Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Laying A New Foundation

This was supposed to have gone up at midnight. But I apparently am having issues with the new blogger interface which works differently from the old interface in a few key and annoying ways. Apologies.

In both of the games that I'm running I have ended up in an interesting position. Things in the games have changed. Things in the game have changed so much that a good amount of, if not almost all of, my prep work from the beginning of the game is nigh on useless. Some of it is due to PC power level and the scope of the game shifting from what I had planned for. Some of it is due to the deaths of PCs and NPCs over the course of the adventures. A lot of it is due to changes the players have brought in and the fact that much like in the real world: time marches on. Today, I want to talk about this.

Examine The Old Foundation
After about a year of gaming, especially if you've been hitting the world hard and heavy with a lot of player freedom, you've probably found a lot of cracks and breaks in your game's foundation. Places where things weren't shored up as strongly as you'd hoped. Places where the stress the game put on it was just too much to be handled. On the other hand, you'll also have places that have never been touched - entire clans have been left unexamined in my L5R game, for example. You want to look for these places, look at your early game notes, and see what it says about the game.

For example: places that have barely been touched are likely places that your players aren't interested in. If you have a whole political backdrop setup and no one interacts with it, the players could be telling you they aren't interested in politics. This won't necessarily hold true as the game goes on, but it is still important to note. Checking what you prepped, what was used, what wasn't used, and how the game worked will tell you a lot about your game. You will need this information going forward.

Check Your Plans For The Future
As the game goes on you've likely been planning what you want to do next. It can be hard to not think about it. A player does something and your mind spins off with new story ideas, plot twists, and maneuverings that can be done around it. There are also likely a lot of plot elements you've left seeded throughout the game that you wanted to come back to. Look for these and find out where they are. Also, really examine what you want to do with these things. These plans make up the future of your game, and if you're laying a new foundation to go forward you want that foundation able to handle these things, right?

Your Players Plans Count Too
Also, while you're looking at your own plans be sure to ask your players where they want to see things going. This is a hint to things the players may want to get into but just aren't sure how to go about it. Maybe someone who avoided politics early on now wants to start dabbling in them. Maybe the fighter wants to deal with being a land owner and a hero but not wanting to get involved in his lord's political/military affairs. Your players can give you a lot of ideas. More to the point, they'll tell you where they intend to take your game.

Give Yourself Time
This process takes time. A lot of time. You want to make sure you have it. In many ways re-laying your game's foundation will be longer and harder than the initial laying because you have the game itself to contend with. You can't just whip up a new world, because you aren't going to a world. The world needs to show the wear marks that the players have put into it. Otherwise, what was the point of all of that? Sure, you could reset everything back to nil, but trust me when I say that your players will get tired of that. No one wants to see their work erased. We all get a bit of a thrill when something we did before matters down the line.

For an example of the time frame I'm talking about here I can usually get a world going enough to begin a campaign in a day or less. It isn't unheard of for me to do a "prep meeting" with my players to find out what they want, and then 2 hours later be emailing them all an overview of the world complete with important country and family names. Super important characters - the key figures - can be done in that time as well, and the real foundation laying is done in the week to two weeks that happens between the first and second session when I have an idea of what my players are bringing to the table. Sure, it is quick and dirty, but that is still 1 day to 1 week to have a campaign ready to go. By contrast, I have a month to do the next wave of planning for my Deathwatch game, and likely 1-3 months for my L5R game depending on the players.

During this time with the Deathwatch game one of the players is going to run a short 2-3 session adventure for folks while I work. My L5R game will continue to run, but the foundation re-laying for that is to handle a significant time jump that is about to happen. In this time I am going to be plotting the next several arcs for each of the stories, but mostly I am going to be resetting the world to see how the players' actions have changed things from how they were in the beginning.

Do I need as much time as I have? Maybe not, but I want it. I want it so that I can be thorough. I also want it so that I have time to fill in some of the "wouldn't it be cool if this also happened?" aspects that are sure to come up. Finally, I want it because I've been learning a lot of new things about GMing lately and doing things well with it that I want to try. However, since I'm going to be trying out new methods for GMing, I'm going to need more time to do it right, no?

Your Thoughts?
Any advice for those looking to relay/repair their game's foundation and go off into the wild beyonds? Ever done it before? Sound off in the comments.

My apologies for no post yesterday. It completely slipped my mind that I didn't write one earlier, and my Sunday was booked waking to passed out back in bed. I'll try not to let such a thing happen again without at least a warning post about missing the day.

Also, not sure I like the new blogger interface. >_>

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