Preparing for the undefined is tough!
If a GM plans on beginning a game in a few weeks, they’re normally rushing about to refresh themselves on the rules, work on the overall plot, build a great initial session, create a few recurring (hopefully) enemies, build a few stock NPCs, etc. There’s a lot of work to do, but it’s similar to what you’ve done since time immemorial, so there’s guidance.
So, how do you prepare for a game that’s built collaboratively at the table? I suspect “it depends on the specifics” is an obvious answer… so let me lay out a few examples.
Fiasco is a game where you show up, roll dice on some tables to generate some elements, and build a caper collaboratively. You literally have no idea what’s going to be in the story, don’t know the setting… nothing. So how do you prepare for a game of Fiasco?
The easy answer is that it works great GM-less; there’s no need for anyone to prep in advance. In fact, planning something in advance might lead you to resist great ideas that arise organically. Other than rereading the rules, how do you prepare to run Fiasco?
In Primetime Adventures everyone comes to the game ready to pitch ideas and wrestle them. Together, organically, ideas accrete until there’s a final “aha moment” and the show snaps into clarity. After that, the players write down their PCs, set their story arcs, pick a few traits, and go. Meanwhile, the Producer works on a pilot session so the players can see the pitch in play and adjust as necessary prior to the season debut.
As the Producer, how you prep for Primetime Adventures prior to the pitch session? Obvious elements include reviewing the rules and coming up with a few ideas to toss into the mix during the pitch session. Is there anything else you should do?
Dresden Files & Diaspora
For the Dresden Files, it seems like there’s somewhat more prep that you can do in advance… but it’s still limited, since filling out the city sheet is collaborative and sets what the campaign is about. You could come up with some cool NPC concepts to pitch during city generation, and some aspects or elements that excite you… but, other than mastering the rules and being prepared to guide the process, what should you be sure to bring to the table? What should you be sure to absolutely not do, to ensure that you remain open to the other players’ input? If you’ve already made dozens of Fey, will you be too invested in them to go with the gritty vampire hunter thing that has everyone excited?
Preparing for Diaspora, with its cluster generation, seems similar to Dresden. You can read some sci-fi so that you’re excited and enthusiastic about world ideas… but the specifics are going to fall out of the cluster that you make together.
No, Really, What Do You Do?
If you were going to run a game like one of these in a short while–say, after Christmas–what would you be sure to prep? How would you go about preparing? I’m musing about a PTA game and could really use your input!