Friday Chats are end-of-week posts intended to foster discussion on various RPG topics that bounce around in my noggin’.
This week, with my post on prepping for my game,cramming it with all the awesome Magitek I can think of and applying lessons from last week’s posts, I caught myself asking, yet again, “Dude, aren’t you just trying too hard here?” Chances are I’ll spend 4-6 hours of preparation for a 3-4 hour game. While I’ll likely be setting a solid foundation for the next 2-3 session… one is left to wonder: is it worth it?
If you were to ask that question to my players, most would roll their eyes so far up they would likely pop right out. My friend Yan, Myers-Briggs Mastermind that he is, rarely misses a chance to remind me how much less time he invests in his games that are, overall, pretty similar to mine in scope and play experience, although I suspect he daydreams about it a lot. Our other group GM, Franky, seems daunted by my dedication to put so much effort in the art of DMing. I sometime worried if he isn’t half-scared that I’ll call the GMing S.W.A.T on him during our monthly Star Wars game.
Nevertheless, when I say ‘trying too hard’, I means prepping so much game material that an unhealthy chunk of your free time is sucked out of your life. It also means cramming so many ideas in so few scenes that they become too tangled to play out as cool as they appear individually on paper.
Therefore, I think the question is not if I try too hard as a DM, I totally do, but why I keep doing it after having realized it? While I almost always overprep games, I often fail to pull off all the potential awesomeness I hope for once at the gaming table. The ideas end up being too complex, I’m more tired than expected or find myself reacting poorly to an unexpected turn of event.
Let’s not deny that prepping is fun. If it wasn’t, there would a lot less homebrewed or adapted published adventures. Heck, even running published ones straight need prep. I would however say that should prepping become more fun than actually gaming, chances are there’s a fundamental flaw in your gaming experience that should be explored and addressed before your campaign collapses. I would, however, be curious to see if some GMs would rather prep a game for a friend than run it).
The thing is, I realize as I write these lines that I mainly keep doing it because I’m wired like that and have not reached a point where the disadvantages of doing this outweigh the gains… but I must say that at times, It does. And when I reach that point, I need to look at my way of preparing adventures and give it a good healthy kick to see what falls off and I don’t really need.
For D&D 4e I realize that weren’t for the fact that I always keep the door open for publication and appreciate having everything (stats, outcomes, descriptions, etc) in one document, I could afford to drop things like templating and as- written mechanics and just page 42 (see Dungeon Master Guide) the hell out of it all.
So what about you? Do you try too hard and produce prepping works of art that you don’t necessary need? Do you feel that the work you do is unappreciated by your players (see my posts about giving and receiving feedback)? How do you deal with that?
And for those who don’t, I have another Friday Chat brewing for you…