Build a Twyla Tharp Style Campaign Box

by Mike Shea on 29 March 2009

I've spent the past couple of months reading Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit. Over the past couple of weeks, as I finished the book, it dawned on me how many of these habits - habits formed by a woman who produces and directs dances and shows on Broadway - could improve dungeon mastering.

For example, one of her more popular concepts, is Twyla's Box. For every project she begins, she takes out a cardboard banker's box, writes the name of the project on the box, and begins to fill it with all of the materials she'll need for that project. To begin, she takes out a 3x5 note card, and writes her goal or key concept for her project on it, and throws it in the box. As the box fills and the project moves forward, she often refers to this card to see if she is on course.

Given the strange things we might use in a good Dungeons and Dragons campaign, this box metaphor need not be a metaphor at all. Why not take one of these $2 bankers boxes and turn it into your Dungeons and Dragons campaign box? Consider all of the things you might throw into it. Props, maps, hand-drawn notes, 3x5 cards filled with NPC personalities, lists of random names and backgrounds, miniatures for the campaign, parts of D&D Insider articles, hand-written skill challenge ideas, maybe even some music or sound effects files on a USB drive.

Probably a lot of us save our campaign information on our computers. I have a folder for each campaign I have ran that I fill with clip art, story outlines, NPC descriptions, customized baddies, villain descriptions, and any other adventure stuff I need. With D&D being mainly a physical game, though, a campaign box makes a lot more sense. Why not print all that material and jam it in the campaign box?

This isn't the only tip applicable to Twyla Tharp's book. There are many others I will likely write about in the future. If you're looking to branch out and think of Dungeon Mastering more as a creative discipline, you could do a lot worse than buying her book and giving it a read. I highly recommend it.

So there's your Sly Flourish tip of the week. Buy a $2 bankers box at your local Staples and turn it into your very own campaign box.

Send feedback to @slyflourish on Twitter or email mike@mikeshea.net.