GM Time Tricks

Posted: January 29, 2009 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Roleplaying Games

Sometimes Real Life loves throwing a wrench in even the best laid schedules.  I had intended to spend most of this week planning for a 3rd session of the Deadlands game, but I’m currently swamped with work, and surrounded with distractions.  Because of this, I’m less prepared than I’d like to be in terms of my GM planning.

That said, there are a few tricks one can work with in order to come up with a good session, when real life has your schedule out of commission:

  • Commute – Some of my best ideas come during the haze of the day’s commute.  Between watching the scenery go by and looking out for people trying to pick my pocket, there’s plenty of brainpower to spend on figuring out where to take the campaign.  Might not be so good though when it comes to statting out bad guys, but Savage Worlds makes that part a cinch.
  • Shower – Another time when you’ve got lot’s of spare brainpower running around in your head is in the shower, and firing up the old brain cells during this downtime leads to some oddly clear thinking.
  • In between work – taking a five to ten minute break from a day’s work, even for just coffee is another good way to sneak in some time to stat out a villain, or work out a scenario.  Computers are great for this purpose, and I usually have a file in my pc for typing out ideas as they occur to me between working on a project.  It provides my brain a break from tedium of work.
  • Efficient use of downtime – Spare ideas?  Note them down.  Inspiration strikes at that oddest moments, and it’s best to write down your plot hooks on a GM notebook you can carry around.  Once you’ve got the habit of doing this, you’ll have a small repository of plot hooks and things that you can work with even without having a lot of prep time.
  • Use a Character Plot Hook – Efficient use of a Character Plot Hook, be it a villain, a habit, a disadvantage or an NPC is a great way to pull a story from nothing.  Try to space out the use of these things, as putting this too many times might make players think that you’re picking on them.

Prep time is precious for GMs.  We might not be always able to get it, but with a little bit of forethought and squeezing every bit of brainpower between sessions, we can usually make it through no matter how busy the week is.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    I stopped at SHOWER…


    Why are you thinking of my senile old man while you’re taking a bath.

  2. Trust me, I don’t have to like it any more than you do. These are the sacrifices I must make to run a decent game. :p

  3. Thanks for these great suggestions. I use Evernote on my iPhone to the same effect that you describe for the little notebook (though I also have a little RP notebook in my backpack). Lately I have been trying to pace myself: prepare one encounter, or one NPC, or one map, or one whatever–one element of the upcoming game–per day, or one before breakfast and one after dinner, or whatever schedule works. Spreading out the preparation time doesn’t reduce the overall time, but in practical terms it reduces the stress of the load.

  4. Johnn Four says:

    @Christopher: I do the same. Half the battle is just showing up. Often when I plan one thing I keep going, seemingly carving out time dedicated to gaming where it didn’t seem to exist before.

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