What Your World Needs Most is Your Time

by Blackrook

There is no substitute for your time and hard work...

I am often told that I am the best GM of anyone in our group. To be the best in your group, you'll need to put in time and effort.

Here's the thing, people in other hobbies put in the time. A chess master will spend endless hours analyzing every move. A golf player will take lessons and practice constantly. A hunter will spend days tracking his quarry. Role playing deserves the same kind of devotion that people spend on other hobbies. If you want to play on a "professional level" you need to act like a professional, which means a disciplined approach to GM'ing. And this requires your sweat, which means lots of time and hard work.

Of course, if you use Scabard, the task of preparing for an adventure and keeping your story consistent from session to session will be much easier. But you'll still need to put in the time.

Typically, if I'm going to play on a Saturday night, I will get up early on Saturday morning and spend the whole day creating an adventure. Spending this kind of quality time (and quantity time) will allow you to create an adventure that cannot be achieved through "freeballing" (improvising). Obviously, you end up freeballing quite a bit no matter how much you've prepared, but a well-planned adventure gives you a good skeleton upon which to hang the improvised portions.

Without preparation, a GM will be freeballing everything, and players can tell when this is happening. They will still have fun, but it will be much harder to acheive "suspension of disbelief" because it will be harder for them to think of your world as "real."

The payoff is engaged players

I've noticed that my players talk about my NPCs as real people, who have real personalities, and real goals, with real methods to achieve them. That is because most of my NPCs are prepared ahead of time, and going in to a game, I already know what personality traits will set that NPC apart. The NPC Princess Artania is my most famous example. The players know her well, and have certain expectations when they meet her. She is of good alignment, and always seeks what is best for the people, but the players also know that she easily loses her temper, especially when the PCs let her down. They have come to have certain expectations when they meet Princess Artania, which are different when they meet another NPC.

So how much time are we talking about?

Of all the ideas so far, this idea takes the most time. I would say that a good adventure will take at least a full day of work to accomplish, though you might find your adventure large enough to carry into several sessions.

But I would implement this idea now. If you do not have the time to implement this idea, then disregard it. But you probably do have the time, if you cut back on other leisure activities like watching television or playing video games.

Even with preparation, freeballing is required

Freeballing will always happen to a certain extent, however, if you implement this idea you will start out with a good framework for your adventure. It's like building a home, and already having a foundation, and a wooden framework in place. Not preparing means all you have is a patch of dirt to build on, and you must lay the foundation and build the framework on the fly, which is very difficult, and may lead to inconsistencies later on.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most important), I would rate this idea as a 9. You can still have fun freeballing, but your players may eventually begin to see holes in the story or inconsistencies in how things turn out when they meet an NPC.