Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preparation vs. Procrastination

I'm not sure how most DM's prepare for an eminent campaign, but I feel my methods are touched by that infamous teenage procrastination. Rarely do I have more than a general inkling of what's going to transpire during a game session, and even then it usually occurs the day of. On multiple occasions I've gone with a story arc I thought of just moments before.
I know the ramifications and problems of my world and therefore the session to session specifics seem to come naturally. Along with solving the ever present problem of "the PC's bypassed my dungeon completely..."
One of the DM's I most admire literally sits down at the table with a d20 and is able to unfold an enthralling story, no notes or paper in sight. While I personally aspire to this style, I have also played under DM's who take copious notes, come to the game with photo-copies, and make meticulously beautiful maps. There is definitely something to be said of a DM who can physically hand you a piece of parchment bearing a royal summons or a tattered treasure map.
Whatever the case, it is nearly impossible to successfully make a detailed outline of the plot because dnd entails so many random factors. And often the best plot devices and characters evolve from the PC's actions.
In this case I think procrastination, or the inability to sit down and plan has actually helped me become a better DM. Lack of fact encourages heightened creativity, making for interesting advances. What is lost is solid technicalities, buys the element of surprise. For your players and for yourself, keeping the game fresh


  1. Sometimes I come up with my best stuff at the last minute - makes the game feel more vital.

  2. Agreed! There is nothing like improvising on a few good ideas. "Preparation" is just as much thinking often about the logic and background of your campaign, as making detailed written plans.

  3. For me, dreaming up interesting NPCs and general situations is the best preparation. This is what I do while daydreaming anyway, so prep time is pretty minimal. My games usually involve a lot of classic D&D-style exploration of confined spaces, so I do need maps for that stuff.

    Last weekend I played with a DM who rolled a d6 to find out what room of a dungeon you were stumbling into. No maps! Just wander rolls! Pretty easy and interesting! I might try it out sometime.

  4. I just ran my first ever session yesterday and I was very prepared. I even had a tattered parchment notice that I created myself and handed to the players when their characters saw it. However, barring handy monster stats, I can see how it could be interesting to play a more improv type game. Do you think that your kind of game works because of the quality of the players? I can imagine a game becoming quite dull if the players felt lazy.

  5. First off, congratz on running your first session! :D
    May there be many more to come

    I think there is definitely a learning curve for both PC's and DM's, but when it comes to actual style, I think it's all up to the DM. The player's can choose to not be involved in a carefully structured world as well as an improved one. Though I do find there are certain aspects of the Improv style that PC's respond better to; for example, a DM who is building on the fly can create an NPC who embodies a long running joke at the table, or make any creation that spawns directly from that sessions situations. I also find that sometimes planned endings of sessions or situations just aren't as appealing as the ones newly created. Without a plot structure you may find a way to end on that perfect ironic note that just enthralls the PC's like crazy.
    Happy DM'ing!