GMing

A friend asked me

When you are GMing, do you wing it, or come up with solid plans and subject matter (then wing it if the players take a different direction) or do a combo of the two?
I wing it.

However, I spend a lot of time thinking about the game between sessions. Occassionally, I'll scribble down a few ideas, but generally I leave big decisions about the direction of the game for the morning before, and mull it over through the day. By then, I have a reasonable idea of the main themes: interesting NPCs, interesting settings, and some "plot tricks".

My current GM plans heavily, and it pains me. He spends hours each week preparing for the game, going so far as to print things out, put things in folders, prepare NPC monologues, review all the PC character sheets, etc, etc... But then when the players blow the plan, or glance at the printouts and toss them aside, I think to myself, "Why bother?!?" I feel like my GM is wasting most of his time, and I worry that his feelings are hurt because of it.

On the other hand, I've seen other GMs "wing it", where it didn't work... So perhaps it depends on the GM.

But besides that, the best sessions I've ever played (as opposed to run) were in games that were made up the hour before the game started! ...I used to be into the "independent RPGs" community. ...Generally, we were playing a new game every week. Coming up with the game world was usually half the fun.

I will admit, however, that the wing-it method does make for some awkward pauses: the group has completed the session's themes, isn't motivated to do anything, I don't feel like throwing random encounters at them, and I'm not sure what to do next.

But RPG sessions are usually so casual, that these pauses seem (mostly) to be construed as "time to grab some munchies and chat with friends I haven't seen in a week"... So there's time to think up stuff while the social aspects take over.

In my experience, that's the worst part of RPG'ing as adults: it's so hard to see one another often enough to game that it's the only time you see one another... And the temptation to just "visit" is super-strong. It wasn't a problem in school, because you saw these people nearly every day.

Anyway, I find that prep time is directly realated to frustration with the game. The more effort you put into your game, the more disappointed you are when the group isn't really "into" it. ...Most of the fun of RPG'ing comes not from the GM, but from the dynamics of the group. Let them do the work: you just facilitate.

1 comment:

r_b_bergstrom said...

Hi. I'm Jeremy's former GM, the guy he mentions in this post.

I'd like to say, that I just plain disagree with his general point here. Sorry.

I think that "prep time" is a lot of fun. I enjoy game theory enough that it's no chore to me to dream up new systems, balance my scenarios, and plan the next big tale. In fact, few things recharge my batteries after a long day in the coal mine (or retail store) like scripting/plotting and challenge-building.

It's not like I don't improv. My players went way off course all the damn time. That's actually why I did so much prep work. Things designed for one session, but cast aside, would turn out to be useful weeks (or entire campaigns) later.
The cool thing was I understand my worlds and NPCs well enough that I almost never have any regrets at all about anything I improvise.

And if I were to make a list of the top 10 gaming experiences in my life, 7 out of 10 would involve things that took weeks to set up. It's like a really solid final reel in a movie, with all the major plot threads neatly tied together.

So it's kinda sad that I must have given him the impression, somewhere along the line, that my feelings are somehow hurt when players choose to go where my planning didn't. As long as you're taking an active part in the game, I'm thrilled to have you throw me curves.