I was talking with a fellow game master a while back and we got to talking about how we went about prepping for our games. During our conversation I mentioned a practice I like to utilize that he hadn’t yet heard of. This was the act of altering the previously created world around the characters, to create a more entertaining game that is easier to run.
The key to this mindset is to understand that anything yet unknown to your players, is volatile and liable to change. If you players missed a key clue in their investigation, or a fun encounter, feel free to shift things around. This allows the game not to get bogged down with uninteresting clutter.
However, where this methodology really shines is in how it can make Game master prep easier. By preparing a minimal amount of notes and repurposing it depending on the player actions. The game master is able to get the most gameplay out of their prep time. [Because there is nothing worse than coming up with something awesome and your players completely bypassing it]
One method I use when I am running a session I will have a few in depth NPC personalities drawn up, with goals and faults, but not containing any specifics. Then when planning a session, generate NPCs that are just given basic details like a name and occupation. If while playing the session the players go to have a full conversation with an NPC, I pair the basic information with a detailed personality, creating a fully fleshed out character. This is done to cut down on prep time. If I created an in depth personality for each and every NPC that the players could potentially talk to, then it would take me months to plan a session.
A game theory that this relates closely too is the illusion of choice. Which is where a person makes a choice that leads to the same outcome no matter what is chosen. While this can greatly reduce the amount of work on the Game Master side, it has one big flaw. If the players find out that their choice didn’t matter, they will feel cheated and upset. That is why it is so important to use this tool carefully.
There is an old saying that “All roads lead to Rome” and part of that relates to this theory. Only create one city, but allow you players to choose how and why they reach it.
Thanks for reading,