This is a workshop I ran based on the ideas from The Prep-Light Manifesto on Gnomestew.
The Prep-Lite Manifesto
Why have a prep-lite manifesto? The Three Goals
1. Create unpredictable, unique and interesting adventures
2. Use immersive names during the game
3. Keeping things fresh by changing up the scenery
What does NOT go into a template
1. Detailed Descriptions
3. Anticipating Player’s responses
4. Opening & Closing Scenes
What DOES go into a template
Why Adventure Templates are Awesome
A template forces you not to prep too much.
1. Over-prepping is a waste of time
2. Your game will be much more flexible
3. You are likely to make a better on-the-spot decision anyway
…but also not too little
1. A template is a thing you fill in with the elements of your adventure
2. If there’s a spot to fill something in, you fill something in.
Templates encourage modular thinking.
1. If you have 20 minutes, you can write a great scene
2. If you have an hour, you can probably outline the whole adventure
3. When you come back to the template, you know exactly what you’ve done, what’s left to write, and how everything fits together.
Save time on NPC’s with Wireframes and Skins
The Experience is not about the numbers.
1. Players experience NPC’s through what they do in the session.
2. Players do not see NPC’s as they are represented on paper.
3. In the heat of combat, no one but the GM sees the stats for an NPC.
4. What matters to the players is how the GM presents the NPC, and how they make it exciting through their descriptions.
1. Change around a few numbers.
2. Give it a different weapon or a different main power.
3. Change the NPC’s description and/or gender.
4. Your players will never know.
Wireframes, Borrowing a concept from Video Game Character Design
1. The Wireframe becomes the stat block
2. The Skin becomes the GM’s description of the NPC
3. The same stat block could be used over and over, and made into different NPC’s, by altering the description.
4. Some games do this already by providing some general stat blocks for different classes of monsters and allowing the GM to skin them.
Simplify unimportant NPC’s
1. If stats are not key to a good NPC, then how much mechanical detail is needed for an unimportant NPC?
2. An NPC is good at the things that his role requires, and less adept at everything else.
3. NPC’s can be reduced to two attributes: Important and Non-Important, and two skills: Important and Non-Important. This makes a wireframe that can be used for anything.
The Essence of Maps
Start with the locations, treat each location as its own set piece. List out the important locations with single word or short phrase descriptions.
Next, apply the spacial relationships between each of the locations. Don’t force the locations to line up nicely to one another, or even to conform to a shape, but rather show how each location relates to another. This will show which areas can be reached directly and which require the players to travel through another location.
The Interesting Locations
1. Purpose– every location has a purpose, it helps to define a single sentence about what the role of this room is.
2. Description– keep this down to the most important elements. Things that will jog your memory about the room.
3. Occupants– who is in this room? Monsters? Hostages?
1. The first way an unimportant room comes into play, is when the players ask if it exists.
2. Is it logical for this kind of building/area to have the room in question? If it seems logical, then it exists! If not, then probably not.
3. Players never ask for a specific room with out something in mind. Find out what it is; just ask them. Then decide if having this room makes the upcoming scene cooler. If it will, add in the room.
Sometimes players chose to open a random door and entered a room. In this case you will need to come up with the contents of the room. You can take a few approaches:
1. Make up an uninteresting room– The players open the door to find a spare bedroom. Not every room is exciting.
2. Make up a new room with a twist– The players open the door and come upon the kids room where three little girls are having a tea party, and invite the players to come sit.
3. Make it one of the interesting rooms– The best part about not having a set map is that you can change the connections between each of the rooms on the fly. So now that random door leads into one of your interesting rooms.
Prep-Lite is not a specific template or a specific way you take your notes, rather its a mind-set that relies on your personal strengths as a GM, and values your time by keeping your prep simple. It looks for simple efficiencies in bulleted lists and tags, and more complex time savers through abstraction of mechanical elements.
The goal of Prep-Lite is to give you the material you need to run your game smoothly and with confidence, without having you spend hours writing notes. It is also a system that grows and adapts, as your skills as a GM improve, you can drop parts of your prep. It is system neutral, allowing it be adapted to any game.
Many Paths To One Goal
The first thing I have come to learn about Prep-Lite is that it is not a single formula. There is a single goal: to keep your notes simple while being able to deliver the best game possible. How a specific GM gets to that place will differ from person to person.
GM, Know Thyself
Every GM has strong and weak areas. Knowing what you are good at and where you are weak is the key to knowing what should go into your Prep-Lite notes and what should not.