What is your favorite zero-prep game for ongoing campaigns.

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I have only ran a few test sessions, but I think Tales of Xadia should work really well for long form play. You can pretty much create and run NPCs on the fly. There's no need to stat up any specifics. The Growth mechanics looks like they would provide a strong sense of progression. The game also handles all sorts of different sorts of fiction (intrigue, action, exploration) very well.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
I find myself in a situation where my schedule has gotten tight enough that while I can still carve out a couple hours to run a game weekly, I don't really have time to prep. I have run lots of no-prep games, but as one shots or short engagements (3 or 4 sessions, max, usually over a constrained time like a convention weekend). I have never run an ongoing campaign with a zero-prep paradigm, though.

If you have done so, what is your favorite system for an ongoing, no prep RPG campaign? Is the system built for zero-prep? If so, what built in tools make that possible.
First a caveat, I wouldn't say zero-prep, but rather incredibly low prep. But for my money PbtA games fit this style well. Some better than others. Zombie World. Masks: A New Generation. Cartel. I'd say these games are built around the idea of low-prep. PbtA games are designed around the idea of a reactive referee, so you just need to have a little bit of prep done (fronts, etc) and you can get going. Poke the PCs and things snowball from there. It's down to the moves and resolution. The PCs make a move and the situation changes no matter the result. Either they get a success, succeed at cost/negotiate, or they fail. The referee makes a move based on the PCs' cost or failure, further changing the narrative...which evokes more PC moves, which evokes more costs and failures, which evokes more referee moves, etc. Really great PbtA games can snowball from the first move.
If not, what external tools are you using?
Genre knowledge helps a lot with this. If you know the genre really well, you can simply react with some trope that's appropriate and keep things moving. No need to wonder or check the book.
Any general advice for ongoing zero-prep?
Get Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and read it. It's a great book. It will help a lot. You might not use everything in there, but the ideas are sound enough to transfer to non-D&D games.

Know the genre really well. It helps tremendously.
Do certain genres work better?
Yes, action-adventure genres work better than most others. Horror. Superheroes. Pulp. But anything you're a fan of that you know intimately can work. If you know the tropes of the genre you can put them in the game without a second though making prep easier or unnecessary.
What is a good number of players?
I'd say 3-5. Less than that and you're responsible for more stuff and keeping things going. More than that and it quickly becomes an unwieldy group.
What kind of format (ie episodic versus serial) works best for you?
Either, or. It's a bit harder for me to do episodic as you need to push a satisfying conclusion in one session, so a sprawling serial game is easier to do. Just note where you left off, who's mad at the PCs, what conflicts they're dealing with, etc and pick up there next time.
 
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Emrico

Adventurer
For me the easiest "no prep" games are Star Wars D6 or 1st Edition AD&D. I know the rules for both well enough that there's no concern on that end. And I can absolutely wing it for a session of Star Wars and just make it up as I go along. For 1E AD&D I can either just make it up as I go or pull out any of the old modules that I've read multiple times and just go with no prep.

I could maybe do it with Call of Cthulhu but that would probably end up with a lot of dead or insane characters by the end.
 

Celebrim

Legend
It depends on your ambitions as a storyteller and how much past experience you can count as prep.

But in my experience the only real way to have a no prep game is buy someone else's prep and don't have that high of standards. Buy a published adventure and run that.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I find myself in a situation where my schedule has gotten tight enough that while I can still carve out a couple hours to run a game weekly, I don't really have time to prep. I have run lots of no-prep games, but as one shots or short engagements (3 or 4 sessions, max, usually over a constrained time like a convention weekend). I have never run an ongoing campaign with a zero-prep paradigm, though.

If you have done so, what is your favorite system for an ongoing, no prep RPG campaign? Is the system built for zero-prep? If so, what built in tools make that possible. If not, what external tools are you using?

Any general advice for ongoing zero-prep? Do certain genres work better? What is a good number of players? What kind of format (ie episodic versus serial) works best for you?

Thanks!

Mutant Year Zero works well for this.
 



hawkeyefan

Legend
I recently ran a campaign of Spire: The City Must Fall. I would say that I prepped before the first session. I read the book and in session zero we chose a district and made the PCs.

I made some notes about NPCs and Factions relevant to that district. Then I made a mind map of the Factions and their relationships. I printed several NPC statblocks that I could use as needed.

Then that was all the prep I did. In between each session all I would do is apend some time pondering what may happen as a result of what the PCs did. I didn’t do anything more than that.

It was one of my favorite campaigns with which I’ve ever been involved.
 


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