I'm making new fantasy Dungeons and Dragons third edition game. I wrote out the entire first situation with most general situations in mind.

Should I try and just "ole" the whole creative process and have just the enemies and the NPCs planned out? Or should I write out every single situation set out with all of the fine details?

I've been panicking over my first DM session for awhile.


4 Answers 4


Yes, it's fine to make it up as you go along.

Whether or not that works for you depends upon your ability to remain consistent and to improvise on the fly, but many a good campaign starts with nought more than 4-6 PC's and a map.

Also note: many a campaign lies stillborn, suffocated by excess GM prepwork. Many more get off the ground, then grind to a halt under the GM's reams of prepped details.

Too much is worse than too little.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ And just remember that no matter how much you prepare, your PCs will always wander off in a completely different direction than what you expected or prepared for, so less is usually better. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBlake
    Commented Nov 6, 2011 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Certainly less frustrating for you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also know your players - do they want a pure sandbox campaign or do they prefer that you give them an adventure hook? \$\endgroup\$
    – RobertF
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 14:54

For your first few stories you'll need to have details, but less than you might fear. Have NPC names, professions and dispositions worked out ahead of time. For combat you'll want to know what they'll fight and how that creature acts. It is a good idea to write out a stat block for the creatures until you know them well. This is because as a new GM you'll be thinking about the monsters tactics, the players tactics, and just how bad that last roll was and whether you need to refill your soda before or after combat. The fact that this creature can do a loopdeloop when it hasn't moved this round can easily get lost in the wash. Worse, you don't want to be halting combat to scan the entry for the creature the whole time.

So... have the basic plot outlined, enough NPCs to make that plot advance, and know well all the baddies the chars will have to face down. Do no more than that, and you'll do great/ But also keep in mind that this is a game, and the players are your friends, fun is the goal.. so.. the most important thing is not to stress.


As long as your players enjoy the sesssion, and you have enough ideas for the next session, you did it right. The second part is actually easier to make up on the fly; the PCs will have plenty of ideas (good or bad) that bear investigation, and led to more ideas...

Keeping the players (not necessarily characters) happy is the tricky bit, but it depends so much on individuals that all I can suggest is make sure you have a chat session at the end where people can say "I hope there's not so much combat next time" or "I wonder if that song we heard is significant".


Yes, it's fine to make it up as you go along. You'll get better at it the more you do it. I have two bits of advice.

First, prepare in as modular a manner as you can. Prepare rooms more than dungeons, characters more than residents. That way if your PCs pass through the Catacombs of Despair without finding that one secret room, you can throw it into the Cliffs of Despair without anyone the wiser; that encounter with Prince Bungholio can occur two towns over if you just preparing that he has A favourite tavern instead of prepping one specific tavern to find him in.

But the real gem in that is so you can use the ideas your players give you more easily! "Boy, we keep finding these Orc Shamans, I wonder if it's not some cult!" they say... So you turn the Necromancer in the Catacombs into an orc and suddenly the undead army they have to stop have become nothing more than the proverbial "beginning of the end," mere shock troops for an orc horde! And you're ready for that, because you didn't lay it all down mentally in stone.

The second advice is weird... Set the game up as not what really happened, but as one of the characters recounting their glory days in a tavern as an old, retired adventurer. This can mentally help cover mistakes, and you can even let that player (rotate each time) explain what really happened when mistakes come to light. This lets your players join in creating the narrative!


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .