Preparation Means Success
or
Building the Town for Your Game of Turn

Over the last few years, I've read and heard a lot about "zero-prep" roleplaying games. In my (admittedly limited) experience, most of these turn out to involve one of two scenarios: 1, the prep has merely been done for you (which limits the scope of the game to the previously prepared material, see Love in the Time of Seid); or 2, the prep is played as part of the game, or it is the game (see Microscope). There are probably games out there that truly are zero-prep or ultra-low prep in some other way, but I haven't seen them or haven't noticed them. My point is that most of the time, prep has simply been deferred in some way or done ahead of time (possibly by the game designers rather than the players).

Lots of my favorite games and the games I see praised most often have significant prep work involved (though you'll notice that in many/most of them it happens collaboratively at the table). In +Stras Acimovic and +Giacomo Vicenzi's Atlas Reckoning, part of the first session is spent figuring out what the Kaiju threat is, why Giant Robots(tm) are needed to fight them, and what your last bastion of humankind will look like. In Sagas of the Icelanders, a strong relationship map is an almost essential centerpiece for helping players understand their social positions and how conflicts can spread or pull on other characters (this map can be prepared ahead of time for successful one-shots and con games, or at the table to ground all the player characters for a longer game). In short, I think prep is good, and I especially like it when all the players participate.

What I've been helping +Brie Sheldon with for Turn lately is the process of setting up the town. Since Turn will always take place in a rural town, she wants an efficient process for players (including the GM) to work together to build the town as a group. I really like the process she's come up with, and how it produces a cool visual artifact for reference, an artifact that both is and isn't a map: a layout of the town's concepts rather than a layout of its physical space. I don't want to give away too much (other than what you can see in the attached image), but it is really easy and really rad.
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