The main focus of a lot of peoples prep occurs when getting ready for running an actual session, this post isn’t going to talk about the specifics of writing an adventure or creating a story for a session, but rather what sort of things you should get ready and have to hand when you run it to make your job easier.
Prep for the start of a session
When getting ready for a session it is impossible to plan for all contingencies, but there are a number of things that you can have ready to make things easier on yourself during the actual session.
If you know–or suspect–that you are going to require some of the game rules that you don’t normally use in the commonplace run of your game then bookmarking that page in your rulebook or even note them down.
For example: If you know that in your game the PCs are exploring an ancient tomb riddled with traps and one of them is a water trap, make sure you have the rules for drowning and swimming close to hand.
In-fact, if you have a rules reference or cheatsheet for your game it never hurts to have that available just in case you need a quick refresher on any of the more common rules.
If you know certain NPCs are going to make an appearance then have the stats that you need to play them to hand, I tend to note these down on index cards or post-stik notes and have a small pile of them near me that I can quickly flip through during the game. It can also be helpful to have a couple of generic encounters statted up that you can bring into play should they be required or easily adapt on the fly to suit different situations.
For example: In a D&D game that takes place in a large town, you might have an encounter for the town guard, pickpockets/thieves and an angry mob of townsfolk genned up, these can be used in a variety of situations that are likely to occur and having them written down in advance means you won’t have to slow the game down flipping through your monster manual when the characters burn down a market stall and are pursued by a mob of town traders.
Any Maps, Images or Handouts Required
It’s perfectly possibly to do a quick sketch map during the game, but getting it done in advance means that the players don’t have to wait for you to draw it, you can also write notes on it (the scale of the map for example) to answer common questions that your players might ask rather than having to come up with such details on the fly.