Sunday 3 November 2013

Gamesmastering Challenge - Prep

So, a month or so ago I started the 30 Day d&d challenge - I gave it a good crack, but in the end posting everyday just wasn't practical - unless you're interested in reading text that has the same literary content as some written by an author smashing their head against the keyboard (i'm guessing you don't?) So I cam across this site - interesting, I thought, but i'll be damned if i'm posting everyday. I'll do it in nice easy chucks.


What advice would you give a first-time GM?

You'll suck. But thats ok. Seriously though the chances are you'll make a bunch of mistakes, so I recommend just grin and bear it. Don't worry about it and try not to let in fluster you, remember everyone is here to have fun and play a game - thats all. If everyone knows its your first time behind the screen and you amongst good company, nobody will mind if you forget stuff or make mistakes.

What are your favourite GMing tools or accessories?

The AD&D Rules Cyclopedia. Everything you need to run a game in a book, and I dont even play AD&D. I also use several home-brew accessories i've made for running 13A games, my NPC kit and Trap Kit.

How do you find players?

I run a weekly group with some old friends, so we don't really recruit for that. But there is a healthy Tabletop Scene in my town, so if were to need more players at the table I'd go there first - The other games I run are online, so finding new players there is usually through G+ or readers of this blog.

Do you use pre-published adventures or write your own?

I mostly write my own, but i'll always be incorporating elements of written adventures, if I see something good, bastardising them for my own needs.

Stealing like an artist - what inspiration have you drawn from other games, books, movies etc?

Characters, places, items story threads and hooks - i've stolen them all. Seriously steal EVERYTHING you can. If you watch/read/see something and you think 'That's cool' steal it. There's a reason your reaction was to think it was cool, its because it is cool. So share the love and let your players experience how cool it is too.

Worldbuilding - whats your process?

I start off with a small detailed area and let the players fill in the blanks around it. But make sure to build a complete world with very broad strokes - so when asked 'whats on the other side of the world?' you can answer. But i'll never start filling every Hex with stuff until it becomes relevant (why waste prep time on stuff that might never see the light of day?)

How do you prep for the start of a campaign?

Read the Dungeonworld corebook, specifically the section about creating Adventure Fronts and Campaign fronts, I cannot recommend this enough. Basically I'll think about the tone of the campaign, create adversaries (broad ones such as guilds and cults, not individuals really) and set their goals and motivations for the life of the campaign. Determining their final goals will steer their actions and reactions throughout. Then its a case of creating somewhere small for the players to start and building around them as they explore.

How do you prep for each session?

I don't really. Thats a bit of a lie, but I definitely run on the light side for session prep. Most of the content is created on the fly from stuff in my GM Kit. Then i'll let the players Relationship Dice rolls guide the actions of NPC's and story elements.

Player "homework" - what do you ask of your players before and between session?

Nothing. Its not homework its a game. If they want to create content between sessions they can, but i'll never ask a player to dod something, I don't want them to feel obligated. It would be nice if they levelled up when needed but even then I won't bust their balls if they don't. 

What are your tips for running a low/no prep game?

I think i've kind of covered my process in the questions above (and my games absolutely fall into the low prep category) but here's a couple of my thoughts on low prep -

  • Theres no such thing as no/low prep really. Its just about what you prep and when/how many times you do it. 
  • Spend some time creating tables of names, appearances, mannerisms, motivations and interesting things an NPC/Object/Location might have.
  • If you can get an Internet signal at your game you can use random name generators for items and places in all sorts of different literary styles, if not make some tables in advance.
  • Learn how to make NPC/Monster stats on the fly - create a useful list of stats, powers and abilities if necessary.
  • If your running 13th age, roll your relationship dice at the end to drive next weeks session, if you don't run 13th Age, consider integrating the relationship dice mechanic to your game.
  • Get comfortable making stuff up, confidence is key, if the players see you're not too sure - then they wont be too sure either. The more you fly by the seat of your pants the greater your confidence will be.
Hope some of this is useful or insightful. I'll be back with the next couple of sections in the coming weeks.

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