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The Douchey DM » Advice, General Gaming » Game Prep Methods Part 1

Game Prep Methods Part 1

Following a recent discussion about adventure planning, I decided to detail out a couple methods I’ve used in the past to get ready for a game.

The “Evil Plot” Method

To me, this is the easiest and most universal way to plan adventures, and as such, it’s my go-to method. Simply put, you determine the villain’s actions, with little regard to the party or their intentions of disrupting the villain’s plans.

Determine the villain’s plot, determine any methods the villain might use to meliorate the efforts of any heroes that decide to interfere, and set those plans in motion.

This method requires a good amount of world detail, as the GM gives no guidance as to how the party will discover or disrupt the villain’s plot.  As such, a more detailed world allows the GM to reason out how scenes may play out when the party goes somewhere the GM did not plan for.


  • Allows the GM to prep a game with little or no insight into the PCs’ motives or abilities.
  • Allows a free-form, non-rail-road style of game.
  • Allows continued action, even when the party is stuck, as the villain will continue to enact his plan.


  • Doesn’t take into account PC motives — the party (or a portion of it) might simply not be interested in this plot line.
  • Doesn’t take into account PC abilities — the plot (or a portion of it) may be subverted by one ability or spell (depending on genre)
  • Less proactive players might be paralyzed by a lack of clearly defined plot lines.

The “Detailed World” Method

This is very much like a sandbox game — by some definitions, it is a sandbox game. The vast majority of game prep time is spent developing game world details.  Not only does every city have several named businesses, but each has at least a small cast of well-developed NPCs.

Plot hooks with such a method exist in the very structure of the world:

  • Perhaps people from a certain region are routinely enslaved and need emancipation.
  • Maybe crime syndicates keep people in terror, and someone needs to step in and help.

The point is that the GM doesn’t need to develop villains or plot hooks specifically, he just builds a detailed game world with plenty of injustice and nature takes its course.


  • About as free form and un-rail-roady as a game can get.
  • Players can pick and choose which plot(s) to develop and which to ignore.


  • Perhaps even more so than the “Evil Plot” method, this method requires proactive players.


In future posts I’ll detail some more methods of game prep.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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2 Responses to "Game Prep Methods Part 1"

  1. SirGuidoNo Gravatar says:

    I always learn something when I read your articles Stu, even the short ones that don’t necessarily pertain to me. I would have to say that I normally prep my games in the Evil Plot method, or at least as close as I can get to what you described here. I have quite a mix of players in my group from a few that are very proactive, engaged, and eager to one who is really on at my table for something to do on a Saturday night. So I have to be careful how I prep my games so that I grab all of their personalities in some way.

  2. JazzIsBluesNo Gravatar says:

    Great article Stu. Wise words from a master of the craft. Having played one of your games. I can honestly say I’ve never seen better.


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