Andrew's 5 Ways to Help Manage Your D&D Campaign

Getting your first D&D game in with your group is fun, exciting but also a lot of work. And there is nothing more satisfying then when your palyers make it to the end of your game, completing most of what you had prepared for them. However despite how hard it is to get started, your work has only just begun.

Undoubtedly your players have changed or adding things to your game that you did not and could not anticipate, and now before you sit down and brainstorm your next session you need to figure out what happened last game what has changed going forward.

For me this means that the day after the session I have a bunch of paper work to do. But thankfully I have  a check list of these 5 things I do to help managed my on going campaigns.

1. Write up a Recap

As I mentioned in our 3 Ways to Recap Your last D&D Game article, my preferred way to handle a games recap is by writing out a short list of events from the last game.

This way all I have to to do is read through list to remember what happened last session. I also find that this helps me remember some of the subtext created by the characters. All in all however you do it figuring out a recap is a great first step into making the next game.

You can pull on the events and emotions from last game and write the outcomes and follows into your next session. 


2. Calculate Player XP

I personally do not like suing milestone leveling in my RPGs. I don't think that milestones encourage or reward players for their roleplay or interesting actions in game. That being said I understand why and Game Master is hesitant to award XP: It can be a lot of work to sit down and calculate out each player's total.

So to make your life setup up a spreadsheet for each player. In it,  record the game session, the events that each player was given XP for, and the reward. Then let the spreadsheet do the math for you. I stopped having my players add up their own XP years ago when I realized that everyone's total bared little resemblance to what their XP should have actually been. So these days I just give them a solid total as to what their XP will currently be.

Aside from better rewarding players for their roleplay, XP can also give you as the Game Master an indicator of how your players are doing. Players who aren't getting as much XP as others need some focus in your next game to bring them up to snuff. Whether that is a side quest or simply a main event that you think will appeal to this palyer those not earning as much XP from other's certainly need some attention. 

On the other side, those getting more XP can usually be identified as the campaign's main driving force, and so tailoring your campaign events to suit their tastes as a player/character will often ensure that the party follows your main quest without incident.
I use an old Roman calendar I found to keep things interesting

3. Keep a Calendar

Now this isn't important in ever game, but since many of my campaigns now feature the possibility of Time Travel having a Calendar is key, and really the only way i can keep in my head what happened on specific dates.

More than aiding with Time travel, a Calendar will put your game into perspective. Events that to the players may have happened month ago in the real world, may have only happened a week ago in game. A good example of this is an event known around the JADE table as the "Penkurth Massacre" from our Arachnophobia Campaign. The event saw the party lose a player character, 2 NPCs, thousands of gold pieces worth of magic items and saw another 2 NPC taken captive. 

It was an absolute tragedy for the party. However due to scheduling conflicts in the real world the next couple of games of Arachnophobia were staggered over a few months, and the impact of that event on the aprty was largely forgotten. Luckily I had it recorded in my Calendar, and was able to reference it, and how long ago ithad happened. So despite not being fresh in my player's minds, I was able to remind them that in game it had only happened a week ago, and to act accordingly.

A small sliver of the my Arachnophobia World Map

4. Trace the Party's Journey on a Map

I have no less than four campaigns running in my Arachnophobia World. So keeping everyone's locations straight can be a bit of a challenge. So to help this I have a large map that I created in a program called Dia. On this map I track the different party's journey's using different colour lines.

This way I can know where they have been, where they might go, and of course, most importantly if any two parties are destined to cross each other's paths.

Having a map gives me the big picture of my world, and tracking my parties through it gives me a sense of how much ground they have traveled.

The Game plan for my Age of Heroes Campaign. Also made using Dia.

5. Consider the Possibilities

Now that you have your recap, your player's XP, your calendar, and your map, you should ahve a great idea of where you are and what is happening in your campaign. The final step to managing your game is to start writing the next session. But before you start throwing down those prose, you will need to take some time to consider the possibilities.

You are not writing a book so the outcomes of your story are not set in stone. This of course means that your players can go in directions you haven't thought of. So my suggestion is to try and think of those possibilities. 

When met with multiple possible directions in game, it is important to consider all of the factors. What is the best option for the party? Is there anything standing in the way of achieving that outcome? What are the alternatives? 

Sometimes these choices can change the nature of the game itself, so you don't have to write in detail each possibility, otherwise you will be writing several games for a single session. Instead consider what is the most likely choice your palyers will make and focus on creating that story. For the other options a few notes and pointers to yourself should help you get them through it. 

In essence you want to be prepared, have considered what your players will do, and be ready to guide them through it.

So that is how I personally manage each of my D&D campaigns. This way it doesn't matter how long it has been since the last session, or how complicated the game has become, I always ahve a clear picture of what is and could happen in my campaign.

How do you manage your campaign after each session? Do you do a bunch of paperwork like I do? I keep it a little looser? Let us know in the comments!

Written by: Andrew Gregory

Image Source: Top and bottom sketches are from the 5th Ed Player's Handbook. The horn players is from the 2nd Ed Dungeon Master's Guide
Andrew's 5 Ways to Help Manage Your D&D Campaign Andrew's 5 Ways to Help Manage Your D&D Campaign Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 11/13/2018 02:05:00 pm Rating: 5


  1. Encouraging your players to write a campaign diary would help you out a lot.
    A spreadsheet for each player's XP? I use one spreadsheet for the group. This helps me track their progress and compare the players (I don't mind them progressing and levelling up at different rates). If they need to export this to a different DM, copying and pasting is very easy.
    The rest is a lot more work than I want to invest. A quick written note for each session does the trick for me, but well done if you do this for every session,

    1. I indeed do this process after every session I play! And yes most of my friends think I am insane! However I am rarely caught off guard or without an answer to any question. A player Campaign diary is a great idea though! Do you have them keep this diary in or out of game?