Planning vs. Riffing: On Being Over Prepared


It is also OK to take a minute to set up a combat map and flip through a book to get to some appropriate stats. This can be done in a reasonable amount of time without breaking up the flow too much.

None of it needs to be amazing and perfect, don't spend inordinate amounts of table time looking for the perfect match, just get something decent and go.

log in or register to remove this ad


B/X Known World
Yeah, DCC is a different bird for sure. I've run it a few times, but this will be my first long campaign. I'm trying to let the game's mechanics and vibe guide my creation. Key word: WEIRD
I absolutely love DCC and its weirdness. So much fun.

I’d suggest reading the PCs’ spells and being ready for any of those results to happen at any moment. Suddenly huge PC or suddenly tiny party of PCs, suddenly the sun disappears, or the city is now permanently flying, etc. That’s where most of the WTF moments will come from.
@SlyFlourish is the man. I use his concepts and stuff all of the time!


I am an unrepentant improviser and pantser, so keep that in mind with my response:

First are foremost, never, ever feel like you can't call for a 5 minute break to deal with a shift in direction or unexpected choice, die result or whatever. Send everyone outside for a smoke (oops, it isn't the 90s anymore) and get yourself together. Think through the change, sketch a map, roll up an encounter -- whatever you need to do to "prep" right then and there.

Remember that random tables are your friend. Maybe spend some of that fretful prep time coming up with bespoke tables for the game/adventure in question. if you need inspiration in the middle of a session because the players hooked left, use those. It will be instant inspiration but will also still fit what's going on.

Ultimately, though, what works for me is that I make sure that I know who (NPC and adversary wise) is involved in the scenario and what they want, and what they would do if left alone by the PCs. If I know that, then I can figure out what they do in response to choices the PCs make. Even if it is just a dungeon crawl, there are people and/or things in that dungeon that have motives and plans.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
The concept that gets repeated all the time nowadays is to prepare situations, not plots, and I think it's good advice.

The party can't really encounter any monster. If they're in the desert, even if they go off map, they're probably not going to be dealing with a yeti or a sea serpent. If you want to come up with a few extra monsters that they might encounter in adjacent hexes, go ahead and stat up maybe the most likely monster in each.

And remember, you can always just take the stats of a bear and reskin it on the fly. Take off its fur and skin and maybe have green glowing goo dripping from its mouth and eye sockets. Since it's DCC, it can be a one-off monster that's never explained or named, and the players will have a good time anyway.

I like to have a list of NPC names I make ahead of time, using online generators or translation tools and then, when the players decide to befriend the stable boy for some insane reason, I've got a name ready to go.

Roll & Play makes an amazing book to help gamemasters on the fly, the Game Master's Fantasy Toolkit (they also have a sci-fi one), which includes tables for all sorts of stuff, like the name of the tavern, what's in that pocket that just got picked, the effects of critical hits, what the bard is singing about, NPC jobs, etc., all in an easy to use spiral-bound format. (Big books of tables that are hundreds of pages long that take 20 minutes to find the table you want defeat their purpose, IMO.)

For my games, I know what the base situation of the setting is, what various NPCs' goals are and what they're doing to accomplish them and what the inciting incident for the players is. From there, I am prepared for my players to throw whatever they want at me. (And I have some players who love to throw curveballs.) I figured out most of the above from trial and error, but it works very well for me now.

You've got this.


B/X Known World
Much better. Just reskin a bear! Its claw attacks are tentacles or floating icicles or a stinging swarm of flying insects.
No, really. Try randomly rolled stats. It’s a blast. Use the whole dice chain and roll up the monster’s stats. Nothing like the PCs finding out the monster has 1d30 actions in a round. But yeah, skin the thing however you want. It’s not like DCC really even tries for balance. Either the players are smart enough to run or they’re rolling up new characters…or they’re doing a Quest For It in the afterlife.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads