The Next Action Method – Small Moments of Game Prep

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0725


When I have the major elements of my Loopy Plots figured out, I need to dig into certain details to get gameplay going and plug holes.

A tool I use to do this is my Next Action Method.

I grabbed this technique from Dave Allen’s productivity book, Getting Things Done.

Planning stuff out from start to finish is wasteful. As time and gameplay wind on, situations change and your plans become outdated or ruined.

Also, big plans demoralize. You get overwhelmed by seeing all that lies before you.

Instead, focus on the very next thing you need to do to bring your plot closer to fruition. A quest of a thousand miles is taken one step at a time.

With a solid vision of your desired end result, choose each next step so it gets you closer. The gap between start and finish closes by itself over time, and waste from over-planning gets minimized. In Campaign Logger, I keep a Log Entry called !NextAction. The exclamation mark tags the Log Entry as a plot type:

Campaign Logger screenshot showing how I track To Dos for next session using the !NextAction tag

Doing this makes my plans searchable and cross-linked to all my different campaign pieces, which helps me tame the details beast.

You can use any method to track your next actions, though. My Info, Evernote, index cards, etc.

For each plot or project you need to prep, note the very next thing you need to do. What do you need to figure out, detail, research, draw, or build? Write that thing out beside your plot name. Do that for every plot.

Then do that thing.

When done, before finishing that prep session, write the Next Action for that plot so you can start next prep session knowing exactly what you need to do.

Do an action. Write the next action down. Repeat.

The benefit here is you don’t waste prep time figuring out what you need to do at the start of each prep session, and you don’t burn out from overwhelm.

When I say prep session, I mean anything from two minutes to an hour. Take advantage of even small moments easily this way because you jump in right away, already knowing what your Next Action is.

And when I say visualize your desired end result, I have two things in mind, no pun intended.

One is the campaign finale. I’m always trying to steer towards that and orchestrate the end-game so it’s epic.

The other is a vision of how next session will play out. I just need to be prepared to run next game. Getting to that point, one Next Action at a time, is my minimum prep requirement. Until I feel satisfied I’ve met that requirement, I keep taking Next Actions in spare moments until session day arrives. The Next Action Method is quick and keeps me motivated. Try it out and let me know how it goes.