Prep This Instead Of Plans

RPT GM Steffen asks:

Maybe you have a tip for a problem I’m having with prep.

In my group, we sometimes play fairly open RPGs. Open in the sense of an open world. At the end of a game session, I don’t know how the players are going to approach a problem, and then I don’t know what I can specifically prepare.

An example: We’re playing the Star Wars RPG again. A bounty has been placed on one of the characters for killing a Hutt. There was a fake holo-video and the crew discovered the real video.

In the next session, they now want to somehow show the Hutt clan, that put the bounty out, the video to prove innocence. However, no one has said how they plan to get to the Hutts (an audience, sneak in, …). How would you approach prep? Do you have a tip?

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Hi Steffen! Thanks for the great question. Here are d6 tips to help:

  1. Let your group tell you What they want to accomplish, Why they want to accomplish that, and How they’ll accomplish it. Then you only need to referee each action as it’s taken.
  2. Set a timer for 30 minutes before your typical session end. When it sounds, take stock of the game situation and decide the best way to end the session. It might be with group planning and making decisions, for example.
  3. At session end, ask players what they intend to accomplish next session. Or at the least, what they will do at next session start.
  4. Become comfortable making rulings. And learn critical thinking skills to break problems down easily on-the-fly (affiliate link). This means mastering your game rules so you can merge them with critical thinking. I find making my own cheat sheets helps with this.
  5. Build Legos instead of plans. Create people, places, things, and events (NPCs, Locations, Items, Situtions) that you can skin and drop into play on-the-fly. Having a full bucket of Legos lets you build what you want as you play with a lot less stress.
  6. Have an inventory of maps ready. Whether generic (forest path) or specific (the Death Star deck #42) these give you confidence to improvise going into a session, and they help speed up prep.

I’ve found these six things go a long way in helping me respond better to players and get ahead of their plans.