Visual Aid Session Prep with the Five Room Dungeon

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1174

Hello Sojourner!

The goal of Visual Game Session Prep is to have a quick glance reference that reminds me of notes and plans I made before the session.

This keeps paperwork to a minimum.

Rather than referencing your notes within a large document during the game, you can simply look at a simple visual diagram and have the most important aspects of the encounters set up on one sheet.

Ultimately, this helps you spend more time with your players. Combined with Campaign Logger and the Five Room Dungeon method, your session will flow smoothly with more time for fun.

In this article, I’ll go through an example of Visual Game Session Prep step using Five Room Dungeon thinking from my campaign as an example.

Session Synopsis: In this session, the sojourners desire to rescue Cerecio, an elf consort of one of the character’s warlock patrons. He is trapped in a mountain prison ruled by a knight.

Setting and Features

Begin your diagram’s design with a setting to establish a stage upon which the encounters occur. Here you can place memorable features, area effects, and continuing aspects all throughout the Five Room Dungeon. Although it’s not a room, it makes thematic sense to have this diagram before you to bring to mind the important features of your encounter.

  1. Haman’s Hill – a maximum security prison in hell built upon a high mountain ruled by a Narzugon named Haman.
  2. Sharp inclined hill, iron trees surround the perimeter, blood soaks the ground, swarms of flies, teleportation magic fails, vampire guards.
  3. Each sojourner who enters receives a permanent mark of identification
  4. Theme: Bravery vs Cowardice.

Refer to the setting to establish a continuous theme through the session

See below how using mermaid can help with instantly developing an easy to read visual aid.

Simply add the details within the code and you have yourself a visual aid session prep.

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

a[Haman's Hill] --- X((Setting and Features))
b[Sharp Inclined Hill] --- X
X --- c[Permanent Mark]
X --- d[Cowardice vs. Bravery]

After you input the code, the diagram is generated!

Room I: Exploration and Entrance

When I think of this first room, I ask myself, “why has no one else attempted to enter?” This question leads me to design a worthy encounter to challenge the players.

The challenges should then be written into the diagram’s shapes.

Whatever you write into the shapes should serve as a quick reminder of the specific challenges to that encounter.

  1. Bloodsucking Wasps attack with a DC 15 to avoid, 4d10 dmg upon a fail and reduce the HP of the sojourner by that amount until a long rest is achieved. The wasp’s body can be harvested for weapons, armor and poison.
  2. Upon viewing a crucified fey prisoners, a sojourner suffers the Fear spell upon a failed DC 15 save and they will be unable to converse with Cecerio. Anyone who succeeds can explore the history of any prisoner and discover a secret yet dangerous method out of the prison.
  3. The blood decorating the walls can be harvested for a high price in infernal courts. The iron trees making up the perimeter can be mined for weapons and armor.
  4. The Welcome Sign grants history of the war.

Exploration provides discoveries in your game, much like the entrance of the 5RD.

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

  a[Wasp Nest] --- X((Exploration&ltbr>and&ltbr>Entrance))
  b[Fear Spell] --- X
  X --- c[Blood Harvest, Tree Harvest]
  X --- d[History of War]

Room II: The Problem or Puzzle

When I think of this room, I ask myself, “what will test the player’s skill set?” Normally, the players put their best foot forward in resolving the first challenge in the entrance or guardian. Now in the problem, they have to dig deep to discover an out of the box solution to this puzzle.Whatever you write into the shapes should serve as a prompt during the game.

  1. A small demon is caught sniffing around a drunk guard’s body. He searches for currency and contraband and desires to steal Haman’s Fireball Necklace.
  2. Cerecio, an elf but mutilated beyond recognition, is concerned with anyone risking their life for him. He may warn of Haman’s armor (AC 23), and wishes to know of outside world information. He doesn’t have hope and sulks until someone brings him cheer.
  3. Zondar, a vampire guard, knows that Haman was a turncoat in battle, and so became the first prisoner and warden of Haman’s Hill. Zondar insists on accompanying the sojourners.
  4. Haman does not converse with anyone, but if they break the law, upon a successful hit, he brands them with a permanent mark as a criminal.

Interactions allow for development and problem solving, much like the puzzle room in 5RD

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

a[Demon Thief] --- X((Social and Puzzle))
b[Vampire Ally] --- X
X --- c[Haman marks the criminals]
X --- d[Cerecio warns of armor class]

Room III: The Setback or Challenge

When I think of this room, I ask myself, “how will the dungeon attempt to expel the sojourners?” By now, the sojourners have made a difference in this room, and the room should throw a curveball or at least, make a powerful attempt to rid itself of the pesky heroes who are changing the system. Within the shapes, make sure to include ways to drain resources, remove protections or give the players enough of a challenge so they can reconsider their plan.

  1. If Cerecio is freed, Haman is instantly summoned and attempts to attack and brand the sojourners as criminals.
  2. Demons of flight attempt to grapple (DC 17) any sojourner who makes an attempt to leave the mountain side, outside the prison.
  3. Bravery and Cowardice matter here because of Haman’s curse, grant 1d4 to acts of bravery and subtract 1d4 to acts of cowardice.
  4. Any sojourner who fails a check of navigation ends up alone in a trap with a hungry and mutilated prisoner who attempts to consume them.

Challenges can provide opportunities for sojourners to rethink their plans, much like the Setback room in the 5RD.

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

a[branding mark] --- X((Challenge and Setback))
b[bravery cowardice 1d4] --- X
X --- c[flight demons DC 17]
X --- d[lost cannibal elf]

Room IV: The Boss or Conflict

When I think of this room, I ask myself, “what will oppose the sojourners?” This is the storm before the calm. Whether it be a boss monster, a major confrontation with your father, or surviving a storm aboard a ship, this room should be filled with conflicts that accent the sojourner’s abilities. Place inside the shapes reminders of the big moments you want to highlight, the cheat sheet of stats for lair actions, or the one-liners the boss will utter forth to taunt the heroes.

  1. Haman AC 23, HP~90, wants sojourners unconscious if they break the law. Will only kill to save his life. Attack +9, longsword, 3d6 dmg, x3 attacks. Use of Fireball Necklace DC 17 save,  x 3 uses as lair action. 8d6 fire damage upon fail and ½ upon a save.
  2. Steed AC 17, HP ~45, wants to obey Haman, will flee if Haman is killed. Creates a 30 foot radius of fire. At the top of the round for any creature in that radius, take 4d6 fire damage upon a DC 15 Con Save or ½ upon a fail.
  3. Anyone exiting the 60 radius from Haman must succeed a DC 14 Str save or become grappled and restrained by the iron trees.
  4. Reaction (once per round) Haman delivers retribution to a successful spell attack by delivering a +7 attack, 8d8 necrotic damage upon a hit.

Combat can go much smoother with this cheat sheet and resembles the boss room in the 5RD.

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

a[AC 23 HP 90 Wants criminals unconscious] --- X((Combat and Conflict))
b[Steed AC 17 HP 45] --- X
X --- c[perimeter DC 17 Str Save]
X --- d[reaction: spell attack against last character to cast spell]

Room V: The Reward or Reveal

When I think of this room, I ask myself, “why go through all of this trouble?” Between surviving the conflict, defeating the boss, or cleverly outmaneuvering a puzzle, the sojourners should experience her the fruit of their labor. Sometimes it’s a major discovery, a material reward, an alliance or simply good old fashioned revenge. Make sure to place your treasure here so you don’t forget to reward your players!

  1. Upon killing Haman, the prison goes into a riot
  2. Upon rescue, Cerecio reveals that the celestial key to the Dawnwalker is located in a certain noble’s court.
  3. Haman has plate armor +3, Longsword +3, Necklace of Fireball 3 uses each dawn in hell, not useable any other plane.
  4. Upon a successful hit, Haman leaves a permanent mark upon the sojourner indicating their criminal status in a lawful evil society.

The final visual aid helps wrap up the encounter, much like the reward in the 5RD.

Always link to a new quest!

Copy and paste this into Campaign Logger:

a[Prison Riot] --- X((Resolution and Reward))
b[Walking Criminals] ---X
X --- c[Key hidden in Court]
X --- d[AC 3, Sword 3, Fireball Necklace]

For a blank visual aid model, refer to the mermaid syntax below. Fill in the blanks between the brackets for your quick reference notes.

a[First] ---
X((Title and Title))
b[Second] ---X
X --- c[Third]
X --- d[Fourth]

Take a moment to imagine the satisfaction you will have as a dungeon master to spend more time playing and less time scouring through notes! Use the visual aid to collect all of your important notes. Go and have fun!

May your story continue! For more articles on improving your game as a Dungeon Master, visit