… and Prep in General
Hurray hurray, I think I’m just about done. Tight Zero Acts, tight Destiny fates, enough room for the whole thing to spool out in lots of different directions. Just what I wanted. I’ve got some physical prep to deal with, like printing up cheat sheets and whatnot (ye gawds there are lots of power sets in TBZ) but that’s just time, not brain power. New Mexico here I come!
Someone in today’s earlier thread (Aaron Griffin?) suggested I crowdsource prep. I don’t think that really works for me for lots of reasons, all tied into my own shortcomings and issues. I’m kind of a perfectionist (kind of!), and I hold myself to really high standards. So it might be an interesting creative exercise to see if I could use random creative tidbits from the ether, and I’m onboard with trying at some point, but … I dunno.
And of course the process itself is kind of the point, isn’t it? Getting those threads internalized. Staring hard at a relationship map. Letting the situation percolate for a while. So as much as I hate (“hate”) prep, I also appreciate the good parts.
Then someone else (Andy Hauge?) thought it might be interesting to talk about what makes prep fun. So let’s talk about that.
As a practical matter, I think some games do a better job of making prep fun and interesting than others. Building out Fronts in Apocalypse World? Can be fun, especially since the process usually happens after you’ve had that crazy ranging first session. It can also be frustrating or intimidating. It’s no wonder lots of very good MCs just skip it and run off the hip forever. I do, too, sometimes.
Torchhbearer is one of my favorite games to prep because of how they did the dungeon design rules. I’ve consistently and predictably had a fun hour or two of doodling up dungeons (although I haven’t run anyone through one in years).
Once upon a time I had a lot of fun with Robin Laws’ adaptation of Rune. Talk about a game inside the game! You had a budget with which you built your adventure, using this branching-logic tree system. Elaborate. Honestly not worth the time for what you got out of it. But ambitious, so ambitious.
What other games make a subgame of prep? I’m coming up short.
What would make prep fun for prep-haters? I’m not sure. Knowing a system really well definitely makes me hate the process less. The thing that killed me prepping TBZ was just the fact it’s been a couple years since we hit this game, and there’s such a heavy load of subsystems. I do remember, very sharply, that the advice for threat-balancing the big bads is uh incomplete. So, whatever, I wanted to emphasize the melodrama and Fate churn elements of the game more than the fighting anyway.
But the perfectionist in me says get it right. So I’m flipping between both a dead-tree and a PDF version of the game, reading and refamiliarizing. Exhausting. I’ve certainly spent more time between my silly survey last week and now prepping a game that will not last more than 4 hours.
My preferred prep:play ratio is probably more in the 1:4 range (maybe an hour of prep for a four hour long game) but it is what it is. In fact, there’s probably some kind of curve that prohibits this! Like, either you’re looking at no-prep games (either total improv or running out of a prewritten adventure), or you’re looking at games that take no less than 1:1 prep time. Examples in between are few and far between.