How to Return to Your D&D Game After a Break

Extended breaks are commonplace in many Dungeons & Dragons groups. Mine are no exception. But what should you prepare for as a Dungeon Master or a Player after a long absence from the game and world of your D&D campaign? Well, as I'm about to return to my homebrew world of Eldar after a lengthy hiatus due to the birth of my daughter, this topic constantly bounces around my mind.

It's a tricky topic, really, and is unique for every group out there. However, after a few musings during my morning runs, I think I've nailed down exactly what every Dungeon Master and Player needs to think about.

If you're about to return to a D&D game after a long hiatus or are about to take one, this is the article for you.

Read on for some vital advice about how to keep your D&D game alive after or before a long break.

Gather Your Party

Wrangling everyone together is usually the most difficult part of planning a D&D session or campaign, and that's true when returning to the latter as well! Fortunately, you should have a firm relationship established with each of the players and, with a bit of communication on your part about why a break occurred in the first place, gathering everyone shouldn't be too difficult.

Start with a message. Let everyone know that you're ready to return to the D&D table. If you'd like to be transparent, give a bit more information on why the break happened and why you're good to go and play again. Most people, especially your fellow friends and players, shall appreciate it.

Connect with people, Talk back and forth. Get back into the swing of D&D-esque communication: little quips back and forth, reminiscing about past adventures, and battling the all too powerful calendar beast.

Once you're all in communication again, schedule your first game back. Let everyone know how excited you are to begin again and move to the new section...unless you'd like to commit to a bit of extra work/fun.

A Short Piece of Fantastical Fiction

Writers among you Dungeon Masters out there, take this reintroduction to your campaign and world as an opportunity to grab the attention of your players. Take a few hours to write a succinct piece of fiction about the campaign. Grant the players a snapshot of the villain. Briefly recap the story as it currently stands. Don't impose on their characters or play the characters, elevate them and show your players why they're important to the current story and the state of the world.

If you're interested, here are two examples I've written: The Great Unraveling Begins and New Blood.

Don't go overboard. Keep it concise. Keep it interesting. Keep it optional. Write it for fun and as an optional reintroduction to the campaign.

Start Broad, Then Zoom In

With a date set to begin your campaign again, it's time to begin prepping. This first session should focus on a few core goals: snapshotting the current arc of the campaign, highlighting each of the characters, and hyper focusing on a singular force of malice.

Let's explore the first two ideas and save the villain for last.

Prepare a complete recap, but don't spend the first ten minutes of the session recapping the game as it stands. Instead, integrate it into the actual story.

Begin with a brief reintroduction the world and story. Outline its tenets in 30 seconds or less and then leap right into the narrative, asking yourself a set of three specific questions to prepare:

  • Where are the characters?
  • What are they doing?
  • Why are they doing it?

Armed with those three questions, you should be able to set the scene and immediately leap into the action. Carve out this opening sequence for your players. In general, do they all enjoy wild combat encounters or flamboyant social interactions? Discovering new locations or sparring with a massive monster? Whatever they enjoy most, open the return session with it.

Ideally, with this clean, clear opening, you'll also unite them against someone old or someone new, an aspect to channel their rage against and help bolster their victories...

Give the Players Someone to Hate

Now everyone's altogether again, unite them against a common enemy quickly, whether they're a new villain, current foe, or recurring baddie. Ideally, you should include this individual in your clear and concise opening sequence.

In your prep, define this character. 

Who are they? Why do they care about the characters? Why should the characters care about them?

Additionally, tie some intrigue or mystery to the character, something the characters and players can latch onto for the session or the next few sessions to come. This baddie will be your conduit to drive the story forward and unite the party again.

It's a great way to ensure everyone is ready to return to the table consistently, all in the name of adventure and eliminating their new favorite villain.

Breaks Aren't an Issue

Breaks are common in D&D campaigns. When you return, you should have a clear plan to go about this return.

Give your return to the table some time to think about. Ensure you and your players have an excellent return session. Succinctly, break down your plan into three parts:

  1. Gather your party once again. Ensure everyone is able to attend and that you and them are prepared.
  2. Start with a broad shot, then zoom in. Keep your recap of the world and story brief. Instead, focus on the characters, what they're doing, and what drives them forward. Begin with what your players love most about D&D.
  3. Give the players and characters someone to hate. Tie this villain to the characters, flesh them out fully, and plop a mystery atop them. Use this baddie as a conduit to unite the party entirely.

Hopefully, each of these ideas will help your group and campaign flourish in the many moments to come.

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  1. Nice read RJ, really enjoy your articles and DM skill set - GAC

    1. Thank you! Always love to see that you still read my content :)