The DM's Lament: There Just Isn't Enough Time

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 16 February 2010

My new job is kicking my rear end. During my first week on the job, a huge, high priority job got added to the tech team's plate. While I'm really enjoying it, the work has me a little outside my wheelhouse. As a result, I don't have a ton of time to prep for this week's game and I found myself browsing through the RPG adventure database in search of some adventure ideas to steal. Figuring that there are a few other DM's out there in a similar position, I thought I would share some of my ideas on how to plan in a hurry.

If you have some time, don't limit yourself only to adventures in your system and setting.

Converting an adventure from one system to another can take a lot less time than developing one from scratch. With 4e's simplified encounter design, the combat portion of the game can be a lot easier to create and modify.

Feel free to steal bits and pieces instead of the entire adventure.

Maybe you really love to design your encounter groups, but hate drawing maps. Or maybe you want to populate your town with engaging NPCs but don't feel like figuring out what trades they should have or what to name them. Or maybe you came across a great encounter in an adventure but the rest of the adventure doesn't fit with your world. Regardless of the reason why using the whole adventure doesn't make sense, grab the bits that grab you and make them your own.

Build off of a Trope

We use tropes a fair bit because people know how to react to them. Emphasize a full moon, and your players are likely to look for a werewolf. They are not only useful in setting player expectations, but they can help you get through a session with a little less planning than normal since you are also likely to be comfortable with the story you're telling. You can find some tropes on

For a few weeks, at least, design your game in bits.

Dave Chalker had a great post about this on the Critical-Hits website. He was designing the second chapter of his campaign and wanted to give some overall structure to it without going into too much detail. His solution was to create 5 major quests and, for each quest, create a list of 5 things that must be done to complete the quest.

Hope these ideas help get your brain going. In the meantime, I found a side-track to use and need to add it to my combat manager.


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