Creating a campaign, and moulding the world around it, is an amazing experience. You’re creating an entire world out of ideas in your head, and if you’re like me then you want it to be detailed with loads of maps and lore excerpts to accompany it before the campaign officially starts. If I had more time on my hands I would likely be drawing maps and making NPCs for days, in fact this is what I usually do. It actually becomes difficult to start the first session of the campaign because I just want to keep adding more to it.
If that was the case though the campaign would never start. Player enthusiasm might fizzle out and even I may get tired of working on the campaign, and so there’s a very useful skill which every DM (hopefully) possesses: A ton of self-restraint. This comes in many forms such as not killing off the party because you can, not railroading them into an encounter that you reallyreallyreally like, and simply starting the campaign despite the fact that you have to write-up a few more sentences on why the innkeeper has no hair.
I play using Roll20 so creating battle-maps costs nothing but time for me, there’s no need to print on paper. This is a horrible, horrible thing because it means that I’m always tempted to create a map for anything. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s alright to just pull a map off of a website, or to use theatre of the mind, because as long as the game flows smoothly and everyone is having fun then it doesn’t really matter that there wasn’t a map for every situation. It made me realise how much I was depending on these visuals, I wasn’t describing rooms or buildings in as much detailed because I would let the details on the map speak for themselves. If there was no map then I would have to describe things myself, and that was quite difficult at first.
Even though having a beautiful world map will help with immersion it isn’t completely necessary. The same goes for detailed battle-maps or having music for every situation. If we had the time to perfect and prepare for every part of the campaign then it truthfully would never start. And since players are human beings it is guaranteed that they will go off track and wander into a part of the campaign which you don’t have much, if anything, prepared.
The topic of this post applies more to campaigns which are yet to start, if you’ve already begun and have a schedule in place then you already have a deadline which you need to work towards. But if the game hasn’t started yet? If you’re still crafting the world and all the quests? Then you have a problem. Sometimes you just need to let go and jump right in to the campaign. DMing on the fly every once in a while never hurt anybody.