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29 November 2022

The Back-Up Plan, D&D Edition

When I learned we had to cancel/postpone our next D&D session, I was initially crushed. Presently, I only get the chance to Dungeon Master every two weeks, and I'd been ready for this session for a while. Even the last time we were scheduled to play, I had to cancel! The woeful joy of being the parent of a beautiful baby girl.

When last we left the companions of Caught in Galen, they had teleported inside the fleshy interior of an extraplanar prison, upkept by a timid giff scribe who served the prison's slaadi creator. Sadly, this giff was experiencing a form of Stockholm Syndrome, having been in service of the slaadi named Nailen for untold centuries. The party were doing an okay job of trying to break him from this horrendous, endless bout of servitude, but a certain someone's not-so-nice demeanor was directly causing the poor giff to wish for Nailen's return all the swifter...

Anyway, the companions were in a potentially dusty situation: three beholders had engaged them and were prepared to disintegrate yet another player character (one of the players has lost at least two characters to disintegration rays before). Rays of green energy were blasting the outer shell of this living chunk of a settlement and the party were ready to engage. They thought.

Alas, all of this would have to wait for another stretch of time.

Would the companions survive the three beholders?

Would they succeed in helping the poor giff escape his maniacal slaadi master Nailen?

Would they actually try to use the four, torn pages of the Book of Vile Darkness they'd just found?

Maybe, maybe, and I truly hope not!

I know, I know, you probably think we just canceled and will pick up again in good time. But that's not the case! Just because we weren't playing one campaign didn't mean we couldn't dive back into another!

I call it: the Back-Up Plan, D&D Edition.

Sure, the usual group couldn't gather 'round the table and likely bash in some beholder eyestalks, so we stepped into another adventure I had a firm enough grasp on. One of the players of the other campaign ended up coming, my wife wanted to play, and with those two and my little daughter around the table, we picked up a new tale. There ended up being much less combat and a lot more talking, especially with the cutthroat kobold named Reekdar they ended up meeting, but fun was still had.

This back-up session wasn't what I had planned on DMing that night, but it scratched that itch. It served its purpose well. It only happened, though, because I was moderately prepared.

Always be prepared. Have something on the backburner. Be ready to improvise.

Life happens. Sometimes people need to cancel D&D. 

They get sick. Work comes up. Children are unwell or just plain angry. In any of those cases, try to commit to a back-up plan. Sometimes, that planned D&D session is the biggest source of respite and rejuvenation in someone's week. Don't take it away. Instead, build something new, have it ready.

Really, you only need a few essentials to get a good session going:

  • At least one player and their character
  • An enticing plot hook
  • A few encounter ideas
  • A gripping finale

I'll admit I wasn't entirely ready to pick-up that other campaign. I hadn't thought about the world in quite some time, hadn't even familiarized myself with those characters or people or plots. Luckily, I write a lot of my notes down and had a good foundation to quickly build a session on. Plus, I love improvisation! With my notes and a few minutes of thought, I was able to pull together the following:

  • A party of two (one historic PC and a new one)
  • A demon guards a holy sword below an abandoned mine, a cleric's deity commanded her to recover it
  • A stealth mission through a kobold encampment, an interaction with a cutthroat kobold shaman, exploration of the ruined temple that runs into the abandoned mine, and a confrontation with the demon
  • It turns out the only object keeping the demon below the surface was the holy sword he was forced to guard. He was sending omens to the cleric as his deity to bait him to the ruined temple. With the sword taken by the party, the demon is free to roam and terrorize the world once more

Regardless of any of that, I pushed myself to run it because I knew it'd be fun. It'd still be a good D&D session; maybe not a great one, definitely not a bad one, but a good one.

Simply "good" D&D is better than no D&D.

The next time life happens and you're about to cancel D&D for the day/week/month/year/decade, take a moment and think:

Is this someone's respite?

Does this help someone rejuvenate?

Do I have something ready to go?

Am I prepared to improvise?

If you're able to answer yes to any of those questions, think twice before sending the official cancellation text. You might just make your own or one of your player's days by deciding not to cancel and go forward with something unexpected instead.

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