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Sunday, September 28, 2014

How Much do you Improvise as a DM?

Remember those Decks of Encounters TSR put out back in the day? I used to grab a half dozen cards at random, pick three or fourI thought I could work with, and that would be the outline of my session for later that afternoon.

I'd use one card to set things up and the others depending on the direction the party took things. Figure out the connections between the encounters on the spot and let things fall where they may. The only real drawback I had is I rarely wrote down the details afterwards, so I had a fairly bad sense of where that arty had been without them catching me up. But it was fun.

I haven't run a game like that in nearly 20 years. Not that I don't improvise these days, but I haven't gone back to the "lets figure out this adventure" type of gaming that I experimented with in my college years.

So, how much do you improvise in your average came session? Does improvisation mean you can prep less? Does it lead to more record keeping?

10 comments:

  1. I ran a campaign for 5 years just using the Deck of Encounters. They were awesome.

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  2. Usually for D&D I try to have lightly keyed maps, but I'll wing it entirely if necessary. My last game was a Barbarians of Lemuria where I just had the rulebook with me at the con when I offered to run, so I set it in a ruined city I had used once before, giving me a general idea of what I had put there before. It went very well, its a nice light system for improv.

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  3. I have found that having a skeleton framework for the adventure works best for me. When I was running, I always has a rough idea of map but I tended run the encounters more improv... I would have a general idea of how I hoped things to go, but I was always ready to go off script when necessary.

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  4. I tend not to improvise combat encounters much because of map. Getting the bad guys on a field of combat properly, with stats poured into the VTT, takes time. Right now, I tend not to improvise for that reason.

    I have a concept to help me get over this. I'm working on it.

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    Replies
    1. What edition are you running? Improvising combat in Old School editions is usually pretty easy. I don't even bother with a map myself.

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  5. I usually improvise entire campaign. My friends and I usually play wfrp sandbox, and none of us ever prepare anything beforehand, but it all works well.

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  6. I improvise most things. When I spend time preparing something, I try to cover a lot of bases as my players like to go in unpredictable directions. Then they pick a direction I didn't think of, requiring improvisation.

    No plans of the DM survives contact with the players.

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    Replies
    1. Unless you railroad. I've noticed that many published adventures tend to be shameless railroads. I was reading one the other day that started with a three-page outline of what would happen in the adventure, including where the PCs would camp each night! Why even bother with players?

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  7. I aim for:

    One third planned in advance.

    One third improvised on the spot.

    One third based on whatever the players come up with.

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  8. I ran a Tekumel campaign for over a year on improv and the prep that happens during a 20 minute dog-walk.

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