How do you prep or what do you ficus on as a GM

I think I need some help on how this game is GMed to be honest. Or basically how traditional/untraditional the game basically is.

What do you focus on as a GM, do you focus on your world and how the world is progressing and actually not care about beliefs of the players because they will push themselves in with them.

Or is it just beliefs and everything is reasctive to what beliefs are. You only have a dictatorial Shaman because one of the characters has a belief about order or chaos.

What do GMs prep about the world and the characters in it? What do they prep about the “story”?

I need help understanding the role of the GM.

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My process for traditional tabletops was to write lots of structured encounters interrelated into a plot or dungeon. This included placing traps, treasures, and baddies throughout the encounters with some adjustment at game time as player choices change the situation. Work ahead on a particular thing was proportional to how certain I was as to what the players would do. The resulting plot structures may or may not have been linear. This was tons of work, but at that time in my life I had much more free time to recreationally make dungeons.

My process for Burning Wheel is to review all the player beliefs and instincts as well as the general situation and think of comparatively independent scenes (compared to the process above) that would challenge the beliefs and instincts of the players and create conflict. This might be as simple as braintstorming an NPC whose goals and situation would create the challenge - and who can be dropped in to whatever the players might choose to do. I do not spend as much time worrying about filling “little encounters” in because we speed-play that since there are usually no beliefs at stake. This new process of individual scene/encounter brainstorming takes much less time. I am losing some of the “flavor setting” description and fluff that I used to have prepared. Less seussian death mushrooms in my cool trap and riddle rooms. On the other hand, my players havent complained so I may have been pleasing only myself.

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I tend to come to the table with at least one, if not a few, pitches for a campaign. Like, 1-3 sentences each. The other people at the table usually bring some ideas of their own. Once we settle on a premise, we collaboratively come up with the setting and characters. Personally, I like to end up with the minimum necessary setting to start play - just a location or two, some NPCs for the players to bounce off of, and a good starting situation. Character burning usually fills in the gaps through the Lifepaths, Beliefs, and Relationships.

For the session, we solidify the current situation and have everybody refine Beliefs in order to keep the game focused. As the GM, I look at the Beliefs and jot down some ideas for scenes so that I can challenge the players’ Beliefs. I tend to not give my NPCs any kind of free will - they’re vehicles for me to challenge Beliefs. Once we get done playing and awarding Artha, we figure out, at least in general, what the players are interested in tackling in the next session, since there’s always going to be fallout from the session’s events. Between sessions, I might make some sketchy notes about new people or places they could run into. The next session, we start the process over.

It’s really a back-and-forth cycle for me. I get a chance to push any big-picture stuff that I’m interested in through my NPCs and scene framing, but I have to channel all that into challenging PC Beliefs. The story is what emerges in the fiction as a result of the rules; I don’t have any “adventures” planned out in advance, just a sketchy idea of what direction to go in. Almost all the world-building happens during the game, through scene-framing and the players’ use of things like Wises.

While the players do have the job of pushing themselves, that doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to push them as well. The GM is proactive, not just reactive. That starts with creating a setting that is primed to interact with player BITs and relationships. That’s one of the reasons the world is usually created as a group project while the characters are burned. Your job is to insure that players don’t have meaningless relationships and irrelevant Beleifs. You see the big picture.

Or is it just beliefs and everything is reasctive to what beliefs are. You only have a dictatorial Shaman because one of the characters has a belief about order or chaos.

If your taking the time to prep a dictatorial shaman, it’s suboptimal not to be aiming at one or more PC Beliefs.

Here is the classic: Running with Bangs

I find myself following roughly similar method. Because I enjoy creating a living fantasy world, I will sometimes think about some cool visuals-- flash scenes-- then try to work those in. think of them as flashes. Bangs and flashes, I guess.


I concentrate on their beliefs and consequences to the characters’ actions, hoping to tie those reactions in ways that challenge their beliefs.

When in doubt, I always look at the beliefs…

I create villains and antagonists with beliefs and agendas of their own, all designed to fit into and push the big picture and situation of the campaign. The beliefs and agendas of my antagonists are designed to attack, twist or subvert the beliefs and goals of the players, sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely.

My prep is thinking about how my antagonists are going to seek to advance their goals, and how I can push the PCs’ buttons in doing so. I try to make sure that not all of them oppose the PCs directly. For instance, if a PC has a belief about getting vengeance on the lord of a town, I may introduce another NPC who wants the same thing! Except they’re willing to use a method that horrifies the player. Or they plan to do something awful once the lord is out of the way. That NPC is a potential ally, but…

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Thank you all! It makes me realize I’ve been worrying about nothing really and that a lot of what I was doing is squaring with what you were saying, just obviously could do with improvements.