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Prep-Time to Play-Time Ratio

I wonder what your usual ratio of Prep-Time to Play-Time is.

Mine had been 2:1 more than a decade ago.
Using my homemade techniques I got down to 1:1.
Using templates, Loopy Planning, and Campaign Logger, I am down to 1:2 now.

I find that my campaigns are getting better the more I play instead of prep - if I at least prep something flexible.
No prep at all is still worse than 1:1.

So, what is your Prep-Time to Play-Time Ratio?


Hard to say. I usually prep just in my head walking to and from work, and in bed. let‘s say this accounts for 15min per day for 5 days plus 2 hours sitting down researching, takimg notes and preparing handouts and props for a 3 hour session, while I can usually still use half of the prepared content for the following sessions. So, I will end up between 1:1 and 1.5:1. That‘s ok for me. In addition though, I often summarize the session afterwards in a compelling story. Not for my players often, but for me and fellow GMs. This usually takes me much longer than the actual play time.
The result would be scary if I start measuring my prep time! :D
A lot I would say. But it is a mix of next session prep, campaign prep, roll20 tweak/study, rules reading/understanding (Ars Magica it's quite crunchy), CL templates creation/tweaking, GM tools/techniques implementation (try to), Background/historical research (Ars Magica setting is Mythic Europe: more or less the real world)
I don't know pure next sess prep what would be.
My preparation time varies between 5 and 30 minutes for an existing game round. I improvise 90 percent of the time. Most of the time my "preparation" consists of:
1. recall names of characters with background.
2. go through last session in mind.
3. always prepare 2 to 4 scenes per 3 hours game roughly in mind.

What increases time significantly is online play with Foundry VTT. There I have to upload maps and tokens.

Conclusion. I am probably the laziest game master in the world.
Don't get me wrong, I would like to prepare in a more structured and especially sustainable way. But in more than 30 years as a game leader, I've noticed:
1. my players always do something completely different.
2. the best evenings were those in which I didn't stick to my preparation, but went with the flow.
3. I can't motivate myself to prepare something that I then don't play because the players have much better ideas to solve/change/play something.

Z. B.
A room with a trap.
I don't make up the cases.
I just imagine the room in terms of a particular theme. The room used to be part of a maritime nation? Something with water, green and blue colors, mosaics with water creatures, etc. Since it's a trap room, I often describe it as having some sort of subliminal threat there.

What happens? Players ask for details in directions I would never have thought of.... I take the suggestions and improvise. again there are answers.... And suddenly there are the magical falls, triggered by interrupting a barely visible stream of water between two fish mouths on the ground, draining water from the PC.

What are the solutions now?
No idea? The players certainly have them... 😜
My actual prep takes about 1:4 to get my notes right, but I spend another 1:4 getting music and battlemaps/terrain ready, so I'm sitting around 1:2 on average. Some weeks for big set-piece stuff I'll climb up to 1:1 for encounter designs.
It used to be at least 3:1. I'm a wee bit better at it these days and it's anywhere from 2:1 to 0.5:1 depending on how quickly the players go through stuff. They love to sidetrack things so it's usually fairly slow. :)
Hard to say, as I am pretty much thinking about the next session all the time and I am taking notes as I see fit throughout the day (and Campaign Logger really came to shine in this). Thusly, actual prepping time might vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours the most, per four hours of play. I also like a lot to make things on the fly and just note down what I played out (quess what, Campaign Logger).

So yeah, I'd say roughly my ratio is 1:2.
I think I'm going to shock everyone in this thread by saying it's about 4:1

I write up all the NPCs, create the maps by hand, organize music playlists, and try to make things shiny, professional, etc. I kinda love doing this, and it's a good outlet for all the creative energy. I get bored too easily. The only thing I don't do is pait minis... yet.
With playing virtually my prep time has increased. Even using tools out of the Lazy Dungeon Master, I still need to create maps, NPCs, and things in the VTT. VTT's are doing a bang-up job of converting TT to online with less hassle but my players like the visceral feel of a map and the combat that goes along with it. Then take the next step and planning special effects and music, a playlist, and then writing descriptions and the like for the spaces on the map. More work than I need to do? Probably, but as OrcishKiwi said it's also what I want to do to make it an experience. As much as 3:1 depending on what needs to be built.