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Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:28 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
DM Prep Work Leading To Burnout: Help?
Good Morning, All,
As a GM/DM of D20 games in general, I've found that, as time goes on, DM Prepwork is a greater and greater burden, to the point where it has actually started causing me to experience DM Burnout. Now, I don't want to suffer this foul malady, so I'm trying to find ways to work around it. However, given the increasing complexity of the game through the sheer volume of character and rule options, and the increasing amount of material that one has to keep track of in order to keep up with the players, DM Prepwork has become overwhelming in many regards.
Now, I could write my own simple gaming system (and have even done some work in that direction), but the problem with not playing D&D v3.5 is that you lose a lot of the potential gamers who don't want to play anything but D&D v3.5. Therefore, trying another gaming system is not likely to be an option for me. Simply put, I like having a greater variety of gamers to choose from, as it's a lot easier to build a compatible gaming group if you are choosing from fifty potentials rather than choosing from five potentials.
So, here comes the big question: Aside from suggesting that I play something other than D&D v3.5, because that's not what I want to do, what suggestions do you have about making the DM's life easier for prepping for a v3.5 game, and for removing/preventing DM Burnout?
Thanks In Advance For Your Time,
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:33 PM #2
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Do like our main DM.
Take a few months off to be a player.
Let the others try a few one shots. Never know one might take off for you and become a full fledge campaign in itself.
It also allows you to try new concepts for characters. Such as the main DM is a player in my game now where he is trying out the Ultimate Magus for me. It's something I want to try to play, so he is testing it.
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:36 PM #3
Defender (Lvl 8)
By prep work you mean preparing monster and NPC stats, mostly?
I use electronic assistance in this area -- eTools specifically. While not perfect or without its own hassles, it greatly eases my burdens in this area. Sadly, eTools is no longer for sale. There is also PC Gen at http://pcgen.sourceforge.net/03_get_pcgen.php . I don't know what the current state of the program is or where/how you get data sets for it.
Another aspect of prep work is detailing NPC spellcaster spells. I use some auto-calculating spreadsheets, but I also recommend the program found at http://pigmentia.net/spellgen/ .
My own "prep work" nightmare is actually developing interesting plots, personalities and stories. When my creative well is tapped, I find that using published adventures helps me greatly. I have enjoyed the Dungeon Crawl Classics line at www.goodmangames.com but tastes vary, of course. These are generally all dungeon-heavy, roleplay-lite.
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:38 PM #4
Defender (Lvl 8)
As far as maps for adventures go, I have raided the WotC map galleries, the web enhancements for Dungeon Magazine at paizo.com, and the Campaign Cartographer maps prepared for the FR Atlas CD-ROM (again, no longer for sale as far as I know).
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:40 PM #5
Gallant (Lvl 3)
What parts in particular are taking the time?
In my case, it was statting up NPCs - so now I don't do it. Last session involved a fight against a group of 20th level NPCs. Rather than stat them up "properly", I picked their ACs, ability bonuses, hp etc. Spellcasters were assumed to have a "decent" spell selection and I just chose an appropriate spell from the PHB for the character to cast each round.
I also found awarding XP "by the book" was a lot of effort for very little reward, so now I use the system whereby the characters level each time an appropriate goal is achieved.
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:41 PM #6
Defender (Lvl 8)
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:43 PM #7
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Granted this solution is not for everyone...
Don't prep. My prep work consists of occassional NPC creation for important bad guys that the PCs have to fight and that's it. Everything else is just a rough outline in my head. On rare occassions I will sketch out a map or use Dungeon Tiles to put one together on the spot.
Also, just because you run a 3.5 game, that doesn't mean you have to allow every option. I start with core only and very slowly expand from there once I am certain of how a new option fits into my world. Just recently added Psionics this way.
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:47 PM #8
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
I run 3 games a week so I know the feeling all to well and found the a bulk of my time was being spent on creating the NPCs that revolved around or were encountered by the PCs. Maps I could either draw by hand or find one I liked already done and just took a few notes to handle room descriptions, the over all plot or events were done in an outline format to allow for different things the PCs might do during game play and allow me for expanding it rather quickly.
For NPCs I use two things, NPC Designer and NPCs from Dungeon Magazine. NPC Designer allows me to create 3x5 index cards for NPCs and I scan/ocr the NPC I want from Dungeon to put it into it myself by hand (Yes the later is more of a hassle but over time you end up with a nice collection).
(Note I have over 4000 index cards after 2 years of doing this constantly)
Now when I am creating a new adventure/encounter or evening winging one, I simple pull the cards I need and build around them.
One additional step I also do during adventure creation is usually create a point where I can have a wing-it session, this means very minimal to no prep work for me and has become almost more fun for me to run then for the players.
Use the computer as much as possible during prep work, here is an example that may seem small.
Generating mundane treasure, lets me honest.. this is the payoff the players have been fighting for so it should be something rather then.. a ring (100gp) There are quite a few useful software tools that will handle this generation for you, while this task may seem small.. if you could have all of your mundane needs taken care with a click of a button (the minutes will add up and your imagination will both be saved for better things).
I also have a book while I GM, it has generation results for odd things (Some based on current party level). Book names, subjects, personal descriptions.. the list goes on and on. It has become habit now to turn to my book when needing some information rather then churning the old brain cell. (I also use this book during prep work)
In conclusion, look at your prep work and find the most time consuming tasks.. then you can work stream line them and back to enjoying being a DM.
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:49 PM #9
Novice (Lvl 1)
Originally Posted by crazypixie
And another +1 to taking time off and playing. One of my players has allowwed me a few weeks off after our last story arc, and it has really recharged the idea battery. It has also made me a much better wizard player, prolly to his chagrin
Wednesday, 27th June, 2007, 06:51 PM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
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Figure out what is taking you so long, and drop it.
- Spending too much time on NPC stats? Buy some, or have several sessions fighting only monsters, or just use the generic stats from the DMG, or use the NPC Generator 2.
- Spending too much time preparing spellcaster tactics? Do away with spellcasters for a while. Use monsters with lots of hitpoints, big damage reduction, high AC, good saves, high damage per second ratings – and no spell like abilities, no supernatural abilities, no special abilities, none of that.
- Spending too much time on adding class levels to monsters? Don't do it. Pick a different monster, or let them use magic items, or use a simplified warrior class: +1 to-hit per level, +1 Fort per level, +1d10 per level. Done. No feats and save some time.
- Spending too much time crafting NPCs using Prestige Classes. Use core classes only and use fluff to bridge the gap.
- Spending too much time picking feats? Either do away with feats (like the simplified warrior above), or pick a feat chain and have all NPCs of a certain type follow the same feat chain. This makes things easy. Pick NPC level, figure out the number of feats, start at the beginning. An example from Kitsunemori: Iaido – This martial art is all about drawing a weapon first to deal maximum damage in as little time as possible. Feats: Quick Draw, Power Attack, Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Improved Sunder, Weapon Focus, Greater Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, Greater Weapon Specialization, Weapon Technique, Improved Critical, Deadly Arc (samurai only), Zanshin (samurai only), Improved Zanshin (samurai only).
- Spending too much time drawing maps? Reuse. In my current campaign, I've reused a little seven-room ruined castle five times. Whenever the party left, something evil came back eventually.
- Spending too much time inventing background? Drop it. Running adventures is not about being a Fantasy-author wannabe. It's not story-telling all by yourself. It's about being there, at the table. Focus preparation on the stuff that is going to happen at the table. If players go in unexpected directions ("You said they had one of the biggest libraries here, right? My character will read up on the hobgoblin rituals!") don't be afraid to say you'll think of something, and prepare an adventure hook. Just switch to meta if you don't want adventure hooks ("You spend hours and hours pouring over the ethnology books, and truly it is fascinating. But it won't help you in this quest. Let's go back and join the rest of the party...")
- Take a break and let somebody else run a game or two.
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