Bingo! Prep

(Game Master, I shot a short video explaining today’s article. You can watch it on YouTube here.)

A GM I’m consulting asked me how I create and use Templates in my campaigns. My answer was “Bingo!” And that made no sense at all.

First, what’s a Template? I have also called them Stat Blocks in the past. Here’s a great example of a Magic Item Template from Jeremy Brown.

By the way, that Template is now available in Campaign Logger for all GMs:

Find the Magic Item Template in the right sidebar
Generators section in Campaign Logger

Screenshot of the Magic Item Template in Campaign Logger

If you don’t have Campaign Logger yet, let me give you a free account and you can use the Template as often as you wish.

The Two Types of Templates I Use

So why bother with Templates? They look suspiciously akin to spreadsheets, and no one signs up to play Dungeons & Formulas. Yet, the answer will bring me to Bingo.

I like Templates because they get you a head start. You’re already running at full speed when the starter pistol fires while your players are still warming up, many steps behind.

Also, it’s so defeating showing up to prep and staring at a blank page. But a Template starts guiding you immediately with prompts on what to build and what details would be helpful.

I actually have two types of Templates. One is my Tiny Templates ala my Tiny Prep book. These inspire me to birth the seed of something interesting, promising, and inspiring. For example, my 3-Line NPCs, 3-Line Blocks, 5 Room Dungeons, and 5M Faction Templates.

The other type I call Full Templates, which offer a more exhaustive treatment.

How I Use Tiny Templates

Tiny Templates are short and fast to complete. This makes them perfect improvisation tools, as well. If I need an adventure or faction mid-game, for example, I can take a short pause and whip up whatever I need.

During prep, Tiny Templates let me make a bunch of campaign elements fast in a single pass. Then I can go deeper on each with a Full Template like the Magic Item Template from Jeremy.

For example, if I was creating a bunch of races for Duskfall, I’d use my 3-Line Tiny Culture Template for each. Just three lines. Quick and simple. I can build a dozen or more races in minutes this way.

How I Use Full Templates

When I have time and the need, I’ll take a something that’s been Tiny Templated and migrate it to a Full Template. This is where Bingo! comes in:

I’ll only fill in the blanks that I have ideas for.

I’ll leave the rest of a Full Template’s details open and empty for now.

For example, while creating a magic item, I might only know what I want for the easy Lore tiers, the name of who crafted the item, its cost, and a couple of its action options. So I fill those out right away. If anything else in the Full Template spurs immediate ideas, I’ll spot-fill those, too.

So, it’s like the caller yelling out numbers during Bingo. “B17! O63! I25!” When filling out a Full Template, I’m listening to my brain as it shouts out ideas for different sections. I simply write them in, not caring about completeness.

This is Step 2 of my creative process. First I ideate with a Tiny Template. Then I fill in a Full Template with what I already know or have ideas about.

In Step 3, the final step, I’ll complete the Full Template as the need arises. This could be days, weeks, or even months later. But guess what? When I return to finish a Full Template, it’s already got a lot of details in it! The job has already been started. This makes finishing a Full Template far less intimidating and much easier.

Get Zorgon’s Help

If, while filling out Full Templates, you get stumped or fatigued, log into Campaign Logger and ask Zorgon to complete your Full Template for you. He lives in the bottom-right corner. Try it out yourself:

  1. Open Campaign Logger and create a Page.
  2. Click on the Magic Item Template and copy it to clipboard.
  3. Tell Zorgon what kind of magic item you need and paste in the Full Template.

Don’t worry about formatting. Zorgon understands what you want. Here’s an example of a bow I asked Zorgon to create using Jeremy’s Magic Item Full Template:

Click the image to embiggen it.

Copy and paste Zorgon’s response into your Page, and voila, your creation is ready to roll.

Also here’s a video demo of me using Zorgon to make some magic armor for player character Bartram.

This Is How I Beat Procrastination & Enjoy the Creative Process

I finish the race more often than not when taking the Bingo approach.

There’s a dragon that lives deep in the oldest part of our brain. And it makes us fearful when we try to be creative.

But we can defeat our dragon by sneaking up on it with Tiny Templates and iterative work on Full Templates, letting the creativity-killing creature slumber while we prep and run awesome campaigns under its nose.

Start small with a simple Tiny Template.

When you need to expand on the detail for plotting or prepping purposes, switch to a Full Template.

The first time, only fill out what you have ideas for in the Full Template. Let your creativity call Bingo! “numbers” and you fill in the template’s blanks accordingly.

Then, keep adding more details over time via gameplay, prep, and whenever inspiration hits.

Play Bingo! with your world building, campaign creation, and ongoing session prep to defeat the creative dragon.

Have more fun at every game!

P.S. When you are ready, here are +4 vorpal ways I can help you with your campaign:

+1 Use Campaign Logger to Make Prep & GMing Easier
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+2 Take the Free GM Organization Challenge
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Enroll at no charge here and start getting organized.

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+4 Get More GM Loot
Visit the Roleplaying Tips DriveThruRPG store, or browse books and courses to level up your GMing at the store.

Join a private community with Johnn