Tiny Prep: Golden Behaviours

One of the biggest recurring problems I face as a gamer and GM is the tendency to procrastinate my prep. It’s always been something I struggle with, for more than 40 years of gaming, and it still afflicts me today.

Over the last few days I have been thinking about how to make prep for my roleplaying games something that happens in-between games in a way that doesn’t leave me scrambling at the last minute.

While the finer details are a work in progress, the basic premise of my approach is based on the “Tiny Habits” of BJ Fogg. I outlined the Fogg Behaviour Model the other day, so I’ll not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that most days, after work, my motivation is low and prep is too hard. I also lack reliable prompts. This adds up to nothing getting done.

Yesterday, I sat down with “Tiny Habits” and began to work the problem. In doing so, I think I have identified the Golden Behaviours which would unlock my prep and give me the greatest positive impact while still being things I can actually see myself doing.

These Golden Behaviours are:

  • Review the Characters pre-prep
  • Look at the Player’s goals for their Characters
  • Create Obstacles to the Player’s Goals
  • Create Secrets for the Players to discover
  • Provide three Clues per Secret
  • Link adventures to Character’s backstory (NPCs they know)
  • Plan adventures with a Node-based structure
  • Utilise the key Game Structures (all four of them)
  • Draw and key a World Map

I thought of dozens of other things I could do but many of them didn’t provide enough impact in return for the effort invested, and many of them were not things I could genuinely see myself doing.

But there is still a large barrier to overcome: all of those behaviours are too hard to do just as they sit there staring at me on a list.

To explain it a little more scientifically, I realise that my biggest barriers are two key breaks in the Ability Chain: a lack of Time and the large Mental Effort prep currently demands. The solution, of course, is to make my prep behaviours radically smaller.

One example: reviewing the Characters pre-prep is a great starting place. I cribbed this tip from Sly Flourish’s excellent, “Return Of The Lazy Dungeon Master” and it’s a great idea. But the tiny habit I need to cultivate is to simply grab out a slip of paper or index card and write down the Character’s names. That’s it!

Writing down their names cascades a series of memories and thoughts which activates my imagination and fires up my motivation. It’s small enough to build a Tiny Habit that will take less than two minutes to perform. That Habit will, I believe, help me to boost my motivation and activate other positive behaviours.

Here’s my current Tiny Habit Recipe:

After I finish my Saturday morning meditation, I will grab an index card and pencil to write down the names of the characters in my next roleplaying session. Once I do it, I will smile and say, “Yes!”

Now I just need to work on designing the other behaviours I want to cultivate. It’s time to radically shrink my prep.

Game on!

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