This past Saturday, I ended my Airship Privateers campaign for good. This is never a decision I make lightly, but it’s also not a decision I’m afraid to make once I’m sure it’s the right course.
I knew it was the right thing to do when it hit me that I’d rather rake the yard than do prep for the game. At the moment, I’d rather do just about anything than prep, including things — like raking leaves — that aren’t generally at the top of anyone’s list!
To try and make prep more fun (or at least easier), I’ve compiled a list of GM prep resources for RPGs for day 26 of the Blogging for GMs project.
But first, a question: why isn’t prepping for a game more fun?
The first answer, of course, is that for some (many? most?) GMs, it is fun. Maybe not as fun as running the game, but still fun.
The second answer is that sometimes it’s fun for me, too — there’s bad prep, and then there’s good prep.
For me, good prep is more like brainstorming, very freeform and with no real deadline attached. This is why I love coming up with new campaigns — because it doesn’t feel like work, and the boundaries haven’t been established yet. (Conversely, that sometimes means I over-develop for an upcoming game, which I talked about a bit in “Lead With the Cool Stuff.”)
Bad prep is more like homework: the ultimate goal is a good one (running a fun game/learning the most from a class), but the path to that goal isn’t very enjoyable. Unfortunately, much like school, there’s really no getting around that homework — most games won’t go very well without it (although there are exceptions).
To be fair, part of the reason I stopped running my ex-current game is unrelated to my general distaste for prep: my girlfriend and I just moved, and I’ve got two freelance projects on my plate. Even though I took special steps to make this a low-prep game (see “The Bones in the Soup” for details), I still have too much going on to run a game right now. (And since I write a blog about GMing, that feels a little bit weird!)
I’ve been GMing for a long time (17 years, at present) so you’d think I’d have figured out how to have fun doing prep by now — but I haven’t, and it remains one of my biggest weaknesses as a GM. I’m not in the habit of posting here on TT just to grouse, though, so with that in mind I did something constructive: I compiled a list of links to preparation-related resources for game masters.
This list is as comprehensive as I can make it, but I know there’ll be things that I missed. My goal with this post is to create a one-stop shop of links to resources that will help GMs prep for their games — if you know of a resource that should be on this list, let me know!
(It’s also worth noting that I’ve erred on the side of being too inclusive with this list. I’ve left off a few things that were too short to be useful, or only marginally relevant, but I’ve left on some resources that — in my opinion — are dated, flawed or otherwise less than ideal. You might disagree with my assessment, and I’d rather give you that opportunity!)
GM Prep Resources for RPGs – Online
Campaign Preparation – An Eight Month Journey
The Color of Adventure III: Preparation for a Roleplaying Adventure
Effective Game Mastering
The Fine Art of Winging It
5 Principles: Preparation
5 Tips For Sci-Fi Campaign Preparation
Gaming in the Modern World
Improvisation Tricks for Game Masters
I Was a Teenage Game Master, or the ABCs of Convention Gming
The Lazy GM
Player complexity vs GM complexity
Preparing for a Game
Preparing To Run A Commercial Module
Preparation of Material for a Roleplaying Adventure
The Proper Preparation of the Dungeon Master
Running Adventures with Little Preparation
Run Random Run Rampant
What do you do to prepare for a game?
GM Prep Resources for RPGs – Books
These books all have sections on or related to prep, alongside other GMing topics. The prep info in the DMG II and Advanced GMG is fairly system-neutral, so you might find them useful even if you’re not running D&D.
Advanced Gamemaster’s Guide, Green Ronin
Dungeon Master’s Guide II, Wizards of the Coast
Gamemastering Secrets Second Edition, Grey Ghost Press
There are some good resources on this list, but what surprises me is that there aren’t more of them. So either a) there just isn’t that much material online aimed at making GM prep easier or more fun, or b) I’ve missed one or more obvious things.
Do you see something missing? Let me know in the comments (and thanks in advance!).