- The Sticky GM (part 1)
- Locations (part 2)
- Personalities (part 3)
- Encounters (part 4)
- Stakes (part 5)
- Plots (part 6)
- What if… (part 7)
- Combat Order (part 8)
- Glorious Kit (part 9)
This is the last part in this series. Today I am going to show you how to bring all these bits of paper together into something that you would recognise as a game session.
The Sticky GM is going to be released as a book. If you would like a discount towards picking it up as physical paperback or as an ebook, you will find details below.
When I am running a game I have the adventure I want to run, the thing I have prepped for, and my file of stock sticky notes both on hand.
The Planned Adventure
At the top a fresh page I stick the Plot Hook Post-it, rather like you would a title on a page.
Below that put the locations. Typically side by side across the page. Remember that a location is unlikely to a A Tavern, it is more likely to be The Tap Room, Character’s Room, Kitchen. The locations are the places where the characters are going to interact.
Placing these sideways across your page allows them to act a bit like headings in a table. In a vertical column below these headings you can add in the other important notes that set this scene. If the barkeep is in the taproom, that is where that note goes. If there is a possible encounter with a gang of thugs in the same room add that as well.
Each column contains the notes for that location. If people move, yon can move their note to the right location. If some asks for something from the kitchens, you can move the note across, making a perfect time to start a fight and then blame it on the characters!
I recommend color coding your sticky notes, it makes it really ‘at a glance’ what planned or possible encounters are in what location.
The plot hook sat at the top of the page is a constant reminder of your goal here as GM. These notes are ultimately for you, not your players.
My set up uses a ringbinder and each plot stage has a double page spread. A scene in a tavern may not need it, but a demonic cathedral can contain many interesting locations.
That is how to lay it all out.
Now Things Get Interesting
The second resource you have is your stockpile of unused notes.
I have a page of interesting personalities, I put minor and boss level personalities on a different sheet. You have encounters, stakes, and items all to hand on their own pages. If the scene in the tavern is getting a bit pedestrian, you can drop in an encounter, from your stock. In this case, we throw in a hen party of drunken female half orc mercenaries, looking for raucous fun. Take the post-it from your stock and stick it to the Tap Room location.
If the scene wwas the demonic cathedral, a suitable encounter could be a minor demon leading half a dozen priests with a human sacrifice (increased stakes). What or who is the real threat? The priests could be evil clerics with access to magic, or they could be no more dangerous than your local vicar. The demon is the clear and obvious danger. A mixed encounter like this can be challenging. The priests could divide their attention between characters and their sacrificial victim. The demon is likely to do its own thing. You characters are going to have to counter several different strategies being used against them.
Locations are not static. If a fight break out in one place, you can instantly see who is close by. What are they going to do? You can simulate their movements by moving their note from place to place. If a priest from the bell tower is rushing to the vicarage to raise the alarm, you can move them from tower to bone yard to vicarage, as the rounds of combat roll around. The high priest can then be moved from vicarage, to bone yard to the cathedral entrance. Just moving the notes around is almost instantaneous but can track the movements of many different significant players.
What you should have now is a dynamic map of your adventure. The players can move from location to location, but so can the threats and challenges.
The use of color means that you can quickly spot a potential encounter and move it into the players path, dropping it on to their location.
What you want to strive for is to use as many of your stock notes as you can. There was no point in writing things if you never get to use them! Your players will appreciate action packed adventures much more than them sitting around in endless discussions within the party, not knowing what to do next.
It is also highly likely that as soon as you planned this adventure, that you got all sorts of ideas for related NPCs, items, encounters and stakes. It is only natural that inspiration drives more inspiration. What you are gaining is the more dynamic way of offering it to the characters and for you to track the adventure in play. You created it, so now is your chance to use it.
The advantage of the post-it method is that you are not fixing locations before play starts. Which means you can apply the right thing at just the right time. There is more chance you getting to use all the things you created. Writing in long-form can mean that an idea on page two is lost when the party are on page five of your notes.
The Sticky GM
All of these articles are being made into an ebook and paperback book. It will have everything you can read here and more unique content. I am offering everyone who has read this series a discount. It would never have been written if it wasn’t for the readers of this blog.