Planning ahead

For quite a long time I started new campaign on a whim with an extremely short prep period. This works out well enough if you’re at the top of your game, creative, able to think on your toes. But if you are stressed from work and other things, perhaps even feeling a bit under the weather, this just doesn’t work out anymore. My friend Roberto has a different approach to GMing. He usually plans his campaigns way ahead. I think he’s already planning the campaign he wants to run in 2015. I don’t think I’ll ever plan ahead that early, but I’ve decided to change the way I prepare for my games.

At the moment I am running two games: a mini-campaign freely based on the XCOM series of computer games and a campaign based on the Fallout 1 computer game. Both games use Fudge rules, for the Fallout one I even wrote a pretty extensive conversion document. The XCOM game will probably be over two weeks time, so I am already planning for the game that will follow.

My players have asked me to run Shadowrun, so I started reading 5th Edition. Alas reading 5th Edition felt like gnawing off my own foot, so I decided to look for alternatives. At first I thought just tossing the Shadowrun rules would be best, but in the end I settled on Shadowrun 4th Edition. For some reason I find the game much more approachable. I’ll still think the same after I’ve finished reading the book.

But I will not stop there. As soon as we start playing Shadowrun I’ll think about what I could prepare next. Currently I am very interested in the Hero System. I picked up the current Bundle of Holding, and already started leafing through the various PDFs. I always wanted to run a superhero game, and Champions Complete may be the perfect game for this. If the Hero System turns out too much of a hassle after all, I still have a couple of alternatives up my sleeves. BASH Ultimate Edition looks like a more rules-lite approach to super hero gaming for example.

Do you usually plan way ahead for your games? Do you have several projects brewing at the same time, or do you prefer to focus on only one game at a time? Please share your thoughts below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

One thought on “Planning ahead”

  1. I tend to plan my campaigns a few months in advance, but I have the advantage of some long-running homebrew settings in different genres, including fantasy, steampunk, superheroes, and space opera.

    For each new party, I discuss potential party themes and rules systems with the role-players before we generate characters. For example, in my upcoming “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” game, we eventually settled on a hybrid of AD&D1 “Oriental Adventures” and the D20 retro-clone “Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game” (with a dash of FATE and some other Asian-style fantasy).

    My telecom group then made up characters, while I’ve been fleshing out locations, plot threads, and Non-Player Characters in the past several weeks. As with any sandbox setting, choice can be challenging for both adventuring parties and G.M.s, but we have more freedom to add elements from other games and to follow spontaneous developments.

    For the past few years, my face-to-face groups have played one-shots and miniseries as a palate cleanser through the summers, when attendance is spotty anyway. We then,take votes on longer-term campaigns and systems, based on G.M. proposals Sure, there are more ideas than time in which to play them all, but it’s good to give everybody an investment in the game.

    Your experiences with “Shadowrun” are also of interest. I remember playing the game back in college in the late 1980s and using bits of the cyberpunk/fantasy with GURPS and other rules sets later. I have the 20th Anniversary Edition and was wondering whether to invest in “Shadowrun” 5e….

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