#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 16

Describe your plans for your next game/How do you prepare for an extended campaign?

So, as you can see, day 16 is brought to you by the prompt for the day & an alternate question. ~ I’m involved in a lot of games right now. Most are slow movers. The Play by Email Mythos Mythras & play by private Facebook group Masks that I play in are slow movers by default. I’m also a player in a bunch of games that are on again off again via hangouts. I could be missing some, but there are at least Untold Adventures/Harn, HEX, B/X in Greyhawk, Edge of theEmpire, & Star Trek Adventures all ready to be picked up again. Rotating GM games on the books are All For One & The Veil. Games where I am the solo GM would be HEX & Lamentations of the Martian Princess. ~ The final one is going to be our example.

My “shelves of hope” contain a bunch of games that I “plan” to play or run at some time. I just don’t have any grand ideas at the moment.

I already talked about what I’m having to plan for my next session due to an alteration in the timeline. Here I really want to talk about how I plan or prep for an ongoing campaign.

I’m aware that I tend to run games that I would like to be a player in. ~ Not just what game or what system, but how it’s run. As I discussed earlier, I have found that the game has the most meaningful and authentic “stakes” when it becomes about what the player characters find important. I find it hard to have that same level of buy-in as a player when the GM tells me what the agenda for my character is. Plots or stories or adventure paths fall flat for me. Mission based gaming becomes tedious, & often I find myself going through the motions, & if I am honest with myself I realize that unless something has “clicked”, my character simply doesn’t care, (neither do I) ~ I’m simply having them participate because that’s what I’m “supposed” to do.

I tend to prefer run (or be a player in) more of a demented science experiment. ~ Take a theme, a scenario, some NPCs and factions, a set of upcoming events & a few wild card elements. Throw it all in a blender with the the PCs. See what happens. ~ It’s a bit like letting a bunch of mice (the PCs) loose in a cheese factory full of cats, mousetraps & maybe some friendly critters of some variety.

I give some things a fair amount of detail right away. What’s the scenario in the world right now? Who are these alien races? What events are coming down the road? Who is in charge of the city the PCs are in? What do the various factions want? Who is one important member of each faction? What are they like and what do they want? What friendly connections do the PCs have? ~ I don’t fill in all of the details any more than I fill in all of the details of a character when I create them. This emerges naturally during play. ~ As long as I have a good idea of the agendas and motivations of NPCs & organizations, this will inform my in game improvisation and we will discover more about them.

I try to establish connections between the NPCs and other players up front as well and have some rough timelines of events. Who is Javed the merchant that wants to hire them? What is his connection to Elim (rival)? Who is pressuring him (Grath)? What does Grath want? Who can help get more of what Grath wants (Syrus, but he’s nuts)? ~ Likewise I try to have some events happen early that let the players know that they are free to explore other aspects of this dynamic world (the Antha have a dispute with the leadership of the city, there are preparations for possible war, without their help there fear of being defenseless against Thark attacks, look at that strange Taelon magic ~ how do i get access to that?).

However, the real fun planning and prep happens once the game gets going. After each session I get to regroup & re-assess what’s going on. I don’t change what I’ve already established, but I bring it into sharper focus based upon what we improvised, what the player characters did, where they seem to be headed, what connections got established or became more nuanced, and upon what I have learned about the NPCs by playing them. ~ I spend a lot of time thinking about what the NPCs and groups might do. How their motivations have become more detailed. Who they are becoming. I think about what makes the most sense based upon what we have learned. I come up with ideas, play them out, discard some & build on others.

I bring a more refined and focused version of the game world to the table next session, much of which is becoming detailed because that’s where the player characters are choosing to spend their efforts. At the same time, I don’t ignore the elements of the world that they are ignoring or spending less time on. That army everyone in the city is afraid of? It’s still on the way.

The consequences and ripple effects of what the player characters have done guides a lot of my prep. They threw Elim to the Sleestack but left his aide Torvath alive? (I had to make Torvath up on the spot, they left him alive so he needed a name and a motivation). Well, it stands to reason that this guy would describe them to the authorities and also blame them for the Sleestack invasion. ~ The more that the players interact with the world, the more consequences (for good or ill) of their actions keep rolling down the track.

So I’m always planning for the next session. Prep before the game ever starts can be a bit of a drag for me. I can get excited about an idea, but until the players get involved with the world, it can seem a little lifeless and like a facade. However, once the sessions start, thinking about the game and preparing for next session by filling in the details and considering what would logically happen next based upon events and the motivations of all involved becomes very fun indeed.

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