The Lazy DM’s Workbook provides easily-accessible tools to help you prepare and run your game. Written by Michael E. Shea (Sly Flourish), it focuses on “light preparation and heavy improvisation.” Whereas the principles contained his Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master apply to any tabletop RPG, The Lazy DM’s Workbook largely applies to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, and serves as a companion to the former. However, many of the tools are system-agnostic and could help you run games in other RPG systems. Either way, this book will make the most impact if you have already read Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master.
Some of the book’s content applies specifically to D&D 5E, some of it applies to any system, and a few pieces of content straddle the line between the two. Below, I have separated the subject matter thusly. Two items — Random Tables and Theater-of-the-Mind Combat — contain a little of each and therefore appear on both lists.
D&D 5E Specific Content
- Fifth Edition Reference
- Random Tables
- Random Dungeon Monster Tables
- Encounter Building Guidelines
- Theater-of-the-Mind Combat
- The Lazy DM Preparation Process
- Random Tables
- Theater-of-the-Mind Combat
- Connecting Characters
- Lazy Lairs
- Fill-In Pages
D&D 5E Reference
This section summarizes and consolidates the most important charts and rules so you can improvise on the fly. Think of it as an extended DM screen with the essential bits of mechanics at your fingertips so you don’t have to waste time thumbing through your books mid-scene.
In addition to the normal PHB and DMG rules references, Shea also includes two exceedingly useful tools — Quick Encounter Building and Running Large Numbers of Monsters. Both of these techniques profoundly speed up combat once you know how to use them proficiently.
Most of the random tables can be used in any fantasy RPG system, their purpose to help you generate the interesting details that add flavor and specificity to your game. Such tables include character names, types of traps, monuments and structures, items (from mundane to magical), and events.
A few tables are 5E-specific: trap damage and save DCs, healing potion stats, and spell effects.
Random Dungeon Monster Tables and 5E Encounter Building Guidelines
These sections expand on the Quick Encounter Building mentioned earlier. Reference tables let you quickly determine how many monsters of a given Challenge Rating would be appropriate for your players and also contains lists of monsters for each CR range. In my experience, Shea’s method for building balanced 5E encounters is far easier and faster than the DMG method.
Running gridded combat can be fun and rewarding for certain types of players, but not every RPG group wants that much crunch. This is especially true when running games remotely. Virtual tabletops are great, but not everyone can handle such dedication to technology.
The alternative is theater-of-the-mind combat, which requires a bit of trust between DM and players, but can radically speed up gameplay. You will worry less about mechanics and focus more on action and storytelling elements. This section explains how to make that happen in a fair and satisfying manner.
Lazy DM Preparation Process Checklists
A simple series of bullet points summarizes everything you need to consider during your game prep. These lists require you to have read Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. If you have performed said reading, then the bullet points will trigger your memory to make sure you have adequately prepared for your game.
Nothing is worse than starting a new campaign where every player character has no interest or “motivation” to adventure together. Don’t let that happen in your game. Use these tables to give the entire party a common group relationship or interpersonal connections that bind them to each other.
One aspect of the Lazy DM process involves fantastic locations, whether for exploration or boss fights or both. Here we get 10 such locations. Each one includes a detailed map with each room, chamber, or section numbered for convenience. Each of those sections gets a short but detailed writeup including the name of that section, area aspects (basically a short summary for the DM), and a description which could be read aloud to the players as they enter that space.
The lair descriptions contain no elements or statistics specific to D&D, so they are readily portable to your fantasy RPG of choice — just populate them with system-appropriate denizens and you are good to go. You could even do a mash-up with the Random Traps and/or Random Monuments table to supercharge the location and make it truly memorable.
Fill-In Pages (Lazy DM Workbook Templates)
Four simple templates help you organize your game so you can track it all at a glance:
- Session Worksheet: track the eight steps of game preparation
- Character Tracker: update and review this often so you can put your players first
- NPC Tracker: it’s easy to get mixed up when you inhabit every other person in the world that is not your players — this template helps you keep it all together
- Campaign Planner: create a top-level overview to keep your campaign on track
Will The Lazy DM’s Workbook Work for You?
The Lazy DM’s Workbook is an indispensable companion resource to Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. These types of resources help you prepare your game faster and, most importantly, support your improvisation performance, which is a critical skill if you want to run your game the Lazy DM way.
If you play D&D 5E, both of these books offer great benefits, and are best used together.
If you play other TTRPG systems, you can still derive immense value from Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, and should definitely consider purchasing it. You will also find value in The Lazy DM’s Workbook, though some of the resources are D&D specific. But the random tables and maps alone might be enough to make it worth your money, especially if you get the cheaper digital format and print out what you need.
The Lazy DM’s Workbook is available in both digital PDF and print versions. Click here to download now!