Bringing My Prep Together

There have been a few methodological changes that I have been talking about in recent months that came together for my online game, “Serene Dawn” – set out on the Solomani Rim. Having tested them out in the session earlier today, I thought it might be useful to share.

Firstly, I managed to prep in time using a combination of techniques that originate in The Alexandrian’s blog and the book “Gamemastering” by Brian Jamison. I used the full character creation guidance recommended by Jamison so interview and develop some characters cooperatively with the players – well, most of them.

In terms of adventure prep, I used the character’s stated goals and the NPCs that were implied or created by the players to help me find a starting point. Realising that this was an opportunity to write an investigative adventure, I then drew on The Alexandrian’s node-based adventure design and the three-clue rule to develop a more fleshed out set of situations – yeah, I also re-read and applied his advice on prepping situations, not plots.

None of these things are news to regular listeners to the podcast but I was pleased to be able to bring these disparate methods together and trial them in a game. First session today was 4 hours long and the players got through about 40% of the adventure content I had prepped over about two hours this morning.

GURPS proved really effective as a system too!

We have a follow-on second session that’ll probably mean I get 4x the prep value from this approach. It also felt pretty good. As a bonus, my pre-game prep next session will be little tweaks only. Oh, and I also used my new A5 notebook and the humble index card to prep my notes and that all worked well at the computer desk too.

The bigger win, however, was the sense that I could confidently run an adventure where the players get to investigate a mystery and I don’t feel overwhelmed. Confidence is key for me – because uncertainty drives me to anxiety – and I experienced a high degree of confidence with the adventure balanced by a great deal of flexibility in the execution. I got to be absolutely amazed and delighted by the creative solutions the players came up with in play!

Not wanting to pre-judge session two, but if the remainder of the adventure plays out as smoothly as today’s session did then I would be delighted. I guess that’s about the most rousing endorsement I could give as I try to integrate the various prep practices I have been experimenting with of late.

Game on!


  1. The node-based adventure design and 3-clue rule are great. I do essentially the same thing myself. If you want PCs to find clues, you need to really have a lot of clues and consider the skills of the PCs and play style of your group. I began stacking clues in my GURPS Cyberpunk campaign and it worked really well. Since you are interested in this sort of thing, I recommend the GURPS Mysteries book for additional ideas for any kind of investigative game. Probably one of the most universally applicable game supplements I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

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