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View Poll Results: How much time do you usually spend preparing for your games and how much is just off-the-cuff?

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  • I spend countless hours. My motto is, "No detail left behind!"

    4 1.61%
  • My games are carefully planned, beginning to end. Very little is left to improvisation.

    22 8.84%
  • I plan out most scenes and encounters and fill in the rest on-the-fly.

    96 38.55%
  • I only detail major events and let the rest come as it may.

    78 31.33%
  • I know where I want the story to go, but I let whim and whit be my guide in getting there.

    31 12.45%
  • What happens in my games is as much a surprise to me as it is to my players.

    18 7.23%
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  Click here to go to the first special guest post in this thread.   Thread: Careful Planning vs. Winging It

  1. #151
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    I never plan a character out to that degree.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

  2. #152
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    Its a good topic, and i feel somewhat like i'm beating a dead horse, but i'll add some more here from recent observations. I tend to mix a lot of planning but be ready to wing it. One thing i do notice though is that while i always provide a way out, most of the players never take it. Its very rare that the proverbial monkey wrench is thrown into the works, as most of the PC's are vested in moving things forward down the path i've planned because the story is interesting and they want to participate.

    I have had groups (and still a couple players) that lean more to the "chaotic" side of things, acting more on whim. The rest of the group usually guides them along, but occasionally they will take things in a totally unplanned direction and i have to make up everything. 99% of the time, they will return to the main story line, but a year ago i had to shut down my main campaign because the characters had deviated just enough where things were feeling forced. I game them the option of continuing with the characters down a different path or bridging the story line with new characters. They decided the completely do neither - new characters, same general locale, no plot at all per se - the classic "adventurers". So now i've run a few months of adventuring where the characters have no home, are seen as trouble everywhere they go and a challenge to local power (i run realistic vs. high fantasy), have to pay for everything themselves, and go "find" adventure - basically the classic kill + loot scenarios. They've had to endure reprisal raids and the bad press with that, local law after them, and other things they never thought of and now we are coming back to fighting for a cause (they where the local Earl's bannermen before).

    Kill and loot scenarios are easy to just wing, its connecting them together that difficult. There's only so much of that to be done, its suited more to epic high fantasy i think where there's many targets for such things. Now, in anticipation of a switch back to a path for a cause (and here i've left it open - peace and justice - the "good" guys OR oppression and power - the "bad" guys. Their characters can go either way, but now i'm putting in 4-5 times the amount of planning. Rewards in my campaign switch from monetary to goods, lands, titles, services - these too are more difficult to balance out...

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

  3. #153
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    I find that no matter how much planning you put in, you will miss some small detail.

    That one detail is precisely the one the players will take... Meaning you spend hours for nothing, then have to wing it anyway lol.

    Such things as players picking up the gnome caster and spider climbing up a wall to get past an obstacle.

    But, it's these moments that make the game so enjoyable

  4. #154
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    Careful campaign planning, less tactical planning

    I've GM'd for many years and find that the best plan is to do somewhat detailed, but definitly long term camplaaing planning. I outline 3, 4, or more adventures/missions all tied together. Outline the towns, events and people the party will encounter. This gives everything context and leads to more motivation for the players (and characters). They know what they are doing and why, where they are headed next and the background. Ideally, I include a key nemisis that the party encounters early on, but is not ready to overcome. Then, later, they can "take revenge". Talk about motivation! Now they are not just going through dungeon hacking, but actually heading somewhere with goals in mind.

    As for the actual adventures/missions, I try to plan those in detail, but know that there will be a lot of improv as we go. So I'm prepared for that, and ensure that the bigger campaign stays on track.

    Warrior22
    http://warriorsandwisemen.com/

  5. #155
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    Last Saturday the group went on Vacation. Not the players the PCs. Yea, Vacation! How do you plan for that?

    I'm all in favor of detailed campaign planing. World building is always useful. If not this week then latter.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    Last Saturday the group went on Vacation. Not the players the PCs. Yea, Vacation! How do you plan for that? ...

    So where did they go on vacation? And did they have enough frequent flyer miles to cover the cost?

  7. #157
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    You have them get attacked by the Home-Sick monster.

  8. #158
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    I took one of my best friend's advice and created a tiddlywiki (link) for each campaign world that I ran. It gave me the ability to create all of the big items such as continents, factions and NPC's. The tiddlywiki allowed me to then drill down and build additional tiddlers for every additional item. This worked like a website because I could make links between items, NPC's or events and then just keep my netbook PC on my gaming table when I GM'd. It's also possible to print out all of your material and drive on if you needed to. Granted, this works best if you're building something pretty big but you could use it for smaller functions as well.

    It allows you to build on a little bit at a time and just print out what you can. It's effective for brainstorming and runs on IE and Firefox. You can build those contained subject containers and work your transitions in as you please. I think it works well for what I do.

  9. #159
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    I find the one file structure worrisome. All your eggs in one basket if you will.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

  10. #160
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    Sure it is but the back-up system is exceptionally incremental. A new save file is made every time the button is clicked so even though they are all in one basket and the file size is small to compensate for that.

    There is a way to link through http (relationally or absolutely) between documents so can decentralize it if you want. I don't practice that but it would diffuse that concern and mitigate that risk if regular backups by the coding and physical back-ups of your files don't do enough.

  11. #161
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    For me, it's never enough. I'm an admitted loon when it comes to backups.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

  12. #162
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    In that way, you can only lose so much in a single file structure as it is presented with that file. It works for me and the style that I generally like to GM. There are three of us that rotate our games in the same circle of friends but we're a teeny-tiny collective amongst the many other styles that are out there.

  13. #163
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    What I plan out are the major events in a session, usually 2-4. Some sessions have more some less, it just depends on where the players are in the campaign and what is occurring around them in the world. In the events that are planned out I normally go detail only about half of them, which ever ones are truly important. The others I have planned for any skill challenges or creatures they might face as well as various ways they can win without combat. Everything else is made up as they go along.
    Never trust a smiling GM, that's when they're dangerous.

  14. #164
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    I voted for "I plan out most scenes and encounters and fill in the rest on-the-fly", even though that isn't strictly true.

    What I do greatly depends on the medium that I'm running the game in, the system that we're using, the feel that I'm going for, the amount of detail necessary for the game's story, and what the players prefer. For example, in your average tabletop session of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, I'll make the zombies and come up with the basic scenario beforehand, then let the players run wild, filling in the details as I go along. Everyone goes into it expecting manic zombie-blasting action, and that's exactly what they get. Good times are had by all with a minimum of planning on my part.

    On the other hand, if I'm running AFMBE on a play-by-post site, with an eye towards horror rather than action, I'll plan out the major events of the game before I start recruiting players. PbP games require a greater level of detail on the GM's part, and horror demands a delicate balance of action and role-playing that just doesn't happen in an improvised game. I'll create the fine details while the game is running - play-by-post moves very slowly, so I can create later adventures while still running the current one - but most of it is pre-planned.

    The final case is that I'm running a heavy intrigue game in real life. In that case, I have to plan out everything beforehand. I have to know exactly what will happen if X occurs, what villain Y will do if Z is killed before five days have passed, and so on. The villains I run in games like that have incredible intelligence and Machiavellian cunning. Pre-plotting everything that they might do is the only way that I can run the characters convincingly.

    But "I plan out most scenes and encounters and fill in the rest on-the-fly" is the closest to the average, so.. yeah. I went with that.
    "I think that I think. Therefore... I think that I am!"
    - Jack Snipe, in Erfworld

  15. #165
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    No plan ever survives contact with the Enemy. - Murphy's Rules of War

    Ergo; plan as you will, you are going to have to wing something. Flexibility is the mark of the good GM. Knowing this I don't plan too carefully. I present problems, never solutions. the players will invent the solution.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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