Cut the GM Prep

Sick of extensive GM prep that doesn’t survive contact with players? A few years ago, I wrote an article that boiled an adventure down to a ‘Fate Fractal.’ Since that time, I’ve made the process even simpler.

Three Step Adventure Prep

The emphasis on this method is to give the players the ability to influence your story, while not allowing the players to obliterate your prep.

1. Create a Compelling Hook

Jacob Possin showed me the usefulness of basing adventures off of a single hook and then seeing where things take you from there. I think it’s a great concept.

For purposes of this method, your hook should not only drive the heroes into the story, but it should suggest a specific threat. Think of the hook as the inciting incident: the first time the threat of the story strikes. It should come with high stakes that directly affect the players.

2. Create the Main Threat

Write up the main threat in terms of whatever that means in your system. You need a threat that directly relates to the hook and continues to threaten the PCs throughout the adventure.

3. Create Secondary Threats

You could technically start playing without this step. Simply hook the players and then let the players lead the story through their decisions and thwart them with additional threats at every turn until they eventually come face-to-face with the main threat.

That said, it might help to come up with a few secondary threats in advance. Don’t put them in any order that may cause you to force the players to encounter them one at a time, railroading player decision. The idea here isn’t an “adventure outline,” but a collection of threats that you think might block the players as they move towards the main threat.

During play, wait until the players make a decision that makes one of these threats relevant, then throw it at them.

Next: Investigations

In my next post, I’ll demonstrate how to use this method for mysteries and investigations.

The basis for this comes from the system I’ve been working on, The Perpetual Motion Engine, which releases to Kickstarter next month. Paul Mitchener and I will use this campaign to roll out part one of the Historical Warfare settings for PME.


  1. I just discovered this series of posts and I must congratulate you. I’m just discovering Fate through a home-brewed setting with some friends. I’m the DM and much of the issues I’ve found so far were solved as I read these five posts.

    I looked for Spanish-speaking bloggers using Fate fractals but I didn’t have success. I think it would be very useful for new Spanish-speaking Fate players. Would you have any problem if I translate into Spanish some parts of the posts for my blog? I would mention your authorship and add links for each of the 5 posts, of course.



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