Tuesday, July 8, 2014

GM Preparation Formats - Ultra Lite

Game Preparation in GURPS is a time consuming process, but hopefully more and more GM notes will be available online so that it will speed up everyone's prep and people can build over and into each others work.

Here is a sample format I am following. Basically its Setting Expectations, Skimming Guide, and Sources (for independent reading or listening).

Expectations - the Spiel and Introduction 

the Game Spiel has to be short. Its also loaded with "key words" that signal to the target audience. Words that are not used everyday and signal a particular understanding like - Kataphrakt, Broadsword, Recon Operations, etc... Details come after and there is a format to it - you don't want to overload potential players, but you want to reinforce the signal.

Typically I can arrange the Introduction by giving 2 key ideas that deal with the setting in the order of ease of communication, or ability to get the idea that puts everyone on the same page across.

Example.
The Warring States Period.

Key Idea (for me) -

  1. The 7 States, The Hundred Schools of thought, and the many Chinas that could have been plus the hidden diversity we can't quite capture as outsiders.
  2. Intrigue, Warfare, and Logistics in the a Bronze age era that is more complex and sophisticated than would have previously imagined. World view changing perspective as we explore a world not many fantasy or history writers talk about. 
  3. (implied in the manner of communication) A bunch of Wai'ren (outsiders) using an RPGs to learn about china in a comfortable setting of fellow gamers and curious amateurs. 

  This is something that should be easy to get out of the way, as the interested person skims past. People skim a lot these days and be sure that key concepts hare properly highlighted and the shortest possible explanation is given. Details and the richness this conveys comes when you guys are discussing the setting. Of course, leave the sources in the end of the document.

Skimming Guide - the Topics discussed

"Ain't nobody's got time for that"
Seriously, I'm not proud that I have a 100wpm reading speed but there is really not much I can do about that except skimm skimm skimm ( I'm a researcher with 100wpm reading speed lolz). Skimming works by just picking up on key words - so you will notice I bold, capitalize, italicize and color text to compensate. In my head, there is another me who is always in a hurry criticizing and telling me - "BOORRING!" and various other childish knee jerk reactions to how I'm writing. He gets carried away too... (I don't use underline much because it gives my eyes a hard time)

When I find my nerdy pedantic self going crazy about a particularly fascinating and obscure fact or trivia - somebody inside my head's gonna smack em get your pace back on track. Of course self control in a hobby we really love is something we really don't expect, especially if I'm not paid to do it lolz. (sniff) 

Sources - because your don't sound as good as you think

my favorite lecturers are Prof. Kenneth Harl, Lazlo Montgomery, and Prof. Stephen Hinsaw , to name just a few - i have a lot, and I don't sound as good as them - duh. (You can imagine my wife readily and enthusiastically agreeing to shut me up in the background) So we cite our sources, because you may just lose your audience if you go at it too long - Over time we have more errors - you can say that over time we sound dumber lolz.

NPC Picture Technique

Have a bunch of NPCs pictures. I have over 200 pictures for actors (probably 500+) and I just draw them out as I tell the story. Each picture is a mnemonic acting as a way for me to RP and remember he name. In a Physical game, printing out cards would help as the act of having the faces and these actors in Costume help in remembering various elements about them. Its a story telling exercise of drawing what you can from a picture. 

Prepare some in advance, but in the Sandboxy types of games I run I expect that my players will go everywhere else but the place I prepared (in the Warring States game, they went to the far west instead of east in the city). Tell a story based on the appearance and what possible secrets such a person may have, or motives. This gives flexibility and use your phone and notes to take pictures. 

Although the technique is much better if you like studying people, psychology, stories of people, and experiences that make you question more your understanding of people than playing the stereotypes we all have in our individual heads.  

Visualized Loci/Place Technique

same as the NPC picture technique but draw from your own visualization and immersion to bring out details and rationals as to how a place works. Experience helps enrich this, travel especially so. Use the details and patterns you see in your travels or in your neighborhood to tells many small stories about elements about the surrounding and bring the elements that dont make sense and striking surface. 

Google maps with streetview is powerful for modern games. Make up little stories, make it all up and go crazy with odd details and conflicting paradigms. 

Drawing the map is an exercise in itself, how geography shapes behavior and economies fuel more details and create more conflicts and stress points. Challenging yourself is a common element in both the techniques mentioned, and putting elements you are uncomfortable with and flaws help challenge creativity in making up stories why this is there or leave it to the imagination of the players /PCs.

I keep all my image portraits in a Dropbox folder. If helpful I may make a copy just for sharing. 


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