Tales of a Newbie DM

Prep Part Two

So I’m back with the end of my article about prep.

So yesterday we talked about my original and flawed process that led to the downfall of many of my games. So today I will talk about my current process, and how much better it works for me, Like I said before, prep is a very personal process, what works for me might not necessarily work for you.

So to start with let’s talk about what the parts of the process actually mean.

When I say I read a lot of different sources, I usually grab all the source books published for the setting I intend to run, and take a flick through them, There’s no point reading everything in them, most things won’t apply to me, so I read about the area I’m going to start my game.  Then I go into a little more detail on each of the surrounding areas.

It’s important to know where the players might move to, I do run very free roam games, I don’t put a big overarching storyline in place straight away, I like to see what the players will do, I like to put important NPC’s and Important Characters in that the players might meet and see where they go from there.

Then from there I start to read all the information I can online as well, and combine it with what I have already learned to get a more personalized setting, it’s not important to be 100% accurate, it’s very important however to have something fun to play with…

Then I grab a few notepads from the store. For the next few weeks I continue to read books about the system I’m running, or information about pre-generated monsters. Throughout this phase I write down every idea I have, no matter how stupid it seems. I write it down and forget about it.

Now at this point it’s probably been around two weeks, I’ll have a notepad full of information page numbers and ideas. So I flick through it and grab all the good ideas, and write them down separately. Write down all the page numbers I need, and then I start to generate NPC’s.

Some people like the run their NPC’s of the cuff, I like to have people that I can draw on, and people who can recur who are planned ahead of time. So I generate them, mostly just a few notes of a personality, a description and a name, Ok so normally I forget to put a name… but I have been getting better.

Ok so I have my NPC’s, I have my setting, I have my system, now it’s time to get the players to make their characters. For this step I find it important for me to know the setting very well, It’s important to know what restrictions I want to put on character creation, sometimes a specific race isn’t aloud, I only ever allow books I own, things like this make it easier for me, and a lot better for new players.

It might limit the players but it also lets you have other things to use as rewards later, you shouldn’t feel you only have exp as a reward, when there is always other options, only recently in my WtF game did I allow my players to look into other books and actually use them.

Next week I will explain how I run my first session. Until then feel free to chuck some feed back in the comments below or PM me via the forum.

Check this page tomorrow for my first review.

Posted in Tales of a Newbie DM | 234 Comments

Tales of a Newbie DM

Prep – Part 1

First off, sorry I’m late for the week, I’ve had a hectic week at work so this feels a little rushed, but we will see how we go, Should still be interesting.

So Prep… Ok most people have their own unique style of prep, some people like to plan out hooks for each character, some people like to run off the cuff, Me I do something somewhere in between. I’ll explain later in this article but first I believe its important to chronicle my failures in this regards.

When I first started out, I was over preparing each session. I wouldn’t read enough on the background of the setting, I wouldn’t take the time to look back over my notes, instead I was focusing on my story, the story I wanted to tell, and not the story the players want to participate in.

Essentially I was trying to run a linear game, but it’s not really possible and it’s not really fun. A lot of my mistakes were obvious straight away, being under prepared in a few things, such as naming NPC’s or locations, the players would ask for a name of an NPC I forgot to name and I would freeze up.

So I started to run a game where I thought I had all the bases covered. It was a Star Wars Saga game, I named all the characters, I worked on a few worlds, guided the players through the game. It was working quite well to begin with, and then I decided I wanted to add a little story. Well I started putting story hooks in front of the players. Various events that I thought would trigger some kind of investigation.

Within the first session the players had inadvertently allowed someone to be assassinated. This didn’t work out. They ignored it, So they hunted around on the planet they were on largely oblivious to the hours of work that had just been wasted. Then they moved on to the next planet. Durring flight they ended up aboard a Ship controlled by them Empire. It was being attacked by a rebel force.

Now the way I thought it would play out, was that the players would escape and eventually hook up with the rebels and then they would be offered a job. Unfortunately one of the players decided he wanted to destroy the ship, so went to the engines and rigged them to blow… Well he died, but the rest of the group survived. But my game didn’t, another 5 – 10 hours’ worth of prep wasted… the game is currently on indefinite hiatus.

So what did I learn? Well a lot, a few very important lessons, such as don’t ever think you can control your players and bend them to your will, and never over prepare something, unless it can only go down one way, there is always the chance it could be skipped.

For now I’ll just give a quick rundown for what I do, then I can expand on it in the next article, this one is turning into a novel…

So there is a few steps I follow, but I start with a lot of reading, I read all the source books I can find, watch all the movies I can watch in reference to the setting.  Then I write down all the things I like, all the notes that seem important. Then I write down every idea I have in a notebook, and come back to it later. Now comes the real part of my prep. Ok that’s it for today. I’ll post the second part tomorrow.

Feel free to send me a PM via the forum or post below with feedback

Posted in Tales of a Newbie DM | 556 Comments