Session 0: Game Master Series

Guys, I have found a group to Dungeon Master for. We’ve had our Session 0 and I thought I would go over what I had prepared and how it went down. (FYI, I’m running Curse of Strahd – CoS – for our first campaign.) Excuse me while I GEEK OUT!

Prep Tools

After reading this article by Geek Dad, I decided I had to try using a Trello board. I actually made two, one for me and one for players. (I covered over any personal information or information I don’t want my players SNEAKILY FINDING HERE.)


The one for me has most of the same elements of Geek Dad’s, with a few extra cards specific to CoS. It’s been ideal for planning. My brother, also a Dungeon Master, uses pen and paper for the most part, but I love online organization. I’m planning on still using paper during my sessions for notes and so on, as well as monster stat blocks and encounters (trying to switch between cards on the app takes up just a little too much time IMO), but for all my after-session notes and future plans, I intend to use the Trello board. I just like the way it lays out all the information clearly.

I’m also making flowcharts (whoa, what?) because CoS is structured in a way that isn’t exactly linear. You can do some hopping around, so I’ve found that making a chart that connects all possible avenues of travel is helpful. I’m not going to post a picture of that in case any of my players are reading…GUYS GO AWAY.

Finally, I’m using the Guide to Running Curse of Strahd found on DMs Guild. This has been insanely helpful in clarifying the story because the actual campaign book is…dense. And not super transparent for new Dungeon Masters. It was really overwhelming at first, and the guide does an incredible job of getting you to the fundamentals.

Trello Board for Players

Geek Dad seems to use his board just for himself, but I decided to take it a step further and create one for my players as well. My hope is that they can use it to consolidate notes, keep tabs on each PC, and keep party funds information there. I like the idea of having a shared board because in my experience as a player, information that should be shared is often kept by one person and it causes a lot of confusion or time-wasting having to ask over and over again. Also, when you learn something about a PC, like appearance or a bit of backstory, it’s easy to forget after the first introduction, but it’s nice to keep it in mind for RP purposes.


I also thought it would be good for my players to have a place to type up their notes. I know some DMs can be a little precious about PC note-taking, but I think players discussing what did happen and plans for the future is just fine. That’s part of the fun.

We’ll see how it goes down. It may turn out that not everyone uses the board and so it’s not incredibly useful.

I also put the table rules and campaign setting on the board. I take Table Etiquette and Rules very seriously, so I wanted it to be accessible to everyone. Since I have new players as well (never played TTRPGs before), I also put a basic overview of what Dungeons and Dragons is and what my DMing style is. I like that my players can have these references on hand at any time, rather than me telling them at Session 0 and everyone forgetting at some point.

Trello 2

Session 0

Session 0 is generally where players make their characters, roll stats, ask questions, and generally reconcile any background information to the world. It’s a lot of fun, and there are some great videos out there that explain how to run it.

This is my favorite:


Now, I had prepared for my Session 0 to turn into a Session 1 if time allowed, but it didn’t end up working out that way, and that was fine. I actually had two Session 0s, technically, because both times not everyone could make it. So the first one we did a few of the characters and the second we finished up everyone else’s.

It went really well. I was quite nervous going in, partly because I only knew one of my players and partly because I had never been THE DM before, meaning all questions were directed at me. I did a lot better than I expected (turns out I’ve absorbed a lot more about rules and information than I had thought). I also feel that my players felt pretty comfortable making their characters the way they wanted, and most of them even rolled really good on stats (I’m totally taking credit for that).

Most of the questions I got were on the technical side (what does this spell do? what is the difference in domains/circles/etc?), and it was a blast to go over all the options and explain why you might take this or that and how to use it.

In summary, Session 0 (both of them) went amazingly well. My players are excited and ready, I’m excited and ready, and everyone feels equipped to start playing.

(Still working on the eyebrow though…)



If you want to hear more about my experience running Dungeons and Dragons as a new Dungeon Master, check out the series here.

Duet Session: Game Master Series

Duet D&D: A game where there is one PC (player character) and one DM (dungeon master).

Duets are not common in D&D. D&D is above all a social game, and it’s designed for around 4-6 players. Any less and it can be difficult to tackle bigger challenges, any larger and it starts taking an hour just for each person to have a turn in combat.

So why do it? As I trawled the nets looking for information on how to run one, I found a lot of people who had a lot to say (hello, internet comments). Most people wanted to introduce their spouses or kids to it. Some had only one other friend who was interested in playing.

In my case, I did a duet session with a friend who wasn’t sure if she would be interested in D&D and wanted a kind of introduction to it.


I found a few modules designed for duet sessions on DMS Guild and other places, but I knew the session would need to be simple. As it happened, I was watching Matt Colville‘s Running the Game series on Youtube and the very first few videos were about running a dungeon he created on the fly.

It was simple, it was fun, and it included everything a dungeon needed; traps, hidden rooms, a riddle, and the reason for being in the dungeon in the first place.

I promptly printed the map and got underway.

I decided to run two other characters alongside my friend who would be her guides and also buff up the party, since a one-person D&D party can pretty much handle a pack of rats and little else.

My friend had chosen to play as an elf wizard, so I added a dwarf cleric and a human fighter (you might recognize these as the pre-generated characters offered on the Wizards of the Coast website for new players).

Other than that, I had my books (DMG, PHB, MM) and I was ready. I printed the maps, one unmarked for her and marked for me, wrote up a quick opening hook to get the scene underway, and was ready to go.

The Duet

I was nervous. I shouldn’t have been, by any means; after all, I was playing with a dear friend I’d known for years and had a very simple map to play through. But I knew I would get stuck on a description or confuse her by saying the wrong thing or forget some vital mechanic…and all those things did happen, but it was okay.

It took longer than I had anticipated too. I had expected it to be an hour at most, but we played for nearly three (very typical of D&D, by the way). I had a lot of fun being two characters myself, and she got through the dungeon and found the secret room and completed all the objectives.

What Went Well

I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I loved running her through the dungeon and building the mood with music and words.

(I can’t give her impressions, of course. She said she had fun, but as to the particulars, I have no idea.)

The map itself was really good for a first time player or DM. It was simple enough that I didn’t get confused about where I was or where the bad guys were, and there weren’t too many areas or monsters to worry about. The Knightly flavor included in it was a nice touch as well since it took it from basic dungeon to something with a bit of history.

What Didn’t Go Well

As I said before, I was nervous. I forgot to give players and monsters advantage at certain points, and it was a lot harder to track monster HP than I’d realized. I mean, like, stupidly hard for me for some reason. I didn’t have minis, so I had to try and remember where each monster was along with who had struck them, and I didn’t give them names, just numbers, so I had to kind of guess when each one went down.

I realize now I should have created the most basic of charts for that beforehand. I was also way more worried about her experience than I should have been. I wanted to make sure she knew all her options and didn’t feel lost, so I focused on her more than the dungeon. Another difficulty I had was having the characters I was running alongside hers be just companions, not guides. I didn’t want to tell her what to do through them.

In Conclusion…

I don’t think duet sessions are that bad, but I wouldn’t recommend them for new DMs unless you do a much better job of preparing than me (and I thought I had done). Especially since I was running two NPCs alongside my friend, it was simply too much to remember and juggle all at once.

But I did enjoy it, and my friend said she did too, so I’m calling this a success!


Final Note: this is really not how D&D is meant to be played! It was fun, and I think if you have an experienced player who can run several characters it could be fantastic, but the fun for most people lies in the team experience, the social aspect, and in a duet session you just can’t get that. I made sure to tell my friend that this wasn’t how a usual D&D session felt, and if you introduce a friend to the game this way, I’d make sure to tell them that as well.