Have you heard the proverb “Measure twice, cut once“?

It’s a good message for everyday life: A bit of planning can save you some grief down the road, more or less.

Unfortunately, that proverb doesn’t really apply to GMing.

In terms of prep, I equate “measure twice” with “prep more stuff, or more details for the stuff you have.” And as every GM knows, few plans survive contact with the players — which means some (although probably not all) of that prep may not be necessary.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve spent hours drawing a map that didn’t get used that night, instead of spending more time on something I knew was going to come up in play. I’ve learned to watch out for these prep sinkholes (and maps are just one example), but it’s often counterintuitive. More is always better, right?

Not necessarily. More is fine and dandy, and you can always use that spare map some other time — but if your time is limited (and really, whose time isn’t limited?), there are often better ways to spend it.

In GMing terms, I’d retool that proverb as:

“Measure once, and be prepared to wing it.”

Measuring twice will only get you so far. Sometimes, you just have to wing it, even if it’s outside of your GMing comfort zone.

(TT is in GenCon mode from August 9th-13th. I won’t be able to respond to comments or email, but there will be a new post every day, just like always.))