Time to Prepare

As I’ve mentioned in a few previous blog posts (that you can find here and here) I’ve been working on a new campaign, but I’m missing some key resources that I’m going to be using to run it. Namely the Arcana of the Ancients books from Monte Cook Games, which I should be getting sometime in early 2020.

It’s a unique position in my gaming experience, planning something in advance that will rely on things I know are coming, but don’t have yet, especially with such an enormous amount of lead time. This has presented a few difficulties, but it’s also given me some neat opportunities to experiment with different resources and tools and also to prep in ways that I’ve never done before.

One of the biggest challenges that I’m having is that I have a lot of sustained enthusiasm for this game, but no matter what I do, I can’t really start it early and have it be what I want. I am very much on someone else’s time table.

At the same time, I know overprep is often really bad (or at least a waste of time) for GMs, and it’s an easy trap to fall into, either through anxiety or enthusiasm (or a mix of both). Too much prep can sap creative energy, turn what should be open-ended plots into railroads, and so on.

But I have nine months and I want this to be the best it can be, so what can I do now to ensure that happens?

The obvious answer is “world building.” Since the world I’m going to be running is basically a setting parfait with layers upon layers of different worlds piled atop one another, it makes sense to work on that, and I have been.

However, perhaps an even better question is to ask what sorts of things I’ve always wanted to do as a GM, but have been unable to do because of time constraints. Close to a year is a long time. I can tackle some ambitious projects if I want to.

One of the immediate things that came up was to try some new tools. I mentioned on the podcast that I participated in the World Anvil contest and really wound up liking World Anvil as a result of that. So I can can build what’s essentially a wiki of the starting area and add to it as time goes on. Another useful tool has been Articy: Draft 2 (picked up for $3.50 in a flash sale) which I wound up being so impressed with that I bought a second copy and sent it to Grant. That will be useful for plots and connecting what will essentially be two parallel campaigns together.

But a lot of what I’ve settled on is building my own tools or ones for my players. One of the things I’ve been doing is compiling lists by faction or location of different monsters and/or pre-generated NPCs from the various monster books I have. This is turning out to be a surprisingly time-consuming task. Another use of the time has been to read a bunch of my source material in greater depth than I usually do.

The largest project I’ve got going, though, is a massive class availability spreadsheet. In addition to the major touchstone books, I’ve also found a number of solid third-party classes and subclasses that are fitting with the tone and world of the setting and that I’d like to be able to include, but just presenting a list is daunting, and it doesn’t do much to describe the various subclasses, either.

The spreadsheet is going to be a major undertaking – but when it’s done, I’ll have a really useful tool I can share with my players. Early feedback has been positive. Hopefully once I finish, I’ll have something neat to share.

Like so many other things about this game, the work I’m doing now is a big ol’ experiment. This may go swimmingly, or it may crash and burn. But at least I’m enjoying the process in the mean time, and that alone has some worth.

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

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