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Lemmy
2019-05-18, 09:04 PM
Hello, fellow gamers! How are you all today?

This time I'm here because I recently started writing a new campaign/adventure, but this time I want to have lots of material prepared, rather than only having vague guidelines and then only creating the specifics 2 weeks before the next game session. :smallbiggrin:

I don't mean creating creature and character sheets, I mean writing the campaign's general plot and events affect characters and setting. I don't intend to script-write everything, of course... This game is all about freedom, after all. Currently, I just use a couple text editor like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well a good ol' notebook with notes and flow-charts with the most likely course of actions/events (after all, it's possible and actually quite easy to have a general idea of how your players will act).

So... long story, short... I'd like to know if you all use any specific programs or tools to help you write and organize your campaigns, adventures and settings. What suggestions and experiences would you like to share?

Thank you all in advance for your replies.

Cheers!

Laura Eternata
2019-05-18, 10:23 PM
Two weeks? Pff, amateur hour! Thirty minutes before the session or bust!

I've always done the word docs approach. One file for worldbuilding and houserules (I'm a horror of a GM who forces about 40 pages of required reading onto my poor, beleaguered players before we start), one for names, and one for session summaries and NPC offscreen actions and plans. I've recently switched from hand-drawn maps to Inkarnate (http://www.inkarnate.com), which is really user-friendly and free, and just a few days ago I bought Flowscape (https://pixelforest.itch.io/flowscape) for preparing neat landscape shots of key locations.

Grek
2019-05-18, 11:28 PM
First, I find a high level 'wow, this is a cool idea for an adventure' concept. I have no advice for how to find these except to read a lot and write things down whenever something excites or amuses you.

Second, I work out exactly which parts of the idea actually appeal to me and which parts of the idea are incidental to the idea. During this phase, I also cross out anything that doesn't work well in multi-author fiction* and anything I know the rest of my RPG group doesn't enjoy.

Third, I ask myself "Okay, assuming those parts of the setting are all true... what 'rules' would the setting have to follow for this to make consistent sense?"** in order to decide my 'laws of physics' for the setting. Note that these don't have to be rules about how magic/technology/etc. work, it can also be rules about how society does things, or about what resources are available, or about what the demographics*** look like.

Fourth, I get a trusted friend to help me iterate on step three until neither of us can find any logical contradictions or undesirable results that are implied by the setting's rules/laws of physics. During this phase of development, the goal is to intentionally try to break/ruin the setting - if you can think of a scenario that would spoil one of the core story elements should it come up, you have to come up with a very good reason for why it is impossible for that to happen within the time and place covered by the story.****

Fifth, I populate the setting with a couple dozen NPCs. A hard rule is that every single NPC gets at least two mostly unrelated motivations - two things that they want to see happen or not happen - and that important NPCs who were expected to get multiple lines of dialog should ideally have three or four. I do mean everyone, up to and including wild animals who don't get talking lines at all.***** It is helpful here to have obvious conflicts between different motivations, both within the same NPC and between different NPCs, and for every NPC to have both a proactive and a reactive motivation - one which drives the NPC to go out and do things and one which drives the NPC to care about something other characters might do to it.

Sixth, I give the PCs (or make them give me) a series of goals and then let them bounce, pinball style, off of the various NPCs and setting elements that have something to do with those goals, with both of us watching the entire framework unfold and interact with itself, mousetrap style, as the PCs try to steer it in the direction they want it to go and all of the different NPCs try to steer it in the direction -they- want it to go.

*D&D and other TTRPGs are examples of multi-author fiction. The DM provides the setting, the conflict and the bit characters, but the players also have a big say in where the story goes, particularly when it comes to aesthetic and conflict resolutions. Compare novels and movies, which are single-author fiction - the same author who provides the conflict also provides the resolution to that conflict. There are a wide variety of tropes that work in single author fiction, but are stupid when applied to a multi-author story. For example, the Cosmic Horror genre has a proud tradition of its protagonists running screaming from the antagonists instead of trying to shoot them. This is very on point thematically, but in a multi-author take on the genre, you have to be ready for the possibility that someone will decide that they'd actually prefer to try their shotguns instead. As a general rule, multi-author settings demand an incredible amount of verisimilitude in order to function and for the implications of every element in the setting to have been previously considered and harmonized.

**Example: My most recent setting was a magical boarding school game in an original setting. A key trope of the magical boarding school genre is that only a small proportion of people can do magic, that the existence of magic is kept a secret from the non-magical people, and that magical people go to a special school hidden from the non-magical population as part of their education. This required that I come up with a justification for why people go to a special magical school ("Magic only works in the magic world, in the non-magic world, you can't learn magic."), for why magic is being kept a secret ("The existence of magic lead to life on the magic world evolving in weirdly different directions from the non-magic world, and concerns about diseases and invasive species has lead to extensive quarantining.") and for why only certain people have magic (This one is a secret in-setting and would spoil a not-revealed-to-my-players plot point, so I won't post it here. But there IS a reason, I know what that reason is and I can extrapolate additional facts based on that reason as needed to remain consistent with the rest of the setting.)

***This is a key one for urban fantasy settings. If you write in vampires that exsanguinate someone once a week, simple demographics suggest that you can only have a few hundred vampires worldwide before the increased murder rate becomes too obvious for vampirism to remain a secret. But if you make non-lethal feeding the rule instead of the exception, you can have hundreds of thousands of vampires before it becomes a problem.

****Example: For both my Magic School and Horror settings, a very real question is "What if the PCs decide to tell a teacher/the police about the problem and get them to handle it?" and the equally real answer was "Good question, let me think of a long list of situations where doing that wouldn't be viable, and make sure that those are in place whenever I want the PCs to deal with something for themselves instead of having an adult deal with it."

*****Example: In my Magic School game, the giant eagles who lived on the nearby mountains had the motivations of 1. "Eat at least three hundred pounds of meat every day to fuel my giant eagle metabolism." and 2. "Engage in dominance contests with other giant eagles in order to secure access to superior nesting sites." while their prey, the nosers (elephantine moles who were ranched aphid-style by 3' eusocial mantids) had the motivations 1. "Obtain as many leaves as I can fit into my mouth." and 2. "Remain within sight of at least two other nosers at all times." The mantids themselves and 1. "Protect the Hive from all threats." and 2. "Move nosers, especially baby nosers, underground to farm in our hive." The desire of the giant eagle to eat things was in conflict with its desire to pick fights with other eagles AND with the desire of the mantids to move the eagle's prey underground. Meanwhile the noser's desire to find leaves was in conflict with the mantid's desire to keep the nosers underground, and with the noser's own desire not to move away from the herd. The objective of the PCs was to obtain a live mantid and a live noser for their magibiology project.

Zhorn
2019-05-19, 02:21 AM
... I'd like to know if you all use any specific programs or tools to help you write and organize your campaigns, adventures and settings...

OneNote, just a generally great way to organise notes, especially while in the drafting stages.
I originally was writing my stuff in word and notepad, and often the longer stuff would have inconsistencies hidden in the middle of the doc that hadn't been updated as my thinking changed during design.
In OneNote, make a page for each character, place, event, etc. Everything you need to know about the one thing, it's on that page.

Kaptin Keen
2019-05-19, 02:56 AM
I don't. I come up with the concept of an arc, then improvise everything in between opening and ending.

John Campbell
2019-05-19, 04:54 AM
I make up a bunch of setting stuff in my head, write bits and pieces of it down in web pages until I get bored or distracted, and link my players to those to read. Then I dole the rest of it out (or make up more) during play as it becomes relevant or they ask about it. (I always have way more in my head than I've written down or told anyone about.) Then I come up with some stuff that's going on, preferably related to the PCs' backgrounds, and an encounter or two that'll get the party together and hopefully give them reasons to continue to work together, and the rest of it is largely improvised in reaction to the players' actions and the stuff they are or are not engaging with in the setting.

I specifically do not have a planned plot arc or intended outcome going in. Generally even the Big Bad is just whatever the PCs decide is the Big Bad. Maybe someone else takes care of any other things that they didn't deal with. Maybe no one does and their neglect allows those things to become Really Big Problems that they end up forced to deal with later.

My tools? A text editor, a web server, and some graph paper for drawing maps. Online random name generators are useful for when I have to pull an NPC out of my butt. That's pretty much it.

kebusmaximus
2019-05-19, 11:20 AM
Not my own experience but I'd like to add this article to the discussion:

https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

In short, don't prepare what you think the players will do or the scenarios you want them to be in. Just prep what the NPCs do, their plans, goals, and contingencies.

Lemmy
2019-05-19, 12:42 PM
Thanks for your replies, everyone. Always great to see how other players approach the hobby. A lot of good suggestions and advice here.

I'll specifically not kebumaximus' post simply because it's currently the newest one and because it actually mirrors how I try to write campaigns/adventures. :smallsmile:


Not my own experience but I'd like to add this article to the discussion:

https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

In short, don't prepare what you think the players will do or the scenarios you want them to be in. Just prep what the NPCs do, their plans, goals, and contingencies.
That's actually what I try to do... I write a few "things that will happen/are happening" and adapt them as the PCs get involved... But I still do try to predict their actions as well. e.g.: If a dragon is going to attack a village and I suspect they'll try to stop it, I add a couple "PC fight the dragon" paths in the flow chart... But I still maintain the "dragon destroys village" path there, in case they decide they have better things to do...

Although, to be fair, if they choose NOT to fight a dragon, there's probably something wrong with those players! :smallbiggrin:

Zhorn
2019-05-19, 06:39 PM
Although, to be fair, if they choose NOT to fight a dragon, there's probably something wrong with those players! :smallbiggrin:

Depends on how you've established dragons in your campaign and what prior experiences with dragons the players have had.
Dragons should feel like apex predators and should always be a deadly encounter or worse.
Players desiring an encounter with a dragon is normal, but the characters should view dealing with dragons as a serious risk to their own lives.
Players who don't show proper caution about engaging dragons in combat either haven't had a dragon encounter before, or have had DMs not play dragons deadly enough.

Quertus
2019-05-19, 10:16 PM
So, I run the world. Ideally, I've run the adventure without the PCs, and with several sample sets of PCs, before any actual PCs encounter the content, so that I have some idea what to expect, what could come up, etc.

For example, the most recent module I got, I ran 10 sample parties through it before the actual PCs saw it. It let me be familiar with the module before players started asking questions.

That was a little more obsessive than I usually get. Usually, I run more like 1-2 parties through the content. My goal is for the PCs to do something different than the sample parties, or the "there were no PCs" base case. Between that and the "herding cats" effect, I'm almost always answering some new questions - but at least I'm familiar with the general content.

Also, things I personally create are less like a harmony and more like a symphony. That is, I try to have far more going on than is "necessary" for one adventure, and let the PCs interact with whichever subset interests them.

Ken Murikumo
2019-05-20, 12:04 PM
I don't. I come up with the concept of an arc, then improvise everything in between opening and ending.

I mostly do this. I will note down some important things that i would rather not forget. I also plan for significant events that i can plug in, as needed and where appropriate.

The most work i've done is built an auto-filling excel character sheet and made a few mutations for the generic bad-guy troops the party keeps encountering. The sheets are built in a way that lets me plug in the enemies level and it fills the sheet for that level (level-appropriate equipment included).

I write up bosses from scratch and usually have a session or two to prep them.

Everything else is ad-hoc and improv. I am, however, guilty of the occasional Quantum Ogre; there's no point wasting a well made encounter. How would the players know that the 30 ft. tall eldritch horror that shoots blood out of its eyes was a reskinned mutant they skipped past by being crafty. They won't unless you tell them like a bad GM!

Great Dragon
2019-05-20, 03:25 PM
Hail, fellow Gamers!!

For Organizing, I like using Google Docs.
Docs is very useful, especially since I'm stuck using my phone a lot. And I can access the information at the Library to print.

For World Building, I like using the Forgotten Realms setting as a Base, and modifying it.
Things like: there is no Weave.
I have my own "Meddling Wizard".
The "Chosen One of Mystra" is an Arcane Cleric.

Now, I'll still use some of the established FR Characters: Mirt and Dungan. The new Blackstaff. Lady Silverhand is the current Open Lord of Waterdeep. (I have not really needed the Seven Sisters)
But, I do like putting in my own NPCs.

For Adventures: I'll take Modules I like (Old and New) and rework them.
My Old Keep in the World Building subforum was one example.

Jay R
2019-05-22, 11:24 AM
First, a fun idea. At various times this has been:
a world concept (my quest of the wanderers was designed around the assumption that the seven planets -- moon, Mercury, Venus, sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- revolve around the motionless earth),
a boss villain (in Flashing Blades, I always start with Richelieu),
a terrain feature (Ive set adventures in locations I know well at Philmont),
or other things.

Then I need to bring in other aspects -- the terrain, the quest or problem, the NPCs, etc.

I often choose my encounters based on cool-looking minis I haven't used lately.

But there is no set procedure.

hotflungwok
2019-05-22, 12:08 PM
My latest game started as an evaluation of the previous campaign (in which the players returned a box containing an archdevil to hell, it wasn't as evil a it sounds), and trying to figure out who would be unhappy about this and what they would do. I picked a few candidates, fleshed out their stories a little more, and came up with a series of goals for them.

With the overarching story in place, I was able to start putting in episodes, minor stories within the main story. I had to figure out what the players needed to get them invested in the story, to get them to really want to pursue it on their own without prodding from NPCs.

I plan out what the bad guys do, what the players see of this, what new things they learn, and any encounters I want them to have. After that I'm pretty free form and flexible, improving most of the little things (and writing down any decisions I make that might have significance later on).

I keep a list of fantasy style names, and assign them to NPCs as I need to. This makes it easier when the PCs meet someone new who I dont already have built.

Max_Killjoy
2019-05-22, 12:17 PM
I concentrate on knowing how the world of the setting works, on the framework and interesting details levels of the setting, and on knowing what makes important NPCs tick and what they want and what they're trying to accomplish.

The PCs "live" in world in motion, not on a 2d movie set that only serves as a backdrop for them to get their awesome on.

Decisions and actions by the PCs interact with the setting and NPCs to determine the course of events, there is no preplanned story as such -- I find the more I try to plan events in advance and pre-stage set-piece moments, the worse my games are.

Mark Hall
2019-05-22, 01:40 PM
I start with the general concept... what is happening in this campaign? This may be a single event that's sufficiently big to draw all the attention, or it may be several events.

I then lay out the local politics... who is involved, and what are their goals? Who is going to be looking to affect this? How are they likely to do it?

From there, I start laying out the starting scenario... where is the group, what are they doing, what is the first plot thread that is going to wrap itself around their throat.

So, for example, a few years ago I wrote a campaign set in the Dalelands. I had the elves coming back to Cormanthyr and declaring that they would enforce the Dales Compact as written (i.e. "You can't go into the forest, and we won't come get you out in the Dales.") I had some drow coming to the surface, who were trying to regain a measure of their power by becoming Lythari. I had a hobgoblin set up a Dale and demand legitimacy. Those were the "big threads" I saw going on.

With my big picture established, I look at who is nearby and what they're going to do about. What's going to be the Dales' reaction? Sembia? Cormyr? Hillsafar and the other Moonsea cities? Thay? All of these power groups are going to have their own agendas, and knowing what those agendas are at the outset makes it easier for me to decide how they react to individual events as they become aware of them.

Now, I can get down to brass tacks. How do I want to introduce the party to it? What information do I want them to have? For example, I know HOW the Hobgoblin acquired his dale, and his plans for it, but I don't know if I want the players to know that, or to discover it... and if they discover it, how much I want them to believe. But I can create a starting scenario and their starting information dump (always a page or less), and let them go from there.

Wuzza
2019-05-22, 02:17 PM
I tend to get drunk the night before, come up with loads of exciting stuff, completely forget it the following day, and scramble to remember as much as possible 1 hour before hand.

No, just me then? :smallbiggrin:

Mark Hall
2019-05-22, 02:45 PM
Also useful: A timeline for the players to **** all over.

What is going to happen if no player characters intervene? How will different plot threads resolve themselves as the game progresses if they group decides to follow another plot thread?

In "singular event" campaigns, this matters less, since the sides tend to be more clear-cut and there's usually only one thread with some frayed ends, but in more sandboxy campaigns? If you ignore the drow turning into Lythari, you're soon going to have a society of drow werewolves, and your only real option will be genocide. If you ignore the hobogoblin in the Dale, what's he going to hi-ho-the-derry-do? Since they're both broadly good powers, what's going to happen between the Elves and the Dales' Council?

As the game advances, the timeline will advance, and things will resolve without the players getting involved... this isn't Skyrim, you can't go back and resolve the love triangle between the three people in Riverrun after six months have passed... that's already worked itself out.

King of Nowhere
2019-05-22, 08:23 PM
I don't write anything down. I don't have such detailed plots anyway.

Simply put, I know hoow the world is structured, and I tend to at least have a good idea of the power relationship, who are the biggest baddest around, how much power can be mustered by specific leaders, and so on. I may write something here.
From this, I also get an idea of who have a villainous plan. I prefer to run shades of grey morality, so evil =/ villain; what I'm referring to is someone who has some idea that will create big trouble.
Then I figure out why their plan hasn't been discovered yet, and how it would unfold. Then I work in a way for the pcs to interact with it, and then I let it develop.

For example, I devised for my setting that the high priest of vecna had build a device to harvest the souls of everyone in a large city to become a deity. In my world the church off vecna had long since renounced evilness and become legal (was actually part of the plan), so everybody knew they had a stronghold in the city, but nobody was alarmed by it, or would ask to investigate the secret parts - the plan could not be realistically discovered.
Then I decided the ritual would also weaken the stronghold defences, so that when it happened the party would be there and would have a shot at stopping it. the high priest, being a lich, would certainly come back from the encounter, and it would lead the church of vecna as major antagonists for a while.

And that was all the planning for that. this plan shaped the activities of vecna, which interacted with the activities of the party along the way. For example, when the party started a war against some minor villains, the church of vecna had to try and stop it, because they wanted as many people in the city as possible to have more souls to harvest. they never sent assassins after the party, as that would have dropped the act, but they did help third parties who wanted to kill the pcs with informations. I got whole story arcs before it even started.

And I have a few more villains hiding around, having perfectly normal public relations bbut secretly harboring something. One of them triggered, by using the confusion of the war to take control of another major organization. This may or may not be a problem, as he's not antagonizing the pcs directly - except by removing the former leader, which was an ally.

And so on.
To make it short, I have some villains with long term plans, I know what they want, and I know how they would react to events and what resources they have, and that's all the real planning I make. And it's short enough that I don't need to write it.


Depends on how you've established dragons in your campaign and what prior experiences with dragons the players have had.
Dragons should feel like apex predators and should always be a deadly encounter or worse.
Players desiring an encounter with a dragon is normal, but the characters should view dealing with dragons as a serious risk to their own lives.

Also, dragons are sapients, so killing them indiscriminately is
a) bad,
b) something that will earn the wrath of other dragons, and possibly good aligned concerned parties

I gave several chances to fight dragons to my party, and they always preferred the diplomatic way. Since dragons generally had interests that would not conflict those of the party, they could always come up with good arrangements and even gained several allies in the process.

DanDare2050
2019-05-23, 08:52 AM
For D&D type games I map using a hex grid of 10 mile hexes. Plonk in some sparse civilisation. Name the biggest bosses. Then the biggest monster bosses "out there". I write an index in word and give each boss some agenda. I look for obvious conflicts.
I never stat. I use the monster manual as is, don't even roll hp, and some web pages that have lots of NPC stats.
On a sheet of paper I lay out the powers and draw a network web. Then I chuck some clues (3 clue rule) so on a normal campaign map that's about 30 clues. Usually just two or three word short hands.
Story Cubes : GM's best friend. Roll them a few times to generate an idea about the three most important things going on, overlaid over what has been put in place.
Random encounter tables : a universal one and then maybe some by terrain type and if I'm feeling really grand some special location ones. They should be things to encounter that can just jazz things up or connect to something already in place when they are chosen. My tables always enclude "projection" as an element, that means find something keyed nearby and have an encounter with something related to it, even if its just "you see a green dragon flying about 5 miles away".
That is way enough to get started.

Each session I use character creation and player driven things to connect players to things going on. Sometimes players muse about something and then its "yeah, that is exactly what is in the world". Anyone here played Technoir? I use its mechanism to create lots of NPC / player connections during play. More story cube rolls to handle quick back stories for random monsters and npcs encountered.

As detail expands I start breaking my word doc index into regional chunks for easy access. It also gets notes added during play.
I constantly type session notes as I GM. Its become a habit and I have learned to type, talk and improvise all at the same time. Later I go through the notes and further update my database. After about 6 months of a campaign I rework the notes, and chuck in changes to the plots and agendas, unless the players have already forced that which they usually do.

Oh and I have a stack of 5 room dungeons as "ready rooms" with three free floating clues about each of them. I will randomly chuck a clue to one in the players path. If they bite, or bite at a 2nd or 3rd clue later, the dungeon becomes fixed in place somewhere and the players may assault it or avoid it as they see fit. The dungeon denizens may become a local force or regional factor if left alone or if they remain active after the players leave.

Oh yeah, as Mark mentioned above, callendar times when things go off unless disturbed. Worked great for the build up of an orc army after the players had released some ancient orc king spirits, that eventually possessed some dwarves, who then went and started rebuilding the "great orcish kingdom". Also, patrol rosters in dungeons etc, always handy for a dynamic setting.

Aotrs Commander
2019-05-23, 11:50 AM
Weeks of preparation, typically. Either in the relatively simple job of converting a module or adventure path and work on expanding and tying it in (adding random encounters, beefing up the combats for the inevitably-larger-than-written for 7-8 characters, generating pre-rolled iniatives, writing player backgrounds1).

In the case of stuff for day games which I write entirely myself, set on my own worlds, this can be technically up to years of preparation (or decades in some cases), since I don't create a campaign world for the purposes of one party, I create a campaign world and then place parties on it (sometimes even in different times), plus again for the actual quest, many hours of writing, supplementary world-building, google-fact checking, sometimes resorting to crude CAD modelling to get size and scales right...

And this doesn't touch the purely mechanical work done in updating and improving and expanding the rules themselves.



1My rule for backgrounds, if I require them, is simple. You may write as much or as little as you like, and I will then - since I inevitable will know the world better than the players - will go through and add dates, times and places and Stuff Which Brings You To The Starting point (i.e events that happened to you); I will also often use this background to spread around information pertinent to the game/campaign. (I also NEVER use it as a chance to screw over the PCs and, for example, don't add dependants if the player's haven't nor would I (theorhetically) plan of kill off any such characters a player might have created - though sure, I'd reserve the right to imperil them or something if I thought of a suitable idea, since hey, it gets them on-screen, right?)

Zakhara
2019-05-24, 06:25 PM
In short, don't prepare what you think the players will do or the scenarios you want them to be in. Just prep what the NPCs do, their plans, goals, and contingencies.


Also useful: A timeline for the players to **** all over.

What is going to happen if no player characters intervene? How will different plot threads resolve themselves as the game progresses if they group decides to follow another plot thread?

These are the big ones. "Location-based" principles are strong, and leave one feeling less adrift when players [puts soap in mouth] all over things.

My previous, ambitious game used some leftover details from an abandoned 4e game. I took this, added a time skip and wrote up a sort of "almanac" for the setting. It gave some general ideas: places, common sights, relationships, notable figures, and key names. Enough for players to sink their teeth into, get some common knowledge, and have an idea of The Timeline without their intervention.
It also provided enough room for players to leave their thumbprint; this became important later and saved my bacon regarding a big plot hole.

lefty2shoes
2019-05-24, 11:24 PM
My advice is look up Matt Mercer's DM guides. You can get pretty far improving with a little prep but be sure to keep notes. I find as I get heavier and heavier into RP, there are so many more things to keep track of.

Personally, I prep by writing a simple outline of a number of possibilities, I review my notes from previous games and I make notes if I need to remind myself to bring something up in game. Having a couple of simple encounters ready is always a good idea. If you're using a virtual tabletop like Roll20, you'll need more time, but I'm sure that will get easier soon. ;)

Mark Hall
2019-05-25, 09:03 AM
In short, don't prepare what you think the players will do or the scenarios you want them to be in. Just prep what the NPCs do, their plans, goals, and contingencies.

Develop your NPCs like they're your own PC. Give thought to their abilities, give them a touch of CharOp (they don't have to be Pun-Pun, but unless you're making a point, you shouldn't have a 4 Str, 18 Int fighter, either). Know their goals, know their resources. If you know where they're going, and how they think, you'll be able to have their organizations make changes that are in line with their character. Did the Daggerdale operation get trashed? Well, crap, what do we do now?

Telok
2019-05-25, 08:06 PM
1: Prep an area. It can be anything from a continent to a small forest to an abandoned mine. Good: Make it unique and interesting to explore and fight in. Put in a clue or link to something else in the setting. Bad: Blank open rooms or areas. At least set something on fire so there's a haxard and some smoke.

2: Prep critters/NPCs. As much detail as you think you'll need, plus one little extra. Good: They have a mix of interesting abilities or quirks and ties into the setting. Bad: One dimensional personalities, just a beat stick, predetermined outcome, no options (like only one type of attack, only one social interaction skill can succeed, evil ritual will work despite all PC actions, etc.).

3: Prep timeline. Who does what when is the basic. Throw in shops closed for religious holidays, astrological conjunctions that change luck or magic for a time, the day that deaths door opens and anyone can do a ritual to speak with ancestor spirits, the day angels show up at every shrine in the world to check that the rites are observed. Good: Make the world and NPCs more believable than static video game settings. Have a handout or calendar printed out with publuc knowledge on it. Bad: Making people roll to know the major religious events or what weather is like during winter.

Narmoth
2019-06-01, 10:47 AM
In short, don't prepare what you think the players will do or the scenarios you want them to be in. Just prep what the NPCs do, their plans, goals, and contingencies.

Have to agree on that one. I usually figure out what will happen if the players do nothing. Then I know what will be modified and what survives when the players start doing something

jintoya
2019-06-01, 02:36 PM
Purely improvised usually, no plot figured, no BBEG until like half way through (gives me time to think up a fun one)
The only thing I almost always have is a custom setting and more custom monsters than you can shake a stick at.

I like it when players don't know if they can kill a monster, talk with it, it's weakness... They really like the mystery too.