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The Prepless GM
by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/05/2020 06:13:42

This book is very well layed out and written, concise and to the point. As opposed to other books for GMs I read which are full of idioms and babbling around "to show their improvisation power", each chapter here instead tackles a very precise point with short concrete examples and techniques.

In terms of the content, I really liked the approach of creativity, randomness and lower expectations, while making the characters the center of the story and even tips and strategies for dealing with different kind of players.

Of course, the subject of the book is VERY MUCH oriented to the "Collaborative" style of roleplaying and full improvisation, which may not always be the case (it works really well for FATE system), since sometimes GMs may want to tell a story, rather than building it together with their players. But, regardless of this approach, many of these techniques are helpful anyways because no matter how well and complete preparation is, improvisation is a must and engaging the players so they don't pick up their phones is essential.

I came to read this precisely because I was having an issue of "tunneling" the story and a feeling of me as GM talking and taking as much or even more protagonism than the players have. So I will definitely take the tips provided here (though without allowing players to define what a building looks like). The methods provided are good ideas but definitely the methods depend on each GM to find what method works best.

Really like the quotes of real authors and would have loved more quotes and more citations of how story tellers approach their plotting strategies. It gives a sense of the author knowing the topic very well.

I am amazed to those approach which also avoid the players unhappy or failing on random encounters, and strategies into making everyone engaged, by introducing approaches for riddles, puzzles, plot-making and drama.

There are two things that I didn't really like, but I won't lower the score because of them: 1- There is one specific chapter that adds absolutely nothing, while instead giving a link into a store for buying content (I totally understand we make for a living, but this was too obvious :) 2- The examples are mostly fantasy and horror, although very concrete, it would be great to delve more into different genres and themes, and how to approach them differently. A layout for skippable-but-more examples would have been great to see more into how the author thinks and approaches problem solving situations

PS. I would absolutely love an expanded edition of this book and definitely learn more :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Prepless GM
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The Prepless GM
by Kevin J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/01/2020 07:19:12

First of all well done for this book, I think it is worth every penny. The big advantage is that this book is not necessarily only for GMs, but also for players. A lil Preparation is obviously necessarily in RPG, (I mean what did you expect : even improv shows needs some prep!) but it can be done largely around the table. The book is full of little subtleties applicable by everyone which makes your game more interactive. I repeat myself but it focuses on the players : I think it's exactly what RPG needs right now : let them do "your" job, it's more fun and exiting! Some reflections about plots are used by great screenwriters and improv comedians (notably the “what if” method or "the alphabet"). Sometimes we have a lot of theory in these kinds of books but here, each theoretical piece is illustrated by a lot of examples in play. The least interesting for me is the “puzzle” or "trap" part that I rarely do around my table, but to be honest, it made me want to try.

In conclusion: Those who expect miracle solutions, go your way but for others, you can buy it with your eyes closed and that's the best part: EVEN if you are a player!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Prepless GM
by Lee R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2020 09:33:59

This is a great book with solid, practical advice. Even if you have three million notebooks crammed with detailed notes of every facet of your campaign, check it out; whether it’s just a new approach to coming up with a riddle, handling character creation, or brainstorming an adventure, I promise you will learn something new.

I found it very useful in how I approached the prep for my games, and relaly appreciated the clear and concise way everything was set out and explained.

I did a full review here: https://yourhumblegamemaster841533487.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/rpg-review-prepless-gamemaster/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Prepless GM
by Gary F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2020 10:54:27

The best part of this is how to ask questions and then incorporate feedback. I'd enjoy even more examples.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Prepless GM
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2020 14:49:34

There's plenty to like in The Prepless GM, but it's not prepless. Preparation, in my book (well, in the dictionary), means getting ready in advance. Prepless, in their book, means "running any tabletop roleplaying game without any preparation whatsoever." The guidance in The Prepless GM is about preparing to improvise, not about ditching preparation altogether. Whenever I see guidelines that call themselves prepless, zero-prep, or no-prep, I think they have a very narrow definition in mind, as if "preparation" means rolling up the minutiae in every room of a mega-dungeon in case the PCs ever go there (quantity over quality). That would be a waste of time, but it's also a straw man: that's not the only kind of GM prep. Preparing yourself to run a heavily off-the-cuff session prioritizes quality over quantity, but it's not prepless. It's differnt prep, not zero prep. Anyone who does improv on stage has been through a good amount of preparation before they went out there; they prepared to improvise.

Like other guidebooks of this type, The Prepless GM gives you a series of preparatory tasks, while simultaneously declaring it's prepless. Consider the irony: studying a guidebook in advance to prepare for prepless play. To quote Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Chapter 1: Improvising Your Tabletop RPG Under the heading "The Principles of Going Prepless" (which should be called The Principles of Improvised Play), there's a good discussion on being both more adaptive and more focused ("serve the story") during play. That's good stuff, and it's applicable whether or not you're working from prepared material. The Question System is a handy way to keep the story moving. It gives you four different ways to handle questions, advising you to mix it up during the session. I like the fact that the guidebook doesn't declare there's only One True Way to do it; it acknowledges trade-offs.

The preparation tasks from Chapter 1 include:

  • "You own all the books and know the system inside out." Whether or not you already know your game system forward and backwards, acquiring that knowledge was (or will be) prep work. You can't improvise well and keep the session flowing if you have a weak grasp of the rules or the setting. You have to gain a decent familiarity before you can improvise with it. That's preparation, not prepless.
  • "Clichés work, use them." In order to use the common tropes for your genre or setting, you need to know what they are. Gaining that familiarity is preparation, not prepless.
  • "You've watched countless of hours of tv shows, read books, and played many a roleplaying game." That's not true of all GMs. Some give GMing a try before they've acquired wide experience with the material. Even if you've been GMing for decades, you'll still spend countless more hours on your favorite entertainment media. Guess what: Spending "countless hours" on something that helps you prepare to improvise is preparation, not prepless.
  • "You can handle questions [in the Question System] in four different ways." You'll need to assimilate those four ways and understand the trade-offs so you'll be ready to use them during play. Preparation, not prepless.
  • "GMs can consult a bunch of tools and tables for generating random ideas." That means you'll need to come up with those tools and tables. Maybe you'll dig up existing tables you like. A few of them might be from Chapter 5 of this book. Maybe you'll use tables provided by your RPG system. Maybe you'll search online. Maybe you'll make up your own from scratch. All of those methods involve prep work. If you wait until session time to create them, you'll probably have some prep (for the next session) as you preserve and spruce up your tools and tables.

Chapter 2: Cooperative Storytelling There's good material on how to engage your players in carrying the story forward. It offers some guidance on engaging different playing styles. It talks about delegating specific tasks to players, such as tracking the loot, drawing maps, and setting difficulty levels.

Chapter 3: Plot and Drama The chapter starts with an extended quote from Stephen King, who doesn't like mapping out his plots ahead of time. He's not prepless, however. He ponders ideas "while showering, while driving, while taking my daily walk." "He starts with a super-engaging what-if questions that challenges the characters in unique ways." That's how he does his prep work.

The material on Drama, Challenges, Schemes, and Character Goals (roughly a page on each) is solid stuff, offering tips on how to enable adaptive, improvised play with them. The tips on improving your descriptions are good. You can use all this even if you prepare material or use someone else's prepared material.

The preparation tasks from Chapter 3 include:

  • "Pick a few things to describe every day" to improve your descriptive skills. Guess what: That's preparation, not prepless.

Chapter 4: Formulas "A formula is a series of small questions or story elements that help you generate something more specific like an NPC or a battlefield." There are 14 of these formulas (NPCs, riddles, magic items, etc.). The chapter offers some dos and don'ts to make them work well on the fly. They're generally practical and succinct -- enough to keep play moving forward.

The preparation tasks from Chapter 4 include:

  • "I encourage you to create your own formulas that fit your world and style of play." If you'd do that before a session instead of during one, that's preparation. If you make them up during the session, you'll need to preserve them for reuse (aka prep work).

Chapter 5: Running a Campaign This chapter focuses on collaborative efforts for creating a campaign, creating characters, and launching the campaign. Good tips and techniques. There's some guidance on creating random tables on the fly. They give you five pages of pre-made tables you can roll against (adventures, names, traps, etc. The tables are words or brief phrases, not stats.

A word about math. Yes, 6 to the 4th power = 1296, but that doesn't give you 1296 distinct quests. The quest table is basically a mad-libs table with four d6 rolls. You can roll up only six completely unique combinations. Once you roll up a seventh quest, you're necessarily repeating some or all of your six unique quests. That's 6 distinct combinations, and 1290 combinations that involve repetition. "We are exploring a lost city, seeking the Pillars of Time, guarded by a band of giants, before time unravels" isn't all that different from "We are exploring a lost city, seeking the Pillars of Time, guarded by dire beasts, before time unravels." The traps table has 65,536 possible combinations, but you can't get more than 16 completely unique traps out of it. The other 65,520 possible traps involve some repetition. Each of the tables for first names combines one of six prefixes with one of six suffixes. There are only six completely unique names in each of those tables, and 30 combinations that repeat part of a previous name. If you need a 37th human male, for example, you're necessarily repeating a prefix/suffix combination. That's not enough in a rich campaign setting full of NPCs that accumulate over time. Besides, there are some excellent, free, online name generators that give you a lot more name types and a lot more possible names.

"Creating a campaign setting should take about ten minutes." "Rolling for stats should not take longer than 5 minutes" (assuming stats are the most important thing during character creation). "You are fifteen minutes into your first session when actual play begins." Well, that's optimistic. Have you met my players? I can't get them all to show up within 15 minutes of each other. RPG sessions are social occasions, so they socialize at first. Then it's time to herd the cats to get them settled in and let them get their stuff out. And then, once you get all of that (dare I say it) preparation out of the way, I'm supposed to believe that they'll start with a blank slate, come up with all their ideas quickly, and come to consensus quickly, "without any preparation whatsoever"? Nope. The initial chaos is part of their fun, so trying to rush them through it would throw a wet blanket onto the occasion and it wouldn't work anyway.

You missed a spot or two. The book lists many ways to create content on the fly, but it says nothing about carrying any of it forward to later sessions. Unless you're running a one-shot, single-session adventure. you and your players will want to preserve some of what you came up with: tables, rulings, NPCs, relationships, locations, items, incidents, factions, etc. Recreating everything on the fly in every session (because you threw out or forgot all the previous stuff) would be maddening. This means you're probably capturing notes or making it legible and usable after a session, and reviewing the relevant material before the next session. That's preparation, not prepless.

Beisdes, if you overdo the improv, I can imagine players saying, "Aaugh! Enough with the questions! Make a decision!" You need a balance. Some stuff isn't worth making up on the fly. For that, you can prepare. You can be smart about deciding what to prepare and what to improvise, but that process is itself a form of preparation.

"But in order to make [the games] work as prepless games we are going to have to come at them from a different mindset. That means changing some of the ideas you are familiar with." Your players will need some explanation and possibly some persuasion when you change your practices and when you ask them to change theirs. If you give them that orientation between sessions, that's prep work. If you plan how you'll orient them during the session, you're preparing.

Overall: Lots of good material, but it's not prepless, nor should it be.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rune Puzzles
by Joseph C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2020 14:03:24

I don't think I was expecting what I got with the Rune Puzzles. The fact that they are inherently tied into anagrams and a specific type of logic puzzle is somewhat unexpected, and you may need to do some work to justify this appearing in your game. That said, the puzzles are visually appealing, easy to use (once you justify them), and add a lot of flexibility. The assets are high quality and very useful. For DMs who aren't good at designing puzzles (like me), I'd encourage you to use this product.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rune Puzzles
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Lock Puzzles
by Matthew P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/05/2020 14:51:57

This wasn't really what I was looking for. I was hoping for a number of different door lock puzzles. This is basically one lock and the combinations of that same lock. I wrote this review, since there wasn't any others, in the hopes that it might better clarify exactly what this product contains. You get 1 page of instructions, 9 pages of images, and a "solution page".



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Lock Puzzles
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Creator Reply:
Hi Matthew, I'm sorry to hear this wasn't what you were looking for. To clarify: When designing this puzzle I started out like you said, creating a different page for each puzzle combination. But I quickly realised I'd have to create over 500 pages while the basic puzzle elements don't change. That would be a waist of ink and it is why I chose a system where you can lay out the different combinations of mini puzzles with just the 9 basic puzzles. This is really one system that generates a lot of different puzzles. My 'Rune Puzzles' and 'Floor Puzzles' have a separate image for each puzzle. Contact me and I'll set you up with a puzzle that is more along the lines what you are looking for.
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