I’ve been reading “The Lazy Dungeon Master” by Michael E. Shea, a.k.a. Sly Flourish, and it’s helped me a good deal when it comes to wrapping my head around preparation for my sandbox-style Fate game. I tend to either be over prepared or, here lately, under prepared when it comes time to run an adventure. Historically, I’ve been guilty of focusing on the sort of minutiae that makes me feel like I’m doing important preparation work for a game when all I’m really doing is dicking around with the floor plans for an inn or something. I’ve drawn up floor plans for several inns and taverns in the past, and I’m sure without exception it was all wasted effort in the grand scheme of things. Having a fixed floor plan drawn out on graph paper for the local pub in advance of the game has never enhanced my game in any way, so why do I keep doing that sort of thing? Probably because doing something, and convincing myself that it’s important, useful work, feels better than doing nothing.
I likewise excel at stocking dungeons; getting down to the nuts and bolts of what’s in each room and why also feels important, and it can be a great deal more important than knowing how many stools there are at the pub, but it can also become a time-suck that turns into busy work. When I started designing my own dungeons I poured way too much time and energy into the process. I basically wrote out a module that someone else could have picked up and ran with no problem, complete with my own boxed text to read aloud to my players. I did this because the only templates I had for how to design a dungeon were published modules. I poured way more time and energy into those dungeons than I needed to, and way more time and energy than I have now to devote to such things.
The big ideas, on the other hand, the actual important, plot-forwarding stuff, tend to float around in my head in a nebulous, unwieldy sort of way. Where should I start? How much should I write? At times I’ve came to the table with pages and pages of stuff written out, only to find that a lot of it was less than useful when it came to actually running the game. Again, I don’t have that kind of time these days.
So, in a nutshell, the Lazy DM approach is to write in about a sentence where the adventure begins. Then, write down in about a sentence three possible courses of action/adventure sites that the PC could choose to take or explore. Then come up with 2-3 NPCs that are friendly towards or allied with the PCs, 1-3 villainous NPCs that are aligned against or stand as obstacles to the PCs, and write a sentence or to about what they are like and what they might be up to. I’ve done all that so my adventure prep is done for the day. We’ll see how it goes!