For instance, you and your players have to be REAL good at remembering names and story details from past sessions if you don't write session summaries.
- Incorporate subtle genre references, reinforce genre
- Tie in story threads from previous sessions
- Prepare handouts and player props, find reference images
More work tying their goals to the PCs' passions: SOLID GOLD! Yeah, you can do that in the heat of the moment, but you tend to forget a lot. 4 PCs = usually 8 or more things they care about. Easy to forget.
1. Review last session and incorporate loose ends from it
2. Work on antagonists
3. Steep yourself in the genre for color
4. Geeky "solo play" stuff that the players will probably never see, but makes you more confident
You do that in the antagonists phase. The dungeon is part of the "stuff" your antagonist has.
Review notes first.
Antagonist's *stuff* third.
"I did all this work drawing a cool dungeon! I even bought special terrain pieces for it!"
...is not good enough justification to railroad the players into that dungeon.
This is why that first step - reviewing your notes and tying stuff back to stuff your PCs care about - is the *first* step.
(I'd rather improvise a dungeon map and every single monster in it than improvise why the PCs should care about the plot. That is the MOST critical thing.)
That's a key difference. Too many GMs prep THEIR plans, and when THEIR plans get disrupted by a spell they didn't anticipate, or players going "off the rails" they get flustered and sometimes try to railroad.
Show them how close they came to failure. "You stopped the villain a SINGLE STEP in her plan before she released the ghoul plague into Waterdeep! Literally seconds to spare!"
But so is stopping it with seconds to spare!
CRITICAL PREP LESSON: Your prep is not "True Facts About The World."
RPGs are shared imagined spaces, where truth is just words you say. By definition, the words in your prep notes are not "Truth" until you say they are, during play.
It was never even "continuity" to begin with, because the players never heard that the Lich King owned Medusa Dungeon.