GM Preparation – Part 3
So finally part 3 of GM Preparation.
Events. These are things that the GM wants to achieve to create a story. I like to think of them in two types: Story Events and Session Events.
Story Events. These are the big scenes of your campaign, the set pieces that frame the main story. These aren’t just the combat sections of a game, important social or investigative sections are also powerful events in a campaign as well. A campaign should be centred around a chain of main events that form the spine of the story. When the GM is creating a campaign it is often in tandem with the main campaign events. You’ll probably think of the show down with the big bad guy, the discovery of the falsified records or a key interaction with the Prince of the Realm. The main plot elements of your campaign should have a fairly well planned out event tackling them.
You should plan these carefully as they are often the parts of the campaign that the players will remember. They are also the key to moving the story along. The difficult thing with these types of event is that because they are clearly defined they often have more fixed entry and exit points. You really have to steer players towards them with the plot and what’s going on in your campaign. However, if you’ve followed the Campaign tips in Part 2, the players should want to head towards these even if they don’t know they’re coming or what the consequences might be. Don’t plan complex, dramatic events that don’t fit the plot and no player will head towards. What I find useful is having a few ‘floating’ story events in mind. These are some that could fit in at various points of the campaign and often flesh out the background or world, emphasising certain themes.
Session Events. These are often smaller, but no less important events that are often spawned from what the players have done in previous sessions. Players will go off on a tangent, push the limits of your game and generally get in trouble. You may have a flash of inspiration between campaign sessions from a film, show or book you’re into. These are great fun and give your game a great sense of flexibility. Responding to the players wants and actions well is the sign of a good GM. At the end of the day, you just don’t know what the players are going to do.
As I said in Part 1, familiarity is key to good GM Prep. Knowing your setting (or creating the setting) allows you to really prepare well themed Story Events that the players will want as a goal. It will also allow you to quickly create Session Events that really fit into the world, but are not necessarily fundamental to the overall plot. Even better is to get to a stage where your Story Events look like Session Events. This is where the players believe you are reacting to their actions, but really they are just following the plan that you have lain down. This is something I always aim for (but don’t always achieve).
NPCs. These are the puppets in your show. Your conduit to tell the story. It’s important to provide interesting adversaries/allies for your players to interact with. When you think up the characters and creatures that the players might encounter, it’s important to understand what they represent or contribute to the overall story. When creating the campaign you’ll have particular bad guys in mind. There’ll also be some good guys you want to add in. What you should remember is that there is no such thing as black and white in the real world. If you want to create a realistic world, and people within that world, there should be shades of grey to most of your characters.
If there is an enemy species or race such as Orcs in D&D or the Vona in Third Order, remember that not all things about a people are evil. There will be some redeeming factors in their somewhere. I’m not saying make Orcs nice and fluffy, but are the heroes there to clear them out only to discover them in the middle of burying their dead from the last battle with hired heroes? It doesn’t change them fundamentally, but adds an interesting counter-theme. With individual NPCs you should make sure you have some idea of their motivations. What drives them? What would they kill for? What would they die for? Understanding these things about a story character will help your campaign greatly.
Make sure you name all your major NPCs (obviously) as well as any major figures in your world. There may be NPCs that the players never meet. You don’t have to flesh these out as much as the ones they do meet. However, you need to know the name of the Baron whose land the adventurers are passing through. It also might help to think about their reputation or what they are renowned for. Then when the players meet an NPC and ask them what they think of Baron Garblag, you have something to work from.
One final thing. Players will always want to know the barmaid/guard/henchman/librarian/pilot’s name. This is annoying. To you they are a throw away NPC; to a player they are a link into your world, a possible ally or resource. I’m not saying you should name them all in advance. What I am saying is have a dirty great list of names somewhere in your notes. As you meet NPCs and players ask that age old question, note down next to whichever name you assign who/what you gave it to. This really helps.
Ok, well this sums up our GM Preparation article. We hope that you find this useful and that there are at least a few pointers that you take away.
3 parts isn’t bad. I could write a whole lot more, but I wanted to touch on the main themes of preparation.