I swear to god 50% of the shit in my campaign I make up on the spot. I had my group fighting pirates at one point and the fucking sorcerer wanted to kidnap them back to their house. Now I have them making some kind of fighting pit/bar within the house. I have an expenses list written up. Side note other than food and staff what else should they have to pay for? I have a feeling they are going to be in this fighting pit a lot.
Try close to 100% faggot.
I barely even prep shit on paper anymore for my Savage Worlds campaigns. I just think for about 15 to 20 minutes the night before, then I'm ready to go. MAYBE I will make a few notes.
>I swear to god 50% of the shit in my campaign I make up on the spot. I had my group fighting pirates at one point and the fucking sorcerer wanted to kidnap them back to their house. Now I have them making some kind of fighting pit/bar within the house. I have an expenses list written up. Side note other than food and staff what else should they have to pay for? I have a feeling they are going to be in this fighting pit a lot.
>tfw 3/7 are GM
>tfw 6 are incredibly experienced running and gaming
>tfw newbie GM wildly firing plothooks in every direction
>tfw they apparently enjoyed it anyways
>I guess prepping really doesnt matter.
I think it helps with confidence at the beginning.
My friend who DMs DnD preps a lot, especially crunch. I DM ShadowRun and I only read fluff books. Both our players enjoy the games.
My session prep consists of a rough outline of how I plan for the session to go and selecting/creating statblocks for NPCs they might encounter.
Beyond that I improvise the rest. Some because I can't predict the actions of the PCs well enough to plan any more detailed, but mainly because I've found that I don't need to plan much. I can improvise a lot.
Especially when players do something off the rails.
Nah nah, you just need to be prepared to bullshit. You see that list of monsters by CR? You see that? That list is your friend. 1 monster of 1 above their cr, 1-2 monsters of their cr, 3-4 monsters of 1-2 cr lower than them. Be aware of things that are more dangerous than their CR implies, like vampires (hey, all yall with eyes, make will saves vs dominate why doncha). Then go from there. Things going badly? The monster was already wounded and only has half his normal HP. Things a tad too easy? The monster has a level of barbarian and kicks in his rage at 1/2 hp.
Avoid fudging rolls if your players like a challenge. If they are smart enough to run from things they cant beat then they should be good. If they are not....well there is no rule against resurrection magic or rolling new characters.
>So what do you about encounters? Like do you not even balance them and shout 'good luck, cock fags'?
guy you replied to here, yes, for the most part.
I DM two systems mainly: 3.5 and Savage Worlds. In 3.5 I just eyeball the CR and if the monster turns out to have some SoD ability I don't like, I just don't use it. Ironically I've found encounter building easiest in 3.5 out of all editions, even though CR is fucked in that edition.
As for Savage Worlds, I tend to do what you said. It's ended with a few near-deaths but honestly that's mostly because of exploding dice.
It works pretty well. I also run GURPS on occasion but it's a very low-combat game so I don't worry too much about that.
Taxes to the baron or other feudal figure since it technically is a bar or business.
If pit fights are illegal in the city they're in, the friendly local thieves' guild will "Make sure the law won't find out" about the fights. For a price.
Fighting is never safe, even in entertainment, muscles get pulled, accidents happen, and things break. Lots of healing items will be needed to make sure the fighters can operate every night. Depending on how many fights the players put on and how many fighters are in a match, the cleric will probably not have enough spells to heal all of them.
If they allow bets, expect the players to lose money when that scrawny guy rolls a crit on the champion.
>. I guess prepping really doesnt matter.
Not true, and I'm the guy who first replied. Prep is excellent, IF you do it right. If you have a predictable group (only one of my playgroups qualifies) prep away. Otherwise, mentally prep and have some generic resources ready to go, and worldbuild / plotbuild on the go.
It's not AS good as a well-prepped well-fleshed out thing, but with good GMing you can make up for it.
I feel like ass-pulling is quite necessary to some degree.
Telling a player that they "can't do that", or "that would break the story" is always bad. In RPGs the players are supposed to play a role in an adventure. If they can't play the role they want to, they literally failed at their job, which feels bad.
As a good GM you want your players to have fun.
No matter the amount of planning you do, you will never be able to allow them to do whatever they want to, you simply can't plan for every situation beforehand.
Pulling stuff out of your ass also has the advantage of making your players believe that they are always on the correct path, and that no matter which option they chose, they are still on the path that you planned ahead for them.
They will think that you know them well enough to plan all of this ahead, and they will love the feeling of "we can never ever ever make a choice that is not progressing the plot that was planned ahead".
However, pulling stuff out of your ass is not only smelly, but it can lead to really boring plots too. Plot twists and actually deep characters are hard to pull off, even with planning, and almost impossible to do in the middle of GMing.
>If pit fights are illegal in the city they're in, the friendly local thieves' guild will "Make sure the law won't find out" about the fights. For a price.
I did not think of that one, that is a really good idea, I wsa just gonna have them bride the guards themselves but thats way better
>had important end of campaign dungeon done up
>players arrive at dungeon when I realize that the only things I ACTUALLY did up was the map and the name, which was the vault of something
>end up filling it with a bunch of random shit off the top of my head, because I didn't actually specify what the vault was holding
>Some of the things in there were gold dragon and dominatrix black dragon lover, a tarrasque nest, a archdevil's little brother who basically had down syndrome ending with the boss being a group of awoken dinosaur adventurers trying to claim the same treasure as the party, which included a t-rex fighter, velociraptor rogue, and pterodactyl wizard
I don't know what I was thinking.
I'm pretty sure it ended up being the greatest worst thing I've ever done. They fucking loved it, and they actually made me run a fucking dinosaur campaign after that
As in, they were all fucking dinosaurs.
I make notes on various critters that are lv approiate. Then when my players say "lol we ignore the cave/tower", I hit them later on with what they were going to face anyway.
Ignoring hooks? Fine you don't pick up the mcgruffin quest. You instead get sent to pick up this other mcgruffin.
So far, they all think that they are keeping me from using my prepared stuff. Meanwhile, ain't nothing prepared.
>Trying a new system and setting
>It's a heist game. Session 1 they're going to be stealing a diamond from a governor's estate
>During character creation I give them the low-down on setting stuff that's important. Tech-level is pre-medeival, crossbows are about the most advanced weaponry around, mechanical locks are still very uncommon, the region they're in is a traditional feudal setting (knights, nobles, and all that) that never sees any sun, the local populace is black and borders a country with people that look Chinese...
>One guy: "Wait, we're black?"
>This does not sit well with him. Completely side-stepping that whole potential conversation, I tell him that the nearest "white" people are these pirate-prince guys that live on the ocean. The starting town is land-locked, but maybe he's a fish out of water or something.
>Second guy: "Wait, there's pirates? I want to be a pirate."
>Second guy's brother: "I want to be a pirate too!"
I closed my GM prep window on my laptop, looked hard at the rest of the party, and asked them if they just wanted to do a pirate game. The first session was completely out of my ass and consisted of them boarding a merchant ship and seizing it, pressing the crew and finding a treasure map. I'm actually really liking it now.
>First guy says what they're all thinking and confirms you're forcing them to play a gang of black thieves
>Second guy says he doesn't want to
Well no shit, maybe they wanted to play characters with more than eight intelligence.
I like writing so I come up with encounters with story surrounding them. I also recycle hooks and have them progress without the players.
Makes it more real and it helps that I play with decent improv actors.
I usually just make up some NPCs and write down their stats. Other than that I just set my players free to do whatever they want. I might have an idea for a story unfolding, but I'm also very much aware that my players will ignore all the plot hooks and do their own thing regardless and sometimes that turns out to be even cooler.
>what do you about encounters?
Yeah, we don't play games where encounters are that important. They are either naturally balanced or something you obviously want to avoid.
> PCs played just long enough to plan their own paths.
> Have a list of stats blocks I can use interchangeably. Produce a few in-between game.
> Have a generic name list for both very specific places and NPCs.
> Design puzzles and vague storyline.
All my game planning take place at work. Working the graveyard shift in the local high-class hotel, my task rarely take 4 hours and I spend the rest making tools for my 3 games as a GM.
And even then I wing it.
I started with virtually no prep, but I've been prepping more lately.
The only things I do for prep though are flesh out important NPCs the players might meet (motivations, secrets, plots, etc). Also, every week, I design an encounter. It doesn't have to be something the PCs will run into now, but it's a resource I can pull from when I feel it's time the PCs need an encounter.
You know, why would you ever balance them?
These are roleplaying games, not videogames.
You see a dragon that you can't handle? Well it's not like you can only move along by beating that dragon, how about some creativity? If you lack creativity, how about sneaking around?
>PCs find a Divination Pool
>Ok, I want to touch this strange mercury-like liquid
>Sure Wizard-kun, roll to check the vision's quality
>Have him fall into the pool
What would my fellow GMs have done in my place?
I'm quite happy with what I improvised
When the wizard came out, he looked twenty years older, with a few scars and a missing hand. He also gained 4 levels. He loses XP at the end of each session
How is this distinguishable from fudging rolls? INstead of changing the roll itself, you change what the roll means if you think your players are having it too easy or too hard.
It's all equally bullshit.
>He loses XP at the end of each session
I'm yet to see one player react calmly to XP drain. You can take their bling, you can take their toys, half the time you can take their "loved ones" and they forget about it i less than an hour FFS! But you go for their hard-earned XP - and shit gets fucking real.
The only prep I do is daydreaming a few hours after the game and during the week when I feel like it, and think about the consequences of my players' actions, cool stuff I could throw if needed, like interesting places or NPCs, which I can usually stat pretty fast since we play mostly retro-clones with tiny statblocks that you can ad-lib in a pinch. When I really feel like it (or after a huge event or time gap in the game) I actually sit down, launch Twine (or notepad, or whatever you like to put down notes) and basically set up an abstract map of things, events, relationships, npcs and anything that matters to the game (If I run vampire, I'm gonna focus on NPC motivations, but in D&D the most important thing is "what do the PC want to do next" as far as I'm concerned), so as to get some matter for thought during the game.
Then I improvise, follow the PCs suggestions (that cool idea he dropped out while talking about his character with a friend? that's a suggestion) and if it slows down or I don't know something, I check out my map of things and add a bang (a situation right here right now that is forces to take action) and follow through the consequences.
Then start again from the beginning before next session.
I think even games that require balance if you play-by-the-book or close to it like WotC D&D have a shitton of useful stuff lying around to fasten it up so as to not have any actual work to do. I DMed 5e some time ago and it was pretty easy to come up with interesting challenges without the game feeling unbalanced. Now I don't usually play this kind of games so I might have uncounsciously house-ruled stuff. Though I never fudge.
Most of rpg is improv
I do hardly any. Perhaps prepare a slight nudge or two to get the momentum going if the last session didn't end in the middle of action.
I can't help but constantly expand my campaign world. I don't even necessarily do it for the sake of sessions that I run anymore. I just love my world.
Prepare setting, not session. Your players won't do what you expect anyways.
I just set events that will happen, wether the players are their or not. This has sometimes back fired:
>Characters have a beloved NPC. Like, this guy is everyones buddy
>Long story short, they landed in random areas of swamp
>One player finds NPC passed out, sets him up to get party to help haul him
>After searching, the find each other, figure this is a good time to introduce BBEG, have them find NPC and hold him hostage
>Players fucking forget about him for 12 hours
They came back to a corpse with a pistol shot to the head. It was supposed to be one of his old crew that turns out to be one of the players estranged father and blah blah. Now they are just scratching their heads and lost.
For encounters: forget it. I dont have a decent encounter generator, so most of the stats come down to "Average hit points are fluid and DC is hittable but not squishy.".
Honestly, knowing your players character sheets and backstories is all you really need. Set up a wire frame, the players do the rest. I just keep track of important npc's.
Eh, I think the nat 1 fall was shitty, he was looking into the pool, not doing calisthenics. I would have just had him see a vision of a path he DIDNT take, and the future it would have held. Would have sent him on wild goose chases for a situation that exists in some quantum immortality shit.
>have heist of corp branch building planned
>runners are casing place, posing as small business owners interested in security solutions or what the fuck ever
>one player is spitting image of Trout, didn't even know the story
>leaps onto receptionist's desk, drops ragged pants, takes a shit in crowded lobby
Fastest I've ever had to rewrite a session.
Unless you're a beginner, most DMs will have a decent grasp of what is or isn't a balanced encounter. Even if you misjudge something a little bit, that's hardly a problem. And if you misjudge it a lot, hell, you're the DM. It's not that hard to think of ways to handle a situation like that without the players catching on. And regardless of whether you actually get it exactly right all the time or not, it's a good thing to occasionally remind your players that winning every single combat encounter isn't the goal of the game, and running away to fight another day doesn't count as losing the game.
Plan of a deamon to engulf system in warp storm using crystals that gained power from sacrifices. The deamon was already established (fucked with a party a bit) and the crystal too, but the big revelation at the end of campaign was completely pulled out of ass. But I managed to sell it as something that I had planned from beginning (adding few details to look profound) so they bought it.
This is what I like about being GM
Ok then seeing as you all seem to agree let me ask, I don't prepare a lot just the hooks and some fighting, but I always feel bad to the players whos characters have high skill in like Arcana or some shit that doesn't come up as much. For the most part they come up with there own ways to use the skills but is there something that any of you do to help them?
I usually plan a lot of world details, but the actual events and narrative are improvised off of a very skeletal idea.
Once had the players rob a magic-item shop but the items were protected well enough that they respected the shop owner's foresight, and the one item they Really wanted (an Orb of Storms in what was quickly becoming a sea-faring adventure) wasn't even there, hidden by an illusion and explosive rune cliche on a letter. They then proceeded to kidnap the shopkeeper, Charm Personed him while he was KO'd, convinced him upon waking up that they'd rescued him from folks that meant to actually kill him, blaming his items for their fallen friend, and that they needed to get him and his orb of storms out of the town to make sure they couldn't follow him.
The PC spearheading this whole endeavor then got directions to the guy's place, where he found a list of "In Case of X" contingencies with about twenty different "I need to gtfo of town" type situations, the last of which was "In case of Orb of Storms." He then went back to the X marking the spot that I Tried to hint was where it was in the first place but hey who cares about scenery and he got the dang orb at last before they boogied on out to sea.
Improv sessions were usually better than my planned content back then. I'm not sure if that's still true now.
One of the most useful abilities as a DM is the ability to 'lie', or rather to change the truth on the fly.
>It was the wife
>"The butler did it!"
>(gives reasonable argument you didn't take into account)
>"Of course he did!"
Now the player feels like a hero and you didn't have to explain why he was wrong.
And it gets better!
Say one of your guys figures out that the wife did do it, after the fact, even though the butler confessed.
Have them find out she's a sorceress who bends people to her whims so long as it doesn't seem supicious. More brilliant thinking, a reason why the first person was wrong (she used the butler to cover her tracks) and a new villain.
Or perhaps she could be a recurring villain who simply got away with it but suspects the party now.
You can take them anywhere if you're willing to improvise and they want to go. They don't know the destination, so as long as you make them believe you're telling a solid story, they'll love it more than any prewritten adventure path, even if the next room hasn't even popped into your mind.
Because, at least in the case of the barbarian rage, it provides something interesting to the players, rather than just making them more powerful than they are without their knowledge.
I'm an average prepper, but my current campaign didn't exist if there was a Rogue in the group.
It was the first session for three absolute newbies who wanted to try D&D before finishing college. It was a very simple plot with the limited amount of options I had with 5e when it first officially came out. The experienced player in the group (to guide the newbies) expected bandits and goblins. Well, he wasn't dissapointed as they were goblin thieves.
Every opportunity to steal something from the PC's was one I had to take. I told them to roll Perception at random moments. If they made it, they noticed that there was a grubby little goblin clutching at their coin purse or trying to swindle them. Chasing and interrogating goblins led them to The Big Nose. A run-down dirty tavern. The goblin behind the bar told them to go to the sewers via a specific path. They mucked about with strangers and oozes inside the tunnels and opened a secret passageway to a hidden room.
The room was decorated with long pieces of cloth and a goblin voice told them that they were loud for people who were able to find him. This was the bandit leader and they were successful at stopping him. But when he died he used Thieves Cant at the Rogue and with his dying breath told her 'look for him'.
She got so curious that even though none of the other players wanted to stick around, she was intrigued and found this guild master of the thieves guild who also has some secrets of his own.
That entire campaign exists because I just pulled 'look for him' right out of my ass at that very moment.