Can most of us run without prep time? Probably. Can we run well without prep time? Probably not. While prep time differs for different GM’s, we can’t eliminate it entirely. There are outlines to be prepared, maps to be drawn, statistics to be looked up, and so on. Sometimes we don’t have the time we’d like, and sometimes we don’t have the energy. So are there any silver linings in all of this? Here’s a few thoughts.
Limited prep time helps us refine our time management. For example, I always carry my notebook with me (or use Evernote on your phone if necessary). When I get “dead time” waiting for someone to finish a piano lesson or to get back to the car, I can jot down a few notes. Even a few minutes here and there goes a long way. (And don’t discount a paper notebook, they never need recharging.) Also, limited prep time helps us develop our project management skills. Most of us develop a general format to follow when preparing our notes. It might even spill over into other parts of our life. I’m planning my notes and handouts for a new course I’m teaching this fall. I was surprised to find myself using a session notes format when organizing this course.
If you are willing to spend just a little extra time and effort in your preparations, you can find another silver lining: using stuff more than once. I (almost) never prepare a new scenario if I am running a pick-up game. I either use something I have already run, or something that I am working on for my regular group. This way I get double duty out of my prep time. Also, you can often “reskin” your old notes even for your regular group. Change a few spells or special abilities, and you have an entirely different opponent. As you prepare your games, you might even want to make monster or NPC cards. After you have run a few sessions, you’ll have a stack of familiar foes for pick-up or convention games.
Lastly, prep time can be good for you. It’s a chance to forget about real world troubles and escape, even if only for a few minutes. It builds a little playtime into your day, which some experts think helps our mental and emotional health. And if anyone sneers at you spending time on your “goblin game” just remember that Tolkien said the only people who don’t want you to escape are jailers.
How about you? How do you fit more prep time into your days? How do you make the most out of your existing game scenarios? Does prep time make you a more relaxed person or help you in any way in your real life? Let us know below.