Nowadays, D&D is seen for what it always was: a fun roleplaying game that encourages creativity and teamwork. And it's more popular than it ever has been before with its stigma lifted, gamebooks and sets made more readily available, and with the creation of popular web series and podcasts like HarmonQuest, Critical Role and The Adventure Zone. It's the perfect time to begin your journey into the realms of the game, or delve deeper in ways you hadn't before.
There are tons of ways any DM can go about starting their own campaign but maybe this list can provide a few tips. Here are 10 Things To Think About Before Starting A Campaign.
10 Does Your Schedule Allow It?
Before you start even thinking about what story you want your campaign to tell you should consider this one important question: do you have time to start one? Time management is a pretty crucial part of planning a campaign, as a campaign is meant to continue over an extended period. There have been plenty of great ones that eventually die because it was hard to get everyone together. As a player, you have to consider if your personal schedule will allow you to be an available and active player. And as a GM not only do you have to have time to play, you need time to plan for each session and to answer any questions your players might have.
9 Play With People You Like
One of the most integral parts of having a great D&D campaign is playing it with great people. As a DM the story only starts to come to life once your players begin their adventure and interact with the world that you created. D&D is a great way to make new friends, but it's also important to fill your campaign with people who you and the rest of your players can actually get along with.
It's okay for there to be the occasional disagreement in-game or even out of characters unless it starts to takes away the enjoyment of playing the game. And no matter how great a roleplayer a person is, if they're a "problem player" who can't be talked to, it probably isn't worth having them join.
8 Consider Everyone's Experience Level
There are D&D products for everyone at every skill level. There's even an official D&D starter set that's under $20! It's important to consider the skill level of each player to pick a module and craft a campaign that will be fun for everyone and, provide some level of challenge. You also have to consider your own experience level as a DM and what you're own limitations are. You might want to start a campaign with tons of intricate plot hooks but, in reality, you might only be able to develop one with a solid straight forward story with a few interesting twists along the way. And that's fine! As long as everyone is having fun how intricate the story is doesn't matter.
7 Develop A "Premise"
A lot of world-building typically goes into a campaign, especially for any DM that wants to try homebrewing. With so much to consider from locations, the races that make the world and much more, having a general idea of what the campaign is about can really help you stay on track and figure out how to tie in everyone's character to the main plot of the campaign.
You'll want to cover at least a "who" and a "what" for your premise which can be something like; "A group travels the kingdom to stop the wrong-doing of an evil cult". You can build upon that premise and let it be your jumping point towards creating the rest of the campaign.
6 Consider Everyone's Limits
There are an endless amount of ways a campaign can be run. It can be your standard action-adventure, more light-hearted and humorous, or even a dark one. It can even be a combination of the 3! But whatever the campaign is it's important to talk to your players about it and figure out the types of themes they are comfortable with, and the ones they aren't. It's great when a player can really get into the roleplaying aspect of a campaign and they get emotional over the things their character and the rest of the party experiences.
But having a player be genuinely distressed because they're uncomfortable with a theme or a situation that the DM or another player puts them in, isn't okay.
5 Plan Ahead For Each Session
A campaign can last anywhere from a few months to even years depending on how things develop. No DM can ever foresee how long a campaign will be, so it's important to properly prepare for each session beforehand. How long to prepare is generally up to every individual DM and while some will suggest preparing 3 session ahead, you'll probably be okay with only preparing for each session beforehand. It's important to consider different scenarios as well. Want your players to face against the wizard illithid in his lair?
Prepare for what happens if they win, if they lose... if they somehow manage to avoid the illithid all together and the cause and effect of each situation.
4 But Don't Shy Away From Improving!
As a DM you can't always predict how your players will go about things or how they might handle certain situations. Say, for example, you set up an encounter that you assume your players will have a tough time with. But they manage to call on the help of a strong NPC ally or they get an item that lets them breeze through an encounter, now what? You can't just end the game early because an encounter you thought might take half an hour ended in 10 minutes. This is where some improvising skills will be helpful.
Maybe they find out that the enemy they faced was a grunt for an even stronger opponent, who was put there as a test for their skills? And as long as you act like that was the plan the entire time, generally, your players will believe it was.
3 Be Flexible
For everything a DM is in charge of, they don't have complete control over everything that happens in the narrative, especially the players. While the DM might want the players to, for example, visit a set of strange ruins to uncover the secret hideout of a dangerous cult, the players might uncover the hideout in another way, or they may not even discover the cult at all.
Sometimes things won't happen the way you see it happening and you have to flexible with your narrative to allow for detours and even alternate routes to the story.
2 You Don't Have To Figure Out Everything At Once
Starting a campaign you might think that you have to figure out every detail at once, and that can be a pretty daunting task, especially if it's your first time as a DM. As a suggestion, if you can't figure something out it's okay to leave it alone for a bit. Sometimes things that happen in-game can be the catalyst for a situation you need or give inspiration on how to work something out. Sometimes your players can even provide the perfect filler to a plot hole or create a nice plot point that will make the narrative even stronger.
1 Remember What It's All About: Having Fun
D&D is an awesome roleplaying game that's easy to get deep into if you really enjoy it. And sometimes when a person gets passionate over something they might lose sight of what's most important. D&D is a game that's all about being creative and having fun with friends. And that should be the most important thing to consider when thinking about starting a campaign. When you think about what would bring you and your players the most fun, and you work together with them to make that happen you're well on your way to becoming an amazing DM!