There Are Many Articles Like It. This One is Mine.
It’s been, shall we say, a bit of a rough day. Nothing serious is wrong, but my partner and I spent some time in the ER very early this morning, starting at 3am. This afternoon, the Head Gnome (John Arcadian) reminds me that I have a post I need to write for today. (This on the heels of my having missed my Wednesday deadline earlier in the week; we’re going for transparency here.)
So, it’s 7:57pm on Thursday night and this post has to be set for consumption by 2am Friday morning. (Logistics, we have them.)
Crunch time happens to all of us in various ways. We’ve got little time, but have something we’ve got to get done. In my case, it’s often GMing. Work, the podcast I run, writing—it all keeps me really busy and I value the time I get to wind down and relax. So when the clock’s ticking, I have some tried-and-true methods of getting through it.
Shall we? Let’s shall.
Don’t Be Afraid to Flip the Script
Today’s article was supposed to be more Camp Adventure content. When I write those articles, I write content for the supplement itself, then I write the article. It helps me get progress made on both fronts.
Today, that wasn’t going to happen.
When it comes to game time and I’m low on prep (or energy or both), I’ll often change things up to make sure I can still give something of value to my players. Sometimes that’s rescheduling the session and having a board game night. I try not to do that often because we really look forward to RPGs (and we record them, so it messes with the schedule).
What I often do instead is replace what I had originally planned for the session. That’s just fine by me. I improvise a lot, so I need to give myself the tools I need to make sure the session goes well. I don’t get overly concerned with where the story is going to go because I try to let my players drive that anyway.
Lesson: if you need to, throw out your old plan and make one to get you through the session (or the article you need to write).
Keep It Simple, Silly
When making this new plan, I don’t get too complicated. I love the idea of having intricate things planned, but sometimes you just need to give the players enough to run with the session.
What I do is take a look at what I’ve got planned for the session and I strip it down to its bare bones:
- Plot hooks
- Set pieces
This gets me in the door. I put plot hooks first because I know I can get my players to dive into the session and chew the scenery if I give them the right hook. Those usually come from NPCs I’ve already made or that they need to meet. And those conversations (or combats) need to take place somewhere interesting. Those three things make sure that I can give a good session.
Lesson: Bare bones, but interesting ones. Make sure you give the players (or readers) something of substance.
Be Up Front
I started off this article by telling y’all exactly why you’re not getting more Camp Adventure today. I wanted to set expectations and make sure you knew that despite my circumstances, you’re getting some helpful content.
I think a lot of GMs aren’t willing to have similar conversations with their players. If I’m dragging and haven’t had time to prep as much for the session, I make sure my players know that up front. We all love playing together, and it helps get us on the same page. It makes sure that they know they might need to invest some more energy to make sure the session goes well.
Even if I’m not running behind, I try to do this with my group. Touching base with your players is the best way to make sure that, regardless of circumstances, everyone’s getting what they want out of your campaign or session. It’s the same reason we close most articles here at the Stew by asking people to leave comments. We want you to be engaged and informed, and knowing how an article hit you is a valuable part of that.
Lesson: Communicate about the game outside of the game. Set expectations and check to make sure everyone’s on board.
Self-knowledge is the best tool you’ve got when it comes down to the wire. I know I can write a useful article on a tight deadline. (For reference, it’s 8:15pm right now. I’m a writer; when it comes down to it, this is what I do.) If you know yourself as a GM and are continually investigating how to improve yourself in that arena, you will eventually have skills you know you can rely on.
I know that if I give my players good hooks and get them engaged, we can have a good session. So I use the above things to make sure that happens as often as I can. Even when I’m not running behind, those are the core principles I use.
Lesson: Know yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself and give yourself more blame than you deserve. When it’s crunch time, focus on what you can do well and do it so everyone has an enjoyable time.
No one likes to feel like they’re behind the 8 ball. That said, if you focus on what you’re willing to adjust, can pare things down to the basics, are transparent about where you’re coming from, and trust yourself, you’ve got a good chance of being able to pull things off well.
What do you do when you’re behind and need to be ready? Let me know in the comments. Also, in about two weeks’ time, there will be another Camp Adventure article. I’m not missing that deadline again.