Then I drop the PCs in the middle of that and let them start mucking everything up. I don't plan out what side is going to win, or how things will progress much, because that is what the PCs are for! I want to be as surprised by the outcome as the players are when we reach the end.
GMing this way has worked out with relative success. There is a problem of the PCs choosing different sides (which is a whole other post on it's own). But more or less this has been a success as far as GMing goes. It saves me a ton of time in prep, I just have some major NPCs, their relations to others, and their goals. I might add in a few interesting locations, and I tend to have random "events" that can be dropped in anywhere to add action or something.
This set up also works very well in games where there is little combat, or if there is players are going mostly against other humans, and I can use simple enemy stats like "Mr. 12": ST,DX,HT,Will,Per=12; Weapon skills=DX+2. Or some variation of him (Strong Mr12 is ST+2...).
But then, I decided to run Dungeon Fantasy. And so far I've been loving it, but have found that I need to do a lot more prep than in previous games. I'm worried about combat balance, having a variety of monsters and traps, having loot that makes this all worth while, getting maps made that tie this all together, and having some sort of small plot that gives the PCs a motivation other than loot (yes, some players want that).
Even using published adventures or maps requires conversion to the terms/scale/stats for GURPS. While I am getting better at this, it is still way more work and has left me poorly prepared for for a few games already.
The good news is that as I use more monsters and become familiar with them, they go into my own every growing "Enemy Index". Traps have been a bit more work, but "It's a Trap" from Pyramid 3/60 has helped there. Loot also has been a bit easier for me to figure out, but is probably my weakest point at the moment.
|Pyramid's got my (GM) back.|
Assuming that I do get to the point where I have plenty of ready to use Monsters, Traps, and Loot to throw down, I still have to get it all organized into a dungeon that makes at least some sense (at least in a Dungeon Fantasy way). Pre-made maps and random generators only get me so far, and I think I just have to find the time and start building my own dungeons...
I actually really like designing "dungeons" (and not just in TTRPGs). I like to get into the head of the dungeon's designer, figure out what he/she/it was thinking and what the use each part of the dungeon has. In a way this is just an extension of my "simulations" GM style. I've just dreaded the time that is needed for this.
Still, I don't think it can be avoided, so I'll just have to start diving in. I'm leaning toward a mega-dungeon where I can have various caves, sewers, tunnels, sunken ruins, etc. all running into each other. Hopefully this will let me work on little bits at a time, but also allow for "cleared" areas to be reused as "friendlies" move in... or as new hostiles fight to take over. (I've considered running a full "wilderness" game, where there is just the regional map, and combat maps of trees, shrubs, etc, can be used over and over. I'm just not sure how long that will remain interesting.)
It has had plenty of rough spots, but I am still really enjoying my DF game (which is nice since I tend to tire of most of my games by the 8th session... and I'm past 14 now!) I guess I'll just see how it goes, and keep adapting. That's the GM's job, anyway!