Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. This week we’re sharing our D&D ideas about prepared material.
Oftentimes we get asked about running this adventure or that module. Generally to that our response is, “Do you even watch the channel bro?” Snark aside, we don’t run a whole lot of prewritten material. Nerdarchist Ted has been running a bit more since he’s been running the RPG Crate games and the adventures contained within.
I’ve been known to use prepared material in a different way. When I ran an Underdark campaign I relied heavily on the Out of the Abyss adventure. It was full of information about the Underdark. I used it for all the environmental information instead of having to make it up for myself.
Reading through Storm King’s Thunder I was inspired by a paragraph about an item, pixie dust. Sure enough it become a minor magic item in my game that my players used often. As long as they kept the pouch and its contents they could speak and understand Sylvan. Sometimes all you need is a map or a single encounter and prepared material like prewritten D&D adventures are be great for this.
From Ted’s Head
When it comes to prepared material for use in Dungeons & Dragons, the longer I do stuff with Nerdarchy the more I come to use prepared material or portions thereof. Technically speaking regardless of what you are playing, you are using prepared monsters, spells and magic items even if you are homebrewing your world and story.
You are already accustomed to looking in one or more books and pulling out the useful bits for your story now, so stealing bits and pieces of other adventures is not so hard to do. If you then take all the stuff you are using and prepare it digitally or in a notebook hidden behind your screen your players might be none the wiser that you are using stuff you did not initially write.
But in the end, as you cut and paste your adventure together, as you tie up weird sections with your own transitions and potentially NPCs, towns, monsters and so on it becomes an amalgamation of others’ writing and yours. It is completely unique and thus your own. There are loads of great sources you can tap into as resources for your material and this cut and paste adventuring if you so desire. I am sure the others here at Nerdarchy are going to point you towards resources for your games. But allow me to share a couple I have a fondness for.
Dungeon Crate offers prepared material as well as cool gaming accessories every month. I get a fully written set of prepared material with art and goodies in every crate. I have a collection of them and enjoy picking through now and again for ideas. You can get it here: dungeoncrate.com and do not forget to use coupon code nerdarchy to get 10% off your first month’s crate.
RPG Crate is another source for prepared material. If you want to see a taste of what that is like you can see yours truly run the game once a month on our YouTube channel, though I will say it is a condensed version. On occasion they even have other complete smaller adventures as part of their crates. You can get it here: rpgcrate.com, just do not forget to use nerdarchyrpgcrate as a promo code to get 10% off your first month’s crate.
Prepared material can be used in whole or in pieces. Steal as much or as little as you like. You wind up seeing how professionals write or prepare so it can guide you on the parts of the game where you feel you are not the strongest. For me I feel like it is the exploration pillar. So I look for things that help me out with those.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
No matter how many times I play Dungeon & Dragons as the Dungeon Master, I always feel like I don’t have enough prepared material. Running a published adventure, preplanned campaigns like Nerdarchy does at D&D in a Castle, an impromptu game at a convention or playing D&D with my friends at home on a Sunday night, the feeling of not having enough prepared material is a constant.
After playing, I realize even with the most meager amount of prepared material, content goes unused. This is because the bulk of material in a D&D game cannot be prepared — what the players and their characters do. Dungeon Masters take heart! This is a tremendous benefit for you and your prepared material. Whether you know your players well, you’re running a game for complete strangers, a group gathers for a one shot adventure or continues the story of a long-running campaign, your prepared material is the content at the ready to fall back. Because players will absolutely take their adventures in directions you never expect.
The best practice for prepared material I’ve discovered so far is to keep a flexible perspective. Collaborate with the players so events unfold organically, and keep alert for places where your prepared material, whatever it might entail, becomes useful. I’ll give you an example.
In our Waterdeep: Dragon Heist game, our DM guides us through our characters lives in Waterdeep, and I asked them once if the unusual situations we find ourselves in are part of the published adventure. He told about about a quarter of the time the adventure content comes from the book and the rest is giving us the opportunity to roleplay and develop our characters, and become immersed in city life. When a window opens to circle back around to the main plotline they drop those situations in and we always follow the breadcrumbs.
An outcome of this circumstance is sometimes, as a DM, you’re really excited about your prepared material. One of my favorite DMs to play with, Sean McGovern from Powerscore RPG, loves to incorporate published adventures into his games. But as a player I’ve been part and parcel to foiling Sean’s plans for his prepared material. However, Sean listens to his players and helps guide them to tell their own unique stories. Together we blend his prepared material with our player antics.
When I DM, my favorite kind of prepared material is what I call “stuff that happens.” Since my game sessions are typically 2-3 hours, it does not take much of that stuff to happen to provide combat, exploration and social encounters, allow characters to develop and grow, and create memorable experiences. To be sure, I enjoy prepared material for the creation process for my own content, and joy of discovery in the work of others, but if I’m honest, it’s what players do with even the most innocuous prepared material that gives me the most reward and satisfaction.
When it comes to stuff that happens in your D&D games, I am so incredibly proud to be part of the team bring Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition to life on Kickstarter. Nerdarchy’s first foray into this kind of product development has already shattered our expectations and we’re working night and day to deliver the same experiences at your gaming tables. Our favorite kind of prepared material inspires the imaginations of players and DMs alike, setting up a tableau for imagination where no one knows the outcome, but fantastic stories emerge nonetheless.
Until next time, stay nerdy!
— Nerdarchy Team
Check out Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition – Here
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