Friday 30 September 2016

Just Enough Prep

As a creative person, I like preparing a campaign for a Role-Playing Game. Characters, backgrounds for those characters, motivations and histories behind those backgrounds, maps that detail those histories... I'd happily spend all the time I do not have building those details.

There's only so much time in the day, though.

As a game master who wants to run this campaign one day (and as someone who wants to stay sane), I found it helpful to draw up a Just Enough Prep target list. My intent is that once I had completed everything on this list, I'd be in a position to at least start the campaign.

The campaign is not a static story. It responds to the decisions and actions of the Player Characters. So, a secondary goal here is to have enough prep to be ready for the curve balls that the PCs throw. There's no conceivable way to prepare for every possible PC action.

What made the Preparation List

Some items on the list I found hard to quantify at first. I decided to prepare for these items by creating one or two items per player. I have six players in my gaming group.

  1. A name for the campaign
    • The campaign is called "County Playground: The Grand Grind"
  2. A guide for the campaign setting should be ready for the players
    • Concise details on the campaign, to help the players generate PCs.
    • I have this ready. My ebook is titled A PC Guide to County Playground:The Grand Grind
    • It's on sale now at iBooks
  3. A wiki with ten items per player
    • The players need something to work with.
    • I actually have two wikis: a public one for the players and a private one for Gamemaster Eyes Only. The public one is copied to the County Playground Grand Grind Mediawiki site.
  4. A logo for the campaign
    • The logo ties together all the above items. I put the logo on the ebook PC Guide and the Mediawiki.
  5. A tool to push updates from my player vimwiki local on my computer to the Mediawiki installation accessible on the Internet.
  6. One blog post per player
    • Part of the job of the blog is to keep track of what works. I'm not planning to have to redo something in two years. If I have to, nice to have a record of what I did initially. Ideally, through the comments, someone might suggest a better way of doing things.
  7. A conflict web for the major NPCs
    • For this I found three large pieces of paper, 11 by 17 inches. I mapped out which NPCs are the masters and which are the servants, who is in love and who hates each other. Each NPC gets at least one relationship; some have several.
    • The idea here is that if the PCs suddenly go somewhere I have not thought of and encounter the NPC in a setting I have not expected, I'll at least have a starting point of what will motivate that NPC in that situation.
  8. Sketches for the first several encounters
    • Two encounters per player
    • Rough out what the encounter requires: NPCs and monster names, from the characters, maps, key turning points in the campaign as a whole that the encounter will set up.
    • Some of these are more sketchy than others.

What did not make the Preparation List

  1. Stats for every Non-Player Character (NPC)
    • The NPC Codex has my back here. There are also NPC stats in the Gamemastery Guide. Besides, why spend an hour giving detail to a NPC that the PCs are going to interact with for only two minutes and/or kill off? The ones that stick around will be fleshed out with stats.
  2. Monster stat blocks
    • Exceptions will be lovingly created by hand. I have several books with monster stat blocks already; I can reference those in my notes.

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