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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. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malruhn View Post
    ten minutes into playing, nearly every group I have ever been with have strayed from what I had expected - as well as all of the possible OTHER ways I expected them to go (and had prepared for!), and then I wing it.
    That is definitely the way of things in my games as well. What I do is I plan my encounters and scenarios in a sort of modular fashion. I once watched a novice DM spend an enormous amount of energy trying to steer the players into a particular place, so they could find this graveyard he had planned out. Unfortunately, that made the whole thing feel rather forced. So, my advice to him was instead of planning for the characters to travel to a particular city or place so that they can find a specific graveyard, just make the graveyard modular and ready to drop into where ever the characters might travel. If the characters don't even go to a city, then perhaps they discover a forgotten and remote graveyard in the wilderness. Designing the scenarios this way lets you be ready to adjust the story to accommodate what the players do and maintain the all important illusion of player-choice.
    Robert A. Howard
    Pen & Paper Games
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  2. #17
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    The big problem I've found with heavy planning is the damn PCs decide they don't want to go in that direction, which means I've just wasted hours of time planning out some really fantastic things! That's why I just plan major plot points and let the rest fall as it will like quite few of the other posters have said.

    But, I do plan location specific events which will happen whether the PCs are there or not, which makes the world more alive in my opinion.
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



  3. #18
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    Those damn PC's.! Damn them to hell. They shouldn't ever go against your plans. Ever!.

    It's why I draw maps prior to the campaign start. Just to have the world laid out in case they go east when they were originally going west.

    Just because East is the 300th level of the Abyss, now that's their choice for going in.

  4. #19
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    I had to answer differently at the moment than I normally would. I typically run pretty much by the seat of my pants, juggling major events and plot threads while letting character actions and logical world reactions be my guide.

    The Shadowrun game I'm running right now is a bit different due to the nature of the story. I'm drawing on so much of the official canon that I find myself spending hours and hours reading OOP sourcebooks and websites to make sure that what I'm doing this time makes at least enough sense to not cause a "wtfbbq" for anyone. Also different is that this time my players are all well versed in the Shadowrun game and world. While I don't let this keep me from changing some canon or introducing new things, I am performing a bit of an experiment in seeing just how much from the "past" I can use, so it's a lot of fun.

  5. #20
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    Generally, I'll map out the area (if I need to draw it) and make the npcs and plan out the nights game. But a fair amount of skill in the winging it department is necessary when being a DM because one thing you can't plan on is what your players will try doing. Sure you can assume they'll most likely behave in one of two or three ways, but not always.

  6. #21
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    It's been a lo-o-ong time since I made a map.

  7. #22
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    No stone undrawn and no option unexplored is my motto. As much as my PC's combat evil I have to combat their stupidity.

    I still don't understand why players need to touch everything with the tip of their swords.

  8. #23
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    Hehehehe... touching everything with the tips of their swords, indeed!

    I guess I wasn't too clear up above. I now plan each location and all the important people, then determine how they will interact with the players and each other - and then let the players decide if they go in through the front door or through the second floor window.

  9. #24
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    As most already know, PCs never do what you want and find delight in derailing your carefully laid plans. I no longer stick to my guns on adventures, and GM with more fluidity now.

  10. #25
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    The only things...

    ...I am super zealous on planning are:

    ...dungeon/stronghold composition and layout, traps defenses in place spell effects ambush points, deadfalls, oh yeah!

    ...and NPC's/monsters. I couldn't use a vanilla version of a creature if you held a gun to my head, maybe the necromancer trained (ensorceled?) his minions to have different feats, but I tend to swap out the printed feats with whatever tactic fits the space, or with whatever I want to drill my players on (I'm a teaching DM, if you survive my bootcamp you will know how to grapple, turn/rebuke, trip, and bull rush; if I'm feeling froggy, you'll know the advanced shooting into combat soft cover variant)

  11. #26
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    I usually, but don't always, have a basic idea in mind, but I do very little planning, except maybe in my head. Often, my players will just call and want to get together and play. I've been GMing for 25 years now, and know my players well.

  12. #27
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    Like several others have said, since the PCs seem to always go off in the only direction that you have not planned for, I have the basics of each encounter covered but am flexible to start improvising in the party goes off the beaten path.

  13. #28
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    I like to have the overall plan in mind along with the required encounters detailed to some extent.

    At the moment I'm running some canned adventures so I spend the Friday and Saturday prior to Sunday's game preparing. I break out my folding table, set up my gear, and break out the scenario. I read the mission through, then again while making notes relevant to the players. Some of the calculations (such as negotiation + charisma rolls) are done in the margins. I'll even practice some of the phrases so they don't come out wooden.

    For example, if I'd winged one comment an Ork made to the team, it wouldn't have worked due to the phrasing. Since I practiced it, and even made a few notes regarding how I wanted to phrase it (slightly different), when I made the statement, it came out just right and the team laughed.

    It sounds like a lot of prep, but it's really so I _can_ wing it. I know the general story and what the results should be. Then the team can interact with bar owners, Lone Star, and various other unimportant encounters without losing sight of the goal.

    Plus I can prepare props as necessary. Some of the missions called for certain items to be used. I drop the prop on the table and whomever has the prop is the one that physically has it. Then when the hacker gets nabbed and he has the lawyer's fake SIN, the rest of the team knows the SIN is lost and now what do they do? (Besides save the hacker )

    Plus right now I also refer to the core books because I'm still running in to things that aren't fully memorized yet.

    Carl
    GMing: Shadowrun 4th
    The Denver RPG Group - My Shadowrun Site - My Shadowrun Blog - Shadowrun Mooks
    I also administer the Mosaic and Stained Glass forums if you happen to be artistic


  14. #29
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    You can't plan for everything and even my plans are subject to change. Game prep is so I have the confidence to take it where it goes.

    I need my stats and hit points, that is about it. Everything else I can make up.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by MajereNoir View Post
    I always kinda thought this made me a lazy DM (hehe) but it seems I'm in good company! I used to try and make up a lot of detail, but I'd never get to use it... as invariably my players throw me for a complete loop (or the party turns evil and decides to kill the captives instead of set them free... I can't tell you how many times something like that has happened).
    Same feeling of guilt I had, same relief for me to realize that every GM has to become realistic between what he wants to see happen (matters a bit) and what players want to do as lame as it may be (matters more).

    Is it me or most active members of the forum are actually GMs ?
    Au gibet noir, manchot aimable, dansent, dansent les paladins
    Les maigres paladins du diable les squelettes de Saladins.

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