Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Blog Update

 So it has been quiet around here for the last few months. As I mentioned in my previous post, my Dragon of Icespire Peak game was cancelled because of COVID. The good news is that I'm still playing D&D each week. The bad news is that my blogging time has been cut down severely.

I'm running a home brew game in a world of my own creation. Between all the world building, and session planning, I'm not having a lot of energy or time to write a full campaign diary for the sessions.

If you are curious about my world building, you can check out my page over at World Anvil for Reluria. It is based on the old D&D Basic setting of Mystara, but I've added my own twist to it. I'm using the same basic maps of Mystara and even some of the information from the Gazetteers which I've been picking up. I uses these as a jumping off point and then weave my player's stories and histories into the setting.

I post new content over there each week. Most of it is probably too much detail for my players, but I'm enjoying building all this right now and if I end up running more adventures in this setting in the future, I'll have it all set up.

Anyway, I hope to return to posting here a bit more frequently, but until then, thanks so much for reading the blog. I read and try to respond to all the comments. Stay safe and keep your ears open for any good stories you might  hear.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Dragon of Icespire Peak Campaign Diary - Wrap Up and Reflection

Wrapping it all up

Still out there making mischief!
Once the virus hit, it became impossible for our little group to meet up again. One of the players was an essential worker, and her job kicked into high gear. We weren't able to come up with a consistent meeting time or day, and came to the agreement that the campaign is on pause. But in all honesty I think we are just going to stop right here.

If things get to a new normal, and my players want to pick up where we left off, then I'm willing to adventure with them once more. For now, the dragon is still flying  over the Sword Mountains and terrorizing the folks in Phandalin. Somewhere a elven druid and her tiefling rogue companion are preparing to take it down.

Game Talk

I was able to discuss the campaign with one of the players and get her feedback on her experience with it. This was a HUGE help in guiding my approach to my next campaign (which is happening sooner than I thought). She confirmed some of the elements I experienced, and I also learned a bit more about her as a player and what kind of adventure she was looking for.

So the big stumbling block for her, were the episodes in town. The player felt those dragged on too long and didn't feel like they offered much to the story. I would feel the same way at times. I enjoyed playing all the townsfolk in Phandalin, and some of the interactions were a blast (Harbin in particular). But I agreed that it often felt like the story took a back seat as they wandered around the town and interacted with all these folk.

Voted most useful companion!
I've been listening to Sly Flourish's one on one version of The Dragon of Icespire Peak to hear how differently he handled it and for one player. One of the big differences was that he kept the town moments very short - ten minutes max. The player was there to pick up the job, rest in the inn, and that was it. He only really narrated something if there was a new element in play. In one instance he had some bards show up and attempt to make a song about the heroic adventurers... with humorous results.

Now, I've played in a couple campaigns where the shopping/town sequences can bog down the whole game, but we've had some players that love that stuff. So it is important to figure out what works and keep the approach balanced. My player is very goal oriented, and so I understand how she felt the "between encounter" segments were not her favorite.

However when I asked her what parts she really enjoyed, she mentioned nearly all the encounters and puzzles (she's a big fan of puzzles). She like the set piece encounters and the exploration of the excavation site, as well as the battle at the Shrine. She also enjoyed the side kick characters, although she felt Inverna (cowboy elf) was the better one, and that Donnabella (the magical unicorn) was more of a liability. I did remind her that they didn't really get to see Donnabella at her best. She got to cast one spell in the entire Gnomengarde exploration.

Reflection

Overall it sounds like my players had a good time. I know I did. I learned quite a bit as well. I've been playing online using a virtual tabletop for nearly three years now. So running a game at a physical table was very different in some ways. I really came to appreciate how much math the virtual table tops do for you. But I also liked rolling physical dice and seeing the players faces as things happened (I play voice only online).

This game has a dress code?
I think I've improved as a DM. It felt like I had a better handle on pacing, with only the town sessions really giving me trouble. I really liked running from a published module, it gave me a nice spring board to build on. It's fun to know that my version of the game is the only one where zombie orcs can attack in Conyberry, or where a festival of High Harvest included goat racing. I am sad that we never got around to the festival. I put a lot of work into it, and was really looking forward to it. But I kept all the materials so maybe I can include it in a future game (or if we ever come back to Phandalin I'll have it ready).

All that said, I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends in a fantasy world for a few hours, enjoying each others company, rolling funny shaped dice and talking in silly voices. It is a shame it ended too soon, but we made some great memories while it lasted and that is the important thing.

What's Next?

Once I realized we were not going to be able to meet for a long time, I started thinking about running an online campaign. I talked with the player of the Druid, and she was game to give it a try. So I started pulling some concepts together. I've had a home brew world cooking away in the background for a couple years now. I think it is time to unleash it on some players and see what kind of stories we can make. I'm looking forward to it, and who knows maybe I'll write a diary about here.

For those of you that have been reading and enjoying the diary, thanks so much. I'm sorry you didn't get a proper ending. But if this helped you with your own version of The Dragon of Icespire Peak, than it was worth writing.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Perception or Investigation - Dungeon Master Tools

Why open a "trapped" door yourself when a friend can
open it?
Like my previous look at Athletics or Acrobatics, I'm going to examine the difference between Perception and Investigation skill rolls in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. These two checks come into play a lot during a game, and they are often ones that seems to cause some contention at the table. Usually you have characters with higher wisdom scores, like Clerics or Druids competing with higher intelligence scores like Wizards and Rogues wanting to use the skill that best suits them. Let's take a close look at the situation and see what skill is really called for.

Classic example, the adventuring party is tracking down the orcs who have abducted the village wizard and spirited her away to their overlord. As they pursue the orcs into a dense woodland, the group is staying on alert, knowing that orcs aren't completely stupid. The monsters may anticipate a tail. Sure enough a group of three orcs lie in wait to ambush the party. You ask for a Perception check from a character who is proficient. The Druid says he is and starts to roll, but the Rogue says that she has a higher Investigation skill modifier and wants to roll too. What do you do?

That dragon has one hell of a
stealth score!
In this case you can have both characters roll for their individual skills, because both apply. Let's look at each skill individually. According to the Players HandbookPerception "lets you spot, hear or otherwise detect the presence of something. It measures your general awareness of your surroundings sand the keenness of your senses." It is directly tied to Wisdom with "reflects how attuned you are to the world around you and represents your perceptiveness and intuition". It would be safe to say that the Druid's experience of living within the woods, knowing the sounds of bird and beasts would allow him to perceive changes in the environment that may be caused by the orc rearguard. A Perception check makes sense.

The Players Handbook describes Investigation as when you "look around for clues and make deductions based on those clues." It is tied to Intelligence score which "measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall and ability to reason." So if the Rogue notices some broken branches on a cluster of shrubbery, the lack of animal sounds in the area and even the slight indentation of a boot print, she may put the pieces together to determine that someone is hiding and waiting to ambush.

You can see right away that there is a grey area here. How can the rogue pick up these clues without perceiving them? How can the Druid deduce from the signs of nature the ambush around the corner? In this case, I have no problem letting both characters make the roll. Perhaps the characters work together to piece the ambush together (if both roll well). Or you can have the Rogue roll with advantage (roll two D20s and use the higher roll) to say that the Druid was assisting her with the Investigation. Or vice versa. Like my previous post explained, the goal is to make sure you let your players do the cool things their characters can do.

Between the two of them, I think they got this mystery
solved.
Let's flip the tables a bit. Suppose the party is looting the office of a corrupt mayor looking for evidence that he is being bribed by the evil wizard. The Druid's high Perception will not help in this case, because what they are looking for is specific documents or a paper trail. The Rogue's Investigation skill will be a big help here as she pieces together the correspondence that proves the mayor is corrupt. Luckily she has the Druid along with her to keep an eye out for trouble. So when the mayor's deadly elf bodyguard tries to sneak up the stairs, the Druid rolls his high Perception skill and detects the assassin.

Another way they can work together is in detecting and disarming traps. The Druid may be able to find the discolored cobblestone on the floor. But he will need the Rogue's keen Investigation skill to put together how the trap works, and then her nimble fingers to disarm the danger.

The main idea is to keep the two skills distinct enough when possible so the players feel like they are specialized and able to use those talents when needed. It keeps the players working together to solve problems. It also lets you as the DM to build encounters that play to their strengths or prey on their weaknesses. Because sometime even heroes have a bad day.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Dragon of Icespire Peak Campaign Diary - Episode 17 - The Night Before the Festival

The prep...

A quick search on the internet will reveal all kinds of fun
festival mini-games.
Ok I'm going to admit right off the bat that I probably spent way more time than I needed to on this little bit of home-brew content. But after the fuss I had the NPCs in Phandalin make about the festival, I figured I might as well make it a bit of an event. I curious to see how it plays out for the players, and if they find it as much fun as it was to put together.

I did some research online to find some skill challenges and mini-games to have at the festival. I wrote down some notes on the mechanics for the ones I think would fall into the wheelhouse of the player characters. Events include an archery contest, a scavenger hunt, a card tournament and of course goat races. None of these are mandatory for the players to engage in, but all have prize money and I know for sure the Rogue is looking for anyway to make coin to pay off Haylia.

I created some NPCs visiting the town on this feast day. Some will provide information for the current campaign. I have also thrown in a couple with seeds for Princes of the Apocalypse as well as the official followup to this adventure Storm Lord's Wrath. We'll see if either one grabs the characters (although I've been seeding Princes for a few sessions now).

There are also some vendors in town selling unique items like Silvered weapons (needed for later missions) and health potions. Yes the dragon is going to be sighted during the event, just to keep the tension up. All in all, there is plenty to do. I spent quite a bit of time creating new NPCs and working on the festival events. The NPCs will be useful to flesh out Phandalin a bit more, so even if the festival doesn't click, I'll have new characters for the players to interact with. I've also finally made a list of NPC names (something I should have done a long time ago) just in case my players decide to talk to the random halfling drinking at the inn. (deep breath). Ok, let's see how this goes.

The story...

I told the players in advance that they had a couple days before the festival started. So they could spend those days doing anything they wanted, and we could role play any key events that got their interest. So I started working through the events, and the players ended up interacting with just about every single one! In the end, we didn't actually get to the festival.

To win, he'll stop at nothing!
I handed out the list of events for the festival and the players were immediately caught up in the idea of Goat Races. So they went around town asking about which goats were participating. I had established that Donnabella had saved a goat named Rupert during the white dragon's attack on Phandalin earlier in the campaign. So now I revealed (retconned) that Donnabella was out training Rupert for the goat races when that occurred. So the players had a connection to the event. I made Rupert the middle of the road option for the race, but if encouraged he had the potential to win! I also made the favorite goat Black Philip (which the players heard as Black Peter, so we just went with it). Yes Black Philip is a reference to the film The Witch, just for fun. Or is he really tied with infernal forces? Not sure, but I can go that way if we want. The players promised to help Donnabella get Rupert into racing condition and did some research to find out that Rupert loved apples. So tempting him with apples and having the Druid speak to him is the next step. Rupert's owner, Margo also has some story hooks to deliver, and I hinted at those.

They met some old friends like Adabra the alchemist. Norbus and Dazlyn, the dwarf archeologists showed up to talk with Fargrim Rakencrack (at a lunch event). They also met an older dwarf who helped out Haylia at the Miner's Exchange. The players wondered if he was also part of the Zhentarim... I'll let them wonder.

To the west of Phadalin lies a new adventure...
Lots of visitors from local areas arrived. Obviously Fargrim came with a group of adventurers acting as his body guard. I had them chatting a bit about the dragon and wondering if they should try to take it down. A group of merchants arrived from Yartar and Triboar. They brought more news about things going badly in that area (tied to Princes of the Apocalypse). Finally I had a traveler from Leilon show up and talk to the players about her new town and how they are looking for adventurer's to help make the village a center of trade and travel in the area. This is a plot hook for Storm Lord's Wrath. I also had a couple elven bards show up and chat with the Druid about her background in the Feywild.

I'm really abbreviating everything that happened, because it was a lot of role play, discussion about which festival events to try, and checking out the stalls and stores to see what kind of deals and specials they were planning.

We ended the session on the morning of the Festival. The characters were awakened to the smell of cinnamon apple pancakes in the inn. Then they headed off to find Donnabella and Rupert to see how he was doing the morning of the race.

The post...

I swear it is happening next time!
This session was a lot of fun for everyone and it just flew by. I created hand outs for the festival events as well as a lengthy menu for the Stonehill Inn. These items delighted the players and they referred to them throughout the session.

I introduced a LOT of NPCs in this session and I'm going to create a handout for them to keep as a reference for the day of the festival in case they want to interact with any of them. I was prepped for all the mini-games, but we didn't get to any of them. I admit I was a bit disappointed, but the session was so much fun, it doesn't matter. I love that this is a role-play heavy group. But I think they'll be ready for some hack and slash when the festival is over.

I'm also pleased how much the players enjoy the townies of Phandalin. If we move action to Red Larch or Leilon for future adventures, it will be tough to compare those folk with these that the players have really grown to like (especially Donnabella, Tobin and Inverna). But that is a worry for future DM. For now, I'm looking forward to the next session,

Up Next...

Session 18: Highharvest Festival

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Athletics or Acrobatics - Dungeon Master Tools

Acrobatics or Athletics... never mind, just RUN!
For Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons characters have a variety of skills they can excel in. Some of these get boosts based on race, class, and experience. One of the trickier determination players and DMs run into during the course of the game is determining if a physical action requires an Athletics skill roll or an Acrobatics skill roll.

What I have seen happen is that the player wants to roll the skill they have the higher score in (naturally) and may push back on the DM when the call for the other.

For example, the Rogue is attempting to climb up a castle wall. Like most Rogues, her Dexterity score is high and she gets a bonus to Acrobatics skill roll. She asks to use her Acrobatics skill to see if she succeeds in climbing the wall. But the DM asks for the strength based Athletics skill instead, determining that it takes physical strength to climb the castle wall. The Rogue scoffs. Her Strength ability score is low and she has no proficiency in her Athletics skill. Her attempt at being the cool infiltrator is neutralized.

Was the DM correct?

On page 175 of Players Guide you see an explanation of the Strength ability score. It describes it as the measure of... "bodily power, athletic training and the event to which you can exert raw physical force." Page 176 describes Dexterity as the measure of "agility, reflexes and balance." So the skills related to those abilities would correspond.

Specifically, the Athletics skill which is related to the Strength ability "covers difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping or swimming. The Acrobatics skill which is related to the Dexterity ability "covers your attempt to stay on your feet in a tricky situation, such as when you're trying to run across a sheet of ice, balance on a tightrope or stay upright on a rocking ship's deck".

Having the right gear at the right time is always good.
I would say that the DM in my example made the right call. Climbing a castle wall would require an athletics skill roll. This doesn't mean the Rogue is neutralized. If she has climbing gear in her equipment pack, she can use that to reduce the difficulty class (DC) of the climb check. Or maybe she has rope and grappling hook prepared. Because she has a high dexterity, she would probably get a nice bonus to throwing the grappling hook (the DM could treat that as a missile weapon attack, something that a high Dexterity score would improve). Once the rope is secured, her climbing DC will either drop or vanish completely (depending on the DM).

Let's try a different example. A Paladin and Rogue are on top of a tower watching a battle between dragons. It is all fun and exciting until the brass dragon hurls the blue dragon directly into the tower they are on. The violent shock causes both characters to loose their footing and start to fall off the tower. The Paladin wants to roll Athletics counting on his high Strength ability to keep his solid stance. The Rogue thinks an Acrobatics roll is needed instead, her high Dexterity would surely come into play in this situation. The DM decides that it will be an Acrobatics check. Sure enough the Rogue keeps her footing, but the Paladin loses his. Crying out in alarm, the Paladin falls over and the weight of his armor and momentum from the tremor sends him hurtling toward the edge!

At this point the Paladin can attempt to grab hold of a piece of masonry to stop from tumbling over the side. As a DM I would ask for a Strength saving throw and if he fails that, maybe let the Rogue roll a Dexterity saving throw to see if she gets her rope out to the Paladin in time for him to grab at it.

"How dare you sir. I would never smash into a tower!"
There are other instances that may be a bit grey, where it seems like either check may apply. In that case, if the players can provide convincing reasoning why they would use one skill check instead of the other, go ahead and let them roll it. Remember that the idea is to create a fun exciting story around these characters. You don't want to stop them from being the cool heroes. As a DM you want them to succeed, but not with out peril.

With new players it is important to remind them that they can use anything in the environment on their person in unique ways. Before they make that check, ask them to look through their gear, review their spell list or give them a hint from the environment description. New players may be more used to video games, where that kind of thinking isn't as frequent.

Hopefully this helps guide you on how to adjudicate which of these two skill rolls to ask for and when. They are ones I see most often confused and argued, but have you seen ones that come up more frequently?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Dragon of Icespire Peak Campaign Diary - Episode 16 - Botched Bountyhunters

The prep...

"How tough can a rogue traveling with a druid
and a unicorn really be?"
I wanted the players to start the session with a bit of combat. Things have been simmering between them and Haylia's hired toughs for a while now, and I figured it was time for the two groups to face off. I decided that the Halfling spy was tired of being humiliated and he convinced the other three toughs that they could capture the Rogue and get the bounty on her head for themselves. So they set up an ambush for the characters as they were leaving Gnomengarde. Unfortunately for the goons, the group decided to spend the night with the gnomes, so any advantage they would have attacking at sundown would be lost. Still, these guys are stupid, so I figured they would try it in the morning anyway.

I also prepped for the Highharvest Festival that I had been hinting at over the course of the game. I had found some ideas for fun festival activities. I also decided that Lillian would be selling silvered weapons at a discounted rate (one of the upcoming adventures contains creatures that can only be hit by silvered or magical weapons).

Unfortunately we had a real late start this session and we didn't get much past the goon attack. The group spent some time in Phandalin afterward doing some minor things, but we decided to end the session before the festival started (little did I know this Festival was turning into a major part of the game).

The story...

Gnomish goodbye?
We jumped backward in time a little bit, as I had the characters settle in the bunkhouse for the evening in Gnomengarde. I asked them about watches and the decided to take them. During the Druid's watch, she heard a strange noise from outside. She did some investigating (making some great stealth rolls) and could just make out a figure moving away from Gnomengarde toward the narrow pass leading into the area. She returned to the bunkhouse and told her companions about the figure the next morning.

The party said their goodbyes to the gnomes and then headed out. But they were being super careful, rolling for perception checks and survival checks to find footprints. They rolled very well and noticed sets of fresh footprints in the area. They saw the spot where the gorge narrowed, and realized it would be a great place for an ambush. So they were ready when that ambush occurred.

I was using the standard Bandit stat blocks from the Monster Manual for these guys. I tweaked some of the weapons a bit by adding a short bow here and a hand axe there. It didn't impact the damage output too much. All it really did was alter the flavor of the encounter. I had two of the thugs attack from range and under partial cover. The other two would get in close with clubs and try to knock out the Rogue. Well the party rolled really well for initiative, and got some of the first shots off. The bandits rolled poorly and missed just about everything at range. The Druid unleashed her Moonbeam spell again and pretty much torched the two thugs with clubs. The WORST SPY EVER was knocked out by a Sleep spell from Donnabella and the last one surrendered when he failed a morale check.

Sleeping halfling dreaming of a gooseberry pie
as big as a mountain!
I do like rolling morale checks for enemies. I essentially have them make a Wisdom Saving throw against a DC I decide. If the battle is going poorly the DC is higher. The last thug, a dwarf, rolled pretty badly and surrendered. The group questioned him and he said that the WORST SPY EVER came up with the idea to ambush them and convinced them all to do it for the coin. He also told them a little more about the bounty hunter that was after them. He said she was known as The Huntress, and that she was very famous for always taking her bounty. But that she thought of the whole thing as a game. The group let him live and he ran off toward the sea. But the group took the sleeping halfling spy and tied him to the collapsing pool and dragged him back to town.

What followed was them dragging the poor guy along with them as they visited each and every place in town as a public display of not messing with them. They visited the general goods store, and experimented with the Treasure Barrel. They purchased the petrified mouse, and then tried to send the construct fish back through the barrel. It didn't work, but I kept rolling a 1D4 to see if it anything would happen. Then they went to the inn and had a drink. I had Quinn Hightopple run in and punch the tied up spy in the crotch, much to the delight of the players. Then they went to the Shrine of Luck, and finally visited Harbin.

Every adventuring party needs a pole.
They gave Harbin the Hat of Wizardry for 50 gold. But he wasn't interested in the other items. He asked them to stay for the festival (he is thinking it would be good to have them around for extra security). I told them about the events at the festival, so they would have an idea. Harbin also reminded them about the other two missions. One is an escort mission to the Gold Toe Mine and the other is to check on a Logger's Camp. The characters had seen the dragon flying around near the forest, so they weren't too excited about going there. But they also didn't fancy an escort mission. They talked it over for a little but in the end decided to figure it out after the Festival. They are also intrigued about the lighthouse and the source of power within it.

Finally they paid Donnabella for her time, and she said she would be happy to travel with them again. Then they dragged the Spy back to Haylia. She was very very upset after the party told her what happened. She assured them that she had nothing to do with the ambush and that the spy would be punished and that they wouldn't have to worry about seeing him... ever again. It was rather ominous. She also mentioned that she was more annoyed at the loss of money from the whole thing and that working for her was lucrative and the option was still open for the Rogue.

The group headed back to the inn, and we ended the session there.

The post...

Everyone loves gourds, right?
This session felt a little flat to me. I think it was because we got started late. But also because the players decided to drag the spy around with them through the whole town as a kind of punishment. This added extra town material to the session that I wasn't planning on. I had assumed we would jump right to festival day.

The players had fun, but I felt like I was spinning my wheels. I just need to get over that kind of thing as a DM. If the players want to drag the annoying halfling prisoner all over town, let them do it. I admit there were some funny moments and comments from the locals that came of it. But I was itching to get to the festival events. I'm going to want to prep some handouts for the next session so they have things to reference about the festival. All this material is home-brew, and I see how much the group enjoys handouts and other physical props.

Up Next...

Session 17: The Night Before the Festival

Friday, March 13, 2020

5 Things I Learned Being a Dungeon Master for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons

I always roll behind the screen!
Since getting back into playing Dungeons and Dragons a few years ago, I have had the pleasure of running games of various sizes. My first couple games in Fifth edition were on the short side, lasting a couple sessions of about four hours a piece. I've run a couple one shots last about four hours, and of course I'm running my Dragon of Icespire Peak campaign.

It's been an interesting experience running those three types of games. I've learned quite a bit from the experience. So in no particular order, here are some of my observations and lessons I picked up from running these games.

  1. You are the only one who knows that the players missed that really cool room/treasure/encounter.
    • The first adventure I ran was a dungeon crawl that lasted two, four hour sessions. I worked on it for a good couple weeks coming up with traps, cool encounters, interesting non-player characters and a fun boss battle. When we finished the first session it became obvious that I crated too much material. I was actually annoyed that they were going to have to miss some of the fun things I thought up if we were going to end the game the next session. For a while I was disappointed by the experience. But when I talked to the players, they really enjoyed it. I was the only one who felt that it wasn't as good as it could have been, because I was the only one who knew about the stuff they missed. 
  2. Nothing is wasted, it just goes into the next adventure.
    • That is when I picked up the cool NPCs and plunked them down into the next short session I ran about six months later. I took one of the traps they avoided, and tweaked it for the new setting and used it. Again I made a bit too much material for this second game so some of that stuff got shifted to the one shots I ran almost two years later. Just make sure you keep your notes, because you never know when it will be useful.
  3. You control the pace.
    • Yeah, learned this the hard way. The second game I ran I set up like an old school
      THAC0? We don't need no stinkin' THAC0!
      Mission: Impossible adventure. It was all about setting up the mission and executing. I tried to create tension, but instead I created long periods of waiting around. It got tedious and boring. The thing is, I didn't have to be. The DM controls the timing, and it is fine to just jump ahead to the good parts. There are ways to build tension in Dungeons and Dragons, but they tend to work better in the immediate situations. I've gotten a lot better at pacing since then, but yeah, that was a rough game.
  4. Prep for the next session only.
    • World building is a blast, and coming up with all these great schemes and villain plans is a lot of fun. But there are so many times that you never get to those moments, or when you do it is six sessions later and so much has changed that your original plan doesn't even work. Even running a published adventure like Dragon of Icespire Peak doesn't guarantee that you will follow the written path. The players will do their own thing, come up with innovative solutions, and take the story in unusual directions. So the best thing to do is to have a very lose outline of your overarching plan. But really focus on prepping for that next session. Don't get lost in the joys of world building when you never get a chance to get out of the village.
  5. Handouts
  6. Oh you think you know it all? Well, you haven't even
    begun to learn. (insert evil chuckle)
    • Players like to have things they can reference, review and dig into. This can be a simple menu for the tavern, or a letter from an enemy or a treasure map. Playing at the virtual table, it can be a bit tricky, but possible to come up with all kinds of written material for the players to interact with. Remember rule 4 and don't spend an outrageous amount of time of these, but do spend some time. When you are playing at the physical table, having physical spell scrolls to hand out, actual inspiration tokens to manipulate and even magic item cards can add to the game. It is one of things I think The Essentials Kit did so well with their box. I love the two sided map and having those cards for the sidekicks has been a lot of fun (since I ended up using about half of them to people Phandalin). 
So there you go, a few things I've picked up, and I'm still learning and picking up new techniques for being a better Dungeon Master.

Do you have any tips you want to share?