You’ve finally made it through the slog of a week and are so so so ready to play ‘make believe’ with your friends and spend some hard earned imaginary loot. The snacks are prepared. The dice have been purged of their bad rolls for the evening. You even took a few minutes to review the notes from last session. Anticipation rises as the clock seems to slow down, but it suddenly hits you. There is no DnD tonight. It’s been 6 weeks since the last campaign ended (which lasted 2 years, kudos to you), and with summer heating up your group has been on a bit of a hiatus. Instead of sitting around and being a sad-sack because you can’t play DnD, here are a few ways to kill some time and still scratch that nerdy, hard to reach, itch.
This article will discuss:
• Worldbuild!• Consume
• Arts & Crafts
• Read the Actual Books
One of the best things to do when you can’t play DnD is to sit down and do some worldbuilding! It can be a lot of fun, and – assuming that you’re the DM of the group – it can actually help you be way more prepared whenever that fateful day comes when you get to play again. There are tons of different ways to worldbuild, but I’m only going to talk about a few of them today.
You can get as in-depth with this as you want to. You may want to design an entire royal family and consider the politics and dynamic between them, or you can just come up with a goofy shop owner that the players will remember. This could include…
- Physical description (what makes them stand out?)
- Where and why would players interact with this person?
Another great worldbuilding exercise to try when you can’t play DnD is to create different locations. Don’t worry about realism or having things make sense, just create places that YOU think are cool and that you would want to explore if you were a player or a character in your world. Maybe you love designing dungeons filled with monsters and traps, or maybe there’s something about describing quaint countryside bed and breakfasts that gets you excited. The scale of the location is really up to you and your preferences. It could be as large as an entire nation, or as small as a 1-room tavern.
Nothing helps bring worlds to life like complex organizations or factions, each with their own motivations and agendas in the world. The more you have designed these factions, the easier it will be to have them react and interact with your players’ shenanigans and the actions of other factions. If you’ve played The Elder Scrolls, then you know (or at least I think) that joining one of the factions or guilds is one of the coolest parts of the game. Have your players figure out how to join, learn about the internal dynamics, perform missions and quests to improve their ranking, and perhaps eventually become the leaders.
Even though you’re the Dungeon Master, maybe you’re not really the creative type – or perhaps you’ve just been bled dry of your awesome ideas over the last few campaigns. In that case, you should consume media! Seriously, just fill your brain up with awesome shit. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to typical fantasy RPG materials. Find something that you enjoy and you just might find yourself with a few new quest idea.
Here are a few different ideas, as well as some of my favorites:
- The Witcher series
- Harry Potter
- Honestly most of the books I read are in the self-help/improvement category which admittedly don’t grant much direct inspiration
- Pretty much anything Marvel
- The new D&D movie is pretty solid, worth a watch or two
- Disney or Pixar movies usually have pretty cool concepts
- Star Trek: Voyager
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Game of Thrones
- The Elder Scrolls
- Warcraft 3
I’ve taken so much inspiration from music. A favorite line from a song, or even a single word has been the spark for various creatures and locations I’ve designed. Listen to the lyrics!
I don’t actually know very many plays but I’m sure you could gather some great inspiration from them. Very recently I found out that A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare) involves the Fae, but all I ever learned about from public schooling was about the star-crossed lovers
Arts & Crafts Time!
With DnD, there is a huuuugeeeee opportunity for various related arts and crafts, which can turn into full blown hobbies in their own right. Here are a few examples of popular ideas to get your started. Some are more ‘useful’ when it comes to running your game, but with these, it’s all about just having fun!
- Draw your favorite character or NPC. It doesn’t have to be good, and besides it’s about the journey or something like that
- Draw battlemaps
- Create a wooden dice tray
- Create a dice tower
- Create a DM screen
- Create a dice chest, dice jail, or dice bag. You know that you probably need a few more dice, so might as well have somewhere cool to put them
- Write a short fictional story about a character or person within your world
- Paint some minis!!
- Design 3D terrain out of foam and cardboard
- Get into 3D printing
- Learn how to design 3D models
Read the Damn Sourcebooks
I know, this is a pretty radical concept but just hear me out. . . The rule books (Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual) are worth taking some time to read through them – especially if you’re sessions are on hold. Admittedly I could use a refresher myself. Now, they’re not like a novel where you start on page 1 and read every sentence until the final chapter. Nahhh, just pick a section and scan through it a bit. If something grabs your attention then dive a little bit deeper.
Here’s what you can expect in each of the main 3 books
- PHB – Character Creation, Basics of Playing, Spells
- DMG – Lot ‘o magical items/treasure, Worldbuilding stuff, Running the Game
- MM – Besides obviously providing statblocks, each monster has a bunch of lore that you can keep in mind while running them. Helps turn them from ‘Chunky meat bag’ to ‘actual unique monster that exists’
Hopefully you’re able to find some part of the books entertaining and interesting, but you can always make the move to some of the supplement material featuring adventure modules or campaign settings if you get bored.
Best of luck out there, and I hope you get to start playing again real soon!