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MoonHunter Sayeth 20170707


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Validated User
Perfection is the enemy of Good Gaming
and good writing too. Heck, any creative process.

The idea is to do the best that you can do. However the all consuming quest for perfection… that is a different questing beast. It can kill gaming two times – two attacks to slay your chronicle.

Now I am all for planning. A good loose plan, with lots of options for adapting and improving, is the best possible plan. It is a good plan. However, many do not think this is a perfect plan.

No, a perfect plan will have everything you need… no more… no less. That is what many believe. This kind of plan is the road to perfection… Actually, it is a road to hell, paved with perfect pieces. However, people feel that perfect planning (and outlining) needs to define exactly what is supposed to happen. It would make the perfect game (well maybe the perfect story, but game?) People focus so much on the plan (and the outline) that they ignore the options of what is happening.

Over planning is always a problem. It sucks up game preparation time that could be spent more productively. GM’s need to find the right balance between planning and production.

This was just planning scenarios, adventures, and sometimes campaigns for a chronicle.

Planning includes writing/ developing all that background material that will never see the light of play. Now, a GM’s work is often like an iceberg… the players on the surface will never see much of the stuff that the GM has worked out. GMs should be writing and developing what is going to be useful to the chronicle. If they have spare time, then writing up other things that are peripheral to the chronicle.

In their quest for perfection, some GMs want to write up everything. They want to do all of it before they will even begin play (or even character creation). By doing so, they will spend all this time and effort on a game that they may never have time to play. Or they will write all this material up and it will need to be changed because of the characters being played… or the system being run… or … because of… well you get the idea. Spending time on things that don’t really need to be done- before you have everything you really need? That might be a bit too much. It also takes away time you can spend on what you should need .

Or it locks you up… spending countless hours on a chronicle that might never get played.

This has led to the Mona Lisa Rule
Spend only as much time on a world, map, scenario, or NPC as the amount of play time and enjoyment it will allow. Two years for six hours of play is not a good investment. Invest a few hours into the environment for a few dozen hours of gaming fun.

The quest for perfection bleeds over to the table. Now, I do like to practice a bit before I present things in the game. You have all read about riffing. It is the easiest way to practice and improve your presentation at the table. I am also an advocate of studying the rules if you are the GM. We have all studied stuff in school, it is the same skills you have developed applied to something you like. Once you have the game down well, it can just flow. You just have to get it all to the right level of confidence.

Confidence is often what complicates things… making people search of perfection in all the odd corners.

People want to present their game at the table like they were David Attenborough reciting a script written by GRR Martin (or James Earl Jones with a script by JRR Tolkien depending on your age) and knowing the rules as perfectly as supreme court judge might know the Constitution. I think their standards are a bit too high. That isn’t what they aspire to, it is what they expect of themselves.

At the table, the striving for perfection can lead to faltering presentation, lots of book look up, and the ever present Note Lock.

People get so worried that they are not perfect, that they second guess or distract themselves. The little voice in the back of their head is driving them a bit crazy. Once you are divided in attention, all you can produce is a faltering presentation. There are pauses you don’t need, backtracking in your description, and you are so focused on what you are saying that you ignore the players reaction. The faltering presentation does not engage the players, so they lose focus on the game. As your presentation is not perfect and the players “aren’t there”, they creates a spiral of self doubt or confusion, one feeding on the other.

Being perfect means they use the rules perfectly as written. That means the book gets opened frequently as the GM searches for the exact rule or modifier or background material. Every moment or minute you spend doing this is a moment or minute that your players will be bored and lose interest in your game.

Then there is the big one.

Note Lock

Note lock is being trapped reading your notes. It combines the worst two elements of faltering presentation and book look up. I always tell people to organize their notes so they can find things, but people tend to glaze over when I go on about that. People forget what they wrote before when at the table… while there are gamers in front of them. They know it, but get frustrated because they obviously don’t. This makes them dive deeper and deeper into their notes.

This create “dead air” in the game, as the GM goes over it all on the page and in their head.

Ideally, you should know your material well. If you slip slightly and miss a plot point or two, try not to do it again. Stick with the key points you remember and run with what you know.

Everyone wants to be perfect. That is not what you should want as a GM. Everyone should strive towards perfection and know that they will seldom achieve it.

Remember, when I said “Yes, but mostly”. I try to be the best game master I can be. I am not perfect, but I am trying. Now most of these issues can be address with confidence. Believing in yourself, your skills, and what you have done, is the best GM Tool you can have in your arsenal. It might not be perfect like a Michelangelo sculpture or painting, but it will be as perfect as you can do.

And that is perfection you can deliver.


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This made me think about what we're doing right now. We play over Google Hangouts and the GM (not me) is running a pretty-dedicated sand-box game.

1. The GM creates a lot of maps and such. He's very good and many of these are gorgeous--but I don't know how long it takes to create them:

Now these add a lot to the game--they're functional (on the last, a space-station) you can see (if you look closely) our smiley-face icons being moved around on it. But even more than just being functional battle-maps (or space-faring star-maps in one case) they're also kind of tangible collateral that allows for exploration in a very specific way ("I want to see what's over THERE.")

2. The method by which he's creating situation is something we've talked about. He's very dedicated to not enforcing any actions, etc.--but to creating situations that are fairly good at being engaging and interesting.

That space station--the last map--was an adventure we heard about (go and recover the server-cores from a black-site space-station doing research on genetically engineered monsters) that we almost skipped. We were being hassled by a family member to come back to the clan (I and another character are, for lack of a better term, space-gypsies) and they had sent the character's sister to try to haul the character back. We were dealing with that--but decided, before we left (to run, we're not going back, even though the character was being guilted by his mother via his sister)--to hit the station since we could use the money.

It turned out that the station's story was pretty heavily woven in with guilt, toxic relationship stuff, etc. It made a really good counter-point to the situation with the sister. That map is, obviously, pretty complicated.

We could've easily missed the whole thing. We almost did.

I'm not sure how to square this with what you wrote--which I totally agree with--but it seems like to some degree, having superior levels of prep--well outside what I would think of the cost-benefit ratio--can really pay off. I'll have to think about this some more.

Good post.


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I need enough prep, and I think you all do too, to give you options. Sure you might have an expected path the players will probably follow (because you the GM know their goals, their drives, and the challanges they like (for player and character)). Still, players do find things that catch their fancy or something they want to check. It is their story path. Besides, if you hadn't done up those NPCs ideas you might never of thought up their love triangle complication.

Now, where this goes south is when you over do it. Every NPC, completely statted. Every possible location detailed in map. Every possible action path. There is so much time being spent on things you don't need. You can never have enough time so you will be missing things... missing details... missing flavor text... all needed to take you game up a notch. Sometimes you are missing important things because there just isn't enough time to get it done in time.

That is if you even are still flexible. Most people who build up solid total prep set their ideas in stone. They tend to loose flexibility.

Now if you are GMing online, you have to take it a bit farther. It is the medium. It takes time to prepare these things for an online game. It is a different kind of play. It takes more time to prepare for an online game. It is hard to make everything up on the fly and present them online ... like you can while on the table top. Sure you can go with the "Text" being adlibbed if you type fast. If you don't type fast, you might have a document to cut and paste out of. Text is fast. However, graphics that are needed online take some serious time to make (unless you are really good at it). (Though if you have a knack, you can rocket through it.) You take your time and get it ready. So there is always more you have to do when GMing online.

Of course, there is always recycle. Just because you make it for this situation does not mean you can't pull that file out for something similar. You just need to know your grab and go pieces.

You need to find the prep time that works best for you, for your medium, your style of play, and your troupe.
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