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Pre-game prep without the panic attack

  • July 17 2023
  • Courtland Goldengate

Isn't it funny how every TTRPG game prep session can feel like cramming for an exam, or scrambling to hit a work deadline? This shit is supposed to be fun, right? I mean, it's a game after all, an escape from the daily grind. But too often, we find ourselves swapping one stress for another, as we wrestle with story arcs, NPC details, and map designs at the eleventh hour. But game prep doesn't have to be a mad dash to the finish line. It can be just as enjoyable as the campaign itself, if we play our cards right.

The uphill battle of pre-game prep

First, let's paint the picture of the task at hand. Getting ready for a game session isn't exactly like lying in a field of daisies. It's more akin to planning a mission to the Astral plane. You've got the storyline to chart, character to backstories to weave in, worlds to build - it's a monumental project, especially if you're a perfectionist, which we all seem to be for some reason.

And then there are your player's wonderful, unexpected, and at times downright baffling choices. The friendly cleric goes all oath-of-vengeance against a throw away NPC  who she thought was being mean to a dog? The rogue opens a bakery instead of a treasure vault? The party leaves the established quest to help the druid chase after a fantasy bug you described last session just for flavor? Hooray for creativity, but also, yikes.

Scrambling at the last minute, pulling things together while already in the game - we've all been there. While it does lead to some interesting turns in the storyline, it's not the ideal state of affairs. It's easy to feel rushed, under-prepared, and like you're just barely keeping afloat. So, how can we tackle this beast of pre-game prep and replace those adrenaline-fueled scrambles with a more zen approach?

Your trusty squire

This is where AI enters the stage, not as a usurper of your game-mastering throne, but as a faithful squire ready to aid you in your quests. You've been a solo act, but now you have an ally. And it doesn't want to steal your spotlight - it's here to bolster you and make your game sessions shine even brighter.

Think of AI like a silent partner, a force behind the scenes who's always ready to help. It's there to assist you with tasks like fleshing out dynamic NPCs with quirks and unique dialogue, designing elaborate maps in a snap, and even preparing for those 'out of left field' choices your players seem to have a knack for making.

With AI by your side during pre-game prep, you won't be left hanging when the unpredictable happens (and when does it not in a good game?). You can walk into your game session with an assurance that wasn't there before, secure in the knowledge that you have a back-up plan for your back-up plan.

In the heat of the game, when your players have once again opted to follow their uncharted path (bless their adventurous hearts), AI can step in. It'll help generate responses, outcomes, and new plot directions on the fly, so you can keep the narrative moving without missing a beat.

This way, AI transforms the herculean task of pre-game prep into a collaborative process. With a partner to brainstorm with, to bounce ideas off, to help you create, you get to focus on what you love most - spinning a tale that will leave your players on the edge of their seats, eager for the next chapter.

Playing with the freedom to adapt

The best part of having AI in your corner is that it frees you up to be more adaptable. When your players make choices that send the storyline off in a direction you hadn't planned for, you can embrace it instead of stressing about it.

Armed with AI, you can afford to give your players the freedom to veer off the pre-charted path and carve their own way, without the fear of the narrative falling apart. And isn't that what we love about tabletop games? The thrill of the unexpected, the joy of collaboration, and the sheer fun of an adventure unfolding in real-time.

So next time you gear up for a game session and start feeling the pressure, remember: you're not alone in this. AI's got your back. And with this silent, hardworking ally in your corner, every game session can be a high-quality, stress-free, and thoroughly enjoyable experience for you and your players.

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