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24 Hour RPG - To those who have done it - how do do it?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:10 pm
by Rob Lang
I'm getting myself ready for the epic marathon that is creating for 24 hours straight. I'm going to try and work for as long as the time as I can and I will be preparing myself. Now, don't get me wrong, I won't be deciding on the game or doing any prep beforehand. I'm tempted to get my dear wife (who thinks roleplaying is some sort of elaborate and surprisingly successful community care scheme) to pick the subject. Tempted. Not convinced.

I've been asking loads of questions of those who have completed and would like to get some more ideas together. It appears that the following is true:

  • Set milestones
  • Take very short breaks often
  • Don't design just on a computer, use different media
  • Get something written and then edit if needed. Don't keep rewriting everything.
  • Don't get hung up on trying to devise a completely novel game system

Anything else?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:40 pm
by tygertyger
Rob Lang wrote:I've been asking loads of questions of those who have completed and would like to get some more ideas together. It appears that the following is true:

  • Set milestones
  • Take very short breaks often
  • Don't design just on a computer, use different media
  • Get something written and then edit if needed. Don't keep rewriting everything.
  • Don't get hung up on trying to devise a completely novel game system

Anything else?


1) Make sure that your working environment is conducive to your creative process. Frex, I work best in quiet with no one else around. This was a problem when I did my third 24-hour rpg (Master of Orion) and had to contend with my son and my nephew (both 5 at the time) playing in and around the room that I was working in. If you prefer to have some noise going, set up a CD player and have some music playing while you work (I highly recommend this, in fact).

2) Eat small meals. When you eat, especially when you eat heavily, blood flow changes to accommodate digestion. Blood that goes to run your stomach is not available to run your brain, which can have an adverse effect on the creative process.

3) It's best that you don't sleep -- but if you must, keep it to two hours or less. My success record on these things can be tied directly to the amount of sleep that I got during the 24 hours (but YMMV):

*Immaculate (my first and probably best): 1 hour
*Alien Angels (for which I won an award from the Forge): 1.5 hours
*Master of Orion (which I regard as my first failure): 2.5 hours
*Apotheosis Blues (woefully incomplete): 4 hours
*Hundedammerung (probably the second best I've done to date): 2 hours

Hope this helps!

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:41 am
by Corone
Well, I've only done one, but I did discover:

I agree timing is everything, you need to know you have a clear 24 hours to get cracking in.
So pick a day the wife is away on a buisness trip, or that the kids are with the grandparents.
As part of that I'd suggest you tell people what you are doing, the more the merrier.
Not so they know how clever you are but so they know that is not the day to come and visit or try to phone you.

Thinking time is important and gives you a break from hardcore writing.
When you come up against something you can't figure, step away from the machine and take a break to think about it. Even just going for a walk is good. These natural breaks are good times to eat as well. That way you take a break but are still working.

Pick a small game to write.
You are not going to create a magnum opus in 24 hours. So don't try to write a 300 page corebook. A vast campaign world is going to take time you do not have. So pick a small idea that requires less system and background, such as npc stats, rules for animals, poison and falling etc. A system that uses a broad brush will also help you speed through. Less crunch (oh how I loathe that expression) and more story.

You don't need to start at page 1.
If you get stuck on something, start writing another part. You don't need to finish the introduction before you get onto character creation. If the rules system is coming together first, write that. Cut and paste is your freind :-)

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:47 am
by shinobicow
i believe it was posted before, but do the formatting first. It helps to get whatever word document you think will be used, or whatever media you're going to do it in, done and produced first thing. By doing this, you'll actually help yourself by giving yourself an idea that will match the frame. You don't want your picture of your kids playing soccer to be in a frame of angels being beheaded at the hands of a Baylor...

Work in multiple text files if your computer can't handle running lots of word files at the same time; i'm working off of an old laptop that i use for travelling, i've been gone from home for over 9 months now with my desktop unavailable. My laptop runs a celeron, so i kiss any hope of having multiple programs running good-bye. But it can run multiple simple notepad files at once, so i use lots of these and section them. When i have an idea, i pound it into the appropriate notepad file and copy and paste that into word when i'm done with the section.

Drink lots of caffiene. Diet coke should work good.

Minize multi-tasking. Don't be on the web or mail and don't watch TV or listen to music (unless it doesn't have lyrics) when you're working on it, i found that it drastically cuts down on production time.

During your break, listen to something or watch something that has really good dialogue or creative word choices. While i was writing Bloody Stuffing, i would take occassional five minute breaks to listen to the web video series Zero Punctuation at the extremist web site. The guy write and speeks like a genius, not to mention his pace drives you to write faster (considering he can spit those similies out so quickly).

Good luck.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:37 am
by Chainsaw Aardvark
So far, I've attempted five 24 hour games and completed four. (The Machine Sapience story telling game has never seen the light of day) We can break down the preparation into two categories - working style and personal habits respectively.

[font=Book Antiqua]Writing Style[/font]

Unlike my normal game design, for a 24 hour project, I do my composition at the computer. Usually, its written in the notebook, than retype and edit as one step.

Outlining the sections/chapters of the game are your best bet. If you get stuck in one place, you can jump around and start writing elsewhere, then come back. Since the various heading styles of the program can be fed into the automatic Table of Contents form this can also help with layout.

I set up the columns, text styles, and document format first as well - but that is normal for anything that I write. Automatically indented paragraphs are so much more convenient that adding your own tab stop constantly.

All of my 24 hour games have a well defined theme and a gimmick in the mechanics. In "Eastern Front", neither high nor low attributes were good, and what you wanted to roll was situational. "Rings of Jerusalem" let one spend attribute points for temporary boosts, "Of G-men and Supermen" has the differing levels of ability and shift points. A little innovation can help focus and make typing rules a bit more exciting.

[font=Book Antiqua]Personal Habits[/font]

Starting mid-morning seems to work well for me. Shoot for between 10 AM and Noon. This gives you a bit of time to sleep in, eat, check E-mail, and all those other daily activities out of the way so they're not a distraction later. If you do go to sleep at a normal time, waking up at a normal time will still give you an hour or two to finish.

Oddly enough, I usually do get in 6-8 hours of sleep, and possibly a real dinner (or TV-dinner anyway) though other meals and snacks are taken at the computer desk. I'm one who has a little bit of blood in my coffee stream, and don't take much more caffeine than my usual 2-4 cups of coffee in the morning.

Sometimes I listen to music - just the usual odd mix of what I like. Between the cats and all the other junk in my room or on my desktop, I can hardly call my working area distraction free, but it is the area I'm comfortable with.

Its not very comfortable to simply sit at the computer, so I take frequent breaks to walk or just think, but its never more than a few minuets.

Do something nice to "cool down" from the attempt. Take a short walk to a restaurant, or go out for dinner with a friend. You deserve a reward after all that work. and its nice to get a bit of feedback. Alternately, make sure the time afterward is free so you can crash and catch up on sleep.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:25 am
by Dyson Logos
tygertyger wrote:3) It's best that you don't sleep -- but if you must, keep it to two hours or less. My success record on these things can be tied directly to the amount of sleep that I got during the 24 hours (but YMMV):

*Immaculate (my first and probably best): 1 hour
*Alien Angels (for which I won an award from the Forge): 1.5 hours
*Master of Orion (which I regard as my first failure): 2.5 hours
*Apotheosis Blues (woefully incomplete): 4 hours
*Hundedammerung (probably the second best I've done to date): 2 hours


Wow.

I got 7 hours sleep while working on Geodesic Gnomes. I can't pull all-nighters any more.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:02 pm
by Corone
Dyson Logos wrote:Wow.

I got 7 hours sleep while working on Geodesic Gnomes. I can't pull all-nighters any more.


I've got to that age too! :-)
I started at lunch time and finished at 5:00am, then went very happily to bed!
Mind you, midnight to 4:00am are my most productive hours.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:36 am
by snikle
I woke early one morning, before anyone else in the tent (yeah...Iraq) and started working. Put in about 4 hours, then headed out to do some real work for about 4 hours. Came back and put in another 3 hours, took a break, came back and put in a solid 6 hours before I passed out.

I listen to music. Had lots of snacks on hand. I think my secret was in taking breaks here and there every 3 to 4 hours. Keeps the blood moving and your mind fresh.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:23 am
by Rob Lang
Snikle, if there was an award for 24 Hour RPG in the most difficult circumstances, you would win by a country mile!

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:16 am
by snikle
Nah, besides being away from my family and friends, it is not that bad here. Especially where I am, I got very lucky. But hey, if I win, I promise to hand out copies of my game to at least a few Iraqi kids. :)
Maybe I could get it translated to Kurdish!