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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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Old November 3rd, 2017, 02:01 PM
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Question How prepared do you have to be as a referee?

I use TRAVELLER frequently as an aid to creativity, but it has been years since i have actually been a referee. From an adventure seed found online, I have created a world best described as 'Mercury on steroids' and will be using Across the Bright Face and Mission on Mithril bashed together. My friend does not know it yet, but he will be writing the dialogue and action scenes for the story i am writing about his 'stunt double.'

Now, for some reason, I have never been completely comfortable with just fudging a task roll. DMs don't bother me, but I like having a basic target number in mind. With that in mind, I want to set up things for my one on one session so things are easy on the player, and easy on me as well.

Ideally, all your players should be doing is talking, throwing dice and keeping track of expended ammunition. Also ideally, the referee should be keeping track of the 'big picture,' setting up the next encounter and doing his best to be the man behind the curtain.

So, I am writing a lot of the dialogue now, which is giving me clues as how to simulate things on 'Jigsaw,' a planet the size of Mercury with gravity of a world twice its size. I want to set things up so all I have to do is describe a situation, throw my own dice when necessary, and check off time remaining to the next solar flare. [Things get interesting for our heroes then.]

Am i losing the objective of this entire exercise, that is supposed to be fun, by over preparing?
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 03:32 PM
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Difficult question. I think (THINK) that as long as you have your major story points organized, and you know what your player(s) want out of the session, then you'll do fine.

As far as over-preparation, I think two rules apply. First, the players won't take the route you've planned. Second, if you're creative enough you can move any major obstacles to show up where your players go (instead of being stuck where you planned for them to go).
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 05:27 PM
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This also depends on your players - some may prefer referee nudging to move in the directions you've planned, some will go the opposite direction no matter what. Cue the herding cats video (if you've not seen that - look it up on Youtube or whatever. It's what we do...)

As one who generally over-prepares and then it does not get used, as per Robject, you can always move your side of things around to put that obstacle or whatever someplace they are going.

But for me as a ref, preparing is as much fun often as playing. So the answer also depends on you - if you enjoy prepping a great deal (and it sounds as though you do) then prep away. You can always use what you've done someplace else if it does not show up in your original planned play.
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Sifu Blackirish View Post
Am i losing the objective of this entire exercise, that is supposed to be fun, by over preparing?
I'm told everyday by GMs that fun means different things to every player.

Anyway, my sessions are sandboxes held in a reasonably local area of the players. I don't do adventure modules. Never did. I own maybe three adventure modules, just to look through. Stuff is happening in my sandbox whether the players are encountering it or not. They may never meet the bad guy that's in a town. I won't try to force players to encounter things I've set up. I don't have quantum encounters.
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 09:09 PM
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I don't think you can over-prepare, unless you go down a rabbit hole of stuff that is not really germane to the adventure at hand (like maybe the far outer planets in your Jigsaw system for example - unlikely there's a need for extra detail out there since the world Jigsaw is the focus). But your players may never (and most likely won't) follow the route they're supposed to.

Justin Alexander over at The Alexandrian blog has some excellent articles on GM'ing, prep, etc etc.

One of his main ideas is "Don't prep plots, prep scenarios" which I believe is what Shawn is referring to above. Even though you have two pre-written modules you're combining into a single adventure, rather than detailing every single encounter and preparing for Scene 1,2,3,etc, make notes that focus on the main events or most exciting scenes and think of alternate ways to link them together or provide clues or pushes/pulls to move the party from one to another. And they needn't necessarily be chronological. Traveller's old EPIC adventure system used this idea - linked "scenes," which could be played pretty much in any order.

Also you could save yourself some time using tags/traits rather than full write-ups for some characters and locations. Like "Lava Plain: Magma Geyser every 1D hrs; Fissure every 3D hrs; no animal encounters; no protection from solar flares" rather than spending several hours mapping out the entire plain and building encounter tables for it. Sometimes a basic description is enough to allow you to run an encounter.

But ultimately coliver998 is right - if you like detailed prep go ahead and do it. If it doesn't get used for this adventure you can recycle it for the next one. And I wouldn't sweat being a smooth-running machine at the table, especially since it's been a while. Just be organized, know your adventure well... and be prepared for your players to do everything you didn't expect

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Old November 4th, 2017, 02:53 PM
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I usually overprepare, but for me, preparing is part of the fun.
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Old November 4th, 2017, 03:11 PM
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I would recommend that you prepare for them deciding not to cross the Bright Face, but to go around at the dark-light border.
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Old November 4th, 2017, 05:31 PM
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for solo play, preparation IS the game.
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Old November 4th, 2017, 06:55 PM
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I find that the more detailed my preparations, the father from what I prepare the players end up going. So I tend to keep it somewhat high level, more of an outline. Then there are key story or plot points that will flesh out with more detail.
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Old November 5th, 2017, 05:54 PM
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For years, a Notebook with Notes and Ideas, a fist ful of Dice, a pack of index cards and a pencil. Add that to one of the old Digest sized game boxes with rules and a selection of supplements and I was good to go.
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