waiting in anticipation for my next big encounter. I decided that I was doing something right (people kept coming back for more) so I wanted to write up a recipe.

I love all of the pillars of D&D, exploration, social interaction and combat. In my mind, they all fit under the general umbrella of roleplay in their own unique way. I feel like combat is straightforward and interaction usually involves silly voices and banter until the dungeon master decides the encounter is over (it’s much more dependent on our specific table’s social rules). With exploration, how do you run your encounters beyond a single dice check? This is the best recipe I know for crafting an exploration encounter in your games.

Ingredients and Instructions

The goal of this recipe is to help each player explore the setting until they discover all of the information.

A list of Informational Ingredients to be Discovered within the Setting is provided below. You may use one of each or as many as you can imagine to spread throughout the entire exploration encounter.

  • Observations
  • Knowledge
  • New Information
  • Mysteries
  • Complications
  • Gain
  • Risk

Note: Within the following examples, the game master must fill the italic words with their own examples based on the specific setting for exploration encounter. If you want help with enriching your descriptions, visit How to Describe Scenes to Prompt Exploration.

Example – A Large Oak Tree Fortress.

This large oak tree castle is set within an expansive field, other than it’s appearance, there is no hook in which to draw the players. Instructions: Use the ingredients below to draw in the players to explore.

Observations – What can they perceive?

  • Senses – Use all of them! They see, smell, or hear some change in the setting – the bark of the oak tree smells earthy and provides healing points from it’s sap if extracted, but can only be done by a druid, ranger, or monk.
  • Movement- they feel a movement in the environment – every hour a sacred wind blows around the tree and each creature must make a Strength save or be pushed 10 feet, but those who have tasted the sap gain advantage as they receive a premonition.
  • Weather – how is the weather? The weather shows clear skies, bright light and good for vision.

Let me pause here and show you my thought process. The goal of this encounter is to be explored and will do so if you lead the players with a bread crumb trail of information. So, when the player approaches the tree, they must see the bark, but please don’t end there. Either call for a perception check, or use another sense to describe the sweet smell of sap. If they don’t lean into the exploration, give another player a clue as they approach with the glistening sap reflection of the light. Once the player chooses to interact with the sap, reward with a whopping 1 temporary hit point if they touch or lean into smell. This sets the stage for the player’s ability to harvest the sap if they choose. Either way, they know this tree is full of healing properties that can be unlocked. This promise should extend throughout the encounter so that at any time, the player may choose to access that discovery. Let’s continue.

Knowledge – What can they already know?

  • Fact – – A player remembers that oak trees are the oldest trees in the world.
  • Opinion – a player recalls that the local villagers believe the tree is alive.
  • Legend – a player recalls that a god once set up a shrine within the fortress.
  • Lie – a player recalls that demons feed off of the sap and are known to haunt.

The best way I know how to hand information to you players is to simply tell them that their characters know. It is likely that their characters have gathered information around game time, so why not grant them the knowledge? You can roll for random as to who already knows this information and then watch with glee as your players roleplay that knowledge and determine what is true and what is not. This information can also help the player in social situations as well. If you are a very brave game master, you will simply state to your player that their character recalls a piece of knowledge about this oak tree setting and wait to see what their creative mind generates. Either way, find appropriate times in the game to hand this information to your players. 

New Information – What new things can they learn?

  • Information regarding the Quest – within the fortress, there is a prisoner trapped within the root dungeon who reveals the identity of the villain.
  • Complication regarding the Success – to further explore the oak tree fortress, a toll must be exacted by powerful guardians.
  • An answer to a Mystery – the barbarian’s tribe once travelled here as evidenced by the pictures on the walls of one of the rooms. They are alive.
  • An update on the Setting – from a high vantage point, the volcano can now be see as brimming with fire.

Exploring this setting should come with some rewards that are also pertinent to the story and especially the individual story of the players and their quest. Plant this new information throughout the setting in places that the players are sure to explore. In the above examples, I made sure that each piece of information could be transplanted into any part of the oak tree fortress. I don’t want the players to miss these goodies, so I make them lightweight and hinging upon the previously explored areas. So, if the player touched the sap, then they would also remember the shrine, which would lead them to the shrine where the barbarian’s family relics are located. Remember to link your information together through the player’s actions within the setting

Mystery – What can be puzzling or mysterious?

  • A Sense – A sound of singing originates from the root hinting at an underground location.
  • An Item – A letter from a previous tenant speaks of a secret room or treasure.
  • A Puzzle – a locked door, a moving painting, writing on the wall

The best way that I know to create mystery is to present half of something that makes the players ask “what about the other half?” When you add out of place information, hidden information, or unanswered questions, you present a mystery that will keep the player exploring the setting. Once again, use the momentum of their actions to present new information and then answer the questions of the puzzle as they explore new areas of the setting.

Complications – What can go wrong?

  • Pests – present a challenge native to the setting and if possible, neutral but hamping to the progress of exploration.  Termites within the oak tree begin to sense your interrupting presence and eat away at your items.
  • Change in the Setting – adjust the light, sound, and movement of the player’s senses, weather outside, or positioning of the rooms. At the top of the hour, the tree draws water from the earth and floods the chambers in which you walk.
  • Conflicting Interests – present a memorable NPC with a conflicting interest that could end in partnership, deception, trade, parlay, escape or combat. – a goblin hunter seeks out old relics and wants the barbarian’s family heirlooms for a trophy.
  • Attack – present a predator, monstrous being, or villain to attempt to threaten the player’s exploration. –  suddenly, a host of fiends arrive from a portal with ambition to destroy the tree and all within it. 

Complications are wonderful ways to tell the players that they are on the right path. As you link information to player’s actions and then reward with more information that links to new information, the layers of your setting can be explored. Complications can also be linked to information to discover as well. For example, the termites tunnel through the wood showing a letter from a previous adventurer, or the fiends could fight through the characters only to break through a previously locked door revealing a treasure trove of family heirlooms. Complications, at the most, extract the character’s resources and present a challenge for the players to solve while on their quest to explore.

Gain – What can they win?

  • Prize – given your Wizard’s constantly low armor class, a nice sentient cape of shielding flies around the oak tree. It will attach itself to you if it can be persuaded.
  • Friend – now that you made it to the top, a pixie exclaims you won and vows to record your deeds for it’s life. Provides advantage on perception checks for one player.
  • Enhancements – each potion in your pocket doubles in efficacy for 10 days and then retires as a normal potion. 
  • Rest – this magical wooded realm welcomes you to rest for 7 days in which you gain proficiency in an ability of your choice.

One of my favorite parts of the game is designing means to boost my player’s statistics for winning. See how I get creative outside of the handbook? To design a boost, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Where are they weak? – give them armor and HP but design it thematically with their character. Plate armor is great, but equal to a light mithral shirt and works for the character.
  • What do they wish? – give them an item that functions as normal, but also does something else outside their character class or skill. 
  • What looks cool? – give them something that makes the player feel more in character – a minotaur skull as a helmet. Provides no boost, but makes for an intimidating character and encourages roleplay.
  • What encourages character interaction? – give an item to one player that another player can use, and while seemingly useless, encourages the one player to interact with another. Example: let the rogue find the spellbook.
  • What will anchor them into the story and setting? – great opportunity to give them one of many pieces of a magic item that will drive them towards the quest to save the world. Make it obvious, such as a key, an inkwell, or a blacksmith’s hammer.

A great gain to include are books and here are 100 Books your Players will Enjoy

Risk – what are the dangers?

  • Luring – within the oak tree, a bright light dances upon the walls, begging you to follow. Please make a saving throw against being charmed.
  • Injury – while making your attempt to climb further beyond the party, the branch snaps beneath you and you fall, suffering an injury for the next 7 days.
  • Impairment – after downing all of the magic potions, your body suffers a restful feeling and risks falling asleep every hour. Please make a saving throw against sleep.
  • Lost – before pressing on through the tunnels, you recognize a similar drawing upon the wall and discover that you are lost. Please subtract 4 hours from your timekeeping and make a check to navigate.

There are so many more exciting elements to risk before death. I try to keep my player’s characters conscious during the entire game – it’s no fun to roleplay as unconscious, but if you do, throw in some visions of the afterlife to increase their knowledge of the universe. Instead of unconsciousness, make exploration dangerous. Remember to link the risks directly to the player’s actions by offering them the previous information. As the tree tunnels fill with water, the players decide to run for it – and this may lead to being lost. As the potion room brims with magic, the player decides to try them all and suffers an injury. The key to remember is to link the next step of the game directly from the player’s actions. By adding risks, you allow the player to continue the game, but with a new factor to consider in their exploration.


This is the point in which two or more options are in front of the players and they choose one. The decision is this point in which the characters follow along the new path of the encounter. This decision should be the linking point that triggers the next stage of the encounter. The order should follow like this:

The game master presents the large oak tree and describes the strange liquid leaking from it’s bark. The players decide to take a closer look and trigger the Knowledge encounter. Now that the players have information on the context, they decide to interact with the entrance and trigger the Observation encounter. This appeals to the players, so they decide to move beyond the entrance point and trigger the Mystery encounter. The players decide to investigate or solve the mystery and this triggers many encounters such as Risk and Gain and also New Information. At this point, the players are well into the encounter and the game master can go back and include any other pieces of information remaining from the Observation, Knowledge, New Information, or Mystery. The game master waits for the players to decide on the next action to trigger a Complication which may lead to another piece of information such as a Gain. The exploration of this setting, the Large Oak Tree Fortress doesn’t stall because the player’s actions to engage trigger the next encounter. Advise the game master to end the encounter with a transition once the players decide they exit the setting or the game master introduces an interruption into a new direction.

Resolution – Every action the players make can alter the setting somehow and the game master should keep track of the changes. After the decisions are made by players, the game master may then resolve the encounter and introduce a transition into the next setting.

Transitions are simple ways in which the game master manipulates time and spaces within the setting. A transition can look like the following examples.

  • As you walk into the next room, you see a door leading out of the tunnels.
  • When you finish your rest, you see the new daylight coming in through the window.
  • Beyond the spacious cavern leads a hallway out into the daylight.

Each transition gently moves the players from one setting to the next. In the case of the Large Oak Tree Fortress, the game master transitions the characters from the Large Oak Tree back into the spacious fields or down a branch slide from the top of the boughs to the bottom of the trunk. It is still up to the players to decide to engage the transition, but the game master may indicate it happens if they perceive the players are ready to move on. 

Finally, keep in mind that performing exploration encounters will take some time to practice and of course, will require some modifications as you play the game! As with any skill such as cooking, practice over time equals performance! Tabletop roleplaying games are no exception and with each encounter you run as a game master, you will improve your skill set. And isn’t that what exploring is all about? Be a fun game master and keep laying useful and fun pieces of information for your players to find and they will keep playing the game with you!

And as always, may your story continue!

Listen to the Podcast!

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Encounter Building in Dungeons and Dragons
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Happy New Year from Jonathan

Welcome Sojourners!

Enjoy this end of the year update! I have a few things in production and in planning.

As a gamemaster and dad, I always have my kid’s campaign running. While the games are not produced, I still like to post blogs and articles on realization I make while playing D&D with my children. This is something that binds us together and we enjoy as a family.

Sojourners Awake also produces a storytelling podcast Anchor and Spotify host the podcast as well as Apple. We cruised past 3000 listens this year, for a record breaking 503 listens in a month. The podcast hosts 14 hours of gaming a month, 9 volunteers of gamemasters and players and 3 series. We also have 3 series archived for binging. Subscribe and leave a rating today to support the podcast!

I’m very excited about this! You can now Follow me at Gumroad where I post products for game masters! If you are interested in investing in your role as a gamemaster, you can purchase pdfs, videos and audio content to improve your storytelling. This is a great way to support Sojourners Awake and partner with me on what kind of content to create in the future.

I write for Roleplaying Tips! I love producing articles and have a few featured in their newsletter. Johnn Four created the Five Room Dungeon Model and let me tell you, this revolutionized my gaming preparation.

I love supporting other creators that help game masters. Tabletop Audio has been a constant source of inspiration for my games, and provides the background music and ambiance heard in the podcast. If you want to support them, visit the site, or become a patreon supporter. You can also support with one-time donations via paypal.

Speaking of creators, Halfling Hobbies is the go – to resource for your Dungeons and Dragons games. This article was the post I read that CHANGED my understanding of TTRPGs and led me down a long dark path of worldbuilding.

I hope to start a neighborhood game here this year. I hope to hit 10,000 listens by the end of the year. I am very much looking forward to creating workable content for game masters and players to use to make memorable stories around the table. I hope great things for you this 2022! Whether you are a game master, player or somewhere in between, please sojourn with me and as always, may your story continue!

Encounter Building in Dungeons and Dragons

Quite simply, a game master can prepare no encounters until the players first have a goal.

Before designing your encounters, review the goal of the players and their characters. Then your encounters will mean volumes to the players and their characters.

  • Scene – upon the ocean with shore in sight
  • Goal – to reach the shore
  • Incident – monster shark strikes the boat enough to introduce a leak
  • Conflict – water fills the boat to the point of submersion
  • Question – will the Sojourners arrive to shore before they sink into the waters?

See how an encounter is made up of many pieces. And many encounters can spawn from one encounter. And many encounters make up one amazing adventure.

Ask questions to build a memorable encounter

  • What are the player goals?
  • What opposes them?
  • What will help them succeed?
  • What will help them fail?

Enjoy your encounter building and as always,

May your story continue!

Multiple Intelligences and Table Top Role Playing Games

In 1983, Howard Garner wrote a book entitled Frames of Mind. He proposed that there were multiple intelligences in which to excel rather than a singular intelligence measurement, say as in an IQ test. I practice this theory in that children possess all 8 intelligences in a quiet way and by learning, they access and grow their preferred intelligence. Since playing tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) such as Dungeons and Dragons, I determined that all 8 intelligences can be accessed while playing this kind of game. And in that way, we are all brilliant.

In our family, we homeschool, and you may think of this as the DIY of education. We also play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, as that was the game we first learned. By blending learning styles such as Garner’s, along with TTRPGs, here is how I think the game brightens our children’s intelligence. I will only explore 6 styles in this post and plan to show you how each child may use all 6 styles to learn through playing table top role playing games.

Naturalistic – these children can store tons of data in their brain and at the same time, understand systems. All of the plants, animals, planets, stars, and humans mix together in their mind with concern for the parts making up the whole. Naturally, they are good at understanding any system, since they fascinate themselves with our first big system of nature. One of the lures of TTRPGs is the worldbuilding, the creation of a fiction world with laws and powers that resemble our own. Sometimes this creation can feel so real in the mind, we are then free to “wander” about in it and influence it from the table. This naturalistic way of learning provides moments of exploration in the game, seeking to understand how the small village in this kingdom fits in the larger continent of your fiction world. They are also the most likely to collect items, relics, books and animals. They love adopting pets.

  • Action: allow these learners to collect and build their own systems such as pets and shops.
  • Action: allow this learner a diary to classify discoveries in the fictional world.

Linguistic – these children excel in verbal skills. Through writing, reading, and speaking, they fill the game time up with all of the literary devices that enhance a story. Players can generate a backstory for their character. Without much effort, these learners love to write up their character stories as they play. They also enjoy telling the tales of creation, destruction, gods and powers, rise and fall of empires right down to the homely hamlet in the wild, communing with an eldritch force that threatens to overthrow all we think we know.

  • Action: allow these learners to assist with writing up a short narrative of the lore in your fictional world.
  • Action: allow this learner to write up a 10 sentence narrative recap of the last session.

Visual/Spatial – The game master can incorporate physical items in the game to stimulate visual learners. Maps, physical puzzles, miniature toys, and image depictions of the the villains are all examples of ways these learners enjoy the game. They often have a “photographic” memory as well and can easily remember what they saw. The other component of their brilliance is understanding the physical distance between two objects. They will enjoy travel, plotting courses, acting tactically in combat and visual artistic depictions of the game world.

  • Action: allow these learners plenty of visual examples of your descriptions. Include maps, letters and pictures as often as you can in the game.
  • Action: allow this learner to assist in setting up the terrain or map on the table.

Kinesthetic – Anyone who learns by moving their body may not want to sit for an hour and play a board game, much less a tabletop roleplaying game where so much is left up to the imagination. However, it is easy enough for a game master to collaborate with those who learn through movement. Rather than using jumping and running, remember that kinesthetic learners also learn through their manual dexterity. Including tactile information, such as physical maps, terrain, toy miniatures and dice is a sure way to enhance their learning experience. Allow them to stand up while playing. Allow them to act out their scenes in person. Allow them to continue the roleplaying game outside afterwards, for in fact, they will learn the best, the more often they move. When playing TTRPGs, most children will need something to fidget with during the game, might I recommend modeling clay, since it is dynamic, but also silent? Consider taking the roleplaying game to a new level by setting up a live action scavenger hunt, or puzzling game of Twister.

  • Action: allow the player to stay in motion at the table by moving miniatures, or drawing pictures.
  • Action: Ask this player to assist by rolling for the monster in combat.

Auditory/Musical – With the ability to primarily learn through processed sound and rhythm, these children will be the first to enjoy ambient background music, read aloud poems, clever word play, and live action bardic inspiration. Consider that these children might not always make eye contact, or even seem engaged. Because they learn primarily through hearing, they will make an attempt to shut out the other senses, by looking down, remaining still. When they do express themselves, they might stand to speak, annunciate clearly, or even be shy if they don’t understand what is required. Much of the game is listening to the game master describe through words, requiring a level of auditory learning.

  • Action: allow this player to restate in their own words what the game master describes. This helps the quiet child engage in an appropriate way and engages the other children in a second round of listening.
  • Action: Spend 30 seconds describing a pirate ship and then ask this player to verbally describe what their character sees using their own words.

Logical/Mathematical – Much of TTRPGs involve strategy, logic, probability, and you may be surprised to know that math is at the heart of every game. Learners who excel at this enjoy puzzles, clearly defined answers, binary options. Often this is called “optimizing” and looks like the learner keeping their character sheet up to date, pre-rolling sneak attack damage, or commanding the team during combat. They will be the first to examine the rules and the first to make an attempt to challenge them! They enjoy the game best when the information is clear, objective and goal oriented.

  • Action: for the sake of the table, clearly state the options, risk, reward of the quest and allow the learner to win the game by discovering loop holes and flaws in the villain’s plans.
  • Action: allow this player to assist with difficult rulings by resourcing the handbook and their own logic.


In this short and simple explanation of how the Multiple Intelligence Theory is proved in playing tabletop roleplaying games, I hope to have encouraged you as a parent or educator that this kind of play is remarkably beneficial in children’s learning development. I also hope that you may intuit that playing TTRPGs also keeps adult’s brains plastic and resilient with regards to learning. Overall, play is the best way to learn and build understand between us and even, our own world.

May your story continue.

Recipe for Exploration Encounters in Dungeons and Dragons
Recipe for Crafting Exploration Encounters in Dungeons and Dragons I love to …
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Welcome Sojourners! Enjoy this end of the year update! I have a …
Encounter Building in Dungeons and Dragons
Quite simply, a game master can prepare no encounters until the players …
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Dealing with Imposter Syndrome as a Dungeon Master

Kung Fu Panda

Imposter syndrome can be described as doubting one’s self. I have heard many artists and professionals dealing with this phenomenon, including many game masters who sit behind the screen and wonder if they are doing their best, or even if they are worth the game.

In this blog, I have a few ideas to address imposter syndrome and help game masters move through it and onto the reward

First idea: imposter syndrome comes and goes in waves. I hope you can relate to this. Sometime you feel on top of the world in success and for some reason, another time you will be crippled with doubt wondering why you even try. Imposter syndrome is not something to be cured inside of you, but rather a storm to be weathered outside of you. Rather than doubting yourself, consider that the conflict of doubt originates from outside of you. In the same way, I wouldn’t blame you for getting wet while walking in the rain. The rain of doubt falls on the most amazing game masters as well as … you. If you start thinking of doubt as an outside source, then you will not blame yourself when you weather through this storm of imposter syndrome. And like the weather, this too, shall pass.

Second idea: imposter syndrome is just that – a syndrome. We don’t know why or where it comes from so we call it a symptom of something else. May I propose that at the moment you experience doubt, that you are on the precipice of something great? Remember as game masters, we design monsters before the treasure. The reward always follows the battle. In every struggle, there is victory. Doubt stands there to cripple you, but in reality, it’s only standing in front of the spark of reward. When you start to realize that reward always follows battle, you will find yourself actually getting excited the moment that doubt arrives in your mind. Roll initiative.

Third idea: don’t forget to look for the reward. Imposter syndrome, self doubt, anxiety, shame, and other monsters do not naturally grow within you and their goal is to cripple you as an artist, as a creator, as a game master. You will weather the storm, you will slay the dragon, but you may fail to look for the treasure after this storm of doubt.

Example: I love the movie Kung Fu Panda. If you haven’t seen it, it is a great lesson in dealing with imposter syndrome. Though he comes from lowly state, Po practices, serves and cares for his team. But suffers from one problem – self doubt. Along the quest to the treasure, Po had practiced with diligence, served with humility and cared with love for his team. By the end of the movie (spoilers!), Po, discovers that his own self is the treasure which he sought. He learned his generous presence already satisfied the team. After his doubt was weathered, he then took ahold of his skills and defeated the enemy with ease.

As a gamemaster, you are the reward. For the game, for the story, and for your players. After you have done all of your work, service and shown care for your players, the only thing that can really defeat you is doubt. And believe me, it will try.

So, to you game master, I see how you have practiced the rules, you have poured over pages of story and graciously set aside the time and energy to bring fun to those around your table. And notice this: they keep coming back for more fun. You are doing it right. The only weapon that can take you down now is doubt. Weather the storm, slay the dragon and be the reward.

May your story continue!

100 Books your Players will Enjoy

When playing Dungeons and Dragons, or any RPG, players often have limited options on how they can level up their characters. This leveling up system is very regimented. If you are wanting fresh and creative ways to introduce other ways to level up your player characters, then consider this document of 100 Books, Tomes, Scrolls and Papers!

I love learning and believe books and learning should be a part of every adventurer’s life. I often wondered about my 1st level character “how did they learn how to cook, or how did they learn how to speak goblin?” This document available for download brings some rules and mechanics to your story so your players can update their stats and so the characters can continue a story.

If you enjoy audio podcasting, then listen to the Bookish and the Brave episode where I take my players through a year at a library. They get to learn spells outside their class as well as pick up bonus proficiencies, all in the name of learning.

Downloadable Resource below!

Challenge and Invitation – How to adjust your encounters as a Game Master while playing tabletop roleplaying games.

When playing RPGS, the gamemaster decides the encounters. What kind of encounters are available to use. I propose there are only really 2 options, but with varying degrees. Much like the burner on a gas stove, the setting is low to high and anything in between, but there are only really 2 directions you can turn the dial. There are only 2 directions you can turn the encounter.

On the lowest setting, set to 1, the encounter is set to “invitation”. With an invitation, there is low risk, low reward, low energy and no conflict.

amplifier analogue audio blur
Photo by Pixabay on

As the gamemaster increases the turn on the dial, all the way to 10, the dial is set to “challenge” and increases to high risk, high reward, high energy, and all conflict.

To define, encounters of invitation make life easier for the players and encounters of challenge make life more difficult.
Now, in any point in the game/story, the game master assesses the players response and determines where that setting is at. if the setting is higher than 50, the players are engaging in an encounter of challenge. If the setting is lower than 50, the players are experiencing an encounter of invitation.

The skill of being a gamemaster means you now get to decide if the next encounter should be increased with challenge or decreased into an invitation. Having a nasty fight challenge set to 7 means that cranking down the dial to 6 towards invitation means describing the perfect place to take a long rest.

stainless steel cookware on stove
Photo by Oleg Magni on

Increasing the challenge would mean having a nasty fight at 7, only to find the challenge increases now with the players chased by nature’s wrath at 8. To use a Tolkien quote, “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
At the end of the day, the game master has two settings – invitation encounters and challenge encounters and must determine when to use them.

I hope these thoughts resonate with you as a gamemaster!

May your story continue.

Visual Game Session Preparation

While there are many ways to prepare your tabletop roleplaying games as a dungeon master, I have found that after writing 4 pages of storyline, I would get bogged down with a forest of information during the game. I decided to give myself limits by keeping everything on one sheet and discovered that if I used more visual models, I could reference the material quickly and trigger my mind into action.

Here are the opening steps for a seamless session while playing Dungeons and Dragons. First, read the introduction to describe the setting. This sets the stage for the players upon which to act.

Bonus tip! Before the session, have 1 player prepare an opening scene by give a monologue introduction (a prayer, journal entry, letter to home, dream, or even a song. This brings the players into building the stage of the setting.

Session Challenge: For the sake of keeping the table’s story intact, describe out loud to yourself the challenge presented for the session. Here, I state that the war machine is inoperable, requires repair in order for the sojourners to safely arrive at their destination given their limited time and resources. By taking time to describe the challenge, I do my part as a dungeon master to keep the tension in the game, providing happy players and meaningful choices.

Without further blathering, see below are 4 examples of a visual session preparation involving a social interaction, an exploration, a skill challenge and a combat encounter. The balloons are there as quick glance references to trigger your memory on your preparation. The dungeon master can one by one visit the scenes by either inviting the sojourner to participate or challenge them to overcome. If a conflict arises, feel free to increase the stakes in the game by advancing to an encounter. If this happens, the sojourner may lose or gain something from the encounter. Otherwise, the scene simply unfolds and great roleplay is enjoyed by all.


I don’t write out details here, because I already know what an Iron Forest is, the bubble simply reminds me to bring it into the story somewhere.
Go through each of the bubbles one at a time to cut from scene to scene giving the players a meaningful session and one that is filled with action, romance, and excitement.
The bubbles help keep you on track!
Place whatever you want to remember in the bubbles.

Imagine how satisfied you will be when, at the end of your session, you can check off each of those bubbles, one by one! This method is easy to read, easy to store and will help you make sure you don’t leave anything out of your session that you prepared.

May your story continue!