10 Steps to Planning RPG Sessions in Less Than an Hour
AI is a boon here.
1. Lazy DM Step: Start with a bang
Make every start memorable. Action = excitement.
2. Lazy DM Step: Know the Characters
I'm better at this generally than not. But a quick glance at a character sheet would make for better tie-ins.
3. Lazy DM Step: Write down 10 secrets and clues
I started using AI for this and...holy crap it is easy.
4. Lazy DM Step: Build out interesting NPCs
With AI, you can generate them and feed it into an NPC builder then let the story take over from there.
5. Lazy DM Step: Rewards
AI does this, too, but mostly I like to wing it a little unless someone says they're really after something important.
I want to be able to bust out dungeons and scenes pretty quickly. It should be easy to accomplish (AI helps - you can prompt it to describe the room or rooms they're in and spit out ideas for what's visible and what's not).
7. Stat Blocks/Enemies
A little more challenging, but can be done by picking relevant groups of bad guys and then expanding on the fly as needed.
8. The Virtual Table Top Prep
Probably takes more time than it needs to. Get a map off the Internet, size it, mask it, and then generate tokens on the fly as best as you can.
9. Rough out the Session Into Segments
Using a time block method to be flexible, but keep the pace moving. Would even consider putting up a public timer to facilitate the process. Depends on the group. I'm moving toward a 3.5 hour session model where we spend 15 mins recapping and then getting into the action. Hard stop at the 3.5 hour mark - it's okay to end sessions on a cliffhanger or mid battle (you can always make something crazy happen when you get back to the action next time!).
10. Enjoy the material, but don't obsess
I like to read the books, but I used to spend too much time dreaming up stuff with no game in sight. Be aware of the time spent enjoying books and works but don't overdo it. Balance in all things.