If you’re like me, you have times where you don’t want to prepare for your next session. Real life may be wearing us down, we may get sick, or we may just have the old “fear of a blank page.” (I’m also a water-colorist, trust me, I know ALL about that fear.) In this article we’ll look at some strategies for getting out of that slump. They are presented in no particular order, and use them to taste. They are not meant to be a step-by-step method for game preparation, merely ways to ignite a spark.
- WRITE ROUGH OUTLINE
And I mean rough. Brainstorm, list some things you’d like to use in a game, list some things that might interest your players’ characters, list some crazy stuff. Just get it down quickly. It doesn’t have to be a complete at this point. Don’t give yourself that kind of stress.
- DRAW A MAP SKETCH
Doodle, don’t worry about making it nice. This is what the French call a croquis, a rough sketch (not to be confused with the breakfast pastry). Often sketching a map will suggest additional possibilities for your encounters. This one really works for me.
- CREATE AN NPC
Don’t worry about stats for now. Just create personality traits for a non-player character (NPC) that you’d like to portray. I had a mildly interesting dungeon that had me in a slump, and then came Cantorio. Since I needed a prisoner, Cantorio presented himself as a flamboyant, slightly chubby musketeer-type who was being help captive. Was he terribly original? Probably not. But he got me out of my prep slump and I can’t wait to portray him using my best Antonio Banderas voice.
- STAT OUT A MONSTER
Sometimes simply paging through a monster book or flipping through some Magic cards will spark an idea. Think about a favorite movie monster and how you might adapt it to your game system. Can you plan an entire session around just one major monster?
- DO AN IMAGE SEARCH
If you have even a glint of an idea, an image search may suggest variations you never thought of. Even if you find just one new idea, it may be a springboard for you.
- DRAW OR PAINT AN IMAGE
If you are in any way artistic, this is a great way to revive your creativity. The image doesn’t even have to be all that fantastic. I’ve been able to use landscapes of forest paths, waterfalls, and mountains as backdrops for my online games. Plus art is a great stress remover, which also may help you out of your prep slump.
Just like any other activity, our interest in game prep will ebb and flow. However, when we know the game is coming up, sometimes we need a little help. It’s what chemists call the activation energy: the little push that gets us over the hill. Hopefully, these methods can help.
What other methods have helped you get out of your prep slumps? Tell us below and thanks for reading.
Find games that provides a list for how to create adventures, and settings that feed into that list
Unknown Armies list starts with “Choose a theme”, where the the book gives a couple of suggestions, and then continues with “Pick an instigator.” It’s antagonist that makes things going, and suggestions can be found all over in the book.
Start with the characters
Are there any special information in their backgrounds, any personality traits you can use, any skills, or equipment that you can make important?
Thanks for reading and responding Rickard. The third edition Dungeon Masters Guide (might be 3.5) has a 100 adventure ideas page. There are lots more online as well.
I wasn’t, however, talking about adventure ideas but a clear structure for how to write an adventure. Compare a list of film plots to Campbell’s Monomyth. I was talking about the latter, where the game world then can give inspiration to all the archetypes in the monomyth.
This is one of the reasons why I’ve been loving prep light Powered-by-the-Apocalypse games as of late. While you’re not completely absolved of doing some prep work, you can’t really do much of anything until the players tell you who their characters are and what kind of world they inhabit. That said, I promised my players I’d pick up our Eberron game this fall, and that’s using Pathfinder, so that’s going to need some traditional prep when I’m kind of out of practice. 🙂
Thanks for responding Angela. I can’t quite grok the Powered By Apocalypse games, but I do ocassionally run a homebrew rules lite system. I agree, not having to worry about every mechanical fiddly bit does free you up to think more about the elements of the session (NPC’s, especially).
Not sure how an rules-lite system would work for an ongoing, long-term campaign. Mine is not really built for that.