I’m working away on some notes, NPCs, locations and the like for my upcoming Dresden Files RPG campaign. I love this part of being a GM. I really enjoy plotting out what I want to happen and how to bring each of my players into the fold. I like sitting down at the table, knowing what I’m going to say and rolling out the adventure. I like to weave a tale, whilst still offering my players meaningful choices.
Helmuth van Moltke once said that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, or words to that effect in German. So it goes for RPGs. I’ve yet to play a game where everything, or even most things, have gone entirely to plan.
And you know what? I love it. Players get creative or crazy or lazy or a combination of the three. It should be embraced.
To turn to another military quote, Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
Again, this feels spot on to me. A rigid plan for an RPG is all well and good, but by planning for what could happen, and by knowing exactly how your setting works, you can accept, work with and build on the free actions of your players.
Simply put, games need meaningful decisions. Not everything will go to plan, nor even necessarily go well. That’s okay. It is, really. Some of the unexpected twists in my previous games have really thrown me. This can lead to innovative and interesting developments, or it can lead to me flailing around a bit. By knowing your setting and your players, you can improvise and adapt. It’s the best bit of the game.
That said, as I look down at my notes, I can’t help but smile. I like the opening scene. I like the reveal of one of the key items. I like the character descriptions. I like the clean, uncluttered storylines. I like the order.
There’s something to be said for these plans, as yet unsullied by the creatively destructive players I call my friends.