GM Prep between Sessions 1 & 2:

GM Prep between Sessions 1 & 2:

GM Prep between Sessions 1 & 2:

I have all kinds of fun coming up with backstory, fronts, dangers, portents, etc. But, now it’s a couple of days before session-2 and I realize that I don’t know what I’m going to DO at the table!

I need things. Monsters, locations, items, traps. So that’s what I’m prepping now.

How much of your prep is fronts and all that, and how much is things?

35 thoughts on “GM Prep between Sessions 1 & 2:”

  1. Chris Stone-Bush Yes, exactly. Fill in with resources I posted and you will be fine. Also there is great stuff all over this site for new GMs.

  2. Thanks all. Mark Tygart , I used a dungeon starter in session-1: Valley of The Titans. Chris Stone-Bush , in the first session they befriended some valleyfolk, killed a titan (!!), and set off for the city atop the crawling labyrinth in search of the Angelic Sword. I’m good with building all kinds of interesting backstory and factions based on the players’ input. These tell me what the antagonists want, what they’ll do.

    I’m just realizing – late – that that’s not enough. I need some of the good ol’ dungeon (wilderness, city…) tactical accoutrements, too. At least to get me started. Some locations, some opponents… I don’t mean keyed rooms a-la D&D. I mean a few locations described, a short-list of monsters that fit the setting,… Just so I don’t have to make up everything on the fly.

  3. When I prep, I try to spend more time on fronts & grim portents than I do on stuff.

    Monsters, in particular, I usually do on the fly. Here’s a little cheat sheet I made for making them more quickly:

    EDIT Whoops! Wrong link. Corrected.

    Exception: big bads. I like to stat those up hard, before play, so as to give myself permission to make very hard, aggressive moves with them.

    Other things that I prep:

    – I like to have a map, usually with lots of blanks. When I doubt, I’ll grab one Dyson Lygos’s maps use that to inform my improve.

    – For more large scale stuff (like a ruined city), I like to think of some likely “zones” they’ll encounter and how they might connect. Maybe fill in some details, but only enough to let me wing it during play.

    – NPCs and their relationships to each other. Mostly, I like to have some ideas so that I can avoid stereotypical crap that I tend to do by default.

    – I tend to stat up magic items & spells and custom moves between sessions, but only stuff that they already discovered in play. I really lean heavily on the Treasure table to generate loot on the fly.

    – Names. Cripes I’m terrible with names on the fly. Unless I know my players can generate that crap on the fly, I like to come with a solid name list.

  4. The illusion of freedom can be more important than freedom; if you get desperate. Give the players three roads but all lead to the Haunted Inn.

  5. Aaron Griffin GM: You come to a fork in the path. You can go left or right. You don’t see anything remarkable about either path, and they both seem to be headed toward the Fortress of the Evil Warlock, although the left hand path looks a bit more direct.

    Player: I go down the left hand path.

    GM: Okay, you carry on down the left hand path. After about a mile you come around a bend in the path and you see, standing in your way, an ogre.

    Player: Oh, come on!

    GM: What?

    Player: I thought you took this game seriously.

    GM: What are you talking about?

    Player: You’re giving me a quantum ogre!

    GM: A what?

    Player: A quantum ogre. It’s an encounter you had planned ahead of time, and intend to carry out no matter which way I went, thus robbing my character of agency.

    GM: You’re saying that if you had turned right instead of left, that ogre would still have been there?

    Player: Exactly!

    GM: How do you know that?

    Player: Well, you’re running a campaign, aren’t you? You’re following the text, which has foreordained the presence of an ogre at this time and place!

    GM: Are you saying you’ve read the text of the campaign?

    Player: Of course not.

    GM: Then in the first place, how do you know the campaign says that there’s an ogre here?

    Player: Well, either that, or you’re deviating from the text.

    GM: How do you know I’m not deviating from the text?

    Player: …well…

    GM: And in the second place, what makes you think that the ogre would be there if you had gone down the right hand path?

    Player: Well, would it?

    GM: I’m not telling you what’s down the right hand path.

    Player: Why not?

    GM: Because you’re a good mile from that location, you can’t see or hear anything. Whatever’s down there may come into play later, and your lack of knowledge about it may impact events.

    Player: Sigh. Fine, I go back and go down the right hand path instead.

    GM: Actually, the ogre has already noticed you, and is charging toward you, its club raised. Roll initiative.

    Player: Oh, come ON!

    GM: Hey, you chose to go down the left hand path.

    Player: But my choice is meaningless because you put a quantum ogre there!

    GM: Neither you the character nor you the player has any way of knowing it’s a quantum ogre.

    Player: Well… Do you give me your word that it’s not a quantum ogre?

    GM: Technically, I can’t do that. There are gods and other powerful beings in this world, including the Evil Warlock who knows you’re coming for him, and they may have decided to put the ogre in your path.

    Player: Did they?

    GM: You don’t know. It doesn’t seem likely, but you can’t exclude it.

    Player: Sigh. Look, can we just skip the ogre and fast forward to the Fortress of Evil Warlock?

    GM: Why?

    Player: Because ogre encounters are boring. I want to go straight to the Fortress; that’s why I went left in the first place, remember?

    GM: So you insist on absolute player agency by ruling out the possibility of any quantum ogre, but you also insist on not necessarily having to face the consequences of the exercise of your agency?

    Player: No! But–

    GM: Then roll initiative.

    Player: But you’re the one who determines those consequences!

    GM: Would you rather YOU determined those consequences? You want to be the GM?

    Player: I want you to set consequences in line with the exercise of my agency!

    GM: In other words, you want to go from point A to point B without having to encounter any ogres.

    Player: Exactly!

    GM: In an area you know to be rife with ogres.

    Player: Only because you say it is.

    GM: It’s called the Ogre Basin.

    Player: That doesn’t mean there have to be ogres!


    GM: So, do you want to move the campaign to a location without ogres?

    Player: Well no, I want to go to the Fortress of the Evil Warlock so that I can kill the Evil Warlock and seduce the Well-Bosomed Wench, so I have to stay in the Ogre Basin.

    GM: You just want guaranteed safety from ogres.

    Player: I want to have fun! Is that too much to ask?

    GM: No, but your idea of fun seems to involve the exercise of omnipotent powers in a framework where, by design, you have the power of a mere mortal.

    Player: Well… a magical mortal.

    GM: Do you have Vaporize All Ogres memorized?

    Player: Don’t be smart.

    GM: Look, you’re the one who wanted to go left. Facing an ogre is a consequence of going left. You want to play in a world without your actions having consequences, play with another GM. Better yet, find a god simulator on Steam.

    Player: Sigh. Look, the whole point of playing a role playing game is to make free choices and see the results of those choices — and the whole point of doing THAT is to have fun. Otherwise, we’d just live in the real world, right? So I’m asking you, just this once, can we skip the ogre?


    GM: Well . . . just this once. We’re not making a habit of it.

    Player: I understand.

    GM: All right. There’s no ogre, there never was. You keep walking toward the Fortress of the Evil Warlock.

    Player: Awesome.

    GM: A little way up the road, you see three gnomes arguing over a small, shiny trinket.

    Player: Oh come on, this is just another quantum ogre in disguise.

    GM: We’re not having that same discussion again.

    Player: Ugh. Well, can we skip this too? I hate gnomes.


    GM: Fine. No gnomes. Farther up the path, you see a pack of goblins.

    Player: Boring. Skip.

    GM: A series of fallen trees blocking the path.

    Player: Skip.

    GM: A leper with a mysterious pouch.

    Player: Skip.

    GM: A beautiful woman tied to a tree.

    Player: Skip. Wait — is she as well-proportioned as the Well-Bosomed Wench?

    GM: Not even close.

    Player: Okay, yeah, skip.

    GM: Fine, I get the message. At the end of path, after a long journey with many dangers, adventures, and memories (snort), you finally arrive at the Fortress of the Evil Warlock.

    Player: All right! See, this is what I wanted all along. This is what I call fun.

    GM: I aim to please. Now, there are no obvious entrances; the whole compound is surrounded by a mile-deep chasm, and terrible shadows guard the battlements.

    Player: No problem. I fly in through the window of the Wench’s Tower.

    GM: What? How?

    Player: With my Helmet of Flight.

    GM: You don’t have a Helmet of Flight.

    Player: (exasperated sigh) I’ll go back to the village and purchase a Helmet of Flight. We can assume I got enough gold from all my adventures, right?

    GM: Are you serious?

    Player: Are you going to give me more boring quantum ogres?

    GM: You know, just because it’s not your cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s a quantum ogre. And as we’ve established, unless you’re either a mind reader or cheating, you have no way of knowing any given encounter is a quantum ogre.

    Player: Well, I assume it’s a quantum ogre because I don’t think you want me to have fun. I think you just want to railroad me.

    GM: That’s just not true.

    Player: It must be, because I’ve made it clear I don’t want to deal with ogres, or lepers, or goblins, or any of that! So you either respect my character’s agency, or I’m out of here!


    GM: Fine. Your journey back to the village is uneventful. You find a Helmet of Flight without difficulty, and procure it without incident. Your journey back to the Fortress is uneventful. You don the Helmet, rise up the ground, fly over the heads of the terrible shadows and into the tower window, where the Well-Bosomed Wench is waiting with open arms and open bodice.

    Player: Great! Although… look, I hate to complain, but you made that too easy. I mean, do you really understand the meaning and the spirit of a tabletop role playing game? …hey, what are you doing with that pencil?

    (Edited to correct grammar and to address one or two minor issues raised in the comments.)

  6. Mark Tygart a quantum ogre is a prepared ogre in the woods that is also on the path around the woods and along the river and in the mountains. It is moving a prepared encounter so it is in all places at once until the players encounter it

  7. Aaron Griffin I found the post and posted it above. The quantum ogre only works if the party doesn’t know its a quantum ogre, but I think that can work if desperately needed.

  8. When the PCs win, someone else loses. Who would be angry about the PCs killing a titan, befriending valleyfolk, or heading into the labyrinth? There’s the beginnings of Fronts for you.

  9. Mark Tygart I think the original “Quantum Ogre” post was this one: It’s arguing against Illusionism, using an ogre that the players encounter no matter which direction they choose as an example.

    I think the dialog you posted was someone’s reaction to that post, and it sounds like they don’t agree with the position (since they portray the player as being a dick about it).

  10. There has to be a balance here somewhere between killing the Quantum Ogre and reasonable GM prep. Dungeon World as a system tends to keep players happy by allowing player input on fundamental aspects of the game. Still if I was invading Mordor should I be shocked to run into a few orcs?

  11. Mark Tygart I agree, there has to be a balance point. The behaviour being criticised in that article on hackslashmaster is pretty extreme, to the extent of the GM preventing the players from using magic or their tracking skills to determine where the ogre is prior to encountering it, so as to ensure that it remains in its quantum state right up until they roll initiative.

    The author also says that “Pre-scripting 12 encounter lairs, and randomly generating which is in a hex that was unknown is not [illusionism]. Having undefined “white space” in a campaign, and dynamically filling it with pre-generated content later is not [illusionism].” So he’s not insisting that everything be nailed down in advance.

    John Willson I hope this side-discussion is helping you, or at least interesting!

  12. DW doesn’t say not to prep, in fact writing down rooms and monsters and dangers and stuff like that can be great. To much getting it out of your ass can feel like the world is not a true living place.

    Put down monsters, make challanges that they have to.come across on their journey.

  13. Thanks everyone, a very helpful – and entertaining! – discussion. Sleep and then work took me away for a while; this is the earliest I could get back.

    I know from experience that the required effort of prep declines as the campaign proceeds. I’m sure I’ll put in 12 hours before session-2 – because I don’t know what the PCs will tackle first – but soon I’ll be down to 30 minutes of prep between sessions, as the direction of the story becomes clear, and the stockpile of prepared things is built up.

    There really is a wealth of DW items and monsters and such available in this community!

  14. Worth mentioning that you can always cheat on prep a bit by asking players to chime in. E.g. “You come to a fork in the road — each of you tell me what you see down one of the paths.” Then start rolling with that.

  15. Kevin Bishop 

    Yeah almost surprised no one has mentioned this yet.

    Whenever you go into a new area its cool to have a few questions. So you could have what beasties are in this mountnous area. What group foolishly decided to climb this mountain? etc.

  16. Kevin Bishop and james day , yep I did some of that (the session was on Friday). I used Jason Cordova ‘s extended Undertake a Perilous Journey move, and asked the Scout what she was most worried that they’d meet out in the wilds. And sure enough, they did…

    It was a great session alltogether. And now the PCs have firmly pointed themselves in one direction, so I have a better idea of where to prep for next time.

  17. John Willson That’s neat to hear! I really enjoy that extended Undertake a Perilous Journey. It helps give the players some ownership of the session, while still keeping things fairly brief and tidy.

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