Has tabletop role-playing game prep changed for us over the years? If so, why? It depends on the game. Be it a one shot, a campaign or con event, game prep may be different for each. Thanks James for posing the question.
These days I have two modes of play, convention and sandbox.
The convention game I offer is the same location every year: a ten-level dungeon that opens its gates for only three days a year (the dates of the convention). The actions of PCs can alter the dungeon environment; it’s dynamic. Surviving PCs can return year after year.
Both this and my home game require a fair amount of preparation going in. Then, after a few sessions, it pretty much runs itself. My home sandbox requires me to rough in the details of a town and two-three nearby adventure sites. After that the players tend to take over the story, doing whatever they want. My role becomes reactive, responding to their activities, keeping in mind my world geography and the activities of any relevant NPCs.
This link has good advice.
Reffing Traveller, with PCs who have a ship, my prep is mostly in outlining possible outcomes and events, rather than a great deal of detail. The game is just too open-ended to get into minutia. It would be a waste of time.
My current big campaign is running BarrowMaze, converted to HackMaster 5e, using Fantasy Grounds as a platform. First, I knew this was going to be work. If you don’t want to work on something like that, don’t sign on for it. I feel like BIG PLANS can be a road to disappointment.
All that said, most of my prep time is just doing maps for the VTT. And I tend to just plop down with Campaign Cartographer and listen podcasts (know any good ones )
Most of my prep time is spent in small sections though out the week. 15 to 30 minutes at a time working on encounters. I find in average I put in 1 hour for every 4 to 6 hour session.
Oh, and for all the “wasted” prep… just put it in a folder.
Didn’t use that encounter, keep it in your back pocket. Never went to that map location, they may later.
For sure @LaramieWall, prep time is never wasted it may just not work for where it was planned. Sometimes I will build encounters and put them away for a rainy session or just when I need a filler.
Session running a little fast, maybe toss in an extra encounter just so you don’t have to end super early.
My prep time depends on what I’m running.
If I’m running a 3 hour one-shot it typically takes me an hour or so to get everything ready.
My current muti-session sandbox campaign probably took two weeks of on and off work to flesh out the world and characters, but after that initial sink it has only taken 15 minutes before each game to prep what’s “next” since locations and characters are already decided.
I do LOTS of prep. That’s fully half of my fun.
Then I reward picture taking so I can see the results of my prep from the point of view of the players.