From a useful gaming advice thread on RPG.net:
“Don’t hold back or hoard ideas. If a cool NPC, scene, location, monster or whatnot pops into your head, use it as soon as possible. I’ve seen a lot of people saving their cool ideas waiting for the perfect moment, which of course never comes. The right moment is always now.”
This ties into my third point in “More Fun, Less Work,” but it was really brought home for me at this year’s GenCon — and it’s a great concept for home games as well as con games: put your best ideas out front.
I’ve been itching to try out the DragonMech setting for D&D, so I signed up for a DragonMech event at GenCon. Here’s a quick rundown on the premise of the setting: chunks of the moon are falling to earth, and the only way to survive is inside giant mechs — including some the size of cities, hundreds of feet tall. (I don’t know about you, but I love that kind of stuff — big ideas thrown together in a weird way.)
So what makes the premise of DragonMech cool? Big fantasy mechs. And what did we not encounter until two hours into our four hour session? You guessed it: big fantasy mechs. Worse still, the adventure didn’t involve the party having a mech of their own — we wound up with one, but I don’t think it was part of the scenario. Why bother making it a DragonMech adventure if you don’t get to play with the setting’s niftiest toys?
To my mind, if the coolest thing about the setting is the mechs, then the characters should all be deeply involved with mechs within the first 15 minutes of play. And that goes for games other than D&D — and other cool ideas — as well. Why wait to get to the good stuff?
For me, the problem is that I’m a huge idea-hoarder: when I get a good idea, my first temptation is to nurse it in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to use it in a game — which is exactly the wrong approach! When I was planning my Selgaunt Campaign, I viewed this as an investment in future sessions — once we’d built up to a certain point, those ideas would really rock. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked.
Instead, they got written down, maybe developed a little bit, and then I never used them. And by “never” I mean that when the game ended after 18 months, we still hadn’t reached what I regarded as the heart of the campaign: the PCs taking over a badass invisible tower full of magical doorways. Looking back, I see how much more fun that game would have been if I’d plunked down that whole idea in the first few sessions, rather than trying to carefully build up to it.
I’m reading an excellent book of writing tips right now (Robert’s Rules of Writing), and one of them, “Go For Broke,” talks about this very thing: saving your best stuff for a future project. It’s not a good idea when you’re a writer, and it’s not a good idea as a GM, either. If you leave your cool ideas sitting on the shelf, so to speak, one of two things is going to happen: you’ll slowly lose interest in whatever you first found so inspiring about them; or you’ll simply never reach the “right time” to use them at all.
I’ve been down both roads, and perhaps you have, too. Neither of them makes for a fun game, so don’t sit on your best ideas — use them!
Althoght, generally speaking, I agree with you, I thing that premise (“When you get it, put it”) isn’t always applicable. When I’m thinking about a new campaing, I tend to follow this procedure:
1.- Thing about a plot or mission. Put on a question it’ll be like “What is all about?”.
2.- Try to figure out several scenes as milestones of the whole plot. This milestones usually are thought following the introduction-crisis-conclusion scheme.
As the campaing progress I try to fit the players actions in it, and I usually have to create new subplots or submissions, but always having in mind the main plot in order the whole campaing advance. Bearing in mind the “star small” principle (posted here few days ago), now on I’ll try to focus more on the start of the campaing (introduction) and less on the conclusion.
Well, now my tesis on this post: When you have the whole campaing more or less designed, sometimes it’s really hard to throw and fit a new idea in the day by day playing. So, I’ll say that when you have an idea, for me, the best procedure here is to try use it ASAP but when it could reach the best performace in your campaing. For me It’s not just throwing it at any moment, just because it’s cool. It has to be cool but also has to fit rightly in the campaing.
Just my 2 cents.
(Quim) So, I’ll say that when you have an idea, for me, the best procedure here is to try use it ASAP but when it could reach the best performace in your campaing. For me It’s not just throwing it at any moment, just because it’s cool. It has to be cool but also has to fit rightly in the campaing.
You’re absolutely right: even the coolest idea won’t be much use if it doesn’t work for your campaign. That said, if you come up with something that really grabs you, it might be possible to alter it to fit your needs at the moment — while still retaining the aspects that grabbed you in the first place.
For example, if your cool idea was, say, an iron golem with wands of fireballs instead of hands (okay, that’s not that cool — but bear with me!), but your party is only 2nd level, you won’t be able to throw the golem at them. But you could have them encounter its wake of devastation at the start of a session, maybe see it in action later that session, and then find something that will help them fight it later on at the end of the session.
That way, they’ve seen the whole idea, it’s out in the open and still likely to inspire you, and they have something to work towards.