Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On Preparation

When choosing to run a tabletop game one often has a great deal of prepared material. Sometimes this is in the form of sourcebooks, sometimes modules, sometimes its your own campaign notes and sometimes you've just made it up and holding it all in your head.

Inevitably the players leave the edge of your map or decide to investigate a portion of the world that you thought you had fleshed out and it turns out, not so much. Perhaps you have set your campagn in a Venice-like city of trader princes and political intrigue and they instead decide to, for perfectly good and cogent reasons investigate what is going on with the city's plumbers guild or canal maintenance workers. Often storytellers will just handwave this and say that thir plan works or doesn't and everyone happily skips past the glaring inconsistancy.

Lets say in this Venice-Like you are running some sort of politcical intrigue , secret gathering mystery and for perfectly good reasons they have decided to get control of the plumbers and waterways as a method of vanishing the bodies of their political opponents and having a set of eyes and ears throughout the city, thus unbalancing or at least changing your game, as now instead of running courtly balls you have to run scenes with burly tradesmen in smelly sewers.

Don't panic, roll with it. This is why most storytellers smoke. Take 15 minutes, breathe, make something up. Take notes on what you made up. Better yet, tell the players to take notes because the clues are very important and just read their sheets when they hand them in at the end of game. This will tell you not only what you said but also what the players were paying attention to. I'm not advocating smoking mind you but often gamers get chair-butt or their legs fall asleep or it gets very stuffy in the room. Take a fresh air break, walk around the building you're in. When you've gotten good at this you can make up at least something to run out the rest of the night during this time and spend the time between sessions finishing fleshing out the plumbers.

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