It was during this period that I noticed some of my old problems raising their heads again. And I've been lucky enough to find some new solutions... or, at least, some new tools.
The reoccurring theme of this blog would be the nature of the butterfly GM. This is the GM who, ever attracted to new shiny things, finds it hard to maintain a long-term focus on any one RPG campaign or project. It has been my own problem throughout my life.
Christmas always provides the biggest time of temptation for the butterfly GM because it is the one time of the year that the group almost always ends up unable to play. This year has been no different but, for once, it has not been due to my own flutterings.
This year the Christmas break has been down to the players: one in Aus, one on heavier-than-usual shifts at work, and two others who have been either away or celebrating with other friendship groups on the Friday night. With only one or two players per session available we've opted to park the gaming.
Yet... it's never that simple.
With no need to prep a game for more than a month, I've not done any prep. And not doing prep has led me to lose the mojo and routine of working on the setting. As a butterfly, I've been allowed to flutter off elsewhere. Flutter I have.
Getting Back On Board
Yesterday was crunch-time for me. One of the benefits of having some time to reflect has been my ability to recognise that Plan A for RPG Prep, as talked about back when I discovered "Never Unprepared", has not worked out great.
Two problems hit my ability to prep: the first is the sheer volume of work that I deal with as a teacher, both in and out of the classroom, which leads me to being wiped ("tired") most evenings; the second problem has been the fact that the tools I was using to prep were too rigid.
BEING WIPED means that the evening hour of prep during weekdays has not been happening. Instead, to be frank, I've been either in bed or simply enjoying low-energy entertainment (like TV). My expectations of some medium-creativity in the evenings have proven completely false; I simply don't have the energy or desire to "work" after finishing the marking pile. I need to change prep from "work" to "fun".
POOR TOOLS sounds like a poor excuse, but it's actually a big part of the problem. Using only two things, iPad's Index Cards app for brainstorming and MS OneNote for the rest, has proven too inflexible.
The electronic Index Cards are quite good for a one-off brainstorming session but it becomes odd when having to create new files for each brainstorm done; in short, it has become muddled. This makes it harder to select good ideas.
OneNote is great for the documentation phase of prep but has been too cumbersome for the conceptual phase. Without clear conceptualisation the process of writing an adventure bogs down and becomes "too much work". To make documentation fun it has to contain less thinking ("work"), which comes from good conceptualisation.
For the Rolemaster Mykenaea campaign I've over-hauled the prep process and created a Plan B. It has been important to remind myself that this is a process, not a failure. The system is evolving to suit my own tastes and needs, not broken.
Thus... for brainstorming and capturing ideas I am going to dust off Evernote
and give it a whirl. Adding a simple daily task, framed as the question, "Any ideas for RPGs to note down?", to my planner has already helped me to keep prodding the creative juices for ideas. Evernote is accessible anywhere for me, as the app is on my iPad and my smartphone.
For conceptualisation, I am going to try and work with a flowchart. Trialling the iPad app "Grafio
", I am setting myself the task of producing a "draft flow diagram of the session" before I set to the documentation phase. This should help me to visualise my ideas and forces the conceptual process in the creation of the diagram.
Finally, to aid my daily documentation phase, I have re-framed my "write the adventure by this date" task as a series of daily short tasks entitled, "Draft some more Friday Night Roleplay session notes". This lighter, more open-ended task feels less like work; "some" works for me better than having to do it all by a set date.
The documentation task appears on weekdays only but allows me to pick the time of day to suit mood / energy levels. I am also setting myself the internal goal to write 3 times a week, instead of setting myself up to fail by expecting 5 sessions of writing in the week. Over the two-week prep cycle I should produce enough notes for the 3-5 encounters we typically handle in a session.
Oh, and so you know it hasn't been forgotten, the review phase (which works fine) is on the day before the session to allow for any last-minute changes.
Speaking of Tools...
I had the additional fortune of organising the first online RPG set-up sessions with two old buddies over this past fortnight. Using the miracle that is Google+ Hangouts
we have hooked up two chats and begun to conceptualise the SF setting mentioned in the last post
The two new tools, namely Hangouts (with webcams) and the Fate Core System
, has allowed three old friends to hook up and begin gaming again... after a 10+ year hiatus. This is, frankly, marvellous!
The reoccurring conversation, however, has been us marvelling at how new technology has made it possible for a guy in England to run a live RPG session for two other gamers, one in Japan and one in the USA. We have 2 spaces at the "table" too, so it's entirely possible that we will eventually get a full-size group working online. Frankly, this is amazing to me.
So... there's the way the cookie is crumbling this Christmas: I have found the energy and means to re-invigorate the home Rolemaster campaign whilst, through the miracle of technology, start a second project online.
Game on, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!