Thursday, February 21, 2013

Time Spent Preparing Things Your Players Don't See is Not Wasted

I have read various bloggers who state something to the effect that if the players in their game don't go do a particular thing that the GM has prepared then that prep time is wasted.  I disagree, for two reasons.

First. The players may come back to that thing in a later session or you may be able to recycle that thing for another campaign.

Second: You only get better at doing a thing by doing it.  You get even better at doing a thing by attending to your errors, fixing the mistake and repeatedly practicing the corrected activity.  This is what musicians, artists, athletes and craftsmen do every day.  They do a thing and mess it up.  They look where it was messed up, figure out why and then do it again.  They may produce hundreds of drawings that you never see.  Hundreds of songs you never hear.  Dozens of sculptures that are never displayed.  Likewise, I do not consider scenarios written by DM's that players never experience as wasted.

By prepping material, you are practicing and improving your design skills.  When players ignore or bypass material that you've prepped.  You can ask yourself:  Why did they ignore that?  How can I be more efficient with my preparation?  What can I do to improve the hook?  What does this indicate about what sorts of activities the characters are motivated to do?

You can analyze what is going on in your campaign, with your own DMing skills, what your players are interested in and a lot more by asking questions about what the players did not do as much as you can by thinking about what the players did do.

Prep time is never wasted.  You can be more efficient and effective at prepping but the act itself is never wasted.

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