Thursday, May 10, 2012

P is for Preparation

(I know this is sort of a duplication of my E post, but I didn't get much of a response to that one. Thought I'd try a different letter and see what happens...)
Ah, the dreaded question regarding how much prep time a GM should spend between game sessions. Ok, perhaps it's not that dreaded. Or is it? There's been lots of discussion across the blogosphere about this, and I've seen many pundits espouse various "equations" and magic formulas on the subject.

Anyway, I would say that I spend about an average of one solid, concerted hour of prep for every three-hour game session I run. This prep time is spent cleaning up notes from the last session, devising new hooks / potential plot threads / "quests" / whatever you want to call them (both from the results of player actions in the prior session and new ones that I want to formalize), creating NPCs as needed, etc.

BUT, there's a lot of uncalculated time I spend daydreaming about game night, jotting down ideas at random times, skimming quickly through my various game materials for inspiration when the mood strikes, etc. I do this often on most days, and I really don't know how much of this "informal" prep work I am doing.

Getting back to my formal prep time, I sometimes wonder if the time I spend is enough. I'm not sure if it's just some mild self-doubt, but I sometimes have the feeling that I'm not prepared as I should be. I can't quite put my finger on the source of this feeling. I do have limited time to work on campaigns due to my life circumstances. I think my feeling stems from sometimes getting frustrated with the small amount of time I have to prep.

I think if I had more time, I'd be able to better flesh out some more details of my setting, or develop more detailed personalities for NPCs, etc. Perhaps this feeling stems from my background in AD&D and games that involved more character development. I just want to invest my campaigns with more than just the generic medieval fantasy tropes. I want to do more than key dungeon hexes and develop adventure hooks. I'm missing the ability to spend lots of time to develop a world that feels "lived in."

I guess I can ask my players if they feel the campaign world has some "life" to it, eh? They'd be the best source to answer that, of course.

Ok, rambling over.

So, if you care to answer, here's the question(s) for all you GMs out there: how much prep time do you spend before a particular game session? What does this prep time entail? And how much time do you think "informal" prep factors into your daily life? Do you ever get frustrated with the process, and why?

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