(Re)Genesis of a D&D Campaign, Part 1

This is an excerpt of my second blog post, published in July 2007

This fall, after a 2 year campaign characterized by many missed games and a DM that finally decided to tackle and recover from a severe depression, we decided that we needed to start a new one.

I’m pretty excited by the new campaign. Everyone seems to have made a character they really want to play and I’ve got a few ideas about the campaign’s backstory that are promising.

Seven and a half years after I posted the above, I was back to planning a D&D campaign.

But I’ve evolved as a DM since that summer night in 2007.

I used to spend weeks planning and darkening pages. I picked villains and likely plot arcs. I’d get lost in the what, the why and the where of it all. Aspect of my controllish personality came out strong. I felt I had to be ready to face all eventualities, including my players’ likely attempt to derail the story.

Thankfully, I don’t plan like that anymore. In fact, I was determined to start my new D&D campaign with no prep whatsoever. I’d farm that out to the players.

I can already sense a disturbance in the collective gestalt of DMs. I can feel you all frowning…

“That’ never works, Phil!”

Yes, it does.

Trust me…


  1. I have “over-preparer” tendencies, too. I’m really trying to combat them during our new fifth edition campaign, but it’s hard. So far, the best medicine has been reading. If I feel like spending time plotting out potential arcs or encounters, I’ll instead pick up the Planescape campaign guide or a China Mieville book. Fuel for imagination is good for at-the-table, off-the-cuff storytelling. Plus, reading is fun!

  2. You’ll see how I cheated next week (3 posts), I think you’ll find a lot of ideas to make your life a LOT easier. If you are ready to jump off the deep end of Improv GMing and sharing narration with players. 🙂

  3. Krieger12 says:

    I’m glad to see you getting back into it. I was just going through my feeds the other day cleaning out old blogs that were not active anymore, and thought “I wonder what Phil is up to.” I’m excited to see what you have coming up.

  4. Thanks! I have a felling akin to a guy returning to his old neighborhood, people waving and smiling as he settles back.

  5. Dixon Trimline says:

    I am delighted by and terrified of the shared narrative approach. It has tremendous power, and the result is always extraordinary–one of those rare times when committees succeed with creativity–but I can tend towards passivity, so I get lost in a crowd of loud voices.
    Here I am puzzling over the name of the city we just entered, thinking, thinking, thinking, and everybody else at the table have moved on to the improvised tavern and temple and torch-based economy. I wind up sitting there, nodding like an idiot, contributing nothing.

  6. I hate to do the “Wait for it” tease… if this was old me, I’d have posted all 5 upcoming articles already, but the next one offers a solution for your exact problem: Making sure each players have an equal shot at contributing significant elements to the setting. But yes, the “alpha player” phenomenon seen in all cooperative games will always remains an issue.

  7. Can’t wait to hear about it.