One of the things I enjoy most about GMing any roleplaying game is the preparatory aspect of the entertainment. I love sitting down with the players and knowing that I have thought my way around a setting to a degree that I can react on the fly to whatever they do and make it exciting and exhilarating rather than stale or mundane.
And it takes time and a lot of inspiration and stimulation to do it. Luckily, I have a half hour journey on a train to and from work and that suits me fine.
I usually start off my settling my arse down on a comft seat where I am not being crushed by some other passenger and then I select my topic. Usually it will be something quite specific, but other times it can be vague.
Yesterday, it was the notion of orbital spaceship shipyards. Oh yes, that specific and that obscure. Why? Well, I know that the first session is going to take the Aegis to Point Damascus, an orbital space facility owned by the Celestial Caliphate. It's a Babylon-5-esque neutral port around a desert planet - not wholly unlike good old Freeport from the Crescent Sea game. However, I knew that getting this setting right will be crucial to the entire structure of the game.
After all, this is going to be the first time that the players 'see' the technology and the infrastructure of a P&P planet as I see it - it is the money shot on the massive vista side, for their imagination.
So I had to think what I wanted. PB is like a floating golden arabic city in space, like the Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back, but with a bottom that mirrors the top. Lots of spires and floating platforms and air cars and such.
Around the station there will be a lot of commerce and a lot of different styles of spaceships. I was sketching some ship designs a couple of nights ago and well .... it all became rather generic. So I delved into my collection of Full Thrust games supplements and found the fleets books - winner! I now have the sweeping curves of the Caliphate ships, the stern regulated blocks of the Confed cruisers and the classic aeroplanes in space style of the Imperial ships
So I started thinking beyond this - I started thinking about planetary defenses and communications arrays, hydroponics to maintain the food supply to the desert planet and the obvious hub of commerce that is PB. Thats a lot of traffic. So there must be some sort of air-traffic control - that will be in PB.
Oh and then we had to have the shipyard, at least for some repairs to the Aegis. That allows for some of those oh-so-cool scenes from the Star Trek films to take place. Oh and it means that the crew will be on the station... which means a bar fight, and a chase through crowded aisles...and leaping off suspended walkways. Yes, thats always good. Note to self: Watch the start of SW E2 again.
And then I had the idea of tugs pulling an massive iceberg to the planet. Hey, that would work. And what if the tethers snapped. Oh, that could be good...and the berg got caught in the planets gravity...oh!!!!
And it just rolls from there. Tons of ideas from thinking about one simple concept. Now I find myself doing it all of the time. I think about fighter engagement patterns and how to represent a competent navy without obliterating the PCs. I think about the character of Merchant House Factors and how to make them more than just annoyingly intransigent NPCs. I think about visual effects - the bangs and booms and explosions. I think about duels...duels with swords!
If that woman across from me on the train knew what was rumbling through my part closed eyes as she reads her Catherine Cookson novel, she would be amazed and probably a little worried!!