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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    So there have been many statements over the years that have never quite sat right with me. Things like "the GM has put in the work so they should get final say" or "I don't like improvisational systems because they ask me to do the GM's job" and it took a bit of thinking but I think I have the problem: Why must being a GM be a job?

    By job I mean "requires work". Particularly any work that has to be done outside of a session because of the amount that has to be done. This does not include going over and above because you want to. For instance you can run a game with a simple plot, go rescue the princess from the dragon type thing (and you can probably come up with a more original story than that in the moment) but you can also plan an epic tail with Macovelian plans and soap opera level of tangled relations. Maybe your players like that and it makes the game better for them, but the game works without it.

    OK so why is it bad? Role-playing games are a form of entertainment that tends to have a fairly high bar to entry. Having homework to do outside of that isn't going to help with that. Also making running a game take less time would help me start one. I'm not going to go on long as although there is some debate how important it is, I think it is pretty self evident it is an advantage.

    Despite that though I think it is something people seem to forget it. So I would propose the following as a design ideal (something that a system should aim for even if in reality you can't get it every time): No preparation should have to be done outside of a regular session.

    So preparing encounters - whether combat, social, stealth or a chase scene - should be possible to do on the fly. NPCs shouldn't have to be created ahead of time. Nor should PCs for that matter, and this would be a great time to point out that doing in during a session does not mean its instantaneous, just that you don't have to break the flow of the entire session to do it. So organization and timing can be important as well as the amount of work. So PC creation can be bigger because it doesn't happen as often and people often do it all at the same time.

    I guess it all comes down to this: the GM is a player too. Sure "player" often means the other players and we say "run" a game instead of play. But it is a form of entertainment, something people do for fun. And lowering the bar would let more people join and take less out of those who are already here (or let them spend more of their time and energy on the pieces they want). To me it sounds like a great idea.

    [Also yes this is kind of a remix of my last thread after I thought about it more.]

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    The only things I really prep mechanically for sessions are maps, because being online means I need digital maps. In person I did those on the fly, drawing on a wet erase map.

    I plan lots of stuff, but it's more power relationships, world building, etc. And that's not work, it's most of his I have fun. So for me, I get to play all week where the players only get to play during the session.

    But in general, there's a tension between having detailed, consistent, lush worlds and narratives and being able to build it on the fly. And systems don't really help with that, unless they're highly prescriptive about how the world works and what's there. Which is railroading by another name. Silly comedy games can do it quick, because consistency and deep world building are secondary if not counterproductive.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2021-01-01 at 09:15 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    If you have ever GM'd, you understand that it involves a mix of preparation and improvisation.

    On one hand, I like designing a world, drawing maps, creating political, religious, social settings, etc. So I don't feel like that's work. There have been times where I have been unable to find a group to DM, but I find that I am still designing in my free time. So I don't look at it as "work". If you do look at that as a chore, you might not like being a GM.

    On the other hand, no matter how much prep work you put in, your players are going to find something you didn't prep. For example, lets say you put days of "work" into creating a very detailed city.
    -You say "You enter the market square at the center of the city. There are numerous brightly colored stalls with Merchants selling their wares. Too many customers to count are wandering around buying selling, haggling, etc. A crazed looking street preacher is standing on a box giving a sermon to several onlookers. Two bored looking city guards stand at one end watching."
    -Player: "Are there any beggars?"
    -You: "Ummm... sure."
    -Player: "I go up to a beggar and talk to them, see if they have any information"
    -You: Crap. Didn't prepare any beggar NPCs.
    So what I do now is prep only NPCs that are important to the plot. I use Random NPC generators for everything else. I prep a rumor table with information, both True and False, that of gossip going around the town. Usually I prep enough rumors for a 2d10 roll.

    That's how I prep social encounters now but I tend to use a lot of random generators for other encounters too.

    But that's what I do. This is a video by Zee Bashew on his DM style which is even more sandboxxy.
    "Sure, Philosophers can say 'But how do we know the sun will rise tomorrow?' to which the correct response is 'Shut up nerd! Stop playing 3D chess against your own brain and find something real to worry about'."

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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    No preparation should have to be done outside of a regular session.
    That's one of the main selling points of STaRS!

    Speaking more generally, tho, I find that purely mechanical prep is a relatively minor part of the job. I have to dedicate much more brainpower to all the other elements of the game--designing adventure sites, worldbuilding, coming up with interesting NPC personalities, working out the plot-chains of "well, if the players do THIS, than this faction will do THAT..." (And, these days, preparing virtual tabletop maps). And outside of GM-less storytelling engines like Fiasco, those parts don't really change. I'm currently running Exalted 3e, which is about as complicated a system as you can get, and I'll regularly go weeks without having to prepare any new stats or encounters, while still laboring over sandbox elements and plot-chains.

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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    But in general, there's a tension between having detailed, consistent, lush worlds and narratives and being able to build it on the fly. And systems don't really help with that, unless they're highly prescriptive about how the world works and what's there. Which is railroading by another name. Silly comedy games can do it quick, because consistency and deep world building are secondary if not counterproductive.
    I am going to go out a limb and say having a fixed setting is not railroading, even if you didn't tell the players about it ahead of time. Consider Skyrim and one of those Final Fantasy games called "Final Hallway" by their detractors. Despite the fact these games say the same amount of about what is in their world (which is to say everything) there are not even close to as linear as each other. Now one could construct a world that forced the plot to be linear or you could go out of your way to avoid that as most good RPG settings do.

    Only other thing I have to say in actual defence of all this is play actually spends a lot of time on existing setting information. Usually they don't rush from town to town, plunging it for historical details before running to the next one. Or no group I've seen plays that way, maybe yours does. Point is the I've been able to improvise towns at a level of detail we would explore even in a prepared game. Except that one time the GM did not prepare enough detail so I started filling it details as the local guide and got the OK to keep it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trafalgar View Post
    If you have ever GM'd, you understand that it involves a mix of preparation and improvisation.
    I have played and run systems where that is definitely true. I also have run an easy to prepare system which if players showed up now I could be running in... minutes, I'd have to print some character sheets out and that kind of thing. So its not inherent to role-playing even if there are systems and styles that assume it that is in a sense their choice.

    -You: Crap. Didn't prepare any beggar NPCs.
    Why would I need to prepare a beggar NPC ahead of time? I've got there social standing to go then I just need to decide on a general appearance (probably poorly dressed and malnourished), maybe give them a reason to be a begging if I don't want to use straight economic hardship, maybe they are a wounded solider from the last war (or monster attacks depending on the setting) so I'll add some obvious injury to their description, maybe their shoulder is bent and they never move their arm after a mace blow. Maybe they feel a bit angry for being abandoned after putting their life on the line for the city, maybe still proud and begging hurts their pride. In that case they would probably be happy to help the PCs a bit for a few coins so they feel like they are working from them. Then it just comes down to what type of information the player wants and if someone could know that by hanging around town. Or being in the army if it not about current events so much.

    That was a pretty easy paragraph for me to write, describing story elements is much easier for me than communicating ideas.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    There are multiple "kind" of preparation:

    (1) "Basic knowledge" preparation. It includes reading the rules in details, reading your character sheets / monster block to know all your powers, etc.

    (2) "Content" preparation. It includes creating NPCs (stat block and/or personality & background), going through potential story-lines, world-building, etc. For players, this is mostly building their character.

    (3) "Gameplay" preparation. It includes drawing maps in advance, getting tokens/figurines, preparing a set of music to play, etc.

    The (1) is a reasonable expectation for everyone around the table if the system is complex. "How much time does it takes" depends a lot on the frequency of the game sessions, and "How important it is" on the length of those. => The easiest way to get rid of it is to use a simpler system.

    The (2) is the one of the reasons why peoples have a sense of ownership of some part of the game they played. The world created by the DM in his free time belongs to him/her, and same for the character created by a player. Contrary to the story created during the game sessions, those creations have (usually) a unique authors. This is a great source of emotional attachment, for good and bad.
    => It's much more about player (and DM) personality and expectations than anything else.

    The (3) is on the "not necessary at all, but nice to have". The minimal I had was during my first year of high school were we used to play in a 6m^2 room with no tables, few chairs, the rulebook and dice, and pens and character sheets. You don't need more to have fun, but that doesn't mean I want to be back at this minimalistic setting.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    J-H's Avatar

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    I do a lot of advance prep. I'm not very comfortable coming up with an NPC's name, appearance, and motivation(s) on the fly while 5 people are waiting for me to say something.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    The chef is an eater, too - wouldn't the world be better if all food was TV dinners?

    No, there is value to the effort - it produces things that you cannot get out of effortless GMing.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    I find that purely mechanical prep is a relatively minor part of the job. I have to dedicate much more brainpower to all the other elements of the game--designing adventure sites, worldbuilding, coming up with interesting NPC personalities, working out the plot-chains of "well, if the players do THIS, than this faction will do THAT..." (And, these days, preparing virtual tabletop maps).
    exactly. and while some of those parts are fun, not all of them can be fun for all different masters. for me, i tend to come up with worldbuilding in my free time, but setting up adventure hooks - in particular, adventure hooks that are consistent with all the worldbuilding - is a chore. and then preparing stuff to flesh out those adventure hooks, because improvising won't get you the same quality.
    sure, you can improvise all and do a half-assed job of it, but it will be half-assed.
    most important to make dming stressful, though, is the responsibility part. if you are a player and didn't work on your background story, you'll lose some opportunities, but that's on you. if you are the dm and you don't do your homework, the other players will feel it. so you now have a duty to produce content. even pleasureable activities become less pleasureable if they are a duty.

    that said, there are perks to dming, and your hard work is certainly rewarding - and generally rewarded, if you have decent players.
    but the goal of requiring no preparation work? forget it. there is no way to achieve that without watering down the content horribly. running a premade module where the players never try to come up with anything off the rails would be a perfect example of it, and no, it does not compare to taking things more seriously.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The chef is an eater, too - wouldn't the world be better if all food was TV dinners?

    No, there is value to the effort - it produces things that you cannot get out of effortless GMing.
    very good similitude
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    I've got my eye on it. I haven't bought it yet because I've got stuck a list of things to get through yet. Question, is the built in setting the spirit western that had the thread in World Building?

    I'm working on my own system than includes content generation as part of the base ruleset. Now there are some thematic reasons for this so I don't think it was the original reason I did it (I can't quite remember what lead to this idea) but the fact it lets someone who isn't great at coming up with locals run the game is in my mind a definite bonus. The inspiration for that came from Blades in the Dark which happens in Duskwall, it is designed to happen in Duskwall and they have all sorts of tables in the back to help you generate parts of the city and even if you don't use them looking through them will help you get a feel for the city.

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    (2) "Content" preparation. It includes creating NPCs (stat block and/or personality & background), going through potential story-lines, world-building, etc. For players, this is mostly building their character.
    This is the type I am mostly referring to as I'm approaching this mostly from a system design stand point. Grod hinted at what I think the two biggest groups are: ideas and stats. Knowing what, on a narrative level, is around the corner or who this person is or what the evil plan is. Then the work you have to do to translate it into a form that is useable by the game. That work can very a lot depending on the system.

    As can the first group of learning work, so maybe I should think about that too? I haven't yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The chef is an eater, too - wouldn't the world be better if all food was TV dinners?

    No, there is value to the effort - it produces things that you cannot get out of effortless GMing.
    Two things, the first is I am talking about how GMing as a hobby isn't a job and shouldn't be viewed as such. Meanwhile chef means "one whose job it is to cook" so the argument does not apply. The second point is for what I think you were going for, hobbyist cooks.

    And? I understand that you can get more out if you put more in. Is that supposed to be some counter-argument to making it easier? Does making it easier to reach at least mediocracy make it harder to go beyond that? Something else?

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Two things, the first is I am talking about how GMing as a hobby isn't a job and shouldn't be viewed as such. Meanwhile chef means "one whose job it is to cook" so the argument does not apply. The second point is for what I think you were going for, hobbyist cooks.

    And? I understand that you can get more out if you put more in. Is that supposed to be some counter-argument to making it easier? Does making it easier to reach at least mediocracy make it harder to go beyond that? Something else?
    My phone was about to die, so I though I'd try the quick approach.

    The long answer is, it's complicated. Possibly more complicated than I can hold in my head all at once. So I'm not even going to try to explain it; instead, I'll simply start laying a few stones down on the path, so that people can start to see the direction I'm headed, and take it as far as they want.

    "you can get more out if you put more in" - sounds like you understand this. Hopefully, I don't have to define this component too well, and people will just know what I mean about cardboard cutouts vs thought-out locations, characters, and the like.

    One would expect, therefore, that systems which require more time from the GM would raise the floor on the final products.

    Of course, there are two issues here.

    One is the economics law of diminishing returns: putting more into X provides shrinking benefits. This is especially true when enhancing X comes at a cost to Y.

    The second is that X doesn't just have a single value - it's a complex matrix of values. Having perfectly detailed tactics and combat capabilities does me little good for evaluating how they respond to a love confession, or to starvation conditions within a siege.

    Thus, one would expect a system to optimize its required prep to focus attention on the parts that most need to be developed.

    However, the problem with that line of thought is that the required focus is not entirely system dependent. Oh, sure, one might say that the three pillars of D&D are Combat, Exploration, and talky bits, but those won't be exclusive or all have equal focus at any given table, nor will every GM need the same amount of time and prep to run any given level of these three. (My players often comment that I'm very good at extemporaneous - boy do I have them fooled).

    Further, a given element may have vastly different values for different elements of play - unless you roll a '1' when attempting to push the orc warrior off the cliff, and gently massage his back instead, I don't think his preferences are terribly likely to matter in most games.

    So, afaict, the question at this point is, how can a system encourage and facilitate - but not necessitate - a GM spending the correct amount of time on an element, given the play of the system and their table, and the GM's own talents and proclivities?

    Anything seem too outlandish, completely unfounded, or obviously missing so far?

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, afaict, the question at this point is, how can a system encourage and facilitate - but not necessitate - a GM spending the correct amount of time on an element, given the play of the system and their table, and the GM's own talents and proclivities?
    Well if I tried to restate my entire initial post in a single sentence it might look like this:

    Systems should take the minimum necessary time to run/play.

    People want systems that are consistent, easy to learn, cover common situations, are balanced (whatever that looks like) and so on. But this is just something that gets off that list. Actually maybe I should expand it to/pair it with systems to be easy to run. And sure we will probably never making trivially easy to run a great game with no prep-work, but why not try? Even a small win will make it easier, make it take less time or make your game better.

    Other than that I'm a bit confused about people insisting all good games require predation to run though. I've been in several games that were great but did not have an significant planning going on. So proof by counter-example, its possible for at least a certain type of game.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    I have a simple solution.

    Don't run games using systems that are mechanically complex or complicated and being a GM becomes very easy.

    I have run games using nothing but on the spot improv since 1988. My trick has always been to use systems that I can master. By knowing the rules I can easily just make things up on the fly. By using systems that don't need tons of stats for an NPC to "exist" I can easily make them up on the fly. By avoiding things like miniatures combat and dungeon crawling I can avoid having to prepare maps and terrain, making it much easier to improv stuff.

    However, this also limits my player base as only players who are willing to play the kind of games I run will be satisfied at my table. But I consider it a small sacrifice to make to save my sanity and time.

    So, yeah, that's my advice to a GM that wants to avoid a lot of "work" in their hobby. Find systems that are easy for you to master so you can improv easily. Also remember that not every NPC needs any stats really, most will need no stats at all, and many more will need a single skill or two. If prepping maps and terrain and "balanced" combats has become "work" and not "fun" then you are using the wrong system or playing the wrong style of game.

    There are also a few systems where absolutely no prep is encouraged. My personal favorites include Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard, both need very little prep as they are built to highlight an emerging narrative as opposed to a GMs prepared plot. I don't have any experience with them, but have been told by numerous individuals, that the Powered By The Apocalypse systems are also built with emerging narrative as a central design aspect.

    There are thousands of different RPG systems out there, find ones that are easy for you to use and being a GM is no "work" at all.

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    I've got my eye on it. I haven't bought it yet because I've got stuck a list of things to get through yet. Question, is the built in setting the spirit western that had the thread in World Building?
    Sort of? The rules are presented as setting-agnostic, but Cowboys and Fairies is in there as the sample setting and fractal*, and most of the examples use a character from there too.

    *My technique for building fleshed-out campaign settings: you start with a premise, come up with three plots going on related to said premise, three places for each plot, and then three people for each place.

    I'm working on my own system than includes content generation as part of the base ruleset. Now there are some thematic reasons for this so I don't think it was the original reason I did it (I can't quite remember what lead to this idea) but the fact it lets someone who isn't great at coming up with locals run the game is in my mind a definite bonus. The inspiration for that came from Blades in the Dark which happens in Duskwall, it is designed to happen in Duskwall and they have all sorts of tables in the back to help you generate parts of the city and even if you don't use them looking through them will help you get a feel for the city.
    One of these days I really need to read Blades in the Dark--I really only keep hearing cool things. Any sort of system to help with the non-mechanical work of GMing can only help.

    STaRS (and STaRS Lite)
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  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Well if I tried to restate my entire initial post in a single sentence it might look like this:

    Systems should take the minimum necessary time to run/play.
    And that is exactly what gets my first reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Other than that I'm a bit confused about people insisting all good games require predation to run though. I've been in several games that were great but did not have an significant planning going on. So proof by counter-example, its possible for at least a certain type of game.
    And why isn't all food microwave dinners?

    There are several answers.

    One - the one that I am focusing on - is that some people find some value in some of the things that you cannot get out of a microwave dinner.

    Sure, you can run *certain types* of great games with no prep.

    Sure, you can run *certain types* of cons during an elevator ride.

    Sure, you can cast *certain types* of spells in under 6 seconds.

    Maybe you can even make *certain types* of good food with 5 minutes in a microwave.

    But that offers no benefit to those who want *other types* of good.

    Also, designing for and focusing on "no prep" atrophies the ability to produce those other types of fun. But that might be beyond the scope is this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    People want systems that are consistent, easy to learn, cover common situations, are balanced (whatever that looks like) and so on. But this is just something that gets off that list. Actually maybe I should expand it to/pair it with systems to be easy to run. And sure we will probably never making trivially easy to run a great game with no prep-work, but why not try? Even a small win will make it easier, make it take less time or make your game better.
    I think that the key here is to make sure that your system involves no *unnecessary* complexity, no *unnecessary* effort. Having to do the work to get to 9*9=81 instead of just estimating it to 100 is necessary work in many instances, unnecessary effort in others. Understanding every use case for the system, and not *forcing* 81 when 100 would always do - and not *forcing* 100 when sometimes you actually need 81 - is the key to me not responding with

    Or, in other words, I like the simplicity of 2e D&D, where I can almost just write "Wizard" on my character sheet, and be done… coupled with the complexity of 2e D&D, where, instead, I can choose kits / skills & powers variants / create custom classes with the DMG. 3e scratched the latter itch, in spades, but left the former playstyle… rather unfulfilling.

    So, for me, at least, I want to see how the system can facilitate both prep and no prep, and do so efficiently. How to make a system that doesn't get in the way.

    (I hope this makes sense - I'm pretty sleep deprived ATM)

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The chef is an eater, too - wouldn't the world be better if all food was TV dinners?

    No, there is value to the effort - it produces things that you cannot get out of effortless GMing.
    Conversely, if you're cooking for your kids every day and all they want is Grilled Cheese or McDonalds, there's no much point in cooking a 5 star meal.

    Analogy breaks down because you hopefully don't force your players to eat healthy meals for their own good.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Conversely, if you're cooking for your kids every day and all they want is Grilled Cheese or McDonalds, there's no much point in cooking a 5 star meal.

    Analogy breaks down because you hopefully don't force your players to eat healthy meals for their own good.
    Not at all - that is a perfect example of how the analogy still fits (I think): not all meals suit all individuals, cooks can get distressed at how their efforts are unappreciated, and many eaters feel forced to eat the food presented to them, despite how unsuited to their pallets it may be.

    Certainly, I put a lot of effort into things for my games that my players may or may not appreciate, because the world-building is first and foremost for… well, I was going to say, "for me", but I think that it is more accurately "for the world". Whereas there are several "spices" that, much like in my cooking, I often forget to use.

    Although I may still be running on sleep dep (I can't remember, which isn't a good sign) so this might make absolutely no sense.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    To zarionofarabel: Yeah its great. I play a lot of rules light systems and you could say this is me trying to articulate part of why I like them.

    To Grod_The_Giant: Perhaps I just should of said included setting. Also I had great fun reading Blades in the Dark, its kind of like a slightly heavier Powered by the Apocalypse system. Its really leverages the fact it is a specialty system and has a fixed setting and fixed campaign premise to improve the rules.

    To Quertus: I have several scattered comments to make.
    • Reducing the required work still has value before it hits the ideal of no preparation. I believe the quote is "That perfection is unachievable is no excuse not to strive for it." - The Paladin. Put more directly some improvement is still an improvement.
    • Why would the design lessons not be transferable between game types? Not all of them will be but there should also be some. Having less rules or extremely PC driven doesn't work everywhere but there are lessons that can work elsewhere. For instance any system can structure NPCs differently so that they can be built differently and that is usually a good trade-off because you made many NPCs and they are not usually that important.
    • May you get a good night's sleep.

  19. - Top - End - #19
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    Chimera

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Like others have said, a GM is a player in the same way a chef also eats the meal. The chef does a lot of work cooking for two hours, while say four other people just relax: but everyone eats the meal.

    Improv is a skill, just like both game knowledge and first hand game experience. Some GMs can improv effortlessly, for some it's a struggle and some just can't do it. Like anything else.

    Lots of RPGs are complex, it is one of the fundamental things that makes them different then other games.

    But not all RPGs are complex. 1E D&D, as well as the OSR reto clone games are great examples of simple games that need zero prep time. Even 2E D&D can count.

    As a GM that runs both OSR games and 5E games, I can tell you the big thing is what the players want and expect from the game. In general:

    In a OSR game, the GM can just say "it's a fire troll and it shoots fire at you" and roll some damage. The players just give slight nods and the game goes on. The GM does not need to "make" anything...the fire troll just happens, it can do anything or be anything...really just like anything in the game.

    5E D&D, well the players want and expect rule details. They want and expect to be fighting things and having encounters exactly defined by the crunchy book rules. They want that fire troll to have a set stat block that follows the rules....even if they don't get to see it.

    A perfect comparison is the group sees a fire troll: The OSR group is simply "monster, lets attack". The 5E group is quick to make Intelligence Checks to find out "secret and unknown things" about the creature and hope for some type of crunchy rule advantage.

    Though, in the end, my advise is to simply play the zero prep games.

  20. - Top - End - #20
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    One of the things that's always lost in the prep discussions is that there are different types of prep, and they are not all created equal.
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    The type and amount of prep that is conducive for a satisfying game depends on the game you want to play.

    If you want to play a mystery investigation game, where the players need to be clever to solve the mystery, the GM needs to prep an actual mystery.
    If you want to play a mystery investigation game, where the point is to collaboratively improvise a story where the characters solve a mystery, you don't need to prep it.
    Both games can be fun, but they are different types and have different needs. I find the first the most fun, so ditching all prep is not really an option for me. It's however a matter of realizing the minimum of what I need to prep to support the style of game I want to play. Mostly, it's the scenario structures, relation between npcs and locations and so on. Most of the details and statblocks can be improvised.

    If you want to play an OSR game where the players can make clever decisions on where to explore and how much risk to take, the GM should have something prepped to allow for meaningful decisions. I like how Chris McDowall in Electric Bastionland tells the GM step for step what to prep. Yes, there is some prep, but it is condensed to what will actually have payoff for the game, while still leaving lots of room for improvisation and providing tools for being further inspired.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    My favorite GM prep quote is from Eisenhower: "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything."

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    I've learned myself that you shouldn't plan for scenarios, you should plan out characters with motivations and abilities who are going to try to do what they do regardless of whether the PC's interfere or not, and whether they stop or help is up to them. Instead of tailoring things to them, make a world where they are a deliberately unseen variable or outside context problem to the situation- and that its up to the PC's whether they have an effect or not. In short, make a bunch a things that are meant to be derailed.
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  24. - Top - End - #24
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    I've learned myself that you shouldn't plan for scenarios, you should plan out characters with motivations and abilities who are going to try to do what they do regardless of whether the PC's interfere or not, and whether they stop or help is up to them. Instead of tailoring things to them, make a world where they are a deliberately unseen variable or outside context problem to the situation- and that its up to the PC's whether they have an effect or not. In short, make a bunch a things that are meant to be derailed.
    Bolded for emphasis.

    One of my tricks to do so is to make the agendas of various PCs deliberately incompatible. That way, even if the PCs do nothing, at least one of my plans will get derailed.

    It stops me from being too attached to any of them.
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    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    I've learned myself that you shouldn't plan for scenarios, you should plan out characters with motivations and abilities who are going to try to do what they do regardless of whether the PC's interfere or not, and whether they stop or help is up to them. Instead of tailoring things to them, make a world where they are a deliberately unseen variable or outside context problem to the situation- and that its up to the PC's whether they have an effect or not. In short, make a bunch a things that are meant to be derailed.
    Oh yeah. My strategy is usually to map out two-thirds of an adventure: I introduce the setting and the issue at hand, present a couple possible paths to solve it, and then sit back and see what happens. Not having a specific ending planned out makes you much more receptive to Crazy Player PlansTM.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    I've learned myself that you shouldn't plan for scenarios, you should plan out characters with motivations and abilities who are going to try to do what they do regardless of whether the PC's interfere or not, and whether they stop or help is up to them. Instead of tailoring things to them, make a world where they are a deliberately unseen variable or outside context problem to the situation- and that its up to the PC's whether they have an effect or not. In short, make a bunch a things that are meant to be derailed.
    yes, that's how i plan too. however, that requires a lot of preparation. i need to figure out npc plans and motivations, and place them correctly, and then double check everything to make sure there aren't any glaring problems with those plans - it wouldn't do to introduce the villain as a master manipulator only to have his plans be riddled with oversights because i didn't think them through. and then i have to find ways to make the players stumble on those plans.

    an example of this, my most recent story arc was caused by two brothers with a tricky plan for becoming gods. they engineered some bacteria that zombified animals; adventurers are sent in to deal with the zombie plague, they turn undead a lot. the bacteria are made specifically to gather the divine energy unleashed by turning attempts; they collect it and bring back to the two brothers. repeat for several decades, you build up a respectable hoard of divine energy.
    that was the general plan, and it was simple enough. but i had to spend a lot of time figuring out the details.

    how are the brothers escaping detection? they live in an area of wild magic that effectively masks the divine energy they gather, makes them impossible to scry, and also provides a perfectly good cover for why zombies keep spawning. but then, how are they living there when i established that even the most powerful casters were unable to overcome the hazards?
    and how are they recovering the bacteria? my first plan was for the bacteria to teleport, but upon reexamination, i realized that was a terrible idea; first, the bacteria have limited energy to gather, they can't spend it on high level spells. second, they gather divine energy, that's less suitable to teleport. third, they can't reliably teleport inside the wild magic. eventually i came up with a very convoluted system where the bacteria become spores, that are collected by rainwater and brought to the river running inside the wild magic area, where the magic field reawakens them, and then they start following chemical signals emitted by some algae that the brothers also manufactured, and good thing i know enough biology to come up with all that, or i'd still be slamming my head against a wall.
    and then, the brothers are not evil, they took measures to avoid their zombie plague to spread. how, exactly? the explanation involved a lot of notions of epidemology, something in which we all got a crash course in this last year. on the plus side, this caused the zombies to act weird, something that the players could notice and investigate.
    and through all this, i had to be very careful to not contradict any of the established limitations i set for magic, or any of the facts i established about the wild magic area.
    there are a ton of small details i had to arrange to make the whole plot consistent. the very exhistance of two brothers is one such detail: it was a single dude at first, but i realized i needed someone highly competent in both arcane and divine magic, and a mystic theurge just wouldn't be powerful enough in either.

    in fact, for me most of my planning time comes from this. what exactly is the villain doing, and how are those other guys reacting, and how can i have the pcs stumble through all this, and how are those people going to reach when a wild element comes into their careful plans?
    and this kind of preparation is completely independent from the system. We may be playing freeform, but i'd still have to figure out all that stuff. playing 3.5 i have additional issues with preparing stats, but that's not a problem, and that's work i don't mind doing. i also don't mind coming up with scenarios; it's the details the problem.
    and having some content generator would never help with that, of course. sure, you can run a generic hex crawl with randomly generated content. it's the rpg equivalent of microwaved dinners.

    in my experience on both sides of the table, the best adventures come from this kind of setup. you have a living, complex world. you have plenty of schemers with carefully laid plans. you unleash the pcs through all of that and watch how they tangle things. and there's no way to cut any preplanning when doing that. not if you want the same content quality.
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  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    I've learned myself that you shouldn't plan for scenarios, you should plan out characters with motivations and abilities who are going to try to do what they do regardless of whether the PC's interfere or not, and whether they stop or help is up to them. Instead of tailoring things to them, make a world where they are a deliberately unseen variable or outside context problem to the situation- and that its up to the PC's whether they have an effect or not. In short, make a bunch a things that are meant to be derailed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Oh yeah. My strategy is usually to map out two-thirds of an adventure: I introduce the setting and the issue at hand, present a couple possible paths to solve it, and then sit back and see what happens. Not having a specific ending planned out makes you much more receptive to Crazy Player PlansTM.
    So… "characters and motivations and abilities" isn't bad. Depending on how much like a module I'm writing things out, I may do something similar, or something more like "(intended) actions, results, reasons" or "intention, method", coupled with resources, personality, and… information gathering / attention / when will the various actors realize that one or more of their various plans need adjustment.

    However, a different trick that I'll use is to plan everything out, 100%, as "this is what happened in the alternate reality where the PCs didn't exist". Then my very strong goal in playing the game is to see *what* the party changes.

    Of course, I'm also the type to run several sample parties through an adventure, to both familiarize myself with the content, and figure out some of the questions that might get raised during the adventure.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The chef is an eater, too - wouldn't the world be better if all food was TV dinners?

    No, there is value to the effort - it produces things that you cannot get out of effortless GMing.
    But the chef gets paid and if they are good enough can gain renown around the globe, with their recipies being cooked by many different chefs for many different people.

    The chef may love to cook, but he ain't doing it for free.

    Production has value, we live in a capitalist society, the negative connotation of DMing being a "job" doesn't come from the fact that it's unrewarding, it comes from the fact that you don't get paid.
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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    But the chef gets paid and if they are good enough can gain renown around the globe, with their recipies being cooked by many different chefs for many different people.

    The chef may love to cook, but he ain't doing it for free.

    Production has value, we live in a capitalist society, the negative connotation of DMing being a "job" doesn't come from the fact that it's unrewarding, it comes from the fact that you don't get paid.
    While it isnt common, some GMs get paid. Swag and snacks are common ( often in games i have been in, the gm doesnt need tp toss in for food) . I have seen tables toss in money for a gm, gms for pay, heck i even raised money for childs play running cuthulu in the past.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: I Want to Play Too: A GM's Workload

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    I like how Chris McDowall in Electric Bastionland tells the GM step for step what to prep.
    I just spent a few hours checking it out, and I'm ... very unimpressed. It has too much of the same failings as PtbA. Lots of amorphous stuff that don't actually mean much. They're both like reading Life Inspirational Quotes on social media.

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