Wednesday 20 July 2022

Prep Exposed

I've run games with every amount of prep you can imagine. No prep, low prep, mid prep, high prep, gigaprep (maybe not). 

Any of these styles can be made to work, but for Primeval I wanted a similar amount of prep to what I normally do with Electric Bastionland, but I wanted that prep to be different.

In both games I wanted the book itself to be a generator of sorts. EB has Spark Tables, PM has Omens, and every spread is meant to have little nuggets of setting that you can pull out as needed.

But I still like having a world prepped. I like the idea that the players are exploring a place that already exists, not something I'm entirely making up as we sit at the table.

The term I'm using right now is Focused Prep. You don't need to do much, but the stuff you do is going to be pretty important to the game.

So I thought I'd expose the prep I've done for my upcoming playtest of Primeval Bastionland, and talk through the reason why I did each part of it.

(on the slim chance you're somebody that's playing in my upcoming PB game, turn back now!)


I use Hex Kit here (you might already own this without knowing, as it's been in some huge itch bundles) but Hextml is also fantastic if you want something browser based. For the purpose of testing I've followed the Domain building procedure as written in the doc.

There's the version I'll be giving to the players:


The small dots are Shires, the castle is the Seat of Power, and the other three symbols are Holdings. 

My map has the Myths numbered and names for significant places:


The names were derived from the Knight and/or Seer that I populated the places with. The Myths are numbered 1-6 for my reference, and I've got a separate list of the actual Myth numbers that they correspond to. 

Now you could just run the game with what I have here, as long as you're happy filling in the blanks as you go using omens and the elements within. I wanted to do a little of that ahead of time without getting bogged down in too much homework.

I've allowed myself one page of A4, two column, including the pitch I'm giving to the brand new players as we sit down for the game. Extracts from this page are in italics, accompanied by my comments. 


  • This is a primeval place, born out of a history that never was. Myths are reality and nature is both magical and monstrous.
  • You are Knights, seeking Quests granted by the dreams and visions of Seers.
  • The greatest of all is the quest for the City, a lost shining metropolis.


The doc currently has the somewhat vague advice to name "significant terrain features". I should have done this on the map, but I just put them in my notes instead. I want to clarify this in the doc, but my intent is that these sorts of feature are generally visible from a vantage point in a neighbouring hex, but in very broad strokes. Like "you see a chain of mountains on the horizon" rather than being able to actually pick out any specific places. 

Visible from neighbouring Hex

  • The Scorwerloch (lake, C)
  • The Green Brothers (mountains, N)
  • The Jagged Chain (mountains, NW)
  • The Corpsewood (forest, SW)
  • The Floodlands (swamp, grass, SE)

Super generic names but gives a starting point for descriptions. 


Using the guidance in the doc, I wanted to put the Knights somewhere that would require a good amount of travel to get anywhere significant, but not too far from a Shire where they could talk to people. 

I had them arrive by riverboat (the river being off-map) and gave an immediate choice between two directions to go in.

Arrival in Scowerloch

From the NE map corner, riverboat.

The boatsman told you:

  • The Halo Knight sits at the Seat of Power next to the Loch.
  • It’s been a good harvest this year, but people are fearing a bad winter.
  • People avoid the woods between here and the Loch, it’s safer to head South, then West to join the river and travel by boat.


I used the "Rolling Elements" system (p10) to give some prompts for these, cheating slightly as I have d100 lists for each of these elements to help me in writing future entries.

As you can see, it's very broad strokes, but I think some focused starting points are sometimes all you need. 

Remember, this is prep for me to use, not notes that I'd give to somebody else to run a game. 


  • Half crumbled castle, the keep stands tall, battlements painted gold, men-at-arms patrol.
  • The Halo Knight (Delande, long scraggly black hair)
  • Now a Seer, reads Halos.
  • Iridescent Helm washed up from the River.
  • Thin Claymore taken from the ice titan. Frosted Hares.
  • Gets visions from Black Pool or Abyssal Pit.
  • Obsessed with getting reports from Scouts.


  • Rare markets, drawing on goods brought up from the river. Small village with bakery.
  • Nearby mounds infested with wolfspider nests.
  • Overseen by the Coffer Knight, frail businessman.
  • Lapis Lazuli Mace (d8) taken from a competitor


  • Ornately carved ivory tower housing the Rotted Seer (1) protected by the Bone Knight (Elouan, cowardly diplomat, agony sword (2d6, CB or Wound causes Woe), shadow lens)
  • Musky mist, fanged doves.
  • Carpentry village.


  • Brook flowing with algae and weeds, floating flowers
  • Roaring Coots, hidden Tomb of the Wanderer with Lightning Wine
  • Stone Circle housing the Carved Seer (7)

Now purists would say:

"Putting Wolfspider infested Mounds in as a location? Surely that sort of thing should emerge organically from the Omens as they are encountered? That's what you said, right?"

Well, yes, and while I want the Myths and their Omens to do a lot of work in this game, they should feel like a tool, not a restriction. The point of them is to create gradually unfolding strangeness in the world, and these tomb spiders are actually entirely mundane. Yeah, they're big man-eating spiders, but that's not quite enough to be a Myth in their own right. 

Now to put this to the test. 


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  1. Good luck with the game playtest! I'm excited to see a session report if you do one.

    1. I definitely hope to do one once I've got a few more under my belt.