You stare at your notes, scratching your brain for a creative way to get your players where they are supposed to go. It’s been a while since you ran a campaign, especially an in-person one, and you forgot the feeling of anxiety that hits right before a session. It doesn’t help that you decided to have everyone meet you here at the tavern. Up until this point, it has been your place, your sanctuary, but you couldn’t keep it from them for long – they are your friends after all! 


You wanted the campaign to be a way to tell your friends about the lost magic, but part of you is terrified that they will think you’re crazy. The other part of you is still overwhelmed by running a large dungeon encounter with the party since you have always struggled with balancing the nitty-gritty of the rules and keeping the party immersed in the story. You were hoping to run the idea of the campaign by Arven before you began but she is nowhere to be found.


She hasn’t been in the last few times you’ve come by – which is more often than you care to admit nowadays – and when the Bartender, Garath, stops by with a fresh beer you ask if he knows where she’s been.


“Oh, she’s off on some adventure! I believe she took some of her grandchildren camping”


“Arven? Camping?” you sound more incredulous than you intend but he just laughs.


“Well, knowing our Arven, it’s probably more than just your standard tent and smores trip – she’s still spritely despite how much she complains about that old leg injury,” he chuckles again and starts to turn away until your papers catch his eye. “What’s this you’re working on? Looks like a dungeon crawl!”


Your attention gets pulled back to the map you have laying in front of you and you let out a long sigh.


“It’s supposed to be, but I’m worried the party is going to breeze right through it, I have some traps set up but I never know how to balance things, and I hate asking every few seconds what everyone’s AC is or how many hit points they have.”


Garath lets out another laugh, this one filled with understanding, and holds up a hand for you to wait a second. He ducks down under the bar and you can hear him shuffling things around for a moment. He pops into view again, holding a few of the journals Arven sells. Dusting one off he begins to flip through, clearly on the hunt for something. 


“I used to run a lot of campaigns back in my day! I haven’t run one in quite a while, we all lead such busy lives nowadays, but I like to keep my notebooks on hand in case inspiration strikes. What’s the campaign about?” He asks, still digging through the journal.


You hesitate, talking about the magic to Arven is one thing, but what if Garath doesn’t really believe in it? Doubt starts to creep in but you steel yourself, if you can’t talk about the magic with someone who knows Arven as well as Garath does then how can you expect yourself to tell your friends?


“It’s about the lost magic,” you brace yourself for him to laugh at you but look up to see a serious look on his face and he lets out a low whistle.


“Oh boy, that’s a big one. You’re awfully brave to bring others in so soon, it took me years before I was even willing to talk to my dear wife about it – made me feel quite the fool when she accepted it and started hunting right along with me, no questions asked. Ah! Here it is!” He turns the journal to face you, triumphant in his successful search.


Displayed on the page is a tracking sheet of some kind and a few diagrams. It’s broken down into columns to track important information about each character, there are even spots for tracking their marching order, how they set up camp, and a calendar to track the passing in-game days. 


“Garath, this is genius!” your excitement grows as you begin to picture the encounter, never needing to pull the players out of the story by asking what their AC is or how far they can move. 


“Thank you!” He straightens at the praise, “I found it made tracking things a bit easier, and it’s nice to have that information handy for those inevitable beer spills that take out a character sheet. Copy it down, hopefully, it’s of use to ya. I have to say though, looking at these plans you have here makes me want to run a campaign of my own, I wish I thought to use the game as a way to tell people about the magic, your players aren’t going to know what hit them!”


You thank him profusely, your confidence raised not only by the compliment but by the new tool in your arsenal. He brushes you off, insisting that he’s happy to share, before being beckoned by another patron requesting a drink. With renewed focus you dive back into your planning, ready to give your friends an adventure they won’t forget.


We all know that running a campaign is never simple. Stay tuned for our weekly installments from Garath the DM, where he will share resources, tips, and other tools to help make managing your campaign easier and more satisfying!


DM Party Ref 3.5 D20

DM Party Ref Pathfinder