Have you ever wondered what Matt Mercer’s campaign notes look like? Now’s your chance to find out. Check out two batches of (spoiler-free) notes that show a typical session and a bigger hub of the world from Critical Role.
D&D is a many-splendored thing. There’s no “right way to run a game” unless it’s something like “make sure everyone has fun.” But there are many different ways to organize your notes for a campaign. Some GMs write out an entire story, others list out potential beats, others still plan encounters. And some poor sods plan nothing and just flip through the monster manual a few minutes before their session and hope their players decide to get up to something interesting.
Critical Role is a highly-visible D&D campaign, and because it’s archived on the internet, it serves as a great example for showing folks one way of playing D&D. Because it’s not enough to pass down your notes–you have to see the context they’re used in. How does the DM make use of them, how do they steer the action and so on. Other people have published their campaign notes in the past–but it’s like an appendix of an oral history. Which is why having notes from something you can go back and watch is so helpful.
Even if this isn’t the way you run your games, it might lead you to figure out a better process. Every DM invents their own wheel for running a campaign, and we’d love to see what yours are. In the meantime, here are Matt Mercer’s.
As an apology for no game tonight, here are my notes from the last session! Mind you, I deleted a section at the end with stuff still to come (and backup notes in case they turned around), but this should show my outline for the events that DID transpire! https://t.co/eenvjl46CV https://t.co/hs9hVTydBp
— Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) February 7, 2019
First up, here’s a look at a fairly straightforward session–Campaign 2, Episode 50.
This one was super helpful to me–as a GM I frequently wonder how to handle travelling–and while the rules for random wilderness encounters are helpful, it’s nice to see each of the areas get some description as well as some planned obstacles on the way. You can see how the order of things changes–these notes are guidelines after all. And as you’ll see from the later notes, a lot of times these are the seeds for improvisation.
Then we have notes from a more “hub” style session. Notes from Campaign 2, Episode 17.
*Spoilers CR Campaign 2, Ep 17*
A follow up on my promise, here is my notes on a more "Hub" session, where the players have MANY possible options without a very clear direction. These tend to require much more prep. I believe I've omitted any spoilers…? https://t.co/eghvOg3a9v
— Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) February 9, 2019
This one is also very telling. I love the sheer amount of description that’s pre-written here. Even when it doesn’t translate exactly, the gist of the description is there. And I feel like if you’re going to have some concrete areas locked in, this is a pretty good tool to keep in your tool chest.
And again let me cite the value of having an actual session to go back to with these. You can see how Mercer was preparing for all sorts of eventualities. Including the possibility that the party might turn on one of their contacts–the notorious crime lord.
There’s a lot to dig through with this but here are a couple of quick takeaways:
- When writing up NPC notes, talk about what they’re doing in general where they are right now
- Come up with an intro line of dialogue and a few other opinions
- Lay out some ‘keystone’ areas in your mind ahead of time and write them up, even if you don’t use it word for word, you still have it to jump off from
- You never really know what your players are going to do
- Like, ever
- And that’s okay
- Like, ever
How do you organize your games? Were any of these notes helpful? Let us know–and as always, happy adventuring!