Tales from the Gazebo – A Little Spackling and Some Napalm

A Little Spackling and Some Napalm
By Cape Rust

I have spent weeks and weeks and weeks discussing preparations for a game. For some my approach might seem overwrought or even stupid, while others hopefully have picked up a few pointers along the way. No matter how you feel about my take on preparing for a game, it is time for more Tales from the Gazebo. This week is where the process starts looking much more familiar and traditional.

The first thing to do in this part of the process is to make sure you have all of your great ideas in one spot. I have mentioned a loose leaf binder or a notebook to jot your ideas in, but I’m not above using paper clips or even stapling sticky notes or scribbles into or onto pages.  I like to look back through my notes. Some of them might be months old by this point and I look through my notes to make sure I remember what I was thinking at the time, and do a sanity check to determine if those note or ideas are still valid. If an idea has been overcome by events but still has merit, I will try to capture it elsewhere so it is available for use in another game.  I have a buddy who habitually carries around a micro tape recorder so he can capture his ideas at any time, even while driving. Most cell phones have a voice memo function and can fulfill the same role.

Once you translate your chicken scratch and figure out why you wrote “Spam gel is God’s tears in a can,” it is time to put things in order. The cool part about this phase is that instead of telling you how I think you should order things, it’s all on you. All of our minds work in different ways and this is the time when you should figure out where your groove is. If you dealt with villains last, you might want to change things up a bit and go back to focusing on the players and their characters. You might want to stick with villains as the ideas about them might be fresh on your mind. It’s your call but this isn’t all fun and games.

What I love and hate about this part of the process is seeing exactly which of those ideas the good idea fairy planted in my head have stood up to the development of the game and which ones were failures. If you have watched a DVD commentary, almost every director interviewed mentions a scene or idea that they wanted to keep but had to cut. You can tell by the strain in their voices how much it hurt but, in the end, they did what was best for the film. This is the part where you have to do the same for your game. You might have to cut that amazing NPC because they just don’t fit. The amazing fleet battle that you envisioned right after watching Return of the Jedi? It might not work right now. The key is being able to let go or hold back those amazing Ideas until the time is right.

No plan survives the initial contact, but for as long as this game has been brewing in your mind and as many times as you have used your personal strainer, most of the leftover ideas should be solid. Now it is time to look again at that basic outline that I mentioned a long time ago. This is where you can really tighten that initial plan up and fill in the blanks. Next week, we’ll look at the different ways that fleshed-out plan can look. With a little spackling and some Napalm, we might just have one heck of a game.

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