Friday, December 20, 2013

Expanded Thoughts: Unabashed Gaming Ep. 6 (Part 1)

So, I've been podcasting with my good friend (and GM) David Larkins, and our most recent uploaded episode is regarding the merits of running published material, compared to writing your own. My commentary was verbose, as always, but my preparation was even greater, and because I have this handy blog I thought I'd share some of my unabridged thoughts with everyone.

Merits of Running Published Material

There are a lot of positives to running published material, whether through ease of preparation or a catering to a GM's own occasional laziness or ambivalence towards game preparation (we've all been there). It's important to note, going in to this post, that there is no right or wrong way to prep for a game, provided the end result is that the table consensus at the end of the session is some permutation of "Good times were had by all; except for that asshat Richard. He never has a good time. I don't know why we keep inviting him to games."

1. You don’t have to write anything, you basically read and take notes.

The best reason to run published material. If you're in a creative slump, or on short notice, or were violently ill the week before game time, it's super easy to pick something up and read it, compared to trying to write out a balanced game for players in a super-short period of time.

2. With luck (Or you paid for it) it’s been edited and playtested for balance.

Another great reason! Have you ever spent hours poring over different sourcebooks or .pdfs, trying to find the perfect way to create encounters or play sessions that involve all the players and don't utterly drag in execution? Well, most paid products have already had that lucky benefit of playtesting and tweaking, so unless you're reading from a text file you copy/pasted from some Angelfire website, chances are the writer put some thought into making the game coherent and interesting for players!

3. Takes substantially less prep, even to include in an original setting

This is sort of obvious. When someone else does most of the work for you, there's less to take your mind away from thinking about how to run your game, compared to what you're running for your game. And if you're in an ongoing campaign, you can copy/paste names of your original NPCs or locations into appropriate places in the adventure. What's easier than copy/pasting, I ask you? A lot of things, I'm sure, like calling a player and telling them it's time for them to put on big-boy pants and run a goddamn game once in your life instead of complaining about mine, Richard.

4. Can give you ideas for where to go next if your group is in a rut

An under-appreciated gem, this one. There are so many things that can put some malaise into your weekly game, whether through player infighting or a new system release, or just plain summer laziness kicking in. Or GTA Online finally releasing their content creator. Or a really good Steam Sale or Humble Bundle. You get the point. Inspiration is low, players are losing focus. When you get to this point, a great place to turn to is published material, where they come up with some really deadly ways to get players back on their toes, or to really inspire a GM with a memorable villain or dangerous situation. This isn't a sure-cure, as players who want to stop playing a game generally already have an idea of what they want to do instead, but if the rut belongs to you, GM, this tactic can get you back on track.

5. Fantastic for introductions/one-shots if they are short

What if I'm starting out as a GM, you ask. What if my players are new? Or the system? Or someone wants to break in a new set of dice? Or perhaps an old gaming friend is coming in from out of town and wants to roll some dice for an evening?
One shots, baby. There's nothing like them, and if you can make them fast-paced enough or deadly enough, any complaints by long-time angsty players named Dick or Rich or Richard will be constantly drowned out by other players asking why the hell a rusty bed frame just knocked them out of a window onto the concrete path below for 3d6 damage. Because Call of Cthulhu, naive new player. Because Call of Cthulhu.
Tune in again for Drawbacks of Running Published Material!

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