15 March 2023

Ease DM'ing tasks with the Egan Doctrine

tl;dr: know what DM prep you need to do in the next 20 mins you have spare so that small chunk of time is well spent.

The prep needed to DM is often pointed to as burdensome with the addition of 'when to get any of this done.' Our wargaming friends have had a good idea for us to steal - the Egan Doctrine. Friend of the blog C. Kinch replied to "What is the #egandoctrine?" with:

"It’s an idea that @tomjmegan came up with. A lot of us were bemoaning the fact that we don’t do enough figure painting.

He came up with the idea of setting up a small job and keeping at it. 20 mins a day. It’s short enough that it’s achievable. Thus #egandoctrine."

The refinement that I follow from C. Kinch is to not just find a small task but also to be ready to seize that 20mins available and get right to the task. For miniature painting (Kinch's personal focus) - have a biscuit tin lid with your two brushes, the one or two colours you are going to apply and the 3-6 miniatures that are going to get done in this round. Lay out your tools so you can get right to the task.

For TTRPG DMs - or at least for me - this means identifying what needs to get done and chunking it out so that you can sit down and crack on when you get a few moments. The main time sink otherwise is the 'spin-up' time of figuring out what you need to do which can easily eat a good ten minutes before you even know where you ought to start.

From the point of view of writing things for this blog, I have mentioned this before in passing on d20 Small Viable Blogging Tasks. The sitting down and writing entries is only one of many tasks to keep the show on the road and many of those small tasks can be done in a short block of time. Sly Flourish just published "Twenty Things to Do Instead of Checking Social Media" in much the same vein.

For DM'ing, my similar checklist of d10 game prep tasks would run to:
1. Note down upcoming games, check which ones even need prep
2. Check schedules of players and set dates for games
3. Draft out the single-page session prep sheet - block out 'start scene' of new session and hooks
4. Review previous session to spot hooks, implications, consequences to pull forward
5. Flesh out a hook or site you anticipate using
6. Refresh and encounter table where entries have been used
7. Generate random NPCs, names and mannerisms for future use
8. Read up on and take notes of a written adventure - end up with a summary in the 'hooks' section
9. Check up on monster stats, mechanics of something to be run into so as to remember what they can do
10. Stare at the local map and factions and note any likely actions or implications of recent game events

Things like number 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 are all things I would note as 'to-do's on my list to then be jumped on when I get a bit of time.

For those who can work off their phone or have a notebook in their pocket, even smaller chunks of time can be put to use - your powers are greater than mine, I have nothing further to advise you.

This blog post was done in three of these time chunks
- first one block out the text, round of the references, get it all together in a notepad file
- write why this all works for TTRPG DM's and the list of small tasks
- upload, clean-up, link setting, once-over editting

This looks a lot like Pomodoro Technique, with the difference being that it is expected you will spend long chunks of time doing other stuff between these tasks so rather than being a way to chunk out a big task you are delivering continuously, the heart of the Egan Doctrine is to set up the small tasks you can do as you find time.


  1. This is great, actionable advice. It feels very relevant. Kudos.