Monday, February 16, 2015

Front Loaded and Backfired

The ever extraordinary Lowell Francis of Age of Ravens, and Play on Target fame, has assembled, and posted, a GM Campaign Prep Survey.

Go participate! Now!

Welcome back. I missed you. You've been gone forever, or perhaps a few minutes, or so.

Dogs can't tell time.

Now that you've checked it out, I thought you might get a kick out of an idea that I got a kick out of - turning the survey into a post analyzing one game's prep. Ah, and I'm going to go one step further. I'm going to analyze two past campaigns that buck my own trends, and eschew past advice.

A High-Prep campaign that tanked, and a Low-Prep campaign that rocked!

Sound like fun? Aces.

Lowell's questions are in white, while my answers are in green.

First up...



Art by Lisa Free


1. What system did you use for the campaign?

Pendragon - 4th Edition

2. Had you run this system before?

No. The last time I played Pendragon was 1st Edition, and I had never run it before.

3. What kind of setting did you use?

Essentially the game canon, adjusted for the region our story took place in. I added various elements from British, Irish and Viking folktales.

4. Had you run this setting before?

No.

5. Where did you run?

Face-to-face, at a public location we often use for our games.

6. How often did your group meet?

Roughly once a month.

7. How long was your average session?

8-10 hours.

8. How many players did you have on average?

Five.

9. About how many sessions did you run for? (Say "ongoing" for present campaigns)

Four. Maybe five.

10. Did you have an expectation about how long the campaign would last when you planned it?

No. I try not to do that.

However, I planned  for the first 'chapter' to last about nine sessions. My hope was for three chapters, and then more if the group was interested.

11. If yes to Question 10, about how long did you expect the campaign to last? Was that more or less than it did run?

As noted above. We stopped after four, or five sessions. It was terrible.

12. Did you have what you'd consider a "finale"?

No.

13. What caused the campaign to end?

A complete, and utter disconnect between the type of campaign I was trying to run, and the type of game the players thought we were playing.

In addition to there being too many off beat characters for the setting, the players just could not wrap their heads around the idea of epic, mythic, folklore fantasy. They focused on realistic, logical, almost simulationist approaches to the world, the characters, and the situations.

In addition, one player was playing a character who had a personal agenda counter to that of the rest of the group.

Ugh.

14. How did you think about the ending of the campaign?

I'm glad I shot it, and put it out of its misery.





This next part focuses on the actual time you spent prepping for the game. This is all estimates and self-assessment. I'm going to ask you to come up with some rough percentages in categories. But how you define prep is up to you. If you think early brainstorming, watching genre-movies, or musing on things while riding the train counts as your prep, then count it.



This is pretty blurry, so just go with your gut on these answers.


Now here is where things get interesting.

I put a lot of thought into our Pendragon game. I tried very hard to get the geography, feel of the setting, the characters, the politics, and everything else just right. I did extensive research of both books, and film on the subject, and this is from a person who took Arthurian Literature in college.

I was so ready for this campaign. I was ready for it to be awesome.

It started great, and went sour quickly.

15. Roughly how many hours did you spend preparing for this campaign? (Please answer in numerals: 2, 6, 18...)

Over the course of a month, or so, I spent approximately 25-30 hours on the pre-first session, the first session, and campaign set-up prep. For the following sessions after the first I spent approximately 15 hours of prep time per session.

16. Give a rough percentage of time you spent on each of these activities in preparing for this campaign. Though I've set this to add up to 100, I understand there will some blurry lines.

  • Learning or Relearning Rules - 20% (Considerably more than usual for me).    
  • Developing or Homebrewing Mechanics  - 5%             
  • Drawing Maps, Sketching Illustrations, or Crafting Props  - 10%             
  • Coming Up with NPCs - 10%   
  • Plotting Incidents, Arcs, or Stories - 15% (Barely any of which saw play)           
  • Writing Up World/Setting Backstory - 10% (Barely any of which was investigated)      
  • General Research - 20% (Perhaps half of which saw use).           
  • Player Character Work - 15%
  • Other


***



Art by Kenichi Lowe


1. What system did you use for the campaign?

A homebrewed hybrid of InSpectres by Memento Mori, and Ghostbusters by West End Games.

2. Had you run this system before?

I had run the original Ghostbusters RPG before, but no, not this blended version.

3. What kind of setting did you use?

Canon setting focused on the first Ghostbusters film. Modern, present day, New Jersey. The PC's were a Ghostbusters franchise based out of Hoboken.

4. Had you run this setting before?

I have run a Ghostbusters campaign before using the movie canon, yes.

5. Where did you run?

Face-to-face, at the home of two of the players.

6. How often did your group meet?

Once a month.

7. How long was your average session?

6-8 hours.

8. How many players did you have on average?

Four. Always four.

9. About how many sessions did you run for? (Say "ongoing" for present campaigns)

Four. (Sad Panda)

10. Did you have an expectation about how long the campaign would last when you planned it?

No. As I said, I don't usually do that.

11. If yes to Question 10, about how long did you expect the campaign to last? Was that more or less than it did run?

Campaign was cut short due to personal issues of some of the players.

12. Did you have what you'd consider a "finale"?

Unfortunately no.

13. What caused the campaign to end?

As noted above, group members having personal issues.

14. How did you think about the ending of the campaign?

Cut down too soon. So sad.

This next part focuses on the actual time you spent prepping for the game. This is all estimates and self-assessment. I'm going to ask you to come up with some rough percentages in categories. But how you define prep is up to you. If you think early brainstorming, watching genre-movies, or musing on things while riding the train counts as your prep, then count it.

This is pretty blurry, so just go with your gut on these answers.

A lot less prep went into this initially than my usual campaigns. I should point out that no less thought went in, simply that the time between when the idea for the campaign struck me, and when I developed, and then ran it was surprisingly short.


15. Roughly how many hours did you spend preparing for this campaign? (Please answer in numerals: 2, 6, 18...)

I would say maybe 12-15 hours.

16. Give a rough percentage of time you spent on each of these activities in preparing for this campaign. Though I've set this to add up to 100, I understand there will some blurry lines.

  • Learning or Relearning Rules - 5%    
  • Developing or Homebrewing Mechanics - 10%              
  • Drawing Maps, Sketching Illustrations, or Crafting Props - 25%               
  • Coming Up with NPCs - 10%   
  • Plotting Incidents, Arcs, or Stories - 10%           
  • Writing Up World/Setting Backstory - 5%       
  • General Research - 30%           
  • Player Character Work  - 5%
  • Other


***


The second of these two campaigns, 'Ghostbusters New Jersey', had less than half the prep time of the Pendragon campaign, but time isn't what it was about in this case.

It was about inspiration, seeing it all clearly, knowing what would work and what wouldn't on an almost instinctive level, and feeling comfortable that the group of gamers I made the campaign for would 'get it in one', no fuss no muss.

With 'Pendragon - The Lion and The Sea', I perceived of a very different game than that which we ended up playing. As such, I prepared for that game, the game I envisioned, and not the one that ended up being played due to the differences between what I pictured, and what the players had in mind (whatever that was).

I find this, and other surveys and questionnaires like it, a lot of fun, and very interesting to fill out. They allow me to look at my own campaigns from a somewhat more subjective position than I typically would.

Perhaps, in analyzing these two campaigns in this way, I am seeing something about my gaming nature I did not previously comprehend. I am better off it seems with a solid vision of what I want to do, and a great that is guaranteed to be on my wavelength. Such campaigns will forever be superior to ones that lack this dynamic. Unfortunately, no amount of prep can really help you with this kind of thing.

The more prep time the better I would think, but between the group, and the GM, you either have it, or you don't.


AD
Barking Alien







No comments:

Post a Comment