Friday, July 15, 2011

Discussion: Game Prep

Every GM is faced with this problem on an almost weekly basis. How much game prep is needed, and how do I go about doing it for my group? Today, I wanted to talk about how you do your game prep, and see if maybe we can get a few ideas bouncing around here.

Now, when it comes to Game Prep, there are two primary schools that I know of. The pansters, who more or less improv more than plan. As the game goes on, they react to their players and everything stats more dynamic. The second school is the planners, GMs who plan out things to a fine detail and run their world through the use of their various notes and pre-prepared NPCs.

Obviously, most of us fall somewhere in between. But it is good to know the strengths and weaknesses of both types. Pantsers generally have a dynamic game, where the PCs can truly go and do whatever. However, without prepared NPCs, the game can stall at times as the GM has to figure out what to do. It can also lead to the session not really going anywhere, as the game is almost too much at the whims of others. Planners on the other hand run into problems when the PCs go and do something unexpected, and trust me they will. When they're inside their notes, everything is great, but step outside and things go nuts.

Personally, I tend to be more of a pantser, but I am trying to become more of a plotter. I'm finding that I do better when I have more prepared, and my improv skills aren't getting much better even with more practice. In general, the areas I want improvement are all places that more planning  can fix easily. Things like having NPC names ready to go, with personalities and all instead of having to grab from a hat on the spot.

So, how about you? Do you tend to be more of a pantser than a plotter? Have you tried the other? What areas of your game would the other side of the spectrum be able to help you with?


  1. I'm a pantser, pretty much. I have an outline of the whole campaign plotted and a pretty large database of names etc to create NPC's on the fly, but if I have more than 10-15 minutes prep before a weekly session, it's a lot. And most of that prep is just looking up the gamebooks I might use, opening the correct files and getting tea. :)

  2. Pantser here too. My prep normally consists of drawing a map if I think it's needed and a few NPC names at the ready. I plan the challenges that the PCs will face and usually have a plot outline in my head. My issue us usually thinking of way's the PCs can survive what I throw at them rather than how can they be challenged.

  3. I peronally am a planner, but am trying to learn how to improv more. Part of this goes back to how I started out with D&D 2nd Edition, and I had those meticulously planned out. Now, we play indie games, which are much easier to improv (at least to me).

  4. I would definitely agree, Stacey. A lot of the newer games makes prep less important, as you don't have to carefully choose what monsters are wear or what you're doing with treasure. Which can be good or bad, depending on your view.